Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Winter Walkabout

We walk the perimeter of the farm, ostensibly checking fence and monitoring flooding after the last storm. The flip side of the same truth: it is a gorgeous sunny afternoon, and we're packing cameras.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Home Safe

Blissfully uneventful trip home. Great music, great drive, great ideas. JEB is the world's best traveling companion. As I slog through the remainders of the surprise blizzard I am grateful--if the whethermen (whether or not it's gonna storm...your guess is as good as mine!) had forecast the 8 or so inches of snow I wouldn't have left the farm. You know, the whole captain staying with the ship concept. But I did go, and all was well here on the farm, and I now have a new aunt and 3 new cousins and their whole entourage.

I'm wiped out from the weekend and left wondering, how can I arrange it so I can knit in the bathtub?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Yo Quiero Pachelbel

"I never learned Chopsticks," Jordan confides. Aghast, I slide onto the piano bench next to her. Jordan is a quick study--and has had years of piano lesson. In no time she is belting out the bottom part for Chopticks, while I'm rockin' the top part and playing with the controls of the keyboard to mix up the sounds. We roll into Heart and Soul. Jordan pauses and my fingers launch into a song I recognize from long-forgotten piano lessons. I watch in astonishment as my fingers skim the keys and actually make beautiful music, completely independent of conscious thought. Muscle memory is an amazing thing!

Jordan plays a beautiful Pachelbel Canon. I sway in appreciative admiration and contribute "shave and a haircut, two bits!"

Rob Paravonian has a different take...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Grendel: Requiem for a Ragamuffin

A stray dog showed up about 3 weeks ago. Actually, JEB and I were roaming the woods by the road when the pickup stopped to let him out, then sped off. JEB is really protective of me, so to avoid a potential conflict with a large and unknown adversary, he and I cut up the hill.

That night the stray got into the garbage down on the road. About a week later he was up tearing into trash behind Mr. B's house and barking incessantly. Mr. B came out and yelled him away, threatening gunfire. He ran partway down the drive where he hung out barking 'til JEB lost his patience and chased him off.

I loved him immediately--my heart always goes out to strays. (JEB was one once, til he heard I was interviewing and came up to inform me he was my dog.) He was huge and black and doofy, like he hadn't grown into his skin yet, and his feet flopped like clown shoes when he ran. I called him Grendel. I was sorry JEB and Mr. B chased him off before I could befriend him.

This morning Grendel was down by the old hogshed while I was pulling blankets off the mares, barking and barking but not running. I stopped what I was doing and went over and communed with him awhile, gradually moving closer, enjoying the feel of sunlight while he refigured his ideas about humanity. He was still barking, but wagging his tail and stepping ever closer when out of the corner of my eye I saw JEB purposely marching down the hill to interrogate the interloper. As I walked away to distract JEB, Grendel took my place, smelling the places I'd been, watching intently as I finished my work with the horses.

On the way home tonight I almost drive off the road avoiding his massive, inert body sprawling across the pavement. Rest in peace, Grendel. I'm glad we got to know each other a little.

It's tough to spellcheck through tears.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Today "Declared Workday"

I was told that things might happen today if it were a "declared workday." Here's Proof!

Wednesday Officially Dubbed “Declared Workday”

POSTED: 12:53 p.m. EST, February 21, 2007

Story Highlights

• Wednesday declared official workday
• Citizens are encouraged to plunge into whatever project they have been putting off
• And there will be much rejoicing! YAY!

WASHINGTON, DC (AP) – In what may be the seminal decision of his term, President Bush has instituted Wednesday to be a “Declared Workday”

"I feel really lucky because I know I’m going to get things done and change the world," said a 29-year-old bar owner from Blair, Wisconsin, who crashed out a hotel window January 20 after a night drinking with his friends.

All US Citizens are heartily encouraged to get off their butts and get that stagnant stuff checked off their to-do lists. “Its like spring cleaning,” Bush pointed out. “Only you’re likely to end up with a bigger mess than when you started.” As we've seen, he is an expert in that field.

Martha Stewart added, “it’s a very good thing!”

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Past-Present Pas de Deux

Sueva and I went to a Middle Eastern themed SCA event Saturday, which I may post about at some point--what a blast! We ate, we danced, we made merry-- and we got hennaed. The designs are fading but still visible on my far-from pampered hands. Swapping out the scraper blade for the round bale spike on the tractor today, I enjoy the visual interplay between mehndi and machinery. The rust from bolts and cotter pins mixes with snowmelt to enhance the stains and add to Saturday's effects. A little scarlet from a fresh ding adds a dash of color....

