Thursday, December 28, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 201 (the day after the solstice)

 I was walking through the barnyard with the plants for Keil and Salina’s gravesites when I heard the sound of several small planes approaching. When I looked up, there were three flying in close formation over the farm, and as I watched, they did a maneuver where they flew apart in three different directions in a quick and sudden movement.

It was truly spectacular, and as usual since October 25th, I view everything like this as a sign of Keil Bay’s passing. This was surely a little celebratory display to mark the planting of natives including blue-eyed grass, poke milkweed, and sweetleaf, aka horse sugar.

I managed to get a few photos after the planes did the spread and then began to come back to formation:

Friday, December 22, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 201 (winter solstice - the day after)


I had the most amazing experience yesterday and last night. As I ran a few errands in town yesterday, along the parkway like stretch of road between November Hill and town George Winston’s rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon came on and I suddenly had the visceral sense and visualization of Keil Bay galloping along beside me on the right and for the first time ever, of Salina galloping to my left. The two were whinnying back and forth, arching their muscled necks and buckling forward as their hindquarters gathered and pushed them into even faster forward motion. 

Since very early childhood I have had this experience with a big red bay horse and it was quite wonderful to suddenly have a black and a bay and feel the presence of these two equine spirits I have known and loved for years on end. 

Last night I went out in the later evening with a single lit forest green candle, a bag of carrots, and a paper with two poems written on it. I fed the carrots first as the candle burned in the center of the barn aisle. Little Man and Rafer were standing in their stall doorway, leaning in over the top, and directly across the aisle were Cody and Redford doing the same thing. I gave out the carrots one by one, alternating one equine at a time. Little Man was just up from a sleep in the new shavings, eyes still partly shut. Rafer stretched his neck sideways over the stall door in an effort to reach further than his best friend. Redford stretched his neck up high and Cody stood tall with ears pricked forward. 

After the carrots were gone I spoke a little about our year and our saying goodbye to Keil Bay. When I say his name their ears prick up. I mentioned Salina and how I feel the spirits of both horses with us every day. I read the two poems with great focus and fanfare. When I tell you that every one of these equines stood tall, eyes on me, ears up high, and listened with the greatest of attention as I made eye contact with each one, I am not exaggerating. It was a solstice ceremony and I don’t think I have ever been joined so completely in my annual ritual as I was last night. It was a gift and when it was over I took the candle out into the barnyard, to the spot where Keil Bay took his final breath, and I had a conversation with him and with Salina, and then I looked up at the night sky. It was a much brighter than usual longest night thanks to the waxing gibbous moon. I read that the moon is full this year on Christmas and it seems so very fitting that this first solstice after the passing of Keil is a brighter one. We all needed this light this year. 

Today I finally got the second batch of native plants for the gravesite. As I drove home Keil and Salina galloped alongside the car, and I smiled. We have sunshine today and a bit warmer weather than yesterday, and the light - it is brilliant and so very bright. 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 200 (a winter solstice edition!)

 First, happy winter solstice! I’m so happy to see this day this year. For me it is more about the longest night than the returning of the light that follows. 

Wendell Berry wrote a poem about this longest night:

To Know The Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

I love the light but I also love the darkness, and its blooming and singing, the movement that happens there, the dark wings. 

This morning I ventured out early and fed the herd their warm wet tubs, and checked the troughs while they ate. 

This year Cody is in Keil Bay’s double stall, and I noticed he came in and hung his head over the doors into the barn aisle while I prepared the tubs, just as Keil Bay always did. 

I walked out to say happy solstice to the Big Bay and Salina, and their graves were quiet, peaceful, and blanketed with fallen leaves. It’s so peaceful there. The blue-eyed grass I planted is doing well. The new plants are still not here but when I put them in, it will be another moment of marking the passing of the Big Bay. 

In the front pasture the hollies are in full berry.

Yesterday my daughter took this photo which makes me very happy. The herd without Keil Bay is still a herd. He and Salina gallop the farm in their big bold spirits. 

Another favorite poem, this one by Robert Frost, which is the first poem I chose to learn to recite in the second grade, and which I’m sure I chose because of the little horse, who turned out to be a very big horse, red bay with a white star.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.


Monday, December 11, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 199

 I reached out two weeks ago to Keil Bay’s previous woman and the younger woman who rode him and introduced me to him, and got back very sweet notes from both of them expressing their gratitude that his passing was peaceful and their condolences. Last weekend K, the young woman, sent me this photo that is Keil Bay a few months before I met him and he joined our family. It was a gift to her from Keil’s previous woman the Christmas I found him, and she and her family were putting up their Christmas tree and hung it. 

This says so much about Keil Bay and how special he was not just to me but to those who knew him before I did, and it makes me so happy to know he is hanging on K’s tree all these years later. 

I have begun the planting of his and Salina’s grave sites. It’s not a sad activity but a hopeful one, and a healing one. More plants are coming this week from the nursery owner who reached out to me with several of the rare and hard to find plants I’ll be putting in. 

This week Cody did a big and beautiful gallop up the entire front pasture hill, one of of those “spook just to have an excuse to run fast” moments horses sometimes do, and the first I’ve seen him in this mode since Keil passed away. He and Little Man are regularly playing their gave of over the fence tag in the mornings, and both Rafer and Redford are seeming a little happier lately. I think the herd is regrouping and moving on. 

We have had some cold weather and then some warmer weather and now today colder again, the typical roller coaster of temperatures that make it hard to have any sort of routine. Cody is now wearing Keil’s single weight blanket and it seems fitting that he has taken over that big and regal purple robe. 

On Saturday we went with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids to have brunch and then to the Christmas tree farm that is very near our farm. The tree I picked for our house ended up being too tall and after we cut the top off my husband put the star on. It looks to me like the star fell right out of the sky and into this tree, which in a sort of perfect way is fitting for this year. 

It’s maybe no coincidence that this notion fits with a “poem” I wrote in a writing group a number of months ago. We were playing with words and internal rhyme and also where to end lines, and this now seems like some kind of foreshadowing to this first Christmas after Keil Bay’s passing:

The Night The Star Falls From The Sky

I stand back and watch it shine, 

no longer a girl wishing on star’s light.

It’s as big as our house and bright,

but not blinding.

The horses are not frightened

but chew hay beneath the barn shelter,

blinking slowly as the star’s

twinkling spotlights the bent pine

who lies flat but not broken.

Perhaps she too dreams of touching skies.

I have hurried a life’s time wishing on stars;

never has one replied.

Take note, it pulses now,

we listened. 

Keil Bay and Cody on either side,

their warm breath matching mine. 

This isn’t really a fully finished piece, but take note that the star’s pulsing “we listened” refers to me standing between Keil Bay and Cody, two souls I absolutely wished for as a young girl. It feels like right now that Keil Bay himself was that big star that landed in my life. 

Right now I’m very much focused on living in the days as they come, following my impulses to write, putter, plant, and just be. It’s a good way to mark this passage of time, the things that have come this fall, and make my way forward. 

Thursday, December 07, 2023

A little writing news

A couple of my published pieces got some additional mileage:

Pacemaker Of The Heart has been nominated for a 2023 Pushcart Prize.

Journey has been included in Streetlight Magazine’s 2022 print anthology. 

Really happy these two pieces flew a bit higher this month! Thanks to the editors for these selections!