Saturday, May 31, 2008

apples, appletinis, horses in the back yard, and the Connells

And more reading pages out loud at 10 p.m. I am SO happy to be getting feedback on the novel. It's a real gift.

Horses snorting in the back, Keil Bay taking an apple from the deck, the Connells belting out "Slack-jawed" - what a wonderful evening.

pals (but no kisses)

Friday, May 30, 2008

writing, dressage, kayaks, and appletinis

The bigger, more official writing retreat weekend had to be rescheduled due to my own lack of control of calendar-keeping, but this morning husband and kids took off for the seashore and this afternoon one writer friend is coming to help infuse the house with writerly energy and joie de vivre.

In preparation, I went to the local ABC store for appletini ingredients, and came out stuffed to the gills with freebies. I had forgotten to check a recipe for appletinis before leaving home, so the amazingly helpful employee looked online for me and printed out 6 different recipes from which to choose. I was so astounded at her helpfulness I blathered on about how much I love our town and county, and ended up talking for half an hour. (this is why my children say to me before we go anywhere - mom, you CAN'T TALK)

When she bagged up my items, she stuffed in a bunch of those little airplane bottles of all kinds of things, plus a T-shirt!

I had no idea ABC stores were giving away such cool stuff.

On to the grocery store, where it was a bit calmer, and then back home where I opened the mailbox to find Toni McGee Causey's signed copies of Bobbie Faye's Very (very very very) Bad Day and the ARC of her newest novel, Bobbie Faye's (kinda, sorta, not exactly) Family Jewels. I loved the first one and am eager to read this new one before it even hits the stores! Toni blogs at Murderati on Sundays - go check her out.

CORRECTION: Toni's new book IS in stores, so... if you haven't read her first yet, lucky you! You can buy both and have two good reads without the wait in between.

After stopping to look at the books, I unloaded the car and headed out to get horses set up with hay and fans and some fly spray. Salina has one tick which she refused to let me get off (I'll do it when she gets her evening spray with the hose) and Cody has a 3-inch cut on the inside of his hind leg. Fortunately not too deep and it was already scabbing, so I sprayed on some Banixx and left it alone.

D. is bringing kayaks and the big dressage show Grand Prix musical freestyle is tomorrow night, so assuming we don't get hit by thunderstorms, we'll have plenty to do to stimulate the artists' flow.

And D. has assured me she loves mucking stalls. What better house guest can one ask for? A writer, a mucker of stalls, a bringer of kayaks. Photos at 11. (maybe)

An update: D. arrived, tick was removed during evening shower, and Rafer Johnson has added yet another member to his fan club. He gave about 15 donkey hugs to D. and Chase the Corgi has also adopted her as his personal ball thrower and Person to Tail quietly in the house.

Appletinis are incredible, the company stellar, and we are set to read pages for critique at 10:30. Heaven!

why is it...

that when you reorganize bookshelves, removing nearly every title and putting them back in a better way, you end up with more books than shelves?

I have two tall stacks of friends' books, most of which are signed, that I was planning to shelve separately, but there are no shelves left. I also have two stacks of "moving on" books that won't fit on the one bookcase I designated for just this category.

And three stacks of contemporary lit fiction that simply have nowhere to go.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

this and that

Not much time for blogging this week.

I've been editing like crazy, reorganizing my bookshelves (why? no idea... except some odd need to get the favorites right by my chair, in some semblance of order), and enjoying horses flexing between the first day of fans on in the barn (yesterday) and hard, steady rain accompanied by very cool temps (today).

We've been doing some barn updates. Switching to solar-powered fencing from electric, adding an additional fan (these are big, industrial rated fans that take some muscle to get up and down), and working my way toward hay storage outside the barn.

Today I got sidetracked with the untimely death of the lovely and big-hearted eventing pony Theodore O'Connor. We met his breeder Wynn Norman several years back and have followed Teddy's career ever since. Ironically, around the time of his death today we were outside playing with our own special pony, who was doing the most incredible pirouettes, levades, and huge floating trot extensions.

Condolences to everyone who knew and loved Teddy.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

more novel process

Toward the end of this week my editing slowed down, not surprisingly as I reached the point in the novel where the final action was gearing up. I struggled with it for a couple of days, and then out of the blue...

NOT the solution or a revelation for the edit, but the full-blown idea for an entirely NEW book.

I had to laugh at this development. It has become my pattern. Just when I'm closing in on finishing one, a new one bursts into being and screams for my attention. On the surface, you might think it's an avoidance technique. Leave the difficult work of that final edit behind and go for the new, sparkly idea that is just whirling with possibility.

