Sunday, April 29, 2007

Darwin Denied

I pick up a pack of little mini-carabiners, you know, the kind you use for keys and such. What's really scary is the bold lettering on the front of the package: "NOT FOR CLIMBING!"

Natural Selection slinks away, muttering, "curses, foiled again!"

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cheaper Than Models

"I hate flowers. I paint them because they are cheaper than models and they don't move!"
--Georgia O'Keefe

Horses move, bees move, even Yngvar, my tame deer skull, once moved.

It's deliciously, deleriously spring, and we live in the most beautiful place on earth. Brace yourself for flowers--lots of flowers-- in upcoming posts!

Bower Bees

I find out that the beekeepers' current challenge is not new. Apparently, they have been experiencing these abnormally high attrition rates for the last 15 years, and are only now getting press.

I'm glad and grateful to see the bees on the farm buzzing from flower to flower.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Shocking Revelation

I had a shocking revelation today. I'm pregnant.

Not in the natural--no kids for the Gypsy, please.

(Don't get me wrong, I love kids once they're big enough to be interesting and play with and throw around without breaking. Some of my favorite people are kids, or have kids. In fact, the majority of my favorite people once even WERE kids. I'm just not real wild about lugging 'em around in my uterus for 9 months. Or lugging 'em around out of my uterus for 18 years. And that whole giving birth stuff? Eeeeew.)

But something has been growing in me these past many months. Somewhere in that dark and liquidy realm of limitless and undifferentiated possibility, something has been growing. I've tried to explain it to my mom, my cousin, my brother. I don't know what I'm trying to explain, beyond "there's something happening in the unseen...."

The growing feeling of creative constipation. Acting on strange cravings when I should be completing practical tasks. The spiritual swollen-ness, the heaviness: not quite paralysis, just immobility around what I THINK I should be doing.

The process is accelerating. I realize the number of times over the past few months I've groaned, "I just want it DONE already!" Now it makes perfect sense.

I anticipate an easy labor, God willing. I have no idea what they'll look like, but I can't wait for the little Gypletts to arrive!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Gentlemen, Gird Your Hurdies!

"We're really going?" I ask in disbelief, "for really real?" Loreena McKennit doesn't tour very often, and somehow it didn't occur to me that if she did, I could actually go.

My love affair with Loreena started in an off-beat import store near campus. A friend had a mission. I was just along for the ride, but when the clerk asked, "can I help you?" I answered, "yes, I'm looking for an artist I never heard of who sounds like a cross between Jethro Tull, Enya, and old Led Zeppelin ballads." The poor boy fled; I thought nothing more of it. He returned about 15 minutes later with The Visit. Thus it began.

You know how most studio recordings are better quality than live? They lack the electric energy, but offer so much more control, so much more instrumental possibility. Well, tonight blows that theory out of the water.

Loreena's voice, amazing on her albums, thrills me with her power. The 7 other musicians on stage play an encyclopedia of instruments ranging from an electric guitar to a hurdy gurdy. Animal, from the Muppet Show, is on drums.

The instruments vie for autonomy-- and domination. More than once the electic guitar and fiddle BATTLE full-out in exquisitely ordered chaos. The sounds from centuries and a hundred countries are all going different directions. They seem like they should grate and jar yet they somehow meld together into a rich, intoxicating unity.

Even from a distance, the music pounds against me, drives itself into the spaces between my cells and shakes my soul. I can almost see the maelstrom of music on the stage, want to throw myself in the middle of that frenzy.

We end the evening gazing out at DC over Pinot Noir. The railing around the Hotel Washington's Sky Terrace is solid-- I lean waaaaaaay out to drink in the sights, the lights. The gentleman next to us talks about watching the presidents helicopter land a couple of buildings over. I comb the rooftops for SWAT men, to no avail.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Now, Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Its been an intense week. Between the VA Tech incident, Ethlyn's death and the ensuing mayhem of (welcome) relatives, and an onslought of other... considerations, its been an intense week.

