The horse's pasture to the East...

Friday, July 24, 2015


It hasn't changed. I still get up, run to the kitchen window and exclaim, " Horses!". I am in awe every single day of my life. I live with horses, beautiful, funny, intelligent, independent, fierce, emotional horses. 

How can I not be excited? 

A friend came out to visit. She'd never actually been up close to a real horse, only read about them, watched my posts and pictures. She worked up her courage, called and asked to come out. I almost always say yes. I love to give people, especially artists, the opportunity to meet a horse.

They're all individuals, like us. I see them as giant snowflakes, each one a different pattern, never repeated in exactly the same way. Some of them have softer, rounder, easier to understand and interact with personalities. Others are more reactive, higher energy, sensitive or athletic, funny, game players. 

My tiny herd is an eclectic mix of a tall, sorrel, kind and willing but very aware of changes in his environment Foxtrotter ( a gaited horse with different specific movements for every environment and, in this case, Lucky is also a jumper who can mule jump a four foot fence from a stand still.), a stocky, athletic and surprisingly graceful, independent Curly who holds my heart in his, a smaller athletic American Mustang with an efficient trot that goes all day and a zero to forty mph flat-out run that takes your breath away, and a wee, tiny Miniature Donkey named Willow who runs the show with hutzpah and attitude.

Each of them is at a different place in their journey as a skilled horse, and all of them are my teachers. I have a true diversity to offer people when they come out to see us.

I'm the only one that rides them. If a mistake is made I want it to be mine. But I am comfortable allowing people to be with them, happy to show them how to stand with a horse, introduce themselves politely to a horse. We talk about body language, energy, presence and whatever else the person asks me about. And I'm always careful to tell them I'm by no means an expert. I will probably be a student to the end of my life. Good thing I love to learn!

My friend was, not surprisingly, blown away by their sheer size and presence. We never knock the curiosity out of our horses, and all of them are treated with dignity and kindness. They are part of every decision we make here, for them. If it's one of those days that they just don't want to play/work, I sit down and wait. They always end up coming to me sooner or later. And I try to be aware of where their energy is for the day, the weather (extreme heat is very difficult to manage so playing in the Summer time is at a softer, quieter level with plenty of time to walk and cool off and a cool bath afterwards) and what we are working on.

 I keep books in the barn with lists. (and, yes, it's probably the only part of my life that has that kind of organization in it.) And, sometimes, we work for only five or fifteen minutes, and always until I see them relaxed and in a good place mentally and emotionally. We always end on a good note, always. Even when I broke my arm John put them away and stood quietly with them until they were calm and focused.

My friend said, " They're so quiet. And curious. I thought they'd be running around, hiding from us. I saw you having to go out with a whip cracking, whistling and yelling, to get them to run by." Uh huh. Too many movies. I think maybe she was a bit disappointed, wanted more trauma drama. 

I know they're beautiful in motion, poetry and music in every step. Their muscles ripple, manes and tails blow, hooves beat a rhythm that inspires. But I'm proud of the fact my foursome greets people quietly, calmly and politely. If they aren't interested in meeting you they turn and walk away. And that sometimes happens.  giving me an opportunity to talk about energy and body language, the art of being able to draw a horse to you. Everything, with a horse, counts. You're either teaching them something you want them to learn or another thing you didn't intend. The learning curve is steep and always fascinating.

A few evenings back I watched Stony, my Mustang, play a game of approach and retreat backwards through the door of the shed stall. I wanted to catch it on video, to post here, but my phone was full and I'd left the Canon inside, more the fool I. 

The shed stall is big, twice the size of the usual 12 foot by 12 foot space available for horses. And I always leave it open with a fan running in the Summer. It's deep and shaded, a place that deters flies especially with the fan blowing. Stony wanted to be inside the stall with Lucky and Apache but, every time he tried to walk in frontwards, Apache would pin his ears at Stony. Stony's solution? Go in backwards.

I stood there quietly, my hip cocked and leaning on the fence, and watched. He stood there, thinking. And his lips started to move, a small turn to the left and back he went, just a few steps. He was quite aware of Apache, could see him with that amazing peripheral vision that a horse has. He would step back just until Apache's face would start to tighten, then step forward until Apache relaxed. Forward, backward, forward, backward and each time just a tiny bit further in to the shed. It went on for almost ten minutes.And then, for whatever horse reasons, Apache completely relaxed and in Stony went, still backwards. He relaxed and sighed under the comfort of the fan and lowered his head. Game done!

Always, always riveting, always! 

