Every Blow Counts

© Diana Mead Jordan

published in ANVIL Magazine, June 1996

After years of living, it becomes clear that every blow counts. Every time the hammer comes down, it sends the iron in a particular direction. And there it goes. Not so profound at the outset. But upon close observation, one can see that the iron is going where the hammer sent it, not necessarily where the blacksmith wanted it to go. One nice thing about iron - it can be reshaped, re-sent.

Through practice, more and more, we can send the iron in the direction we intend it to go. The hammer swing becomes more precise. The iron is laid on the anvil in such a way that the hammer can send it where we want it to go þ thousands of swings later. That's what I witness when I have the privilege of watching the masters at the anvil. Their swing appears to come from deep inside þ sending the iron, moving it, stopping it, sending it again.

No, I have never swung that hammer. Yet, I can identify with its rhythmic song. It reminds me of riding horses. The same applies. One thing about horses, however, if you send a horse in a particular direction, you may be half way across the field either on or off the horse before you discover that you sent the wrong signal. Like iron, horses do not lie. More times than not, they do exactly what you tell them to do, hopefully coinciding with what you WANTED them to do.

Again, that's where practice plays a key role. I think of it as tuning in. The more flexible and toned I become, the finer becomes my communication with the horse. My own soft personality comes out when the horse escapes me. I'm inspired to be consistent, firm, yet forgiving - to "shape the energy," as one apt horsewoman puts it.

When the horse offers brilliance, do we know what to do with it? Do we throw it away to disobedience? Or do we play it out to make it enjoyable for the horse as well as the rider? Do we stop the horse in his tracks? Or do we give him somewhere to go?

Do we see the beauty in our mistakes? Or do we toss aside perfectly good work because it didn't turn out the way we had imagined? Maybe it actually turned out better, had we studied it a little closer.

Is there such a thing as an accident? I don't think so. We are given many opportunities in our life to see the true beauty, which many times does not coincide with our vision. So it is with blacksmithing. So it is with riding. So it is with living.

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