THREE TREES

THREE TREES
The horse's pasture to the East...

Friday, August 28, 2015

AUGUST ESSAYS, AN IRON PAN

I have an iron skillet. It's old, came in to the world before I did. My Grandmother cooked in it. It was one of the things I asked for after she was gone. 

There's history in that old skillet. I get teased because I'm a vegetarian and that  frying pan was well seasoned many years ago with bacon grease and lard. My Grandma used it for nearly every meal. She fried bacon or ham and eggs for breakfast, fried tomatoes and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and fried chicken and gravy for dinner. They were farm people and worked long, hard hours every day of their lives. Calories were a necessity and so was fat. It was the fuel that kept them going, starting their days before sunup and working until well after sun down. Not a fat person among them either. They were too busy working to worry about weight issues.

I remember sitting in the kitchen at her little formica table with the red top, waiting for my breakfast. She was very proud of her "new" little table. The old walnut kitchen table was in the barn (and I asked for that one too). I wasn't allowed to kick my feet against the table or the aluminum chairs that matched, the ones with red seats. So I would sit quietly, waiting for my breakfast, watching my Grandfather eat great volumes of food; pie and oatmeal, eggs and toast, big cups of coffee with real cream and fresh orange juice. He always ate first because he needed to get out the door. Wasting time was not allowed in their house.

Grandma would fuss over me, trying to get me to eat more. "Eat. EAT! You're much too thin. How can you live on so little? " And she would fix me oatmeal with brown sugar on top, raisins and walnuts, floating in real cream from my Grandpa's dairy herd. " Eat all of it. It's good for you, sticks to your bones!" Her dog, Penny, loved me a lot. I would eat tiny bites while Grandma was watching and then hold the bowl down for Penny to eat the rest. Grandma wanted me to eat as much as Grandpa! There was just no way. I really was a tiny, little girl with an appetite to match. But I also wanted to make my Grandma happy so I would eat some of what she fixed and Penny got fatter while I staid on the farm. Like I said, Penny loved having me there.

I remember her big, strong hands cutting and cooking, cleaning while she went. A kitchen was her dance floor and her meals were a work of culinary art, Kansas farm style. 

My Dad and his brothers grew up eating meals from that pan. Grandma brought it to her marriage with Grandpa. And she taught me how to cook in it too. Showed me how to watch the heat so it wouldn't scorch, how to turn it up or down for different parts of the meal. I learned how to make gravy and sauces, omelets and frittatas, fried tomatoes and onions with peas in that pan. 

She also showed me how to care for it. You never wash an iron pan with soap, NEVER. You can rinse it quickly with hot water and a scrubbing brush kept just for that purpose, but rubbing it with salt and lard was better. Now I use olive oil but it has the same effect, keeping the perfect surface for cooking on. The blacker the pan,  the better. And you always store it upside down. Keeps dust and flies from getting inside, on the cooking surface. And if there's a mouse, it can't climb in to the pan either. Grandma was very practical.

I do the same now, use that old pan nearly every day. My son gave me a lovely set of excellent cookware. I use those pans too but my iron skillet is my pan of choice for nearly every meal. I remember cooking meals as a very young, tired Mom with a baby in my arms, asleep, while I fixed eggs for my toddler. I'd drop butter in and then the eggs, but not until the butter was just sizzling. Timing is crucial when you cook in an iron skillet. Too soon and your food turns to soggy mush. Too late and too hot and your food is scorched and under cooked in the center. It is still a challenge because weather and humidity can affect the way things cook too. It's all very intuitive, perfect for my right brained methods. 

There's history in that old pan. It holds years and years of laughter, anger, conversations, fears and crying, beginnings and endings. It was used through the Great Depression, World War One and Two. And we've added to that. The first men walked on the moon, buildings in New York came down, babies were born, And Grandma and Grandpa died.  I taught my boys to cook in that iron skillet, before they left home. It's a different world than the one my Grandmother grew up in. I wanted them to know how to take care of a house as well as a car or lawnmower. And I've taught my husband how to cook in that pan too. He can fix a mighty fine breakfast omelet if I do say so myself. And any good chef can tell you that making an omelet perfectly is the mark of a very good cook indeed. 

That pan was made at a time when tools were made by hand, one at a time. A true craftsman made my iron skillet and it still looks just like it did when I inherited it. It is an entity now, with a life and history of it's own. One day I hope to give it to one of my Grandchildren and to have the opportunity to teach them to cook in it too. 


