Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tennis on a Winter Day

I played tennis today, if hitting a ball against a plywood wall qualifies. There is an indoor court on the farm. It lurks, lonely and mostly neglected these days, at the far end of the farm.

Tennis is a large part of my family, though neither my sister nor I play. I was supposed to be taught many, many moons ago, but it was not meant to be.

When I was eight, the summer before my sister left for college, my parents sent me to visit my aunt, who happened to live on the island of Maui. My aunt was the school nurse at a boarding school high on the slopes of Haleakala Crater. She was also an avid tennis player. In fact, she was nationally ranked as an amateur. The plan was for her to teach me to play the sport so loved by my mother and her sister.

I got off the plane, we drove across the island to the house where I would spend the next two months, I dumped my bags, and hastily changed into my bathing suit. The school had a lovely pool only a short stroll across a horse pasture. And swimmng was one of my favorite sports.

We headed across the field. I ran ahead, loosing the energy I had pent up during the nine hour flight. A cry and a curse filled the air. My aunt had stepped in a hole. People came to help-it was a small community. Funny, the adults took her to the hospital. I still got my swim. But my future in tennis disappeared.

Upon such things are our fates decided. Subsequent to the accident, my aunt, scrambling to find something to keep me occupied for the summer, signed me up to take horseback riding lessons from the school nutritionist.

Still, tennis was always in the background. Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the red clay of the French Open, all watched, recorded and discussed. The favorites: Evert, Navratilova, King, Connors, McEnroe, Agassi, and, my mother's obsession, Pete Sampras.

Don't get me wrong, my friends and I slapped balls around the local court. And I used to hit balls against the brick wall of my elementary school, but I never took a lesson, never played a game outside of gym class. Never hit a ball with my mother or my aunt.

Now, I live in a place with access to a climate-controlled indoor court. I can only imagine what they would have said or how they would have reacted to that tidbit of my new life. I promised myself that someday I would play on that court, if only in tribute to their memories. Part of my aunt's legacy was a large quantity of tennis balls. A large quantity. Partially as a memorial and partly to do something with this inheritance, I set a bag filled with unopened cans of tennis balls, emblazoned with my aunt's nickname, in a room just outside the court.

Today, on a whim, I grabbed a can, popped the top, enjoyed the whoosh of air, filled myself with the scent of fresh felt, grabbed my racket(a racket given to my by the father of a childhood friend- he worked for Prince-a nice racket for a rank beginner), tied my sneakers, flipped the lights and entered the court.

As I hit the ball, I heard my aunt's voice. She reminded me of all those things about tennis I'd picked up through osmosis; all of those tidbits I'd heard in a lifetime of exposure flooded my head. "Hold the racket firmly, like you are shaking hands," "step into your stroke," "wrist locked, follow through," and on and on.

My first tennis lesson.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cake Tasting

Today Mr.W. and I had an appointment for cake tasting. Since he is determined that one particular bakery will provide the wedding cake, it was more of a formality of picking flavors. I'm boring. Vanilla, vanilla, vanilla, suits me just fine. But, you say, there are guests that must be made happy? Oh yeah, them.

Hence the appointment.

The plan was that I would go do the horses, as fast as I could, come back, shower off the manure stench, and be ready to leave by 10:25. Precisely. Mr. W. is a stickler for being on time. He's a scheduler. I'm not.

The phone rang at 7:30AM. Woo hoo, those fifteen extra sleep minutes were the best. The dogs, of course, unleashed their morning excitement at the first jing-a-ling. Sigh.

The phone call was from a friend who was relaying an unfortunate death at their house. They raise sheep. One of the ewes had a very bad night, resulting in a need to dig a hole. Nevermind there are three feet of snow covering the frozen ground. But these things must be taken care of in a timely manner and there is a place with some soft ground...the huge, old manure pile. You could dig there. Permission granted and they were off to their sad duty.

I drank my coffee and headed to the barn.

I was finishing my first stall when I heard the purr of an engine outside the barn. There was our neigbor on his "tractor." Now, far be it from me to disparage a fellow Kubota driver. I miss my orange baby back in VT. But...

This was the smallest bucket-bearing tractor I have ever seen. Yes, it was a Kubota, but it was tiny. Like a lawn mower. Maybe. My first response? "It's so CUTE!!!"

And the man driving? He is easily six-two and built like a Mack truck, with a sleeper cab. Not small at all.

