Monday, February 22, 2016

She's late for the party - but Salina makes an appearance!

I'm posting this a day earlier than my usual blogging schedule because I'm so amazed. For those readers who don't know, Salina is our black Hannoverian mare who passed away several years ago at the age of 30. She was what I always called "the heartbeat of November Hill." We all miss her still.

Last night I had a long and lovely dream in which Salina arrived back on November Hill and spent most of the dream galloping around the fields followed by her herd. In my dream she was front and center, leading the boys, dancing and prancing. She was fit and in slower moments arched her neck, thrust her front legs out, and looked at me as if to say: look at me! My arthritic knees are a thing of the past! 

I stood in the dirt paddock in my dream and soaked it up - the herd back together again, Salina looking like a 10-year old and a billion dollars, the boys behind her kicking up their heels and tossing their heads in delight.

At the end of the dream I (characteristically) started to fret that after all that running and showing off she would be sore the next day and need help. So I took my husband and went to the feed store in search of the special "wafers" that would relieve her knees. So high up on the shelf I couldn't reach them, there was ONE roll of what looked strangely like a roll of Neco wafer candy. I tried to get them but couldn't. My husband came and helped and the roll fell to the floor and the wafers broke into little pieces. But mysteriously there was one more roll that had been invisible until the other fell, so I grabbed it and went to pay.

I woke up remembering that of course Salina wouldn't need wafers to help because on this day after the party she is perfectly healthy. Her arthritic knees are indeed a thing of the past.

Through the years of my life I have had a number of dreams where beloved friends and family visited me. I have no doubt that these visits are real and in ways we don't yet understand, their spirits remain connected and are making contact. 

I'm so happy Salina came to help celebrate Redford's birthday. It was the best party ever.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

unbelievable birthday - Redford donkey is 8 years old

I am reeling (and a day late) to announce Redford's 8th birthday. I cannot believe the youngest of our equines is already 8 years old!

Unfortunately I went out yesterday with dewormer paste for all before realizing the date and so his birthday started off with that. It was apple flavored and they all got carrots before and after, but still - that is no way to celebrate the birth of such a sweet and handsome donkey boy!

We'll see if I can do better today. 

Redford got hoof trims this week and lest anyone think donkeys are difficult with this, let me assure you otherwise. Keil Bay went first, then Cody, then Little Man, and by the time Cody was trimmed both Redford and Rafer Johnson were lined up by the barnyard fence waiting for their turn. All I had to do was open the stall doors to let them pass through and they both marched right out to the trim stands and all but put their hooves up to wait.

Redford is a shyer donkey than Rafer is, but he is sweet as pie and immaculately behaved. He holds his little feet up for the trimmer and puts them on the mini hoof stand without even being asked. 

The past few weeks he and Rafer have been galloping all over November Hill playing donkey games and it warms my heart like nothing else can. 

Redford teaches me every day to notch down my demonstrative self. To get quiet and let little gestures say what needs to be said. I am so fortunate to have him in my life. 

Happy birthday, little Redbug! Just wait 'till you see what the day after a deworming birthday brings! I'll post a birthday portrait later today. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

finally! warmer weather blows in - and maybe a bit of spring fever

I got home last Sunday and walked directly into a spell of frigid weather - days spent mostly keeping hay put out, mucking the barn so horses could go back in for the night, keeping ice off water troughs and buckets, and grooming to keep their coats clean.

No riding! It's just been too cold for me.

Then we hit a spell of ice and snow and sleet - called here a "wintry mix." For us it was mostly a thin layer of ice pellets with a layer of sleet on top. Not fun and only a little pretty to look at.

I went to bed last night and it was below freezing and still mostly white outside and woke up to 50 degrees and rain and a huge river flowing through the front field. The sun is supposed to come out soon and temps will continue to rise toward 60. I am so ready for some warmth and sunny skies and dare I say it, spring.

And some riding.

That's about all that's going on here on November Hill. I'm getting good writing time in each day and (mostly) keeping on top of chores. We put the very last of the holiday decorations away this weekend and took the tree down too. 

I think we've reached that point in winter where suddenly everything feels blah and dull and cold and it's time for the season to change. The point where I stop thinking "yes, the cold is knocking out the pesky insects, the bare trees are beautiful" and start thinking how nice it would be to see green again, and okay, not ticks and fleas and biting flies so much, but if they come with spring, then sure, I'll take it.

The goldfinches are getting their colors back and the daffodils are up and maybe ready to bloom this week as it warms up. I am more than ready to see some color. Dogwoods and redbud and longer days.

