The horse's pasture to the East...

Thursday, January 26, 2017


This is it. This is my world. I live on a carefully protected bit of land. These hills and the forrest hiding on them are the furthest western edge of the eastern forrest. Right here is where the prairies met the trees. The only reason it still exists is because of generations of people who've stepped up to protect it. 

Except for the two barns and small houses, there is no development. There are circles of trees that were tiny suckers that came up when the old growth was cut, to build a railroad that stretched from coast to coast. And, somehow, some of the old growth trees were saved. When I go out on to the land to hike, I still find rusting tools that were left behind. I always pack them back in too. 

It isn't glitzy. There are no gold curlicues or gold curtains. It's rough, as pristine as we can keep it. Some of the wildlife living here is rare, especially some of the frogs and toads. Every year is an unknown bonanza because it's Nature that decides what will bloom. There are species of forrest edge wild flowers living here that are only found in cultivated gardens now. And they are the smaller varieties too, hiding behind and under leaves and downed trees. The ground is a deep cushion of silt, soil and decaying leaves that smells so good I'm tempted to eat it. It's full of tiny organisms. It teams with life.

There isn't a day, when I walk out my front door, where I'm not in awe of the delicate, perfect beauty I find here. I've seen butterflies and moths I've never seen anywhere else. The fields are half in flight because of the vast numbers of insects and birds that live connected to the grasses and wildflowers. I've lost track of the artists I've invited out to wallow in the luxury of the landscape. 

And it's quiet. Except early in the morning, when folks are driving up the road to get to work or out to their fields, there are no other sounds except the wind in the trees, birds singing, insects humming. My soul rests here. It's the place I wanted to be when John and I took all of those vacations with our sons at the National Parks. Only it's right here, just outside my doors and windows. We live in a hidden glen. Not many people get to say that.

Every detail is perfect because there is balance. And every moment is fleeting because it is constantly growing, blooming, seeding, decaying and growing in to a new cycle again, exactly the way it is meant to. It's a never ending symphony of color and music, rain and sun, winter and summer. 

"All you have to do is listen!"

I promised myself I was going to stay away from politics. This past election cycle was horrible. It kept me up at night. And it seems the nightmares are coming true. This was what I found on my Facebook Feed this morning.

From an EPA staffer: SPREAD The Word PLEASE!!!!
"So I work at the EPA and yeah it's as bad as you are hearing:
The entire agency is under lockdown, the website, facebook, twitter, you name it is static and can't be updated.
All reports, findings, permits and studies are frozen and not to be released. No presentations or meetings with outside groups are to be scheduled.
Any Press contacting us are to be directed to the Press Office which is also silenced and will give no response.
All grants and contracts are frozen from the contractors working on Superfund sites to grad school students working on their thesis.
We are still doing our work, writing reports, doing cancer modeling for pesticides hoping that this is temporary and we will be able to serve the public soon.
But many of us are worried about an ideologically-fueled purging and if you use any federal data I advise you gather what you can now.
We have been told the website is being reworked to reflect the new administration's policy.
Feel free to copy and paste, you all pay for the government and you should know what's going on. I am posting this as a fellow citizen and not in any sort of official capacity."
If you share, please do so with copy and paste."

I did not edit the content of this message. I picked it up as a 'copy and paste'. I have decided there are some things worth breaking my own rules for. I am not going to be quiet.

