it’s been a long, hot. labor-intensive summer,
yet i still find myself wondering where the time has gone.
somewhere along the way i realized that focusing on the things
that i wasn’t able to accomplish would be the end of me,
that the only solution was to embrace each moment as it came
and take care of each situation as it arose in a
reasonable and logical way.
i have the ability to be pragmatic,
but find as i get older that it is certainly not
my strong suit.
in honesty, it never really has been…
however, i do still possess my inclination to strive for excellence,
and sometimes the only way out is through.
so i made the unusual decision to simply go softly,
to be kind to myself and others and to allow doing the best i could
to be enough.
my cameras and my computer gave me a creative outlet for putting things
straight with this new perspective.
after the rapid pace of activities on the farm i could sink into
images and edit in the softness that i was craving.
i can tell you right now that if you are reading this on a small screen
these images will only look blurry.
please take the time to look at them in a large format,
and click on some to see them even bigger.
i tried to look at some of these on my iPhone and they just look ew.
i walked around the house and snapped photos of small vignettes that would
lend themselves well to a soft, diffusive edit. that’s the lens through which
i wanted to see my world.
(so much for pragmatism…)
it really allowed me to seek and find the beauty everywhere around me.
going softly was so much easier when i could think of this
when i was outside mucking pens in 90+ degree heat,
dragging heavy water buckets to thirsty plants,
or even discovering mice in the house.. again.
even witnessing the end of life come for this dragonfly
i had the ability to see its unmistaeable beauty through a softened lens.
call it escapism, call it what you will–
having a soft place to retreat and recharge kept me going.
so i took my pragmatic-less thinking to the next level:
i went into my photo archives and pulled old images
from times when i remembered the joy of going softly.
often these involved travel.
the evening we ate at a sidewalk cafe in paris and sat transfixed
by the incredible reflections on the mirrored walls of the building
across the street– reflections that it turns out could only be captured
at that time of day.
we love to wander through the old, old cemeteries– this one
is pere lachaise.
i didn’t always like this, but now i recognize the peace, the quiet,
the immortalized beauty of honoring those who went before.
it’s such an opportunity for pause and reflection.
at the luxembourg gardens one morning i saw this little tyke carrying the pole
while his father carried the sailboat back to the rental booth after a little
boating on the pond.
such a classic vision of childhood.
a boat moored along the seine. sometimes the simplest things
beg to be photographed.
a i really wish i lived near a river.
walking the hilly streets of montmartre i always feel pulled back to
turn-of-the-century paris and the art world that thrived there.
one of the many reasons i love paris.
this was a chance encounter of a story in the making…
you supply the narrative.
so, so many churches and cathedrals with ample opportunity
to find quiet beauty.
inside shakespeare and company bookstore.
such an important message, and so timely now.
in louveciennes, a short train ride outside of paris–
the home of anais nin.
because i will follow my passions and interests everywhere they take me.
and then, there’s normandy…
an old castle on a hillside with a guard donkey.
and a moat full of sheep.
lots and lots of sheep.
connelles, the town we stay in when we travel there.
there is a small branch of the seine that flows through the resort and
around a small island where the swans nest.
to walk through the countryside gives a timeless feeling.
this group of french cluckers could not have been more picturesque.
textures intrigue me, and there are so many aged to perfection.
out on the island where the swans nest,
horses along the bank of the seine.
between connelles and giverny, early on a fall morning
before the mist has dissipated.
walls of roses and hollyhocks along the rue claude monet in giverny.
oh, those normandy poppies.
espaliered fruit trees
and roses climbing rock walls.
monet’s lily pond in the late afternoon light.
and in rouen, a quote written on a bookstore window.
i am going to buy glass chalk and write quotes and poetry on my own windows.
in london, i found greenie’s twin in a kensington park.
and an adolescent cygnet on the pond in hyde park.
in rodmell, the wall of roses outside virginia woolf’s bedroom at monk’s house.
these are the roses that i used to create the double exposure with my own rose.
the entrance to charleston farmhouse where i always envision
vanessa bell in the doorway,
where fish thrive out of water,
and where portals to unknown realms exist in the garden wall.
oh, the dreamy quality of an english garden.
and finally, a brief acknowledgement of time.
