The other day we had a scare with one of our horses, Dusty, the squatty, deep voiced grey and white cutie pie who has grown up with our girls. He is fine now, everything turned out great, but it was a tense and scary few hours.
In the middle of a hectic morning at work, my husband rushed home to help, and after an hour or so of watching and evaluating, we felt comfortable enough with Dusty’s progress to drive up the road to Tractor Supply Co for electrolytes and probiotic chews.
Tuesday was a warm and bright, violently windy day. The weather was beginning to turn, with both straight-line gusts and the twirling, circular kind of wind that creates sudden little leaf-and-stick tornadoes.
As we drove the few miles north, we passed a man tending his lawn with a leaf blower. In Oklahoma. On a wind advisory day.
He was really bundled up, as if the temperatures were actually about thirty degrees colder. He was wearing a thermal hat and massive gloves and jeans and boots, plus a substantial brown canvas coat, no doubt thickly insulated. I registered all of this plus his solemn expression. Then I marveled at the tedious attention he was paying to his leaf blower chore.
The dried oak leaves flew slightly away from his mechanical dismissal then spiraled back on him, then scattered sideways, then blew ahead of him in short, straight bursts, then flew wildly again, caught in another random gust. They flew up and away and directly over his hat. He was in the middle of a late winter ticker tape parade, like a cash tornado for people who believe that decomposing organic matter is black gold (these people are correct).
He was making exactly zero progress, but still he gripped that power tool with an air of focus and calm determination. He remained bent over his incomprehensible task. He walked slowly across the curved concrete driveway, pointing himself and his apparatus at each next area of chaos, and he never looked up or ahead of his immediate steps.
I have so many questions for him.
Maybe he was commanded by a spouse or an employer to do this job, regardless of weather, and dared not argue.
Maybe he recently received this leaf blower as a gift and thought a windy day would make for a fun maiden voyage.
Maybe he was in shock from some catastrophic family news and needed a rote, mind numbing activity to distract him, to help him gather his strength.
Maybe he was in covid-19 quarantine and needed to be outdoors for his mental health but couldn’t allow himself to just sit still.
Maybe he was an environmental scientist studying wind shears, but on, like, a really small scale.
Maybe he was a gardener desperate for some kind of gardening activity but couldn’t find his shovel.
Did he think he was helping something, serving some purpose? Was he having fun? Was that even his house, his leaf blower, his heavy coat? Maybe he was a shape shifter or an alien invader occupying Choctaw, Oklahoma, mimicking human behavior without really understanding the hilarity of the situation. (Forgive me, we have been watching lots of vintage X-Files.)
We drove past this man in the briefest moment, but he made such in impression on me. After we purchased the horse medicine at TSC and drove back south toward the farm, I looked for him. He was gone by then, but the leaves on his property (or on the property where the aliens had recently landed or where he is being held captive by a weird, mind-games playing taskmaster) were still swirling and thrusting against nothing with wild energy.
Maybe I had imagined him, except that I think my husband had seen him, too.
Dusty continued to make progress all day, eventually acting exactly like his normal sweet, spicy self, eager to rejoin the bachelor herd and eat a late breakfast. I gave thanks constantly (gosh I love this horse) and thought too much about the things we do for animals, the care we try to provide, the good habits we try to maintain, the love we try to show. I thought about the prayers we whisper urgently when none of that seems to add up to enough.
I marveled at how little control we have over some things.
About as much control as the leaf blower guy.