Thursday, January 31, 2008

Time of Year

I just realized this morning that we're drawing close to Imbolc, the Celtic festival that marks the time of year when winter begins to loosen its grip. It's a time of lustration, purification, and cleansing, when the goddess Brighid brings energy and light.

Brighid is the goddess of poetry, healing, and smithcraft - all magical arts of transformation. She's also a guardian of farm animals.

She teaches the power of committed action, and the awareness of what's possible in our lives. She offers the courage to act on one's dreams.

I've been thinking the past few days that February, for me, will be a month of settling in with words and horses and children, and committing to some actions with each.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tagged! Seven Things You Probably Don't Know About Me

Thanks, Victoria, for tagging! Go see her lovely blog, Teachings of the Horse, one of my new favorites.

And now, the seven things:

1. My favorite TV show when I was little was Lost In Space.

2. My favorite show now is Firefly.

3. We haven't had TV in about 8 years but we do have Netflix.

4. I was an English major in undergrad school and swooped around the English department dressed all in black drinking bad coffee.

5. When I was little I had to pick between ballet and riding lessons. The rest is history!

6. I love big old houses and my office is in the upstairs of a house built in 1904.

7. When I was in high school two of my best friends and I regularly dressed in dark clothing, sneaked out in the middle of the night defying our tiny town's curfew, and threw eggs at houses of boys we liked. We were never caught, and we never told.

I'm going to have to come back here later today and add the names of the people/blogs I'm tagging!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Patry Francis - The Liar's Diary

Patry Francis' debut novel, The Liar's Diary, is available in paperback today. Patry was recently diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and because of treatment is unable to tour or publicize her book.

A tremendous number of bloggers have conspired together to help launch Patry's novel in a show of support and an effort to do what she can't right now.

For the full story behind how all this happened, go to Susan Henderson's LitPark.

Here's a brief excerpt that really sums it up for me, from Susan Henderson at LitPark:

What began as a personal gesture of caring for a friend became an astonishing show of community - writers helping writers; strangers helping strangers; and most surprising of all, editors, agents and publishers, who have no stake in this book, crossing "party lines" to blog, to make phone calls, and to send out press releases.

This effort has made visible a community that is, and has been, alive and kicking - a community that understands the struggle artists go through and rejoices in each other's successes. It's a community made up of many small voices, but - guess what? - those many small voices can create some noise. So while today is for Patry, it's also a symbolic gesture for all of you who work so very hard for little or no recognition, for all of you who keep going despite the rejections, and for all of you who have had illness or other outside factors force your art or your dreams aside. We are in this together.

But FIRST check out Patry's stunning blog, Simply Wait, then go buy her book. Take a moment and hold it in your hands. Send Patry some warm wishes and healing energy. You'll be supporting an author who has been so generous with fellow writers she has a huge posse trying hard to return the favor.

And now, here are Patry's words, lifted off her blog:

"Though my novel deals with murder, betrayal, and the even more lethal crimes of the heart, the real subjects of THE LIAR'S DIARY are music, love, friendship, self-sacrifice and courage. The darkness is only there for contrast; it's only there to make us realize how bright the light can be. I'm sure that most writers whose work does not flinch from the exploration of evil feel the same."

I'm looking forward to reading it.


When new music teacher Ali Mather enters Jeanne Cross's quiet suburban life, she brings a jolt of energy that Jeanne never expected. Ali has a magnetic personality and looks to match, drawing attention from all quarters. Nonetheless, Jeanne and Ali develop a friendship based on their mutual vulnerabilities THE LIAR'S DIARY (Plume / February 2008 / ISBN 978-0-452-28915-4 / $14.00) is the story of Ali and Jeanne's friendship, and the secrets they both keep.

Jeanne's secrets are kept to herself; like her son's poor report card and husband's lack of interest in their marriage. Ali's secrets are kept in her diary, which holds the key to something dark: her fear that someone has been entering her house when she is not at home. While their secrets bring Jeanne and Ali together, it is this secret that will drive them apart. Jeanne finds herself torn between her family and her dear friend in order to protect the people she loves.

A chilling tour of troubled minds, THE LIAR'S DIARY questions just how far you'll go for your family and what dark truths you'd be willing to admit˜even to yourself.


Patry Francis is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize whose work has appeared in the Tampa Review, Colorado Review, Ontario Review, and the American Poetry Review. She is also the author of the popular blogs, Simply Wait and Waitress Poems. This is her first novel. Please visit her website at

Sunday, January 27, 2008

a very special day

Today our newest family member arrived on the farm. The horses were beside themselves with excitement. You've never seen such gorgeous movement - floating, extended trots in unison. Here's a shot as they glimpse the new family member.