In 1970, in response to the welter of confusing, often ineffective environmental protection laws enacted by states and communities, President Richard Nixon created the EPA to fix national guidelines and to monitor and enforce them. Functions of three federal departments—of the Interior, of Agriculture, and of Health, Education, and Welfare—and of other federal bodies were transferred to the new agency. The EPA was initially charged with the administration of the Clean Air Act (1970), enacted to abate air pollution primarily from industries and motor vehicles; the Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act (1972); and the Clean Water Act (1972), regulating municipal and industrial wastewater discharges and offering grants for building sewage-treatment facilities. By the mid-1990s the EPA was enforcing 12 major statutes, including laws designed to control uranium mill tailings; ocean dumping; safe drinking water; insecticidesfungicides, and rodenticides; and asbestos hazards in schools.  ( From the Encyclopedia Britannica )

When I was a girl, I remember going to the beach in Maine in the Summer. My Mom made it very clear that only certain sections of the beach were safe to play on. And I couldn't swim either, not because the water was cold or the tides were dangerous, but because it was polluted. My Mom was an Analytical Chemist by profession. She walked me down to the area of the beach she wanted me to stay away from and showed me a stream of smelly, orange colored filth flowing in to the ocean from a pipe . It was the effluent from factories in the area, piped there through underground aqueducts. 

She stood there and told me, based on color and smell, what was probably in the four foot wide stream. All of it was dangerous and noxious. We didn't go back to the beach after that day. She took my brother's hand and mine, marched us back to the car and then went back to get the umbrellas, chairs and picnic basket. We went home to have a picnic in Nana's back yard instead. That's what the USA was like before there were controls on industry. And that is where we are going to go back to if Mr. Orange has his way.

We've spent a lot of time discussing politics this past year. We don't watch TV or even listen to the radio except for music. Both of us love our quiet and, after 47 years, we treasure our time together, our debates and conversations. The art of storytelling, research and debate, discussion and discourse still lives in our home. 

I told John that I loath war and violence. I would rather listen and learn from people and other cultures. I love diversity. But I also told him that I wasn't a fool. If the unidentified "they" come up my drive, I will fight. It never occurred to me that it might be my own country that brought the fight to me. 

I am one small voice, living in a hidden glen. If that's all I have then I plan to use it. I apologize to the folks who come here to read my stories but I'm a 'do the best that I can with what I have' kind of person. I will have my say. I am choosing to openly and actively question authority.

Above is the address on line for finding the contact information for any representative or senator presently working for Congress in Washington DC. I hope you'll use it to find the people you want to express your opinions to. USE YOUR VOICE. Make a noise. QUESTION AUTHORITY. RESIST.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, standing here with my dukes up, feet set and fangs bared, smiling...

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

DOING THE NEIGH-NEIGH (Pun most definitely intended)

When I started this BLOG, It was supposed to be an account of my journey with my horses. And then life happened. The Story-Teller began to emerge. She took over and it's been all over the place since then. But they're still here, my horses, and I've added one since. 

I'm older and so are they. Time keeps rolling by. I woke up this morning thinking about focus, connections, consequences, history, and commitment. Huge words aren't they? And they all come together in an unexpected DANCE (my word for 2017). 

I wondered around in my head with all of those words buzzing, making these mad, uncoordinated circles. It's still about my horses, and now about my dogs and even the barn cats. And it's about family too, and friends. The word that stands out, after doing chores while I tried to calm my hyper drive head, is commitment. 

The world is an ever changing place and I can't say that it's any easier to be here than it ever was. I worry about my sons, my husband, horses and dogs, and the world in general. It hasn't evolved as much as I thought it would, or maybe it has and my perspective isn't big enough. Buzzing, buzzing, buzzing. How do I slow it down enough to get tiny steps done, little pieces complete enough? The only things I can control are here, inside myself.

I just took a short break to go let my herd out on to their large pasture. I went out with a video in my head made by a Parelli Pro, Kristi Smith. She posted it a short while back, about the cold snap in Indiana and how hard it is to work consistently with your horses sometimes. Her solution? Do small things with excellence. So I went out to open the gate but the rule is the horses need to step back at least ten feet away and wait quietly until I open it. Then they should walk through with confidence, without barging or pushing and one at a time. I'm looking for soft faces, ears forward and towards me. 

