Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Weathering the Storm

Irene came and went. For some, she was a non-event; a lot of rain and some wind. Here, I tucked away the grill, the lawn furniture, filled the hot tub, brought in the electric fencers and the water troughs. The horses were locked up in the barn. I was ready.

And Irene came, unleashed her wrath, but not on us.

Unfortunately, she dumped her fury-tempests of torrential rain-on a place we least expected, the lovely state I used to call home- Vermont.

It began with a text from my son asking if I'd seen the footage. No. I hadn't. He e-mailed links and I suddenly understood. I couldn't comprehend, but it was there, in full color. Bridges, familiar roads, farms and homes destroyed. Tiny, babbling brooks turned into walls of frothing water; the Williams river that runs through Chester, a waterway that my aunt used to laugh at- "they call that a river?", churned and raged, taking with it an historic covered bridge, as it roared down the valley.

It seems that not one road or town was unscathed. It is impossible to travel directly East to West across the state. The route I used to travel to work is simply gone in one spot. It was near a river. Actually, it was about 100 feet above a river, the steep bank forested with large trees. You could hardly notice the water, seemingly so far away. You notice it now. The pavement is gone, dropping off those 100 or so feet, down into an impassable oblivion.

And that is only one. Communities are cut off, some brave souls making contact over hill and dale with horses and ATVs. No power. No water. No phone. And no way in or out.

I still can't believe it. I look at the pictures. I e-mail and call those friends with power and phone to make sure they are alright. They say they are. Vermonters are made of incredibly resilient stuff.

I know there are other states and communities hit hard by this storm. The shorelines are battered, parts of New Jersey are still flooding, the Catskill region has washouts, too.

Where I live and in nearby New York City, there is a sigh of relief. We dodged a bullet.

But so many did not.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Four Years Seems Like Yesterday

Grief is a process that never ends.

Four years ago today, I was awakened at 5:30AM, by a policeman's knock on my door.

Everyone who knows me or my sister, knows the story. Time has passed, it gets easier in some ways. Though it never passes completely.

It’s amazing that one family could produce two such strong and unique women.
First, there was my mom, Bettyann. Then, seven years later Snooker came along. Snooker told me repeatedly that my mom was the best sister anyone could have had.

For my sister and me, mom was always a role model. Strong, driven, and unwilling to let anything or anyone stand in the way of what needed to be done. We wanted to please her, but she set the bar high.
Overcoming the repercussions of a terrible accident when she was in high school, my mom turned her natural drive into an unstoppable force. Her favorite response to teenage whining sums it up: “There’s no such thing as can’t”. Throughout our lives, even when we couldn’t fully appreciate her achievements, my sister and I knew she was doing incredible things.
She was the strength and motivation for our family, the protector and provider. The Queen.
Snooker was both the court jester and archivist.

Through both of them I was able to see the country. With Snooker there was her beloved Hawaii. When I was eight, I was there for one glorious summer and then our road trip when I was 10, which took us from Denver to LA with so many stops in between.

My mother showed us parts of Texas, Arizona, Colorado and Ohio we had never heard of- not the tourist places but, she’d always try to show us something- even if it sometimes involved 2 or 3 carsick, crowded and bickering hours. And she allowed me the opportunity to spend a glorious month in Prague- something I’d never dreamed I’d actually do.

When each moved to Vermont my world was altered completely.
First Snooker arrived. And in the past 11 years I have had her present in my life- not just a random phone call (This is your auntie Snooker) or at various holidays and family events. She was here. And now weekends were gardening and shopping trips for plants in the summer and craft supplies or books in the winter. Just recently, I had finally figured out how to get her out of Wal-mart or Ocean State Job Lots in less than 2 hours.
My mom only begun to adjust to Vermont and we were beginning to work out our schedule. I was learning that a trip to the dump was now a joint effort, and that while she was “perfectly capable of doing this on her own since she had lived by herself for the past 14 years, she would go grocery shopping with me if I wanted”.

There were times in the past six months when I would feel like a ping-pong ball caught between those two and outings with them were lessons in listening (To 2 conversations and opinions at once) and patience (they would pause to let me answer sometimes).

