Saturday, July 31, 2010

A cooler breeze, an old dog, and a mystery on the farm.

Early this week, Tuesday  I think, the day was graced by a strange north wind that blew the intense recent humidity back towards the gulf and it left a pleasant energy to the air. It never ceases to amaze me how much more I can get done in a day when the living conditions are tolerable. I am sure we are due for some more dangerous weather still to come but I was most grateful for this most unexpected reprieve, and I did take advantage of it.

With all this new found energy, I decided that it was high time for the silly fillies, my 3yr old Flemmingh sisters, to start first grade. These girls have been handled since birth of course, in kindergarten, but their training in formal had not begun as of yet. And so I began with them my pattern of teaching them to learn new things. The very first thing they must learn is basic manners. That includes, but isn't limited to, them learning to pay attention to me, my space, my body language, my voice, etc. even when things get scary, and to not climb on my head when it does. They were good working in hand near the barn, trying very hard to figure out what I was asking. Smart fillies, both, genetically programed to be good learners without attitudes, they kept their ears focused on me, made a few mistakes, but did well. Then I took them somewhere new.

I walked them each in turn, maybe 100 yards from the barn towards the house. As I had expected, this got their attention. Ears went up and eyes got wide at the very idea that there was anything other than the view from the barn yard. Their perspectives were changed in that moment, and after their moment of shock, they both dropped their heads to me for assurance, which I gave, and they relaxed.

Plato wrote a great little story way back in the day about some folks who lived in a cave and who always looked towards the rear of the cave and saw themselves only as the shadows that danced there on the walls. This was the only view of their lives, and to them, their only reality. Then one day, for some strange reason one of them turned around and saw the light at the front of the cave and was shocked at the sight. These folks' perception of their reality of being only shadows was totally changed forever. Now the shadows were behind them and this change in perspective had simply not occurred to them. Once the new view of life had been revealed, there was no going back to the old version of their model.
So too with my fillies. They had never had a chance to venture far from their pasture, or the barn, and their reality only included these places and what happened there. Seeing a new expanded version of their world made some light bulbs go on. That is what I love about starting young ones out is the showing them the new, and sometimes alarming things, popping their bubble, and having them learn and keep getting reinforced that if they keep their heads and pay attention to me that life is good and interesting or, at least, safe.

There is truely an overwhelming amount things to teach a horse just to get them to a safe working relationship but it all starts with a change in perspective or a change in habits. What was is a reality, stays a reality unless an outside force reveals another, and its the adapting to this ever changing flow to life that keeps it interesting and keeps us, and the horses, learning.

I worked, too, with Fandango, now 8 weeks old, and scheduled to go to the keuring (a breed inspection) in September. I figured he might need to be halter broke for real. So he did as I had expected, fine when mommy Joline was walking beside him, but threw a fit when she didn't care to join us. That was good. He had to test the limits and find them, and then settled, and then walked with me like a pro.
My vet recently came out to do something out here on one of the herd, and asked about the boy and couldn't remember the colt's name. Hiladago? No, not quite. Then he said "Margaret, this guy needs a nick name". You have to understand my vet is old school, never makes editorial comment and such, but here he was adamant. I thought and remembered some of my first "f boy" names.  And so it is that the colt who was first thought of as a filly, then became a colt, then a blithe and dainty baby, is now a rough and tumble, bite everything in his path, solid as a brick,  and all male brat, is now sporting the barn name of "Frank, the tank."  It suits him well.

So life continues on the farm with its daily dramas. Heidi the shepherd had a visit to the vet yesterday with a hematoma in her ear, which had to be drained and dealt with. She sits under the piano now as I write and looks so sad. My puppy of just yesterday has begun to grow old, is gaining the flaws that come with it, and there is nothing I can do about it but to try to keep her cool and comfortable as possible. Her once elegant face is now edged with a gray muzzle, and now her proudly erect ears will have a bit of a droop. How sad that a dog' life runs so quickly thru your life and then moves on. I wish it wasn't so. I wish that their time spans coincided better with our own and I do hope that this sweet companion stays with me a good long while longer.

The mystery of the day, no, week is this...on Thursday I walked past the peach tree by the garden and noted the heavy weight of the near ripe peaches pulling the loaded branches downward. I thought, "great, Sunday will be chutney making day". Well, today, two days later, there weren't but 7 peaches anywhere to be found lefet hanging. We are talking about the mysterious disapperance of hundreds of ripe peaches. Hundreds, if not more, all gone, no pits, no traces, no tracks, zero. How does this happen? Did aliens return to abscond with all my lovely peaches? Will there be peach cobbler al a mode on planet Lortab tonight? This really riles me because this tree always produces a wonderful bounty of white meat, free stone, sweeter than honey peaches that I freeze, can, make wine with, chutney, ice cream, and oh yes, cobbler. This year there will be none. Damn.

