Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

There are times when I am in Silk’s stall that I feel some sort of mysterious vibes. As if my horse can read my thoughts, I find answers or insights to things that have been bothering me.

I was brushing Silk tonight and trying to fan the flames of hope. I confess that I was feeling pretty low. It’s been a challenging week, and tomorrow we’re going up to the nursing home to have Thanksgiving dinner there with my mom. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love to cook all the recipes that have been passed along to me from family and friends. I get very sentimental when I look back at all the good memories. This year, we considered making a second turkey dinner at home the day after, but it felt like that would only remind us more that we missed my mom. In the spirit of living with what is, we’re going to try to make this the most fun Thanksgiving that the nursing home has ever had.

I know that we’re not the only ones who have had our share of difficulties and disappointments this year. There are friends of mine who have lost loved ones or are financially flailing and are really struggling with the holidays. I look for little sparks of hope wherever I can find them.

While I was rubbing Silk’s soft, thick coat, a thought popped into my head, almost like she was having a conversation with me. I suddenly recalled that she had been beaten and abused before I bought her. People really hurt her and treated her like a machine. She spent the first ten years of her life in a box stall, never getting turned out in a pasture. Occasionally, she was allowed to kick up her heels in a round pen, but no one ever let her be anything but a showpiece. Yet, she managed to never lose her spirit, and life got better for her. For the last twelve years, Silk has been loved and pampered and free to run and eat grass and the best hay I can buy for her. Standing next to her in the darkness, I felt like she was reminding me that there are going to be rocky patches, and we just have to get through them. And fortunately, we have each other.

Hold on to what is good,
Even if it's a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
Even if it's a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
Even if it's a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
Even if it's easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
Even if someday I'll be gone away from you.

A Pueblo Indian Prayer

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I’ve been stuck. For the last month, I’ve been forcing myself to work on this book that I’ve been forever writing, and I have just felt so bogged down in it. The little evil critic that lives in my head has been very busy. Each page that I’ve managed to type is pure torture. So, for the last week, I just stopped trying to slog ahead. In fact, I seriously considered giving up on it. I was sure that I would never have another good idea in my life.

It was also my birthday last Tuesday, and everywhere I turned there were these unsettling reminders that I was getting old. Even my body, which is normally very resilient, felt so tired and stiff. I had a lovely, rather uneventful birthday. One of the best things was that a dear friend made me a piece of wearable art that she has strung on a braided cord. Just wearing this talisman of her love and friendship has made me feel better. I also went into New York City on Saturday to have lunch with another close friend and to be interviewed for the New York Women In Film and Television Archives about the early days of the organization and about my career. It forced me to look back over what I’ve done and to formulate some words of wisdom for young women who are trying to follow a trail in that tough business. Mostly, it gave me some much-needed perspective on where I am now.

I’m knee deep in old, crunchy leaves, which makes for a perfect metaphor. I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but this autumn. there seems to be at least double the number of fallen leaves as ever before. We are drowning in huge piles of brown, dead foliage. I’ve been avoiding the odious job of gathering them up and dragging them to the way back to the compost pile. We made two big heaps in the pasture, which are particularly heavy because there’s some old hay in them. Every day, I announce that I am going to get rid of those leaves no matter what. And no matter what, I don’t.

Siete has been like a little kid, running through the piles and throwing the leaves up in the air. She’s managed to completely dishevel all of the work that we had done. My husband pointed out to me that it’s going to rain heavily tonight, so I went out there this morning on a mission. As soon as I started to rake the leaves on to a tarp, my little horse rushed over and stood in the center of them. “My leaves!” she announced. I was sorry to have to take away her fun, but bundling them up when they are a soggy, weighted down mess is not easy.

In my head, I kept hearing the lyrics to this Van Morrison song, appropriately called “When the Leaves Come Falling Down”. “Follow me down, follow me down, to the space before the twilight and the dawn”. Before the twilight, is the magic hour, where the light is golden and full of promise. And recently, when I wake up at 5 am, I’ve been noticing how incredibly dark the sky is in the moments right before the sun comes up.

As I raked, I realized that I have been wandering around for the last month with the fallen leaves completely obscuring my path. I started thinking about how that dark time before dawn can be either scary or comforting. It can bring up all my fears, or it can soothe and offer me rest and renewal. Moving the leaves somehow released me, and I had the urge to run back into the house to the computer to start writing again. There’s a faint path, not well traveled, but I’m going to stumble along it and see where it goes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Off to See the Wizard

It was an unexpected delight to see everyone dressed in costume when I visited my mom at the nursing home last Thursday. These folks really take Halloween seriously, planning their costumes and the party from year to year. The nurses and doctors and almost all the people working there, including the therapy dog, were very imaginative and enthusiastic about it. I just missed a parade of children from a local pre-school who came to trick or treat. The residents were given candy to hand out, and also got to choose their own costumes from an impressive and huge selection. My mother was dressed as a Wizard when I walked in and having the time of her life. I haven’t seen her that happy in years. What a change from a couple of months ago, and what a relief for me to know that she’s enjoying her new life.

Silk is also doing better. It’s been just below freezing the last couple of nights, but I decided to hold off from blanketing the girls. Even though I dragged the rugs out to the barn, I changed my mind at the last minute. They are growing thick winter coats and there wasn’t any wind, so I opted to wait until it gets colder. This morning, they both seemed fine, although I wasn’t smart enough to blanket myself with a heavier coat and some gloves and it was pretty chilly. The water buckets iced up yesterday, so I replaced them with the heated ones. Both horses drank a lot last night, since they love their “tea”.

I was reflecting on how fast the time has gone as I gave Silk and Siete some extra hay to get their furnaces going. It seems like I was just doing this last winter, and here I am back at it again. We lit our first fire in the fireplace on Sunday night, which made me really miss not having my mother at home with us. She loves sitting in front of the fire. Old rituals will be replaced this year with new ones, as the holidays approach. I’ve been trying hard not to miss what has passed, whether it’s warm summer days in the garden or little things that my mom and I liked to do together around here that we can't do anymore. Each time I do them by myself, I try to find a way to honor her without sadness. The Halloween party at the nursing home helped remind me that they also have their traditions up there, which are fun and joyful. It will be up to our family to expand ourselves to join in and create new rituals that we can share together this year.

In the early darkness this morning, Silk was so soft, and rubbing my cold hands on her furry neck, I vowed to accept whatever happens next with a spirit of openness and thanks. Things are different around here, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t getting better.