Apparently, on their way to the burial site, his wife got stuck with their very large pick-up, and did I have access to a larger vehicle to pull her out? Something like the farm truck? Or a...tractor? Why, yes. Yes, I do.

So keeping in mind my time constraints, I abandoned barn cleaning, fired up the farm tractor and headed down the road behind my neighbor. Picture this: I am barely five-foot-two, can barely reach the pedals on this particular piece of machinery following this imposing man on..."It's so CUTE!!!"

Near the manure dump, my neighbor proceeded to plow the access road with his bucket loader. Um. Hello? Mine's twice as large, but I thought that would be a dangerous thing to mention. Especially when he was muttering about women who couldn't drive, etc., etc., etc. I stayed out of the way. As much as the 30 horse diesel I was sitting on could be.

Needless to say, the bigger tractor pulled the truck out. No problem. Did I mention that I love to play with tractors? Ok. Who got the tractor stuck in the manure pile a month ago and had to be pulled out with the farm truck? That was me. It's still fun.

And the truck was free of it's snowy ditch. Who da man?

However, there remained one little task. There was some awkward hilarity when they were using the small tractor to move...let's just leave it at- "Um. Hello? My bucket is twice as large!" I dug a pit with the bucket, filled it in, and rushed back to the house to clean up. I think my fifteen-years in Vermont were just a warm-up for this. Yeesh.

I felt very...well, manly. Kind of like I needed to do the "Home Improvement" growl and beat my chest.

An hour later, showered and back to bride-to-be mode, I was shovelling yellow cake, with lemon mousse and pineapple filling, frosted with light, fluffy buttercream, into my mouth. Mmmmm. Let's focus on that. Or the white cake with raspberries and chocolate mousse. Or how about chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache. Decadently delicious. It melted in my mouth.

Oh. And we were on time, too!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Fuzzy Monster in the Way

I am trying to be diligent with my writing. Really, I am.

But I am distracted. Call it writer's block or too many internet distractions(though I did get a high score in Zuma Blitz), there's a cool new writers forum I've joined (does posting and critiquing on that site qualify as writing time? You have to have 50 posts to submit work, so, in a way, I am working toward a goal...). Then there is "Every Word" on my Kindle. Games and diversions everywhere.

I am ready now. I have my new, improved playlist on the iPod, courtey of yesterday's distraction. I have my earbuds in place. "30 Seconds to Mars" playing, TV off, no internet, and dinner percolating in the crock pot. No, I did not make venison stew. Mr.W. put that together before trudging off to work.

I have no excuses.

Except there is one problem. I am typing around a rather large, very fuzzy, determined and affectionate cat. He keeps trying to get on my lap. Or, when that plan fails, he sprawls across my keyboard. He's already booted me off my page twice, left trails of gray hair on the screen. Cousin It, is that you??

My mouse has been dumped on the floor, right next to my iPhone. Did you know the songs reshuffle when the phone hits the ground? I do, now.

I am free from his direct attention, for a moment, as he bathes. He pauses his ferverent licking, to fix me with a stare that skewers his displeasure. Here he was, all nice, showering me with feline love, only to be shoved like garbage onto the floor. Near the dogs! Horrors! Don't I know that the Egyptians worhipped his species? That he has big cousins that would love to call me "dinner?"

As penance, I take a short break and rub his feet -yes, he's an odd kitty. He has tufts of fur that stick out between his toes. They must get itchy, because he spreads them out, and he sings with pleasure. My servitude is rewarded with a quick sandpapery swipe of his tongue. And with a modicum of peace.

Contented, he is sprawled next to my computer, away from my typing fingers, sing-song purring, and watching in that condescending manner cats have. Now I can get to work.

So what should I write about?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Late Night Writing

It's too late to write much here. I've been working on what I have ambitiously renamed my Best Fantasy Novel Ever (BFNE). Someone I respect told me in no uncertain terms that if I called it the Crappy Fantasy Novel, that is what it would be. So here's to thinking positively.

I have Pandora set on Lorenna McKennitt and I feel as if I am finding my way back from a dream.

In it, there is this confused young man. Is he bespelled by his father, the Mad King, or by the admiration of the intriguing girl who inhabits his tent. She is as much a prisoner as he in this armed camp. He could set her free, return her to the family that fears for her safety. He could return her to the mother who is convinced her daughter is dead.

With the click of the mouse and the removal of earbuds, I leave the smoky cacophany of an archaic army, and these characters, who are dear to my heart. After all, I have carried them around in one form or another since the eighth grade.

They are saved and waiting for tomorrow, when I will write their immediate fate. Though if I am honest I will see them sooner, as soon as sleep takes me, I will return.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Manhattan Adventure

I missed the train. And since I had an appointment with a dermatologist at 11:30, waiting for the next train was not an option. That was how, after a few minutes bitching and berating myself for not loking up the train schedule the night before-something I normally do, I found myself heading toward the Big Apple in the car.

It's not that I don't know how to get there. In this age of GPS and smartphones, you can always find your way. It was more the terror of throwing myself into that crazy mix of taxis, busses, police cars, and nutty drivers all vying for the same road real estate as me. Yes, they are all crazy!

Luckily, it was MLK day and the streets were almost tranquil. There was even street parking available, if I could decipher what exactly the parking rules were. Signs abound, but what they actually tell you leaves a lot to the imagination.

The first lot I pulled into quoted an obscene price for a parking space, so after twenty rotations around 5th and Madison-look! It's the Met and now, Jonathan Adler's boutique, the Met, there's the Dr.'s office, Jonathan Adler, Met- I settled on parking in the museum lot. Go figure, it was cheaper. Bonus. I stil had 45 minutes to kill before the earliest I was willing to show up for my appointment. Around the blocks again, texting and walking, hood up because I forgot a hat, wondering if anybody was noticing me passing the same windows twenty times.

My appointment was uneventful, if you call having a chunk of shin removed for biopsy, even though I was assured, "Don't lose sleep over this. I am almost 100% positive it's nothing." But being a Melanoma survivor, it's always good to be paranoid.

I strolled out of the office with two tiny stitches, a pressure bandage, a numb shin, freedom from worry, and a day in NY awaiting. What to do?

Hey, there's the Met!

It was the first time I could meander through the galleries without worrying about anything but myself. I said hello to "Little Archer" (I do believe it is a Michaelangelo, but have no concrete reason why), wandered through the Greek and Roman displays, and found myself in the Polynesian galleries. Oh, this is new.

I didn't examine anything closely, rather I let myself absorb the massive entirety of the museum. The variety was what I took in, this immense history of art. It resonated in a deep and vital piece of my consciousness; this evidence of a consistent need within the human psyche to create beauty and document our tenuous existences.

It was what I needed. Did it fuel the fires of creativity? Did I come home with new ideas, plug into my laptop and while away hourse in a frenzy of productivity? No.

I left the Met and walked eight blocks to the nearest Shake Shack, where I pigged down a burger, cheese fries and a root beer float. Awesome. In my defense, I did observe some of NY's finest characters and filed them away for future reference.

I went back to the car, paid my parking fee, and got myself out of the city with little trouble. My shin was beginning to throb, and guilt from my food orgy set in, but it was a wonderful experience. The city, with it's art, culture, and plethora of personalities and eaves-dropping opportunities, seems closer than ever.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Small Accomplishment or Yes, My Brain Does Work Sans Caffeine

I woke up in the wee hours of the night with the answering machine blinking. The neon blue lighting the bedroom-bright-dark-bright-dark. I tried to stop it, finally unplugging the damn thing. Why did it go wonky in the first place? My thoughts ranged from the cats to someone walking through the house. The dogs didn't bark, so I chalked it up to Little Jack, my widdle (no, that is not a typo) 15-pound fluffy kitten. He's got the cutest little mew and the softest, fuzzy paws-like a stuffed animal with a sing-song purr. He's been known to destroy things.

This morning, I followed the dogs downstairs, looking for the rubble left by my mischievious feline. Nothing. Nada. All seemed well. Jack chirped from his usual perch on the dog food bins,batting at the dogs as they bounded by him. His halo gleamed in the morning light. I patted him as I walked by, and started toward the mud room door, chasing the dogs out into the yard. They'd be back in a nano-second demanding breakfast (which they should know they don't get until after I start my coffee brewing and get dressed-I guess hope springs eternal).

Wait. Why is my foot wet? Did one of the dogs not make it to the door? I looked up to find a tell-tale bulge where the wall meets the ceiling. Uh oh. Then I noticed the dripline down the wall, right to the phone jack and the non-portable phone. Hmm. I remembered the blue strobe that disturbed my previous night's slumber. Slowly, I walked across the kitchen and picked up the portable phone. Scratchy silence met my ear, no ocean sounds, no dial tone, static.