It's a circle, you see. I love circles. We complete them in our lives over and over again, sometimes small unnoticed circles and sometimes large ones, like moving to a place of your ancestors. I've taken that old pan with me everywhere we've lived including to Germany, in my luggage. I wrapped it in a pair of blue jeans and then filled it with socks. It put me over my weight limit but I gladly paid the penalties. I was starting my first home, just married and so achingly young. If I had my pan I knew it would be OK. 

I've put that pan in to every new kitchen we've moved in to, first thing unpacked, always. It's how I carry our history with us, my past, my children's childhoods and mine, my life with my husband. If we move again, hopefully to Essex County, Virginia, I will bring my cast iron pan with me in the truck,packed in a suitcase and wrapped in a pair of blue jeans. That's become a tradition too, a good luck charm if you will. 


And I'll bring our history with us, the laughter and tears, hard times and good times and family. We'll cook our first meal there, adding our story to yours and telling it to our grandchildren and, if we're lucky, their children too. All we can offer is our enthusiasm, our love of the land and our horses who inhabit it, our iron pan and echoes of everything we are as a family. It's a circle that stands open. I hope you'll let my pan and I, my family on four legs and two,  complete the circle in a kitchen you've built and loved the way I will. We'd like to add our story to yours and keep the kitchen door open always, for you. 


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

AUGUST ESSAYS, THE YELLOW FOREST AND THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

Sooner or later we all get to the middle of life place where we ask ourselves if we're on the right road, are we walking the path that fills our heart. Sometimes we never complete the answer. But we ask it. It's one of those unacknowledged rights of passage. 

I'm a late bloomer, probably because I've worked so hard at keeping the 'light and silly child within' side of me alive. I'm an artist. For me to be creative I need to live in a horse-time kind of world, where clocks and bills and schedules are irrelevant, at least while I'm in the studio or sitting here, writing. My WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT ALPHIE stage came later, much later. And it happened when I learned the word NO. 



I don't usually say it like that. I don't shout or loose my temper, get angry or gnash my teeth. I say, " No, thank you. That won't work for me. Thank you for asking though." and I move on. Most of the time the other party wants an explanation.

" But why? It's a great idea!" Or, " You really need this thing a ma jig. Your life is going to be so much easier if you have one. Why wouldn't you want one?" Or, my least favorite (and the one I have practiced saying NO in a firm, non judgmental way to), the folks who think they are here to save me and convert me to their religious set of beliefs. 

(Snore...) " No, thank you. Not my cup of tea." 

I love that word, "NO!". It's such an effective tool. And I no longer feel like I owe any reasons either, at least most of the time. 

Living with horses has taught me a lot about how to protect, in a quiet and efficient way with no overt emotion, my personal space. They don't expect any explanations and they respect my ability to say, " Move three steps back please. I am coming through. Thank you." . No anger and sometimes laughter when they test to see if the rules are still in place.

Nope. No. Nuh uh. Nah. Nada. No thank you. Not going there. Noooo...

Pretty simple, easy to understand and very effective. Almost all languages have the same word for , "No.". And if the person I say no to doesn't seem to be listening, I walk around them and move on. It's a waste of time and energy arguing and is, sometimes, exactly what the other wanted anyway. They want to engage in behavior that is inappropriate for the sake of the confrontation. Again, not my cup of tea.


But where does that leave me? I've read over and over again that we are the makers of our own lives, find our own paths. Do I believe that? In part I do. I think that it's what I decide to do when I come to a divided path, an intersection, that determines who I am and where I end up. When I walk out the door, realize that I left the milk bottles behind and turn around to go get them and leave a few minutes later, avoiding the skidding out of control truck that hits the car in front of me head on, I did have something to do with that because I listened to a small inner voice that said, " Wait, turn around."

And when I stopped to take this shot, stood up and saw a six foot rattle snake slither across my path four feet ahead of me, RIGHT WHERE I WAS GOING TO WALK, it was because that inner voice said, " Wait. Watch." and I avoided a possibly dangerous interaction, while out on a hike, with a snake who's territory I was in. He would have struck because I frightened him, not because he wanted to bite me.

That's free choice. We live in a circle of life that interconnects, weaves together in to a pattern that carries us forward on to paths there to teach us. I can choose to tell the truth and sleep well or lie and toss and turn, worried about whether I will hurt someone or get caught in the lie. I choose to say, "No, thank  you." to things, to events that I know will hurt someone else.