But on a deeper level, it's actually a gift. I am loath to finish a novel without having another one to leap into. Granted, at this point in my writing life I have a number of first drafts awaiting my attention when I get this one sent off. But I always seem to need a NEW one.

This particular new one has been bubbling under the surface for awhile. A vague premise, with nothing much to flesh it out. This week it fleshed itself out for me, so I've been making notes but not allowing myself to get too caught up.

Meanwhile, I decided to dig into the struggle with the current edit and see if I couldn't sort things out. I found myself going back to the beginning and working on the first 20 pages. Suddenly, I saw what I needed to do in that first section, and if you're a writer, you probably understand why working on the first 20 pages is a surefire solution to fixing the last 20. I forget this about my process as well. I have to bump into it anew each time.

It feels just as exciting as it did when I discovered it with the first novel.

And now there are SIX.

(and I'm popping back in to say that pretty much the instant I hit "publish post" I had to grab the pen and jot down the revelation about the first 20 pages that suddenly came to mind... the first domino that sets everything in motion toward the end.

I used to think I should know this when I wrote the beginning, but I now know that I can't write the beginning until I get to the end. And often enough, I have to go back and forth a number of times to get those final dominoes in place.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

random horse tips

Victoria over at Teachings of the Horse gave me a "Great Horse Tips" award this week. I highly recommend following the link and reading comments and following more links because there are some really wonderful tips floating around cyberspace as a result of this award.

I have a few to share:

diatomaceous earth (DE) for tick control:

We use Permagard brand food-grade DE here at our farm. While it has many uses (fire ants, general insect control, ants inside the house, flies, deworming cats/dogs/horses) one of its most impressive feats is getting through tick season without toxic chemicals. We buy it by the 50-lb. bag from Dirtworks or Shadow Ridge Donkeys and it lasts us about a year. I bought a "puffer" which is basically an old-fashioned restaurant ketchup bottle and use it to "puff" the horses. I apply the white powder beneath the "armpits," in the groin area, on the legs up to the knees, and on top of the base of the tail. Rafer Johnson gets a little up between his ears as well.

You have to apply it daily for best results, but I have been keeping tabs and the total number of ticks found on horses decreased from around 20 the day I DIDN'T use DE to 0-1 the days I do. You can apply fly spray right over top of the DE. It does not reduce the effectiveness.

dried lavender buds for turn-out blanket storage:

After washing turn-out blankets I layer them in their storage bins with dried lavender buds. Lavender deters insects and it also has a soothing, calming effect on horses. Mine stop and breathe in the scent that first cold night in late fall when I pull their nice clean blankets out.

two home and barn first aid essentials - homeopathic Arnica and Rescue Remedy

I keep both items in the house and barn. Arnica is very effective in helping the body (human, equine, feline, canine, etc.) minimize soreness and bruising after bumps, scrapes, and other accidents. Rescue Remedy is a blend of a number of flower essences and has a calming, healing effect on both people and animals in shock, after an accident, etc. I often put a drop in each water bucket if we're expecting intense weather, or if something "big" is on the docket - travel for animals, etc. When the baby barn swallows fell out of the nest we gave them water and RR and they did wonderfully.

great cleaning solution for the barn - Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap:

I use this for washing hands, swiping down stall walls, rinsing bits, etc. It is totally organic, safe enough to brush your teeth with, smells heavenly, and repels insects. I love it.

enhancing fly predator success:

The first few weeks or whenever you see a new "bloom" of flies (we're having lots this year due to all the rain) try a few plastic fly traps with the fly attractant liquid. I have two of the plastic container ones that I move from one end of the barn to the other - in the morning the sunny side has flies, and in the afternoon it shifts to the other end. They seem to fly around the doors to the barn aisle so I close the barn doors at the sunny end, set the fly traps outside, and they catch the existing adult flies that the fly predators can't touch. It is making a big difference for us this year.

treat external things from within:

I've discovered that if I take the money I used to spend on hoof ointments, skin ointments, etc. and put it toward a truly balanced diet, I treat the problems at the root instead of treating the symptoms. For us, this means free choice quality hay, minimal processed feed, and a custom mix of supplements that I have researched and continue to tweak as needed to keep each horse in balance. A few examples: Keil Bay had the white plaque stuff inside his ears when I bought him. Adding ground flax to his diet took care of that. When we got Cody he was extremely vulnerable to every insect bite that came along, and he was itchy and sweated profusely in the summer heat, causing some hair loss. I added a really good trace mineral/sea kelp mix to all the diets, and used a quality no-sugar-added electrolyte during the hottest months. The problem resolved entirely.

