Saturday, January 30, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 118

 We’re in a cold snap this week, highs in the upper 30s, lows in the low 20s, and we also had a dusting of snow (after a night of near-solid cold rain) so are back to square one with the mud factor. We’ve had horses in blankets for 2 days straight now, somewhat unusual for us, but I don’t want Keil Bay getting cold. He’s doing well for the most part.

In spite of the cold and the ongoing wetness, the time came this week to move on with some of the postponed repairs at the barn. The roof repairs were done yesterday, and will be finished up on Monday. It’s a relief to have that mostly done. Next is rebuilding one of the interior stall doors, bringing in some footing for the two shelters, and doing something with the barn aisle - either packed stone screenings with mats on top or ??? - it’s time. Depending on how easily that goes we may do some work on the feed room as well. 

My farm helper has been doing some pruning of the giant butterfly bush and the hollies in front of our porch, to get a jump on that before they start growing like mad as spring sets in. He also worked on creating a hugelkultur berm where an old and dead tree tipped over in the side strip, which happened to fall in a way that will be a great place to do the berm and create a storm water break over there. 

Next up, though, is a new roof on the house, which is still sitting under the original roof that was put on 25 years ago. We’re moving to a metal roof and I’ll be relieved when it’s over and done with! Then the back deck is up for replacement. These two things will be both invasive and difficult to live with if they go on for longer than a day, which I guess I need to steel myself that they will. There are days when I feel like it would be easier to buy a new farm than manage this one! 

Inside, we’ve moved the old sofa on to Habitat, and the new one is here and ready to be installed today. I’m enjoying the sofette and now the little ottoman I got to go with it. The dogs are not amused that their big sofa is gone and for now there’s just the floor along that wall! 

One thing I’ve made sure to do with these new sofas is get very lightweight throws for ease of washing and drying. The quilt I had on the large sofa was king-sized and very heavy, and with three dogs who have access to a back yard 24/7, I had to wash it at least once a week. The new one is super light and will be very easy to toss in the wash and will dry quickly.

I may have gone overboard with the size of the throw pillows I ordered - they’re great, but take up a lot of room on the sofette. Thinking of some kind of dedicated throw pillow caddy where they can be used when needed but put aside when not. 

This week’s weather has made me decide I’m officially ready for spring. Not that I can summon it in any way but I’m ready for slightly warmer temperatures again. 

In other news, I reembarked on Julia Cameron’s 12-week Artist’s Way exercises last week. I’m happy to bring some structure into creative efforts and routine, and also eager to move into her new book once I complete this 12 weeks of work.

Almost February! Hoping we get a bit warmer weather moving forward and that the vaccine for Covid gains a lot of ground in terms of being out there for everyone to access. I’m happy to see the efforts being put to that task. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Book Review: The Part That Burns, a memoir by Jeannine Ouellette


Jeannine Ouellette’s memoir in fragments, The Part That Burns, reads like a shattered mirror that the author reassembles as you go, pulled forward by writing that’s precise and beautiful both in its parts and as a whole.

Often when I read I mark sentences that shine, soar, stop me in my tracks with their potency. A good book usually has a handful, a great book more than that. This book has so many it’s hard to pull them out. I searched for a line or two that I might share here, but find myself highlighting entire paragraphs. Beyond this, the fragmented structure Ouellette employs to tell this story is itself masterful and compelling. 

Ouellette spans the time between her own childhood and motherhood, sharing potent memories of herself as child, daughter, mother, and the places in between, as well as the intersections between all these selves. I think again of mirrors, the ones in the fun house at the fair, where you see many reflections from many angles, some distortions of who we are, some closer to reality, but all real in that place in time, from our perspective as we look at what we see in the panels around us.

Make no mistake: this narrator’s voice is clear and true, and you’ll want to know where she goes next. You’ll hold your breath at times, and you’ll pull for her to reach her destinations safely.