When I was on my own and very young I took terrible risks. Most teenagers do. We are experimenting with our lives and oblivious to the possibility that we might hurt our parents, grand parents or siblings by getting ourself hurt. My brains turned on to that idea when my Mom died just after my oldest son was born. There we were, my husband and I, responsible for a real human being that we had brought in to the world and my Mom died and, a year later, his Dad. We were on our own in a huge world with another baby on the way and no back up! 

The world is a pretty big place when it's just you, the babies you're responsible for and the horizon. There were intersections everywhere, choices and worry and unbelievable happiness, terrible pain at every turn. Nothing focuses you more than having children. 

And here I am, in the middle of my life, thinking about going back. I want to be closer to my family, to spend time with them without airport security checks and extravagant air fair costs. I want to have an occasional weekend meal with them, spend time catching up and then go back to a new horizon, that place we came to because I decided to take another chance.

I want new pastures for my horses, new trails and shorelines to explore. I want a new environment to be my muse, that place my ancestors came from. I love the open skies of the Midwest but need the rolling hills of Virginia to fill my dreams. I want to add a dimension to my pattern by caring for a home that the original owners loved as much as we will. And I want to care for it so it has longevity, becomes the place my children's children go to for time with their Grandparents and their herd, the gardens, space and quiet. I want to send my money and essay in to make a new path to walk on. I choose to take a zig instead of a zag, and to come to Essex County to do that.

I would like the opportunity to own instead of lease, to have the freedom and possibility to give my family an inheritance that they have memories attached to. All I can promise is myself, my enthusiasm and creativity, my husband and the family, four legged and two legs, that we bring with us. And the story that we will add to yours. 

By saying No or Yes, we add to history and open roads not yet traveled. 


I am, ever yours, Nancy, in the middle and standing in the yellow forest, waiting.




Wednesday, August 19, 2015

WESLEY BERRY FLOWERS , NEVER DO BUSINESS WITH THEM! or How to laugh when you're taken advantage of.

Flowers. I have a picture of myself sitting in my Grandmother's spring flower garden, my diapered little bubble butt plunked down right in the middle of her prized tulips, a cat in my lap and pollen on my face. I had been tasting her flowers. Patient soul that she was, she took a picture instead of getting upset.

The definition of FLOWER in the dictionary is: flow·er
ˈflou(ə)r/
noun
  1. 1
    the seed-bearing part of a plant, consisting of reproductive organs (stamens and carpels) that are typically surrounded by a brightly colored corolla (petals) and a green calyx (sepals).
    synonyms:bloomblossomfloweretfloret
    "blue flowers"
  2. 2
    the finest individuals out of a number of people or things.
    "the flower of college track athletes"
    synonyms:best, finest, pickchoicecreamcrème de la crèmeelite
    "the flower of the nation's youth"
verb
  1. 1
    (of a plant) produce flowers; bloom.
    "these daisies can flower as late as October"
  2. 2
    be in or reach an optimum stage of development; develop fully and richly.
    "it is there that the theory of deconstruction has flowered most extravagantly"

I've always had flowers in my life. When I was little my Grandpa would drive in to town, where we lived, and would help my brother and I to put in a garden. There were all of the usual suspects, lettuce and spinach, peas and beans, peppers, tomatoes and onions. And then there were flowers, always flowers.

He would bring carefully saved seeds from the year before, marigolds and zinnias, daffodil bulbs and tulips, morning glory and hollyhock. None of them were expensive or exotic. They were farm folks and flowers were Grandma's indulgence as she got older, something she did not allow herself while raising children and trying to hold on to a farm during the Great Depression. If you couldn't eat it, you didn't grow it.

But I was the grand daughter. I was a very good reason to have flowers, to plant flowers, save seeds and share them. My connection to flowers is a thread that weaves through my life. They bring great joy to almost everyone who sees them, smells them, plants them and watches the cycles of their lives. 

I've done guerrilla flower sowing for more than forty years, spreading wild flower seeds along country roads and ditches every where that we've lived. Even when we were very young and struggling, I would sneak out at night while my babies were asleep and plant daffodils and tulips outside the apartment house that we lived in. No one ever said a thing about it but they did enjoy them when they came up. When I drove past one of the places we had lived there were still daffodils growing there in the spring, their hardy little yellow bell shaped flowers swaying and brightening up a landscape with nothing but bushes and green grass in it.