I'm not recommending specific supplements or feedstuff here b/c I feel that each horse owner needs to evaluate the big picture for his/her specific horse(s) to make the best decisions. But I've become dedicated to looking for the "internal" solution to "external" problems. For people too!

serve your horses hay the way they'd find it in the wild:

Instead of making a big pile of hay so that horses stand and eat in one spot, spread it out in many small piles so they walk and forage and keep things flowing. Horses are built to cover many miles in a day searching for food. I found that when I spread the hay in a long, meandering "trail" the horses spend many hours walking and eating bits at a time, just as they would if they were in the wild.

ride or spend quality time with your horses FIRST, do chores SECOND:

When we first bought our farm and suddenly everything was my responsibility when it came to horse/farm care, I lost control. My "save dessert for last" upbringing kicked in and I religiously did all the barn chores before riding. At some point I figured it out. RIDE FIRST. The chores will get done. I'm never going to let the sun go down on a dirty stall or an empty water bucket. Those things will get done. But if I do the chores first, I can easily exhaust myself without getting in the ride or the quality time with my horses. I forget my own tip at times - but when I remember to do it, it works.

I could go on and on, but this is enough for now!

willing to be amazed part 2 (and 3 and 4)

Yesterday when I got home from the office my husband announced that our elusive neighbors at the end of the lane (I have met the wife ONE time when she stopped by to admire Rafer Johnson) came by to ask if we wanted to buy some of their hay.


Apparently they have more land than I knew about and have 750 bales of orchard mix sitting in the field ready to be cut. The cost of this hay is HALF what we have been paying.

The cost of gas to go pick this hay up is... next to nothing, as it is in hollering distance if you have a big mouth.

As you can imagine, I am totally amazed. What a gift.



I've been considering the possibility of opening a psychotherapy office in the small town just minutes away from our house, and have looked at a few spaces, but mostly just keep my eyes open.

This week I noted an older building was being renovated and there was a number to call for info. I jotted it down but didn't think to call until today. Turns out the two suites available are huge and much more than what I need. Just as we were saying goodbye, the owner stopped me and asked if he could pass my name and number to "a writer guy who is interested in forming a writer's co-op using one of the suites... maybe he'd be willing to let you have your office in there."

Turns out, the writer guy is someone I took a class with awhile back, is a former editor for a publishing house I very much admire, and I have in the past had aspirations to create just such a writer's co-op. I am totally jazzed about the possibilities of this, now.

After hanging up I continued on my way to my naturopath's office. I haven't written about this, but during the knee injection debacle with Salina, I sustained a pretty nasty deep tissue injury to the site of a previous surgery. I wanted the ND's opinion on mammography now or later, but mostly was interested in an alternative. While sitting in her waiting room, I picked up a brochure and on the back was information about thermography. She ended up giving me a referral to someone she has worked with using this technology, as well as a couple of remedies for the tissue injury.

Sometimes things just flow like a line of dominoes.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

portrait of an afternoon in may

I was on the front porch earlier, enjoying the horses snorting and the sunshine. As I turned to come in the house, this caught my eye. A magical painting of the same scene I'd just been viewing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


For any local folks who visit here, just wanted to say we're all fine. Around 5 p.m. today I had the very strong sense that I needed to go get horses and donkey in. Daughter and I went out and called - they came in immediately from the back field. In the few minutes it took us to get everyone in and set up with hay, the sky went dark and the wind got so intense I knew something was going on. The horses, Rafer, daughter, and I watched through the back stall doors as it blew through. Lasted about 5 minutes. It took the tarp completely off the shavings pile, and it had been anchored with 4 heavy posts and 5 or so cement blocks. Very odd wind motion - hard one way for several minutes, and then the other way.

When we finally came inside I discovered a tornado had been reported right in our area.

We didn't get hail here but minutes away there was hail two inches deep, and the roads were covered in completely shredded leaves.

But... we're safe and Rafer Johnson is waiting for Hollywood to call and offer him the lead role in Twister: The Sequel. (he's been reading Sheaffer ... :)

willing to be amazed

Someone emailed me recently about my continuing optimistic outlook and tendency to focus on the good things around me.

It's true. I can be almost Pollyanna-esque in my view of the world.

However, I do have bad days, and little fits of angst and obsession about things I can't control. The year my son was born I became obsessed with lead paint. Just ask my husband about the dark green goop he had to paint the bathroom with, in the old house we rented. It supposedly sealed in the lead. After many crying spells and dramatic musings on a house I had previously adored, he tried to get at the core of the problem. Why was I so upset? I remember his face when I went into great detail about the various cracks in the old plaster ceiling and how lead dust was just shooting out of them into the air.

This is the kind of thing that feeds my obsessions - the vivid images come and it can be so hard to push them out of my mind.

