Monday, March 2, 2015

Magical Mystery Tour

I think I’ve finally thawed out from my trip to New York City on Saturday to visit the carriage horses and drivers at the Clinton Park Stables and in Central Park.  The welcome was so warm that I barely noticed the cold temperatures or the wind at the time.  Over two hundred people tramped through the historic stables as the grooms and drivers went about their daily routine of hitching up the horses and moving the carriages out to the park.  The horses were amazing.

Not one horse ever showed any signs of anxiety or distress. They enjoyed the attention and the carrots and the noise. They stood patiently, not even tied, as they waited to go to work.  I’ve been around a lot of horses, at competitions, racetracks, and in all kinds of barns. The carriage horses are happy creatures, so loved and well cared for, and their behavior shows how they know that they are just where they are meant to be.

I was able to meet many of the people that I’ve come to know and admire on-line: drivers Ariel Fintzi, Steven Malone, Christina Hansen, Eva Hughes. Video and still photographers, Sandi Bachom, Nina Galicheva. Poet and photographer  Doug Anderson. And of course, there was  the loving presence of Pamela and Paul Rickenbach Moshimer along with their merry band of hardworking horse lovers from Blue Star Equiculture, spreading their good energy to warm up the crowd.
Then, I had one of those amazing, never to be forgotten experiences.  Ariel offered to transport me and my daughter from the stables to the park.  His horse, Rebecca, won my heart in a big way.  Ariel snuggled us in under some big, soft cozy blankets, and Rebecca began her calm, steady route. They vary the way to and from the park so that the horse is comfortable and unafraid going wherever Ariel asks her to travel.  We never had an anxious moment, as taxis and trucks and cars sped around us, and Ariel turned to talk to us, leaving the reins in his lap while Rebecca navigated across many lanes of traffic.  I felt that we were surrounded by this protective glow, and while everyone was rushing, we were moving at a relaxed pace where we could appreciate all the sights and sounds of New York City. I almost felt like we were floating. Often, as we passed by, people would stop what they were doing, smiles would light up when they saw the horse, and they would wave at us.  Clip clop, clip clop, the rhythm was sort of in sync with the beat of my heart.

In the park, Ariel began his magical tale, telling us about the history of horses in the park, about his parents and his childhood, about his friendship and experiences with Chief Arvol and the Native American friends he has made.  While he talked, many memories of my 18 years living in New York City began to flood over me.  I spent so much time in Central Park, needing to feel the grass and trees and to visit the carriage horses while I was in my twenties and thirties in order to keep my balance in that sharp edged, ambitious town.  As Ariel sang us a touching and beautiful song that he has written for his horse, I realized that every day, he lives and works in the ethereal space of unexpected magic – the same magic that I experienced and loved while I was young and growing up in New York.  No wonder he has done it for 35 years.  He helped me fall in love with this powerful, mystical city all over again.

I could have stayed in the protective bubble of Ariel’s carriage forever, but after a couple of hours, he noticed that my child was turning into an icicle so we headed over to 59th Street. When I drove into the city that morning, I had expected that I would see a confrontation between the protesters and the carriage horse and driver supporters, but the rally had been cancelled and there was not a single protester in sight.  I realized how glad I was that my memories of this magical mystery tour were completely loving and happy.

Soon, I will edit the video that I shot and post it, after I spend some time wrestling with the new editing program that I am trying to learn.  I hope it will capture some of the glory of the horses and the drivers. They were so gracious and welcoming to everyone who came to visit them at the stables.

We made a wonderful new friend, Ariel, who has the most joyful and open spirit. He was incredibly kind to us. And I am thankful that I was able to once again share my love of horses and New York City with my daughter.  I know that she had an experience that she’ll never forget, even if her lips were blue. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Into the Mystic

I had a fantastic, mystical experience this week when I visited Pamela and Paul Rickenbach-Moshimer at Blue Star Equiculture.  Their non-profit foundation is a working horse rescue and sanctuary committed to helping horses, humans and Mother Earth.  And this is one big herd of happy horses.  Since the weather has been pretty frigid and the snow has been falling like crazy, the herd had not been able to get out and play for a while.  Pamela and Paul invited me to climb through snow up to my waist to get a perfect vantage point for some big horse fun.  I think this might be what Heaven is like.

Take a look --

Check out how to join the herd at

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Postmistress' Hay

I called Dick, my hay man, at 7 yesterday morning to see if I could come by a day early to pick up my usual nine bales since it is supposed to start snowing here today. Best to catch Dick early because he and the boys work long hard hours stacking and delivering hay, especially with bad weather on the way.  “Come now.” He can be blunt.  I only had one cup of coffee in me, but I leaped into my trusty old Landcruiser and headed out. Coming up on 300,000 miles on that beast of a car.

This ritual of buying hay on Sundays has been going on for ten years now.  I don’t have space for more than about thirty bales here, and I’ve tried storing more hay in a friend’s barn but it got dusty and moldy so I’ve just decided to go visit Dick each week on Sunday. Nine to twelve, his big barn is open for business.  It’s what I do instead of going to church.  I see many of the same customers and enjoy chatting with them. Some bring their dogs, so I always have biscuits to hand out.  I am friends with the guys who work for Dick, catching up on what’s happening in their lives. Andrew recently got married and bought a farmhouse that he’s restoring. Dick’s grandsons also help out. There’s a reassuring camaraderie that makes me feel like my life is on track as we load up my car together each week.

I admit that I’m very fussy about hay.  My horses have taught me to know what the good stuff looks like, and since I’m only buying nine bales, I prefer a mix of grass hay, clover and a little alfalfa.   Some weeks, I just have to take what they’ve got, unless I can get one of the boys to go into the big barn with me and pick through some of the leftovers from earlier loads.  I try to feed the girls from a couple of bales at a time, sometimes using the not so great stuff late at night so when it’s really cold and dark, they will eat whatever didn’t look that good at dinnertime.  Last week, the selection was pretty slim because some of the bales were full of sticks and really dusty.  Silk and Siete let me know what they thought by pooping on it, even though the temperatures were around 5 to 10 degrees and they normally would have stoked the furnaces in their bellies with just about anything.  As I approached the farm yesterday, I was hoping for some decent hay to make everyone happy when it starts to snow again.

The gods were smiling on us. Nice green, soft hay with clover and alfalfa, just about perfect.  “It’s from the Postmistress!” Andrew shouted down to me from on top of a truck full of bales.  I love the Postmistress’ hay.  She takes great pride in coming up with the perfect blend, and it keeps well all winter.  The Postmistress is from someplace just west of Albany, and she doesn’t make much hay, but I really appreciate that she takes the time and effort to do it right.

Watching Silk happily devouring a flake this morning, I considered how it’s like a well-constructed chain. The Postmistress cares, so she produces something she can be proud of. I care, so I attempt to get the best hay that I can for my girls. And the horses appreciate the effort, remaining content and calm even though they are spending so much time confined in a smaller space when they would like to run around the way they do when there’s not two feet of snow on the ground.  It’s not that hard to care, and I wish that more people would remember how good it feels when you do.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Home Alone

I faced a dark night of my soul last night.  Others may make fun of the hype and drama of the blizzard of the century, but being home alone in one with horses to care for out in the barn was pretty high on my list of things I’d rather avoid.  My husband called me from a business trip on Sunday night to light the spark of my anxiety when he saw the weather forecast.  The generator and the monster snow-blower stand at the ready in our the basement, but I’ve never had to set them up and use them all on my own.  Monday morning at 6 am, I drove my daughter back to college and got home just as the snow began to fall. I’m the only one here who can take care of me, I thought.  I wasn’t sure if that made sense, but it did rattle me to be in our silent house, full of nervous anticipation.

“It’s like Hurricane Sandy with snow!” one TV weatherman gleefully warned.  Visions of the enormous pine tree in our front yard falling down during that disaster,  and nine days without power flashed before me.  I contacted my neighbor who promised to plow my driveway and a path to the barn before he leaves for Florida for a week’s vacation on Wednesday morning. I filled extra water buckets and put double the amount of hay in the horses’ stalls and asked the Native American spirits who were wintering there in my backyard to watch over them.  I brought in extra firewood, found the lanterns and flashlights, and ran the dog around extra long so she would be tired enough not to want to go out again. 

I decided to sleep on the couch in the living room because I have a very real fear that the old beech tree next to my bedroom might come crashing through our roof in hurricane force winds.  My faithful sidekick, Stella, curled up on my feet, and the waiting began. Several times in the night, I got up to look out the window to see how bad it was. Snow was swirling in huge vortexes in the light from the front porch.  The wind was howling in a high pitched whine like someone singing off-key.  At 5 am, my neighbor began plowing my driveway in the dark, and I resigned myself to being awake and made a pot of coffee.  An hour after he drove away, it looked like he had never been there.

Wisely, I brought a big bucket of hay into the basement yesterday, so when the sky lightened up, I dragged it upstairs and ventured out to the barn. Snow was blowing up under the hood of my parka,  and it was hard to see, but the drifts were fluffy to push through.  The horses had finished all their water and hay. I refilled and gave them breakfast to a chorus of  “Nmmm! Mnnnnmmm!” They were so glad to see me that it made the trek worth it.

