The horse's pasture to the East...

Monday, December 5, 2011


WOOHOO! I'm back. November was NANOWRIMO... National Novel Writing Month. I wrote 50,000 words (actually a bit more) in one month. It was a very funny disaster. This time (I did this three years ago too) I did have a better idea of what I wanted to accomplish, so it was a great way to push myself into launching a project that I would have continued to put off. And I always work better with a goal and some time constraint.

Weather wise we've been having exactly the kind of weather needed to continue working with Lucky and Apache with some regularity. We're all having fun with it too. Somehow, when I put my focus (translates as linear thinking) on the NANOWRIMO, it made the work/play time more fun. Lucky, especially, loves that. He can be hypersensitive to pressure. When it's "play", we both relax and accomplish more in the long run. interesting! (look at how fit he's getting, in the picture above.)

 It rained all day and all night this past Saturday so things are, at last, nice and wet again. Then it froze this morning and this was the way it looked. Pretty, isn't it? I love it when there's fog and frost at the same time. It takes the detail out of the world and leaves beautiful, graphic images. It's also Apache's kind of weather. Every time he moved, it was at a trot. It's always a celebration for Apache. Never a dull moment for him!

And Lucky...oh my. I did it. I found his motivation, a way to make it feel like everything we're doing is his idea. What a difference it's making in our communication. I think it was 3/4's Parelli and 1/4 me. My timing and feel is much better now. I've been working with another horse with an entirely different horsenality than my two (Right Brain Extrovert). She's an 8 year old Arab who's pretty much just been standing around in a field most of her life. And everything is HUGE when she's taken out of her comfort zone (namely, her pasture and away from her mates). I've been taking it in teeny, tiny steps. It probably looks like paint drying to other people, but it's worked very nicely with her. She comes to me now when I get there and looks forward to the grass on the other side of the fence, there for her enjoyment and edification! Work/play with her has taken me further outside my comfort zone, making me learn more about different types of horses and how to read their body language. My tactics with any horse have changed as a result of it. Thanks Mercedes!

Back to I thought he was not going to be interested in playing. He was being very nonchalant, not very engaged or interested in me. Or so I thought! He was like that yesterday too, so I sat down on the mounting block and left him alone. I spent most of my time waiting for him to come to me on his own. When he did, we played for a very short time and then I released him and let him go. Well, guess that paid off.

I finished all the chores this morning, and was getting ready to go in when he came to me, put his nose on my pocket (where I keep carrot pieces) and then looked right at me. "Aren't we going to play today?" The idea of playing for tomorrow really paid off this time. When we played/worked this morning, it was all his idea. No better way to motivate a horse than that!

It was kind of slick out there for the first time in quite a while so I played more "small games" than the usual big field games we play. Both of us were sliding around out there.

I've been working on honing my ability to give him the idea of what game we're playing and how, using the lightest cues. The more subtle I get, the more excited he is. " Ma, you talk fluent horse now!"

Lucky is a Left Brain Introvert on the cusp Right Brain Introvert, so he slips from being pushy and alpha to being shy and introverted in his behaviors. No wonder it's been such a rocky journey for us! My skills are only just starting to catch up with him. "Horses teach humans and humans teach horses." Probably the biggest professor I've ever had!

When I left Lucky, he was standing at the gate calling to me, pushing the gate and rattling the chain. I love the way all of this is working out. Maybe he's the one who's set it up for me to do a better job! I can't wait for tomorrow.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, back in the game again

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I love our gravel road. It winds back and forth, up and down. It's not quite like any of the other areas  here in Northeast Kansas. We're a good two miles off the beaten path in any direction. Most of the traffic we see is other neighbors up and down the road a piece (and around here that can mean a neighbor across the road to ten or fifteen miles away) or a tractor or combine on it's way to any given field for the day.

We moved out here because it is remote, away from all of the traffic, noise and people ... the lawn mowers and leaf blowers. Nothing wrong with living in town if you're happy doing it, but neither John or I was. When the opportunity and reason to move came, we jumped on it and never looked back. The flat tires, washed out roads, loss of power in a storm and extra effort that it takes to do shopping or to get to work is more than worth effort. In fact, it's made both of us more efficient. Going to town is never a willy nilly thing anymore. We always, one or the other of us, have several errands to run. We get them done and then go home with a real sense of relief.

It's taken ten years for the neighboring farmers to accept us "in to the club". When we first moved out here our truck was too new and we were "green" when it came to understanding how to keep a pasture cleared, fence lines in good condition, or how to heat with wood. Course they all think I'm a bit balmy because I name all of the cows. By the end of the summer they're all coming up to me to have their heads scratched. "Miss Nancy, you never name the cows. You know where they're all going so don't get personal." Sorry, they're in our pasture so, while they're here, they're part of my life style. They get apples and the ticks picked off just like the horses. Cows can be pretty cool and their tongues are huge, wet and sloppy.

In town we lived in a much bigger house in one of those suburban places where everyone sprayed their yards and planted bushes. Flowers were planted in careful patterns and no one ever picked them...except in our yard. We took down the fences, made the back yard in to a Wild Life Federation Habitat with paths going through and everyone was welcome to pick any wildflowers they wanted to. In May, right around Mother's Day, kids in the neighborhood would stop by (most of them took the short cut on our paths, through the back yard, on their way home from school) to pick flowers to take to their Mom's. I learned to send notes with the children so the Mom's would know the flowers were given to the kids and not taken without permission.