I have a very conflicting relationship with that entity,
to put it mildly.
i am far more comfortable with the idea of time as cyclical and nature-based
rather than linear and timeline-oriented.
surely there is a club or organization somewhere for like-minded thinkers.
if i wasn’t such an introvert i’d consider joining it.
* * * * * * * * * *
and finally, to acknowledge another aspect of time and going softly,
the irish rose farm has reached the end of its era.
this has caused me to look back on the highlights of our journey together
and reflect on the wonderful moments that we have shared since our paths
intersected on a cloudy february day in 2011.
we had just bought sunny, our paint gelding, as a christmas present
to ourselves two months earlier.
feeling that three of us sharing one horse could be made more fun
with the possible addition of a second horse and having discovered
the magic of the gypsy horse online,
we discovered that a breeder was located only an hour away.
we called and made an appointment,
and the rest is history.
our lives are forever changed by having met charlie and jan
and their amazing band of gypsies.
this girl caught my eye and my heart at that first meeting.
she has been a lesson in the power of intent, sprinkled with magic.
leannan was the first stallion i’d ever truly met, and i was dumbfounded that we
could walk right into the pen with him and his bachelor buddies
and be surrounded with love.
there was the night we spend waiting for meadbh to be born,
watching mama cahir on the video feed until birth was imminent.
i had never seen a foal born until meadbh.
there was the night two weeks later when we repeated the process and stayed
late into the night waiting for rose to have her baby.
rose had other plans, preferring to go back outside in the morning
and give birth to cormac when no one was watching.
it was still magical to see her with hours-old cormac later that day.
that was certainly the summer of foal love.
meabh and cormac claimed us in those first weeks.
charlie and jan and their irish rose farm
were like a fairy tale for us,
one that could only end with “and they lived happily ever after…”.
sometimes fairy tale endings can be happy without remaining unchanged and stagnant.
the irish rose farm has been sold, its corrals standing empty as the breeze
blows the dry grasses rather mournfully until the new owners move in
with their own herd of horses.
the remainder of the gypsy herd went together with the gypsy vardos
to a new breeding farm up by cody, wyoming where they have three new friends
and over a thousand acres to call their own.
well, all except this girl.
muireann came to live here with us.
she and rose, who have been together since they boarded the plane
in ireland that would bring them to america, will live out the rest of their days
together enjoying the good life of retired broodmares.
and now it’s up to us at the fuzzy slippers farm to share the amazing legacy of
the gypsy horse with anyone interested.
no breeding, no sales.
forever grateful to charlie and jan for bringing us together
and precipitating change that allowed us provide the horses with this wonderland.
enjoy your travels and new adventures.
thank you, with love, from muireann, rose,
tireachan, caoinlean, si gaoithe, meadbh, cormac,
and our honorary gypsy, sunny.
always keep your face turned toward the sun.
shine your light on everyone you see.
and go softly.
some days are more interesting than others.
those days i rush for the camera and hastily try to capture a moment
that is gone altogether too soon.
lately i’ve realized that i’m not actually capturing those moments at all.
in fact, sometimes i miss them.
did you ever see the film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty?
in this film character sean o’connell (sean penn) is focusing his camera on a snow leopard,
but not clicking the shutter– just focusing on the ghost cat through
his zoom lens:
Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally,
I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here.
i replayed that part over and over.
i knew it meant something to me.
i wrote down the quote and i’d like to paint it on the wall of my studio.
don’t get me wrong– i love photography, love my cameras,
and love to experiment and play with the images.
i just need to stay clear about what those images are for,
because i’ve noticed that i’m not really photographing lately.
i’m just taking pictures, documenting,
today was really hot, and i suddenly had this pure desire to grab
the nikon and walk the property– to look at what there was to see, not because
anything was happening but because life was happening.
because suddenly, after weeks of cold and snow and rain and wind,
it is full-on summer and i realized that it is beautiful out there in the way
that’s easy to miss when you focus on the busy-ness.
it was interesting to download the photos and look at what caught my eye.
i have always loved living, growing things, and it was so evident in the number of times
i photographed the same object repeatedly.
the lovely thing is that there was never a sense that i really had to have that shot, though.
seeing it was enough.
