Monday, June 18, 2018

The Hip Bone's Connected To the ... Ground

I washed my riding clothes on the weekend...just so I could land in the dirt today. 
"Well, if you're going to fall off a horse, that's the way to do it," Bobbie said as we were walking around the indoor arena, me in the saddle and my horse on a lead line. 
Dakota has an injured eye and isn't riding until next week so Sienna was tapped for my practice ride this morning. Sienna is a beautiful red mare, larger than Dakota, but just as quiet. 
I couldn't get a feel for her.  In fact, I felt completely disconnected from my own body. I couldn't remember anything. It was an off day, and for a beginner like me, with no confidence in riding and no inherent "I'm the boss" energy, it was the wrong day to be on a different horse.

It's not Sienna's fault I fell off; it's mine. I don't know why she started tossing her head up and back and around, I don't know why she was backing up and doing tiny bucks. I had been trying to get her to trot and it wasn't happening so likely, the way I was holding my hands and elbows and my knees were sending mixed signals. What I do know is I didn't know how to arrest her reaction; I only know how to stop a bolt - and those actions were the opposite ones for whatever she was doing. I was tightening when I should have been loosening.
Bobbie was shouting, "Let go of the reins," but I know you NEVER let go of them. If I'd listened to her, I would have dropped them completely and that might have made things worse. What she meant was, "Ease off the reins." I was supposed to move my arms forward to ease the pressure on the bit. But I was using the information I had, and trying not to panic, and wondering whether she was going to buck me off or smash me in the face with her head.
The next thing I knew, I was falling. But Sienna didn't throw me; she laid me down.

She laid me down. Seriously, I think she realized she had to arrest MY behaviour so she just leaned to the left and off I tumbled from about five feet off the ground. Both of us ended up lying on our sides in the sand of the indoor arena. Despite the soft landing, I'm going to have a sizable bruise on my left back hip, where the pelvic bone met the ground.

But I now know why you need to get right back up on a horse you've just fallen off because I wasn't afraid to ride a horse while I was standing with my feet on the ground, but once I was up there in the saddle again, it was a different feeling. Every leg movement, every head twitch, every resistance to my forward command made me tense up. I could feel my "freaking out" meter rising the longer I was on her back. At the same time, I recognized that if I didn't stick it out, the apprehension would get the better of me, would be all I remembered, and I'd never get on a horse again.

"I need you to put the lead line on her and walk with us," I said to Bobbie. "I don't want my nervousness to cause a problem."
What I'm struggling with now is continuing on with riding. I know it's only one fall, but I'm doing this for fun; I'm not looking for a broken arm or a broken neck. The dilemma is that I won't get better if I don't ride, but not being very good puts me (and possibly the horse) at risk. Today showed me how much I'm still not putting together all the information I need to know in order to ride.
It looks so damn easy!
Bobbie, and others who were there, say, "Oh, just relax, don't overthink," but it's not that easy. I want to do everything I'm supposed to do because I'm on the back of an enormous animal who can act and react in ways that could see me flying through the air and landing on my head. I want to enjoy myself and I want to do a good job.
Recognizing that I am a beginner.
"Did you know how to write a book when you first started writing?" one of the woman asked, which I think she meant as a beginner's pep talk but it's a lousy comparison. No one's life is endangered if I write a really shitty story! 
Writing is so much easier. That's my message to those who say writing is hard: Try learning to ride a horse.
Her message, however, was: Don't give up. Keep getting on the horse and learning.
"You only fall off a horse once a year," Bobbie said. No one gets how UNencouraging that statement is!

I don't need to fall off a horse to toughen me up, to learn to say "Fuck it" and keep going. That was a lesson for when I was 14 years old; I've learned that lesson from other things, and honestly, at 48, I'm just too old for learning lessons this way.