And I love the language of flowers too. The daffodil means " You are the only one. My love is for you. " 


I love receiving flowers. I've always thought it must be fun to be the one who makes the deliveries because people always smile, always. They thank you and laugh because they're so delighted. And sometimes they cry because it's such a lovely surprise. I love thinking about the person I'm sending them to, what colors they like, what they wear, their lifestyle, what I'm trying to say with the flowers which is, always, love.

Now a days there is the internet, making it easier than ever to find a pretty bouquet from a reputable florist and sending it. It's one of my favorite activities, finding a place that is in the local area and sending them an order. So when it doesn't work out, I am not just upset or disappointed, I am shocked and angry. Flower sending is something that I invest a lot of thought, time and money in to. It's part of who I am as an artist and master gardener, organic farmer (on a small scale) and storyteller. I sometimes spend hours picking out just exactly the right bouquet to send because the language of flowers is one I learned as a girl. I love the secret meaning of flowers even if the person I'm sending them to doesn't. It's a symbol, a gift and a story painted with the flowers in a vase.

This past Saturday my son's partner was having her birthday. I wanted to let her know how happy we are to have her in the family, to tell her how much fun we've had getting to know her and her children. And I wanted the flowers to arrive on time, on her birthday. I paid extra to make sure the bouquet would be what I wanted, to have it get there when it was her birthday and on a day when I knew she would be home to receive them. So I contacted wesleyberryflowers.com and gave them my order. They have thirteen outlets listed in the city she lives in so I knew she would get them on time. 

But it didn't work out like that. They took my money, gave me the order number and nothing happened. There was no delivery. I found out about it a few days later when I texted my son to see if she liked them. No flowers. I went back, checked my account to see if the order had gone through. Yes. They had my money. I checked the numbers I had been given for the order. Yes. But no delivery. So I contacted Wesley Berry Flowers and asked to speak with a customer representative. The person who answered was from another country and english was definitely a second language for them. AND THEY HUNG UP ON ME. I called again, thinking maybe the connection was the problem. THEY HUNG UP ON ME AGAIN. I called again. THEY HUNG UP AGAIN. I called again, same thing.

This video is EXACTLY what happened to me. No one would speak to me. I was repeatedly hung up on. At last I called the original bricks and mortar place in Detroit, where they originated. The man cussed at me, told me where to go and where to put you know what. THE WORST BUSINESS I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED. 

I have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau. I have gone through the procedure to get my money taken back, canceled my bank card to make sure that they can not take any other money from my account. I've posted to every social media here on line that I can think of to warn people. 

WESLEY BERRY FLOWERS is a SCAM. I hope that any person reading this makes note of the name and avoids this company on line. When I began to research this company I found whole web sites dedicated to the complaints and law suits being filed against these people. I also called FTD to let them know that they are using their logo on their website, one of the reasons I trusted them. 

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being worst and 10 being best, I would rate WESLEY BERRY FLOWERS at -100. That's negative 100%. I WILL NEVER DO ANY BUSINESS WITH WESLEY BERRY FLOWERS again ever for any reason. And I will not hesitate to let people know about my experience either. 


What a waste of energy, time and money. Giving flowers as a gift should bring joy, comfort, happiness. It tells the recipient you love them just the way they are. It says thank you for being there. 

I do always try to find the up side of any event. That's my nature. I am basically an optimist. If you want to talk to a curmudgeon who has no manners and is possibly the worst business manager you will ever hear, call him up. He was so nasty he made me laugh! The original location is in Detroit, Michigan and their number is listed on their website. If you want a good laugh, call him and tell him about what you think of a poorly run business. He was one of the funniest asshats I have ever spoken with. 

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling and shaking my head at the way things go

PS. Sorry about the rant, but there are a lot of people who read my posts. Feeling bad about sending flowers, or trying to send flowers and being taken, is not something I would wish for any of you.

Monday, August 10, 2015

AUGUST ESSAYS, MUSES IN THE PASTURE

I have three (plus one) muses in the pasture. Each of them brings a gift to the stage. Apache's is healing, power, focus and great presence. When he stands next to you, you feel the world move in space and time stands at attention, waiting. He grounds himself and any other who visits, with his barrel shaped body, stout legs and heart, always great heart.

When I am with Apache I hear bells, huge, slow moving, powerful hosanna bells that ring with a clear base, telling me that change is natural, inevitable and easily faced as a herd. He's got my six.

