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!