Friday, August 24, 2012

quiet in heart, and in eye clear, take 2

This was one of my first posts on camera-obscura, and I was thinking about it today and decided to repost:

the wise eye of zen-master Keil Bay, with quiet-hearted Salina in the background.. a horseback ride in our back field, picking wild grapes from vines hung low, the persimmon tree down the lane, geese honking overhead, and this poem, which came to reside on my little altar last autumn when we moved here, and has this year come true:

The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

Wendell Berry

I do so love this poem. This year, right now, I see signs that this long, hot, difficult summer are coming to an end. Salina is shedding, some leaves are changing color while others turn brown and fall, squirrels are starting to gather the first acorns. This week the wild muscadines are coming to ripeness and although in many ways this summer season has been bleak and hard, we have had much rain and the garden has been bountiful. Now we are having the finest crop of wild muscadines I've ever seen since living here on November Hill. I can stand beneath the vines and eat until I'm full. I'm finding them everywhere, even in the arena, lying on the ground.

We have twin fawns living with us this year, a gray fox, a hoot owl close by, and it occurs to me that things do seem to find a balance. When one part of life feels chaotic and out of control, other parts exhibit abundance.

Today I look at that wise eye of the Big Bay and feel very lucky that I still have the chance to look into it. I rejoice that the quiet-hearted Salina is still here, whinnying and grazing and keeping her wise eye on everything.

Tonight as dusk fell I was in the back field, looking up toward the barn, which was fully lit and shining with golden light. Cody was by the hay tent with Rafer Johnson, Salina and Redford were in the front field, Keil Bay was in the grass paddock, and the pony, whose Apache Moon was in fact hanging low in the sky overhead, was taking advantage of all the open gates to meander between all the members of his herd.

Behind the barn the windows of our house shone gold as well. I stopped mucking to look and soak all this treasure in, seeing it all at once because I had stepped back far enough to take it all in.

Quiet in heart, and in eye clear.

What we need is here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Healing Power of the Herd

Yesterday afternoon late Salina must have decided to take a nap in her stall. She's doing this more now, and has had a number of lie-downs from which she had no trouble getting up again. Keil Bay was with her on the barnyard/grass paddock side of the barn, along with the donkeys, and they had grazed and fanned and eaten hay and meandered around most of the day together.

But when daughter went out to feed Salina her third meal of the day, she found the grand old mare lying down, a bit sweaty, unable to get up. By a stroke of luck my husband was home and he went out and basically picked Salina up enough that she could get her hind legs engaged to stand.

She was of course a bit stiff, but she was able to walk out to the oak tree to get hosed off. She had a number of scrapes in all the places on her side that get pressure when a horse struggles to get up. Fortunately it was on the opposite side of the body than her very close to healing hip point pressure wound.

Aside from the stiffness, my main concern was her eye. She was down with good eye to the ground and it had gotten some bedding debris in it.

So there were a number of things to do, none of which she really wanted to be done.

Once she was hosed and assessed, had dropped manure, and was steady on her feet, we gave her her feed tub, which has a lot of good stuff in it including a good bit of water. She ate voraciously, and that was a good sign. A little while later she peed. In these moments all the basic signs of normal functioning are little triumphs, eliciting audible sighs of relief from us.

Because she's on Previcox, and yesterday was her double dose day, we didn't want to give Banamine. I got out the Arnica and the Symphytum and alternated doses. I syringe the homeopathic remedies in a base of distilled water, in a tiny syringe, so she is used to that, doesn't mind the syringe, and knows there is no taste.

My husband helped and then took over the eye rinsing. Some things Salina likes me to do, others she prefers my husband. We try to find what she prefers and honor her preferences. We went at the rinsing in spurts - in the barnyard where she could move and see her herd, and gave her breaks to let the eye do its own work to clear itself.

All of this transpired in about 45 minutes' time, and then Salina went to the gate to the front field and demanded to be let out with the rest of the herd. I was thinking NO WAY at the same time my husband opened the gate and let her walk through. And then I had the clear thought: if this ends up being the end, I want her to be with her herd, not locked in a stall or by the barn away from them.

We went with her down the hill. She took careful steps, stopped periodically, but where she ended up was all the way down in front by Keil Bay. It was prime horsefly time so we made sure she didn't get dive-bombed. She grazed, she rolled her eye around, she blinked, she kept up with Keil as he moved across the field grazing.

We sat on the log jump and comforted the donkeys, who always seem to want our reassurance when anything is off with Salina.

