Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thanks for the Award!

Thank you to Calm, Forward, Straight and to Juliette at Honeysuckle Faire for giving me the Stylish Blogger Award. In my frayed Gortex parka and polartec pants with the holes on the seams, I’m not exactly a Fashion Queen these days. I’m going to use the below zero temperatures and the snow that is falling yet again as an excuse for my tattered but waterproof outfit.

I know that this award has been making its way around the blogosphere, so I’m not going to attempt to send it on to anyone. I really enjoy CFS and Juliette’s blogs so much, and if you don’t already visit them, I encourage you to take a look. I was able to get to know both of them a little better from their responses to this award, and I think it’s a great distraction from what’s going on outside my back door right now. So with no further ado, here are 7 things you might not already know about me:

1. I really enjoyed being stylish when I lived in New York and Los Angeles. I was skinny, wore expensive black clothes and my hair was short, then long, then short, then whatever was considered hip at that moment. When I moved to San Diego and became a cowgirl, my godmother came to visit. She said, “Victoria, you were the most sophisticated woman I knew. What happened to you?” No regrets, not one.

2. I love to cook and bake. I enjoy reading a recipe and then taking artistic license with it. My friends and family aren’t complaining. It is especially fun to prepare food for large groups of hungry people. Recently, I’ve been trying some of the Pioneer Woman’s recipes and really liking them, even the ones with Mountain Dew as an ingredient. I’m adventuresome, although I usually try to stick with healthy, whole foods when I’m in the kitchen.

3. I’ve recently discovered the videos on the TED Conference website. “Ideas worth spreading”. Very thought provoking speakers, interesting music and some mental stimulation on these cold nights in front of the fire. It sure beats what’s on TV.

4. My other distraction as I sit cozy in my armchair with the logs blazing is to plan my garden. I look at those deep white blankets covering my flower beds and imagine all that compost that we spread before it froze giving nourishment to the soil and plants that are buried under it. Spring will be even more delightful than usual this year. I love the White Flower Farms website for dreaming about what I’m going to plant.

5. I live in a house filled with music. My husband and stepson are drummers. My daughter plays the guitar and sings. Recently, I’ve noticed that all my favorite musicians are growing older and grayer. The reality of it has been creeping up over the last few years. All those great guys, like Van Morrison, Lyle Lovett, Mark Knopfler, are still recording but soon there will come a day when they’ll decide that they’re done. I just watched a movie called “It Might Get Loud” which has the elegant, white-haired Jimmy Page in it. Like good wine, they just get better as they age and mellow, so I’m going to take time to appreciate them now while they’re still around. Luckily, I have my daughter and stepson to keep me clued into who’s young and talented,

6. I’m paying too much attention to my cat. He’s the only animal left in the house this winter, and there’s a good reason that his name is Velcro. Either he’s draped around my neck like an orange fur scarf or spread across my legs like a fuzzy lap-warmer. I am the center of his world, which is flattering but also comes with too much loud meowing.

7. I’m expending a lot of energy being hopeful these days. There’s too much gloom and fear and arguing going on in the world. Hope needs to be stirred up and cultivated on a daily basis in order to drown out all the negativity that bombards us now that we have all this information available to us constantly at our fingertips. If you have something good to say, now is the time to speak up!

I’m going to throw another log on the fire and continue to hibernate. Silk and Siete are standing in the corral, with snow all over their noses. I tried to get a picture of them, but the battery on the camera needs to be charged. It’s been snowing one inch per hour, and this isn’t even the “big” storm. We’ll be getting ready for that one to hit us tomorrow night. I think I’ll start looking for some new recipes to try.

Friday, January 14, 2011

World of White

I grew up on the outskirts of Chicago, so I know about snow. I still have a snapshot of my dad, who was 6’1”, standing on our patio in a snow tunnel that is a foot taller than his head. My parents hated snow and eventually moved to Florida, where they sat by the pool each winter and teased their friends and relatives who were still stuck in the Midwest. I didn’t get it. I loved the snow, especially building snowmen and igloos. sledding and skating on an ice rink that we made in our backyard. One of the things that I missed when I lived in California was “real winter”.

So, here I am now, dragging hay through snow tunnels above my waist, dealing with the biggest snowfall that our town has had in 20 years. I’m still vividly remembering how it felt on Wednesday morning as I crawled out to the barn to reach the horses in the heart of the storm. I was smart enough to bring their hay and breakfast into the house the night before so I wouldn’t have to get to the garage and tack room before I beat my way towards the barn. I was wearing knee high rubber boots, waterproof pants and a Gortex parka, but I was sinking into drifts that were almost to my shoulders. My method was to shovel two or three feet to make a path, turn back and move the bucket full of hay, wipe the fog and snow off my glasses and then shovel a little more. It was very slow going. There was a moment where I couldn’t see the barn or the house. I felt like Nanook of the North.

