Wednesday, May 23, 2012

home is where the heart is

Ever since the first day we drove into our driveway and saw the view above (without the fog though!), I have felt like November Hill, as we later named our little farm, is HOME.  As I just typed that line, movement outside my window pulled my attention to the front field and there was Keil Bay marching up the hill, followed by Apache Moon, followed by Cody. The three of them in a line, in full stride, at that moment, is the perfect example of why November Hill, on a daily basis, feels like a living, breathing presence in my life. The horses are the life's blood of November Hill. Things seem to connect here, and I feel like the entire farm is in sync with me.

Yesterday we woke up to Salina lying flat beneath the barn shelter, and it was obvious she had been struggling to get up. She was surrounded by her herd, who I think were protecting her at that point. She had created a sort of hole, in which she was tipped back a bit too far, and close enough to the wall of the barn that she couldn't roll over and get up the opposite way.

After a couple of tries to get her up we called the vet, who was contacting someone who has a small crane that can be used to help get a horse up. My husband decided to turn her to see if the change in angle might help.

Initially it didn't seem to. I wondered if we were looking at That Time. But then Redford brayed and Salina whinnied back, and her whinny was strong and clear and I felt like she just needed some help. I decided to go in the barn and start my normal morning routine - to do the things I do in the barn that one does in one's home. I turned on the fans, started gathering the feed tubs, and began to measure the various feedstuffs into the tubs.

Salina suddenly went into action and my brave husband stood behind her and supported her as she heaved up and got her footing. He continued supporting her until she was steady. And she walked through the open gate and into the barn aisle just like she does every morning. As smart as she is, she walked on through and into the barnyard, keeping moving, getting her legs back.

We did a few things we thought would help - had given her a dose of Banamine already, but offered her a handful of oats in water to get some fluid in, which she took. Then some wet hay. She ate a bit of that but preferred the grass in the barnyard, which was the right choice. She slowly walked around the entire perimeter of the barnyard, nibbling and stretching and moving.

Within a few minutes she had dropped manure, and within an hour, urinated. We slowly started seeing all the signs one wants to see after a horse has been down and is now back up again.

Throughout this ordeal, I was extremely stressed but mostly calm. What helps me in these moments is the sense of place that exists here, the feeling that the view of the farm, as above, represents not just a still photo of the place we sleep at night, but the face of a complex, living, breathing, full of life character who holds, as in the cupped palms of safe hands, all of us who live here.


Through the course of the year November Hill offers me many moments of discovery. On Monday I found an unfinished arrowhead in the dirt paddock. I suddenly felt a connection to someone who lived here many years ago, living a different kind of life but perhaps attached to the land and nature the same way I am.

Yesterday in the middle of the turmoil I looked up and saw a lone dove perched on the very top of the dead but still standing tulip poplar at the top of the front field. I had seen the dove on Monday when I found the arrowhead and wondered which one of the couple the dove was - male or female - and what had happened to the other one. It was a sad moment but then I wondered if it might be a young dove, not yet paired up, looking for his/her partner in life. An ending or a beginning - I had no way of knowing which.

When I saw the lone dove at the top of the tree, I immediately thought of Lonesome Dove, a favorite book, a saga, and somehow it felt comforting. We all live our own sagas. What was happening with Salina was one page in the bigger story, and that helped me know that we would get through it one way or another. An ending, or a beginning.

On my way to the feed store yesterday I felt some anxiety as I neared the end of our driveway. I didn't want to leave, but needed supplies. Just as I neared the road, a reddish-orange bird landed on the fence to my right. I slowed to get a closer look, thinking it was a cardinal, but it wasn't. It actually looked like a variation of a mini toucan. I've never seen such a bird before, but it felt special, like the bird had come from a distant land to give me a message. It felt hopeful, so I drove on.

I saw the bird again yesterday afternoon, in the back field, where it once again landed on the fence and watched me for a few moments before taking flight again.