I turned back to the regular phone, hanging in it's own waterfall, then looked back at the useless receiver in my hand. I yelled at the dogs to stop barking and scratching at the door. I was standing in the doorway that separated the kitchen and mudroom. Drip. Onto my head and down my neck. Oh. OK. I disconnected the wall phone from the jack. I hit the talk button on the portable. Yay! Dial tone. One problem solved and I hadn't even started brewing the coffee!

I made my coffee, put a towel beneath the biggest drips, and considered how best to break the news to Mr. W.

"Hey, I figured out why the phone flipped out..."
He took it well. Considering.

There is still a leak, an ice dam on the roof outside, some wall repair and repainting in our future, but I solved the phone dilemma! It's the little things that make me feel special.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


There are many names for snow, if you speak Inuit. This morning, it was just snow. White flakes falling fast from a gray sky, and nearly a foot of those sparkly motes on the ground.

At the barn, I was the only human moving. Just me and the horses, who nickered for their breakfast, which I obligingly provided. The next few moments were filled with their contented munching and the rustle of nylon sliding across clipped fur. Tucker turned and nuzzled my shoulder as I changed his nightime blanket for his daytime turtleneck.

I ventured out into winter and spread out the hay on the unbroken snow, returning to the shelter of the barn. The boys greeted me again, heads over the stall doors, with ears pricked and expectant eyes. Weather is no impediment to their desire to be outside.

One by one, I led them out, reveling in their antics. Horses are like kids on a snow day. Tucker ran out, pawed the snow, and made horsey snow-angels. Gil sauntered, like the cool kid, unimpressed with the white stuff. Cosmo snorted, and despite being the senior citizen, rolled and cavorted like a youngster.

From the barn door I drank in the pixilated sight and sounds of the snowbound farm. Again, the feeling of being the lone human in an arctic landscape struck. It was a world made for me and the horses.

I went about my chores, enjoying the muffled thud and soft crinkle of hooves combined with the purring snuffle of their breaths filtering in from outside.
My solitude was broken by the rumble and scrape of a plow going by on the road. Then, an unexpected revelation, the same ominous trembling right outside as the caretaker resumed plowing. He had been in his office, perhaps with the same sense of singularity-of being the only person in this wintry world.

My illusion shattered, I finished my chores and ventured out. The ponies were covered in a rimy crust, looking a bit guilty, and perhaps wishing for a bit more hay, which I provided, before heading out to join my fellow man shoveling snow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why do I refuse to grow up? Today in the barn, the caretakers were painting. They had the radio on the rock station, which was playing "Pour Some Sugar on Me"-one of my favorite songs. And of course, I was compelled to share that information. They were not impressed. I interpreted thier lack of commentary as "if we don't acknowledge the whacko she'll go away..."

The reality is that I'm sure they couldn't care less, but the radio was on WFAN when I came back.

I do still love my tacky 80's hair metal-no not Poison, Warrant, or Europe, etc. It happened in the mall the other day with Mr. W. We walked into Spencers-which has become porn central- they were playing old, do I dare say classic? Motley Crue. There was nothing in the store I wanted to look at, and Mr. W. kept commenting on how the store has changed, however, I lingered, only to hear the song.

Then we come to the music for the wedding. Everyone asks, "what kind of music do you like?" Well there is this small part of me that thinks Judas Priest's "The Hellion" is the perfect music for me. It would NEVER go over, and I was joking when I said it. Though there are these awesome thigh-high, studded Christian Louboutin boots that would be perfect!

Ok. All joking aside I am in a quandry over the music. We have a great band lined up, Mr.W.'s cousin to sing-she is an aspiring Broadway actress and got the lead in a travelling production of Beauty and the Beast, and the best man is an incredibly talented musician My cup runneth over with talent. And I have no idea what they should play.

It should be easy. I love music, not just the 80's stuff. My iPod has an eclectic mix, everything from Enya to Rammstein, Beethoven to Lady Gaga, Yngwie Malmsteen to the Pussycat Dolls. You get the picture. There is little to no country, which is Mr.W.'s favorite. Sigh. I know, he has to have a fault somewhere. I will have to accomodate that, too. That is, if I can find something that doesn't make me crazy or sick to my stomach. I don't think "Friends in Low Places" or "I'm Here for the Party" would go over any better than "The Hellion."

