Wednesday, December 30, 2015

fire and rain and rain and rain

Sunday I stepped in a compost pile (with sandals on because it is in the 70s here) and pulled out a foot coated in fire ants - usually dormant this time of year! We don't have any mounds on the farm right now, at least none that are visible, like this hidden compost mound, but I'm seeing them along the main road in growing numbers. 

I have daffodils coming up already, 8 inches tall. 

And rain. Rain. Rain. 

Yesterday we had a break from the wet stuff. The sun came out and a nice breeze blew in and although it's muddy and squishy in the pastures I turned the horses out, opened the barn up, turned on the fans, and spent most of the day getting it aired out and clean. The herd got treats and grooming and a little exercise in the arena. 

None of them were much interested in the exercise except for the pony, who had been cheeky to his girl and seemed to need some attention. He galloped and galloped and galloped in both directions, offering many flying lead changes and extended floating trot and a few bucks until he finally settled down. 

I left them out until bedtime last night, knowing more rain was on the way. Today and tomorrow look messy on the weather radar. The rivers and creeks and lake are all higher than I've ever seen them. I'm not sure where all the water will go that falls today and tomorrow, but on Friday it looks like "normal" temps are coming in - sunshine and highs in the 50s. I'm looking forward to getting dried out.

It's a little odd having the screen doors open and ceiling fans going while the Christmas tree is up! 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

the "between" days

Years back I used to send what I called "between" cards - which were carefully selected and carefully written notes to my family and friends that I purposely sent in the span of days that fall between Christmas and New Year's.

The time between Christmas and New Year's has always been a contemplative time for me. The build-up to Christmas is full of joy but it's also often overloaded with expectations and attempts to make things "perfect" for the holiday. Every year I try to refocus my efforts on simplifying and having good and meaningful time with my family. Some years I manage it well, others I get caught up in the frenzy. And after the holiday has passed, I hear from clients the lesser-known stories of the holidays: disappointments, tensions that built and burst out, sadnesses, grief. For many people the holidays bring things to a head or highlight what isn't there, or hasn't been, or won't be.

This time before the new year is in my opinion a perfect time to reflect. As I sit here typing I see the white lights on the tree reflecting in the kitchen window so it appears there are little white lights on the bare oak tree by the barn. The same lights are reflecting in the black computer screen on the desk in the living room making what is essentially a blank screen into a piece of illuminated art.

What are my thoughts for myself this week?

I made several commitments in the fall for the coming year that I now see were poorly timed. I'm pulling back on those things and redirecting my time and energy. It's okay to do this! We don't always know what needs our focus. Reallocating is a good thing if done thoughtfully.

On busy days and nights this week I made a point to walk out to the barn and feed some treats to the herd. One evening I did it in the dark and realized (again) how powerful a remedy that is for me. I aim to do more of it. The feel of a muzzle against my palm and a soft snort in the moonlight is a treasure I have access to every single night of the year.

It's been over a week since I even thought about writing or editing. That's okay! But it's time to get back to it. A fair amount of my energy comes from doing that work each day. It's work that refuels my spirit.

Things that feel like failures in the moment can be powerful elements of change in our lives. I had a few of those this week and I'm going to keep reflecting and look toward using the experiences to make a few little leaps forward. We all have the option to do this - all it takes is reframing and a willingness to look at things from a different direction.

I just read a note from a friend who shared that 2015 was one of her worst, most difficult years. She is ready to move on to a new one. Sometimes when things have been hard that's the best thing to say - I'm leaving it behind and moving on to something new. Which in a way is what every New Year's Eve is about - choosing to celebrate the good, learn from the difficult, and mark the beginning of a new year in which to create new paths, new habits, and bring the things that work well forward too.

One thing I'm bringing forward is this blog - a place where I get to write whatever strikes my fancy without worrying too much about being perfect or literary or anything at all. Thanks for reading and for those of you who comment. I love reading your thoughts as much as I love writing the posts! 

Take a moment and savor this between time. Share something here if you like. I'm looking forward to thinking, reading, savoring.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

how to get through a cold the week before Christmas (and ditch the to do list)

-make sure you get plenty of vitamins (I take D daily but nothing else, so I added a daily Airborne and extra C on top of that)

-boil thinly-sliced ginger to make a tea; add honey and lemon - this is a powerful remedy!

-if you can match the exact right homeopathic remedy to your cold symptoms it will help a lot

-a tablespoon of local raw honey before bed helps with sore throat and coughing

-echinacea tea with local raw honey is a good way to get extra fluids in 

-chicken soup really does help - add some turmeric for extra benefits

-I got achy with this cold so I took an Advil for two nights before bed so I could rest better

- keep going to the barn! Most of us have to anyway unless we have barn staff. Even if you don't do the full chore list I think breathing fresh air and visiting the equines helps us get better faster. You might find the horses are extra sweet when you come out coughing and nose-blowing into tissues. When you hand out the peppermints take one yourself. It clears the nasal passages. :)

Meanwhile I have managed to get little things done around the house. I'm behind on the "to-do" list I had for myself but I suspect succumbing to this cold was my body forcing me to slow down and focus on the special moments.

Remember this?

We've come to this:

Pixie kitten is all grown up and appointed herself Queen of the Christmas tree. I'm feeling better today and looking forward to my son coming home for the holiday week. Hope all are thriving and surviving the season!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Reprising Joseph Gallo's Cosmos of Relationship

This is from my old blog mystic-lit - where a number of wonderful and creative people posted regularly and where some of my favorite posts live. This is one of my most favorites, and I think early December is a perfect time to re-read it and reflect. Here you go! 



by Joseph Gallo

The Cosmos Of Relationship

First off, I want to thank Fabienne for her post last Friday, which helped spark this post into being. She got me thinking well beyond my brain’s ability to do so without consequences.

For those of you with your televisions still plugged in, Carl Sagan's seminal 1980 series Cosmos will air on the Discovery Science Channel beginning January 8, 2008, Tuesday evenings at 9 pm EST.

Why do I mention this? Because there runs a rich thread of associative relationships throughout the series, one that I find of metaphorical similarity here among us as writers and explorers in our own writes.

It was those relationships that intrigued me when I first watched Cosmos. These universal interrelationships continue to capture my daydreaming now in nearly every aspect of my mostly mundane daily life.

Sagan’s unbridled and childlike enthusiasm as narrator of this wonderful series, his reverence in and for the cosmic wonder and awe that dwarfs and magnifies the sum total of our human experience, is what I connect with most.