I spend the afterchurch speeding through spring on the back of a motorcycle.
Belg loves speed and power as much as I do. I savor the flight-- and the welcome chance to think not in words but in pictures, in motion, in music--or not at all.

Manage to squeeze off a few photos. Luckily I'm not driving, otherwise we'd still be out on the road... "just one more shot!"

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Finally, Spring; Funeral

We get to the church early. The peaceful cemetary teems with spring. I roam about with my little camera before the crowds gather, soaking in the sunshine and stillness.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech, Too--A Personal Indulgence

All the focus on Tech dredges up old memories, tragedy on a personal rather than regional scale.

My best friend went to Tech. Andy and I met when we were stuck together on the same team for an equestrian competition. We immediately recognized ourselves in each other, kindred spirits whether pushing our horsemanship to new levels or dragging sabres and armor up an icy mountainside to duel at the castle on the summit.

With our rampant imaginations we created worlds in which to run amok. We were writing a book together, and crashing around in the woods would act out scenes as the storyline spontaneously evolved. I was home on a quick break from a marine biology field program when we got into our only fight ever through long years of friendship over some inane and long-forgotten plot twist.

A few weeks later we got the phone call that she had been whitewater rafting with friends, climbed up to the road ahead of everyone, and disappeared. The next few months were a torture of futile efforts and endless waiting. My sister hollered us into her room one night--she had been channel surfing and came across Unsolved Mysteries. That episode was about Andy.

They faithfully regurgitated all we'd been through that summer. The frustrating encounters with law enforcement, the hope-filled leads slamming into dead ends, the locals, the pyschics, the psychotics, the suspects, the desparate grasping for anything that might lead to something.

The actress playing her on TV-- she was just an actress. Andy herself was just a character. It was all sterile, all surreal. Until the actress walked down to the pond, the night before the staged disappearance, "to write a few chapters in a book she was writing with her best friend." I don't know what shifted in that moment. I do know I left the room and didn't write again for well over a decade.

A hunter found her remains in the woods that October. I remember getting the phone call. I remember hanging up, turning to Drew, who'd been hanging out, and saying, "you may want to leave. I think I'm gonna cry for awhile."

I'd seen death before, had brushed close myself, but I had zilch tools to build something good out of this horror. Most of my friends, not finding me in the shell that remained, turned their backs. "There's nothing you can do now," they shrugged, "get over it already." Away they'd drift, blissfully oblivious not only to my sorrow but even more hugely, this sudden world of terror and torture and raw evil now close enough--and real enough--to touch and to tear and to take with finality.

All my inner demons invited their friends over and threw the party of a lifetime.

That was about 17 years ago. No, you never "get over it" but you do get through it. You dig around for the treasure buried somewhere in the sordid scenario. You find a new faith, a new courage in the blackest face of a fear you never knew until that moment. You polish the unexpected gifts you receive from the experience, and pass them on to ease someone else's agony, to hasten their healing.

Senseless loss. The crap luck of being in the wrong place at a very wrong time. Monstrous aberrations, evil imprisoning their forgotten human hearts, feeding on the perversion and destruction of life's brightness, because that is their only threat--and their deepest desire.

My heart goes out to Cho, as it does to Andy's killers, and evildoers everywhere. I don't let myself imagine what abuses shaped their twisted spirits, what unspeakable torment created a mind that justifies such horror. Something in them was killed, and their instinct is to lash out and destroy in turn.

A piece of us dies, yes, when we are among those ravaged and left behind. And then the carrion eaters close in: rage, futily, terror, bitter hatred, toxic self-righteousness. But when we can chase them off, the once-dead spaces give birth to a living like never before. Where death sought desolation, now relentless life, fierce love and unquenchable courage gain strength.

I was in Blacksburg a few years ago, overnighting with horses I was hauling down to Florida. The town resounded with her absense. Did she eat at this restaurant? Did she laugh down these streets? I'm 99.999% sure that the farm my horses stayed at was her "home barn" but never did ask the kind-hearted, garrulous owner. If it had been, he'd have known her well. That night, my own memories were enough.

