Friday, April 27, 2007


***looking for Stillwater Writing Retreat? You can find complete information on the upper section of the page under its own tab***

"Just for fun, my family invented a religion like the Shakers we called Stillwater. I'm eldress, and we have a big celebration on Midsummer's Eve. It's really a state of mind. Stillwater connotes something very peaceful, you see, life without stress. Nowadays, people are so jeezled up. If they took some chamomile tea and spent more time rocking on the porch in the evening listening to the song of the hermit thrush, they might enjoy life more. Stillwater believers are very hedonistic. Life is to be enjoyed, not saddled with. Do you know that lovely quotation from Fra Giovanni? He was an old monk from away back who wrote to his patron, 'The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy.' That's the first commandment of the Stillwater religion. Joy is there for the taking." -Tasha Tudor, from The Private World of Tasha Tudor *** I discovered Tasha Tudor when we got the corgyn - she has written and illustrated several children's books featuring the corgi. As I looked for more of her wonderful books, I came across her cookbook, which I love, and the above book, which is a favorite, full of her ramblings and the most marvelous photos of Tasha in the Vermont cottage built by her son.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I was going to post this photo, apropos of nothing, just because I liked it.

But then, moments later, I opened a book to this quote:

Ancient power spots, and sacred sites ... are gateways. The real openings lie in our own hearts, minds, and lives.

-Jo May, Fogou

It very much feels like the gate to the barn is the threshold to a different reality.

The window and the stall in the photo used to belong to Salina, who was a true guardian of the space. She kept an almost constant vigil to the driveway and the house. Awhile back it became Cody's stall, and he sometimes comes and looks over the fence into the back yard. This day, it was borrowed by Apache Moon who was awaiting a massage, and his attention to the house charmed me.

I wonder if they look at our windows and ponder what it is we do in here.

Monday, April 23, 2007


With family out of town, I've come down from the garret to do revisions in a new location. I looked up and over the laptop screen this morning to see this lovely sight.

Sun, light, shadow, and lace, illuminated.


Saturday, April 21, 2007


I don't often do the evening feed at the barn, but when I do, like tonight, I am reminded of the first evening we spent here preparing for the arrival of our horses.

Bedding the stalls that first time made me realize it was really happening - my dream to have my horses with us at home.

We heard a bobcat that night too, singing in the darkness.

Tonight when I went out Keil Bay was waiting. The other horses hadn't come up to the barn yet, so we had a few moments to visit before the line-up for dinner began.

Keil Bay and I sing to one another every morning when I feed, but our evening song is quiet, an elegant ending to the day.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday's big excitement

My diatomaceous earth arrived!

Diatomaceous earth, also known as DE, diatomite, diahydro, kieselguhr, kieselgur and Celite, is a naturally occurring, soft, chalk-like sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. This powder has an abrasive feel, similar to pumice powder, and is very light, due to its high porosity. The typical chemical composition of diatomaceous earth is 86% silica, 5% sodium, 3% magnesium and 2% iron.

Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It is used as a filtration aid, as a mild abrasive, as a mechanical insecticide, as an absorbent for liquids, as cat litter, as an activator in blood clotting studies, and as a component of dynamite. As it is also heat-resistant, it can be used as a thermal insulator.

My plans for this food-grade DE have to do with keeping ticks and fleas off dogs, cats, and horses, as well as controlling fire ants and kitchen ants.

I've read so many good things about it - can't wait to see if it can do a good job here without using poisons.

P/S: I resisted the temptation to find a metaphor for DE and novel revisions. Feel free to take a shot at it if you like. :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I usually work on my book(s) for an hour or so in the mornings, before the day gets going. It's become a special time of day for me. Today I was sitting here as usual when I heard an owl right outside my window.

It called three times, and then another one started singing. Four verses and now silence.

The owl has to do with mystery, magic, omens, silent wisdom, and vision in the night, according to a favorite book of mine, Ted Andrew's Animal Speak. He says the owl brings gifts of clairvoyance and clairaudience.

Both my second and third books, the two I'm working on, feature all of these elements.

Yesterday, I felt drained and in need of replenishment.

This morning's owl song fills me up.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

holding it together

Yesterday our four horses had dental exams and flotations, which involves anesthesia and a lot of noise/smell. Think of the dentist drilling away on one small human tooth and then think of a horse's head cranked up on a pulley with a long loud instrument disappearing into his long jaw.

I was absolutely drained by the end of it.

On top of that, Keil Bay had a twig jammed into his neck so deep we couldn't even see where it went in anymore, and this had to be lidocained, incised, and then stapled back together.

There's something about the metal staples in his neck - I feel like I am using my psychic energy to keep them in place, as though any lapse on my part and they will pop out, split open, rip apart.

There are a number of other things, albeit minor, adding to this stress. I realized this morning there are a lot of days between now and May 1st, when his staples come out.

As I often do, I went looking for a quote or passage to bolster my spirit.