I watched her improve with each step. She spent about an hour with the herd and then she and the donkeys were ready to walk back up and go back to their grass paddock.

She has some new scrapes along her side. The eye is clear now and getting super-duper antibiotic ointment. Last night the donkeys left the barn after dinner tubs and Salina went into high gear, walking the barn aisle with her over-striding Hanoverian walk that we don't see all that much anymore. She pivoted at the end of the barn aisle and marched back to the other end. It was a display that I suspect had something to do with letting us know she is okay. Sore, scraped up, but essentially sound.

Right now we're in the very visceral place of looking at each day as it comes and trying to make sure we see both the small focused things, like the scrapes and the eye, along with the big picture - Salina's mood, demeanor, and quality of life.

It's hard seeing the scrapes, it's difficult seeing her one good eye have anything at all wrong. In normal moments she moves slowly, with some stiffness. But how do you obsess over those things when you see a beautiful black mare, 29 years old, who whinnies for her meals, eats with gusto, adores being bathed and groomed, wants to be with her herd, and looks like she's in a Hanoverian inspection when she strides out?

Salina needs the herd to heal herself and I need the herd to heal my own innate desire to manage, control, and prevent all mishaps. In this part of our journey with Salina, I'm learning how to take each moment in its own sweet time, be there for her, sometimes persuade her that yes, we do need to do this bit of care for you, but more than I thought would be the case, I am learning to stand back and allow her to do what horses do best when they are given the choice: keep her place in the herd. Let the herd do its healing.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

2012 Olympics and rollkur: "You should not know what they are practicing."

Epona TV has done it again. After Patrick Kittel's denial that even photographic evidence of him riding Scandic in extreme rollkur did not show "how he rides his horse," we have been given some video footage that in fact shows what we all knew but had no way to prove.

Of course that's how he rides his horse. And that's how many of the Olympic riders ride their horses, at least when they are warming up, behind screens set up to shield them from anyone, from fans to horse advocates, seeing what they are doing.

A security guard's stern warning to a fan trying to get a glimpse - "You should not know what they are practicing" - pretty much says it all. When what are being considered the top riders in the world must be screened from public and press view because the training methods used should not be seen, common sense tells us something is not quite right.

But Epona TV found a way to show us more than a "moment in time."

GO HERE TO READ THEIR EDITORIAL with more photos and additional video footage.

For ease of viewing, I've embedded the footage they took from our 2012 Olympic's hidden warm-up area:

I've read critiques this weekend of almost all the Olympic dressage rides, and am saddened to learn that even some of the riders not using rollkur were seen digging in with spurs upon entering the arena for their tests and on through their rides. Rollkur was seen outside the arena proper, in flagrant violation of humane horsemanship.

It seems to me from what I've read and seen and heard that the British team rode well and were rewarded for that - which is good, and I hope it's true. But for me, as long as any abusive practices are allowed and given points in performance, I will not support by watching.

In my opinion, it's past time for clear guidelines and rules. Mistreatment of horses is not only not rewarded, it is not allowed. Period.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

some thoughts on saying goodbye

Each time I say goodbye to a human or an animal family member I feel, in my deepest core, the reality that as much as I try to manage things and take care of things, I have very little control when it comes to keeping my loved ones safe.

Since losing Keats I have had many dreams in which the predominant emotion is anxiety and helplessness. I dreamed that a team of hoofcare practitioners arrived and with much machinery and fanfare trimmed Keil Bay's hooves into bizarre shapes that bled and left him unable to stand on them.

Before I could intervene, they were doing the same thing to the pony. In the dream all I could think of was saving Salina, next in line, from a similar fate.

I dreamed of an airplane trip that went awry when we were landed in an emergency in a remote area that we could not get out of - the plane was on a runway fenced in with huge barbed wire, impenetrable, but fortunately someone had left pallets of supplies within our reach. We had to break into the pallets to eat and were finally rescued. And given many free tickets to ... fly again!

Gradually these dreams have faded and I'm now sleeping more soundly and not waking up to yet another reminder that I do not in fact have the power to keep all of us safe and sound and healthy and happy.

Now, nearly two weeks later, I am still seeing Keats everywhere, lying in cat pose on the back deck, stalking in the tall grass in the front, sitting on the fence watching the constant activity on November Hill.

As if intent to compensate for her physical absence, Dickens is staying inside more, lying with us and putting his paws around my daughter's neck as a gesture of comfort. Moomintroll and Dickens and Muffine Eloise are cohabiting more peacefully. Mystic has become cuddlier than usual.