 Needless to say, the local neighborhood association and I clashed a bit so I compromised. The front yard was where the "formal" gardens were (although anyone could pick those flowers as far as I was concerned and our little patch of lawn had dandylions and wild flowers in it too.). I designed them rather than throwing bags of wild flower seeds out and waiting to see what came up.

My house was bigger and more carefully designed. I was, after all, an interior designer. Long story short, now I'm not!

Now we live in a house that was converted from a barn (we keep it cool most of the Summer using the old barn fan that was put there for the milk cows), it's smaller and nothing about it is designed. The carpets are ancient, the linoleum is fading, the kitchen cabinets are poorly organized and the handles are cheap plastic.  The down stairs is where we write, paint and store the seeds and produce from our gardens. The upstairs is a great, wide open area with no dining room and a huge fireplace that helps to keep the upstairs warm in the Winter.

And every year I find new places to plant more gardens. Some of them are herb gardens, some flower gardens. We have areas that are all native wild flowers that bring in more birds, butterflies and wild life every year. And we have areas that are raised beds for vegetables, a small orchard we've started with each tree commemorating one of our four legged family members that have moved on to whatever comes next.

All I ever wear anymore are blue jeans and overalls, hats to keep the sun off my face and neck, old hankies in my pockets and my beloved beat up cowboy boots. Both of us are hard and skinny from all of the physical work required to keep a place like this going. I never "do" my hair anymore and the make up in the drawer in the bathroom is getting dried up from never being used.

Am I in my element? Oh yeah...absolutely. My horses are in the back yard, my truck is old and faded now and so am I. It's not quite as much fun as having little boys, but it's a pretty doggone close second. I spend my days going sun up to sun down, working, with no other sounds than the wind, the birds and the horses.

A friend wrote to me today and asked me how it's going in "Nancy's World" and I realized I hadn't checked in here lately. I've been doing NANOWRIMO this month. I know there's a way to turn that in to a link to the website, but I'm not quite that tech savvy yet.

I'm writing a novel (50,000 words) in one month. I did it three years ago. It was mostly a disaster, with me coughing up words in no coherent way. I just wanted to get my number. What a silly goal! But it got me going in a new direction, this BLOG being part of my focus. So this year I'm more prepared and have a story line, an idea that I worked out ahead of time. I even passed up the opportunity to cheat by writing ahead of time (which means that I have to make up words after taking the time to write here). I'm interested in e publishing as an additional source of income while I reach for my goal as a certified Parelli Professional...the true final goal.

I've had my own small study buddy group with several very nice people involved along with their horses. What a nice way to stretch myself while I learn how to interact with different horsenalities and personalities.

Is my life ideal? Heck no! I'm probably working harder than I ever have except for the first intense years of being a young Mom. This is like being back in a self imposed graduate school with all of the attendant worries, goals and expenses. Good thing I like to learn so much!

I probably won't write here again until the end of the month. I should have all kinds of funny things to tell you about my latest adventures in writing and whether I made it to my goal of 50,000 words. And I'll have stories to tell you about playing with horses and helping other people to learn how to play with their horses too. That just gets better and better.

In the meantime, if you're out in our neck of the woods...literally!...I hope you'll stop by for Thanksgiving dinner or just to say "Howdy!"

I am, ever yours, Nancy, slightly brain burned and dusty from the gravel dust blowing in the windows, smiling!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


 I was scrolling down through my Facebook page and found a posting by Parelli Natural Horsemanship. It's a list of their core values as a business, a school and as a community of people focused on making the world a better place for horses and humans.

I love it! It's evolving (as in "Make your good better and your better best.") so as it changes and I find out about it, I'll post the newest versions too.

This is the first and only organization I've ever chosen to be a part of for this long a period. The above list is one of the reasons I stay with it. Thank You, Parelli, for making it so easy for this loan wolf to become a member.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling at the way things go...

Monday, October 24, 2011


Sometimes an event, maybe even a small, insignificant event, can change your course in ways you don't expect.

This morning, while coming back up from the compost area, a locust flew from my right (North) and stopped in  the air in front of me, hovering. It made a high pitched "brrrr...rrrrr...rrrr" sound. I stopped to watch it and, out of curiosity, counted. How long was it going to hang in the air in front of me? I counted past thirty. It gave me plenty of time to wonder at how handsome and efficient an insect it was. I had no idea that locusts did that, hovering in the air for long periods of time.

I know that they can travel in huge masses, flying on the wind and settling on crops and landscapes, eating everything in their path. But today is very still, no more than a light breeze, and it was only one locust that looked much like the bottom one in the picture above.

It's wings were dark with a white stripe up towards the connection to the body. It must have been the wings moving against each other that made the high pitched whirring noise. I've had wood bees scan me (I think they're usually called Carpenter Bees for the hole they drill into the surface of anything made of wood). I've never felt a locust stop to sing and look at me. 

Just as the locust began to fly on to my left (south), I looked down and there, on the ground in front of me less than three feet away, was a large, mature Copperhead. It was precisely where I would have stepped. It moved on towards the right (north) at exactly the same time the locust moved on to the left. If I had not stopped to look at the hovering locust...if I hadn't stopped to study it and wonder at it, I would have stepped on or right next to the Copperhead and most likely have been bitten in the leg. 