My friend learned how to stand quietly with a horse the day she was here, how to be vigilant and relaxed, a kind of Zen place to be and so very equine. That was all we did that day, practiced being part of a herd. It's surprisingly difficult to do, but she got it first time out. She's a practitioner of martial arts and meditates, so she found her center very quickly, grounded herself and learned how to be in the moment, horse style. I've never met a horse who wasn't a Zen Master. They exist in a perfect state most of the time, letting go of fear immediately when the reason to be afraid has passed. 

When she left she was in that right brained place, time irrelevant, quiet. It's that way of being we all had as children before schedules and tests, peer pressure and bill paying pushed us in to adulthood. She arrived an adult with questions, left as her child within, content.

I think she'll be back. Her comment when she left, " Horses!"

I am, ever yours, Nancy, in the moment, learning, being and smiling, equine style

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


I love this place that we live in. Every single day it changes. It continually surprises me, even on the days when the weather is 110 F or -20F. I dress for the weather and get the job done and love all of it. I am challenged, exhausted a good part of the time and laugh every day. And some days I cry too. 

I get frustrated, whiney because I  have to figure out how to get my job done without anyone to ask for help. We chose to live here. Mine to do as best I can. 

John keeps me centered when I'm on the verge of a meltdown but it's still mine to solve, ponder, learn from and make hay while the sun shines, get along when it doesn't.

One of my horses and three of my dogs are buried on this land. We've trimmed the trees, hiked out and brought back junk left by previous owners while we try to keep the forrest and fields clear. My grandparents and their grandparents lived like this. I try to remember that they worked much harder than I do. That history is always in the back of my mind.

The past nine months we've been waiting to see whether we will continue to be allowed to live here. I've lost sleep, lost weight, panicked, cried, had a melt down or two with poor John holding me because sometimes it isn't something that can be balanced. 

I've looked and looked for another place we can afford, some place where we can keep our small herd, grow our organic produce and live out our time together with no more than the usual worries about how to pay the bills. 

I know that home is where the heart is, that it's the people you love, the animals who depend on me who are important. And that is where part of the pain comes from, the anger while we wait and wait and wait. I've been telling myself this is a door opening, a new direction to go. But if I can not keep my horses and donkey, I just don't want to go there. I made a promise to them. It's my job to keep it unless my time ends and it really is out of my hands. 

This is the way that I feel about this place. I dance and sing and sweat and cry and sometimes I stand in awe of how beautiful it is. I've had deer walk in to the front yard and stand ten feet away while standing on the front porch. 

An immature Golden Eagle took up residence one Spring until it was ready to move on. It would sit in the top of our Broken Oak or one of the giant trees at the end of the East pasture and watch everything that we did. And the morning it left, it flew on the thermals right over the paddock and called to me. 

A Bard Owl sat on the railing of the deck more than once one year, watching us through the doors. It was huge, intimidating and beautiful. It was an owl that shook me out of the depression I was in when moved here fourteen years ago, after loosing our business and home, bankrupting, the year of 911. 

I walked out every day with Spirit, my first horse, and my dogs. I was trying to get my bearings, trying to convince myself that I wasn't a failure. I did my best. It just wasn't good enough to save a business that went down with buildings that fell and brought us all to a slamming, screaming halt. 

I sat on a rock while the dogs took naps and Spirit grazed next to me and watched the sky, doing my "What's it all about Alphie?" thing, crying nd moaning about the unfairness of things.  And a tree branch turned and looked at me. I was so startled I fell off the rock backwards and ended up on the ground looking up at a surprised Spirit. " Hey, what are you doing down there? I thought it was my job to put you there?" And I started laughing again. It was as simple as that. the branch was an owl and I was still alive, still breathing. Anything was possible!

I laughed because there's always something funny going on, something to make me smile. 

You know that guy who wrote about small stuff? He's right, it's all small stuff. And there's always a reason to tilt my head back and laugh until my sides ache.

Tomorrow we meet with representatives from the new owners of the land to discuss a rental agreement. Do I like leasing? No, not really. We owned for years, had rental property, homes, the full monty. I liked the freedom of being able to paint murals on all of the walls and floors, setting up a business out of our home, planting anything we wanted to plant anywhere, any time. I liked painting the outside of my home, putting on a new roof, setting up paths for neighborhood kids to walk on when they took a short cut home from school through our yard.

But here I love the wildness, the raccoon we've named Rocky who comes up on to the deck and looks in the doors at us, wondering why there isn't more cat food out there for his dining pleasure. 