It is what I try most to impart to my writing students to develop and nourish foremost in their desire to write: a practical and authentic reverence for wonder and awe. I can get downright militant on this point.

If you can not stand alone and look up into the night sky with the endearing embrace of what it is to be alive, to recalibrate your proper size and position, to overlay against that glorious shimmering backdrop all the trivial matters of one’s daily struggles, and to nurture the humbling cognizance of all you do not know and cannot imagine, then you will likely never write anything essential or compelling.

It is the standard before which I hold myself every day.

This came natural to me when quite often, as a child, I would walk along the perimeter of the schoolyard fence at recess knowing that I belonged out there as much as here. I was certain my star people would return for me any moment and I would travel to attain my proper education and learn the true range and scope of my being a human being.

Relationship: Where am I in my own life? Where am I in the lives of others? What threads bind and break, what stories are being told, and which remain, as yet, untellable? Where do I fit in my own skin? Have I allowed room for growth and do I make space for all my universes?

If you make time to watch Cosmos, whether for the first time or a timely reviewing, I would urge you to immerse yourself in the many interconnections, micro and macro, Sagan presents and addresses. Place yourself among them in the context of your daily and writing lives. Ask questions. Imagine answers.

In the 1997 film, Contact, based on Sagan’s 1985 book of the same name and released just seven months after he passed away, there is a scene that always gets me right to the core. It happens when scientist Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jody Foster) is hurtling at superluminal speed through a vibrant wormhole via the travel pod designed by alien neighbors who previously send an encoded message for its construction.

She stops in her journey for a moment before a pageant of lush stars with a burgeoning core of light pulsing in a black womb of space and, as she looks with widened wonder, says, “Some celestial event. No words. No words to describe it. They should’ve sent a poet. So beautiful, so beautiful. I had no idea.”

I literally cannot stop myself from quietly shuddering tears and nodding my head in agreement during this scene. I want to be there. And for a few magic movie moments, I am. But I really want to go. I want to go again.

Whether or not I will have any conscious thought of it, I will, in time, go for real. Not as the first poet in space, perhaps, as I’ve long wished to be, but as I re-elementalize back into all that conspired to make me.

Whenever I look up into the night sky I know that is where I will eventually return. It is my retirement home. Yours too. We are, after all, as Sagan says, starstuff.

On this note I want to share a poem I like a lot on this first day of the new year and wish you all a creatively prosperous 2008.

Muons Are Passing Through You

This is what is: You are walking down an empty road

in the middle of the night. The poor moon drips weak

light on you like waxy tallow and it makes you cold.

Your lover has informed you that your services are no

longer needed and your heart feels like a cancer, your

own soul is like a thorn you have been stabbed with.

Dark hedges line the road and there are voices

whispering within them: they are the voices of the

lost, the damned, the many who will be legion.

And they know your name.

And this is true: You are a stardust person.

Muons are passing through you as you read this.

Cosmic rays are building you up and breaking you down.

Seas are evaporating, gases are freezing into planets,

planets are spinning off into the void.

Hold out your hand and watch the pions dance,

watch your nuclei exchanging forces with the universe,

watch the miracles ebb and flow as endless joy

folds into endless silence and everything is

everywhere all at once and it goes on and on.

And here is more: The infinite is already in you.

It is in you and of you, and it may save you.

But if it saves you, it will give you no choice.

So go down the road. Be death, be stardust, enter

the duality known to the generations who are vanished,

who left behind this double image, but only half

the message, just the instructions for how to begin.

Eleanor Lerman (from Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds)

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

2 chiros and 1 good ride

Keil Bay and Rafer Johnson both had chiropractic appointments this morning. Keil was happy and didn't have much going on, thankfully. Little Rafer who lives a life of pure leisure was a train wreck! He had stuff out of whack from poll to tail, but he stood happily in the morning sun while the adjustments were made. I am sure he was floating on endorphins the rest of the day.

This afternoon I had a nice ride on Cody. He started out a little stiff but quickly warmed up into a lovely walk and kept it up the entire ride. We had a little bit of trouble with him wanting to cut one corner, worked through that, and then had some trouble with me forgetting who I was riding - the slightest touch of leg to ask for bend ended up getting me a trot several times. He is so different from Keil Bay, who seems to always know exactly what I want from him. 

That comes from years of riding though and Cody and I will have to put some time in together to get to that point. He's a sweetheart and I'm lucky to have him as my second ride. 

Found out last week that Mark Rashid is coming back again in February and I'm hoping Cody and I can get at least one private lesson in this time. I could use some eyes on the ground to help me get more confidence on him, and how to honor his sensitivity without feeling like I'm sitting on an eggshell. :)

Sunday, December 06, 2015


When I was young, before the two brothers arrived, my mom, dad, and I would drive to the beach, a longer drive back then without the interstate, and a drive I sometimes try to recreate by taking the back roads and reminding myself that there is still undeveloped land between me and the Atlantic Ocean.

I recall being in the front seat in the middle, safe between my parents, air rushing in through open windows. An adventure. 

I also remember the view from the back seat, where I had the whole seat to lie flat on my back and watch the world fly by through the rear windows. Even thinking of that view sends me into a visceral memory of travel, which is different when one is a child because no planning is required, no organization of luggage or tickets or driving. You are home and then you are on the way to being somewhere new. It was the purest sense of going to a place I have ever experienced. In the back seat of a moving car, safe, expectant, waiting to get to wherever it was we were going.

On the way to the beach we drove by fields of blueberries. I remember being driven down a long driveway, past big trees and white farmhouses, and maybe barns with horses. Climbing out of the back seat with bare feet, short legs and chubby toes, feeling the white sandy soil underneath. We stopped on the way to and from the beach to pick blueberries. 

Back then they were in little wooden boxes and they weren't in grocery stores every day of the year. They were warm from the sun, fat, indigo blue, the perfect size to eat in one bite, and then another bite, for that soft burst of blue inside one's mouth.

Fast forward many years to me now, eating dinner at my favorite restaurant, Ashten's in Southern Pines, perusing the dessert menu and seeing this: Childress Starbound Blueberry Port (NC). The first time I ordered it I was sitting on one of their dining sofas in the pub side of the restaurant, surrounded by foxhunting decor and the sounds of many conversations layering around me. The first sip made me think of blueberry picking and sandy feet and sitting upright in the back seat of a moving car with salty air rushing in through the windows and blue-stained fingers. My own pint of blueberries.