To make matters worse, I was still worrying about something that I saw the night before. As I was putting the horses to bed, I noticed that in the snow in the corral, one of them had peed and it was a kind of carrot orange color. It freaked me out, so I went back into the house and leaped on the Internet to see if anyone had anything to say about the this weird colored urine. I was thinking urinary tract infection. There were a few articles about it, mentioning dehydration as a possible explanation and claiming there was no cause for alarm. Both horses were eating and pooping and drinking normally. Just to be sure, I had checked on them around 10 pm as the storm was just starting the night before. They were both fine.

Now, as I approached the barn, Silk stuck her head out but I didn’t see Siete. My little horse always pokes her head over the stall door the minute that I come out of the house each morning. I’d been shoveling and inching my way to the barn for over an hour, and there was no sign of her. It made me panic. Frantically pushing in the blinding snow, my mind went to the worst. If she was down or had colicked, how would I get help? My fear enabled me to reach the corral gate with a surge of energy like a mother animal trying to protect her young. As I shoved against the gate to squeeze through it, the little stinker ambled across her stall to the door, giving me a look that said, “What took you so long?” Tossing the hay into the barn, I felt the rush of victory while the path that I had just carved was disappearing in the insane onslaught of white from the sky.

I barely made it back to the house. Once it stopped snowing, my husband, my daughter and I spent at least eight hours digging. We had to pull 30 inches of snow off the roof of the barn because we were worried it would collapse. Silk ran into the corral when I got the doors open,and the snow was covering her up over her back. She stood still, not knowing what to do. “Don’t expect me to come and rescue you!” I told her. Eventually, she got up the nerve to push her way out and hid herself back in the barn. After two days, we still haven’t been able to dig open the gates to the pasture, and the snow out there has drifted about four feet deep. I’m trying to figure out how to exercise the horses as they grow more antsy and pent-up.

All the local stores are sold out of snowblowers. Our tractor, which has a plow is still broken. My husband has contacted his buddy, an old retired mechanic known around here as “Tractor Man”, who collects and repairs lawn equipment. He has an old Craftsman with treads that he refers to as “the beast”. He’s almost got it running, so I hope that soon we’ll be able to blast a small runway from the corral into the pasture. I have to admit that I’m beginning to understand how my parents felt after they lived through 36 winters with snow like this.

All of you in parts of the country where the temperatures are above 60 degrees can go ahead and gloat now.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Good Horse

I’ve been looking back over 2010 and reviewing how the year went with my horses. Certainly, life dealt me a full hand, and we didn’t progress as far as I had hoped. Yet, as we face this winter’s challenges, I feel a definitely stronger bond and a shift in my horses’ attitudes. So, despite the long list of “I wish I had’s” from last year, I am also proud of what we were able to accomplish.

Both horses are completely comfortable to be in their stalls with me, and I know that all the time we spent sharing territory in the pasture contributes to the relaxed atmosphere in the barn. They like to be together in the same stall, and when I join them, it used to be a bit claustrophobic. This winter, I think that they welcome me to come in with them. Everybody respects each other’s space but at the same time, being close together is calming and has the same warm connection that I got when they joined me next to my chair as I read in the pasture last summer.

Siete wants to do things with me. We are starting to practice Carolyn Resnick’s Uberstreichen Exercises, which she developed to help create flexion and responsiveness from the horse. They are the perfect activity for these days when it’s not possible to ride. Carolyn has been a huge influence on my life with my horses, as you know, and her wisdom and teaching continually strikes the right chord for us and seems to come at just the moment when we need it.

One important lesson that she has taught me is to appreciate and allow for the pause. I understand that if I ask and Siete doesn’t respond, I must take a little break. It gives her time to think about what I wanted. Usually, I just walk away and then come back. If I ask again and she doesn’t give me the response that I am looking for, I may have to leave and come back a few times. It’s almost like I can see the wheels turning in Siete’s head as she tries to understand what I’m asking her to do. There’s no pressure, no recriminations. I just give her the gift of time to think about my request. She reminds me of my daughter learning an algebra problem. Sometimes, it takes a few tries and some more explanation before it sinks in. Siete wants to please, and I’m always very enthusiastic when she responds to my request. She is like a kid, getting all jazzed up and happy when she gets it right.

I have also started to only use one word to let the horses know that I’m pleased with them. I noticed that when I tell them that they are “good”, they both seem to respond positively to it. Their ears come forward and they visibly brighten if I say “Good horse!” So, that’s our code to indicate that I’m happy, and I only use it for that purpose. Silk, especially, appears to soften and relax whenever I announce that she’s “good”. I don’t know why, but it works.

Thinking back over the time I’ve spent learning from Carolyn this year, I am reminded of a wonderful phrase that I heard Clarissa Pinkola Estes say: “Listen to me now. Believe me later.”