Thursday, January 15th, 2015
Corcovado. The word evokes a gentle, warm wind bearing fragrant blooms, making palm leaves rustle, and sun-kissed skin and skirts swishing around slender legs to the beat of Bossa Nova. Before I knew anything much about anything and wasn’t even tall enough to go on the rides at the amusement park, I listened to that word played on the record player (‘Courcuvahdu’) and escaped from hard New England work ethics and winters inside the gentle rhythm of Samba. I studied the orange cubist patterns on the record jacket intently, and I’d lift up the record player needle to put it in the groove to play ‘Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars’ over and over again. I didn’t know then that many years later I’d live on a farm with a wonderful view of quiet stars. And the music – it could set you adrift in a small boat at sunset, down a tropical river you’d only ever imagine (fortunately I’d not yet read “Heart of Darkness” or I might have rethought that boat idea!).
Recently I had a Corcovado night at Star Gazing Farm. Winter here is neither a gentle nor an attractive time. It’s hard. Chores take longer, paths are slippery, hoses and water buckets get frozen, the animals are anxious to get enough to eat to keep their internal furnaces burning and they crowd around my person, sometimes almost knocking me over and sometimes occasioning great cursing. Feet get cold in wet socks, the fire in the wood stove goes out, and dogs track snow and mud throughout the house and onto the sofa, which when dried, becomes a fine grit of sand everywhere underfoot and underbutt.
So sometimes it’s hard to just stop and pet the sheep, so to speak. Normally I’m the only biped walking around carrying buckets of savory-smelling warm-soaked grains and vegetables so I get a lot of, pretty much unwanted, attention at feeding time. And when the weather is arctic, as it has been this winter, frankly – the feeding routine is done with as much expediency as possible. But on the evening in question it was warmer, a balmy 34 degrees, so I lingered. Little old Miss Bea, now heading towards an incredible 20 years of life on arthritic legs and no front teeth, but full of good appetite and attitude (a few weeks ago I caught her vigorously head-butting Tigba the dog who dared to try to lick up some of her grain) was done with her hot meal and I lured her to the smaller shelter where I had stashed some of the good stuff for the older guys – chopped hay forage, easier for old teeth to get a handle on. There is something at once primitive and child-like about the delight in watching an animal take the food you offer and snarf it down with relish.
I wandered back to the barn where, reluctantly, I had to give Bello the horse his nightly shot. He’s a very patient patient and it’s both lucky and incredible that he just doesn’t get bothered by little annoyances like needles and catheters. I apologized for having to do so many invasive things to him, explained it was for his health, and he nickered softly, looked at me, and started to lick and chew. I leaned into him a bit, stroking his neck in the way I’ve been told to do, to mimic the way mares groom their young, and he did something he’d never done before– as I put my arms up around his 6’5” frame, he leaned his massive head heavily against my back and sighed. It was pure Brazilian jazz.
Take heed, ye who are younger and vulnerable to the wiles of Cupid on Valentines Day, for he is so often wicked and his arrows poorly aimed! As I age, I’ve happily found that while romantic love is quite overrated, ‘romance’ can be had quite without the benefit of that naughty, naked creature. A quiet night with a breeze softly blowing, goats sighing and chewing their cud, stars remote, peeking out through clouds, and an enormous, warm horse leaning against me – it brings out the samba, for sure.
‘Till next time,
“The really magical things are the ones that happen right in front of you. A lot of the time you keep looking for beauty, but it is already there. And if you look with a bit more intention, you see it.”
__ Vik Muniz