The locust stopped again, hovering in front of me and about a foot from my left shoulder, still whirring, until the Copperhead had disappeared into the woods about fifteen feet to my right (north). It flew on, never hitting the ground, off into the pasture towards the woods several acres away. And I stood there, listening to a locust sing in mid air and watching more than three feet of Copperhead slither past me.

It was a single locust, out of season, that saved me from serious injury.

We live in snake country out here. I'm usually very careful about where I walk or what I lean over and pick up. I carry a walking stick with me to flip rocks and logs over or to poke underneath them before I step over or sit on anything. But this time it was a locust who was my warning system.

Being with my horses is a meditative experience for me. It meshes perfectly with my life as an artist. During the day I'm usually here by myself, working and playing with my horses, working in the barn or on fences, planting my gardens, painting or sketching, and sometimes writing about my life, here, on my BLOG. Most of what I do is quiet, without words, and experienced  from the right, more intuitive side, of my brain. 

The older I get, the further into living in quiet I go, the easier it is to still the constant voice that jabbers away in my brain. I've become more connected to my horses, dogs and cats, the cattle that live here in Summer and the wild life. There are no radios, no TV, and most of the time the only music I listen to comes from the sounds of the wind and trees around me, the birds and frogs that sing through three seasons of the year. 

I've been reading a book that a friend gave to me; ZEN MIND, ZEN HORSE written by Allan Hamilton, MD. He's (you're going to love this!) a renowned Harvard trained Neuro Surgeon and a Natural Horsemanship Clinician. Both John and I have read it and now I'm reading it again. It's an excellent book that very closely parallels the techniques and philosophies that I've been learning with the Parelli System. 

In the book, Dr. Hamilton discusses and compares the brain of a human and the brain of a horse and how they function...the differences and similarities. Not surprisingly, he also talks about the two sides of his own personality and the ways that his mind works in his polar opposite roles as a Surgeon working with highly precise instruments, putting his emotions to the side to perform his operations and the Horseman, working in an environment where your intuitive side has to reign, making snap decisions for you. 

This morning I was in a place I call the "Zone". I open myself to the rhythms of the world around me. I let time go. There are no watches or time schedules in the "Zone". And, for the most part, there is no voice in my head. I'm in the moment, feeling, smelling, tasting, touching, hearing and seeing. It's really a very sensuous place to be. I always feel more connected and fully awake when I'm in the "Zone". When you spend as much time with super prey that weigh, on average, around a thousand pounds each, as I do,  it's not a bad place to be. Things with horses can change in a nano second.

I'd been aware that something was making them nervous, keeping them up closer to the barn this morning. And Miniver, my dog, had come over and kept putting herself in my path too. She weighs around 100 pounds, so she's hard to ignore when she does that. Usually I pay more attention to her when she behaves so protective, but I was visualizing my last session with Lucky and Apache, playing at Liberty together out in the pasture. I was not as focused on my surroundings as I should have been. So I wasn't as in the "Zone" as I thought I was either. 

All of the animals around me were. 

But I did reconnect with the "Zone" when I listened to the locust. 

My question for myself is "Why didn't I do a better job of listening to the horses and Miniver?" and the sixty four thousand dollar question is "Where did the locust come from and why did it hover in front of me at that precise moment?" (I'm not questioning the snake. It was in it's habitat, doing what it always does.)

I'm going to be licking and chewing on this one for quite a while. Oh, and if you want a really good read (and I can suggest it even if you aren't a horse person!), I would definitely put a copy of Dr. Hamilton's book, ZEN MIND, ZEN HORSE on your holiday list this year. 

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling at you from the "Zone"

Monday, October 17, 2011


Ever find yourself drifting off the subject in the middle of a conversation? Or maybe just distracting yourself from finishing what you started? I remember, a few years back, listening to a lecture on how to keep yourself motivated by Dr. Stephanie Burns. She told her audience that it all depended on what kind of person you are...a person who likes beginnings, a student who likes to be out there in the middle or a super goal oriented person who seeks the goal at the expense of the path you need to take to get there.

Myself? I love beginnings. I always liked the first day of school. I loved the smell of my new box of crayons, all of the blank notebooks with lots of space for possibilities, my new clothes...all of it. And I still do. It's always exciting, finding a new subject to learn about and to do the research on. There's all the new people to talk to about it and websites to find and read. Even though I'm goal oriented, it was always the beginning I liked best. 

The hard part for me is the middles...the vasty, boggy, get lost in the fog (also known as distracted) and wade in it up to my knees middles. Middles always seem so long, so unavoidable, so dull. I always "did my middles", especially because I wanted to reach the goal so I could start another wonderful, bright shiny new beginning. I like the adrenalin rush, the small bit of stress that puts me outside that comfort zone we all love to talk about, so I can learn something brand new.

When I can get to the other end of my day and say " Look at that! I learned something new today.", then I feel like it was in the "best day" category. "That was my best day ever!" I still get to say that ever so often and I still love the feeling it gives me. It's all I can do to keep from picking up the phone and calling a friend to tell them goofy things like " Hey, I learned how to make a poultice with a paper baby diaper soaked in apple cider vinegar and Epsom salts, some vet wrap and duck tape." Uh can imagine how exciting that is for most people, can't you? Or, how about " I know what Thrush smells and looks like. I learned that today when my donkey's hooves were kind of oozy and smelly." 