Lucky, Mr. Hollywood, my tall, leggy, sorrel foxtrotter. He's the one who captures the hearts of all the little girls who come to visit. His conformation is nearly perfect, coat like red silk and he has huge, soft brown eyes that see you quietly, honestly. He is shy, an introvert who prefers to stand behind me, waiting to be introduced. He calls to me every day when I walk out to the barn, even from the back of the pasture. His voice is a lovely deep baritone, operatic, rich, expressive. And when we ride he carries me carefully, gently. Maybe his name should have been Sir Galahad. 

And never least of the three, there is Stone, my sturdy little American Mustang. His color was perfect for the environment he came from, speckled in brown and dark blue grey on a light creamy grey coat with dark prussian blue legs and haunches. He's my horse of a different color, with his slightly roman nose and large soulful eyes. He has endured great loss with a stoic presence, watchful, ever vigilant. The day that he connected with me, at last releasing some of the fear and pain he carries, I cried. It was an overwhelming wave of sadness, making me catch my breath with his honesty. He needs a herd, a partner. He shows it with his willingness to move with me gracefully, in sync and elegant. He gives his heart fully without regret, inspires me with his wildness and natural integration with the world he lives in, always adjusting to his present.

And then there is my "plus one", Willow. She came to me an orphan, much too small to be without her Mom. I took her without looking back, knowing very little about donkeys. She needed a "mom", I stepped up. I've been there before, learned along the way to be a "parent". We nearly lost her. She came back because I sat on the ground, holding her and calling her back. I've got her six, her back.

She brings laughter and attitude. When I am not there she is boss lady of the pasture, stomping her tiny hooves, shaking her head, pinning ears that are as long as she is. She pushes her bubble of energy out in front, moving everyone who gets in her way. No predators in our pastures! She sets the rules and trains all of the dogs who've lived with us to always respect her space and her herd. And she's so small she walks under Lucky, stopping to rub her head on his belly. We call them the alpha and the princess.

I keep a stack of barn books that record our days together. The games we've played, the events and accomplishments, the rides and worries are all there. Ideas for paintings, drawings, stories and essays pop in to my head when I least expect it. They're in the books too. I'm scooping poop and painting the light on the wall, seeing what brush I would use to capture the feeling it gives me when I'm there, breathing in the mysterious world of horses. 



I'm sweeping the floor or grooming a broad back and I "see" my next story, hear the voices telling me their woeful tales. Or a color from the light dancing off their back stops me, holding me still with the magic of living with horses.

I am obsessed. And I am entranced, captured, held by an image they give to me. They are the music in my days. 

I am an artist, a horseman, a story teller and prisoner of their hearts.


Horses!




Thursday, August 6, 2015

AUGUST ESSAYS, WORMS IN THE CORN


" If the worm don't like it, then you shouldn't eat it." When I was just five, my Grandfather took me out to stay at the farm with him and Grandma. I was the only little girl in a family of brothers and boy cousins and uncles, so my Grandad was a bit puzzled about what he was going to teach me. Boys were easy. You teach boys how to fish and hunt, how to work in the fields and repair a car or a tractor. They like to be dirty, loud, busy. But girls? Well, maybe I would spend my time with Grandma learning how to cook and mend, can produce and gather eggs.

I never was very good at following other people's expectations of me. I wanted to learn how to run a tractor, milk a cow, groom a horse, feed the pigs. I do admit that I wasn't too fond of shooting animals. I liked shooting a target. That was a game. I love games, enjoy challenging myself to see if I can do better than the last time. But shoot a cute fuzzy rabbit or Bambi, he wanted me to shoot Bambi? Nope. That was a line I could not cross.

My first job was helping to harvest corn, not seed corn but sweet corn. His produce was so good that when he drove in to town with a truck load, people would follow him to buy a bag. I was very excited. I was going to help him pick it and put it in to bags for folks when they bought it. My brother and cousins had all helped with this job. It was a right of passage in my family. 