When Andy was murdered, I grieved alone. Now, a nation grieves with me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Aunt Ethlyn

Aunt Ethlyn died Monday evening (she was adament we not euphemize it and say she passed on, or any such thing.) As people express their condolences, I'm almost surprised. I look at her death with such joy, especially in contrast with the Virginia Tech deaths earlier that day. Ethlyn was in her nineties, still did the books for the family business, and was healthy as a horse until a week ago. She was was surrounded by loving family when she died and, a strong Christian, had absolute certainty where she was headed. She died as she lived, surrounded by blessings!

What grief there is arises from the pain and the sorrow of the living. She will be missed sorely. As much as she loved, she was loved. As the funeral draws near that grief entwines with the outpouring of love, gratitude, appreciation and honor from all corners of the community to weave a final tribute to a remarkable woman and a life well lived.

Virginia Tech

People are reeling from Monday's tragic shooting at Virginia. Some are still in shock. Some have begun mourning. I hope that others have begun healing.

I don't have any friends or family immediately affected, but the some-degrees-of-separation reports begin to trickle in. One friend's nephew-in-law checks in safe: he was lazy that day and hung out in town instead of his engineering class. How many people with similar stories are gratefully counting their blessings?

Though man-made tragedy explodes out of the blackest cancers festering in the human spirit, ironically it strengthens and liberates the best we have to offer, often to our own surprise and wonderment. At the edge of the unimaginable, we are faced with two choices: what's best for me vs. what can I do to help.

People's response in the moment to the Tech shooting bear witness to heroism on every level. Consider the Blacksburg Transit bus driver passing by campus who stopped and picked up fleeing students, many of whom were injured from jumping out of windows-- his bus becoming an impromptu ambulance. Give gratitude to Liviu Librescu, a 76 year-old professor and Holocaust survivor who barricaded his classroom door with his own body so his students could jump out the window before the gunman burst in.

As the media stream gains momentum, more of these stories will percolate out to the public. Yet even more heroes will go unnoticed except by the one or two people whose lives they touched and forever changed.

These heroes who chose option B are the people we call selfless
. But the self-seekers who opted for the "me first" route don't get the paradox that we are most ourselves, most fulfilled and most richly rewarded when we are giving. Tragedy shoves unmistakable opportunities to give of ourselves right in front of our faces. We sometimes need a reminder that these opportunities arise countless times in the course of any mundane day, with such subtlety as to pass unnoticed unless we're seeking them. Opportunities to touch a life, to change someone forever, and as cosmic payback, to know that intense gratification and fulfilment.

The seed that births victory from tragedy lies fallow all around us. Even more than heroism in the face of disaster, perhaps the ultimate victory over tragedy is to sow that seed independent of catastrophe.

As I write this, movement outside my window catches my eye. A man in camouflage, rifle over his shoulder, strolling along the front of my house. It's Marty, walking back from the grove--some unsuspecting species must have just come into hunting season. That split-second of confusion before I realize who it is reminds me that both disaster and peace can strike at any time. I have just as much responsibility as heroes on TV to find-- or create-- the blessing in both.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Power of Questions, Revisited--Audience Participation Encouraged!

This morning I have a conversation that leaves me wondering: what one question could I ask which, when answered, would most completely reveal the essense of a person's being?

Half hour later, as I chew on this, I am granted the ultimate luxury out of the blue: permission to ask not one but FIVE questions-- and be answered.

I begin my list. What would YOU ask? And at least as importantly, what do you yearn to be asked?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Think Spring...?

Wolf tells me tonight they're forecasting snow for Saturday. I'm STILL holding out for a snow-tube/sauna party, so I say LET IT SNOW!

But if all it can muster is a few feeble flurries, then I vote to let Spring spring.

Too bad weather's an anarchy, not a democracy.

Who Am I This Time?

Saw this quiz over at Jedi Jawa's blog the other day but didn't take the time to take it. (BTW, Welcome to West Virginia, Jedi!) But when I see it just now over at blogging4burgers I figure its a sign. Maybe somehow knowing what kind of nerd I am will bring about world peace or stop global warming (oops, I forgot it doesn't exist!)