All I can do is see how my next ride goes. I'll be back on Dakota. There's nothing I can do about my energy -- I'm calm and happy but I'm not The Boss -- but I can keep trying. A fall shouldn't be a setback, even if it hurts like hell.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Back At the Desk

After ten solid years, it was time to get a new computer. Actually, the computer decided it was worn out and simply refused to turn on! I've been without my trusty office companion for a week, and thanks to friends, managed to get the most pressing work done on their computer, but now it's time to get caught up on tasks -- while learning a new system!
The weirdest thing? This new computer is SILENT. I was used to the old one humming and rattling, but now I can't even tell this new one is on. Funny what we get used to, funny how we notice silence when it suddenly descends in our busy, electronic, trafficky world.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Plant What Will Grow

I love bee balm.
I love its colours, whether a deep fuschia or a light lavender.
I love its spiky flowers.
I love its name – bee balm. That’s B-A-L-M. Something soothing for the bees in a world that is trying to bomb the heck out of them with pesticides.

But I cannot get bee balm to survive on my property. I have probably spent a hundred dollars on bee balm plants over the last five years, and so far, not one has returned the following year. 

I love clematis.
I love its colours, whether a deep purple or a light lavender.I love the wide flowers. I love the feathery seed puffs leftover when the leaves fall off.
I love its name – clematis.  It’s symbolic meaning is ingenuity and cleverness because of its climbing prowess.

I have several thriving clematic plants. They love growing on my property. So…I bought another clematis plant. I am planting what will grow.
I also bought another bee balm this spring, and planted it in a new spot, a tried-and-true spot of good soil and lots of sunshine.

Why? Why would I plant something that will not grow?

Because if the clematis represents love and joy, the bee balm is HOPE. Never giving up, persistence. The hope that if I try something different, if I don’t give up, if I  just move it somewhere else, this time it will work, this attempt will be successful.

I planted another bee balm despite the irrefutable fact it doesn't want to live in my gardens. So this is the last time, the very last time I’m planting bee balm. One final attempt because I don’t like to give up until I’ve exhausted all attempts.

This, actually, is a metaphor for the way I live my life. More enthusiasm than skill. Persistence. An indefatigable amount of stubborn keep-at-it-ness. 
I simply don’t give up. Sometimes that a good thing -- my persistence is my sign of faith in myself. On the other hand, I seriously don't give up soon enough, whether it's a perennial, a manuscript, or a relationship. 
We all have that one trait we’d like to see less of -- I also have a bad habit of putting off doing something until it makes it more complicated, such as booking accommodations for a road trip -- but we learn to accept that quirk, live with it, work around it. 
Mine is persistence. A good thing and a bad thing.

Much in my life is clematis. Some of it is bee balm. 
Yet without my help, or even my attention, my creative life is becoming rudbeckia and phlox, two plants which are self-propagating all over the gardens!
Clematis for beauty and cleverness,  rudbeckia for encouragement, and phlox which, AMAZINGLY, represents good partnership, harmony, and sweet dreams.
Plant what will grow. 

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Flat Felt A Chicken in Lunenburg

One week today!
Just a few spots left before this workshop is sold out. Can't wait for this event next Saturday.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Some Actual Field Notes

This sudden onslaught of warm hot weather has brought everything on! I love June for its fullness, lushness, and greenness.

As we drove the back roads home from the country store, licking our ice cream cones, my husband looked around at all the apple trees with their profuse blossoms and said, "Heavy blossoms mean a hard winter coming."
Consider yourselves warned.

The photo is of the apple tree on the bank of the river on our lot across the road. A pair of ospreys is tinkering away at a nest on that lot but they also sit in the original nest. Yesterday, we have five -- 5! -- ospreys flying over our yard, two who were in the original nest who flew off to circle underneath another pair, and a lone one who eventually flew away.
It's all very confusing. There will be no babies this year but we have more ospreys than we know what to do with. Not that we actually have anything to do with it.

Speaking of babies, we have goslings!
A pair of Canada Geese nested near our pond in the middle of the field and Dwayne saw three goslings toddling along behind the pair the other day.