It's new and I love to figure out the puzzle, how it works, what to do with all of the information I didn't have before. But then come the middles...the long, dusty, musty middles where the Thrush comes back and I still have to deal with it again. Course, I do it because the end goal of clean, healthy hooves is out there beckoning so (you knew this was coming!) I can start again.

This year has been one with endings I didn't want to get to and beginnings that still leave me in awe of how much there is to learn! I have another horse to play and work with. She isn't mine. She belongs to a friend and lives up the road a bit, but still close enough for me to get over to play with her a couple of times a week. Her name is Mercedes. She's helping me to fill that place in me that loves grey mares. I can't have one of my own right now so I get to do something that's second best...begin again with a friend's horse. That a double beginning! It's the first time I've seriously tried to work with someone else's horse when they weren't involved. 

And there's Miniver. You might say she's one of my huge beginnings (pun definitely intended. She's still growing too, so she's going to get bigger!).

And there's Abby, my newest and youngest study buddy. She isn't able to make it out every week, but ever so often she comes to see us with her Grandma. She's a true natural with all of the animals. She loves everything about them...the smells, the bond, the interactions and even the hard work. She loves to muck out the stalls and sweep the barn! Now that's what I call a true horse-woman in the making.

There's new relationships to foster. (That's me, Nancy Doolittle)

And John who's just beginning his journey with Apache! 

And....ta da! new study buddy group. We meet once a week and it's fascinating every single time. It's sort of like a wedding...something always happens! I'm a bit further ahead than they are so I've been having a lot of fun showing them the ropes (another pun intended!).

It's been a year for more beginnings than I'd realized before I started this story today. No wonder the year is flying by so fast! Whew...lots of "outside the comfort zone" time for me. 

But if you go back to the beginning (there's that word again!) of this BLOG entry, you'll find that I've also distracted myself too by wondering a bit from what I intended to talk about. 

I'm in the misty, vast, sometimes overwhelming in it's size middles with Lucky. And with Apache too since he and I still play together when John can't. I'm here, smack dab in the middle, trying to keep my head on straight and my focus on the goal. Although I can't let myself do that with too much intention since horses have only one goal...survival. If I get too direct line Lucky knows that and he responds by being evasive.    sigh...

See what I mean? It's getting more and more complicated and Zen and anything Zen is going to twist your mind around. 

So I've decided to treat everyday like the beginning that it is. I go to bed saying "Whew...did a lot today. Got all kinds of things done. Good for me!" And I wake up the next day saying " Hot dog! I get to start again. Doesn't get any better than that!" and off I go, through the gate , wading through the middle and ending again, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning because it's so hard to get my head to turn off. I'm having that much fun!

I'm not sure that's exactly what Dr. Burns was suggesting to us when she talked about keeping yourself motivated but it's working for me, at least for now. 

I'm out the door to set the playground up in a new design so we can approach our games from another point of view. This is my middles time of the day and you, dear reader, are my distraction. And it doesn't get any better than that!

My fan club awaits! 

I am, ever yours, Nancy, laughing

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Home. Four letters and so complicated. Home. I love that word. Home. It's where I go when things are overwhelming. Home. But it isn't a place. It's a feeling. Home. It's inside me. I've always carried it with me. Home. But sometimes it takes years to figure the simple things Home.

Thirty eight years ago, when I was just 22 and pregnant with my first son I was in a place that I thought was home, waiting, like all young women do when they're focused on the changes going on inside when their life is about to change forever. I thought Home was a place. I found out that Autumn that Home is a feeling.

My Mom called to tell me that my brother, my little brother who was only just twenty, had been shot in a hunting accident. It was serious. He'd been shot at point blank range in his abdomen.

John, my husband, took me to the hospital to wait. And all I could think about was Home. I have a tendency to disassociate, to go somewhere else in my mind when things are overwhelming. Hearing a Doctor tell us that my brother was near death was overwhelming. I wanted to go Home.

I wanted to be anyplace else except that horrible, little waiting room with that exhausted young doctor telling us what was probably going to happen. He told us to go into my brother's room to say goodbye. I didn't want to. I wanted to go Home. And I couldn't. I was stuck and I had to face what was happening. Home. That was all I wanted. Home.

I remember walking down the hallway. The walls were green on the bottom, white on the top and the floor was brown linoleum. To this day I still don't like those colors together, in that combination. It was the middle of the night so the lights were dim and everything was quiet. And all I wanted was Home.

I didn't want to go into that room. I didn't want to hear the heart monitor ticking, ticking, ticking. Home. It was in my mind, a weird kind of mantra. Home. Home. Home. I couldn't breath. I couldn't move. I wanted Home.

Home was a place where it always smelled good, like cookies and wind. It was small and there was a table in the kitchen with one leg propped up with a piece of folded paper to keep it level. The table cloth was old and soft, faded and stained where I'd flipped a peanut butter and jelly sandwich over and the grape jelly left purple smudges. The windows were always open and my dog was under the table, waiting for me. Home. I just wanted to be Home.

But I walked into that room and saw my brother laying there with a tent over his middle, hiding the tubes and bandages. He was in shock and breathing so hard and shallow that it sounded like he'd been running for too long. They told me he was in a coma, but when I took his hand he squeezed it. And then, I was Home.