But my mother gave me support and allowed me to live with the horses and the farm. She allowed me to go to school and she pushed when I was unsure.
And Snooker would have given me the shirt off her back- thank god she didn’t have to because she had 4 brand new ones with tags in a drawer- it’s a men’s x-large in orange and pink stripes, but you can wear it in the barn. And she has given Anne a new lifelong hobby on E-bay. I’m sure there is someone who wants 10 boxes of various seedpods, pinecones, and waxed leaves.

They leave a tremendous hole in my family’s life. They were vibrant, so full of energy and life- not little old ladies slowing down, but forces of nature.
We will never fill this hole. We will have to learn to work and live around it. But whenever it becomes too much, or a task seems insurmountable, their legacy will be there. Because Snooker left us plenty to do and as my mother always believed- there is no such thing as “Can’t”.

Notes on My Mother

A lioness hunts and watches,
Protecting, and providing
For her pride.

While the hummingbird
Flits here and there
Searching for sustenance.

The terrier is feisty and loud,
Persistent, and fearless,
Despite its small stature.

The strong wind buffets
And pushes
All in its path

So suddenly
There is stillness.

We stagger and stumble
When we are abruptly
Abandoned by the wind.

The ears go wanting,
Anticipating the chaos
Of the terrier’s bark.

This garden becomes
Static, lacking
That hummingbird’s flight.

While, a world away
The lioness finally reclines
And surveys her domain.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Married a Barn Princess*

No. I have not changed teams. Yes. I am still married to Mr. W. But...he does become a bit...pampered? Demanding? Perfectionist? When he is in the barn.

And he is in the barn a lot more these days due to the arrival of his horse-a two-year old Morgan filly. Add to the adventure is a leased older mare for him to ride while we (I) train the youngster.

I have to say, they are great additions to the barn. Gil, the bucking bronc is doing his best tryout as a teaser stallion. And, I have to say, he is excelling at it. He could have a future job. I digress.

At first, Mr. W. was apprehensive about the mare. Not the filly. He was excited about the filly. However, he was worried that the mare, being older might be an "old nag." Right. I know the breeder. She has wonderful horses and both of these girls are wonderfully perfect.

Icey, the youngster, is intelligent and affectionate. She hasn't done much in her short life, but judging from the way she marched onto the trailer to get here (she'd never seen one before) I'd say she's something special. I admit to a wee bit of bias there.

Enter Velvet, the "old nag." Cough. Cough. She has a heart of gold, a spring in her step and a happy gleam in her eye, not to mention a crush on Gil right now. My first ride on Velvet proved that she was more than enough horse for Mr. W.- she marched right out to the ring, picked up her paces on cue and when we strolled around the fields, she stepped out like she owned the place.

Which leads me to today, when I finally pestered Mr. W. enough to finally throw a leg over the saddle; when I learned that I had married a barn princess.

Step one: Arrive at the barn. Feed the girls, bring in the boys(they are on night turnout), pick stalls, throw hay, fill water, and start to set out the tack while the horses digest breakfast.

Step two: Get ready to ride. I squeezed my legs into chaps that barely fit(they are a legacy from a skinnier time- I'm doing my best to stretch them to my current dimensions). Meanwhile, Mr. W. asked where his were.

He does have custom chaps, but he hasn't tried his on since before most middle-school children were born. I don't even think he knows where they are. I offered him a nearly new set of half-chaps. He put them on.

"They're too long! I can't bend my knees. I can't ride if I can't bend my knees."

Obviously, he has never had to break in a brand new pair of field boots, had the pleasure of trying to ride as the circulation in your lower leg is cut off by the inflexible leather biting through the back of your knee, while you pray the ankle breaks down quickly...

Mind you he was complaining while in a half-squat- almost perfect riding position. But he wasn't comfortable. So...I offered to wrap his lower legs in polo wraps. The look on his face said it all.

He was going to have to ride without chaps.

Step three: Helmets. He put his on and fumbled with the chinstrap. I had borrowed his helmet to give pony rides to a few children. Perhaps the strap was a bit tight. I don't think that warrented the choking noises. It wasn't that tight. He didn't turn blue, after all. I loosened it.

Step four: "Are you sure this is the right saddle pad?"

"Is this girth too long?"

"This is the bridle you used on her last time, right?"

"These strap keepers are really tight!"

I was starting to doubt his enthusiasm.

