Friday, December 29, 2006

heart's desire

What things soever ye desire,
when ye pray,
believe that ye receive them,
and ye shall have them.

Mark 11:24

You shall receive whatever gift you may name, as far as wind dries, rain wets, sun revolves; as far as sea encircles and earth extends.

Culhwch and Olwen, from The Mabinogian

The true heart's desire is an integral potentiality, a germinated seed waiting to manifest... We must cancel our old and immature wishes by calling them back and revoking them, along with any other idle wishes we may have uttered and since forgotten. Then the way stands clear.

Caitlin Matthews

If you know you want it,
Have it.

Gita Bellin

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

the day after ... and books

Our Christmas was quiet and sweet this year, I think because we kept it simple and I did a good job not taking on more than I could manage. Having the horses has made that job easier: the daily barn routine is unceasing, chores that can't be put off. Yesterday it rained heavily here, and for most of the day the horses were inside. There was something especially sweet about our regular walks to the barn to keep them supplied with hay and water as the day unfolded.

Two books have shepherded me through this holiday and I'd like to talk about them here.

Dot Jackson's Refuge was published this year by North Carolina's Novello Festival Press, "the nation's only public library-sponsored literary publisher. An imprint of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, NFP seeks to enhance awareness of the literary arts and expand opportunities for readers and writers from within our community and beyond it."

I was in Southern Pines doing a feed store run when Dot Jackson was interviewed on NPR. By the time I listened to the interview and the excerpt she read on the air, I turned the car around and headed directly to the Country Bookshop to buy a copy.

Refuge is the story of Mary Seneca Steele, a Charleston woman who flees an unhappy marriage with her two children to find grace and beauty in a mountain cove. Embraced by her father's family, she also finds a fierce and once-in-a-lifetime love with her cousin, Ben Aaron Steele.

The novel is beautifully written, beautifully paced, and offers characters so well-drawn I feel as if they are distant relatives of my own. I haven't yet put the book on a shelf - not quite ready to have it out of arm's reach.

If you like literary fiction, lyrical language, and a wonderful story, support both Ms. Jackson and Novello Festival Press and go buy this book. I love it that Novello is bringing books like this into the world.

The second book needs no introduction. Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons is on the New York Times Bestseller list and has had a tremendous amount of fanfare the past few months.

I loved Cold Mountain and have waited patiently for Frazier's new novel. I bought it the day it came out and hoarded it like a rare bottle of wine until Christmas eve. I admit that I am still reading, and not very far into the book at this writing. But I'm doing the thing I do with books I end up loving -- only allowing myself to read a few pages at a time in order to savor every word and image.

This book is lighter than Cold Mountain but every bit as well written. It makes me want to go on a week-long writing retreat to work on my own books. I highly recommend it.

One of my resolutions for 2007 is to get contracts on my three novels. Another is to get the word out about novels I read and love - the ones that engage and inspire me. I especially want to support "new" writers by getting out to the local bookstores to buy books in hardcover, early on, and make a point to tell folks about the books that move me.

Help me do this by making your own recommendations in comments here, or emailing about books you come across and love.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

the day before the day before

Everything that lives is holy.

William Blake

The only beloved is the living mystery itself.

Kathleen Raine

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

winter solstice

Today is the shortest day of the year. A wonderful chance to consider the long shadow you cast in the sunlight of mid-day. An opportunity to notice the light that might exist in darkness ... and how you will find that light and turn it on.

From today's Writer's Almanac email:

In the northern hemisphere, today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It's officially the first day of winter and one of the oldest known holidays in human history. Anthropologists believe that solstice celebrations go back at least 30,000 years, before humans even began farming on a large scale. Many of the most ancient stone structures made by human beings were designed to pinpoint the precise date of the solstice. The stone circles of Stonehenge were arranged to receive the first rays of midwinter sun.

I'd love to make a stone structure to do the very same thing.

We treat our dogs, cats, and horses on the evening of the solstice, and we also gift the wilder animals that share space with us. Deer and the birds, others we rarely see, like opossum and raccoon. Walking the perimeter of our property with candles in the dark of night is one of my favorite walks all year long.

Inside, we enjoy a special meal, open a family gift, and spend time together with music. I often think how affected we are by the shortening of daylight, and how many of our phrases associated with struggle and despair use images of night and morning. The long dark night of the soul. In the light of day. The sun will come up tomorrow. Etc.