Since that first glass of blueberry port I have had many more there at Ashten's, and then one visit the menu had been updated and the blueberry port was gone. I vowed to locate my own bottle but couldn't remember the name, then time passed, then I forgot.

Last week I emailed our neighborhood asking if anyone wanted to go to the local wine shop, VINO, for their Friday night wine tasting. I'd visited in search of a bottle of wine for my brother's 50th birthday and signed up for the mailing list, urged by the owner to come on a Friday night and try some wines.

While waiting to hear back from neighbors, the wine shop's newsletter email came, announcing this past Friday's tasting would center around ports. My eyes moved down the list of ports to be sampled, and there it was: Childress Starbound Blueberry. I read further and learned that our neighbor the wine rep was going to be one of the pourers that night, so I quickly emailed and learned that yes, he is the one repping the Childress. How funny that since Ashten's stopped serving the blueberry port I had a source literally right across the lane!

At the pouring I learned that the Childress Starbound is made from blueberries in one very special blueberry field in Burgaw, North Carolina, and that it has been made from those blueberries for years and years and years. Burgaw is the town we drove through on our way to the beach, and for all I know, some of the blueberries we picked and ate over the years of summer beach trips came from that very farm and field.

I had a taste and with great glee I bought a bottle. Our neighbor assured me he can get it anytime. "I can leave it in your mailbox," he said. And what I thought right then was how things connect: blueberries in the back seat of a car on the way to the beach, discovering a beloved restaurant and then a tiny glass of dessert wine, a chance visit to a wine shop that led to a tasting that led to another tiny glass and now a full precious bottle with the assurance of more when needed.

Somehow all this time I never focused much on the name - Starbound - and now that too feels like something meaningful, naming the journey, what it means to take a sip of something sweet and being transported back in time, a treasure found, and lost for awhile, and found again.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

old reads, new reads, a few rides, and a new favorite thing

First, the riding. Keil Bay and I both started taking microlactin last week and I am definitely seeing a difference in both of us. We're mostly doing what I call "big walking" - which is really just a nice flowing engaged walk, with some energy and schwung. It's when we do this walking that Keil offers soft snorting and I feel his entire body loosen up. We're doing a little trotting and will add in more of that as we go.

I've had two good rides on Cody and several ground sessions. He actively wants to trot but I'm holding him back for now as I keep an eye on his abscess scar. It's growing down the hoof wall nicely but is clearly a vulnerable spot until it grows out. He's having a cranio session this afternoon so I hope we'll see some good ripples from that in his riding. I've come to really like the bitless sidepull I have for Keil Bay and have used it exclusively this fall, but it's too large for Cody. A horse sized one for Cody is on our Christmas list! I think he'll enjoy going without a bit, but we'll see. For now he's chewing the bit, creating a nice little rim of foam, and seems to be happy to be working again.

The backyard is now cat-proof so all four kit-meows can go out through the cat/Corgi door and enjoy the back yard! We have some tweaking and tidying up to do of the wire overhang but I'm surprised by how invisible it is when I glance out the windows. So far so good. I'll do an entire post on that once we get it completely finished. Then it will be time to figure out the front porch. 

Books - old and new. One of my favorite books when I was young was Harriet The Spy. I read that book until it fell apart (and still have it, more a pile of pages than a book at this point). I loved Harriet's interior life, the notebook in which she wrote things down, her gift for stealth, and her love of Ole Golly. One detail in the book became a sort of fascination: the egg cream. Growing up in the south I had no idea what it was. It sounded like something good, but egg? and cream? I finally had one in NYC as a young adult. It was nothing to do with eggs and I enjoyed the taste. I don't think I gave egg creams much thought after that first and only one.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. What came over me? I don't know. Suddenly the idea of an egg cream struck me one evening. But it's the season of eggnog, and we had a half-gallon from a local dairy farm and I decided to make an eggnog egg cream. I've had several by now and have perfected my method. Put a splash of pure (real) vanilla extract in a tall glass. We don't happen to have our homemade version (vanilla bean pods crushed in a jar of dark rum) but I think that would make this even better. 

Fill the glass halfway with eggnog. The local farm's eggnog is thick and rich and very creamy, so this recipe assumes that consistency. This would probably be amazing with homemade eggnog! 

Then take a mini-whisk or fork and stir the glass as fast as you can without tipping it over. Add freshly-opened (or made if you make your own) seltzer to top off the glass. You'll get some foamy froth if you stir fast enough and the seltzer is fresh enough.

Oh my goodness - it is my new favorite thing to drink. I'm having it as dessert in the evenings. And thinking of Harriet and Ole Golly and almost wishing for a tomato sandwich. :)

New reads: I finished Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever and enjoyed it. Quiet, elegant, with science woven into the stories. It's a book I will read again.

I started Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven two days ago and I am tempted to sit and read it straight through. This is one I've hoarded since it came out and I am loving it so far. I haven't read her earlier novels so am looking forward to going through them at some point. I'm only one-tenth of the way in right now but consider this my early thumbs-up!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

giving thanks 2015

I am grateful for:

- a big forward walking ride on the 26-year old Keil Bay today

- the return of Mystic the cat who didn't show up for dinner last night (his front claws are worn to nubs from trying to escape some place he obviously got shut up in but otherwise he is fine)

- a husband who will jump in and figure out how to create a safe backyard habitat for a curiosity of unruly cats (will photo and post when done!)

- two amazing children (now young adults)

- a loving family including my mom who shared a wonderful meal last night (appetizers included spicy crab dip, warm Brie, and calamari, dinner a hefty salad and shrimp puttanesca with goat cheese, a glass of Malbec, and coffee with limoncello cheesecake) 

- two exuberant Corgis (and one is 16 years old and still chasing things in the backyard)

- our farm, newly refinanced with a good locked-in for the duration interest rate

- the creative life and process, which keeps me happy

- amazing friends (which includes many of you reading this)

May this thanksgiving day be full of good company, good food, and the opportunity to count our blessings!

Friday, November 20, 2015

the all you can eat hay buffet

On Wednesday night we had over 2 inches of rain, so the horses were in that night and most of yesterday as it began to - well, dry out is not accurate - seep in enough that they could march around without going fetlock deep in mud.

I did manage to ride Keil Bay as the arena had drained well. After the ride, Cody got a little groundwork with daughter and I opened both arena gates so they could go to the back field without having to tramp through the muddiest areas.