I love the big sky, the tall prairie grasses and our small bit of the last of the old growth trees that were, somehow, over looked when the developing in this region went on. I'm pretty sure that if I looked, there might even be an Endt with a few Unicorns living under it's branches. Heck, we might even be where some of the Endt Wives are hiding.

Heaven help me I'm even so smitten with the place that I don't even mind the ticks, chiggers, snakes or mosquitoes. We've made our peace over the years and now we all just sort of fit together like raggedtey puzzle pieces. 

We tried to buy this place or, at least, buy in to it. We wanted to be part of it. That wasn't an option so we let that one go. 

I've looked at places over the years, even found two I would have moved to but every time the market would go up then down, like some kind of out of control roller coaster ride. There was a real danger that we would end up with one of those upside down mortgages. I did not want us to go through yet another bankruptcy just so we could say we were owners again. Too much anguish involved. Too much stress, anger and fear. So we stayed.

How could we not like it here? It's like this every day, every single day there's a spectacular sunrise, a breathtaking sunset. There are trees with giant thorns, ancient oaks with hollow spaces at the base of their trunks where birds build nests.

We've heard a cougar scream in the hollow out back of our house (a converted barn with crookedty floors and doors that don't quite work, windows that look like something from Alice Through The Looking Glass) and watched a deer give birth in the side yard. There's the opossum that stops by the studio door to look in at me, on his way to the cedar bushes in the front to eat the berries and the Great Blue Heron who has visited every year, or his children. It stands over five feet tall and soars in over the house like a glider coming in for a landing, always absolutely silent, huge, majestic.

Our fourteen years here have been magical. I've felt more at home here than any other place we've been. My roots are almost as deep as some of the trees now. 

Tomorrow we meet to find out what the proposal is. Our contract rolled over in July so we are safe for that amount of time at least. It will give us one more year to search and prepare if leaving is what we have to do. 

I am taking my horses with us. I made a promise. I never go back on my promises. Even when we lost the gallery I managed to place almost every artist we represented, in a new gallery. 

This will work out the way it's supposed to. But just between you and me, I hope the path is longer here for us. If we do leave part of my heart will be left behind, here in the land . 

I'm not as afraid of tomorrow as I was, but I will cry if the parting is sooner rather than later. 

And I'm curious too. Wonder what happens next? Anything is possible, anything at all. 

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling and scratching my head in wonder

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Ever have one of those days where things just keep going south? I got up tired.  I didn't sleep well last night. No worries. If I keep myself moving, drink a bit of caffein and stretch ever so often I can deal with the after affects of insomnia like a champ. Really, no worries. Watching one of my all time favorite funny Golden videos helps. Laughter. Just what Doc Nancy ordered.

I'll think about Chaucer. He's one of the horses that just shows up at our gate sometimes. Happens nearly every year. Someone finds a loose horse and puts them in our pasture. Or someone dumps a horse (two times, two horses each time!). Or one of the neighbor's horses makes the great escape. That was Chaucer.

He was older, polite, a total sweetheart. I'd never seen him before so I did what I always do. I filed a report with the sheriffs office, post images on line, call neighbors and local Vets. And in this case I went ahead and called my farrier. His hooves were in appalling shape. He was uncomfortable. So, hoofs trimmed, wormed him, ran a coggins on him and a blood titer to see if he needed inoculations. Groomed him and welcomed him to the club. He'd already been outside over night visiting with my guys. They'd  settled their differences. He walked in the gate at liberty like he'd always lived here. 

By the time we found out where he belonged I was ready to keep him. I bond pretty quickly with most animals and he was an easy one to love. He had the presence of a poet, of a true intellect of his time. Besides, he told me he liked Chaucer so Chaucer he was. And,  unfortunately, he belonged to some folks living up the road a piece. I didn't know them well but their animals have ended up here fairly often during the years. They have slovenly fences, no shelter and nothing but weeds and junk in the pastures. I could see why Chaucer found his way here. The person he belonged to told me she had rescued him. He was an only horse. And she was surprised that he needed to have all of those things done. She thought horses just took care of them selves! 

Sending him down the road was very difficult for me to do but he did belong to her and she was not interested in selling him. So he went back to his weedy pasture with junk in it, reluctantly on his part and mine. I cried. And, over the years, I've snuck up the road to check on him and, if no one was home, I called the farrier and we'd sneak in to the pasture and trim his hooves. And, when no one was home, I'd drive up and throw hay over the crummy fence and take him buckets of clean, clear water. I never had to call. He always came.