Many solstice rituals focus on celebrating the lengthening of the days following the solstice, but I think the longest night is a reason to celebrate all on its own. The longest night is a wonderful time to string lights everywhere, light candles, build a fire, snuggle in with books, music, pets, children, one another. A long quiet night to let all things creative simmer and come to the surface. The perfect time to write down the thing you want to let go of or leave behind as the light of dawn approaches. We write ours down on slips of paper and burn them, and on New Year's Eve we take the christmas tree out, make a bonfire, and do it again, just in case there's something we forgot. :)

Two poems we always read out loud as part of our solstice ritual:

The Shortest Day

So the shortest day came and the year died,
And everywhere, down the centuries of the snow-white world came people
Singing - dancing - to drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees.
They hung their homes with evergreens.
And burned beseeching fires all night long to keep the year alive.

And when the new day sunshine blazed awake,
They shouted "Reveille!"

Through all across the ages you can hear them - echoing behind us.
All the long echoes sing the same delight, this shortest day.

As promise wakens in the sleeping land,
They carol - feast - give thanks and dearly love their friends
And hope for peace.

And so do we - here now - this year - and every year.

Susan Cooper

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

tagged: the five things you don't know about me

Peggy Payne over at her Boldness Blog has tagged me. So here goes, the five things you don't know about me:

1. I am pretty darned clueless about computers and blogging. I had to look up what tagged even meant.

2. I don't know how to make something in this post a link, making it difficult to tag anyone else!

3. My husband is not only a landscape photographer but a brilliant software architect, so he might be able to teach me.

4. This came up the other night while we were eating dinner here at home: I was once a baton twirler who also twirled fire.

5. I once aspired (for a relatively brief period in my life) to become Jon Bon Jovi's hair stylist and go on tour with him.


Time to tag people:

And the SIXTH thing you don't know about me: if I really try, I can figure almost anything out. :)

Monday, December 18, 2006


Recently on another blog, I commented that I have an odd repulsion to the word "bling-bling." I wondered where the word came from, and why everyone seems to be using it. Today the answer found its way to my email inbox:

bling-bling (bling-bling) noun

Expensive, flashy jewelry or other items.

[From hip-hop slang, apparently imitative of the sounds of
the clanging jewelry, or of the light reflecting from them.]

I am not much of a hip-hop fan. I like the idea that the word is imitative of the sound of the jewelry it describes, or the light reflecting. But there are other, better words. Clinquant, for one:

clinquant (KLING-kuhnt) adjective

Glittering, especially with gold or tinsel.


Tinsel; glitter.

[From French, present participle of obsolete clinquer (to clink),
from Dutch klinken (to clink).]

The main place I come face-to-face with "bling-bling" is in the tack shop, where it has latched itself on to halters, bridles, stirrups, stock ties, riding crops and whips, even spurs.

I love sparkly things. I love the way the sun sparkles on still water. The sun glittering through newly green leaves. A horse's coat that shimmers in the sun.

I do NOT, however, want fake jewels on my riding attire, or my tack. Give me good well-oiled leather, plain, and nice fabrics without piping or insignia.

There was a beloved vintage dress once, discovered in the bottom drawer of a dresser in a junk shop, that came from Paris and had tiny mirrors and sequins sewn into the bodice. The skirt was voluminous and made of a rich merlot fabric that was iridescent. The entire dress shimmered. I loved that dress, and wore it for signature occasions through a number of years.

It is gone now, and thank goodness, because if I wore it and anyone said the word "bling-bling" something, although I'm not exactly sure what, would be ruined.

Thought for the day: words have great power.

Friday, December 15, 2006

gifts from above

Yesterday a squirrel fell from the sky and landed quite literally at my feet. (no harm was done, as he took off when Keats the cat came running to check him out)

Then the great runic X appeared.

This morning a mysterious seed fell from nowhere onto the dining room floor. I saw it land and heard the tiny click as it hit the hardwoods. I have soaked and planted it to see what grows.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Today I am sending something out - one of my strange and lovely birds is ready to fly.

If you will, send some energy to help it find its new home.

Quickly, before the cold sets in again.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

everything is illuminated

Yesterday's focus was illumination... and I was pleased and surprised when I looked up from my chair to see that the object of the sun's focus through my window was the desk and the work in progress.