The sky outside just brightened a few notches and I'm waiting for the sun to burst out. Feel free to share your winter woes with me!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

a little piece of heaven at The Porches Writing Retreat

All last week I was in Norwood, Virginia, writing with a good friend and several other writers/artists who were also staying at Trudy Hale's wonderful antebellum home turned retreat space. I had heard good things but when we drove up and saw sheets hanging in the sunshine on the line, flapping in the wind, and latched the wooden and wire gate behind us I knew we were in for a huge treat.

Trudy is warm and inviting and her dog Maizie is too. 

From the car through the back gate, the walk to the front porch, and the discovery of each room in the house, I paused to soak in all there is to see. The Porches is a creative treasure chest!

But wait, there's a barn too! I kept thinking how much Rafer Johnson and Redford would love to come have their own miniature donkey retreat in the long terraced areas that you can't see in my photo below, but they extend past the barn and allow for wonderful walking and pondering.

Inside we were taken to the huge and cozy writer's kitchen. This quickly became the hub for meals, conversation between writers, and an alternate place to read, write, or just sit and ponder. 

Across the hall was the writer's den. TV, DVD player and a lovely collection of films, a piano, books, comfortable seating - this is where we did our nightly readings for feedback. 

There's even a tiny Harry Potter bathroom so you don't have to go upstairs if you just need a quick pit stop! 

I only took photos of my own room, The Blue Queen, but there are five rooms total, including the Dove Room, the Garden Room, Treetops, and Jade. Three rooms are on the second floor and two on the third floor. Each floor has lovely bathrooms and common space. The rooms are all beautifully appointed and comfortable, with good beds, soft linens, chairs and/or sofas for reading, and desks to work.

This was my room:

And the view from my desk:

This is what I watched as I wrote. Some days were sunny, others obscured in fog. The James River is just in front of the distant ridge and a train chugs back and forth just in front of the river. The sound of the train quickly became hypnotic for me, a reminder that I was in creative space and time. Kairos.

Trudy asks that writers keep "quiet hours" between early morning and 5:30 p.m. This allows the upstairs and the porch space to be used without distraction. The kitchen and den both have doors and  can be closed and used for meals and conversation as needed during the day. There is WiFi but the internet is satellite so she asks that devices and their auto-notifications be turned off. There was never a problem with email checks, quick bits of research, etc., but the data use limits can't handle big downloads or uploading huge files - these can be done between midnight and a.m. I loved the ability to use the Internet but lightly - and the total lack of beeps, bells, and whistles coming in on smart phones and computers was a blessing.

The difference in this retreat and others I've been to is that Trudy provides a quiet and truly rich space for the creative process. The writing and the writers come first, the process is revered and protected, and there is ample time in the evenings for common meals, conversation, laughter, movies, and fun. 

The house is named The Porches because of the two huge front porches that make up the entire front of the home. Both are furnished with comfortable seating, candles, shades, and interesting artifacts. The upstairs has a porch swing. And the views are stunning.

Right outside my bedroom door I could go through this entryway to the second floor porch.

And this is the view of the little church that might one day be a gallery or art studio.

Back inside this was the other end of the second floor hall, a common space that leads to the second floor bathroom and the hallway to the Garden Room.

Every nook and shelf is filled with literary journals, novels, poetry, and nonfiction books of all description. Small pieces of art are everywhere. The walls are covered with unusual, wonderful paintings and prints. In the kitchen the Compact Oxford English Dictionary sits and surveys all that happens.

As a Jungian-based sandplay therapist, I felt like I was in a sandplay collection that had been assembled just for me.

I got so much work done here, but it was done in an environment of nurturing and beauty. There were no distractions, no events, and the remote location offers a sense of timelessness. It makes a huge difference. Trudy encourages the writers to set things up in the rooms so they can work well and comfortably. She (and my friend) were fine with my request to bring Proust to live in the Blue Queen room while I was there. I rearranged the mantle to make this tableau.

Most afternoons meant walks. The winter landscape was stunning and I can only imagine what it will be like in spring, summer, and fall. 

This was a regular sight coming down the stairs.

And the walks...

And then coming back "home"

Because by the end of my stay I felt like this was my home - a retreat home - and I felt sad to leave the routine and the sense that I was, as Isak Dinesen wrote, "on the roof of my own life." I can't say enough good things about The Porches Writing Retreat. It's also a place for fine artists. The space is beautiful and a true haven for the creative process. It's affordable and that means you can come back again and again. 

For more information and to book a stay, you can go here:

And tell Trudy Billie sent you! :)