* * * * * * * *
for those of you wh0 really like to know what’s been going on,
here’s a brief update:
i knew this little duo was going downhill.
we lost little camille (the white and gray one that always reminded me
of a bunny) two weeks ago. she was somewhere between 16 and 20.
with a shelter pet you are often left to guess at their ages, and although
the shelter said she was two, the vet we took her to after we adopted her
said it was likely she was six. we had her fourteen years.
oliver, the black one, was diagnosed with FIP a couple of months ago.
it’s an untreatable disease, and it is taking him quickly.
reading the research i learned it’s often found in cats from shelters.
oliver is the one cat that did not come from a shelter.
we got him fifteen years ago from a goat farm where he had been injured
by a goat kick.
i am losing my weaving buddy.
these are sad days.
on a much brighter note, jill is going to turn this thrifted find
into my new bathroom vanity.
i’m pretty excited about that.
just a couple of short weeks ago we had many mornings that looked like this.
it’s hot and dry now– not muddy at all.
in fact, we just ran the sprinklers for the first time on friday.
and the pool is up– ready for those little grandkids to come for a splash!
(and for the big kids to float around in with their beverage of choice…)
sara had knee surgery the first week of june which has her out of commission
for the summer. she made the most of the nice days before surgery by creating an
obstacle course for the horses and putting them through their paces from the ground.
the gypsies love this kind of challenge– to them it is more of a playground.
the non-gypsy tries real hard to be brave,
but he still needs depends from time to time…
even the retired broodmares like the obstacle course,
although they will tell you that the best part is maintaining the grounds.
these horses do love to eat!
oh, heck– who am i kidding?!
there has been a bit too much of this lately!
we need to knock that off.
look at the nice tuck on those front feet–
training her to bow will be a snap!
so, that’s what’s new.
although some always find the grass greener on the other side of the fence,
i’m content to stay on my own side.
it’s plenty green for me right here.
happy summer, friends!
hello, sweet california sunshine!!
as i write this snow is falling outside my window,
so revisiting these photos is particularly welcome today…
in early april i made a trip home to see the folks,
spending a day in san francisco with my friend laurie
before taking the shuttle down to monterey.
laurie and i are alike in our love of art and nature,
equally comfortable is fine museums, treasure-seeking on beaches,
or wandering along coastal trails.
this particular day held all three.
to my great delight, the legion of honor museum was hosting an art exhibition
of pierre bonnard’s works, the first such exhibition on the west coast
in fifty years! brandt and i are great fans of bonnard’s work, and i was
under strict instructions to bring home a copy of the exhibition catalog!
i’ve been missing art museums an awful lot lately, but i didn’t realize how much
until we entered the building. oh, my! there is such an atmosphere in a good art
museum– hushed reverence, awe, and an inspirational electricity that sets
me vibrating. these are, as virginia woolf might have called them, my “moments
of being”– an incredible sense of synchronicity and the belief that all things
are possible. i feel like i could walk right into a painting and inhabit it, make a
new life right beside the brush strokes. having seen a number of these pieces hanging
in other museums around Paris as well as the fabulous exhibition we were lucky
enough to have at the denver art museum a number of years ago,
it also had an element of deja vu, time travel,
and a heartwarming familiarity. it was absolutely lovely.
after we finished looking at the bonnard paintings we wandered a bit through
the legion’s permanent collection.
looking up at that gorgeous ceiling i felt like i could have been anywhere
in old europe.
this raphael is one of their prized pieces.
i thought it was very fitting that the sitter was holding rose
when she was a baby.
i could look at monet’s work every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it.
i’m studying impressionist work right now and must say that of all the art
movements in history the impressionists’ work elicits the strongest response
for me. the interplay of light and color along with the capture of the moment
in all its sensuousness makes me giddy with delight.
also, a lovely van gogh painting of a shelter on montmartre.
i wish i could have walked through montmartre in those days.
it’s still incredibly charming but the vistas are not open any longer…
and look what we found when we exited the museum into the brilliant sunlight!!!
some things are meant to be!
we had to stop for a little petting session and discussion, don’tcha know?
now i need a wirehaired dachshund. i don’t have one.