Friday, December 08, 2006

pas de deux

in my new training routine with keil bay, I'm on a 3-day work, 1-day off schedule, with some pretty specific exercises that build from one day to the next. tuesday we did lots of walking, very forward and engaged, with crisp halts, a bit of leg-yielding, and various figures. some trotting on a loose rein. wednesday we added trot work, mostly walk-trot-walk transitions, and one bit of canter to stretch things out. turns on the haunches, turns on the forehand.

we have also added some leg and neck stretches for him on the ground, and a tail pull exercise that stretches the muscles along the top of his back.

yesterday, my daughter and her pony joined us for the warm-up and intensive trot work with more canter added in. it was windy and quite blustery at times, so both keil bay and the little man were initially preoccupied with leaves blowing in circles and especially the back field, which they seemed to think might be brewing monsters.

but... no hind issues for keil bay any of these days, and the trot/canter transitions were very good, primarily b/c I am working on how I ask for them.

we ended the work-out on a whim that turned to zen - pas de deux.

we rode side-by-side, keil bay on the rail, and the little man on the quarter line, since his stride is so much smaller.

it took a bit of experimenting to get them matched at the walk and trot and canter, but once we got the hang of it, started clicking. interestingly, keil bay figured out what we were doing and began to collect himself so as not to get ahead of the pony. and the pony extended to keep up with keil bay. what began as work soon turned nearly effortless, and we added changes across the diagonals, which required keil bay to move ahead and the pony to slow and then come up on the inside again - hard to describe but quite beautiful in motion. like a perfectly rendered poem.

in one wonderful moment, keil bay extended into his big trot, and the pony cantered to keep up. while not perfect pas-de-deux, it was perfect in other ways. me showing off keil bay's gorgeous trot, my daughter with her near-perfect position at the very lovely canter this pony has when he turns it on.

after the ride, my daughter and I were remarkably attuned as we moved on through the barn chore routine, without words, mind-reading back and forth as I had a thought of something that needed doing and she did it, and vice versa.

horses have magic in them.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

how very apropos

on my way out to the barn I noticed that one of our artists in residence, the ballerina spinners, had gravitated to one of my favorite original paintings in our living room...

ballerina cognoscente!

meant to say...

that in response to my recent post about being the camera due to lack of the actual digital device, someone read that and bought me one - a nice small one I can carry around easily - it arrived late last week and I took yesterday's photo with it.

thanks, matthew..


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

little altars (one of many)

Some things...arrive in their own mysterious hour, on their own terms and not yours, to be seized or relinquished forever.

Gail Godwin

Friday, December 01, 2006

collection at the trot

Keil Bay has been having a right hind glitch this week - a couple of "hitches" at the trot on Sunday and Monday - so our work has been light. I panic a little when he's off, but determined to ride through it, focusing on the things we could do together that would keep him moving and using his back and hind quarters without stress.

Yesterday we were doing lots of walk with intermittent trot transitions. My focus was my own position, keeping him in a very forward gait, and trying to make those transitions smooth and effective.

We came around the short end of the arena at a trot and suddenly something clicked with my seat and his movement. I was sitting the trot about as good as I ever have, and I'm not sure what else I was doing, but suddenly the trot became very very collected, he went on the bit perfectly, and we trotted the entire long side in this amazing symphony of horse and rider at collection. At one point it almost felt like we were slowing to piaffe, nothing I have ever done before. (piaffe is a trot that is virtually in place, the collection is so complete)

I have no idea where this came from. I tried to repeat it again later in the ride, but couldn't get it. It's the first time I've ever ridden that kind of movement on any horse - leave it to Keil Bay to have an off week and yet throw in something so incredible in the midst of it.

It was control and grace and harmony woven into forward motion and balance and stillness. Such a gift in the midst of an otherwise very hectic week.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

integrity in work

Today I finished the rewrite of my first novel. I've been considering the writing process this week, and "work" in general. What it means to do good work. How to balance the varying kinds of work I do.

My psychotherapy work with clients is easy to hold with integrity, easy to define what that means. It is private work, and sacred, and my commitment is both to witness and contain, and equally important, to keep myself intact and healthy so I have the strength to uphold my end of the respectful partnership.

Integrity in writing feels more nebulous. I write mostly fiction, and without outlines or plots drawn ahead of time. I work from a kernel of something that expands as it goes, follow the clues of character and story where they lead me. And yet, at some point, the pages take on a form that has its own integrity, and my task then is to honor that.