They were out last night with the arena still open, got their after-breakfast hay out this morning, and when I looked out the window at 9:30 or so they were all huddled in the arena near the hay tent (which backs up to the 4-strand HorseGuard tape fencing. I got the sense something just wasn't quite right, so out I went. Some helpful beast had managed to pull up the hay tent flap, reach in, grab an entire bale of hay, pull it through the HorseGuard tape, and served it up to the entire herd. 

I got the bale and put it away, then made about 12 piles of hay in the barnyard so they could come in there and soak up some sun. At 11:30 I glanced back out the window and there they were in the arena again. Another hay bale had been served up for all to enjoy!

I think it might be time to test the charge on that fence tape!

Keil has had 4 rides this week and although I was planning to ride him today, he seemed sleepy and very content in the stall as he ate his midday tub. It's possible he bamboozled me but I gave him today off, grooming and massaging and then letting him back into the barnyard.

Cody got his second ride of the week. I'm going very slowly with him as he has been out of work as long as Keil has but it's been over a year since I last rode him. And he has been galloping around the farm tossing his head and acting generally like a 4-year old. Dear daughter has patiently helped me get him back under saddle, and of course he's been fine. Just walking so far, though he tried to trot several times today. I'm guessing he is ready for more work.

Daughter also had to talk me through a moment of panic about dismounting straight to the ground. Keil and I have been using the elevated block for awhile now but Cody thought that was just too weird. (and honestly, it was awkward for me when I attempted it because he's not really tall enough to warrant it) Leave it to our horses to push us through our fears - I've dismounted to the ground both rides and had no problem at all. 

I'm keeping an eye on the abscessed hoof. So far so good. He's tracking up at the walk and there's no sign of swelling in that fetlock so we'll keep going. Hopefully we'll be trotting soon!

They all need it given the all you can eat hay buffet they've set up for themselves!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

booking it

Finished Anthony Doerr's All The Light We Cannot See and so loved the book. He creates vivid and clear images and a story that flows beautifully. I'm looking at his other work now and am eager to read more.

I read and enjoyed Andrea Barrett's Voyage of the Narwhal years back and am just now getting around to reading her book of stories, Ship Fever. Two stories in and two thumbs up.


Keil Bay and I had a lovely ride yesterday. I had meant to ride Cody too but didn't time things well. He needs the work and I'm going to have to figure out how to make it happen. Or maybe I should use the word "allow" - I want it to be a flow and not a checking things off a list kind of ride with him. He deserves it.

Mostly my days are geared around writing, riding, and keeping up with house and barn chores. Some days I have clients, other days there are errands to run in town or appointments to keep. Putting two rides in the day will change things, but there has to be a way to do it gracefully so that I bring my best self to both horses.

Any advice is welcome!!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Gioia Timpanelli and stories

Last night and today I'm listening and working with Gioia Timpanelli (author, storyteller, speaker) on myths, archetypes, and stories. She speaks in English but slides in and out of Sicilian as she goes, and what is miraculous is that with her body language and gestures everyone suddenly understands Sicilian.

It reminds me of horses and the archetypal language they use.

I'll write more about this later but wanted to say this, now: go find a story today, or tell one. Stories hold us all together.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

rain refrain and listening to what they say

Our weather has been alternatingly gorgeous and abysmal. The rainy days would be lovely too if not for what it means for the horses and donkeys and the Little Man, who stands out in it like a wildling on the coast of Shetland. I do everything I can to make the rainy days more interesting but they get bored and grumpy nonetheless.

There has been no riding in a week. Today the sun has come out and there's a balmy breeze blowing but it rained hard through the night so every inch of November Hill is mush, including our very well-draining arena. 

I've thrown open all the doors and windows in the barn and turned the fans on and fed the herd their hay in the sunshine but not out in the very wet pastures. I'll see how much drying happens by this afternoon. If I can give them some time in the front field I will. 


On Saturday I went to the barn and it was rainy and dark. I busied myself with chores and for a little while didn't notice that Keil Bay was standing at his stall door just watching me and waiting - not for hay or his mid-day meal, not for water, or anything related to food.

The busyness of doing chores can sometimes turn into a wall around me. I have worked hard to create the habit of stopping every few minutes to take it down. I'm not sure if there's a fairy tale about a woman who was so busy doing chores she never had time to notice all the beauty around her, but if not, there should be.

Keil Bay has a gift, as did Salina, for piercing that wall. Keil does it silently, soundlessly, the most quiet demeanor he ever exhibits. Sometimes I hear him instantly, others I need a few minutes, but he has surely been a teacher for me in letting chores be the background music and beauty in each moment taking the solo part.

I walked over and asked him what was up and he turned his head so that his right eye was in my face. He had a small cut on the eyelid and although it had started to form a scab, it was recent and the eyelid was swollen.

My heart whirled in a moment of pure panic, an engine revving and then quieting as I turned on the lights and took a close look. There was no involvement of the eyeball itself, no redness, no closing of the eye or squinting or blinking. But the swollen lid looked uncomfortable and I suspect the bump that caused the cut had hurt. 

My husband brought me a bowl of warm water and a clean cloth and Keil let me hold the warm damp compress over the entire eye. Mainly I wanted him to know that I knew what was wrong - that I had listened - and heard - and to gently clean the area. I gave him a dose of Arnica and put a dab of triple antibiotic ointment into the cut and then stood and held his head, stroked his face, and let him know that I was going to be keeping an eye on his eye.

He let out a long, soft snort and then shook his head gently, as if shaking off the cut and the swelling.

A couple of hours later I went out to give the second dose of Arnica. The swelling had subsided by about 70%. By the next morning it was normal.

We arrive at the barn with stuff swirling around us, the dust of daily life, little tornadoes and hurricanes of emotion and lists of things to do and unfinished conversations. It's easy to grab the muck rake or the grooming bucket and let our minds tumble forward as we mentally cross things off our lists or continue those conversations.

I'm grateful for the herd I live with and that every one of them is opinionated and expressive and determined enough to remind me to stop the train of thought, look at what is right in front of me, and listen. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

James Hillman, alchemical psychology, and yes, deworming day

Last night was the first of a 10-session webinar with Robert Bosnak on James Hillman's chapter "Silver and the White Earth" in his wonderful book titled Alchemical Psychology.