Not too long after my revelation about geysering lead dust, the landlord/owner insisted on sandblasting the garage, one wall of which bordered the back yard. I begged him not to do it, and explained about the lead issue and young developing brains. He thought I was being ridiculous. When he had his son-in-law come over to start the process, I stood on the back steps and watched. White paint chips quite literally flew everywhere. Like snow. All over the little garden I had tended for years, into the lawn where my year-old son played. It was my little nightmare image made real and worse than I'd imagined.

When the landlord came over to inspect the work, he found me with a shop-vac, trying valiantly to vacuum up the paint chips in the back yard. It was a futile effort, and I was crying because I knew I couldn't get it all up. I told him we would be looking for a new house, and that I was sorry he had chosen to ignore my request. He left in a huff, but returned an hour later and apologized. He begged me to reconsider, and promised to never raise our already below-the-market rent. He started crying himself.

This is the kind of scenario that could go many different ways, but for me, what always happens is the realization that something bigger is going on. Standing there with the shop-vac nozzle in my hand, a gruff old man crying because I had called him on his behavior, and my in-the-moment decision to give notice on a wonderful house that was so cheap to live in it was almost a miracle, I suddenly knew that something amazing was happening. We were supposed to move. It was time.

I said this to him, and we made our peace. I found a house in a neighboring town where my private practice was already located, where my husband could take the classes he'd wanted to take without the hideous commute, and where my parents could visit so much more easily.

Everything rolled quietly into place.

This is just one example of the "flow" of life I've noticed and trusted for many, many years. I don't really know why. But I've experienced it so much I expect it to happen, and perhaps that's why it does.

Awhile back, someone remarked that they start reading every book looking for something to make them fling it aside. My response was that I start every book I read willing to be amazed. And often enough I am.

In a way, that's the mantra I try to live by. It comes pretty naturally to me, so it isn't a chore. Occasionally it has drawbacks, like when some fantastical idea I have gets shot down by the reality of a budget, or circumstance. Sometimes I have to run through a patch of angst before I get to the flow. But as I get older I find myself skipping that stage and getting to the good stuff much more quickly.

Today, we have gray skies and some mild gusting wind. Potentially severe weather is on the docket this afternoon. But yesterday my husband loaded each stall with clean shavings, and this morning I made myself the brown sugar-cinnamon oatmeal a character had in the book I'm reading. (I read this passage last night before bed and it made my mouth water) I know that when I walk out to the barn there are four horses and a little donkey who will neigh and bray and remind me that, yes, there is lots to be amazed about. And I'm perfectly willing to let them show me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

and the award goes to...

Lots of great blogs! I am grateful to be included on Arlene's list over at Grey Horse Matters. Go check out her wonderful blog as well as the list of blogs she's recognizing. Thanks so much, Arlene!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

play therapy with ponies

Yesterday someone sent me a link to a video featuring Alexander Nevzorov. The first half of the video was so horrible I ended up bursting into tears. It was a slide show of still shots showing the improper use of bits and spurs. As I sat crying, my daughter (experienced in what to do after watching movies like Black Beauty, Bambi, and such with me) fast-forwarded to what we assumed must be the "good stuff."

The soundtrack was music from Lord of the Rings, and the video that came next was simply stunning. We became obsessed with watching every Nevzorov video we could find, especially intrigued with the use of the cordeo in place of halter and bridle.

Today, out at the barn, we were playing around and decided to use an old rein as a cordeo to see what Apache Moon might do. He was a pretty good sport once we got him into the arena. She rode him bareback and with the cordeo for a half-hour, walking and trotting and cantering. He kept circling toward a jump in the arena, which was a bit high for today's play, so I lowered it nearly to the ground. The pony was obsessed with that jump. He kept circling right and taking the little jump over and over again, even though he could have easily trotted over it without breaking stride. It was as though he were working through some conflict about jumping. It reminded me quite a bit of traumatized children in play therapy, and how they will sometimes replay the trauma over and over again. It was fascinating to see Apache Moon choose repeatedly to jump with my daughter astride, no saddle or bridle, when he was in total control of where he was going.

After awhile I encouraged her to hop off and do some ground work with him. What he did was so cute she ran in to get the camera. I was sitting in the arena on the mounting block and when she went inside, he stood at the gate watching the back door of the house for her return. There was grass at the edges of the arena he could have nibbled on, but he didn't even look at it. It was pretty amazing. I wish I had video of him waiting for her - his focus never shifted.

So here's one little piece of what they did together today. It's by no means the first time they've done this kind of play together, but it's the first time we've captured it on video. She is using no treats and has a dressage whip in one hand that is mostly getting in the way. I purposely selected this bit because you see near the end that he intrudes into her space in a rather cheeky way and she holds her hand up and lets him bump into her fingertips. His response to that is very dramatic, but then you see him come right back to their connection.