But I was horrified to discover worms at the end of each ear of corn. I thought we were going to have to throw it all away. I cried. Poor Grandpa. All of that work for nothing. When he asked me why I was crying and I told him, he hugged me and then opened an ear for me, shucking the leaves off and showing me the rest of the ear. There it was; sweet, plump, a rich yellow and cream color. It was so ripe that you could eat it without cooking it. He cut off the tip, where the worms were, and took a bite. " Yup, it's ready. If the worms don't like it, then you don't eat it. " 

All these years later that phrase pops in to my head for more things than corn ripening in the field. Whenever something is out of balance, politics, religion, environment, weather, his wise approach to the world makes sense. You see, worms serve a purpose. They show us when the fields are ready for picking, and bring moths and butterflies. They're really the essence of living a life in a Zen way, with the yin and the yang balanced. You have to have a worm to know where the sweetest corn is. It's soft and hard, sweet and sour, good and bad, light and dark. How will you know where the sweet things are if you don't have a worm to show you? Where is the light if the shadows aren't there to set it off?


Everything serves a purpose, including change. In the year of 911 we lost nearly everything when our business and store closed. I'm a fighter so I threw all that I had in to saving a sinking ship. It happens and it's survivable. In retrospect the worm that took our little business with it set me on to a better path, the one I had somehow fallen off of when I decided to focus on business. I'm an artist, a story teller, and I live for my family and, weirdly enough, never buy retail myself. I was out of place in a store front, off my track. A worm, a really big worm, took a giant bite out of it and when I got finished shucking off the old path, the new one showed up, sweet, ripe and ready. 

We found a place to lease in the country. There was an old horse left behind, needing a family. And the house was a refurbished barn with crookedty floors, windows at a slant and the old barn fan to cool it in the Summers. Fields needed to be cleared, fences mended, woods cleaned up and tended to. And room to grow our own corn and tomatoes. This was our butterfly.

But things never stay the same for very long, especially when it's time for a change. I recognize the worm this time for what it is, an open door that lets the light in. A part of our family is in Virginia. We only get to see them once or twice a year. That's not enough. Time is swift and takes it's toll. I'm alright with that but I want to have more of it with visits to see our family that take only an hour or two to get there, not weeks of preparation and a plane flight. 

We're ready for new fields and fences, sweet Virginia grass and the ocean a short visit away. Our herd is getting older and is ready for a quieter time in their lives where trail rides and gentle ground work, family and children can come to visit. We'd like to have a place where we can leave a bit of land to our children and their children, a place to grow their own truck gardens and keep horses in the paddocks. We want a place that we can call home and to remember the history of the people who were there before us, adding that to our Thanksgiving stories. I need new landscapes to paint and photograph, new muses to help me carry the story forward.

I want to peel the outer leaves of this life off to find the corn that is ready for a new life, in Essex County, Virginia. I'm ready to plant a new garden, tend fences and live under a fresh sky.




Tuesday, August 4, 2015

AUGUST ESSAYS, ADDICTIONS

Addiction, the dictionary defines the word as : ad·dic·tion
əˈdikSH(ə)n/
noun
  1. the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.
    "he committed the theft to finance his drug addiction"


    I admit to my addictions openly, i.e.  dark, organic Chocolate, especially Green and Black, dogs, horses, laughter and fine art. I am hopelessly smitten with any number of things within those categories. Cats I, unwillingly (joke!), admit to needing in my life too. And family first and always above all others, family.

    I am so addicted that I make all of my life decisions based on those categories. If I can't have my horses, dogs and cats live with me I won't move. The year of 911, when my store and business collapsed, I threw everything I had at it trying to save it. My husband was right there beside me, working as hard as he could too. We lost our house and my business and retirement and we bankrupted. When it came time to move, my first criteria was that my animals had to go with us. I would have lived on the street first rather than give up my animals.

    They ground me, keep me centered and connected to the earth. I can rebuild a garden anywhere but the animals are a kind of sacred trust. I promise to care for them when I bring them home. The world is a rapidly changing and frequently unfriendly place for animals, especially horses. Their wild habitats are nearly gone. If they come to live with me, they are here for the length of their lives. When you are willing to give anything you have away to keep another, that is addiction in the finest sense.

    Chocolate? Ahhh, well that is pure indulgence, pure pleasure. I keep a small box in the pantry with just one or two bars of much too expensive and oh so worth it dark chocolate. John calls it the SACRED BOX OF CHOCOLATE. It has to be written in italics and caps. It's that important. Every afternoon I indulge in just one or two small squares of perfect chocolate with a big cup of english breakfast tea. But, again, that is easily moved, easily refilled, like a garden.