Here he is! Rafer's breeder leads him to the paddock to see the horses. He was amazingly brave and confident.

Rafer's breeder introduces him to the herd!

The meetings continued all afternoon. By bedtime it was clear that little Rafer had bonded with Cody, and they're sharing a stall and paddock tonight, happy as can be.

Friday, January 25, 2008

more cold in the a.m.

We had a respite here the past two days, and I had a revelation. 45 is almost tropical after 8.

This morning it's 22 and I'm already thinking of the stiff fingers and difficult to open plastic buckets of vitamins/minerals and flax that face me in the feed room.

I was thinking, though, that while there is a moment of dread over bundling up to go out into the cold, once there something changes and it becomes magical. There is something almost physiologically good about weather extremes.

In this intense (for us here in the south) cold, there's a purity of air and breath and thought that happens when I stand outside. My head clears, and my airways, and suddenly I can feel my body in a way I don't feel it when the air is warmer.

It's hard to imagine the heat of summer in this moment, but that opposite extreme has its own visceral sensations: heaviness, sweat, the feeling of almost melting into the heat and humidity.

The extremes defy distraction. They force us to be present and aware.

Which makes me think how much we lose when we buffer ourselves so successfully against the season's changes and extremes. How whole and complete we might be if we followed the wheel of the year and actually participated in its turning.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

a couple of shots from weymouth

These were the ones that managed to get snapped before the battery died.

This pair of painted ponies at the barn kept me from missing my horses too much. I went down each day and said hello to them. They are stunning here but even more so pulling a carriage!

This was my desk this trip. I did very little work there; instead, I set myself up in the chair across the room with my feet resting on a folded comforter. It worked well. It was nice to have the desk set up, though, and my horse helped.

Monday, January 21, 2008

very cold

Last night we hit 8 degrees Fahrenheit. I went out this morning at 9 to feed and it was 14 degrees.

The horses came in for their feed same as usual, and licked the tubs clean. I hauled some hot water from the house to add to their water buckets so they could drink cold water as opposed to icy water. The troughs out in the paddocks were frozen solid on top, so I cleared the main one and will let the sunshine help out with the other two.

They are in the front field now with a bale of hay spread in piles in the sunniest spots, and will keep blankets on until it gets to the high temp for today, near 40. I like to give them a break from the blankets.

There will be no riding today, that's for sure.

Friday, January 18, 2008


I had a 2-hour riding lesson with Keil Bay today. We're focusing on forward motion, impulsion, and softness. I need to do less of the work, and he needs to have more fun.

We did lots of baby steps toward these goals. By the end of the lesson he was softening to the bit with the tiniest squeeze of my little finger and we ended with a sitting trot that was quite lovely and relaxed. He's moving well and my head was so clear when I led him into the barn to untack.

He got peppermints and I drank a water bottle. We were both happy as could be.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

rainy day in january

We didn't get much snow at all, if any. There was sleet and icy rain and now just cold rain. The horses are in and out of the stalls, not really wanting to go out, but needing a break from standing still. Fortunately they all have paddocks to march around in. Later when the rain breaks I'll give them a turn in the arena to get some energy out.

I've been out several times today to keep the stalls mucked and make sure they have fresh hay and clean water, and each time I go out they each get a turn in the barn aisle where they can walk around and get rubbed. I decided to take their blankets off since they're staying in. Inside the barn, with lots of hay to munch, it stays plenty warm for them.

I'm very relieved today because Keil Bay broke out in hives yesterday afternoon. After consulting with the vet, since he didn't seem uncomfortable, we opted to give it a day with no intervention. I'd started a new vitamin/mineral supplement on Monday, so I've discontinued that for him for a week to let things settle down before trying it again. This morning the hives were gone, thankfully. I hope it was simply a weed in the hay or a bit of something in the field that didn't agree with him.

Tomorrow it warms up and we'll have some sun for our riding lessons.


Around 4, I went out to the barn and got the horses back in their blankets so I could give them some play time in the arena. I've learned from past experience to put the blankets on first if it's cold, because the first thing Cody and Salina do is roll in the arena footing. They end up looking like gray ghosts and have to be cleaned up before bedtime blanketing. Much easier to blanket first and let them roll in the blankets, which can simply be dusted off.

They came marching out of their stalls when they realized I was opening the gate into the arena, and trotted one by one through the paddock and then the gate. I used the time to muck stalls again, refill water buckets, and set up their hay in the mangers.

In between I took breaks to watch them play. Keil Bay was just full of himself, and I was very happy to see that not only was he doing his huge, floating trot, but some nice big cantering as well, and landing on his heels. Even Salina was trotting around, although once she'd stretched her legs, she retreated to a safe spot and watched while the boys went wild.