Friday, May 16, 2008

just another day on the hill

After several years of seeing 3 crows everywhere I go, there has been a shift. For almost two weeks now, I'm seeing 1 crow instead. The crows have always represented my books - when the 3 first appeared, it was when I had suddenly gone from one novel to three. I suspect this shift to 1 has something to do with my intention to focus on the second one until I get it out there. It certainly gave me pause and a very potent reminder when I looked out the window and there was ONE.

Today was a Cody ride, and what a pleasure it was. Sunshine, a cool breeze, and a willing, soft horse. He was quite happy to hang out at the barn after breakfast to get some hay and a good grooming before we tacked up. Keil Bay stood in his stall and reached his muzzle out to me every time I walked by getting Cody ready. He wanted his own ride, but he got a grooming and his own hay, so he was happy.

Even Apollo Moon came to the barnyard to hang out, which is a rare occasion. Dickens (who I today started calling Whickens for no good reason except it was fun to say) was NOT quite sure he liked having his territory encroached upon. Nothing dramatic happened, just this bit of posturing and then the daughter sent them off to sulk at being thwarted in their masculine display.

Cody and the pony went out front, but Keil Bay seemed offended that he wasn't being ridden nor was he being given a special barnyard privilege. So of course I gave in and let him come in with Salina and Rafer Johnson. Rafer was working hard at remembering the good things that come with halters. Butterscotch! You can see how awfully hard he worked.

It's hard to believe he is heading quickly to being a one-year old donkey. Quite the handsome young gentleman.

After awhile of hanging out and watching these three, a storm blew up, quite suddenly. The wind whipped and roared a bit, the sky was that scary greenish-grey, and I opened Salina and Rafer's stall door and said "go." Salina went. My daughter got Rafer's halter off and he went in too. Keil Bay came in the barn aisle and when I took his head and attempted to guide him into his stall, he raised his head and stopped. Will I never learn? I opened the stall door and pointed. "Go on in." And so he did.

We got hay doled out, the other two in, and left everyone munching calmly while the rain started to fall.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

waiting on rain and musical stalls

It rained early this morning, but then cleared out, so after breakfast I kept Cody in for his ride. It became obvious when I groomed him that he needed a bath more than a ride, so I got the shampoo in the wash bucket and let him graze while I soaped him up. I spent an hour or so soaping and rinsing and checking for ticks. I always clean the brushes when I give a bath, so I got sidetracked doing that while Cody dried and munched on hay in the barnyard.

Meanwhile, no rain. Keil Bay got wind that I was hanging out in the barn doling out attention (not to mention hay), so he came back in from the field and got a flake for himself.

Salina and Rafer Johnson soon followed. More hay.

Then Apache Moon came running too. Everyone wanted to hang out at the barn.

My daughter and I mucked all the stalls and paddocks and decided to switch things around today. We let Salina have the main paddock and access to stalls along with Rafer Johnson and Keil Bay, and put the pony in the barnyard with Cody where they had access to the barnyard, barn aisle, and Salina and Rafer's stall/paddock.

I like to mix things up once in a while, so that no one gets too dependent on a certain way of being turned out or stalled. Periodically I separate everyone into different spaces for a few hours, just so they don't forget how to be apart.

They seem to do well with this musical stall game - in fact, they rearrange themselves if left to their own devices out there.

I've been writing and doing laundry and making lunches most of the afternoon - now it's time to go see if I can squeeze in a Cody ride before the rain hits. If it hits - it's cloudy but thus far no wet stuff.

And we're getting in a load of hay today, so it will be nice if the rain holds off until it's in the barn.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

explosions in the mind

After working on novel pages this morning, I went out to the barn and fed breakfast. Keil Bay knew it was his day for a ride, so he stayed up at the barn instead of marching back to the field with everyone else.

I groomed him from head to hoof. He needed the full treatment, not because he was dirty, but because he needed attention. I love taking a really long time to get him ready for his ride, when I'm not rushed and he knows there is nothing else in the world I have to do, or would rather be doing.

After we had one minor catastrophe - he came all the way into the tack room with me, and he is a big horse for that very tight space - we had our ride. Very pleasant. Little things led to some good moments. I had no real agenda, but one formed on its own and we both followed it.

After, he still didn't go back out to the field, but tried to come in the tack room again and scared me to death. I was absorbed in cleaning my saddle, and suddenly he was there. I sensed something and when I turned his eyes were looking into mine. I screamed. He leaped straight back and fortunately went right through the door as he leaped.