Swallow Velocity (Unladen)

Finally, an answer to the vexing question, what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Last Run

A slim window of time opens this evening. No, there is no opening but the one I carve in the face of incoming rain and high temperatures. I race in from running errands, throw on snowpants and YakTrax and head into the darkness, innertube cradled under my arm. The crecent moon drops lower to watch.

The first run shoots me straight towards a tree with ironic accuracy, ironic because
I had invited Don to join me and he told me I was crazy, I had a deathwish. When I ran into Ginnie on the way out, she said the same thing, and more so. She made me go back inside for my cell phone, and went so far as to call me later to make sure I wasn't in a crumpled heap at the foot of an oak. I just smiled incredulously and assured them all would be well. (I may tease and object with bravado, but I am deeply grateful for my friends who watch out for me...thank you!)

I roll off before impact, laughing, and climb to a different launching point on the hill. An owl, clearly offended by the disturbance, scuffles out of the treetops and almost silently wings into invisibility. His measured, unhurried flight marks the rhythm of tonight: the hill is not the speedway of late. Each slide is instead elegant and majestic. A slow waltz with winter, with the hushed hill, with the owl now hidden elsewhere.

The storm carried with it an alternate reality that became an intimate and inescapable companion. In this last dance, I bid that partner farewell.

I take up my tube and trundle towards home, where time begins again.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

New Snow Angel Record

Today at the gym I learn of a new snow angel record: 8900 on one hillside!

The video clip on the news is astonishing.

I think of yesterday's solitary, late night snow sufi and smile...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Silent Nights and Snow Sufis

A pleasant evening off the farm, but still I check my voicemail to make sure everything is going smoothly back at the ranch. Twilight falls, chore time comes and goes, and I breathe in relief--no news is good news.

I get to the car and suddenly there's a voice mail from Ginny--one of the new boarded horses keeps breaking the fence, a huge stretch is down, the horses are in a safe place but it's too much for her to deal with tonight.

Chuckle. Sigh.

If nothing else, farm life teaches you to seek silver linings, even in the form of an unexpected late-night, subzero fence repair.

Once home I light the candles and turn the heater on in the bathroom, figuring it'll be warm and welcoming and time for a tub when I get back in. With enough layers on, it's a beautiful night for a walk, and I have new batteries in my headlamp for the more intricate repairs. I crunch along the fenceline, buoyed by the top layer of ice. In one spot drifted snow gathers, inviting a snow angel. The snow under the wings is thin, and the angel looks more like a dervish in full whirl. I gaze back towards the barn, where the light shining through the slats of the roundpen casts a vast and shadowy spiderweb across the unmarked field.

An hour of pleasant work and peaceful stillness, the fence is back up, the horse is where he belongs, and the water is running in the tub. I'm off!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Snowbound Sunset

The sun is molten tonight, pouring itself from cloud to cloud, from heaven to earth and back to heaven.

SnowBound: Sequel

100 Words for Snow

I found this satire in my search to find just how many words the Inuit really have for snow.... 