The results? Drum roll, please....

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Artistic Nerd

Whether it's painting, sewing, drawing, arts and crafts; or just splashing paint onto a canvas and calling it art; you mostly fit this description. Lots of people envy the artists, but be humble and keep working on it. There is a shortage of true artists today who actually contribute anything to society.

Literature Nerd
Drama Nerd
Science/Math Nerd
Gamer/Computer Nerd
Social Nerd
Anime Nerd
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace

Expect to see some radical improvements in temperaments and temperatures worldwide....

Monday, April 9, 2007


"It really cracks me up when circumstances force me to practice what I preach!" I IM this morning, as I watch my plans heave like the sea in The Perfect Storm.

As a free lancer, I piece each day together in an intricate patchwork of varying locations, tasks and timeframes patterned around multiple people's schedules. One of those people, we'll call him Genghis Khan, destroyed any possibility for productivity by tearing his (unfortunately vital) piece out by the seams in the 11th hour and with enough uncertainty around the replacement that the pattern was minimally salvageable, at best. The impact? Complications, cancellations, tangled time and lost income. And this was the second time, with the strong possibility of spilling over into day 3.

John Maxwell's words hang by my door, reminding me as I go out to greet the world that "the greatest day in your life and mine is the day we take total responsibility for our attitudes." There's a piece of the preachin'. Now for the practicin'. I can get pissed off, or mine fresh possibilities. What can I do but laugh as I pull out my planner? Again.

I make phone calls, shuffle things around, try to work around each possible scenario Genghis offered. I figure if I stay local (NOT on the original agenda!) at least I can get back quickly if he comes in sometime today. I head down the road to a client's farm.

The first horse, Luke, is in rare form. He'll be going along nice and responsive then catch a passing car out of the corner of his eye. 1500 pounds of raw force and rebellion exploding into the air and fighting for domination. We work on the ground where he can clearly see my body language (horses' native "tongue") until he has a major breakthrough in communication and attention. I swing into the saddle. And groan.

The creak of jagged fragments grating together, the unmistakable feel of flexing instead of firm resilience-- my saddle tree is broken. Destroyed. My favorite saddle. My most expensive saddle. The saddle qua non of my business. The only explanation I can muster is that the feed store boys slammed a sack of grain into it while they were loading the car. Unless Luke snapped it that one astonishing aerial...Its irrelevent. Its broken. I sigh and dismount.

I'm driving home afterwards, mulling things over. Get pissed off vs. mine the possibilities.... I know its a piece of some as-yet-unseen puzzle. There's something to come out of it, but right now I'm struggling not to get hung up on counting the cost (ouch!)

It occurs to me. Luke detonates with absolutely no forewarning. I can outride just about any creatively violent maneuver a horse can come up with, but I can't keep them on their feet if they lose the game with gravity in mid-acrobatics. By ending my ride prematurely, what disasters were averted? What catastrophic price was supplanted by a broken saddle tree?

I may never know, but as always, in all things, I will give thanks!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter Bonfire

We celebrate Easter with a blazing bonfire. I toast the end of lent with mead we made two years ago, with honey from Sueva's and Clovis' bees. The guestlist encompasses the usual suspects, including a guitar, a mandolin, two doumbeks and a half dozen packages of hotdogs. The charred and ominous spire which stubbornly withstood four previous bonfires finally succumbs to the flames around midnight.


Happy Happy Easter! Jesus is Risen! From before Creation to Eternity's end, Death is vanquished, our screw-ups erased,victory secured, and WE ARE FREE!

I'm actually wistful watching Lent fade into the recent past. It's been an extraordinary season. I find myself wondering, does it have to end? And what is IT anyway? Trading something I think I want or need for the immeasurable blessing of seeing how God will fill those voids? He's a wild God with relentless imagination, infinite abundance and a vast yet detailed plan. Bring it on!

Have I been pushed? Of course. Beyond endurance? Considering what Good Friday commemorated, it was a cakewalk. Was it anything like I expected? Not at all (but I love surprises!) Was it worth it? Beyond a shadow of a doubt!

