Here, what’s made, these braids, unmakes
itself in time, and must be made
again, within and against
time. So I braid
your hair each day.
My fingers gather, measure hair,
hook, pull and twist hair and hair.
Deft, quick, they plait,
weave, articulate lock and lock, to make
and make these braids, which point
the direction of my going, of all our continuous going.
And though what’s made does not abide,
my making is steadfast, and, besides, there is a making
of which this making-in-time is just a part,
a making which abides
beyond the hands which rise in the combing,
the hands which fall in the braiding,
trailing hair in each stage of its unbraiding.
Love, how the hours accumulate. Uncountable.
The trees grow tall, some people walk away
and diminish forever.
The damp pewter days slip around without warning
and we cross over one year and one year.
~Li-Young Lee from “Braiding”
It did seem odd this morning during my barn chores that our six year old Haflinger gelding stood facing the back wall as I opened his stall door to give him his hay. For a moment I wondered if there was a problem with his appetite as he usually would dive right into his hay as soon as I threw it to him. A closer look told me the problem was with his hind end, not his front end: his heavy white tail was wrapped snugly around a J hook hanging on the stall wall meant to hold his water bucket. Instead now it held him — and wasn’t letting go. He had apparently been itching his butt back and forth, round and round on the handy hook and managed to wrap his tail into such tight knots on the hook that he was literally tethered to the wall. He was very calm about the whole thing only maybe just a little embarrassed.
He turned his head to look at me, pitiful. How long he’d been standing there like that through the night was anyone’s guess. I bet he no longer was itchy.
I started to work at untying the tail knots to free him and found them wound so tight that loosening them required significant cooperation from my 1200 pound buddy. Unfortunately, any time I managed to almost unloop a knot over the hook end, he would pull forward, snugging it even tighter. Out of desperation I pulled out the scissors I keep in my barnjacket pocket. I cut one knot hoping that would be sufficient. Then I cut through another knot. Still not enough. I cut a third big knot and thank God Almighty, he was free at last. He sauntered over to his hay now with a chunk of his tail in my hand and a big gap in what was still left hanging on him. It may take a year to grow that missing hair back out. But hey, it is only hair and at least someone kind and caring came along with a set of shears to release him painlessly from his captivity. We aren’t all so lucky.
I know what it is like to get tangled up in things I should probably give wide berth. I have a tendency, like my young horse, to butt in where I best not be and then become so bound I can’t get loose again. It can take forever to free myself, sometimes painfully leaving parts of my hide behind.
So when I inevitably get tied up in knots again, I hope someone will come along to save me. Better yet, I hope someone might warn me away from the things that hook me before I foolishly back right into them. I’ve got to loosen up and quit pulling the knots tighter.
It’s best to always have a detangler handy. You never know when you might need one.