Lucky, my alpha, does not care for backing. He's been doing this banana-yo for years because I never asked him to do it straight . My fault entirely. All I ever had to do was be more specific without being critical. It's harder than it sounds. Learning how to smile and smile some more has been a huge part of it. I asked him to move that big ol' butt of his around until he was facing me. Apache and Stony were watching and doing exactly what I wanted. Two out of three ain't bad! But I want three out of three, so I focused on Lucky. 

This is how he always greets me, slightly to the side. And if I let him back away from this position he would curve around until he was backing sideways. It's a very nice flex to the side but not what I'm asking for. Do little things with excellence. So this morning I simply worked on having him disengage that lovely latter half of himself until he was a floating head who just happened to have 1200 lbs of body attached. When he was standing and facing me with an open and engaged expression, I opened the gate. It took the pressure off of him, always a reward. And through he went. Game over. (note to self : Next time go out with a warmer jacket so I don't shiver. )

So what does all of this have to do with a buzzing head full of too many ideas and worries? I'm older now and so are my horses. That word, COMMITMENT, is at the front of everything I do. I want to be there for my horses all the way through to the end of the circle. It's my job and my joy to complete the journey. It all connects back to "thinking about focus, connections, consequences, history, and commitment", a quote from myself. 

FOCUS : Stay the course and pay attention. Be specific and keep it fun.

CONNECTIONS : Keep contact with my community of horse men and women. Watch their videos, Parelli videos and BLOGs. Reach out, Nancy. (I'm an extreme Introvert)

CONSEQUENCES : This one's a loaded word for me. I need to stay present when dealing with it because I have a tendency to be hyper critical of myself. Looking at consequences needs to be approached as a tool to learn from, not a way to punish myself.

HISTORY : Again, another trigger word. History is always a part of how I react to the world and the challenges I try to stay focused on. I hid out most of my childhood, from a challenging (a nice way of saying abusive and terrifying) parent. I've been in survival mode for quite a while. I'm trying to redefine myself here. I want to be an explorer, an inventor of a new inner story.

COMMITMENT : And back around full circle to this word again. I've learned a lot over the past few years about our throw away society. People get bored or overwhelmed, and they forget that they've taken on the care of a soul. (Yes, I definitely think animals have souls.) I am compelled to prove to myself that I can follow through until I am no longer in this body or they come to the end of their time here in this plain.

DANCE : My word for 2017 has to do with grace, harmony, athleticism both physically and emotionally and the process of telling my own story over and over until I find my way to a path that makes me proud of who I am. It's all about honor, honesty and trying.

And it's about having fun! Now all I have to do is figure out how to get my head to de-buzz so I can concentrate...

I am, ever yours, Nancy, doing the Neigh Neigh (and laughing at my horrible pun!)

PS. Stay positive people. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Flag of Valor and the Path Ahead

I am so lucky. I worry myself sick over how to pay the bills, what to paint or draw or even if I still can. I'm worried about the political and economic mess our country is in, friends, family, my tendency to isolate myself and how to stop that. It's not an unusual list. Every person I know is dealing with something.

Somewhere along the line it feels like we've turned a corner, gone down the rabbit hole and ended up at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party (and I'm not talking about the utter coolness of Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter either). I wasn't going to be this direct. I wanted to use metaphors and stories to talk about this weird crook in the trail that's taken us in to an 'alternate' universe where a man with orange hair and skin, too much money and no experience as anything except a wealthy, privileged odd ball is taking the oath POTUS.

People all over the world are, legitimately, worried. He's said and done things during a campaign that divided a country. It was an awful process to watch. It's like being back in high school. No, worse. We've all slipped back in to some never ending junior high nightmare where everyone is whispering and gossiping about people who are different. And I was one of the 'different' kids too. It's no fun to be on the hard end of the stick. It hurts every time it swings your direction. 

But here's the other side of the coin. The alternative choice was just as bad. It was business as always; the same graft and corruption, lies and deceit. The end result was going to be a mess no matter how it came out. There's no doubt we're in trouble. 