That was when I knew who I was going to be, where I was going to go, how I was going to get there. And the first step was knowing that I was Home. It was right there inside me...Home. It was always there, my little house with the lop sided table and cookie smells. Home was always inside and not a place.

He lived. It wasn't an easy thing for him to do. Sometimes it's easier to leave than it is to stay. Maybe he wanted to go Home too. But, instead, he stayed. Over the last 38 years he started a business, married twice, raised five children and climbed his share of mountains and slogged through more than a few valleys too. I never asked him if he knew that word, that place inside called Home.

Today I went to the hospital to see him again, sick again. He called this afternoon to tell me that he might have had a heart attack, that he was in the hospital going through one test after another while they tried to figure out what was wrong.

It wasn't his heart. It wasn't his gall bladder. It was in his colon, in the place where his old scars were. There was an obstruction and it hurt!

I walked down that corridor again. The hospital has changed. The floors are carpeted, the walls are all different colors and patterns. The rooms are warm and the chairs are comfortable. We didn't have to wait in a waiting room either. All of us, his sons and one of his daughters, his wife, his friends and me...we all were there, waiting, talking, smiling, laughing.

And there it was again, Home. I wasn't in a hospital room worried about my brother. I was Home, sitting at my little table and everyone was there with me eating my famous chocolate chip cookies and drinking real milk, the kind with cream on the top. And my little brother was there, sitting at my table too.

I don't know what's going to happen. I'm here, writing and waiting to hear how he is. Before I left the hospital to come home, he took my hand and squeezed it again. He didn't feel good, but he looked right at me and smiled anyway. And there, just for a moment, he was Home too, with me.


Friday, September 16, 2011


Last night I had a dream. I walked through all the dark places of the world where I could not see. I could feel the branches and leaves of the trees and the tall grasses and plants touching me, moving along with me as I walked a path towards a light.

The light was from the Council Fires of Father Sun, Mother Earth and Sister Moon. When I walked into the light of the fires, there were people from all the tribes, villages and places of the world there, waiting for me. Their faces carried the lines of their lives and the lives of their many peoples. They were wise and old and they waited for me.

"I am the Story Teller. I will tell you the story of the First Day of the Spring of the World, when all of you were born and the Mother Earth lived without her robes." On my shoulder was a spider, small and not easily noticed. She sat and waited, like the others, while she spun out her delicate threads.

"I was here in the beginning when the only people at the Council Fires were Father Sun, Mother Earth and Sister Moon who lived here in the Darkness together, keeping the Fires. That was when I began my First Story...the beginning of all Stories.

In the beginning Father Sun was strong and he shown with a new light so bright that the Fires were dim when he sat too close. Mother Earth was beautiful and round, pregnant with the Possibilities. Sister Moon shown with a clear, cool Light bright enough to light the evening skies. Her face was quiet and the lines upon it were easily seen, carrying the stories that she would witness. She would always be the Listener.

Mother Earth said, " I am naked. I need a robe to keep me warm for all my days." and Father Sun said, "Then we will make one." And Sister Moon listened.

Father Sun said, " I will dance across the skies, bringing light and warmth to shine on your Robe. I will give you the Birds to fly above you." And he gave to Mother Earth the Eagle, the Hawk and Owl to carry courage and all of the small birds...the Wren, The Meadowlark and Mocking Bird, The Robin and Cardinals to carry the song of the world.

And Sister Moon listened.

Mother Earth said, " I will add to my robe the Fish and Turtle, the Frog and other creatures of the Waters to create waves on the surface, to help my Robe to shine.

And Sister Moon listened.

Father Sun said, " I will give to you the Bear for strength, The Wolf and Coyote for cunning, The Cougar and Puma for power and the other large Animals for balance."

And Sister Moon listened. And then she said, " I will give you the Horse, the finest of all creatures. She will carry the Conscience and Soul of the World. She will be strong to carry this heavy load and she will be swift so that she can dance with Father Sun. And with her I will send all of the small creatures of the World to follow in her Herds...the Mouse and Deer, the Raccoon and Otter. And beside her will walk the Elk and Buffalo to ease her burden. "

And Father Sun and Mother Earth listened and were happy for Sister Moon.

And Mother Earth said, " In between, in the small spaces of the Robe of the World, I will make patterns with the Insects. They will sing, carrying the Stories to Eagle, Bear, Coyote, Elk and Horse and all the others of the World. " And then the Robe of Mother Earth was full and rich and round enough to cover her and she was happy.

And Sister Moon listened.

And Father Sun said, " I will give you one more gift. I will give you the threads, the sinews that will hold the Robe together and make the stories One Story. " And he brought into the Light of the Council Fires the Spider. She was so small that the others could not see her at first so he gave her a special Gleam of Light called Silk. She always carried the Threads of Silk with her so that others would feel her there. And he said, " Spider, I give you the Words, carried in the Silk. You will give a strand to all the Trees, Grasses, Birds, Animals and Places of the World. Your Silks will hold the Robe together. How you weave it will make the Patterns of the Stories of the World."

And Spider said, " But I am too small. How will I do this? They cannot see me."

And Father Sun said, " You will visit all of them and tell them their Story, giving them their piece of Silk.

And Sister Moon listened.