Is it sustainable? Therein lies the question. I wonder if it's even appropriate to ask.

This morning, God gives me an Easter basket, overflowing with colors and blessings. "Put all your eggs in THIS basket!"

That's the best offer I've had all day!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Animated Bayeax Tapestry

Today's history lesson:

Click here to brush up on the storyline
And here for to check out the annual reenactment, held every April (whan that Aprille, with his shoures soote... oops, sorry! Out of context. Back on topic!) It is on my to-do list to ride in this battle at least once....

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Snowtube Through the Tulips

It's almost Good Friday. I'm cutting daffodils in a whirlwind of snowflakes. Does anyone else revel in the incongruity?

I will seriously CRACK UP if my long-awaited sledding party ends up on Easter....

Extermination by Chocolate

For Cyrus' Birthday, Louise concocted the most amazing chocolate nirvana: dark chocolate with frosting made purely of melted Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips, and the sweetest, juiciest fresh strawberries drowned in melted chocolate overflow. (Ooooh, starting to quiver thinking about it!) I don't think I fell asleep 'til 5 am that night-- a piddling price to pay for instant all-embracing ecstacy!

This omnichocolate Dalek looks like it might come close... "EX-TER-MI-NATE!"

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

West Virginia Bigfoots... Bigfeet... Sasquatch!

According to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization,, Bigfeet are surprisingly active in our wild and wonderful homestate. My farm straddles the county line, which in this case is a creek. The house and farmland is in one county, the timber is in another. Here's the exciting part-- Bigfoot has been sighted in the county on the other side of the creek!

Now I'm a practical woman. Seeing Bigfoot: very cool. Befriending Bigfoot and having his help with the farmwork? Priceless.

All I have to do is find him and convince him to cross the creek.

I ponder other naturalist analogs. Hummingbird feeders? I'm not sure what Bigfoot eats. Maybe Hawaiian Pizza from Dominos--I know I'm a fan. But there's a freshness factor to take into consideration there. Bat houses and Bluebird boxes? I'm envisioning something on the scale of a small barn. Cable TV? Works for my cousins during the playoffs! However that also might attract unwanted varmints...

Anyone out there a Bigfoot-ophile? Any suggestions for a Sasquatch siren's song?

And please... ignore any yodeling you may hear echoing across the county line late at night... especially as hay season draws nigh....

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Your Own Chocolate Jesus

While Carpe'ing me Some Diem, I catch wind of the statue of Jesus that has everybody in a furor. Apparently it is not the fact that it is made out of chocolate (though as we hurtle towards Easter I can’t help but wonder, as with bunnies, is it more humane to eat the ears first?) but the fact that it is not only anatomically but historically correct: the Romans didn’t feel the need to dress their victims for the occasion. At all.

The lack of even a loincloth has critics in an uproar, resulting in the cancellation of the art show highlighting the piece. The statue of itself has been spirited off to an unknown (though well-refrigerated) box truck, the twenty-first century equivalent to a catacomb, I guess.

Hmmm. There is nothing decent or civilized about the crucifiction. Unimaginable torture, unbearable agony, excruciating humiliation, ultimate betrayal, all the worst physical and psychological nightmares of the human race distilled into a few short hours. What happens when we try to hide that behind a loincloth?

Jesus’ ministry on earth wasn’t directed towards the pious, the modest, the properly dressed. Does “brood of vipers” ring a bell?! He hung out with the hookers, the thieves, the demonized, the terminally infirm. Their lives were totally transformed BECAUSE they were “naked” before Him, and willing to let Him love them anyway. And therein bloomed the miracles.

I wonder how many Christians through the ages and into the future missed out on intimacy with Christ because they were, are and will be ashamed to show up without their Prada, much less their loincloth. Those times are when we need Him—and He wants us—the most. How many people have rejected Him outright because some pompous legalist told them there was a rigid protocol, a standard of worthiness, or an elevated dress code required to gain audience?

I know I have. And yet even when I’m most revolting, even when no human could stand to be near me, He shows up saying “I know EXACTLY how you feel.” And offers miracles.