so. a little gear-switching and there we were on a coastal trail looking for
the land’s end labyrinth. i simply love the california coastline.
it does have patches of white sandy beaches, but its rocky continental edge
is so breathtakingly beautiful.
we walked and walked and walked some more,
climbing a bazillion steps with some incredible vistas, only to find that we
had passed the labyrinth and had to backtrack.
this place is not only hidden from the trail, but unmarked as well.
it’s like a well-kept secret intended only for the strong of heart.
so worth it!
we climbed up the hill behind it so that we could take photos looking down
and “land’s end” is an apt descriptor. the view from this point was astonishing.
that bridge was a constant presence throughout our day.
the water sparkled, the sun bronzed us, and we had a chance to stroll and chat
and just enjoy time at a leisurely pace.
we finished with a trip to cheese plus and got duck sandwiches on dutch crunch bread
because tradition is very important!
once i got to monterey i walked the neighborhood and was seasonally stunned once again,
as in oh my gosh look at how green and growing and blooming everything is!!
(remember that it’s snowing here right NOW.)
i had promised to take my sister whale watching for her april birthday,
so i made reservations ahead of time for a day forecast to be 81 degrees.
which it wasn’t. at all.
it was gray, overcast, and the sea was, um, choppy…
but we were going whale watching!!
see? shiny, happy people well equipped with snacks and blankets!
still shiny and happy!
it was cool to keep track of the water depth and view the stats as we moved along.
the monterey bay whale watching company kept us well-informed and
pointed out whale sightings, stopping the boat for everyone to get a good look
and take photos which required a fairly strong zoom lens.
we saw spouts coming up like little fountains, and flukes break the surface
after the whales had refilled their lungs and submerged themselves back into the sea.
that’s when things started going south…
my sister took a video of the boat bucking up and down while swaying from
side to side, but i’ll spare you that.
take my word for it.
i have sailed the pacific from japan to washington,
i have sailed the atlantic to germany and back,
and i got miserably seasick every time.
i thought i had outgrown it.
i used to get carsick and airsick, too, and don’t any more.
i hadn’t been on the open sea since 1964 though,
so hadn’t tested that travel mode.
so, nope. still get seasick.
so the ‘flukes and pukes whale watch of 2016’ ends all my seafaring dreams.
i’m just glad it was me and not them!
i must tell you that THIS is the reason that i come home to california several times a year!
this is my 94 year old WWII veteran dad who gave me a life of adventure,
the unique opportunity to say i was born in japan, the chance to live in germany
for three years when i was old enough to remember it, who taught me the value
of education and encouraged me to pursue it, who has the strongest moral fiber
of anyone i know, and who bought me my first horse.
it is an honor to call him my dad, and an honor to pay back in some small way
the lifetime of love that he has given me.
he means the world to me!
on the subject of horses, mine seemed to be glad to see me back at home.
colorado had really put on its green in my absence, and things were looking lush.
we anticipated the arrival of a new herd member…
charlie and jan have decided to retire from the horse business and
to sell the irish rose farm.
their remaining horses will be sold but dear sweet muireann,
one of the original five mares that were imported from ireland
to begin their breeding operation,
needed to be retired herself, and what better placement for her than to live
out the rest of her days with her former herdmates at the fuzzy slippers farm?!
after a weather delay the big day finally arrived!
pinch me! this is my real life!
i live in a postcard.
(albeit currently a very muddy postcard…)
muireann found security in her old friend rose, and the two are
never far from one another.
it’s going to take a couple of sassy sisters (si gaoithe and meadbh, not sara and me)
some time to get used to the idea of a new alpha mare…
but jeepers, does the land look lovely with EIGHT spotted horses grazing
in the grass!
these girls! the whole thing just makes me very happy, indeed.
so, for a few dry and sunny days, we were clean and fluffy.
we’re taking our time introducing them all to the “one big, happy family” mindset.
we’ve elected to put muireann in with rose and her boys.
they make a congenial group.
muireann has a special menu plan, so i’m ‘cooking’ again,
if only in the feed room!
this girl loves her bucket of warm mash morning and night,
along with a side of grass hay.
i need to get her a spittoon, though,
as she’s more inclined to chew the flavor out and discard the rest.
at present she’s only got a tire cuspidor, and i think we can do better than that.
she’s really pretty, this girl.
her black is the darkest of the herd, and i love
her two-toned mane. i’m going to have to do a roll braid on her.
a few more sunshiny photos to contrast with the present weather front…
we are taking steps to introduce the sassy sisters to muireann by taking walks
through the green surroundings so that spending time together is fun.
as long as muireann has a bestie, she’s happy with the new arrangements.
although there are a couple of boys who want a part of this friendship.
she’s flattered by that.
and one more thing:
any time jill wants to come over and give her a body massage
muireann has promised to clear her calendar!
i hope that spring has all of you feeling positively springy!
thanks for being here!
how many colors can the sky hold at sunrise?
how many sound vibrations can the air possibly contain when saturated with birdsong?
how do the robins and the rabbits, the grasses and the tree buds know when it is safe to make their reappearance?
march has come in so delightfully,
gently shaking my senses awake to the coming of a new season.
every year i experience this change with a newfound sense of wonder.
it never gets old.
but before i tell you about the new things,
can i just tell you how beautiful winter was around here?
i do believe it was the prettiest winter that i can remember.
we had snow blanketing the ground for two solid months–
deep, serious snow that stayed put thanks to deep, serious cold.
i, the one who is always cold and dislikes getting out in icy conditions,
made up my mind this year to take each day, each season as it comes
and to rejoice in it.
this winter has been a gift to me.
i start each day with a trip out to feed the horses.
could it be any more beautiful?
And I just think that “Why is the world so beautiful?” is a
question that we all ought to be embracing.
Robin Wall Kimmerer
i have made it a daily practice to walk out to the back of the property
after feeding the horses,
a chance to greet the fresh new day, be in motion,
and take in the early morning air.
it has given me a wealth of photo opportunities that i would
otherwise have missed.
the teasels are perennial favorites in any season,
but the way they wear snow and frost is delightfully showy
against the dormant landscape.
there were nights so foggy that drivers pulled off the road to wait for it to lift,
so thick it was that the yard light glowed like a faraway full moon…
and led to mornings like this dawning on a fairy tale world.
One winter day
something will shine out
from an everyday object
and the darkness will flood with light.
Something we have seen
a thousand times
the sentinel of
Marv and Nancy Hiles
coming back to the house in the mornings i felt so refreshed,
so eager to start the pot of coffee and settle into the comforts of home.
i made great strides towards the fulfillment of a dream,
that of living a poetic life.
When I speak of poetry I am not thinking of it as a genre. Poetry is
an awareness of the world, a particular way of relating to reality.
So poetry becomes a philosophy to guide a (wo)man throughout her life.
* * * * * * * *
there was a degree of heaviness present on some of those beautiful winter days.
“mourning the dove”
perhaps there is beauty in that, as well.
for three years i have heard great horned owls hooting outside
my bedroom windows.
try as i might, i was never able to catch a glimpse of the elusive birds.
that changed just before dawn on a january morning.
hearing the call so clearly, i grabbed my glasses and camera
and scanned the treetops to find my friend.
up at the topmost branch of the ancient tree outside my west window
i saw it, and just as suddenly as i was able to locate it
a second owl flew in to join in a duet.
before i could capture an image of them first one took flight,
and then the other followed it.
i was elated by the morning’s magic!
the very next morning, as i was preparing to feed the horses,
b. called me from out in the yard and told me to come out quickly.
there was an owl on the ground standing guard over another,
hooting repeatedly and refusing to leave it.
our presence made the owl nervous and it flew up to the top of a nearby tree,
but returned to its partner when we backed away.
b. came in and called animal control while i stayed
with the owls.
when he returned i fed the horses and went in to get my big camera.
it was too late. just before the ladies from animal control arrived
this lovely owl perished.
we will never know exactly what happened to it, but the nature
of its injuries suggest that perhaps it was hit by a car.
sadly, i was able to stroke its impossibly soft chest feathers,
hold its pawlike feet with incredibly powerful talons,
and gaze into its golden eyes.
twenty-four hours from sighting to loss.
the ladies were so incredibly sensitive to this magnificent bird,
gently placing it in a crate to take it to wild bird care in the hopes
that they could in some way learn from her.
i posted the close-up of the owl on my flikr account,
and it is the most popular post i have had to date–
almost 4,000 people have seen the photo and read the story.
i say this, not out of pride, but because i always look for meaning
in things that otherwise seem senseless and of no purpose.
this owl touched a lot of lives in her passing.
i don’t know the reason, but i know there is one.