And so Spider went to Eagle and he said, " You are small. I will eat you." And she said, " I have a story to tell you before you take my life." He said, " Very good. I will listen." and while she spoke, she attached a Thread to the feather on the Eagle's wing. And when he flew away to tell his story to the other Birds and creatures of the air, forgetting that he was going to eat the Spider, he carried the Silk and it stuck to each of the others and they made it part of their stories too.

And then Spider went to Bear and he said, "You are small. I will crush you." And she spoke to him, saying, "I have your story to tell before you take my life." And he said, "Then tell it to me." and while she spoke his story, she attached another Thread to him, on his broad back, tangled in the soft, bright hair. And when he left, forgetting about the little Spider, the Threads flew out behind him and became part of the stories of all the creatures of the land...the Elk, Buffalo, Coyote and Wolf, Puma and Bob Cat.

And then Spider went to the Horse and Horse said, " You will ride with me. Your Silk will become my mane and tail and we will, together, finish the Robe of Mother Earth. I will be the Conscience, teaching all the Children of the World to know right and wrong, to know how to carry in their hearts kindness and thoughtfulness." And Spider rode upon the back of Horse, spinning her Threads into Horse's mane and tail so that all the Stories would be together.

And Father Sun watched, singing the Stories across the sky everyday.

And Mother Earth wore her Robe, happy to be, quietly moving in her own circle to the music of Father Sun.

And Sister Moon listened, watched and was the Witness to the Story, smiling sometimes and crying others as we all do when a Story is told.

" I am the Story Teller. My story is never done..."

....and that was my Dream, last night.

Monday, August 29, 2011


I have a Pavlovian reaction to vacuum cleaners. (Intrigued, aren't you?) After spending the past fifteen or so years living with a half coyote/half dog, I've become an expert on vacuum cleaners. Newman made more hair than any other animal I've ever had the privilege of living with. I sometimes think he was so thin, not because of his coyote heritage, but because he spent most of his energy making a hair coat.

Most dogs shed out their hair in the Spring and grow a thick coat for the Winter. Hair in the Spring is normal. You brush and groom, brush and groom and, in a few weeks, it's over. "Hair Anxiety" drops to a more manageable level and you move on with your year. But Newman did what I called The Big Blow Out every year. That's when he would make his nests for Gypsy too. Was it a coyote thing? I never knew since I had no way to compare his behaviors to a wild coyote.

But that wasn't where it stopped. He would make hair...and make hair...and make hair...and make hair. Over the years we had at least eight vacuum cleaners that his hair blew out. That averages out to a new vacuum cleaner every two years. Expensive vacuums, cheap vacuums, made for picking up pet hair vacuums, industrial vacuums...nothing made it through the "Newman Test". I even resorted to using a wet/dry vac to clean my house. Blew that out too. And that's why I have a Pavlovian Response to a new vacuum cleaner.

Every time I bought a new one (by the way, I was really, really good at disassembling vacuums, replacing belts and parts...anything it took to keep the newest vacuum going as long as possible.) I would clean and clean and clean. I'd vacuum everything! The carpets were always first, of course. But then came the furniture, walls, blinds, fan blades, pillows, backs of paintings...EVERYTHING! I knew the vacuum was going to die sooner rather than later so I wanted to get my licks in as much as possible before the changing of the belts and cleaning of the parts began. It was very rewarding!

I loved the three or four months of unimpaired vacuuming. Aaaahhhhh, the clean air and carpets, the clean furniture and was heaven! Over those years I learned to love BEGINNINGS. I found out it was fun to work with a good tool that, even though it was doomed to an unusual demise, was going to make me very happy in the beginning and then was going to stretch my patience and force me into that place outside my comfort zone where I had to learn. I didn't really want to learn about vacuums. It was a forced issue that became part of the journey we had with Newman living with us. After a while it was a running family joke with bets taken on the side about how long it would be before I had to start taking it apart to keep it going. I have no doubt at all that, if I am given Grandchildren, I will have some really funny stories to tell them about how I learned to be a vacuum cleaner expert!

Mind you, I've always been one of those people who loved to start something ; school, a painting, a new garden, most anything. So having this Pavlovian response to a new vacuum cleaner probably wasn't all that unexpected. But it also taught me patience, made me even more creative in how I stretched my dollars for parts, forced me to learn more about how machines run...something I'm not easily drawn to. The operative word in that sentence was PATIENCE. It was either let myself get angry (which I admit to doing a lot of until we got to our fourth vacuum cleaner.) or make myself look at it as a game.

I have Newman to thank for setting me up for more fun while I learn how to be a better horseman! His hair coat and all of those vacuum cleaners that didn't pass the "coyote tough test" set me up for success further down the road.

Whenever things get intense, and things DO get intense sometimes with horses, I remind myself of the vacuum cleaners that I've learned how to repair over the years, the negotiating skills that I've built when dealing with vacuum cleaner companies and the stores that sell the machines, the patience and the laughter that comes from beginning to see it as a game. I smile, things lighten up and off we go together to play instead of to work.

So, in a convoluted way, I guess you could say that I now have a translated Pavlovian response to Parelli and Natural Horse-Man-Ship. I get to keep practicing my sends, my allows, my bring backs and it's all a game that, hopefully, when it gets "broken", I can call or write or read or watch a video that will help me to find the "parts" to fix the game. Now the bets being taken are about when I will have a breakthrough or when I will reach a new level.