The first day we visited November Hill and in fact made the offer to buy it, my children found an empty turtle shell in the back field. Last week I saw what is probably the grandchild of that turtle, making its way down to the fenceline, in no hurry at all. I picked it up and gazed into its copper eyes and the turtle gazed back. I put it down and off it went, continuing the journey.

It occurs to me that November Hill is a place, and our home, but it's also the home for many other creatures. We feel safe here and we all exist together, all on our separate, but interconnected, journeys.

Salina is the heartbeat of November Hill. She keeps her eye on everything, much like I do, and with the two of us we don't miss much around here.

I've been thinking of a blanket of warm healing energy surrounding her, and thinking of heart, and fire, and the heart of a home, and the hearth of a home.

And the photo my husband left on my desktop recently and how it represents all of that and so much more.

I was going to take a break from the internet after Memorial Day weekend. I tend to need a few hiatuses a year from the online world to get myself centered and grounded in the real world.

I'm going to start the time off today, with this post, and focus for awhile on the earth and fire, the water and the fog, and the life blood of my home - the horses and the donkeys and the teenagers and the cats and Corgis and a brave husband who is willing to stand behind a 1200+ pound mare and hold her up with all his might.

If anything too wonderful for words comes up, I'll pop back in and post, but for now, until later this summer, I'm going to be out at the barn, or writing, or spending time with this November Hill crew. Keep an eye out for new titles from November Hill Press. There are two very close to publication right now.

Travel well, stay safe, until the next post!


Just had to pop in and add that yesterday one of the signature November Hill box turtles was discovered trying to get into our garage door, parked there like a little car. Husband brought it up to show me and it was tight inside its shell, but I asked him to come out and he opened his shell the tiniest crack and let me see his eyes, then as I talked more, he came all the way out - head, then neck, finally legs fully extended and then he went into fast walk mode in my hands! We relocated him to the back field hoping he had relayed his message and was ready to get on with his regular turtle travels.

Salina is doing well - turning out with the geldings for several hours each evening before coming back to her paddocks with the donkeys for the rest of the nights. Scrapes are healing, swelling is gone, and we are getting ready to extend her grass paddock to allow more room to graze. For now I'm not comfortable with her having access to the barn shelter in the early mornings - fortunately we have a number of options to explore to find what works well for her.


Calm, Forward, Straight said...


Kyle Kimberlin said...

Beautiful post, Billie. Peace to you all. See you down the road.

Victoria Cummings said...

You chose wisely, and as I often tell myself, "there's no place like home". I'm so happy that Salina is recovering and that you will be taking time to enjoy all the delights of November Hill. We'll all be here waiting when you come back. Have a great summer!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I'm so happy to hear that Salina is still able to be with her herd and keep a watchful eye on all the inhabitants of November Hill.

Wonderful post. See you when you get back. In the meantime have a lovely connected summer with all things past and present at your home.

billie said...

Thanks, all - popping by to say that the swelling around her eye socket, which looked terrible yesterday, is better this morning. She's cleaning up every feed tub, and joined in the very loud and very beautiful Hanoverian Breakfast Chorus yesterday morning. Today I'm working on final edits for Fiona and the Water Horse and really enjoying the shift in focus. If anyone needs to get in touch, please feel free to email! I never stop checking that b/c I use it more than I do the telephone for keeping up with folks and doing business stuff. :)

Dougie Donk said...

Glad to hear Salina is doing well.

Best wishes for the break from a pleasantly sunny & warm Scotland, of which Dougie mightily approves :)

Kate said...

I know the feeling of being connected to a time and place. Lots of love and warm energy to you and yours.

billie said...

Thank you, Maire and Kate - popping in to also report that Salina is doing so much better. The scrapes are doing what the need to, though they still look terrible to me, but she is moving and eating and whinnying and bossing, and the swelling around her empty eye socket has gone way way down. Getting back to normal. I'm not letting her turn out with the geldings at night but this evening we'll probably give her a few hours between dusk and dinner time so she can be back with her herd for a bit. The donkeys have been good about staying with her - at least one at a time stays if the other one wants to go further out than her "inner circle" at the barn. And I have done a huge amount of editing this week so I am feeling happy about that too!