The astonishing reality of things
Is my discovery each day.
Each thing is what it is,
And it’s hard to explain to someone how happy this makes me
and how much this suffices me.
All it takes to be complete is to exist.
* * * * * * * *
we formally adopted this golden treasure on christmas morning,
right after finishing brunch.
we thought it would be a special way to celebrate providing a forever home
to our special blind treasure.
this photo is to be a poster for the rescue organization.
* * * * * * * *
the horses are quite well, in case you’re wondering.
the shenanigans here never end.
horses and snow provide endless photographic opportunities,
many of which involve napping, apparently…
although this is sometimes combined with rehearsal for tryouts with the rockettes.
rose wanted to make sure you understood the snow situation here,
just in case her full coat of polar fleece makes her look, you know…
lots of frosty morning muzzle shots this winter.
Let me keep company always with those who say ‘Look!’ and laugh in
astonishment and bow their heads.
to be honest, so far march horse antics are looking remarkably like those of winter…
* * * * * * * *
during the wonderful winter months in my studio i took up weaving.
it’s something i’ve wanted to do for a long time, and finally i found
the wonderful little acorn loom on etsy and am happy to say it’s exactly what i’d hoped for!
i absolutely love the rhythmic repetition of hand weaving–
my hands are busy and my mind can just relax and go with the flow.
to be honest, the first time i warped the loom for a small, narrow weave
was the night before the owl incident and the great anticipation was
somewhat diminished by that event.
i decided to go ahead and weave a commemorative piece for ‘my’ owl,
and this is what i created:
i then launched into a series of what i am calling “woven prayer flags”–
small weaves made of 100% natural materials that are completely biodegradable
and can be hung outdoors (or indoors), perfect for decks, trees, gardens, etc.
actually, the past few weeks have been yarn heaven around here.
felted dryer balls, a scarflet, a big bump merino throw,
and many, many small weaves…
i finally decided that i needed to attempt a small tapestry,
so i warped up the loom and chose my color palette.
rather than overthink this project and risk displeasure with the outcome,
i took a gentle approach and decided to do an “intuitive weave”.
using what (very) little knowledge i had about weaving,
i put in some twining to space the warp threads and just did it.
i took an organic approach and just let colors and shapes choose themselves.
i finished it late one night and just decided to let it sit until morning…
and then it was time to see what i had done.
i’m happy with it.
i haven’t decided whether or not to pull out the twining and tie off the ends
or leave it in. i also have to finish off all the loose strands on the back so
that it will lay nice and smooth.
i’ve already finished this small wrapper for the folios in a leather journal.
texture, color, handmade goodness– i tend toward the ‘more is more’ approach.
as you can imagine, the yarn collection is growing.
the studio is a very happy place these days.
and i’ve already picked out the palette for the next project.
* * * * * * * *
in closing, i’d like to say that i’ve borrowed heavily from the quotes that
shawna lemay selects for her wonderful blog, calm things.
i would encourage you to visit her blog and enjoy the beautiful journey
she takes you on each monday morning with her writing and photography.
as i have wintered i have definitely taken many of these snippets to heart
and certainly used them with my own unique spin.
the natural goodness that has filled my days is a source of great delight,
but sometimes i, too, can get lost in the technological possibilities
associated with my passion for photography.
I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically,
in whom feelings are much stronger than reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous
has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go.
Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy,
and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another.
No more walls.
i most certainly enjoy playing with images–
in this case, apps on my iPhone.
i use my best girl consistently as my model
because she is a natural beauty.
she is my snow queen in winter.
and my blooming rose in the spring.
she and i both often have the monterey bay on our minds.
on a more somber note, magic, the llama next door, perished this winter.
i believe that animals have souls, and i believe that her soul
is still present and watching over her companions.
we are all watched over.
as winter draws to its close in the coming days,
i wish for you bright and joyous signs of spring,
a celebration of rebirth in the cycle of seasons,
and a childlike sense of wonder at the magnificence of it all.
thanks for being here.
it wouldn’t be right to close out the old year and ring in the new
without sharing our horse antics here with you
in the form of our family calendar for 2016–
horsing around: it’s what we do!
so, (with apologies to those of you who follow my photo accounts
and have already seen these),
i present the highest of the highlights
of the past year with our herd:
the hardest part is always deciding just what makes the cut and what doesn’t–
there are plenty of photos to make this a daily planner!
as always, the herd came through in providing us with a nice blend
of beauty and hilarity.
while i strive for balance amongst herd members,
being the primary photographer and layout designer
i occasionally throw a little more work towards
i’ll leave you to figure out who that might be!
and so, despite some technological challenges that helped me
make a couple of new friends at apple support at the zero hour,
i am happy to say that the calendars were finished on time!
i had so much fun doing it that there are a couple more in the wings…
like this one:
here’s hoping that your holidays thus far have been merry and bright,
and from all of us at the fuzzy slippers farm,
happy new year!!!!
we got a dusting of snow during the night.
i awoke to the sound of snowplows rumbling down the road.
i’m on my way out to feed the horses–
come with me and then we can go for a walk out in the field.
the horses seem especially appreciative to see breakfast coming
on mornings like these.
their soft, breathy nickers are the kind of morning conversation i like best.
we still have plenty of snow on the ground from last week’s storm,
but this new dusting makes everything look fresh and clean again.
put your hood up in here– navigating through the pines between
the horse pens it’s very likely you’ll brush against the branches
and release a tiny snowfall on your head!
the neighbors’ llamas are clustered around their shed this morning,
but the fluffy felted fence is festooned with evidence
that they spend lots of time leaning over to see if the grass is greener here.
if we walk very quietly
we might catch a glimpse of the pair of coyotes that hunt along the back ditch.
if they hear us coming they will lope across the hay field beyond,
separating in a large arc and coming together again at the other side.
it seems very still
but there is just enough air moving
that the long-stemmed teasel are doing a sprightly dance
in the slight breeze,
making it difficult to focus the camera on them with cold fingers.
the air seems pink and blue–
fog playing with sunlight creates an atmosphere
that is a cross between impressionism and abstraction.
we walk in the front gate just as sunlight burns through some of the mist.
do you have time to come in for coffee or tea?
according to the calendar it is not yet winter,
but given the fact that we have not seen temperatures above freezing
for nearly a week i have applied the label “winter”
in reference to anything occurring since thanksgiving day.
this morning, on my way out the door to feed the horses,
i was momentarily distracted by the wreath affixed to said door.
we had another light snowfall last night,
and that combined with soft morning light
gave the outdoor world a hushed and holy glow.
after a series of neck scratches, mane ruffling,
and muzzle nuzzles, i stuck to the appointed task of
handing out the groceries.
once that was accomplished,
i climbed the fence and headed out back
to take in the chill beauty of the world just after daybreak.
the many and varied tracks in the fresh snow was evidence
of the presence of night visitors.
i see the bunnies cavorting around the yard in the snow at night,
truly frolicking and having a grand time.
i’d love to see the creatures that visit the open land after cover of darkness.
the winter sky is a spectacular thing, especially at first light.
i think of ‘misty monet mornings’, especially if there is fog.
if mornings have the vapours i grab my camera and click with abandon
to capture the effect of the air with its transparency impaired.
there was no such fog this morning, but the fresh snowfall was invitation enough.
i never tire of seeing my natural surroundings through new eyes.
there is such an elegant simplicty that comes with the starkness of winter.
line and form take artistic stage when color diminishes and texture is subdued.
softer grasses have lain down under their mantle of snow.
tree silhouettes stand as stark contrast in a much flatter landscape.
color streaks in the sky are fleeting, clouds dancing playfully with light.
i think of the tiny creatures that slumber beneath this winter blanket.
the stronger, more rigid branches still arch gracefully skyward.
my favorite of these is the teasel.
i love teasel in any season, but the way their spiky blossoms
capture and hold the snow gives them a softness that is
there is something beautiful about that,
prickly things being made soft.