Rearing and bucking and running, spinning and pawing and play-nipping. They were at it for nearly an hour.

Once they were done, they filed out of the arena and back to the barn. It's amazing how methodical they are.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

capturing a snowflake

Someone sent this to a list I'm on today, and since we're going to have some snow Thursday, I thought I'd post it here:

Capturing a snowflake:

1. get a can of acrylic sealant and a box of microscope slides

2. keep both out in a cold garage

3. look for dry "perfect" snowfall with separate flakes

4. take a board and put the slides on top

5. spray the sealant evenly and lightly over all the slides

6. expose the board to the falling snow and make sure there aren't too many flakes hitting the slides

7. leave slides in cold garage for several hours until snow evaporates and sealant hardens

8. bring slides into house, look at through microscope or with a magnifying glass

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Yesterday I gathered up my big bag of books and moleskines, my laptop case, and my camera, and marched it all up the stairs to my garret. I intended to set myself up in my regular writing space, perhaps dust and straighten a little, and find some music to lull me back to work.

Dickens E. Wickens, aka The Cowboy, had commandeered my garret and my chair. His usual lair is in the hay room out at the barn, where he climbs up high and watches as barn swallows swoop in and out. He naps but he also works hard: patrolling fence lines, lying out in the fields with our horses, keeping tabs on the flocks of raven and crow, catching barn mice, monitoring riding lessons from the center of the arena.

Dickens checks out all visiting vehicles, inside and out. He sits owl-like on fence posts, tests the water in the troughs, dodges naughty ponies, and watches everything, our own sentry.

I've assured the Cowboy that he can take vacation days, we don't expect him to work so hard. We want him inside with us. His theme song is the Eagles' tune, Desperado, and I sing it to him sometimes when I find him lying out by the back field, alone and guarding the farm.

While I was on writing retreat, he apparently took me up on my suggestion. Some office time, settling accounts, tabulating how many mice he's captured, how many times he's sent Pharaoh (the neighboring cat) packing, how many miles he's traveled keeping the farm safe.

Or maybe he was simply keeping the chair warm for my return.

Friday, January 11, 2008

changing writing space

At some point before going on writing retreat, I moved my laptop downstairs. Right before Christmas I wasn't doing much writing and it felt more cozy having the computer down here by the tree and the woodstove. Since getting home from writing retreat, I haven't taken the laptop, my camera, or the big bag of books and moleskines back up to my writing garret. The only thing I've done up there is put away bills and receipts.

We have a nice big desk right by the kitchen and this is where I've planted myself since Tuesday. I've taken this last few days off from novel writing, but it's time to get back in the swing and I'm trying to figure out WHERE. Right now I'm having a slight urge to move my writing chair and ottoman down to the bedroom and set up camp there.

I'm not sure why - I love my writing space upstairs. Maybe I just need a change. Or maybe it's time to re-do the garret. I wonder if I'm just tired of the way it's organized ... I might play around with that on Sunday.

Thought I'd seek some assistance from the Chinese Fortune Sticks that found their way into someone's Christmas stocking this year:

"A very jealous person will quarrel with you."

Oh lord.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

hot stone massage

I had one today, and it was wonderful. I've had some lower back discomfort for the last three weeks or so that disappears completely when I ride but bothers me most of the time otherwise.

Harriet did some work on the lower back and found one side significantly tighter than the other. When she worked on the psoas muscle on the left, I felt it in back on the right. After the massage, the "hinge" of discomfort in my lower back had disappeared. Upon sitting, I felt a small "dot" of discomfort in the lower right back. On the drive home that expanded to a small "circle" of discomfort that has now disappeared.

I've scheduled a return visit for next week so I can get this resolved.

The stones were amazing - they warmed and grounded and absorbed.

Insurance companies should pay for bodywork - I totally believe we'd all be healthier and happier if we could get this kind of work done frequently. It shouldn't be a treat - it should be part of our overall health care.

Monday, January 07, 2008

live and on location

Blogging from the coffeehouse local to the writing retreat, which has WiFi. Two other writing retreaters have made the same trek and there are four different conversations going on around me, all fascinating.

It's hard not to stop and listen.

The revision is going well. I'm restructuring, which can be difficult for me, but it's falling into place down here.

I had forgotten how much I love this book.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

the ravens are here

Have come to a local coffeehouse here on writing retreat with friend and fellow writer Dawn Wilson. As soon as I got my laptop plugged in and sat down to sip my coffee and check email, I glanced out the window and there was the raven, in the middle of a parking lot. Moments later, it was joined by a pal.

Business as usual.