I can't tell anyone else how to manage their fears anymore than I could when I was the 'odd kid out'. I can decide to keep looking at the other side of the coin. And I can work harder at being kind and living here, in the moment.

Things are going to change no matter what we do to slow it down or deny it's happening. So I'm going to keep looking for unexpected bands of light and color and reasons to delight in the present. A neighbor of mine lived through the hell of the concentration camps during WW2. She stayed alive by focusing on tiny weeds that grew in unexpected places or watching the clouds. She looked forward one second at a time. She gave me a gift by sharing her past and telling me, in her very hard to understand English, that love always wins. 

Do I think this is the beginning of the end? NO, most emphatically NO. I think this is an opportunity for people to work harder to understand each other, to voice their opinions. Change is a messy process at best no matter how well it's planned out. And I am hoping that I'm wrong too. I hope that Mr. Orange proves he is up to the task and does a better job than any of us anticipated. 

In the meantime I have a list of things I'm going to put in front of me. It's not so different from anything I've done before but there will be more effort going in to it.  1. Be kind.    2. Be patient.   3. Listen.   4. Keep trying.   5. DANCE (my word for 2017. I never do resolutions. I choose a word and focus on it, try to understand all of the complexities, elegance and reasons for choosing it. It's harder to do than you think it's going to be and, sometimes, has unintended consequences too. 2017 is going to be interesting!)   6. Laugh.   7. Learn.   
8. Believe.   9. Breath.   10. Help.

You can see that the list has endless possibilities. I can add new ideas whenever they strike me. #8 is an important one for me. BELIEVE. There's a bookmark the American Civil Liberties Union sends me every year. It has the Bill of Rights printed on it. I use it in one or the other of my blank books to remind me never to take my privileges lightly. My job is to be the best Nancy I can be. I absolutely believe in the ideals of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I'm going to do the best I can with what I have where I am.

One of my sons gave me a piece of Fine Art this year for Christmas. It's that Flag above the door. It's made by a group of veterans who've all come back from their various deployments with injuries; physical, emotional and mental. They came together and set up a shop to create American Flags of various sizes and designs, each representing different parts of our history, good or bad. Each one is completely unique and signed by the artist but the piece itself is put together in steps by each of them. 

Art is subjective. Each of us reacts to a piece as an individual. Some of the people who find this BLOG will react to this piece in a negative way. And for others it will be more complicated. I see it as a symbol for what I think this country has an opportunity to be. There's no doubt in my mind that our country has made terrible mistakes in the past. But I'm an optimist by nature. I genuinely think that the majority of us are good people. We are an incredibly diverse country with citizens living here from every culture in the world. 

I've hung my Flag high, the way a flag should always be displayed. There's a story that has to go with it being delivered too. The young man who brought it to the door for me, and set it inside (it's made of wood, so it has some weight to it) asked me what FOV, Flags of Valor,  stands for. 

I told him it was a work of art made by a group of veterans, a flag. I also told him about some of the veterans in our family and what going to war did to them. 

He set it down carefully, pulled himself up and saluted it. He smiled at me and told me he was a Marine. I shook his hand and told him, "Thank you for your belief in an ideal. Thank you for serving." 

He looked at the box again, and then at me and said, " Semper Fi " (Semper Fidelis the moto of the US Marine Corps meaning 'Always Faihtful'), saluted me and said, "Thank you Ma'am." and left.

I'm still thinking about that. My gift came at exactly the right time. I'll see it every time I go in or out of the door to my crooked, little redone barn. How I feel about it is for me. How you see it is the best part of a fine piece of art. It's open to interpretation and should be something that makes you view it in a different light every time you look at it. It isn't going to, necessarily, make you feel good either. Real art is complicated, messy, provocative, emotional, ugly and beautiful... like life.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, fingers and toes crossed, still believing. And smiling because I can... I am so lucky!