A story of childhood sexual abuse, a story of a girl who journeys and survives, eventually thrives, this is not the usual memoir with this subject at its core. It’s a map of the path this narrator took, not in sequence, but the way you would hear it if she told it to a friend, or a therapist, in remembered pieces, so you come to the whole almost by surprise, with a little gasp of wow as you see where she ends up. 

Very highly recommended. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

YES! We can all breathe again.

 So very relieved, happy, and ready to get to work now that President Biden and VP Harris are at the helm. Not to mention a Democrat-led House and Senate.

It’s time to clean house, both the WH and all houses of law enforcement. Time to clean up the planet. Time to clean up how we do business on every level of government.

As our inaugural poet laureate Amanda Gorman said today: 

There is always light. 

Only if we are brave enough to see it. 

There is always light. 

Only if we are brave enough to be it.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Dream Journal, 1

 I’m starting a new series today in honor of a dream I had last night about Salina. I often have vivid, unusual dreams and this is one place I can put them. One Jungian take on dream work is that different characters in our dreams represent different parts of ourselves. I always think from that perspective first and then consider other ways of interpreting meaning. Though I also feel strongly that many of our dreams are not so much things we need to interpret, but glimpses of feeling and mood that, on reflection, can help us let go of something we may be holding onto unconsciously. 

I’m not posting these dreams to find meaning necessarily, but mostly so I do not forget them. The act of writing them down helps keep them in mind, and this is one I do not want to forget.

In the dream Salina, our black German Hannoverian mare, was still with us. She had the arthritic knees she had in real life, but it wasn’t clear in the dream if she had just the one eye from her real life or both eyes. I was with my husband in the paddock behind our barn doing some mucking, and in the dream we had a covered arena that connected to one end of the barn. Salina was meandering around keeping an eye on things, as she so often did when she was with us in her body.

The fascinating thing about the dream is that in addition to Salina’s equine self, she also had a miniature person self who was also meandering around. This petite human girl part of Salina was dressed in riding attire and at one point when I got distracted and then eventually looked back at her, she had tacked Salina the horse self up in beautiful dressage tack and was mounting for a ride!

I immediately directed my husband to look - Salina is riding herself! I said to him. It was, in the dream, a beautiful merging of two parts of Salina. (Jung might say two parts of the Self - maybe self and Self)

When the miniature person Salina was riding the horse Salina, all the effects of the arthritis was gone. It was as if merging made them both complete and perfectly mobile. They trotted, cantered, did dressage movements, and I watched, transfixed, until the human Salina took them to a window in the arena and dismounted onto its sill. I was worried she would injure herself jumping down to the ground, but she was fine, and their ride was over.

I’m not sure what this “means,” but the mood of the dream was luminous and wondrous. It was pure joy to see Salina moving so beautifully, it was mesmerizing to see this miniature human part of her come to life in my dream world. And I woke up still feeling the joy. I’m sure there is deeper meaning. In one totally superficial way, I feel the dream is saying to me: RIDE! 

In any case, it was a lovely dream and I hope never to forget it. The way I felt while watching it unfold. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 117

 So, this week has been back and forth between sunshine and rain, and whoa is it mucky out there where the horses and dogs roam! Our barn roof repair keeps getting pushed back because the ground is not getting completely dry between the rain days, and some other projects too, as bringing trucks in just makes a big mess.

Oh, well. It’s winter, after all, and I am continuing my push to notch my expectations back and just go with the flow of the earth. Easy to type, less easy to do.

Last weekend was my writing weekend via Zoom, and I’ve started the new session of Writing in the Dark, so I have lots to work on, even more to read, and the garret is always a warm, dry place to be. I’ll be reviewing a forthcoming book soon, but if you want a quick heads up ahead of that, order Jeannine Ouellette’s The Part That Burns. It’s a memoir written in fragments, almost like a broken mirror that she puts back together as you read, and it’s a really beautiful piece of writing in its fragments and as a whole. 

Today the rain is supposed to be gone but the sunshine is playing hide and seek with the clouds right now. I’ve turned the herd out because they want to be out there, and I hope I don’t go out later to find they’ve all rolled in the mud. The pony rolled right in front of my face after his breakfast tub and blanket removal, so he’s a mess already. 