Chinese inscription cited by Thoreau in Walden:

Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again.

This is so simple, but soothing to read. It made me think of a container that constantly releases energy, in a wonderful, present, dynamic way. The key is not to hoard the energy, or stop it up, but to replenish it regularly.

I don't know why this simple concept is so easily forgotten or set aside.

The first thing I'm going to do, right now, is find a new image for those metal staples.

(I was going to post a photo of them, but when it came down to it, I couldn't bring myself to even center them in the viewfinder, much less click the shutter!)

Saturday, April 14, 2007


I completed the revision pass through my work-in-progress this morning and am setting it aside until I can do the research needed to write two additional scenes.

So... I'm officially back to novel number two, for what I hope is the final revision.

I opened the word doc just now and surprised myself with the quote that opens the novel. Funny how your own book can take you by surprise if you leave it alone for awhile. :)

I love these words from Jung.

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

-Carl Gustav Jung, Alchemical Studies, Vol. 15, p. 470

Friday, April 13, 2007

the very best way to start a day

In the arena with Keil Bay, who teaches me all I need to know about letting go, forward motion, breathing, and balance.

I am grateful indeed.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Ritual To Read To Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider-
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give - yes, no, or maybe -
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

William Stafford

growing up

Each morning when I go into my daughter's room to wake her, I find the book(s) she's reading very neatly placed on the floor beside her bed. Like me, she reads incessantly, and often ends her days with a book.

This morning the juxtaposition of two titles was startling. It seems the little girl is growing up.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

back at the office

It felt like I'd been out of the office forever, but it's only been a week. After seeing clients, as I was walking out to the car, I happened to look back and up at my office windows and noticed the sky. It looked as if glorious energy was coming right out of the top. Which very much matched the work done there today.

the remains of the (very cold) day(s)

Tender new leaves on many of our trees following the recent hard frost are wilted, shriveled, black. The dogwoods seem to have come through well. The flies, ticks, carpenter bees, and ants have disappeared.

Interesting that even with the unseasonably warm days we had before this late frost, the horses did not shed completely out. Yesterday and today, after the worst of the cold, their shedding has tripled, the barn aisle covered with tiny carpets of chestnut, bay, white mixed with brown, and black.

The toad prince has gone back into his burrow.

It was so loud outside, and now it's gone quiet again.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

joshua bell

Go read THIS at the Washington Post.

Fascinating, but sad.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

getting back into the book

I've been distracted the past few days and have fallen out of the spell of revision. This is not writer's block. It's more like writer's inertia. I can see what I need to do, and what I *want* to do - but I'm having trouble taking the first step.

There are cures for this. Getting out of the regular writing environment is one. I need to pack up my laptop and leave this garret!

Which was my plan, but the wind is roaring outside and has me feeling both inert and restless, if you can imagine such a thing.

However, I promised myself I would do this today - find my path back onto the conveyor belt of this book, which was going so smoothly earlier in the week, and which is, in fact, STILL going smoothly. I'm just not on it.

You know the feeling of standing at the foot of an escalator, choosing the right moment to step on? And how pausing too long brings you to a complete halt? That's exactly what this is.

I will report back later, hopefully from a distant location, which will mean I am back in motion.

Wish me luck.

Here's where I ended up, tucked into a back nook at our wonderful local cafe/coffeehouse. I'm now up to page 251/322 in my revision, back in motion and with more to go before I leave here.

So. It worked!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

cold front

Yesterday the wind blew in, the pressure dropped, and the horses went slightly crazy. They feel the shift in the weather well ahead of changes in temperature, and for most of the day they were alternately skittish and brazen, galloping through the barn aisle at mid-day feed time, spinning wildly at one another in the field, spooking at invisible monsters.

If predictions are accurate, we will be putting blankets on horses at least two nights this weekend.

Last night, after feeding dinner, I was stacking the feed tubs in their usual place when I noticed a toad huddled against the wall, red clay color with grass green markings. The first toad of the season, a welcome guest, because he does a wonderful job of eating flies and other pesky insects. He seemed a bit bewildered though, as if he had come packed and ready to stay, only to realize he was early.

I'm sure he'll burrow back into the dirt and wait for spring to return.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

why I write

I've been thinking about this off and on the past few days, and this morning I took John Gardner's book, On Becoming A Novelist, off the shelf and paged through it. His books on writing are among my favorites, as he focuses more on the magic of the creative process than the technical aspects of writing.

It is John Gardner who wrote the mantra that stays with me when I write, the goal I have in mind: creating the "vivid, continuous dream."

So, today, I am thinking about why, and I find this passage from John:

"The true novelist is the one who doesn't quit. Novel-writing is not so much a profession as a yoga, or 'way,' an alternative to ordinary life-in-the-world. Its benefits are quasi-religious -- a changed quality of mind and heart, satisfactions no non-novelist can understand -- and its rigors generally bring no profit except to the spirit. For those who are authentically called to the profession, spiritual profits are enough."

This pretty much sums it up.