Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween and Sense of Place

We have giant orange pumpkins on the front porch and smaller "ghost" pumpkins inside, painted by the kids in celebration of the season.

The horses got fall shots today and were perfectly behaved. They're now prancing around the front field, showing off in the cool weather.

While mucking this morning I was thinking about home and homesteads and how many of us are so mobile now we've lost some of the sense of being in a place for a long time and what that offers us.

My childhood was quite stable that way, although we moved to a different house when I was 11 and so my childhood years were in a different house and neighborhood than my adolescence. During college and graduate school I moved so many times it's hard to remember them all.

There was one rental house, though, that I rented for 3 and a half years in my later 20's and then again when I moved back from California. I came back to a house where I'd lived through some major angst and two painful relationships - but I returned with a professional degree and a career and a heck of a lot more insight into myself and life than I'd left with.

The dating I did then was smarter and the men more mature and emotionally healthy. As it turned out, I got married while living in that house, and we stayed there for several more years because it was such a great house. My son was born while we lived there and it strikes me today as somewhat remarkable that I went through my first major relationship angst, my first real therapy, marriage, AND my first pregnancy and childbirth in the same space.

This all has a point, I promise.

Earlier this week I was reading Toni Magee Causey's Murderati post on ghosts, and it made me think of a paper I wrote in high school about paranormal phenomena. Part of what I wrote about was the idea that houses, places, store up energy from the people who live in them.

If that's true, imagine how powerful it is if you have lived through major life phases in the same place. All that energy. all that knowledge and insight. I wonder if this explains what often happens when families go "home" for holidays and major intensity occurs. Sometimes it's negative.

But today I was thinking of it from a different angle and realized there's a lot of potential there if we choose to tap into it.

Embrace the ghosts. Celebrate the struggles. Create something good with all that energy.

Here's to a happy and insightful Halloween.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

writing in November

There's an annual writing challenge called NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - where you write 50k words of a novel during the month of November. I'm not generally one to go for this kind of thing, but someone on Backspace wondered if we could do a smaller-scale version of this on there, and reading everyone's comments got me excited.


I've decided to keep doing my second novel edit much as I have been, allowing my writing group to keep me focused as I read sections and get their feedback.

And starting Thursday I will simultaneously take the November mad dash approach - with a goal of writing 1500-2000 words per day on a totally new project. A nonfiction book on women and horses that I've been simmering for several years now.

If anyone wants to join in, feel free to use the comment section to describe your work, your goal, and your progress as the month rolls on. As you can see, it doesn't have to be a novel. It could be a journal or a book of poetry or a recipe book.

I aim to hit 2008 with lots of rough draft material to edit, query, and sell.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Salina's Gift

Two weeks ago we hosted a natural horsemanship clinic here at our farm. Marlis Amato is a wonderful horse trainer I discovered when searching for someone to help us with trailer loading issues following a traumatic loading incident with our pony at a Pony Club clinic.

Marlis came out and in two extended sessions, helped us learn to load the pony with zero drama and without force of any kind. I recognized a teacher in Marlis, and felt she had her finger on the pulse of something I've been learning since we got our horses.

I was thrilled when she agreed to do a clinic here, and we prepared the barnyard and arena for guests. It was a gorgeous fall day and as each new person arrived, the excitement grew.

Three of our four horses actively participated in the clinic. Keil Bay kept a close eye on things and at times he stood in the paddock by the arena and seemed to be taking notes.

There was a lot to take note of - but the most potent and powerful message came from Salina, my 25-year old mare who has one eye and mild arthritis. I knew she was a special soul when I bought her, but her presence in the clinic was profound.

Salina was handled by a woman who had not ridden in three years and was struggling with some fear and confidence issues due to a knee injury. We all watched as Salina reflected the anxiety and frustration perfectly. She pulled and tugged, circled and side-stepped, but finally, as the handler was able to follow Marlis' suggestions to center herself and quiet her requests, Salina too calmed.

I have experienced this with Salina many times. She's like a living, breathing biofeedback machine. The louder and more agitated one gets, the more she mirrors back. She and I have had some power struggles, and the best lesson she's given me is that less is very often more. And that centering myself is the most powerful tool I have in changing what's going on around me.

During the clinic, everyone watched as Salina went from dervish to attuned. She responded to hand signals given ON HER BLIND SIDE. There was no way she could see the signals. They were silent and subtle and yet she intuited them perfectly.

Her handler made the decision to ride Salina during the afternoon portion of the clinic. The day ended with a woman who hadn't ridden in 3 years achieving a beautiful relaxed and swinging walk on a mare no one could believe was 25 years old. Salina's black coat was dappled in the golden sunlight and the women (we were all women that day) simply went silent in awe.

Marlis has since commented that Salina profoundly affected her that day, affirming everything she has learned and observed and teaches about communication with horses.

She wrote:

"Now I teach that all you need is intent and clear direction for the horse - no touch, but I can't tell you just how profoundly Salina pointed out for every horse that we tend to overdo everything. They are the masters of the subtle and the invisible - and for the most part we are the blind. Ultimately - since they can "feel" energy, we end up confusing them tremendously with all our fuss and that's what causes so many problems. We are the weaker of the species in use of our senses, so we often cannot communicate effectively because of our limitations."

It is very true that even with Salina's missing eye, she "sees" so much more than we humans do. She is teaching me how to use my own knowing energy. It is her primary gift to me.

The day wrapped up with our wonderful equine and human massage therapist, Harriet Ling, providing massages for anyone who wanted one. Mine was last, in the quiet barnyard that still held the magic of the day. When I got up, a small herd of deer had come up through the back field and into the arena. I think the energy drew them in. It was just that powerful.