The Corgis have been at my heels and the horses and donkeys all seem to be watching over us. Salina particularly has been more affectionate to me, following me around the barn, offering her head and neck for me to wrap my arms around.

And the favorite stories of not only Keats, but many beloved friends before her, come often to mind.

Keats was shy as a kitten, but had become a very dear and loving cat with each year that passed. She was a huntress, extremely successful in taking down birds and squirrels. She had a presence that spoke more loudly than her tiny squeak-meows did.

Keats and Muffine (Osage) were sisters and although they didn't snuggle up together, they were often seen lying close, and of all the cats here, I don't remember the two sisters ever being anything other than friendly to one another. Muffine has taken to getting up on top of the kitchen cabinets to sleep this week, which has in some ways made life easier - it is so hard to see her sleeping alone, without Keats close by.

In the end, what comforts me are the memories. The favorite stories of the cats and the dogs and the horse and the people, things they did and communicated, moments that in my mind right now seem so real and so clear it truly does feel like they live with me still.

I suppose this is the finest example of the power of stories for us humans - the ones we tell about ourselves and our beloveds, tales that become mythic in our families and our minds.

I remember Keats playing on the hay bales in the barn when she was a kitten, trying to climb up Keil Bay's tail, as an older cat sleeping on the bales, stretched out long. I remember Dickens claiming the barnyard and chasing Keats back to the house, and her ability to scale the fence. I think my most favorite sight regarding Keats was seeing her in the tall grass, resting, waiting, being her huntress self. Which seemed so opposite to the purring, snuggling, kneading Keats who sat on our chests and put her face up to ours, and gazed into our eyes.

This is how I remember her, now:

Yesterday I was in the back field and the two fawns who live here this season scampered from the trees back towards the hundred-acre wood. We've had many sightings of them, along with their mother, this summer, and it has been a gift each time.

Later, I noticed that the same tree that was struck last summer had been struck again by lightning. The top half of this huge tree was completely broken off and is lying in my woodland path. Fifteen feet away, another tall tree, though less hefty in girth, was also struck and broken. I walked up the hill to the arena and looked back at the treeline, realizing that it is different now - there's an empty space where those two trees stood.

Like lightning striking not once but three times, leaving a hole in one of my most beloved vistas, it feels like death struck quickly and took Keats away, and we live now with a hole in our family here, one that goes with the hole left by Chase, our Corgi boy.

Somehow the holes become part of the tapestry, though, this much I know. The tapestry of our days and our years remains, and the holes remain, but we continue weaving, and the holes eventually form part of the pattern we don't see until much much later. I imagine the larger pattern will be something like fine lace. And like Leonard Cohen's song, Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

So we carry on. The gift of a large family is that there are always things to be done, like helping Cody with his hives, and battling a bad year of fleas, taking care of an elbow that is trying to heal, feeding and cleaning and finding that even in the midst of grief and loss, twin fawns still scamper and play. We can still find gifts in our days. The magic still happens.

Monday, August 06, 2012

RIP Keats Meow

Last weekend we lost our lovely black cat Keats to a very unexpected and quick illness.  We are still in shock and still reeling from how things went downhill for her so very quickly. We took her sister in for complete bloodwork to make sure we are not dealing with something genetic, and so far, so good for Muffine Eloise.

It has been a rough season for us here and also for many of my readers. I feel like all of us deserve nothing but good news and easy living for the rest of 2012, at the very least.

Goodbye sweet Keats. I am still seeing her all over the place, out of the corner of my eye. She is buried beside Chase, our Corgi boy, in the back yard right by our back door, underneath the butterfly bush which was a favorite spot for her.

On other fronts, I left on Tuesday for a writing retreat, had some online privacy concerns, and am still trying to sort out how to maintain an online presence that feels right to me - over the weekend I set the blogs so that only I could read them - that was the only way I could figure out to quickly secure them without deleting anything. The result was that it looked like I had gone to membership only, and I know many of you felt I had left you out - I got many emails asking to be added to the list.

Well, right now there IS no list - and I am working on streamlining my online sites so there is ONE place to find me online. It might be that I do end up with a private blog and will announce that if I decide to go that route.

Meanwhile I came home yesterday to find Cody covered in hives - I think due to some fire ant bites that sent his system into overdrive. So am busy sorting that out with him.

Bear with me as I figure out these online issues. Will make sure that those who want to can stay in touch one way or another. You can always email me using the contact button either here, or at November Hill Press.

Thanks, all...