One Hundred Words For Snow: by Phil James

tlapa powder snow
tlacringit snow that is crusted on the surface
kayi drifting snow
tlapat still snow
klin remembered snow
naklin forgotten snow
tlamo snow that falls in large wet flakes
tlatim snow that falls in small flakes
tlaslo snow that falls slowly
tlapinti snow that falls quickly
kripya snow that has melted and refrozen
tliyel snow that has been marked by wolves
tliyelin snow that has been marked by Eskimos
blotla blowing snow
pactla snow that has been packed down
hiryla snow in beards
wa-ter melted snow
tlayinq snow mixed with mud
quinaya snow mixed with Husky shit
quinyaya snow mixed with the shit of a lead dog
slimtla snow that is crusted on top but soft underneath
kriplyana snow that looks blue in the early morning
puntla a mouthful of snow because you fibbed
allatla baked snow
fritla fried snow
gristla deep fried snow
MacTla snow burgers
jatla snow between your fingers or toes, or in groin-folds
dinliltla little balls of snow that cling to Husky fur
sulitlana green snow
mentlana pink snow
tidtla snow used for cleaning
ertla snow used by Eskimo teenagers for exquisite erotic rituals
kriyantli snow bricks
hahatla small packages of snow given as gag gifts
semtla partially melted snow
ontla snow on objects
intla snow that has drifted indoors
shlim slush
warintla snow used to make Eskimo daiquiris
mextla snow used to make Eskimo Margaritas
penstla the idea of snow
mortla snow mounded on dead bodies
ylaipi tomorrow's snow
nylaipin the snows of yesteryear ("neiges d'antan")
pritla our children's snow
nootlin snow that doesn't stick
rotlana quickly accumulating snow
skriniya snow that never reaches the ground
bluwid snow that's shaken down from objects in the wind
tlanid snow that's shaken down and then mixes with sky-falling snow
ever-tla a spirit made from mashed fermented snow, popular among Eskimo men
talini snow angels
priyakli snow that looks like it's falling upward
chiup snow that makes halos
blontla snow that's shaken off in the mudroom
tlalman snow sold to German tourists
tlalam snow sold to American tourists
tlanip snow sold to Japanese tourists
protla snow packed around caribou meat
attla snow that as it falls seems to create nice pictures in the air
sotla snow sparkling with sunlight
tlun snow sparkling with moonlight
astrila snow sparkling with starlight
clim snow sparkling with flashlight or headlight
tlapi summer snow
krikaya snow mixed with breath
ashtla expected snow that's wagered on (depth, size of flakes)
huantla special snow rolled into "snow reefers" and smoked by wild Eskimo youth
tla-na-na snow mixed with the sound of old rock and roll from a portable radio
depptla a small snowball, preserved in Lucite, that had been handled by Johnny Depp
trinkyi first snow of the year
tronkyin last snow of the year
shiya snow at dawn
katiyana night snow
tlinro snow vapor
nyik snow with flakes of widely varying size
ragnitla two snowfalls at once, creating moire patterns
akitla snow falling on water
privtla snow melting in the spring rain
chahatlin snow that makes a sizzling sound as it falls on water
hootlin snow that makes a hissing sound as the individual flakes brush
geltla snow dollars
briktla good building snow
striktla snow that's no good for building
erolinyat snow drifts containing the imprint of crazy lovers
chachat swirling snow that drives you nuts
krotla snow that blinds you
tlarin snow that can be sculpted into the delicate corsages Eskimo girls pin to their whale parkas at prom time
motla snow in the mouth
sotla snow in the south
maxtla snow that hides the whole village
tlayopi snow drifts you fall into and die
truyi avalanche of snow
tlapripta snow that burns your scalp and eyelids
carpitla snow glazed with ice
tla ordinary snow

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day, SnowBound Part II

A different Valentine's Day than scheduled. Shall I call it a delightful surprise? All thoughts of going out tonight were buried in the snowfall, and today's planned website creation was plowed over by digging out. Just when the aches were receeding from Monday's adventures, along comes today's struggle, new aches, new pains, new quandaries in the wake of the storm's casualties. Heck with it--tonight the thawing hoses are getting kicked out of the bathtub and I'm taking a soak!

I slide around on the ice on a tractor with no steering trying to break up the driveway and lanes as the sun sinks. A Mordor sunset, I think, subdued and forboding. Suddenly the sun bursts out of the clouds and blazes across the icy hill, illuminating my angel in 4 wheel drive inching and slithering up the road. Curtis is Mr. B's son, come to plow us out. He reports on the outside world--I'll be able to get off the farm tomorrow. I gratefully relinquish the tractor and set to night chores.

...As twilight deepens and I glimpse the end of my outside work, I grab up a tube and take a run, a run to exorcise last nights pathetic efforts. The hill is diamond. That tube flies to bring tears to my eyes and a rebel yell from my belly. Get halfway up the next hill, slide back down, slow enough that I can roll off without bruising anything too bad.

yes, at the end of the day, life is great!

Age Old Questions, Drive-Thru Answers

Valentine's Day, SnowBound

Valentine's Day rides in on storm gales this year. Are you a love it or hate it kinda person? I'm a love it person myself--any excuse for good cheer and celebration! I love going into groceries and Walmarts and convenience stores and seeing flocks of people choosing bouquets and smiling over cards. I see a young boy and his dad, faces furrowed in concentration, selecting just the perfect flowers for mom. I glow, imagining what that 7 year old is learning about love and how he will bear that standard into adulthood. Who will he touch with his love?

Of course, that begs the question "why just one day a year?" Do people need an annual reminder not to take love for granted, a jump start to reignite the momentum for the next 365 days?