Just one more thing. After Newman left this world and moved on to the next, he took one more vacuum cleaner with him. I thought about burying it with him as sort of a monument for archaeologists to find thousands of years from now. Think of the stories it would generate while they tried to understand why an early 21st century vacuum cleaner was buried with petrified coyote bones! But he wasn't happy when I ran the vacuum. It was time to exit to the world of grasses and fields when I went on one of my "vacuuming benders." So I opted to throw it out.

And now I have a new vacuum cleaner and very clean floors. Anyone want to take any bets how long this one will last?

I am, ever yours, Nancy, laughing out loud at the way things go!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Sometimes you make connections in ways you don't expect. My husband was reading the news on line this morning and found an obituary for the father of a friend of mine, from college. We'd lost track of each other for more than forty years. I still think about her ever so often, probably because of the time of life that we met. We were both teenagers just out of high school and really excited about being on our own, out in the big world. And, like all young people that age, we had no idea how short that time was. We'd always been young so what could happen?

I didn't know that the reason she wasn't at school the next semester was because she'd transferred to the Arts Institute in Kansas City, quite a prestigious school here in the Midwest. She never said goodbye. She was just gone. So, again in that way that the very young have, I went on with my life. I adjusted. But I never forgot about her either. For a brief time we were best friends, together every free moment, probably because the world was bigger than we thought it was going to be. It was much easier to deal with the unexpected attention we got as young girls when we could come back to her room and hide for a while to talk about it and reassure each other.

I sent her a letter on line giving her my condolences for loosing her Dad, a very nice person. I'd met him when I went home with her for my first Thanksgiving away from my home. I remember him being very intelligent, kind, funny and obviously very proud of his talented daughter. Her relationship with her parents was quite different than mine, so I went home with new ideas about how families were supposed to be. It was one of my first experiences in the home of another adult friend and quite an eye opener for me. Her family gave me a new direction. I was going to learn how families, healthy families, were supposed to function. I'd known at a deep level for a long time that my nuclear family was not an ideal situation.

I'm not going to dwell here on my own past. I don't identify myself with it anymore. But I will say that it was the first time that I made a truly adult decision to break the patterns that I had been raised in. My path had changed because of one long weekend in a small town, at her house. I was going to learn how to be my own person.

When that relationship ended so quickly, I was devastated, but only for a short time. It was the sixties and everything was changing...the whole world was turning upside down, or at least it seemed that way. It was a time to experiment in ways that hadn't happened before. I was going to walk the path of the artist, so I jumped in head first and never looked back. I grew my hair out until it hit the backs of my knees, found my best friend and moved in with him and his roommate.

You're wondering where this is taking you, what it has to do with horses. One of the few things that I decided to carry on to my "new path" was my love for animals. You see, they never lied to me. Their respect for me, their love for me was real. An, horse, cat, birds...has no hidden itinerary. They either like you or they don't. And that was what I was looking for, that honesty and loyalty. It was another way of making my own patterns. Their truth became my truth. They existed in the here and now, living as they were in that moment.

That doesn't mean they didn't have memories of the past. They do, and those experiences made it easier for them to make better decisions in their present. It's a model I'm still following. My job is to improve, to make my better into my best. Their job is to be my partner. The best part of that relationship is, aside from the endless opportunities to grow, learn, be better, healthier physically, mentally, emotionally, is the time I spend with them.

My horse is a true reflection of who I am. I can't avoid it. They become who I am every single day. And when I'm incongruent because I forget and try to "put on a false face" (one of the old patterns I grew up with), they turn and walk away. It's as simple as that. Horses can be very blunt.

You can't flim flam a horse. "Horses teach humans and humans teach horses." Eight Principals of Horse-Man-Ship. You see where I'm taking you?

Part of my rediscovery of who I want to be instead of who I was "supposed to be" has taken me into places I didn't know were there...inside myself. I've at last found a group, an organization, that I can be a part of that has no hidden agenda. It isn't hard for me to say "I am Parelli" anymore. It's become a philosophy. I"m doing my best to take it in to every part of my life. They've said that their goal is to make a better world for horses AND humans. Today some part of that idea clicked into my new path, one of my new patterns and I got it.

I have no doubt that there will be all kinds of curves, hills, dips and maybe even mountains and canyons for me to deal with. And I can't wait! Not one day has been dull since I've started my life with horses. I will have all kinds of questions to answer, lessons to learn and patterns to follow. It's an opportunity for never ending self improvement.

I remember driving home from my Friend's house. It wasn't that long a drive but it seemed to go on and on to me. We didn't talk much, probably because we were both tired. She fell asleep while I drove and thought about our weekend. It was such an important beginning for me.

I never had a chance to tell her folks how much I appreciated that weekend, well at least not in any profound way. I wrote a nice thank you note the way that my Grandmother had taught me. But I never told them about the change in me, probably because I thought there was plenty of time to do that later. Time is endless when you're young, and that's the way it should be too or we wouldn't take our leaps and make our changes. I can't regret what I couldn't help. Life makes unexpected jumps sometimes.

Today I had a chance to close a circle by writing to her and her Mom. She's "friend-ed" me on Facebook so I'm looking forward to getting to know her again, to catch up. I've had a chance to, at last, say my thank you for starting me down a better path just by being who they were as a family.