And then he was gone. I'd tried to buy him from her several times but was always refused. I called to ask about him again. She'd sent him to auction two weeks before. That sweet, old horse ended up on a truck to Mexico because of her prickly pride. She didn't call me because she didn't want me to have him.  I called the auction house to find out who bought him. Then I called the kill buyer. Chaucer had already shipped out. He really was gone. 

So, I got up and moved. I cleaned the upstairs. Tidied up the downstairs and my studio. And laughed while I remembered him and how well he handled Apache, my LBE who wants to be head honcho. He was considerably bigger than Patch and, when Apache did his "MOVE!" routine on Chaucer, Chaucer moved backwards right in to Apache. Didn't kick him. Just kept walking backwards until Patch had to move ... and then he did it some more. He walked circles around Patch backwards and made Apache move in every direction. Slow and easy, no worries. Just " That, son, is how you move another horse. " and I'm pretty sure Chaucer was laughing the whole time he did it too. Slow and easy, no worries.

No worries. It became my mantra for today. I said, " No worries." when the landowners called this morning and told me a truck would be by to clean the septic out, would I mind handling that. I said I was busy, and I was. So a big truck shows up and drives down the side yard right through the gardens, smashing them flat and leaves twin canyons besides because we had three inches of rain yesterday. And then I get yelled at by the land owner because there are flushable wet wipes in the septic. Must be my fault they're there. I'm the one who works out of the house, keeps it clean, built the crushed gardens and I'm the female. Must be my fault. 

I gritted my teeth, made no reply. I do use baby wipes but I never put them in the toilet. But John did until I read him an article about the mess they make in sewers and septics. He offered to call them to explain. I thought about Chaucer moving in backwards circles and ending his life in a slaughter house. No worries.  I would handle it. And remembered how Willow would run back and forth under Chaucer and then snug herself up under him because rascal Apache couldn't get to her there. More laughter. And reasons to smile.

And I go out to do chores. The heat index was up to 100, humidity high. The horses were probably going to need showers to cool off. And that was fun too. Always trashes my clothes and soaks my boots but they were cooler and all took turn rolling in the mud afterwards. Clean horses? Nah, not more than five minutes of that. But they have a great time getting dirty and it does keep the flies off. Not a bad system really. Cold shower then a nice roll in pond mud, some hay and grain and then spend the afternoon standing in front of fans in the shed. 

I'm walking back to the house covered in flung mud, sweat, hay, the usual and the crabby land owner calls me around to the side of the house, the one with the canyon sized ruts and destroyed gardens. " Nancy, they left the pile of ancient, gross ( you do not want to know how gross!) wet wipes here for you. They're your responsibility but I'll help. Where do you want me to put them?" 

Really? REALLY? Breath Nancy. Smile until your cheeks hurt, then smile some more. " Let's put them over on the cement pad across from the barn. I'll take care of them. " He says, " Yes, you will! What were you thinking?" Siiiighhh. Be Chaucer. Walk in circles backwards. So, I did! I walked in backwards circles until he stopped jabbering at me. I would have given anything to have Chaucer here so I could tell him I learned from him. I wish he were here so we could laugh together about me walking in backwards circles until Flappy Lips shut up! 

I waited until he left and then shoveled the grossness in to a plastic bag and dragged it down to the dumpster that he had told me not to put them in. And, just for fun, I walked in backwards circles up the drive, laughing. No worries! " Now that, son, is how you move a horse!"

We laugh a lot around here. I meet the most amazing four legged "people" and they always have better manners and something more important to say then most of the two legged creatures I meet. 

My garden is crushed, and there's a muddy grand canyon for a side yard. I smelled rather ripe when I came in and everything I was wearing went straight in to the washer and me in to the shower too. 
My blender that I've used for forty years exploded when I dropped it. Today is dog food day. The blender is used to grind the bones and to add them back to the pot. When the glass broke it flew everywhere, tiny little shards all over the table, counters and floors. sigh.... I had to clean the kitchen I'd already spent the morning cleaning because I was angry and crying. And somewhere in the middle of all of that I could feel the presence of a handsome old fellow named Chaucer, watching and chuckling at the things we two leggeds get ourselves all in a twist about. No worries! 

The day is young and anything is possible! And all of it will give me reasons to laugh, every last bit. Today was Chaucer's Day. And, grand old man that he was, he is teaching me still! Love you handsome horse. I'll see you some years down the line on the other side of that lovely rainbow bridge.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, head back and laughing...and crying...and laughing at the way things go.