Perhaps confusion lies in the fact that we use but one word in innumerable scenarios. "I love you!" while embracing Great Aunt Harriett is completely different than your truelove's whispered "I love you!" or your delighted "I love you!" when your best friend brings you a Dairy Queen blizzard as a surprise. I love my dog (warm and fuzzy love, admiration (he's very handsome I must say!) deep gratitude at his loyalty). I love the raw beauty of the world (overwhelming, awe-inspiring, swept off my feet). I love classical music (shining light on hidden places, bringing my insides to the outside, a tuning fork to waken some slumbering corner of my soul) and God rock (the love, the power, the rraw elation of worshiping with abandon) and singing with my brother's or my cousin's guitar playing (connection, creation, delight) and Wierd Al Yankovik and scads of other musical genres. And that's the tiniest tip of a titanic iceberg.

I'd say maybe we need words for each incarnation of love, like the Inuit have a different word for subtle distinctions of snow. But it turns out that notion is a myth. Inuit has about the same number as English. I guess if they can experience and appreciate their infinite encounters with snow on a level transcending words, we can do the same with love!

Even if you hate it, ESPECIALLY if you hate it, Happy Valentines!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

SnowTubing West Virginia Style

Somewhere around midnight and I've had enough of waiting. All day I've been anticipating enough snowfall to snowtube. The full vision, the work order I placed at season's beginning, was enough snowfall with enough notice for a sled run, a bonfire, a sweat lodge and all my friends over. Now, grass still rises from the snow cover, my friends are hunkered down in in their homes and the road is too treacherous for anyone without a snowmobile. It's just a girl, her dog, and the ancient dance between the indominable human spirit and the wild forces of nature. (And perhaps an overactive imagination given to hyperbole!)

I call J.E.B. out of bed and layer up. He looks dubious as my flashlight beam searches the smokehouse for the fattest, fastest, phattest tube. They haven't been out since the blistering days of summer. Heather replentished our fleet--Thanks Heather!--just in the nick of time. At that point, the creek was the focal point of life. I conducted business meetings submerged up to my eyeballs. Liz cooly fielded a conference call during a tube trip downstream with the entire family in full water-gun warfare around her. That was then:

But this is now. J.E.B. tries to convince me to return within reach of the heater but faithfully follows as I sally forth in search of the perfect run. I spot my line, run, leap on the tube! It grinds to an instant halt, and a shovelful of snow plows up under my shirt. Totally... refreshed now, I rearrange my clothes to snowproof the seams and launch again.

The furthest I get on any run is about 5 feet. OK, tonight is not a record breaking night. But the snow is still falling and we've warmed the hill up for tomorrow. Anyone up for a bonfire and sweatlodge?


Most of you know, I'm a huge believer in the power of questions. Ask the RIGHT question and transform the world.

Here is the question hanging on the whiteboard by my door right now:


Winter Commute

As my friends battle ice and commuter crowds, I take my own commute up to feed the horses and tuck them in for the storm. My footfalls are muffled by the silent melody of falling snow. J.E.B. bounds through woods, over deadfall, but never too far...

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Another Vital How-To

While we're on the subject of how-to's, last night while waiting for Eragon to start I learned if you are freefalling, your best chance of survival lies in positioning yourself to land on your back, spread-eagled, with your head tipped forward. Incidentaly, this is also your quicksand survival position. It is also your best bet for snow angels.

Ya never know when this info will come in handy!

How to Pull a Tablecloth from Under a Place Setting

I have always wanted to do this. Now, when I attempt this at one of your parties you can rest assured knowing I'm a trained professional!

From WikiHow:

How to Pull a Tablecloth from Under a Place Setting

This article will teach you how to pull a tablecloth out from under dishes, just like this.
This article will teach you how to pull a tablecloth out from under dishes, just like this.
Anybody can yank a tablecloth out from under a table setting. The only hard part is cleaning up all the broken dishes on the floor. Do you want to amaze your friends, entice members of the opposite sex, and keep dishes intact? Follow these steps to become the star of your next dinner party.


  1. When laying out the tablecloth, the edge opposite you should be flush with the edge of the table, while the edge you will pull should hang well over the table.
    When laying out the tablecloth, the edge opposite you should be flush with the edge of the table, while the edge you will pull should hang well over the table.
    Set up the trick. If you're just practicing, you can set up everything just right, but if you're ready to perform, you'll need to make sure you try this trick in the right situation.