This rewrite is a ms that got a lot of attention several years ago. It was good then, it's better now, and I'm not sure if it simply wasn't ready to be finished before or if I've looked at it with fresh eyes and seen something more to do. I feel now it's more marketable, and determining how to move toward that, while keeping the integrity of the story intact, has been a challenge.

On a more mundane level, there are endless chores and tasks associated with the daily management of a home and a barn. I try to find the zen in doing those chores, and while I can easily get caught up in the frenzy of wanting them all done and checked off some master list, I also feel the effect of doing them well, for their own sake, and finding incentive in what the little things mean to the bigger picture. Small things done well can be profound.

How to transfer this to children is a puzzle right now. The concept and the visceral satisfaction in a job well done, even when the job is mucking a stall or cleaning a bathroom sink.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Not an intended one, but I've had nearly a week without working on my book, and woke up this morning with a slight headache, wondering how to get back to it smoothly. There is so much to do in a day, much of it pleasurable, but often enough one thing has to be set aside to get to another.

As is my morning habit, I randomly opened the book of quotes I have had for many years - A Guide For the Advanced Soul by Susan Hayward - and read the page.

"Every now and then go away,
have a little relaxation,
for when you come back
to your work
your judgement will be surer;
since to remain constantly at work
will cause you to lose power
of judgement...

Go some distance away
because the work appears smaller
and more of it
can be taken in at a glance,
and a lack of harmony
or proportion
is more readily seen.

Leonardo Da Vinci

So. I am back from my hiatus and trust the editing will be that much more effective. Here's to harmony and perfect proportion.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

and on another note entirely...

what do you do when it's too cold to ride, the wind outside makes you too restless to write, and cleaning the house holds no appeal at all?

make lunch, mugs of hot chai, and pop in Shakespeare in Love.


extravigant minutiae

My ability to get out and about with the camera has been interrupted lately - the digital is my husband's and it's his passion, so it stays with him most of the time. Plus, I'm not all that comfortable with all the settings. I want my old Nikon FM and the ability to go in the darkroom and make my own prints, red light darkness and the tangy smell of chemicals, the swish of the developer in the stainless steel can, the burble of fix as the prints are flipped, bare-fingered.

But then they'd have to be scanned and all that. So.

For today I'm the camera.

Some recent snapshots via my own eyes:

On Sunday my daughter rode in her first big horse show. First time out jumping, period. The stadium course was the most complex one she's ever done - ten solid jumps laden with flowers, no straight lines, complicated pattern, maximum height and width for her class. She was visibly nervous, face tight and lips set, but when I asked if she wanted to ride it, she said YES. Adamantly. Her pony was flustered by the applause after each round, shying sideways, prancing, and by the time they entered the arena, he was a bit wound up. She got off course midway and at the next jump he refused, quite suddenly, and she fell. Big covered arena, surrounded by riders and trainers and family members and spectators and a judge... a course she was suddenly in the midst of and confused by. A pony who clearly wanted to be Done With This. She stood up, got her pony's reins, brushed herself off, and remounted. Tried again. Two more times he refused, but she stayed on, circled him around, and the fourth time he jumped it perfectly. Her tenacity was astounding. This snapshot files with one I remember from her second year: our family in the mountains, hiking to Linville Falls. The two year old who absolutely refused to be carried, but hiked the whole way there and back on her two little feet. People stopped and commented on her tough persistence.

Yesterday: a neighbor's horses got loose while she was at work. They came straight to our fence line, seeking the company of other horses. Keil Bay alerted us with his deafening hyena squeal. I envisioned a horse fight in our own herd, but he was squealing at the neighboring herd on the other side of our fence. Suddenly they spooked and ran back toward their property. The snapshot - four bay horses of varying sizes, cantering free, such an odd sight but beautiful. The wildness of horses is hidden with our domesticity, but there it was, flowing manes, tails, no fences.

Today: white sky, the bare black branches of trees in silhouette. Wind rushing, cold air. A glimpse of winter, nearly colorless but for the evergreens, which keep us hopeful.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

simple pleasures

Today we got hay from our favorite local hay grower. He has the most beautiful, organic orchard grass hay around, and has been very generous in loaning his farm truck when our minivan died and we lost our hay transport vehicle.

Now we can get a good-sized load in the horse trailer, and when my husband pulled up with the hay around noon, I ran out, as I always do, to watch the bales being stacked in our hay room.