And did I mention that most of the popular wedding anthems make my gorge rise? I like classical, but Pachelbel "Canon", "Air on a G String"(always makes me want to Google when the underwear G-string was invented), or the "Wedding March" are so overdone. It's kind of like what I like to read and what I want to write-something unusual, unexpected, and beautiful.

In the long run, this is a minor issue. It's not like I have to solve world poverty or why people kill each other over stupid things (and it's always stupid things in my book). It's there though, and on June 18th, if the music isn't chosen, it'll make for a very long, boring wedding, no matter how fantastic my dress is.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Old Thoughts and New Words

I’ll chalk it up to too much self-examination
And Sarah McLaughlin.

That's the first line to a poem I started writing years ago. I like it.

It's the pressure that gets to me. It's a burden imposed by no one but myself and it is substantial. I have this need to be doing something meaningfully beautiful, to produce the kind of writing that I love to read. Sometimes I come close. However, those moments where I have dipped a toe into the well of creative exquisiteness spring from the mire of emotional suffering.

I am not suffering right now, therefore I feel I have lost a needed edge. When I am happy, my writing is more clinical and academic, when I am down, it is more visceral. Perhaps that is the nature of creativity. Genius is frequently linked to madness.

These are just thoughts and ponderings to release me from the restraint of insecurity. I guess I am still afraid to let go and embrace a writing life.

So here I am, Sarah McLaughlin on my iPod, revisiting some of my unfinished thoughts and attempting to think new ones. Now, I can hear my sister saying, "Is somebody depressed?" Absolutely not. It's more of an examination of where I was, compared to where I am. Sort of the reverse of Black Swan- saw the movie the other night and it was fabulous. Even Mr. W., who I fully expected to hate it, kept saying, "Wow! Just wow!" My point is (without spoiling the movie for others) is that there are two pieces of my self, that I am trying to get comfortable with and integrate for the betterment of my chosen craft. In short, I want to be perfect or maybe I am just afraid to fall short of my own expectations of perfections. And, like her, I am the only one standing in my way. I need to kick my own ass.

At least my revisitations have led me to a new word, a word I think defines what I am trying to do for myself: omphaloskepsis. I'm not really sure it's real, since I have not found it in three different dictionaries. The closest I came was Omphalos(a stone that is, according to the followers of the Temple of Apollo, the center of the world) in the New College Dictionary.

According to my copy of The Thinker's Thesaurus (thanks to the NYC weekend girls!), omphaloskepis is a synonym for meditation as in "staring at one's belly button as an aid to meditation."
It goes on to cite a usage:
"The point of [Paul Goodman's philosophy], as near as I can make it out, is to achieve a kind of omphaloskepsis, repeatedly examining yourself and your motives and connections with the world around [you], and thus achieving health, or at least avoiding neurosis, by putting forth, as much and as continuously as possible, the authentic self. (Kirkpatrick Sale, review of Crazy Hope and Finite Experience: Essays of Paul Goodman, Nation, 4/10/1995.)"

I love it.
Yes, I am aware I am a total geek, dork, dweeb, etc., etc., etc...

This is most of the working copy of the poem that opens this post- it's neither finished, nor abandoned yet.

I’ll chalk it up to too much self-examination
And Sarah McLaughlin.
Somewhere between Fear and Possession
The road entranced- unfurling beneath
My car’s speeding tires, as I
Meditate on love and friendship,
And last night’s dinner conversation.

I drive by habit, the road’s undulations more familiar
Than my own skin.
Pavement is evident and explainable.

Melancholy songs fuel my rambling thoughts-
What you tried to tell me-
Reminding me of all the times I listened
Without hearing.

Too bad omphaloskepsis doesn't really fit in the poem, but it would work as a title, don't you think?
Or maybe I need a new playlist.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Big Pile of Horse-Pucky

Despite working out with the trainer today, my day was mostly about horse manure. I have three horses, which leads to a neverending supply of potential fertilizer. It's a big piece of the horse disease, deciding what to do with their waste. If I'm not picking and sorting it from the clean shavings, I am researching to find the best way to cart it out to where it needs to be piled-usually far, far away from the house and the barn.