    • Make sure the tablecloth is flat on the table and free of wrinkles.
    • The tablecloth should be flush with the end opposite that from which you will be pulling (the cloth should not overhang the table along that edge).
    • Let the tablecloth hang well over the edge from which you will be pulling.
  2. Arrange dishes on the table. Begin with just one plate or bowl right in the middle of the table. Once you master this, add more dishes and arrange some of them closer to the table's edges until you are prepared to do the trick with a real table setting.
  3. Put something in the dishes. If the dishes are too light, the trick will be hard to perform. This is especially a problem with plastic dishes. Usually, however, dishes have something in or on them at the table, so this isn't a problem. If you're practicing, put some fruit in the dishes, as this minimizes any spillage problem.
  4. Grasp the tablecloth with both hands. Position yourself so that you are at about the midpoint of the edge of the tablecloth you'll be pulling.
  5. Grasp the tablecloth with both hands and bunch it up to the edge of the table.
    Grasp the tablecloth with both hands and bunch it up to the edge of the table.
    Bunch the tablecloth up to the table's edge. If you've laid the tablecloth correctly, you'll have plenty of cloth draped over the edge of the table from which you'll be pulling. Use your hands to bunch this excess cloth up until you reach the edge of the table.
  6. The tablecloth being pulled out from under one dish.
    The tablecloth being pulled out from under one dish.
    Yank the tablecloth downwards and step back from the table. Very quickly pull the tablecloth straight toward the floor. As you are doing so, smoothly step back from the table, but do not pull the tablecloth outward.
  7. Finish with a flourish to make your performance look even more impressive.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

First Snow and Poetry

In the gusty sunshine and first snow of the season, the horses are wild. As I move through the pastures tending water, roundbales, fence (and and marvel in awestruck adoration at the raucous ballet whirling about me) they leap and twirl and fly, they threaten warfare with their mock rivals, they explode from the earth as if to burst from their bodies. Just as quick, when I call they race over and press their foreheads into my chest, as gentle in a moment as they had been ferocious.

Ronald Duncan's words, gifted by Matthew so many years ago, come to mind:

Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride,
Friendship without envy,
Or beauty without vanity?
Here, where grace is served with muscle
And strength by gentleness confined
He serves without servility; he has fought without enmity.
There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent.
There is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

~Ronald Duncan, "The Horse," 1954

(Thanks to my brother, Mac Lee, for shooting this picture in October's peaceful gloaming)

Free Hug Campaign

WOW! I love this! Go out and welcome the world for a hug! Read the story and pass it on....

Juan Mann – talks about Free Hugs.
- On Its Origins -
I'd been living in London when my world turned upside down and I'd had to come home. By the time my plane landed back in Sydney, all I had left was a carry on bag full of clothes and a world of troubles. No one to welcome me back, no place to call home. I was a tourist in my hometown.
Standing there in the arrivals terminal, watching other passengers meeting their waiting friends and family, with open arms and smiling faces, hugging and laughing together, I wanted someone out there to be waiting for me. To be happy to see me. To smile at me. To hug me.
So I got some cardboard and a marker and made a sign. I found the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city and held that sign aloft, with the words "Free Hugs" on both sides.
And for 15 minutes, people just stared right through me. The first person who stopped, tapped me on the shoulder and told me how her dog had just died that morning. How that morning had been the one year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. How what she needed now, when she felt most alone in the world, was a hug. I got down on one knee, we put our arms around each other and when we parted, she was smiling.
Everyone has problems and for sure mine haven't compared. But to see someone who was once frowning, smile even for a moment, is worth it every time.

I can't help but hear Jesus singing this song....

All around me...

All around me I witnessed the cycle of life and death-- with deer becoming wolves, bones becoming soil, lichens eating rocks, herons stalking fish. Irate wolves chased ravens, who in turn chased indifferent eagles, while I wandered in the knowledge that my quiet contemplation would lead me to them so that I might paint them on film.

--Jim Brandendurg, Chased by the Light

Browsing Brandenburg before I lend him out, I come across this passage which really hits home for a number of reasons. I dig out this photo I shot down by down by the ford, which was a redneck hotspot and favorite dumping ground for broken appliances and poached deer carci. A recent flood had washed the garbage downstream, but this doe was just above the waterline, and continued her quiet return to the elements undisturbed.

Monday, February 5, 2007

The Horse Tamer's Daughter

One of my favorite filk songs. Singing it as I roam the farm, dancing with today's bitter winds, reminds me of lyrics to remember, and the people inextricably intertwined with those memories. Later, I'm delighted to find a recording online: