Tuesday, December 25, 2012

This Is Happiness

Christmas with the ones I love......


I hope yours is as happy as mine!  
Blessings and hugs to all of you!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Thank You



Last night, we took some time to visit the Sandy Hook shrines that have blossomed on the corners near the school. The gifts and words come from all over the world. I wanted to share some pictures with you, but what I can’t convey is something I never expected. The scent was incredible. So many candles and flowers combined to create a fragrance that was as strong and powerful a blending as all the tributes and messages of love.



Yesterday, as I went about my errands in town, I could feel the blanket of sadness and pain, but hovering above that sorrow is another aura that is so healing. It’s a million thoughts of kindness and love that are really palpable. You can almost reach out and feel the hugs and hands holding all of us.

I cannot begin to imagine how hard it is for the parents and families of the little angels and the heroes who died to now have to pick up the pieces and go on. As I wrap presents and bake cookies, I think of how it must be almost unbearable for them. I found this message from Clarissa Pinkola Estes, the guardian angel of hope, about crossing over:

“As I tell the souls who have been harmed by a terrible disaster, murder or massacre or devastation... the wounded will not remember words, nor philosophies, nor politically correct psychological b.s. The souls will remember kindness, tone of voice, soft eyes, the sweet or mild touch that asks for nothing in return.

It is so much simpler than some might imagine. Just be there. In your own way, long distance, up close, in prayer, in contemplation, in person, by proxy. Be there. It will be enough. And more than enough.”



So, I just wanted to let you all know that we can feel you with us and  to say thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Our Brave Town



It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Last Friday, I had just come in from my morning barn chores when at 9:30 the phone rang. It was the school superintendent, an automated message saying there was a lockdown at all schools. I told my husband, and the phone rang again. It was a neighbor saying the rumor that there was a shooter at the high school. My heart started pounding, and for a half an hour, we frantically searched the Internet and TV to find some more information. Then, the news began to rush in, the reality of a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, a few miles from the high school. We could hear sirens and helicopters. Friends began calling, crying, showing up at our house to stare mesmerized at the television while the horror was revealed.

At one point, I had to take the dog outside and I stood in the sunshine, breathing fresh air and noticing, almost as if for the first time, how beautiful it is here. I looked all over the East Coast to find a safe community with good schools when we moved here eight years ago. Now, I reflected that this hideous violence was a random act, and while it could have happened anywhere, it happened here in this place where we are. I wondered what the meaning of it would be for us, my daughter who is 17, my husband and myself. I also knew that it was too soon to understand why we were about to be a part of something so tragic, but that eventually, it would have a meaning and would be something that changed our lives.

It’s impossible to describe the last week, so I will only focus on the moments of kindness and compassion that we have experienced.  My daughter’s teachers and the school staff have been so brave and sensitive and caring, especially as the kids went back to school on Tuesday. One great source of comfort for my child was the K9 Comfort therapy dogs that were here to cuddle and distract everyone if they needed a moment to compose themselves and find strength. My daughter has provided solace to her friends and classmates as they struggle to overcome their fears and now, as they attend wakes and funerals, and I am so proud of her.  People here are wide open, vulnerable and so loving.

At every turn, there is a reminder of what happened. Little shrines and handmade signs dot the country roads. On the main highway, there had been a recent construction project and the big lighted signs that once said “Roadwork ahead” now say, “God bless our angels. Thanks to our heroes.”  It’s been hard to get around town with the media and the visitors from all over the country. There were seven camera crews hovering around the high school when I picked up my daughter on Tuesday afternoon.  If I drive to the grocery store, I wait and cry as the funeral processions pass by. When I go to nearby towns, total strangers see the little sticker with the rooster that is our town mascot on my car, and they stop me to give me hugs and offer condolences. I am so proud tell people that I live here.

We struggle to decorate the tree, send the presents to our family in California, try to act like everything is fine and normal when we visit my mom at the nursing home.  This morning, I got up at 5 am and made a huge casserole dish of bbq turkey meatballs for a teacher appreciation luncheon being held at school. We carry on, and each day, receive an email update from the high school principal that begins and ends with these words:

Our collective strength and resilience will serve as an example to the rest of the world. Be strong, Newtown.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Enough



I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “enough”.  I read Wayne Muller’s thought-provoking book, A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough, and it struck such a strong chord with me.  The pace of the holiday season seems to be racing even faster than normal this year. It’s probably more noticeable to me since I have been forced by my limitations still imposed on my right arm to go slower, do less, not strain. So everyone around me appears to be flying by while I wander around picking out gifts and deliberately weighing how much I want to do to maintain the holiday spirit without feeling exhausted.
Muller says, “Enough is not a relationship; it is played out in this moment and the next, and the next. We can only experience a sense of enough when we are fully present and awake in this moment…. The farther we get from this moment – the more we project outward into next week, next month, next year – the less and less we can truly know about who we will become or how the world may have completely reshaped its way around us.”  He also points out that as we grow older, our needs and wants change so that our desires when we were young are almost unrecognizable to those we experience later in life.
This is certainly true for me. I was in New York City this week with my daughter, and I could feel the same happy energy and enthusiasm flowing from her that I had myself when I was in my twenties, living in the city. She can’t get enough of the excitement and glamour. What I wanted then when I was a diehard New Yorker has no resemblance to what looks like the good life to me now.  By the end of the day, I couldn’t wait to get home and rub my hands on Silk’s furry neck and snuggle up on the couch with my velvet puppy, Stella. I was overwhelmed by how grateful I am for what I have and how it is truly more than enough.
We had old friends come to visit last weekend. They are very urban and sophisticated, and seemed a little disoriented to be here.  “I had forgotten how rural it is,” my girlfriend commented as we stood in the way back looking at the bridle trails blocked by the trees that fell during the hurricane. I had a feeling that she was torn between wanting the peace and serenity and thinking that it would drive her crazy.
As we fed carrots to the horses, I told her that I often think about one of my favorite quotes from E.B. White: “ I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” I guess at this point in my life, I’m going to concentrate on what it feels like to just do enough and not too much.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gratitude AND Togetherness


Happy Thanksgiving!  I turned to anthropologist and gratitude master Angeles Arrien this morning as I drank my coffee and thought about all the things that I have to be thankful for this year.

Here's what she is thinking about this month:


"Every language in the world has the word “and” in its language. This simple word functions in diverse ways; such as joining, bridging, including and adding. It is a word of generosity and simplicity and opens us up to possibilities that we have not considered. For these reasons, Richard Rohr in his book The Naked Now calls it “a shining word”. After the election, and as we move towards Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season, we have the opportunity, individually and collectively, to use “and” as a way of connecting, joining and adding to each other’s experience in the following ways:

“The Shining Word ‘And’                                                                    
“And” allows us to be both-and.
“And” keeps us from either-or.
“And” is willing to wait for insight and integration.
“And” keeps us from dualistic thinking.
“And” demands that our contemplation become action.
“And” allows us to critique both sides of things.
“And” is the mystery of paradox in all things.
“And” does not trust love if it is not also justice.
“And” does not trust justice if it is not also love.
“And” allows us to be both distinct and yet united.”
 --excerpts from Richard Rohr’s book, The Naked Now, pages 180-181
I hope you have a good day wherever you are and whatever you are doing AND I thank you from my heart for coming by here to visit me again and again!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Crafting a Nest



 
 When the huge pine tree in our front yard came crashing down during the hurricane, it disrupted a lot of lives. “Piney”, as my husband referred to it, was home to many birds and squirrels over the seventy years that it stood magnificently as a landmark in front of our home.  I remember when my mother rescued a baby bird from Siete’s stall, and wearing her soft white gloves, carefully placed it on the broad boughs of “Piney”. The little bird’s mother appeared a few moments later to sit in the tree with her baby.  My mom always gathered leftover bread and potato chips and sprinkled it under the tree, especially in the snow. We always teased her about it. After she moved to the nursing home, I surprised myself by keeping up with the ritual, tromping across the yard to scatter stale crumbs and Fritos so the cardinals and squirrels would have some treats.  Now, there’s only a big circle of dirt that marks the footprint of our popular “bird hotel”.

    As we cut up the tree and dragged the branches away to be shredded, I found this tiny nest on the ground. It is made entirely of horsehair, with one turquoise thread from the string that tied a hay bale.  I brought it in the house to add to my nest collection, and my neighbor told me that she believed it was made by a hummingbird.  It got me thinking about giving some much needed attention to my own nest.  Since I injured my arm in June, I have not been able to do much housekeeping and as winter approaches, I’ve decided that it’s time to thoroughly wash, dust, clean and de-clutter our nest.  I think that it will help me welcome in the holidays, which are bearing down on us with all the force of another hurricane. 

    The one resident in our yard who is really happy that the big tree is gone is the skunk. Almost every morning, when Stella and I get up in the dark and go outside, Ms. Skunk is right there in the dirt, enjoying a feast of grubs. So far, thanks to a serious flashlight that floods the yard, I’ve been able to stop dead in my tracks and hold on tight to the dog on her flexi-leash. The skunk just kind of glances up, “oh, hello, it’s you”, and then ambles off to the safety of the forsythia bush.  My heart pounds, and Stella bounces wildly until the coast is clear.

   I looked up the meaning of a skunk entering your life in Ted Andrews’ “AnimalSpeak” book.  He says that the skunk is a sign that you should demand respect in your life and be assertive. He also points out that even though skunks might have rabies and can eat a cat, they are basically peaceful creatures. I thought about getting a Havaheart trap and trying to relocate Ms. Skunk to the woods on the other side of the pond, but it turns out that it’s illegal in this state to trap a skunk because of the rabies danger.  I found a recipe for spraying detergent and castor oil, which skunks are supposed to find distasteful, and I will annoint the ground where Piney rested and the grubs live. For now, I’m inclined to live and let live, and hopefully, Stella won’t get sprayed.

   This week, I went to the doctor, expecting to have a battle over whether he wanted to operate or manipulate my right elbow some more.  I thought about the skunk and respecting my wishes as I waited in his examining room. Amazingly, he was very pleased with my progress and felt that I had “turned the corner”.  So, he sees almost full recovery in my future as long as I continue to use my splints and do my exercises.  When I saw the skunk this morning, I thanked her from a distance for helping me keep my resolve. Now, I’m going to turn my attention to decorating and feathering our nest. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Facing the Future

"Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work, a future. To be courageous, is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. Whether we stay or whether we go - to be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made."

- David Whyte
from Readers' Circle Essay, "Courage"
©2011 David Whyte



     Recently, I have been enjoying David Whyte’s generous contributions on his Facebook page. After facing the first snowstorm of the season yesterday, it was really helpful and reassuring to read this entry.  The weather experts expended great energy scaring all of us on the East Coast as the storm headed our way. Once again, I was looking at the trees in my yard near the barn and the house, torn between loving their majestic shelter from the sun and my fear that they will be blown down and crush us. I reminded myself that the wind was no stronger than it had been for countless other times, and happily, here we are intact today.

         I especially like the idea that I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything to be courageous. I just have to stay true to what I know in my heart and “live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences”. Since tomorrow is my birthday, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the future holds for me.  In many ways, I feel like I’m standing at the opening of a new door, a bit hesitant to take the first step.

         Certainly, as I literally stood in my boots and winter parka ready to embark into drifts of snow, sliding down the path towards the barn this morning, I was afraid to venture out.  I can’t fit my protective arm brace under my coat, couldn’t find my “YakTraks” to add traction to my feet, and begged my husband to come with me to feed the horses. Then, as he slowly finished his cup of coffee and looked for his wool socks, I became impatient and annoyed with myself for needing his reassuring presence. I launched out on my own, hesitant and slow as I groped my way down the little hill outside our backdoor. By the time I reached the barn and was greeted by Silk and Siete’s sweet furry faces and noisy chorus of “Nnnh! NNNH!”, I had regained my equilibrium.

         It was a little metaphor for how I felt about getting another year older. I think I just have to keep reminding myself to “stay close to the way that I’m made”.



Saturday, November 3, 2012

Reflections on the Storm


We are still without power, and our generator died on Thursday morning. Miraculously, my husband got on the phone at 8 am, found a place a few hours north of us that just received a delivery of 90 generators, paid for it on the phone and drove as fast as he could to pick it up. By the time he got there, they had sold all of them – Fortunately, ours was waiting with a “will call” tag, and although they say it may be Tuesday before we get our power back, we are fine.

The devastation and misery in New Jersey, Staten Island, New York and parts of Connecticut is so overwhelming. Our hearts go out to everyone who lost their homes and loved ones. We have only some small inconvenience compared to people who lost everything. Friends of ours down the road had a tree fall on their house and split it in half. Seeing their two-story house crushed made me sick in my stomach. In the heart of the storm, they had been standing in their kitchen and heard a loud cracking noise. They ran out into the blackness and the 90 mph wind just as the tree fell, severing their bed upstairs literally in half and dumping the entire contents of their house onto their driveway in the pouring rain and relentless wind. They said that they both felt an angel guiding them to their neighbor’s house to safety.

 I realized that at the same moment, I had been standing in my kitchen, cooking chili on the stove when the windows began shaking and it felt like the wind was going to blow them in on me. I ran into our living room and asked my husband if we should go to the basement. Then, we were plunged into blackness. At that point, I was so focused on turning on flashlights and making sure that my daughter and the dog and cat were safely downstairs that I really didn’t feel any fear. Three days later, as I stood in front of the beautiful old farmhouse with the huge pine tree squashing it like it was cardboard, the reality of all of this hit me. I can’t stop thinking about it, and how lucky we are.

My husband and I have been through three earthquakes, two hurricanes and countless paralyzing snowstorms. There is no one in the world that I would rather have at my side in a disaster than Mark. I am so blessed to have a partner that is calm, resourceful and able to push me forward if I hesitate or falter.  I hope that we are teaching our daughter how to find her strength when faced with these kind of life and death situations. You’d like to shelter your kids from them, but face it, no matter where you are in the world, things happen. No place is impervious. Last night, as it got dark, our friends and neighbors suddenly began to show up with food and knock on our door. We had a great impromptu dinner, and everyone felt the power of good community spirit as we joined together. I took the dog out at one point and tears came to my eyes as I looked back at where I live. Our house glowed with the light from the generator like a beacon in the black night.

My friend helped us move the horses back home yesterday. Silk got off the trailer and rolled and rolled in the pasture. She was so happy this morning when I fed her breakfast in our own barn.  There is much good that came from moving the horses. Most important, they were safe in the hurricane. I made a new friend with a great horse trailer. The girls were very comfortable in the barn up the road, and the unfriendly mare who attacked them last time actually welcomed them in the pasture. Last year after the hurricane, Siete had been traumatized by the trailer ride back – our neighbor drove too fast, and my little horse was soaked with sweat when we unloaded her. This time, she got over her fear and loaded easily like she always has when we were ready to come home. 

So this whole storm experience reminds me that fear is like a river that just has to be crossed. It is, after all, an emotion that can be replaced by other emotions that will serve me better. I will always feel it throughout points in the rest of my life, pay attention and respect its warnings, but it will never guide how I live.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Update

No power. No phone. No cell service. No Internet.  Quick update from Starbucks. The horses are enjoying their stay at the luxury horsie hotel, aka my neighbor's barn. They may not want to come home, but I hope that we will be able to get them back tomorrow. I hate looking out the window and not seeing Silk lift her head to meet my gaze.

We lost our 70 year old huge pine tree in the front yard. Luckily, it fell away from the house. Otherwise, some big branches down and another pine tree near the barn - it is in my neighbor's yard and fell towards her property. If it had gone the other way, it would have taken out Siete's stall. So, I'm very happy that we decided to move the girls.

Wondering how long it will take the utility companies to find us this time around......

Monday, October 29, 2012

Quick Update

Thank you, everyone, so much for your concern. I was able to go to the barn and feed the horses this morning. They seem glad to be there. It's cozy, and the concrete really makes the place feel secure. They are drinking water, pooping normally and eating hay. I was concerned about Siete all night, so it gave me peace of mind to see her happy face this morning. That was the last time I will see them until the storm has passed.

My husband did a great job securing our barn and house, so we're in for the duration. It's his birthday - exactly a year ago, on his birthday, we had the freak snowstorm. Some birthday present - maybe we can skip the weather drama next year. I'm making chili and enchiladas, and we've got a fabulous ice cream cake from our creamery.  And lots of candles.

Hopefully, we won't lose power. The wind is about 35 mph. We had a brief hit where it went off and came back on. I'm pretty sure that we will lose it at some point. The big excitement should come this evening.

I'll check in tomorrow if I am able.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Moved the Girls


 We waffled about moving the horses to our friends’ concrete block barn up the hill from us. I even called the woman who was going to trailer them up for me and told her that we had decided they should stay here. Then, my husband went out to the barn and looked at the pine trees that line the property between us and our nearest neighbor. Last hurricane, one had come down on our side. He pointed out that the remaining trees could hit the barn, not to mention the big hickory tree that is next to it. He said we need to move them just to be safe.

So, two hours later, the horses were in the concrete block barn. Last time, we just walked them up the road, but it was stressful for them because there were these crazy barking dogs in one of the yards. And with my arm still being pretty much useless, we didn’t want to take any chances. 

Silk seemed to settle in easily. Siete is a bit anxious. I hope that the wind and rain won’t be too bad tomorrow morning around 7 am so I can drive up and feed them breakfast. Looks like by noon, we’ll be in the thick of it.

My anxiety level dropped dramatically as soon as the horses were safely tucked away. I have no doubt that we did the right thing. My friends who own the barn promise they will be able to get out there and feed and water the girls throughout the storm.  They’re the kind of people that I can trust to do what needs to be done. I’m so thankful that I have such kind friends and neighbors.

I’ll check in again tomorrow.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Here We Go Again


So, it looks like Hurricane Sandy is planning to stop by for a visit. We’re not sure when she’s coming, or if she intends to make a hit a bit further south. Whatever her track, we’re in for some mighty winds and lots of rain. The only good news is that my husband arrived home after a month long run of gigs all over the country. I’ve never been so happy to see him!


My big decision will be whether I move the horses to my friend’s concrete block barn. I did during the last hurricane, and it was a good decision until after the storm. The horse that lives in the barn is the queen and she hated Siete. We had to do an emergency evacuation right after the storm was over, which was very stressful for my girls. This time, the queen is in the lower part of the barn so they can all be separated. But I would need to trailer them up the road since I can’t walk them up and risk messing up my arm. I will wait until Sunday to decide what to do. Hopefully, by then Sandy’s path will be more certain.

Meanwhile, we’re stocking up on food and gas, cleaning the generator, buying wood pellets in case the barn floods. I think back to the morning that the hurricane hit last year, and the memory is still vivid. Huge trees were crashing down outside, and we hid in the basement with the cat and dog watching the sheets of rain and the tops of the trees flailing through the little windows in the door. Makes me think that I should put the horses in the other barn since being in our little shed stalls would be terrifying in that kind of wind.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

More Thoughts on Falling




At 5 am, in the pitch-black front yard, Stella and I encountered a skunk this morning. Luckily, I had the blasting bright flashlight with me and saw the little guy before the dog did. I held on tight to the leash and got dragged a bit, but the skunk went on its merry way while we managed to slip and slide back into the house.  The dead leaves have become treacherous for me on the paths and on the wet grass over the last few weeks.  I am increasingly aware that I am afraid I’m going to fall again.

I’ve written and thought a lot about falling over the years, usually in relationship to riding my horses. So, I have some good resources to draw upon to overcome my new incarnation of this familiar fear. I have been working with Julie Connery Smith,  an excellent Feldenkrais practitioner, here for a few months to help restore my balance and awareness of movement while I’ve been in physical therapy.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Feldenkrais, I will quote my dear friend, Mary DeBono, who performs miracles on people, horses and dogs :

“It is very common for people to hold onto protective habits since they once served a useful purpose. But these unhealthy movement patterns can cause pain, stiffness and damage to joints over time.  They interfere with freedom of movement and quality of life. Most people, however, don’t realize that they have these harmful movement habits. The Feldenkrais Method works to uncover such inefficient habits of movement and help people learn how to move in a more comfortable, efficient and healthier way.  Aches and pains often disappear. Flexibility, balance, posture and coordination improve.  Simply put, Feldenkrais helps us develop awareness, so that we can move through life with ease and grace.”

            I know what I need to do -- If I can let go of my fear of falling, I know that my range of motion will increase. As my movement becomes less braced and tense, I will be able to blend my motion and my intentions better.  I did it successfully when I was riding my horse. Now, I have to do it while I’m walking on my own two feet.  I think it has something to do with feeling grounded and solid while I’m just standing still. Some days, my whole body feels skewed towards the right since I spend so many hours in splints and exercising that weakened side.

            Another great Feldenkrais practitioner, my old friend, Alan Questel, once wrote an explanation of what led Moshe Feldenkrais to develop his practice. He understood that we are always thinking, feeling, sensing and moving. To change any one of those things would bring about change in the whole person. Movement is the most immediate and concrete of those four aspects, and changing how we move will cause dramatic shifts in the other three areas and in how we perceive ourselves.

So I know I’m going in the right direction, even if I’m out there slip sliding around in the dark. As Feldenkrais said, “If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want.” And I want to move through life with ease and grace.








Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Slow Path of Progress



I’m making progress.  Last week, I touched my right thumb to my nose – which was a huge moment for me.  So slowly, achingly, I am recovering the use of my right hand and moving my arm more naturally.  Most of the time, I don’t try to focus on my progress because it is so small, and I can get discouraged that it doesn’t happen faster. I just make time to wear the splints and do the stretching and strengthening exercises, even if I don’t feel like it. And believe me, most of the time, I don’t feel like doing the splints, so it’s an exercise in discipline, that’s for sure.

Siete is also getting better, but her back right and her front left are still not totally healed. It’s kind of driving me crazy, and I wonder if there might be Lyme disease in the picture. This okay-one-day-and-sore-the-next routine could be a clue. Johnny comes out the end of the week to trim Silk, and I’ll have him check Siete to see if there’s any sign of abscess in either of those hooves.

We’re having a very rainy, dank autumn. I notice that the trees are more yellow and less red and flamboyant than usual. I feel less enthusiastic about Fall, my favorite season, this year. I think it’s because I’m so wrapped up in my routine of splints, exercises, splints, exercises, splints, ice packs and more ice packs. My future depends on it.

So when I saw this quote from the Dalai Lama this morning, it really spoke to me:

“You see, the past is past, and the future is yet to come. That means the future is in your hands—the future entirely depends on the present. That realization gives you a great responsibility.”
The Dalai Lama

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Learning to Fly Again




The watchword for me right now is “perseverance”.  I’ve been wrestling with abscesses in three of Siete’s hooves for the last three weeks. I’m making very slow progress in bending my right elbow, even though I’m spending three hours a day in my splints and doing exercises to stretch and strengthen my arm.  Everything for too long has felt like it’s hanging on and on with no signs that things are on the road back to “okay”.
The vet and farrier have both been out again and again to try to drain Siete’s abscesses. We are down to one very tenacious trouble spot in her front left hoof.  She is so patient as I struggle awkwardly with cleaning her feet and squirting Banamine in her mouth. The farrier told me to leave off the hoof boot and Animalintex, but that made things worse. Following my instincts, I soaked her foot in warm water and Epsom salts and then used a stinky poultice called Hawthorn’s Sole Pack. We’re not out of the woods yet but she’s standing on all four feet with equal weight and walking without limping today.
I went to the doctor this week, expecting that he would praise me for the improvement in my arm, but he was most discouraging. He keeps talking about doing a “manipulation”, where he would knock me out and bend the elbow for me. It’s risky because it would break up the scar tissue but might also do other damage. He doesn’t know if I will be able to get the mobility back on my own, he says. There was a young woman resident observing as he examined me, and while he left the room briefly, she complimented me on my positive attitude. Then, she pointed to my right arm, which was resting on my leg as I sat on the examining table. “Why do you hold it like it’s a wounded bird?” she asked. I left the doctor’s office annoyed and depressed.
Yesterday, at my physical therapy session, my new therapist gave me good advice. She wants me to stay focused on what I’m doing and not have any kind of “manipulation”. Since she’s been doing this work for about 30 years and tells me that the elbow takes the longest to heal, I’m going to trust her. She thinks six months to a year is a realistic estimate for my recovery, and we’re at three months now. So she wants me to keep working on it and have faith.
I was driving home and as I stopped at a stoplight in an area of strip mall shopping centers, a red tailed hawk suddenly flew very close over the hood of my car and landed on the small patch of grass next to me. It really startled me, and I wondered if the bird was injured. Then, I recalled the young resident’s remark and thought that yes, I am like a wounded bird. Of course I’m protective of my arm! One of my wings is damaged and I can’t fly.
           When this accident happened and I had my surgery, I bought myself a present. It’s a necklace that I wear every day. On one side of the square pendent is an old illustration of a robin flying. On the other side are these words from the pages of an old book: ”She went out on a limb, had it break off behind her, and realized she could fly.” So, I guess I just have to learn to fly again.
When I got home,I looked up what it means when a hawk comes into your life. They are symbols of protection. The Pueblo Indians use red hawk energy and feathers in healing ceremonies. “The red tail can spread its wings to a great width, and it can teach you to use your creative energies the same way. It can extend your vision of life”, Ted Andrews explains in Animal Speak.
           As I sat in my splint this morning, with my sore arm encumbered by this contraption that forces my elbow to bend further, I imagined doing what I once could do, and what I plan to be able to do again. I saw myself stretching my arms out and waving them up and down gracefully like wings as Siete runs in big circles around me in the pasture.

Birdwings
Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
up to where you are bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings.

Rumi

P.S.  I saw this quote that my friend, Mary Muncil, posted on her blog, "White Feather Farm", and it spoke to what I have been feeling:  "Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly." Richard Bach




Saturday, September 8, 2012

Proud to be an Artsy Girl


My friend, Liz, and I are hosting a dinner Monday night for a group of women friends who are artists. It will be the one and only social event that I’ve attempted since I broke my arm last June.  It marks a milestone for me in my recovery, and I am glad to feel capable of entertaining again.

This is a really great group, founded over a decade ago by Jane Pollak, and we continue to meet every three or four months. I’m going on my 7th year with the “Artsy Girls”, a name that makes me smile. There are painters, writers. childrens’ book illustrators, rug makers, quilters, film-makers, jewelry designers and even a toy inventor in our circle. It makes for really stimulating conversations, and the food will be great because my friend, Liz, is a fabulous cook. I’m just doing appetizers, salad and bringing ice cream from our favorite creamery at the dairy farm down the road.

We’re going to screen the video that I recently shot and edited about Liz and her amazing work and talk about our experience collaborating together. Two strong, opinionated women, but it was a pleasure to put her vision on the screen. It reminded me of what I enjoy about shooting moving images and telling a story.   I thought I’d post it here for you to look at too.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Learning to Reframe the Message



I am attempting to settle into the new routine that requires me to wear two splints on my arm for an hour at a time, three times a day, to speed up the stretching and healing process. It’s a real stroke of luck that my doctor knew about these miraculous aids, which are called JAS splints.  They work on the principle that slow stretching, where I can control the pain, is better than a rigid splint that requires 6-8 hours of suffering. It’s the “tortoise” approach, which fits my philosophy that this will take as long as it takes but eventually, my right hand will be able to touch my right shoulder.

While I’m sitting in the splints, I’ve been reading a great book by Jill Bolte Taylor, “My Stroke of Insight”.  Jill is a neuro-scientist who had a stroke at age 37 and is now almost fully recovered. She describes her experience in a fascinating, spiritually open hearted way, and it has helped me enormously to shape the way that my mind is perceiving my own pain and challenges. Of course, I am very aware that what she went through was so much more difficult and serious than repairing a broken arm and dislocated elbow.  Still, I am able to use her as a role model, especially in moments when I feel discouraged or negative. 

It’s interesting to see that she supports scientifically how thinking positive and surrounding yourself with people who are encouraging and kind leads to miraculous results.  After re-organizing my life to accommodate wearing the splints for three hours a day, I must say that I was feeling pretty grouchy and resentful.  Yesterday, I found myself dreading having to put on the splint, and I became aware that the stretching is causing more pain than I anticipated, despite the gentler approach.  I asked myself what would Jill Bolte Taylor tell me about dealing with this . This morning, I strapped the wrist splint on as I told myself how lucky I was to be able to have these tools to speed up the recovery. I found something interesting and distracting to listen to on the Internet (Krista Tippett interviewing Roseanne Cash at “On Being”). I consciously relaxed each time I tightened the knob to increase the pressure on my wrist to give me more “supination”.  I stayed in the moment and didn’t let my mind race over all the things that I still have to do today.

Two and a half more hours in the splints still to go. Horses to be brushed, chores to be done, a meeting this afternoon, dinner to cook, and I can’t let all those tasks run over the two sessions that I need to have with my splints.  I’m trying not to think about how I have to do this every single day for who knows how long – maybe months. I’m trying just to congratulate myself for getting it done today and taking time to notice how my elbow and wrist are moving more, even if they are sore. I’ve added pep talks to my daily to-do list.

“ I may not be in total control of what happens in my life, but I certainly am in charge of how I perceive my experience.”
Jill Bolte Taylor

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stella Bella




Stella, Stella, Stella… what am I going to do about you, mia puppia! This is a revved up, crazy dog, and I am having a hard time keeping up with her.  She’s half lab and half Springer Spaniel, but there are days when I swear that she’s also part Whippet. I can run her for a few hours and after a twenty-minute rest, she’s ready to play all over again.