I do not know why this gives me so much pleasure.

I suppose it comes from all the years of wanting horses at home and finally having them. The hay is the full cupboard, akin to the full house feeling of standing in the barn aisle at feeding time while four heads wait patiently over stall doors.

And then Keil Bay knees his stall door with one huge bang. Reverie has its limits.

Next to getting hay, I love when the shavings guy dumps our huge load. It lies beneath the blue tarp like a huge cat sleeping, or a small whale waiting. The cats, Osage, Dickens, and Keats, careen down the sides and eventually end up on top, like Sphinxes.

Putting clean shavings in means forking them into the wheelbarrow multiple times and emptying, one load after the other, into the stalls. My favorite part is to spread the shavings, bank them against the stall walls, smooth them out, feel the springy, fragrant pine beneath my feet. The equivalent of making a bed up with crisp clean sheets. The thought of rest to come.

When we moved here to our farm, a full year ago, I imagined my pleasure in these simple things would pale with the repetition.

It hasn't.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

hit by a Cosmic Ray

Today I was writing an email when my laptop suddenly made a high-pitched squeak and went deadly black. I sat for a moment, terrified, then closed the laptop and waited for the little light to blink, letting me know it was still alive.

Nothing. I opened the laptop back up and hit the power button. It made the usual sound, but the screen remained black for what seemed like too long a time - so I grabbed the phone and dialed my personal computer tech support guy. He told me to restart the computer. :)

By that time the screen was on again and things seemed normal. Until a little window popped up saying that my computer's clock was set for some date in 2001 and I needed to do something manually.

Personal tech support guy talked me through it. It had already reset itself to "Apple Time" by that point anyway. Files opened. I had lost the email. I thought I had lost Firefox. Tech support talked me through re-finding it.

I asked what it meant, that the computer had done this.

"Was there a power flutter?"


"Nothing happened with the electricity?"


"Must have been a Cosmic Ray."

I thought at first he was teasing me. Then I thought maybe it was some new Eckhart Tolle thing. Tech support guy googled something and read it out loud to me. Something about a, yes, Cosmic Ray, knocking out computers, something called soft errors.

By this time, I was completely charmed by the idea that I Had Been Hit By A Cosmic Ray.


I'm convinced it forebodes amazing, fabulous things.


Sorry, I was unable to obtain a photograph of this amazing experience.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I've been trying to get the three ravens in a photo to no avail, and didn't have the camera with me the morning I saw the stand of vultures, probably twenty-five or so, in a roadside field.

But my husband came home tonight with a gift - this lovely photo of three vultures, a nice compromise, particularly in silhouette.

Thank you, Matthew.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

the ballerinas

For the past few months the house has been occupied with spiders I've named the ballerinas because of their exquisite delicate legs and violin-shaped bodies. The ballerinas create nearly invisible webs and thus seem suspended in mid-air, gracefully spinning, sometimes doing what seems like dance across the span of threads, occasionally seeming to cartwheel as they stay out of the path of my movement.

One was beneath the windowsill by my garret chair. In the evenings when I write she would spin to keep me company. Her spinning is what brought me out of a stuck place in the summer.

Another one lived by the window over the kitchen sink. She would visit as I washed dishes, quickly disappearing if I splashed too much water.

Last week I discovered one in the huge seashell that sits on my bathtub ledge, the perfect place for a spider who needs easy access to private spaces.

This one lives above the roses hanging above the laundry room sink. Although she sometimes comes down to the sink itself, today she was encouraged to come low enough for the photo.

The ballerinas seem to be dying out this time of year, although I'm noticing lots of very tiny ones, nearly impossible to see in their fine, transparent youth.

Other than Charlotte, these are the first spiders I have become attached to - they seem to add something to the spirit of creativity, artists in residence.

Friday, November 10, 2006


As far back as I can remember, I've been terrified of needles. The kind that give you medicine. They hurt, but it has never been the pain itself - more the idea of the needle piercing my skin, that it might go "too deep" or "too far in."

This year, Keil Bay, soon to be 18 years old, started exhibiting a little "hitch" in the trot, not always noticeable, easily worked out with a good warm-up. But the vet suggested it would be a good time to start him on Adequan injections to help with joint issues.

Adequan itself is rather expensive. If you then pay the vet to come out to give the injections, it's farm call plus injection plus cost of the med itself. So the vet taught me how to do it.

