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.