Stood there looking at me like I had gone crazy. I was so deep in cleaning the saddle, his presence was its own little explosion. He came right back into the edge of the doorway to get pats and would have marched on in again had I not said no.

All this led up to me being really ready to go back to novel pages when I came inside. I was thinking about how much I love taking time with every little step of grooming and tacking and then warming up and riding. Then untacking and winding down, with Keil Bay hanging out with me as I go. How making time for all those little steps allows for spontaneous good ideas and good moments to bubble up. That almost never happens with a rushed, forced ride.

And the same is true for writing. I enjoy the process and have come to trust the little steps along the way. I know that some parts of the process are not as exciting but staying engaged and finding the good in each step allows for the bursts of creativity, the magic moments.

Sitting here thinking about that, I picked up Ellen Gilchrist's Falling Through Space and opened to this:

"A piece of writing is the product of a series of explosions in the mind. It is not the first burst of excitement and its aftermath. It is helpful to me to pretend that writing is like building a house. I like to go out and watch real building projects and study the faces of the carpenters and masons as they add board after board and brick after brick. It reminds me of how hard it is to do anything really worth doing."

My writing is often illuminated by how I approach a good ride on my amazing horse. I love how each thing seems to weave in with the other.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

the delicious part of novel writing

Toni Morrison said about writing a novel that "The best part of all, the absolutely delicious part, is finishing it and then doing it over again."

In the midst of all the horse and donkey activity here, I quietly slid back into the deep end of my second novel edit and have been moving through it page by page every morning and often again later in the day. It feels very much like a satisfying swim, a dip into a deep pool in midsummer, and it does indeed feel delicious.

I decided, without thinking about it consciously, to shift the entire novel (not just one character's POV sections) into third person past, which was a surprise but feels right as I do it. Meanwhile, two major re-sequencing ideas came to me, and I've made notes so that when I get to those places I can fix them. It's always interesting how the busiest most hectic times in my life often yield the good writing stuff. It just leaks out without much effort.

Eudora Welty wrote, "It's strange how in revision you find some little unconsidered thing which is so essential that you not only keep it in but give it preeminence when you revise. Sometimes in the the dead of night, it will come to me. 'Well, that's what I should do, that's what I'm working toward!' It was there all the time."

This is my favorite part of editing, finding those gems that were there all the time, and uncovering them layer by layer. I have spent a fair amount of time driving myself toward publication, and I have learned but sometimes forget that putting the delicious part back front and center is critical in this novel writing work.

A week and a half ago I unplugged myself from Publishers Marketplace and have immersed myself in reading good novels, taking care of the horses, and sliding deep into the deliciousness of just being with my pages every day.

I'm having a few writers over for an upcoming weekend retreat here later this month, and planning a trip to Weymouth in midsummer. The prospect of spending big chunks of time with my characters (surrounded by the energy and good company of other writers) is making me very very happy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

more massage in the barn

Salina and I got more hot stone massage today and it was blissful. Salina went first and was so much calmer than last Friday. She leaned into the stones and looked worried each time our massage therapist walked into the barn aisle to get more - as if to say "is she coming back? I'm not done!"

Rafer Johnson stood by and kept things in check.

My massage was again wonderful and I'm trying to figure out how I can justify getting H. back here before her scheduled date of June 9th... maybe at the writing retreat I'm having here the end of May??


More interesting mirroring: Salina and I both had tightness in the left hip and the right "trunk" area. The left hip seems to be where she carried a lot of weight during the abscess and my right trunk is where the most hideous bruise is. So we've shared the residual effects of "trauma Friday."

Fortunately we're now both feeling pretty good. I continue to believe that our insurance companies and/or employers should offer regular massage at fully reimbursed cost. The health benefits, including physical, mental, and spiritual, would be tremendous.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

lovely mother's day

Purple and white petunias planted in my front porch hanging baskets, an Amazon gift card, the new Ellen Gilchrist novel, and this wonderful hand-drawn card from the daughter.

Hope all the mothers out there have a lovely day as well.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

turning the corner back to normal

Yesterday's riding lessons seemed to be the pivoting point for getting back to normal here on November Hill. A week earlier, at one p.m., the vet drove up to do Rafer's gelding and check Salina's lameness. Yesterday, our trainer drove up, and as my daughter rode in the first lesson, I cleaned Keil Bay's bridle, watched Salina and Rafer Johnson graze peacefully, and smiled when Keil Bay marched himself in from the field to let me know he was ready for his turn to ride.

As predicted, climbing into the saddle was indeed a relief and a tonic. My body was stiff though, and we had to work our way through that to get back to relaxation and rhythm. We were both rusty but Marlis helped us get back on track.