As I drove home from Halifax yesterday, I listened to a radio program on which a woman discussed her problem with porcupines eating her house. Really! They're eating the verandah and the floor boards and the cedar shingles. The munching wakes her up at night.
All of a sudden, an idea for a children's book popped into my mind. With rhymes, no less. If I hadn't been driving, I probably would have written the whole thing right there in the car, but I remember it and I worked out an ending while walking the dog this morning so some thinking time with a mug of tea and a notebook are in order.
And no, she doesn't want to shoot the porcupines. Like me, she doesn't have the heart for that. 
Dwayne planted his sunflower seeds yesterday, seven rows in the two beds along the road. I think this profusion of sunflowers in late August, early September has come to mean a lot of people driving up and down our road.
I'm still being asked about "my" sunflowers and I always say, "Nothing to do with me. Those sunflowers are all Dwayne." He grows the happiness. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Lost Osprey

On the wood pile by the fire pit in our backyard, in early May.

 A week ago, on the holiday Monday, I said to my husband at the end of the day, "The only time I saw an osprey flying around today was when the one on the nest flew off to chase away an eagle."
The other osprey did not bring any fish to the nest during the entire day and that is not merely unusual, it is wrong.
Because that's what ospreys do: they fish and they lug that fish back to the nest for whomever is sitting on eggs, or later, for the new babies. It happens two or three times a day, at least. One is fishing for two.
"Come to think of it, the last time I saw the other osprey was Sunday morning," Dwayne said. "He was sitting on the tree outside our bedroom first thing in the morning. He was soaking wet because it was raining." 
I saw him too, and that was our last confirmed sighting of him. 
Because there is no way to tell them apart, we simply refer to the one on the nest as "she" and the one bringing in fish as "he". After the babies are born, it's a crapshoot as to what pronoun to use because both parents take turns bringing in fish.

Only this year, for the first time since the first baby was born in 2009, there won't be any babies. Mid-week, the one on the nest - she - abandoned the nest. She couldn't feed herself without leaving the nest, and the eggs couldn't survive that long with her body. What could she do? The eggs had to be sacrificed.

One osprey in the nest, waiting, hoping, hungry.

 But in the meantime, before she'd given up, other ospreys showed up. Not to help her, unfortunately, nature doesn't really work that way, but perhaps to claim the nest. How did they know there was a crisis here?
It's simply not possible to know who is who: who is original, who is new. We've always claimed to know "our" osprey because they are not afraid of us; they sit in the tree outside the bedroom, they fly low over our house and look directly at us sitting on the deck.
The two who were sitting in the nest yesterday morning flew off as soon as I appeared in the yard with my camera.  "Our" osprey were not camera-shy.

One of the new tenants flew away into the cut after I appeared in the yard.

Ospreys mate for life, unless one mate is lost. Then they will find a new mate.
We have no way of knowing what happened to our lost osprey. Did an eagle kill him? Did he get tangled in discarded fishing gear? Did someone with a trout pond shoot him? We will never know, and that's hard to accept.
What is saving our sanity is the presence of these other ospreys. On the post and wheel my husband installed on our river lot across the road a few years ago, someone has laid the foundation for a nest. Perhaps this other pair who is flying around? Yet there is also an osprey sitting in the nest every morning. How sad if it is her, the one who lost her mate, the one who can't help but return to their nest. Just in case.
That's what I think. Just in case. If only hurt, the lost osprey might have been found by someone, taken to the local wildlife rescue centre, and saved. After rehabilitation, the centre always returns rescued birds to the location where they were found.
Always that hope for a happy ending.

The nest across the road shows signs of interest.

It's all very confusing and upsetting, to be honest. It throws the routine of our days out of whack. Our world revolves around the presence of these birds. First thing in the morning, we look at the nest; at sunset, we check the nest and the tree. Even without being conscious of it, we listen for the sounds of a fish coming in. We always hear the ospreys chirping at each other, for food, for flight, and for warning (of an eagle approaching).
Back in August of 2015, when the eagle killed the three fledglings, it was such a shock to suddenly not hear the ospreys any longer. Their voices are the soundtrack of our spring and summer.
And now, at the end of May, their voices are silenced again. It won't seem like summer if there are no ospreys chirping in the nest and in the sky.