Keil Bay had his acupuncture and Legend injection yesterday. He’s had a minor relapse this past week but it’s minor, and after yesterday’s treatment he was soft-eyed and so very content. I’m content too. 

We’re all hanging in there. I’m signed up for a flurry of native plant classes this spring - most are via Zoom but a few have some outside instruction and yesterday was the first meeting in my winter flora course. We walked through the botanical gardens all masked up, mostly in the rain, with umbrellas and rain gear, identifying trees by twigs and shrubs by shape and sometimes looking on the ground beneath for clues. It was super fun. But cold! 

This week I’m starting the taxonomy class I’ve tried to take twice - once had to cancel because of my own schedule and once canceled due to Covid, but it’s on Zoom now so I hope I get through it this time!

On November Hill it’s still a winter landscape, very beautiful in its muted colors and seeing the bones of things. Today I’ve ordered fly predators and beneficial nematodes for spring and summer into fall, and the idea of flies and gnats seems foreign (a nice place to be, for horse people). 

This week we had warm enough weather to check on the bee girls. Hegemone continues to thrive. We added more sugar patties and watched them through the glass. Very busy girls, and lots of them. Artemis is hanging in there, taking the sugar patties, so we replenished them as well, but there are just not that many at this point. I’ve heard that a cluster the size of a grapefruit can make it through til spring, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this colony!

Clementine was spayed last week and is nearing the end of her recuperation period - she’s going to be so happy to get out and explore the farm again. We’re glad this is over and done now! Before the spay day, in the rain but oh so sweet:

Thursday, January 07, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 116

 Me, front and center, stumping for the party when I was very young. 

In the larger world outside of my little microcosm here, I am disgusted today. I grew up in a southern NC county that was riddled with racists and klansmen and much of my childhood was spent both worrying about the Black people I loved and making my introverted and then later bolder actions against the racists who threatened them.

My mother worked for Governor Terry Sanford when he and his staff strove to rid our state of this hatred, so I also grew up seeing firsthand ethical, honorable action being taken by our leaders in government. 

It has been obvious to me since I first became aware of Donald Trump (in the 1980s when I went to NYC a few times a year and hung out at clubs including Studio 54) that he was an ignorant, arrogant, misogynistic jerk. When he entered the presidential race, I thought he was a joke. When he won, I thought our country had lost its mind. Yesterday I was absolutely disgusted, angry, and reminded in a potent way how I sometimes felt when I was in high school, how I felt the day I was pulled over by two small town cops because I was transporting Black members of our state championship basketball team to the downtown soda shop to celebrate. How I was personally threatened by teenaged KKK members. Seeing the faces in the photos and video footage taken yesterday, as a group of ignorant grinning terrorists breached our nation’s capitol and threatened harm. 

I understand to some degree the psychology of this kind of behavior. In some cases, they were taught to hate. In many cases there is low intelligence. Put arrogance, ignorance, and hatred together in a mob and you get what we saw yesterday. 

All I can say today is that I will never again tolerate anyone saying they support Donald Trump, these terrorist beliefs and actions, or any kind of racism, period. I will say that outright to anyone who crosses my path espousing these beliefs or acting on them. It’s past time for this hatred to be treated as criminal behavior in our country. No, you do not get to line up along small town sidewalks draping confederate flags and carrying assault rifles. No, you do not get to march around calling for the eradication of a race of people. No, you do not get to, as a law enforcement officer entrusted to maintaining peace and rule of law, perform violence against the citizens you are bound to protect. Doing these things should, and must, land you in jail with serious incarceration consequences.

How can it be that in my 60 years this is not already true?

Today on November Hill I will do the things I always do: muck some manure, clean some floors, do dishes and laundry, feed horses, dogs, and cats, and beloved donkey boys. I will write some and read some and stay in touch with friends. I will look at garden beds and ponder projects in home and barn and farm. 

And I will make time to call my senators and representatives and demand that they take action against Trump, his accomplices, and his rioting terrorist mob. It is time for change.