I did the online course Alchemy 1 this past spring and summer, with Bosnak and Patricia Berry discussing the first two chapters in Hillman's book. I missed the live webinar for Alchemy 1, and for the chapters Salt, Black, and Blue, but I've listened and read on my own and will eventually go back and get the online audio discussion for the chapters I missed hearing.

It's a wonderful course. James Hillman writes eloquently and richly about alchemy and elaborates on Carl Jung's writings on alchemy and psychology in a fetching way. Robert Bosnak does a lovely job illuminating Hillman's words, and with the web audience joining in, it's a wonderful conversation. 

Last night's talk had to do with silver and whitening and luna, and the luna-tic way of reflection. It's a little bit mystical, a little bit poetic, and very provocative to consider. I had the window open in the garret and curled up in my reclincer with a glass of wine and my notebook and pen. A wonderful way to move into fall and winter, with two of these a month, on Thursday evenings at 9 p.m. EST.  It's not too late to sign on for this segment - go to Jung Platform online if interested. 

I went out today thinking I would be riding but rain swooped in and I renamed it deworming day. Little Man and Rafer and Keil Bay were eager to get their doses and even Cody and Redford, much more leery of even the apple-flavored variety, were cooperative. A round of peppermints and some clean waters and fresh hay and that was that.

It is so lovely outside with all the color and the leaves falling and the rain just wets everything down into its own palette. By tomorrow I'll want sunshine again but for now, sweet potato walnut muffins (our own sweet potatoes!!) and coffee are calling my name.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

more rain and hoof trims all around

We're in another stretch of rainy days here. The horses and donkeys are hanging out in stalls most of the day and night so it's an ongoing effort to keep the barn clean. The longer they're in the messier they get, strowing hay, dropping manure all over the place. Relationships were straining: Keil Bay and Little Man pinning ears over the stall door at one another, Rafer Johnson nipping at Redford. 

I had the trimmer coming in an hour and needed to tidy the barn, clear the barn aisle, and get the herd settled in some new configuration that would hopefully improve their moods.

Over the years I have learned that they like to be surprised, within a range of options. They like switching from one side of the barn aisle to the other; mostly with a few exceptions they enjoy having a new "barn mate" to hang out with. Alternating between hay on the stall mats to hay in nets to hay under the shelter keeps them happiest on these long rainy days. Apples or carrots in feed tubs make them happy, as do peppermints.

It was noon so time for Keil Bay's mid-day meal. I quickly cleaned a stall - not the one he was standing in - and moved him in with his meal, a fresh bucket of water, and a closed door. The rest of the boys were upset - they wanted meals too - so I gave them each a very small snack of Chaffhaye which gave me time to get another stall cleaned and set up for Cody. I closed him in too. When free to come and go 24/7 Keil and Cody seem to enjoy being closed in from time to time. The pony and donkeys had been on the near side of the barn all morning, so they went on the other side - with one stall open to the shelter and the arena open in case they wanted to take a stroll in wet but non-muddy footing.

Once I got them all situated with fresh water and Chaffhaye I served up their hay. 

Our barn is never really dark during the daytime but I put all the lights on, including the twinkle lights in the feed room, and turned on NPR. Suddenly it was cheerful and like a big living room. Everyone was munching, no ears were pinning, moods had improved dramatically.

By the time the trimmer arrived I had the barn aisle clean and horses groomed. The pony - well, his elves took the night off and he was simply a lost cause. The donkeys don't roll in the mud so they were nice and clean and fluffy already.

All mine enjoy the attention they get from our wonderful hoof trimmer. She is attuned to them as she works, gives lots of praise, and yesterday offered a "Peace and Calm" blend of essential oils to all of us. The rain was falling outside the barn and it was a dreary day with flies and mosquitoes (yes, in November - the curse of a temperate climate) but everyone got a turn and everyone ended up licking and chewing and enjoying the new scent.

It looks like Cody is okay to ride, carefully, with an eye on his abscessed hoof as the opening grows out, and if we can get to the end of this rainy spell, I'll be aiming to get he and Keil Bay on a schedule I can keep up with. Cody is feeling terrific - cantering and galloping around and tossing his head - so I think he'll enjoy some time in the saddle again. His break has been longer than Keil Bay's! I'll have lots to report as I bring him back into work.

I went to the barn at noon yesterday and came in at 5:15. Barn time, as most of us know, doesn't follow the clock. I came in damp and, once I took my boots off inside, realized my feet were tired from standing for so long. But I was also deeply relaxed, content, and restored. Peace and calm. 

And here's the pony last rain spell we had, the morning after. His grooming elves not only cleaned him up, they awarded him a gold star!!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

a little book stuff

I've linked my GoodReads "currently reading" list to the blog. If you look on the sidebar to the right and scroll down a little you'll see what I'm reading. 

I do very brief reviews on GoodReads if you're interested in seeing more, and longer "formal" reviews for LitChat (you can find those at under the book review tab). 

For the past year or so I have been reading a little physics every morning. My son is passionate about physics (he's a junior physics and pure mathematics major and looking at physics grad schools now) and hearing him talk about it kindled my young science self. I'm often reading at the far edge of my own comprehension but find it a wonderful way to spend a half-hour or so every morning.

I usually read fiction at night before bed.

Feel free to share your book recommendations here. I have piles of books all over the house and my Kindle is packed. And there are new titles coming out every day. But I'm still in denial that I won't ever get to read all the books I want to read. There's a Many Interacting Worlds theory floating now that means I might well be reading books all over the place, and somehow maybe what I'm reading in those other worlds is interacting with me here. 

For those of us who ride, consider the implications! Keil Bay and I are riding Grand Prix somewhere. :)

We had a nice ride today. Still building up to more trotting. Riding through things like Cody cantering up to the arena fence, tossing his head, and trying to nip Keil Bay on the rump, Rafer Johnson knocking the mounting block off its cinder blocks, and cats dashing in and out of the woods at us. Keil was brave and a solid ride through all that but he spooked after I got off when I crackled the peppermint wrappers! 

And tonight:

Halloween graveyard cake! Made with our own sweet potatoes, cream cheese frosting, and a slew of Halloween candy decor. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

rainy day

We've had a long streak of lovely weather and all the grass that came up from the overseeding needs water! So I'm happy to have a rainy day to enjoy.