When my stepson was a little boy, someone asked him to do something and he replied, “I don’t listen to that.” It’s been a saying in our house for many years, and Stella clearly subscribes to that philosophy. Some days, when I call her, she will run like the wind to be with me, but if there’s a stinky good smell or a small furry creature that she’s after, it’s “I don’t listen to that!” While I was unable to go outside with the dog when I first broke my arm, my husband invented a game called “chase the stick”. Stella finds these huge branches that she gets in her mouth and proudly marches around. To exercise her, my husband would run after her, and she learned how to play keep away.  Big mistake. Now, she’s started just taking off into the woods when she is off the leash, and it’s really hard to get her to come back – especially since I can’t really chase after her yet. She teases me, running in circles around me refusing to let me get near her.

Stella has in the last two months also become afraid of some things that never used to bother her. She suddenly hates having Frontline put on her back. She used to love to go to the vet but recently, she’s terrified. No one has ever done anything to hurt her, and since she was a puppy, I was really good about touching her ears and her legs and generally getting her used to being handled.  Just during the time I have been injured, my trusting pup has become a total scaredy cat. If she sees me approaching with dog treats, she runs away like I’m going to poison her. So I’m going to have to go back to step one and start over on training her.

I’m going to begin taking her to doggie day care so she can spend more time playing with other dogs while I’m healing my arm. I just don’t have it in me to go for the long walks that we used to, and my daughter and husband are too busy right now to help exercise her.  If anyone has any ideas about the re-training process or any of this, I’d welcome them. I’ve had dogs my whole life, and they’ve all always wanted to stay by my side off leash and been really responsive and well behaved.  I’ve done all the same things with Stella, but she’s got a mind of her own and can become oblivious to anything I do to get her attention.

I’m used to trusting my dogs without a leash, but right now, Stella is on a short lead or a long retractable flexi leash whenever we leave the house.  I was visiting a friend this week who has a golden retriever puppy that is younger than Stella. This dog was so mellow and calm that it almost seemed like he was drugged.  I came home to be joyously greeted by my wild child, and while I admit that I was feeling jealous, I also knew that I wouldn’t trade Stella for anything in the world. I’m sure that she has some lessons to teach me while I’m teaching her.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Changing the Dream

I spend a lot of time sitting in an armchair that was my father’s favorite chair, placed in our family room next to the window.  As I was growing up in a small town outside of Chicago, I recall how my father loved this over-stuffed chair with its matching ottoman and relaxed in it every night after a long day at work. When he passed away, my mother settled into “Papa’s chair” for many years, observing our front yard and the comings and goings of our neighborhood.  Over time, this venerable throne has aged. The fabric that is a green Southwestern print has faded from the sun. The stuffing in the cushions has settled into slightly lumpy but contoured shape for a perfect fit.   Now, it’s my turn to occupy this comfy seat as I heal myself.

  I’m going to be spending three hours a day sitting around in a splint for the next couple of months, which is supposed to speed up the stretching and bending of my right arm and elbow.  It’s also going to give me probably way too much time to think. In fact, I have been trying to spend more time not thinking, just meditating and staring out the window at the beautiful peaceful view while our cat. Velcro, sprawls sleeping on my lap. If I position myself properly, I can see the horses in the back pasture by gazing out of the windows across the room as well as observing the goings-on in the front of our property.

 It’s a perfect place to use my laptop to visit everyone’s blogs. I was traveling around the Internet the other day and stopped to check in with my friend, Deborah Carr, at  “Nature ofWords”. She lives in Eastern Canada in a panoramic bit of heaven.  Her post about how things don't always go as planned when following one’s dreams gave me lots of food for thought: “I’m not saying that dreams are not worth fighting for, certainly the purpose of a dream is to pull us beyond our boundaries, but maybe it’s worth examining why This Dream is so damn important. I think sometimes you have to pick that old heavy rock of a Dream up, turn it over and look beneath to see what is really there. Is it money, recognition, status, power, ambition, security, envy? …..Or is it someone else’s Dream?
I’ve always been a big one for dreaming a dream and following it. I’ve also gone down several paths and hit a dead end or decided that it wasn’t really going to be what I had dreamed it would be. I have learned that one dream usually leads to another and another. I don’t regret pursuing any of these dreams that I left by the wayside because each one gave me a skill or a lesson that I needed at that time. Still, I think that Deborah brings up an important idea. Certainly, at this point in my life,  I’m free floating and reconsidering what direction I want to go next. I get lots of helpful suggestions –“You should do this. You should do that.” And then, there’s all this crazy new technology racing along at the speed of light, outmoding and replacing many of the creative avenues that I used to travel. 
It’s probably a good thing that I have a well-worn, time tested seat in which to contemplate what it all means to me.  As Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote: “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”