Sue arrived for her lesson on Cody, and I hosed Keil Bay down and let him have Salina and Rafer's paddock, since they were in the barnyard. He thought this was a tremendous treat, and Salina enjoyed having him right next door to where she was.

When I got back to the arena to watch Sue and Cody, I was relaxed and content and tired. And then very excited to see Cody in action from the ground. He is looking so good these days, engaging his back and hindquarters, and it occurred to me yesterday that suddenly he seems to have grown into his body and claimed it. He has some Thoroughbred in him and it really showed yesterday. He seemed happy and willing and the late afternoon sun was brilliant on his glossy coat. I couldn't be more pleased with how he's developing.

when everyone left, I had horses everywhere: Keil Bay was in Salina's paddock, Cody was in the barnyard, Rafer Johnson and Salina had been moved to the main paddock, and Apache was in the back field.

I decided to open the gate into the front field for Salina and Rafer, to see if she would walk down the hill. She did, and not following Rafer, who stayed up top. She looked very much her normal self, and as if to further prove the point, she laid down and rolled, and got up with no problem.

What a difference a week can make! We're nearly done with the applesauce antibiotic course and when we give that final dose, daily care will be truly back to normal.

I sat in the barnyard for a few minutes just to let it all soak in. Such a good, solid day.

Friday, May 09, 2008

week's end

We've made it through the week and Salina is better each day. I've backed the Surpass ointment down and will cut the Bute back soon. I have high hopes that she can return to regular turn-out in another week.

Rafer Johnson is totally back to normal. Yesterday evening he had a wild bucking bronco running fit, and streaked in circles and through the barn and made fancy spins and turns with bucks woven in along the way. Salina and I stood and watched, incredulous. What energy! What wildness! And then just as suddenly, he stopped, and stood still and calm for scratches on his neck.

I bought myself a little white horse figure with flower chains draped over and an elven fairy creature riding side-saddle style on the bare back. We have riding lessons today and although I am still not quite back to full tilt physically, I suspect climbing into the saddle will be both a relief and a tonic.

And last night, driving home in the dark with windows down and air rushing in, several scenes came nearly full-blown into my head, so I jotted them down as soon as I could and am editing my way toward the space in the book where I can plug them in and expand them fully.

All things to be grateful for. Plenty.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

some really good news

This morning when I went out to the barn, Salina had blown an abscess in her left front hoof! She was standing squarely and though not completely out of pain yet, the relief is visible.

As it happened, our trimmer was scheduled to come today, so he confirmed my observations and was able to do a modified trim to keep her comfortable until this resolves. She stood and rested her nose on his shoulder as he worked, giving her a break whenever she needed one, and doing the right front in a very modified manner so she didn't have to put all her weight on the left, which is still sore.

I have gotten so many emails offering support and healing energy for Salina - I appreciate all of them SO MUCH and I wanted to let you all know the immediate results a collective healing effort had. Thank you all.

I'm keeping comments turned off and will stay on break for awhile longer, until things are fully back to normal here, but this was too good not to share!

Monday, May 05, 2008

taking a break

Unfortunately Salina is not better today, and my hope that she would make a quick return to soundness with the injections isn't happening. The geldings are being neglected riding-wise, and the amount of care each day has tripled around here with what Salina and Rafer need right now.

So I'm having to make some choices about time management. As much as I enjoy blogging and reading blogs and being part of such a rich online community, I need to give this up for now.

Thanks to everyone for reading, commenting, and being such wise and fun friends. I'll be back at some point when life settles down a bit.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

scenes from a saturday afternoon

Dickens E. Wickens and I sat and enjoyed the evening while Salina and Rafer grazed quietly in the barnyard.

Look at this! My helpful husband installed the new gate. No more escapes!

Muffine Eloise running from her wild brother.

An apt sign, but now he only crosses when we say okay!

Rafer Johnson decided to escape the back way, but he was foiled by woman with camera.

Cody relaxes in the back field. Keil Bay and Apache Moon are out there too, but out of range of my camera.

Everyone is hanging in there today. No excitement. I discovered that donkeys love antiobiotics mixed with applesauce. All the Netflix DVDs arrived in the mail. Chores are done, meds have been given, and for the moment, we're still tired and sore but pretty happy.

Friday, May 02, 2008

What A Day

I am relaxed because of the amazing hot stone massage I had earlier - in the barn aisle, starting in light and ending in the dark - but boy, what a day we have had.

The first half of the day was very calm and peaceful, and I suppose, in hindsight, that was the calm before the storm.

Rafer Johnson's gelding went fine and he is doing very well tonight.