Yesterday was cloudy with a stiff wind but Keil Bay and I tacked up and rode through it. Leaves flying, deer crashing, cats dashing in and out of hiding places, hay tent flap making periodic whoosh noises that sounded like silenced rounds from a hit man. (watching X-Files and Homeland lends to this kind of analogy), daughter dropping the muck barrow inside the barn with a bang.  

Even when I reached up and grabbed a low-hanging dead oak branch, thinking the small part hitting my helmet would be all that broke off, and the whole three feet long branch cracked and fell on his hindquarters, he did not spook. He was alert and forward but he took care of me.

Yesterday we did more walking, shoulder-in, turns on forehand and haunches, 20m circles, and increased our trot time. Then more walking. 

We've been avoiding the F area in the arena - not because of spookiness but due to the million and one acorns covering nearly every square inch of that corner. After our ride I spent a little time with the muck rake (oddly it works perfectly for acorns!) and the wheelbarrow and cleared them back a few feet. I'll do more tomorrow and that should do it (assuming more don't fall). I can't figure out if they are just weird to walk on or if he is unwilling to walk on a source of treats. Though this year they're not eating as many as they have in years past, thankfully!

Tomorrow I'm going to get on the three days on/two days off riding schedule, as I think it works best for Keil. We'll build on the trotting and see how it goes. He's muscling up and I'm getting ready to add a mid-day meal into his diet for extra calories. 

Otherwise, the color here is starting to pop. It looks like the first week in November will be the peak - which is exactly where the name November Hill came from. We moved in October ten years ago and when we hit November here the color and beauty of the season blew us all away. It's the perfect name for our farm and our favorite season. Even in the rain!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

a horse and his friend

A couple of days ago I was getting ready to turn the boys out to the front field, which had a month off and was limed, overseeded with spring fescue, and seeded for winter with grazing rye. We had just the right rain at the right time to get it off to a lovely start, and the herd had been eyeing it for several weeks.

I'm not quite ready to turn them on it full-time but for the past week I've been giving them a couple hours out there each day and they've been enjoying it a lot, but not going nuts, which is good. (Nuts would be them pacing up and down the fence line off and on all day and trying to break through the gate!)

Keil Bay came out of the barn first, to the side gate which I had open and waiting. The pony and donkeys had gone out the other way, and Cody was still in the barn. He's moving pretty well at this point; the abscess exit has grown down the hoof about 1/4 inch, but he's not totally sound on that hoof yet. So he was taking his time to get to the front field.

I was standing in the gateway and started to close it just in case the donkeys or pony decided to come through and go to the barn. Not likely with the grass out there singing their tune, but it was a reflex on my part. Keil put his body in the gateway and stopped so I couldn't close it, and when he heard Cody coming from behind, he used his nose to shove the gate wide open - giving Cody space to get through. The two walked off together almost literally into the sunset, with not a bit of space between them.

If you want to look at herd "order" Keil Bay is top horse and Cody is at the bottom. This is why I think the idea of herd order is not quite the whole picture when it comes to horses and the way they operate when they truly live together, in other words, are not separated very much of the time and have access to stalls, and each other close to full time.

Keil Bay didn't rush out to the green grass -  he waited for his friend whose hoof is slowing him down right now, and he didn't insist that Cody follow behind him - he actually shoved the gate open so Cody could join him shoulder to shoulder and walk to the pasture together. 

It's nice knowing the horses have their own relationships with one another and that they make allowances when needed. 

A different day this week I had tacked Keil up in his stall and Cody was standing in the barn aisle watching. Knowing there would be no issue, I didn't hesitate to open the stall door to walk Keil through on our way to the arena, but Keil realized before coming through that he might bump Cody with the door as he passed - he stopped and pulled back into the stall. I got it - and asked Cody to move over a few steps. On we went with no problems. This is one of those times when the horse is smarter than his rider, and I'm happy to listen and adjust my request as needed!

They have their spats from time to time, but for the most part, this herd gets along well. Anyone can turn out with any other one but I think they're happiest all together. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

riding the real and imagined big bay horse

Something reminded me this morning that ever since I was very young, as early as I can remember, really, I rode a big bay horse every time I rode in the car with my parents or anyone else. 

In my imagined ride, I walked and trotted and cantered and galloped alongside the car I was in, on the terrain that paralleled the roadway. There were obstacles. Ditches and fences and forests and things that had to be jumped or sometimes ridden around.

It was me on that big bay horse, everywhere I went. For years and years of my life, until I got my first horse, a chestnut with a wide white blaze and four white socks, and then again when he was sold after I went off to college.

Even as an adult I realized I still rode the big bay, off to the far right of the green minivan, with my children in their carseats in back. I think that big bay became my guardian, or maybe just a reminder that I was born wanting to ride and even during periods of time when I didn't, the desire remained, and was, in a way, fulfilled by my imagination.

It was no surprise that when I typed in my dream horse to I typed in a big bay with a white star. I've recounted that story several times here - the result of that query was Keil Bay, the REAL Big Bay, who has turned out to be the actual dream horse come true for me.

We've been riding again last week and this week after several months off. He is a horse who, when I take him into the arena and drop the rein to go set right a dressage marker that was tipped over by donkeys, marches to the mounting block and lines himself up and waits for me to come get on. 

He is the horse who reminds me that he needs shoulder-in to work out the stiffness, and who shows me that was the exact right thing to do by offering a big lovely trot just after the shoulder-in.

At the end of the ride he lines up perfectly so I can dismount onto the mounting block, and waits patiently while I climb down to the ground and dig out his peppermint from my pocket. He follows me to the gate and goes ahead when I ask him to the tack room door where he waits while I take off his bridle and saddle and give him his Chaffhaye.

He is the horse who, in the midst of eating, which he loves to do, he will stop and turn around and touch his muzzle to my hand, a gesture I can only take to mean something good and kind.

I'm reminded that somehow, even as a little girl, I made up this big bay horse and the spirit of him and the image of him persisted into middle life and then manifested perfectly. When I ride him now I think how lucky I am and how grateful I am and when I get off and give him the peppermint I say thank you and I tell him that he's the best horse in the whole world. He is 26 years old and I know now that every single ride is a gift. Dressage is a not something I care much about these days, but it is a remedy, exercises that sustain us physically, not something that happens in an arena with a judge sitting at the end. Piaffe is no longer in the picture as far as I'm concerned. 

Shoulder-in has become the most important piece of dressage work we do. It supples and seems almost like a healing balm. I see him doing it sometimes along the fence line in the pastures.