I have been toting the day's waste with a small, plastic cart pulled by the farm's Mule(no not one that brays, kind of an ATV with a roof and a small bed). That works really well. In the summer. Rainy days? Winter? Not so much. It has a roof. No windshield. Brrr.

After much research, we decided to get a larger dump cart. The farm used to have a manure spreader, but that went the way of the indoor arena. The cart was ordered and scheduled to arrive while we were away. I thought that would at least make life easier for the man who graciously cares for the horses in my absence. The shipment was delayed, then the blizzard interfered. The next issue was that UPS needed a signature to deliver, but no one was around to sign(we were trying to get out of Bermuda and everyone else was also enjoying thier holiday).

Yesterday was the day. The cart was going to arrive between twelve and two. I packed a lunch and my computer and headed to the barn. A lack of internet connection really motivated me to work on my writing projects. Woo hoo!

Ok- I cleaned tack, rearranged the tack room, ran some saddlepads through the washer, and generally found everything else I could do to avoid booting up the computer. I did finally give in and actually made progress, but by two-o'clock, no cart. Mr. W. called and informed me that it was now being delivered between four and five. Sigh.

Long story short, the cart arrived at four. In a box. Unassembled. Argh.
At least it was here and it gave me something to do today. I put together the chassis and then got stuck. Where was the hydraulic lift? You know, the part that would actually make the cart easier to use? It's coming Fed Ex.

With the cart half done and piles of manure that couldn't be dumped during the storm molding in an empty stall, I treked out to use the tractor to push back the huge worm of little poop-piles from our little dump cart out at the dump site.

It was going well until I got the tractor stuck.
Text to Mr. W.: Got the tractor stuck.
Reply: How stuck?
It's a tractor. If it's stuck its' bad.
What are you going to do?

My wounded pride and I went for help in the form of the caretakers and the farm truck. They had been washing mold off the barn walls. So the truck cab was filled with a lovely combination of bleach(them) and horse crap(me). Did I mention they had been ready to go home. Yeah, they loved me at that moment. But thanks to them, the Kubota is no longer axle deep in compost.

I headed back to the tractor shed, with my figurative tail tucked. I wasn't feeling very farm-girlish at that moment. Wait. What is that ambling aross the field? A racoon? A big racoon. Coming toward the me and my large, orange machine. Not good. Can you hear me yell and clap my hands? Do you see that beast ambling toward me. Did he just pick up speed? Watch me jam the 'Bota into gear and rushed to park it before my tormentor gets too close.

I don't mess with racoons, especially when they aren't behvaing normally. Rabies, anyone? As I was backing into the shed I saw it pause under a pine tree. Too close. Shut down the tractor, leapt off, and was a good hundred yards away when I turned to look. Poof! A magically disappearing racoon! Crisis averted. At least until I have to go back in the tractor shed-I'm going to be packing at least a two-by-four when I do!

I still have a big, crappy problem, but at least I didn't have to get Rabies shots. And I got some needed aerobic exercise.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

So Begins the New Year

This year has begun with a quiet day. The weather is unseasonably warm; the horses are out blanketless and taking advantage by rolling in the melting snow, smearing slush into their itchy winter coats.

I love the mornings in the barn. There are a pair of sparrows that chirp and flutter about as I go about feeding the boys, who pace and nicker in anticipation of breakfast. The barn is warm and smells of hay, grain, manure, and the unmistakable odor of horse. It is my favorite place to be.

I lingered today. Instead of rushing to get the stalls picked out and set up for the afternoon, I stood at the fence and simply watched them jostle for the best hay pile. The sun sent enough bright warmth on this mid-winter day, I swear I heard the snow melting.

As I sifted through the stall shavings, separating the dirty from the clean, the mindless rhythm of the work allowed my thoughts to wander. If only I had called a week ago to get winter shoes, I could ride today. I should sort through some of the many bins that await my sifting judgement. I need to write, make phone calls, clean the spare bedroom...

No. I should not get lost in the monotony of endless lists.

I cleaned the rest of the stalls, focusing on the pleasure of the act; enjoying the simple reality that allowed me to linger over the care of the animals I treasure. I slowed my pace. In the loft, I sat on a bale and breathed the sweet scent of baled summer grasses. I finished the chores, returned to the fence, and closed my eyes in the sun. Gil came over, gently sniffed my face, then turned away to get a drink. As he ambled back toward the others, I too, took my leave and strolled back to the house.

Happy New Year.