As I thaw my numb toes in front of the fire now at the end of the day, I give thanks for good neighbors who came to plow me out, a warm puppy to snuggle me, and the joy of only getting 20 inches of snow.  There should be some satisfaction or pride in getting through it on my own, but instead I am simply very relieved and sleepy. As our governor, Dan Malloy, put it: “There is no bad news in not everyone getting three feet of snow.”

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wintering Ground

Yesterday, I was in a store in town where I started talking to a tall, thin man who began explaining about clearing bad energy out of a house.  I told him that it wasn’t a problem for us because we lived on land that I thought had a unique and sacred peacefulness in it.  He looked down and hesitantly said he could feel that. Almost apologetically, he told me that he is a medium and that I live on land which was the wintering ground for a group of Native Americans. He told me that they were speaking to him right now. There was a strong female energy contacting him, and that they wanted him to tell me that they watched over us.

When the weather gets warm, they leave to go to the Hudson River for the summer, but they come back to our property every winter.  He suggested that on the Spring Equinox, I might want to honor the Native American women with some kind of blessing ceremony to thank them.  I promised that I would do something special for them.

I asked him if they had horses with them. He said, of course, but you know that the horse is your spirit guide, don't you?  I told him that I had kind of figured that out.  There are Native American horses buried in your land, he said. They stay to watch over you when the other spirits go to the water in the warm weather. I thanked him for telling me all of this.

Not at all what I was expecting when I went to the store, but it made my day. It snowed last night, and when I got to the barn this morning, I looked up at the cedar grove and said good morning to my new friends.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Practicing My Coping Skills

I am usually one of those people who just goes out and gets it done, whatever “it” may be. Yet, for some illusive, mysterious reason, I have been stymied over and over for the last few years in my attempts at getting the flooding and drainage fixed in the barn, corral, and recently, the pasture.  

Anyone who has known me for long has heard me lament about sump pumps and stalls full of mucky water and now, ice and more ice.  It’s not fun to listen to me complain. I don’t even like to hear myself doing it. And most people have given me very good advice about what they would do to fix it.  The sad truth is that it is going to cost quite a lot of money to make things right.  I diligently save and save, and just as I get to the point where I can afford to go ahead and get it done, Fates always seem to conspire to come up with a more urgent problem or emergency that requires my carefully hoarded cash.

Since December, I have protected my little secret stockpile while I anxiously attempted to get my friend, Sam, who is an expert at grading and drainage, to bring his excavator over and make things right.  The ground had not frozen before Christmas, and even though it was a muddy mess in the corral, I could just feel how relaxed and happy I would be once the new footing and French drains were in place. When I close my eyes, I can see it so dry and unmuddy. Except Sam’s schedule is backed up, so he can’t get here, and now the ground is horribly frozen, and we had two inches of rain on Sunday. Yes, two inches on top of ice makes for skating rinks everywhere. 

There was really nothing I could do to make a difference on Sunday, watching my world get frozen solid.  I woke up yesterday to find that miraculously, the barn did not flood. Still, the poor horses have been trapped inside for almost a week since I didn’t want them to slip and fall on the ice.  Come hell or frozen pastures, I was determined to do something to make things better.  So, I found a guy who knew a guy who was able to bring a pickup truck full of stone dust over this morning, and we spread it on the ice.  We were both pretty amazed by how well it worked.

The horses went out and stood around, which was psychologically and emotionally just what they needed. I hovered nearby, just in case anyone slipped or got stuck somewhere dangerous. Siete did walk out on some ice and get scared.  I had to show her that she would be okay if she just backed up.  After that, I put some treats in their buckets in the stalls to encourage them to come back inside. Siete did not hesitate, but Silk wasn’t ready.  I went out and explained to her that my fingers and toes were numb, and I couldn’t go in until she did. Then, I turned, and she just followed me right into the barn, sweet girl.

It may all ice up again tonight. What matters with all this is that the big change is in me, even though no one would notice. Before, when the horses had to stay inside, I would feel agitated  thinking that they were upset, that it was harmful for them not to move around more, that once they did get out, they would run around like crazy and hurt themselves. And like an electric current, the horses would get zapped by all my anxiety, which made them get fired up.  This winter, I have remained unusually relaxed and accepting of all the weather challenges that Mother Nature is throwing at me.  Spring will come and so will Sam with his excavator.  The horses are not upset. They have some delicious hay with clover and a bit of alfalfa to keep them happy.

For the first time, deep in my bones, I can feel que sera, sera – what will be, will be. And as February approaches, when it snows ten inches while my husband is out of town, and I’m facing a blizzard all on my own, I’ll let you know how sanguine I can be about all of it.