I'm rambling here but thinking about how sometimes there is a single line we can draw through an entire lifetime, a thing that has sustained us and been with us and remains. For me it's the big bay horse, always with me, always moving forward. And right now, I'm going to go give him a double pack peppermint and just breathe him in for awhile. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

more rides

Keil and I have had daily rides since Tuesday- he's as happy as can be and moving well thus far. I think the pre and post-alfalfa Chaffhaye meals have added to his riding pleasure. Not to mention the Red Bird soft peppermints. I just ordered a new container - 500 peppermints and many of them are double packs. This batch had a 6-peppermint string that Keil got as a special after-ride surprise. Needless to say, he is a happy horse!

Cody's abscess has finally stopped draining and he's moving normally again. He is back to regular turn-out now and we're all relieved this particular abscess is over with. It's going to take awhile for the hoof to grow this thing out. I'm playing it by ear in terms of riding - not quite yet but he really does need the work. 

Porch plants are coming in for the winter tomorrow as we look for lows in the 30s this weekend. I think it's safe to say it - fall is finally here!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I serve at the pleasure of Keil Bay

Thankfully he's a reasonable guy! 

In other news, Cody's abscess burst and oh my goodness, it is a doozy. He is so much better but that thing is still draining! 

Today I'm off to the feedstore to stock up on Ontario Dehy timothy balance cubes and Chaffhaye. We had cut the Chaffhaye out during July and August due to heat and humidity and availability of grass with no riding being done. Now that we're into fall and work is resuming Keil will get a good serviing of Chaffhaye before and after his rides and that will boost his calories a bit. He's on the thin side right now which is fine for his easy keeping self, but it's time to feed the work and the cooler weather. I just saw that our low for this weekend is 36 degrees!

He's been telling me for a year that he wants to go on the 4-feed-tub-a-day senior meal plan Salina was on, but I have to keep telling HIM that he is so much healthier than she was. He simply doesn't need that much food. But the Chaffhaye is a terrific compromise. 

We're having gorgeous days and as I typed that there was a round of soft relaxed snorts through the open door. They are all really happy to be moving into fall.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

a little more Keil Bay

A little more Keil Bay. And a nice note on my leg. I spoke with my ND today and it turns out she used to be a burn nurse. She reviewed my treatment protocol for the burn and said I did exactly the right things. She did say the skin will be particularly vulnerable for about a year and that adding extra protection while riding is advisable so that I don't risk damaging the skin. 

I'm thinking boot-cut riding tights will help, and I'll wear a leg wrap under my sock.

Meanwhile, enjoying the photos and assembling what I'll need to get back to riding!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

what we need is here

Daughter pulled some photos of me and the Big Bay from our archives for inspiration. The sun came out this morning, my leg is healing, and I think if I wear a leg wrap for protection it will be okay to start riding, especially since Keil and I both need lots of walking to get back in shape.

It's Wendell Berry season here: wild geese, gorgeous horses, no flies, chilly nights, changing leaves, and forward motion.  ... quiet in heart and in eye clear. What we need is here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

still not riding but the farm chores roll on

My burned leg is healing steadily but I'm still wary of putting pressure on the skin until it's further along, so no riding has happened. We've had a lot of rain since last Thursday - very much needed - so at least I'm not missing perfect riding weather!

We needed to do some liming and reseeding of pastures this year so I stocked up on the fast-action pelleted lime along with winter rye and perennial fescue before the rain set in. We plotted how to work it in with the weather coming through. Dear husband did it all and for the most part the rain was just right - we had one good rain before putting out the lime, so the dry fields and the dust were nice and damp. The pelleted lime dissolved almost instantly and the seed went down the next day. We had very light drizzle along with that, so the seed got moist but not washed out, and then we had a break in the rain for a day, then more rain last night and today to water it down. 

I'm glad that's done!

The horses and donkeys are being stoic about being shut out of the entire front field and grass paddock, and about the rain itself. I think they've enjoyed rolling in the mud - it's been awhile!

Today I spent some time grooming Keil Bay. He's shedding his summer coat and followed me around asking for more brushing. I hope in another week the rain will let up, my healing will be complete, and he and I can get ourselves in shape for fall and winter work together. 

Next on the farm chore list: getting an estimate for a new barn roof. We're thinking metal with insulation. Any thoughts from anyone on preferences? 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

my magical pony school and liminal space

Some of you have read the first two books in my middle grade Magical Pony School series. It's no secret where I got the idea for those books! I have my own magical pony school and one very special pony.

We play together in the dressage arena, the little man at liberty. He's a trickster in the beginning but as we keep going, the lines begin to blur. We connect. 

What happens is liminal space. 

In writing, in riding, in playing with magical ponies. In psychotherapy that utilizes the notion of depth psychology. 

Liminal space is where big change happens.

Thanks to the little man and to my husband for capturing a little of this magic on his camera!

From Wikipedia's liminality page:

Depth psychologyEdit

Jungians have often seen the individuation process of self-realisation as taking place within a liminal space. 'Individuation begins with a withdrawal from normal modes of socialisation, epitomized by the breakdown of the persona...liminality'.[92] Thus "what Turner's concept of social liminality does for status in society, Jung...does for the movement of the person through the life process of individuation".[93] Individuation can be seen as a "movement through liminal space and time, from disorientation to integration....What takes place in the dark phase of liminality is a process of breaking the interest of "making whole" one's meaning, purpose and sense of relatedness once more'"[94] As an archetypal figure, "the trickster is a symbol of the liminal state itself, and of its permanent accessibility as a source of recreative power".[95]

But other depth psychologies speak of a similar process. Carl Rogers describes "the 'out-of-this-world' quality that many therapists have remarked upon, a sort of trance-like feeling in the relationship that client and therapist emerge from at the end of the hour, as if from a deep well or tunnel.[96] The French talk of how the anaytic setting 'opens/forges the "intermediate space," "excluded middle," or "between" that figures so importantly in Irigaray's writing".[97] Marion Milner claimed that "a temporal spatial frame also marks off the special kind of reality of a psycho-analytic session...the different kind of reality that is within it".[98]

Jungians however have perhaps been most explicit about the 'need to accord space, time and place for liminal feeling'[99] - as well about the associated dangers, 'two mistakes: we provide no ritual space at all in our lives...or we stay in it too long'.[100]Indeed, Jung's psychology has itself been described as 'a form of "permanent liminality" in which there is no need to return to social structure'.[101]

Sunday, September 13, 2015

what is the human's obsession with horses' manes?