Salina was nerve blocked from the fetlock down to help dx the problem. She was NOT happy with needle sticks today, and she was MOST unhappy with Rafer Johnson's gelding. She worked herself into a near-frenzy and when it was decided to do joint injections to help her knee, it took 3 doses of sedative to settle her down. Even then, she literally jumped OVER the top of me when the needle went in the joint, knocking me down, and leaving two huge lumps on my forehead, a lead line abrasion on one arm, and a big bruise on the other. She got a 4th dose of sedative and my husband held her up while the vet injected the joint. I was sitting in a chair with ice on my head and my daughter beside me holding Rafer Johnson.

We are hopeful the joint injections will address the issue and give her relief.

Our massage therapist saved the day with hot stone massage for both Salina and me. Salina got hers in the paddock with Rafer close by, and at one point her eye was soft and closed out of sheer relief to get those tight muscles relaxed.

I then got a long and amazing massage and am going to float off to bed very shortly.

Thanks to all for the good thoughts. I am happy to be dealing with "aftercare" now!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

mirrored pain

I woke up two days ago with fairly extreme muscle soreness in my right thigh and left calf/ankle. By the afternoon, my shoulders were sore as well. At some point in the day it occurred to me as I watched Salina moving with her lame left front leg and swollen knee, that the way she was having to move must surely be stressing her upper right leg, lower left, and both her shoulders, as she tried to keep weight and pressure of that knee.

I've experienced mirrored pain before with Keil Bay, and I've been familiar for years with the symptoms of trauma my clients bring to my office and "share" with me - sometimes quite literally. I'm good at using the drive from office to home to clear my mind and body of the residual effects of this shared trauma. Sharing it helps me be a better therapist, but holding on to it would burn me out.

So I noted the soreness and moved on with the day.

Yesterday morning it was less but still there. I was sitting in my garret, window open, writing, when I heard Salina whinny. Then Rafer Johnson brayed. A few minutes later she whinnied again. I wondered if she were in pain, or if the geldings were doing something they shouldn't. But mostly I fretted about Salina and her lameness this week. I decided to cut my writing time short so I could check on her. When I stood up, both my knees were severely stiff and sore. I have never felt anything like it. I hobbled to the door, realizing I had to get down the stairs, and made my way down, one step at a time.

It was as if my knees had suddenly aged 30 years. I realized when I began to move them about that the range of motion of my RIGHT knee was exactly the same as Salina's is with her LEFT knee right now. And my LEFT mirrored her RIGHT. I walked around the living room, testing various strides and ways of turning, and then simply stood still, to see what it felt like to not move the joints at all. I could feel a mild ache when standing still, but it was the movement of the joints themselves that really hurt.

I wondered about tick-borne disease, briefly. And called my husband to consult. Within about 10 minutes the pain completely disappeared. No stiffness, no ache. It was simply gone.

I've been reading since this episode about mirrored pain, synesthesia, sympathy pain, and shared pain. Thus far I'm not finding much online. Mostly I'm fascinated with what happened yesterday morning. It came and it went in a very short span of time, and wasn't precipitated by anything I had done physically. I am so keenly aware of Salina every moment this week - I've had the windows open so I can hear clearly if she needs us.

I made sure she had a quiet day yesterday. I kept Rafer Johnson close and didn't let them have access to any bigger spaces. So far as I know, she didn't get excited and she didn't do more than a slow walk. Hopefully the gelding for Rafer will not be too hard on him or Salina. My thought is that she will be in the barn aisle where she can watch and supervise things or walk out into the small barnyard if she prefers some distance. I will use Rescue Remedy for both of them before the vet arrives, and she'll have a vet check herself and a hot stone massage after all that is over. By the time we get through the afternoon, we should know more and have an updated plan for treatment.

For now, I'm imagining circles of pure white light surrounding her knees, warming the joints, cooling them, lubricating them, healing them.


It has been quite a morning here. The baby barn swallows had left the nest yesterday but this morning one had returned.

Two Canadian geese landed in the front field and Salina, Rafer Johnson, my daughter, and I all watched with a front-row seat while the pony, Cody, and Keil Bay followed them around and then down the hill.

Salina seemed not to want to move much this morning and when I went down the hill to dump the wheelbarrow, I got tearful thinking that she might be in decline. At the bottom of the hill when I started to dump, I noticed a large feather. I think it's from a redtail hawk but will need to check with my bird experts later in the day to be sure. I brought it back up and stuck it on the outside of Salina's stall. In a few minutes she perked up and went out to the barnyard to graze. It was so good to see her moving and grazing.

When I came inside to fix lunch and take a quick break before the big event at one, I glanced out the front window. As big as the sky there was a gigantic V.

All these little things are helping the day move more easily and keeping our spirits up. And interestingly enough, I woke up this morning with my body completely clear of tension, aches, etc. I hope Salina can soon have some of that.