I was physically ill the day he came to teach me. Had a sudden onset of a cold, intense sweating, butterflies, nausea. Seeing the needle in its case was hard enough - but watching as it went into Keil Bay's neck, via the force of my own hand, was ... nearly too much.

I suspect only a child of mine needing injections or Keil Bay needing them could have pushed me to try. The vet had me do everything from start to finish, with his instruction along the way. Once I got the syringe loaded and ready to go, I wasn't sure I could continue. The idea of pushing the needle into flesh was overwhelming. But I did it.

That day, with supervision. Then once a week for 3 more weeks by myself. And once a month since. Keil Bay stands like a soldier, still as a statue. He doesn't even flinch. I am astounded that a lifelong fear can be so easily conquered, mostly, I suspect, because there was a real reason to overcome it.

Keil Bay is moving so well these days it's been a joy to ride him. The Adequan is making a huge difference. Today was the day for this month's injection, and for the first time, I didn't feel nervous walking out to the barn with that loaded syringe. It's starting to feel almost normal. I slowed every part of the process down some, allowed myself to focus on what I was doing. How important it is to him, and to me.

Monday, November 06, 2006


I was waiting for this all summer - the month (for me) when forward motion kicks into high gear.

The writing is flowing fast again, Keil Bay is moving like a dream, and things I've been trying to accomplish for months seem to be falling easily into place. People I haven't been in contact with for awhile are reconnecting.

Today's riding lesson continued from last week's work. Keil pushed into his floating trot right off, and my seat stayed right with him. We rode poles on the ground and then raised them, high enough that Keil jumped one of them the first time through. What a kick to be airborne with Keil Bay!

In general, there's a lot of great stuff happening.

I'm adding to this in the midst of the morning writing and a chapter called kairos... which means fullness of time, and the right moment for action.

Fun to have the revision coincide with life this way.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

claire in the sand

I'm working on a re-write of my first novel, and after posting the sandplay photo earlier this week, I remembered that for several weeks, back in 2004, I did a series of sandtrays from the "perspective" of my main character, Claire.

How perfect it is to recall that right now, as I delve back into her world, seeking deeper insight into who she is.

I'm interested to see if studying these photos two years after the fact reveals new information about Claire and/or impacts my revision.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

working in the sand

One of the things keeping me busy lately is all the amazing work my clients are doing in the sand. To give you an idea of what this work looks like, here's a tray I did myself in 2004, in celebration of my "real" birthday, which comes only once every four years.

Sandplay therapy was developed by Dora Kalff, a Jungian therapist, via her work with the Jung Institute, Tibetan Buddhism, and Margaret Lowenfeld, a child psychiatrist. It offers the client an opportunity to create a world inside the boundaries of the tray, using figures and the arrangement of the sand itself, that corresponds to the inner state and is comparable to the dream experience.

Within the temenos, or sacred space, the shattered pieces of a life can be reassembled.

As Jung said, "Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain."

My own sandplay process in 1999 triggered the writing of my first novel, a long-held desire that had been buried for a number of years. I highly recommend this work to creative artists experiencing blockages or the inability to complete creative works.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

samhain/summer's end

I have become fascinated with the cycling of seasons and the Celtic celebrations that follow them.

Here at our farm, November Hill, (named because this is my favorite month) the trees are brilliant, blazing with reds, oranges, yellows that seem that much more vivid against the evergreens. The horses are munching on acorns - huge numbers this year - and galloping/bucking/rearing in what I imagine is pure delight that the season of biting insects is nearly over.

Out by the edges of our property, if you stand and listen/watch closely, you can see the deer moving through the woods.

Wooly worms, three-quarters rust and a bit of black this year, supposedly indicate we're in for a long autumn and short winter, but the huge numbers of acorns seems to counter that notion.

Samhain meant to the Celts that the dark part of the year was approaching, and the doorways to "other" worlds, faery, the dead, etc. were open more than usual. It's a good time of year for taking stock of what you have, what you want, and what you can leave behind. On many levels. It's also a good time for listening.

I've been clearing spaces that have been cluttered all year: the garage, the tack room, shelves around the house. Along with that I find myself emptying my to do lists, and my mind of cluttering thoughts. Letting new ideas pop into that new space.

The still cold air of early morning really helps the process.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Sadly there is no photo to document the magic of today's riding lesson on Keil Bay. Keil has a huge, grand, floating trot that I have seen in the fields since the day I brought him home... but under saddle it was a big trot for me to ride. We've hit it off and on in our work together - sometimes he was on and I was off, other times vice versa.