This morning someone in a Facebook group posted a photo of her horse's gorgeous mane, thick and lovely, falling on both sides of his neck. She wondered if she should try to train it to one side and got many responses, some saying train it to the right. others train it to the left, pull it, thin it, some saying leave it alone.

I'm not a horse show person, really, so my focus when it comes to manes has to do with health and practicality. I've never pulled a mane or a tail and although I've braided for fun, it doesn't last more than a few minutes because I'm not willing to pull the braids tight enough to hold. I remember all too well the times in childhood when someone pulled my hair into a ponytail that was too tight and how crazy it made me. Ouch!

My habit with the November Hill herd is to give them what I call a "sport cut" once a year, generally in the fall once the flies have died out. I don't use electric clippers. I use a pair of scissors and I trim so the mane stands straight up, as evenly as I can get it. This gets the mane out of the way for the return to regular riding as the heat of summer leaves us, and allows me to see their muscling more easily. They all look very fancy and happy - I'm sure this has more to do with the change in weather than my trimming the manes - but it's easy to conflate it all into that one fall chore. 

By the next summer the mane has grown out and gives them protection against flies. 

The reasons given for training the mane to one side were interesting. Some said training to the right is a habit left from horses being used in warfare and the need to keep swords from tangling when mounting from the left.

Some quoted more contemporary "rules" - to the off side for shows, to the right for this discipline or to the left for that one. 

One person said the mane grows the way it wants to grow and why would anyone feel a need to change that? I lean toward this notion myself.

Keil Bay's mane tends to fall both ways and I love it that way.

I've read that if the mane goes one way and then the other along the neck, the place where it changes is a place where the neck is "out."

Today I read that the mane falls to the weaker shoulder and so if it's even on both sides that is evidence of a balanced horse.

Others said it falls to the dominant shoulder.

When I go to tack shops I marvel at the section devoted to manes and tails. All kinds of combs and thinning blades, rubber bands, thread, special devices to hold the mane so one person can braid it without a helper, sprays and shampoos and conditioners to make the mane shiny or soft or even to dye it the color someone wants it to be.

I have a good stiff brush, a special hair brush, and a small comb. Period. I discovered from years of grooming Salina, spending hours with her because she was retired from riding, so the grooming was my way of spending time with her, that a tail goes from average looking to stunning if you take about half an hour to thoroughly brush it from dock to ends, gently working out any tangles, and then brushing and brushing and brushing to pull the natural oils from the dock down into the longer hair. It takes a lot of effort and it takes a long time, but the result is the most wonderful, rich tail you've ever seen. 

The same goes for the mane. The conditioner is at the roots - you just have to take the time to brush that down to the ends. And the best part is they LOVE it. It's like our scalp massage.

This morning it's so cool outside, with a rolling breeze bringing in more cool air. It really does feel like fall. It's not time for manes to be trimmed back, not until the horse flies of August are gone, but it's getting closer. Until then, the manes fall where they will.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

lemons and lemonade and all that

Sometimes things just come in bunches, threes, my grandma and mom have always said, and we may be on our second set of three about now.

Dickens is still not home, though a neighbor called to tell me that she was at church on Sunday and after the sermon the minister held up one of our flyers and asked everyone to keep an eye out for Dickens and pray for his safe return. Even as someone who doesn't participate in organized religion I found that heartwarming and very sweet. It's been 10 days now and I find myself hoping but preparing. 

Saturday Cody started exhibiting the telltale signs of a hoof abscess and that's always worrisome until it starts to erupt. 

Yesterday I was in the garden planting more fall vegetables when I came upon a fire ant mound in one of my beds. I decided to use the boiling water approach since it was so close to the back door and the kettle on the stove. Husband boiled the water for me and set it down inside our little Corgi-proof garden fence. I carefully lifted it and then for some unknown reason lost my sense of caution as I marched forward, hot kettle in hand.

A big slosh of boiling water went into my left muck boot and I immediately put the kettle down, removed as quickly as I could the boot and sock, and grabbed the already-on hose to let the cool water wash over the burned area. It was painful and after 5 minutes of hosing I came inside and started researching. Honey seems to be the state of the art treatment now, and we had good local honey on hand. I let the burn dry on its own and then layered on the honey. The intense needly stinging stopped completely in about 20 minutes. The burn is slightly less than the size of my hand, and there is one small blistered area. Husband made a run to the store for non-stick dressing, and raided the horse supplies for some soft gauze wrap. Near bedtime I layered on more honey, wrapped it carefully, and this morning it looks better. Still a burn, and after letting it air I'll re-dress it for the day. 

After the burn and first aiding yesterday husband went out to put a new head on a muck rake. The old bolt and screw was not coming out of the old rake and somehow he cut his finger pretty badly. There was enough bleeding that we had to wash the deck! That pretty much put the end to Labor Day and chores!

But as the sun set I noticed Cody was out grazing, which means the abscess is progressing, and we watched a few episodes of X-Files and had a nice dinner. 

Today I've removed the dressing, aired the burn for a few hours, and I'm getting ready to wrap it up with more honey and go get a load of hay. Horses got to eat! 

And I got to heal - it looks like our highs at week's end are 80 for days in a row, which says Time To Ride to me!

Friday, September 04, 2015

Dickens update: a scare

Last night my husband got an email from someone who saw a flyer and who lives in a nearby neighborhood. He found a dead cat in his yard on Tuesday and moved it to the woods nearby on Wed. He said he couldn't say if it were Dickens or not but would be happy to show my husband where he had located the remains.

This morning my husband met the man but the cat's remains were no longer where he'd put them. He said there was definitely no collar on the cat he moved (a good sign since Dickens was wearing one) and that there has been a black and white cat hanging around his neighborhood for awhile and he thought maybe this was that cat - he said the one hanging around his neighborhood was definitely not Dickens.

My husband brought the only thing left from this mystery cat's remains - a few tufts of fur. It isn't the same kind of fur that Dickens has. So we feel fairly certain the deceased cat was NOT Dickens. 

But this evening marks a week since we have seen him. I am envisioning him holed up somewhere sleeping and safe and happy on his grand cat adventure. And hoping he'll head home soon. Last Friday night we had a very cool night and I can imagine him setting off to enjoy it. It got warm again since then but we have more cool weather rolling in late today so maybe that will send him home. 

I so appreciate the good thoughts everyone has sent to him and to us. Thank you!!!