A bit of a lazy day so far, the last tomatoes in the pots by the pool, just got picked and sliced for BLTs. Mark is working on some new photographs in the studio, to take to the gallery tonight. Farewell to July tonight and welcome to August tomorrow. Time keeps on ticking...into the future.    

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Farewell to Lance, vive le Tour, and chillin

Today was the end of another Tour de France. It was the end of the era of Lance. It was a great tour, epic as all, but sad now that the greatness of one has faded, while others’ are blooming in the wings.

The ability to sit in my living room and to be able to watch such an extraordinary event is amazing to me and I do thank the powers that be that have brought the race to me for years, in such eloquence and beauty, truly epic battles of humans pushing their bodies and bicycles to unreal levels against backdrops of the grandeur of the ancient and modern France. I will miss the magic that Lance always brought to the stage, his uncanny ability to raise his level to the highest on the road, against the odds, and made it seem fun, a game, and shrouded in magic done by a man with super human gifts.

I first learned of the Tour back in high school when my brothers were set loose in France to do the youth hostile, find your way thru Europe thing, that my parents felt was right for boys, but certainly not for girls, especially me. They had great tales of their adventures there, I am sure some were left out, but they brought me a jersey with strange pockets on the back of it, and lettering of a French company who was the sponsor of the team then, and who still sponsors one. They told me of seeing the race in one of the smaller towns on Bastille day, and how huge of a spectacle it was then, for the local French spectators.

Now le Tour has become so huge, world wide, watched by millions. It has spurred so many to get off their sofas and ride bikes again, in their adulthood, visions of Lance running their brains as they peddle along clearing the sludge from their veins and lungs, my self included. It has been a part of July that I have treasured for many years and I hope that I can find another champion to admire, not just for the bike riding ability, but also for the strength of character that Lance brought to the world of cycling. I will miss him and all he brought to the game, and wish him well in his new endeavors athletically and in his mission on cancer.

With the end of the Tour leaves the last week of July, hot, humid, and floundering in mid summer’s purgatory. This is my least favorite month, forgetting of course the one when I was moaning about the cold back in January. There is little that can be done physically outside now unless one has constant shade, a breeze, and maybe has no clothes on, and is in water up to the eyeballs. The horses spend the day in the stalls, the doors are now left open to let them come and go out to the pasture, faces in the fans, nostrils flared with deep breaths, veins protruding, trying in vain to cool themselves. My riding them is regulated to maybe 30 minutes of mostly walking until we are both so drenched and heat stroke is eminent.

The grass is the only living thing thriving in this climatic madness, growing in bursts with each ray of sun and any drop of moisture, lunging taller with each run of the mower, as tho possessed with a knowledge that soon, relatively speaking, will come cooler days and its growing season will fade. Right now the mower is at the shop at Mosley’s store for Tony to give it some much needed tlc, and the grass has responded to this lapse by tripling its growing ability to needing a tractor and bushhog to whittle it back down, and maybe bale it.

Time moves along and the seasons will change, but patience is needed and used in the mean while. The dogs are masters of this mind set and seem totally content to adapt. Jack spends his days under the sofa in the tack room, Heidi is under the piano, Memphis has her spot under a shrub by the back door, and Marley is under the sofa. Dogs just don’t use up the energy I do wanting things to hurry up or slow down. I admire this ability and I really think theirs’ is a more pleasant way to exist, and perhaps theirs’ is the higher plane in the incarnation ladder. How many dogs do you know of that have heart attacks and stress related disease, psychologists on call, and worry that their life savings have just been obliterated by a housing boom catastrophic, global warming, and world wide economic chaos? My dogs don’t.

This Sunday night will mark the passing of two full moons since the birth of the foal, Fandango. Gone is the awkward baby. Now he is a little man, solid, tough, and covered with scratches from his daily adventures in discovering the world beyond his mother’s skirt. He is inquisitive and bold. He is also very fond of a good scratch from obliging finger nails on his neck and especially the belly. For the belly rub he will bow way down, neck and face pressed to the ground, front legs out in front and the upper lip pushed out as far as he can, obviously totally transfixed by the experience and pleasure. So of course my finger nails are perpetually filthy as I oblige him this treatment, and I laugh every time.