the teasel managed to snag my attention for a good while–
until my fingers complained of the bitter cold and impending frostbite.
walking back along the fenceline this singular stem rose up
in defiance to the elements of winter weather.
the evergreems actually seem to welcome the cold and snow,
looking particularly vibrant and bright.
the row of black walnut trees simply submit to it.
compared to the bright and vivid landscape of summer,
i suppose the winter landscape does seem bleak.
it’s easy for me to opt for indoor activities when temperatures plummet
and chill winds start to blow.
truly, though, winter is equally beautiful once i commit to bundling up
and heading out with eager senses to absorb what is offered.
i forget how eager farm animals are for human contact when we spend
substantially more time indoors.
i have a real perspective shift when i throw my arms around my horses’ necks
and feel the stiffness of their coats that froze during the night
after the snow melted on their backs.
there is no complaining, only joy that i have returned–
that i can be depended upon to provide the simple things they need.
walking back toward the house i know that there is no better way
for me to have started this day–
to love in winter that which i love in summer,
even in its altered form:
muddy, fuzzy horses, dormant plants,
and air that has turned brisk and bracing.
i live in wonderland– we all do.
it’s right outside our door.
- in other news, i took my third full-out, flat-on-my-back fall a couple of weeks ago
when i stepped outside to feed the animals one morning.
that first step was the only step– morning fog had frozen on the deck
and the next thing i knew i was going down.
as the pergola spun dizzily overhead i faced the onerous task of determining
if i could move my assorted body parts.
i was damn lucky, yet again.
if things come in threes i should be forever done with falling on ice,
although i had sincerely hoped that my epic flying dismount
could have substituted for one of those falls.
my dislike for snow and ice is not unfounded.
i am getting too old for this.
- we took a few days away in estes park at the beginning of thanksgiving week
where i got to indulge in some serious reading and writing.
as part of my attempts to invite some slow living into my existence i have been
reading lots of poetry. poetry is not meant to be read quickly.
on one of my trips to california i picked up a copy of
one hundred and one famous poems compiled by roy j. cook at the used
book store for three bucks. i got lucky– my copy was published in 1929
and is delightfully vintage. however, i was happy to see that it has been
republished and the estes bookstore had it in stock.
i love the lilting, rhyming phrases of classic old poetry.
i only wish that i had known i loved it when it was offered in school…
i did pick up mary oliver’s latest release, felicity.
we also had nice weather and were able to take several mountain hikes–
it was beautiful.
- speaking of poetry, i have been enjoying calm things, the monday morning blog
of shawna lemay. her writing is impeccable and her photography soft and moody.
she speaks to the deepest desires of my heart, makes me slow down, breathe deep,
and surrender to the things in life that i know to be true. she has a new book published
this fall, rumi and the red handbag, which has received critical acclaim.
it’s going on my holiday wish list.
- you may or may not know that we do not have a tv–
it’s always funny trying to explain that to someone who asks if we have seen
a certain show or better yet, a commercial.
we do, on occasion, watch videos on our computer,
most often borrowed from the library.
i’ve actually watched two videos lately that i would highly recommend:
temple grandin, the hbo bio-pic about a truly remarkable woman
with Asberger’s who has literally transformed the practices in the meat-packing
industry as well as writing numerous books and being a professor
at colorado state university for the past 20 years.
what an inspirational story about overcoming obstacles.
i would love to meet her some day.
tell them anything you want, a tribute to maurice sendak, will leave you
shaking your head in wonder.
don’t be deterred by the hand-held camera work at the beginning of the video–
it’s followed by excerpts from interviews with sendak that is another story
of overcoming obstacles of an entirely different kind, ones that we just didn’t
know about this favorite children’s author.
- i’ll close with this tiny tidbit–
a sweet little nest that blew down out of the russian olive tree during
one of our windy fall storms.
brandt brought it in to me because he knew i’d like it.
i love it.
it’s made almost entirely out of mane and tail hair
from our herd of gypsy horses,
with a little structural support from their hay.
it now sits under a cloche with some lotus pods,
a couple of mussel shells, and some wood roses–
gifts from the natural world.
thanks for being a gift in my world–