Today, we were doing focused lateral work and my wonderful trainer was pushing both of us to get it right. Something about me being extra tough with Keil (very hard for me to do, as I generally think he hung the moon no matter what he does!) opened up that gorgeous trot and for the first time ever, I was riding it very very well. We've had stretches of canter that were like this - as though his feet aren't even touching the ground. Light and weightless, in sync. And it didn't stop the entire lesson.


It's made my whole week.

Fun With Shakespeare

In continuing the Hokey Pokey theme from last week (and buying myself some time to take several photos for the next blog entry waiting in line) the following is from the Washington Post Style Invitational contest that asked readers to submit "instructions" for something/anything, but written in the style of a famous person. The winning entry several years ago - the Hokey Pokey - as written by The Bard himself:

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke.
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl,
To spin! A wilde release from Heaven's yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

This made me laugh out loud when I saw it years back, and again yesterday when I was cleaning out a desk drawer. I'm pre-empting this busy week even before it arrives. :)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Busy week... feels like I'm rushing to keep up but for what/whose race? Right Now I'm going to put on Liz Story, light a candle, and write for an hour. Tomorrow I'm going to get in a good hour of riding.

And then, the Hokey Pokey. :)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"I wake up in the morning with a dream in my eyes."
Allen Ginsberg

I woke up this morning with a dream in mine. It was a long and intricate dream that began with pages of my novel in galley form and me being somewhat astounded at the profoundness of my words on the page that way. Switched to a labyrinthine journey with my horse, Keil Bay, by my side, the regular path blocked, detours and new directions to take, (horse folks will appreciate the detail that at one detour I noted a gigantic stack of Adequan boxes, filled with vials of the expensive glucosamine fluid - the fluid of ease of motion, forward motion, relief...)

Ended with me and Keil Bay in a room, facing several doors: one that led to a wall, another that was blocked but passable with some work, one that was locked, and the one we had come through, marked "exit."

Remarkable to me was the feeling of peace and stillness that ended the dream. It was okay to wait, to be, to Not Act, which, by the way, is often hard for me to do. Being without action. :)

Feel free to share.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

quiet in heart, and in eye clear

the wise eye of zen-master Keil Bay, with quiet-hearted Salina in the background.. a horseback ride in our back field, picking wild grapes from vines hung low, the persimmon tree down the lane, geese honking overhead, and this poem, which came to reside on my little altar last autumn when we moved here, and has this year come true:

The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

Wendell Berry

Friday, October 13, 2006

Time for the annual William Stafford (that lives on the inside of my laptop all year but is particularly apropos in this season):


You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightning before it says
its names - and then the clouds' wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles - you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rocks, and years. You turn your head
that's what the silence meant: you're not alone
The whole wide world pours down.

William Stafford

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The view from the bench in the Writer's Garden at Weymouth, a favorite place to sit and ponder in between pages. I'm here for a few days to work on the novel-in-progress. Took a walk through the big field to the woods yesterday and there were the three ravens... they keep me focused. Back to the desk in the magic mansion.

Monday, September 25, 2006

For the past year or so, I've been hounded by ravens. Three at a time, usually, in various places in my life. They call outside my office window, fly beside my car on vacations, and sit in my fields here at home. Before we moved they used to pace outside our fence, taunting the Corgyn. The raven has a long history of being an omen, having to do with magic and shapeshifting, teaching how to bring light from darkness. The odd thing: my current novel in progress has to do with signs and omens, and there are ravens in it that predated these real ones, this conspiracy of ravens. I've tried to get photos but they fly away before I can snap the shutter. So here is the raven figure from my sandplay collection, the only one I can capture right now. I'll keep trying.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I'm working on a new photograph, but in the meantime, today is the autumn equinox, when we're halfway between midsummer and midwinter. A wonderful opportunity, in this harvest season, to meditate on light and darkness. Some ways to do this today: go outside and notice the sunlight and the shadow cast by your own body. Look at the pages you're working on and think about light and shadow in whatever way is meaningful to your story. Experience the sunset this evening, from light all the way to dark.

Consider this an invitation to share your thoughts on light and darkness.

Friday, September 08, 2006

This landscape, done by my husband, makes me think of first draft fiction and the quote by Andrew Wyeth: "I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show."