Today is a Sunday, my new Saturday, since gallery life began. Things have been busy and cruising along but I just realized I had no idea what day it was when I just made an appointment by phone with my veterinarian, and was going to put it on the calendar but I had no idea where to write. Wow. Maybe I have become one with my dogs’ attitude. For today, whatever day it is, I will chill with them, say a fond farewell to Lance and le Tour, let the grass grow,  watch the humidity condense and drip down the windows, and perhaps make something cool to drink with ice and a shaker.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A July Haiku

It has been quite a while now since I have felt I had the time to sit and babble for the blog, and it wasn’t for lack of things going on worth the mention. There were many. They passed and so time has brought me to here and now. I just got off riding two of my mares, and they were both super today after so much time off. I have another painting begun upstairs and things are beginning to get back into some greased grooves.

Anyway, the feeling of finally getting to the edge of the waterfall, after months of gliding along slowly in the currents, gradually increasing speed, until the edge became tangible and real, then, whoosh, over the top, has been my feeling until last Thursday week’s opening of our new Dauber Gallery. Now we are over the edge, in the pool below and are going with the flow. Daily patterns are shifting and change isn’t always bad, and so far, it’s good.

A self admitted hermit, I have lived the past 15 years pretty much enjoying the solitude of being on the farm, and its relatively slow pace, with occasional forays into town or visitors out here for dinner and such. I have just really enjoyed my days in the company of my animals and had little need for human conversation. Now spending time in the Gallery, I find I am really enjoying  meeting new people and hearing their stories, beautiful sweet stories, and sad ones too.

Last night a family group came in with a few kids, all good looking, two girls 7 and 11, and a boy 16ish perhaps or more. Their dinner reservations for the nearby eatery were running late and so the mothers, sisters, hung around and we began to chat. After a few minutes, it turned out that at some time back, the young boy had lost his older brother in a car accident in which he was also a passenger and his father was the driver. This boy had spent the hours waiting for help, his own life fading fast, lying next to his dead brother, and his father was knocked unconscious, leaving him alone with this horrible situation. The scars were fresh in these words from this mother, but she smiled thru her pain at us as she told us of the healing that was beginning.

There was the fellow who stayed and shared a beer with us, and football stories, and told us of his dad who was a strong character who took him to every single home field Penn state game. He told us of his admiration for this man, his life, and his upcoming birthday. He saw the photograph that Mark had taken of the hog and Mr Jessie, right before the hog met with the end of the ax. This man’s father had been the manager of a hog slaughter house and had raised his family by doing this work. I sent the photo to his father, in time for his 80th birthday last week.

To see these people as mere faces, earns nothing. It is in the asking questions that scars are revealed, wants, needs, and things that make others tick are shown, that show the common bond with us all. We all have triumphs, and fears, and we all have personal tragedies. And these are good to share. We are all individuals and yet, we are all in this life together, just folks, just living beings rubbing shoulders as we cruise thru this incarnation.

A few weekends ago I came home in the afternoon to find our mailbox obliterated and a set of car tracks ran right over where the post had stood. My thinking was, and my anger was directed to the thought, that some young kids, perhaps drinking and driving a little recklessly, had been the hit and run source. I set the remains of the box by the side of the road and took out the mail figuring to fix it on Monday, certainly assuming no one else was going to come back to fix it, if they were even aware they had hit it.

Sunday however I drove to the end of the driveway to find a brand new post with our old box sitting there perfectly. There was a note inside from a neighbor we don’t know that said he hoped the box and post were to our satisfaction. His mother had been run off the road there, into the ditch and hit our box. He apologized and left his number incase we were not happy with the work. I was stunned and felt bad at my initial assumption, but happy to find a person of such good manners, doing the right thing, and I do hope his mother is ok. She taught her son well.

I am finding myself beginning to think that perhaps humanity isn’t all scum after all and that interaction has its rewards.

So as I find my new daily patterns, I am cherishing the fewer moments that allow me the slow time, which I took for granted in my pre-gallery/ hermit status. After a very busy, hot and sticky week, last Friday afternoon’s atmosphere lay again like a saturated wool blanket, until a massive summer storm rolled in and the rain and thunder cooled the senses. After the worst of the storm left, a gentle rain remained and the air glowed with a soft yellowish green. Mark and I sat on the front porch and watched the horses as they came out of the shadow of the barn and grazed in this rare comfort in July. A drove of 8 tom turkeys emerged from the woods, bobbing their blue heads, and pecked for bugs among the manure piles. The crickets began chirping a raucous chorus and for some silly reason, all I could do was think in haiku phrases...

Falling rain-
cricket songs, slow
munching of the horses.

Distant thunder …etc. It was a nice afternoon.