    Dogs? I have a very few friends who are not dog people, but they are that rarity and not the norm. I have had dogs in my life since I was four years old. I have pictures of all of them and remember them, would know them anywhere, as if they were still here. They've taught me the true definition of unquestioned love. They are always at my side, sleeping next to or on the bed. I had Gypsy with me while I ran the store. She sold as much as I did, meeting and greeting customers at the door with a toy in her mouth and a big smile. All of my dogs are country dogs, living without the restraint of leashes. And every one has been happy, healthy and polite, staying on the property. Dogs are a necessity in the country, my companions and security. 

    Cats? They come to me just when I need them. They show up on the door step, hungry, or out in the barn or in the tree in the front yard. We always have two or three and, when the cat that shows up is a pregnant Mama, a few more until I find homes for them. 

    I'm an artist by trade, and designer. The Fine Art addiction is self explanatory. I started buying at auctions when I was in junior high and when it was time to declare a major at university, I gave up my pre med classes in favor of the path of the artist. 

    But at the top of my list, above all others, is family. I would give up everything including my life for my family. And part of my family lives in Alexandria, Virginia. If there is any other reason for us to move to Essex County, it's because we could go visit with just a few hours of driving. It's far easier for me to move my studio, computer and animals than it is for them to leave good jobs.



    There is one last addiction that I haven't addressed, the land. Presently we lease a house, a couple of pastures and a barn on a preserve. Part of our job as caretakers is protecting the land. We care for the trees, restore the prairie areas, protect the wildlife from hunters. I would love to live on another piece of land, calling it our own, and care for it. I want to have it in place and healthy, leaving it for our children and their children. 

    My hope is that the legacy of the land becomes a pattern that is in place, ready for future family to care for. If we do our jobs well, they will carry our love of animals and wild places in to their lives, giving that to their children.

    I am an addict of my life.  


Sunday, August 2, 2015

AUGUST ESSAYS, HORIZONS

That place we all move towards, where the sky meets the Earth and the light is always changing, we seek the horizon. It draws us, like the north takes it's direction from the needle in the compass. The wind takes us there, blowing along with with the leaves, dancing to the south in Autumn. Every moment of our lives we seek the edge of our days.

The American Dream, or the idea of it, takes us forward. It isn't that the only place to be happy is the horizon. We know that it's the journey and not the destination that fills our days. We live our own stories, protagonist, antagonist, drama and comedy. Still, the draw is there carrying us along in it's wake. And we move.


I live in Kansas. I can't begin to count the number of people who've quoted lines from the Wizard of Oz when I tell them that. " Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." or, on the other end of the movie, " There's no place like home." Classic. And I've never met anyone who didn't like that story either. 

A lonely little girl and the dog she's trying to protect get caught in the tail of a tornado and blown in to a magical land, somewhere over the rainbow. It's so entangled in to our culture now that pop stars sing Dorothy's song, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, and now there's a Rainbow Bridge that we all cross from this life to the next, where we find all of the animals we've loved in life waiting for us. 


I've lived on both sides of the Ocean, but Kansas always draws me back. It's a place of big skies, neighbors who help without question, and that wave that we all give each other as we drive down back country roads. It's quiet here. I like that. I love my days spent in my fields with nothing but the wind in the grass, frog song along the edge of the ponds and the sound of my horses grazing. 

Some of my ancestors lay in the ground here, my Grandparents who showed me the joys of gardening, cooking, caring for my horses and dogs and the cranky independent barn cats. 

I went to University here, studied, watched the inevitable KU basketball games, celebrated when we won our Big Kahuna status along with several thousand other raucous fans who clogged the streets, honking horns and dancing. And I've painted, established my career as a Midwestern artist, designer, photographer and illustrator. And, like all Kansans, I never pass up the opportunity to tell a good story. 


But part of my family now lives in Virginia. I'd like to be able to drive an hour or two away, not fly for hours to visit. And the artist in me is yearning for a new landscape to paint and explore, gardens to nurture, southern winds to sing me to sleep. 

I miss them. And I see myself in a place with a beautiful old saltbox house, like my Mother's Mother's, with deep Virginia grasses and the Atlantic just over the horizon. I want to ride my horses down a beach at sunset and stand at the edge of the ocean with them, letting them seek their own horizon so much like the sea of grass that is Kansas.


I'm ready. Carry me back to Virginia where the green grass calls and the countryside waits for me behind split rail fences and graceful trees, bending over the drive home. Take me to new places, to air scented with salt and skies hazy with lazy white clouds, noreasters on the far Winter horizons.