I can't wait for tomorrow! Even better, I love where I am right now!

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling and pondering the way things go

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Panic...PANIC! Stop the presses...sirens going off...hands in the air PANIC! Ever so often I fall into one of those deep holes of " I just don't think I can do this!". Self doubt overwhelms my horizon and I shut down. Actually, I get really, really busy. Closets get cleaned out. Floors get polished. Even the silver gets polished, what little I have! If I keep my feet moving then I don't have to face the mountain I've built up in front of myself to keep me from moving forward. It's an old story, isn't it?

I'm not learning if I'm not outside my comfort zone. Being outside my comfort zone equals danger. Danger means monsters in the closet and under the bed so DON'T GO THERE! I know, intellectually, that when I build up all of my defenses, my "what if?"s and "but I can't..."s, it's just my brain saying "I don't trust you to keep me alive, so I'm taking over by sabotaging you emotionally." And it works too! I "get busy doing stuff" , totally unimportant stuff (yeah, it nice to have a clean closet, but that kind of thing can wait ) to keep myself from making my good better and my better best.

And pretty soon I've talked myself into thinking that not only am I not improving, not learning, but that I don't deserve to! By spending so much of my time becoming a better horse-woman, I'm being lazy. Backwards, isn't it? I've never worked so hard, physically, in my life to be better for this crew of mine. Most of the time I'm very happily obsessed! In fact, I usually have to make myself slow down because I have a tendency to be a direct line thinker. There isn't anything more "not horse" than being direct line.

My excuse this time around is the weather. It's been over 100 every single day for more than a month here. The land is fried. Crops are failing. The grass is brown and the hay crop was less than half of what it was last year. When it's up to 105, 108 or 111 (like it was yesterday!) it's hard to find a way to Play Games with my horses. We're all doing well to just slog through the day. It really is like being hit with a hot griddle every time I walk out the door.

I have a tendency to get angry at the things I can't the weather. And that's just another way to "Stop the presses! Hold the stage! Cheese it!". Sooner or later I end up like I was this morning, crying out in the barn while I did my morning chores, convinced that I was a failure and I might as well quit!

Pretty effective as a form of self sabotage, isn't it?

It may have been the hammer I knocked off of the shelf, landing on my toe. Or it may have been the wasp that stung me when I jumped, trying to keep from getting hit by the hammer. And those buggers never sting just once! But something made me "hit the wall" and wake up. I came up to the surface, took a deep breath of air and said " Wait a minute. What's going on here? " (along with a few, more than blue, words uttered because now I had two stings on my neck and a swollen toe!) How interesting that, just at the height of my self doubt epiphany, I manage to bruise myself and get myself stung. Sort of a "HEY, NANCY! YOU THERE?" shout out.

While I was inside, putting cold packs on the toe and vinegar on the stings, I started laughing at how funny I must have looked. Laughter always makes me breath deeply, relax. The right brain freeze attack ends and I switch to the other side, the left side, and begin to think again. I broke my own pattern!

So, I've been very effectively putting myself into the box, into the 'safe zone', keeping myself from walking towards my goal. If I were one of my students, what would I say to myself to get the engines started and the whole shebang rolling again? It was time for the inner game of Approach and Retreat! I'd Broken the Pattern with a hammer and a wasp. Step two is break it down into smaller pieces, just like I do with the horses when we've blown through a threshold, and Retreat to build confidence.

I have no idea where my threshold is that I pushed myself through. I'm still a bit blind in that area when it comes to myself. I'm guessing it's because I am so goal oriented that I push harder than I should. When it comes to becoming a better horse-woman, to building my own confidence as well as theirs, to becoming that much sought after 51% / 49% partnership that Pat Parelli talks about I NEED TO SLOW DOWN. I need to follow the tenants of  my favorite quote, "Take the time that it takes so it takes less time.", to move further down my path.

So, this morning we played. I mean we really played. I got out the water hose and we ran through the hose! I scratched all of the best itchy places. I stood around and just watched the haze on the horizon, standing next to Apache and letting everything go. I didn't scoop poop. We did grain later in the morning, like closer to noon! Shocking!

We walked out into the East pasture, the one that gave us only half the hay it did last year, crunching along on top of the dormant grasses. Ever so often we'd stop to graze (Noooooooo...I didn't eat the grass.). I'd match their energy, stand with the same leg cocked that one or the other had, and just hung expectations, no itinerary. In short, I did nothing more than just try to "be" with them.

And then it happened. Apache, my Left Brain Extrovert, asked me a question. He flicked his ears at me, softened his eyes and said " Wanna play?" I was in the zone by then with my swollen toe, sore stings, wet shoes and muddy shirt. I smiled and said " Well, yeah!" and off we went. I don't know how long we played. I didn't have a watch on. Besides, time was irrelevant. This was horse play at it's best!

We walked and trotted together, played Circle game around each other, danced Sideways (a first at Liberty for us!) and walked in a backwards circle just for fun! I should put that part in caps...JUST FOR FUN! Getting it done wasn't the objective here. Having fun while we experimented was!

When I ran my hand down his back, knocking the flies off for him, he turned and nuzzled/groomed me between my shoulders (withers) while I rubbed his withers. And then we were done. He walked off, out into his lovely, long pasture to be with Lucky and Willow. And I turned and limped off towards the house, dogs in tow, with a smile on my face.