Step five: We brought our horses out to the mounting block. I told him to go first, so I could give him a hand if he needed. I also warned him that Velvet was, perhaps built differently than some of the horses he'd ridden the last few decades. She's definitely not fat, but her natural build is...well, a bit rounder. I suggested he check his girth before mounting.

"I have ridden before, you know."

Yes. I know. We rode together last year a couple of times. How soon I forget.

Step six: Tighten girth. Go to mounting block. Position horse. Curse as she steps slightly away. Get off mounting block. Tell horsey to stay. Repeat. "Whoa!" Repeat until horsey stays. Put foot in the stirrup.

Step seven: Whine about his severely tilted saddle. "Now what do I do?" (I was laughing too hard to answer.) Get off severly tilted saddle. Curse loudly.
"I told you the girth was too long."

"Now I have to undo everything and put it back to the center!" He didn't fall to the ground and kick and yell like a toddler, but it seemed close.

Tucker and I headed back into the barn. I tied up his reins and threatened him with bodily harm if he even thought of rolling with my saddle on.

Step eight: Straighten saddle. Adjust stirrup length and hold opposite stirrup as Mr. W. swings his leg over. Check girth and stirrups.

Okay. I did ask him if he wanted me to get a rope and lead him out to the ring, too. He politely declined my offer by squeezing his legs on Velvet's sides and sauntering away.

I ran back and retrieved Tucker, mounted up and met Mr. W. in the ring. We proceeded to have an incredibly relaxing ride around the hay fields. It was perfect.

We're just going to have to get him some chaps that fit. And a personal groom.

*This post was suggested by Mr. W. himself- "You mean you are not going to write about today??"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Of Things Not Done

Well, today could have been considered a failure. In the time management, productive world, then yes, I didn't achieve a whole lot. But after weeks of insane scheduling and rushing from one get-together to another, it was nice to stop and smell the coming Autumn.

In addition, we have added two more horses to the daily chore list. One is a two-year-old sweet bundle of energy and possibility. The other is a dignified mare of fifteen years. Both are Morgans and Mr. W.'s. We're all still adjusting to the increased barnload and activity, but it's all good.

I have poison ivy, I may have Lyme (waiting for test results- if I was of the canine persuasion, the answer would take all of eight minutes. For a human, it takes about a week. Go figure. Woof.), and a head full of ideas for the projects I have. Essentially, I am itchy and tired, with an overactive imagination. I am not the best company these days.

Today, we slept late-at least until the bull next-door, who I call Pedro (Ferdinand was taken)began bellowing like..well, I don't really know how to describe it- something between love-sick and lungs exploding. All I know is, its LOUD!
We turned the horses out, came back for breakfast, and my phone rang. My son was on his way to visit!

All plans flew out the window. He arrived, we had lunch,introduced him to the new additions, looked at wedding and honeymoon pics, raided the garden, and he wound every animal in the house to bursting.

I didn't ride. I did not weed the garden. The lawn remains unmowed, nothing was unthawed for dinner so Mr.W ate cereal and I had yogurt, fruit and granola. I spent most of the evening putting some of my frantic thoughts into the computer.

But I had precious time with my only child, a luxury in these days of his young-adulthood (understandably) and current tenure in Colorado.

I am still itchy. Still tired. I feel so out of shape for riding, behind in my house/farm projects, and especially my writing projects, but it doesn't matter. because today was a perfect day.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Narcissism and Memoir

I just finished reading a memoir. Of sorts. It was a self-published book. And it had to do with Vermont. Sort of.

As I ponder the things I want to write, my life is, I admit something I like to write about. Hence this blog. It leads me to ask myself, "Is this writing thing all one big exercise in self-promotion?"

It might just be.

So are the hours I spend in my office, typing away, my excuse to dwell in my own reflection? Well...

No. Although I do steal events, emotions, and even personal charcteristics from "real" life to populate created stories, and contrary to what I write in this blog, my favorite word is not "I." it;s true, I am as self-absorbed as the next girl, but I really don't think I am the most interesting being on the planet.

Which brings me to the book I just read. Honestly, it may even have my most hated, Eat Pray Love beat in the OMG-I-am-so-special-everyone-needs-to-read-about-it category. Of course I believe that my most recent read has sold maybe 10 copies. And if you read the reviews on Amazon (all 5 star, excellent read) you can easily figure out that all of the reviewers are friends of the author.