Sunday, February 20, 2022

Lucy's Package Delivery Surprise

A funny thing happened yesterday, before the hike where I took this beautiful photo of Lucy and my husband looking over the Spokane River.

On our way out to the car to load her up, my husband found her chewing up a large package. The UPS driver had set it inside our gate, and Lucy had dragged it by the bag it was wrapped in, to our front yard, where she began to gnaw it all open. 

Though the canvas print was fully half exposed, it was not damaged. He saved it just in time. 

The Aaron Hazel print, Horsepower, is now safely on my wall. What a deal it was. I was able to purchase this print from him for $200, and it came signed and numbered, with free shipping. I noticed that they have now gone up to $225, but that is still an amazing deal for a canvas print signed by this up-and-coming artist. I do recommend canvas prints, versus others, because the cost of framing is just ridiculous. It was almost $500 to have my Mark Maggiori framed with non-glare glass. This one, was ready to hang.

Now, I can look at this glorious horse when I play piano. 

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Hello, I Am Freedom

I promise you, I do other things besides obsess about "freedom," and "liberty." But even when I'm out on a good hike, those topics are not far from my mind. It's who I am and will always be. Throughout life, in whatever situation life presents, I ask myself this question, "How can we meet society's needs for safety and stability while still maintaining the MOST amount of freedom?"

I don't ask that question to be a jerk, because freedom is not selfish. I don't ask it to be a Republican or Democrat, because I've voted both ways, and have opposed both, and either side can be on the side of freedom at different moments in history.

If you're on the side of freedom, I will support you, whether you're a peaceful BLM protester, mad about the knee to George Floyd's neck, or a trucker in Canada, asking for the end to mandates, *peaceful protests that don't infringe upon the rights of others, are part of the deal, they're part of freedom.  

*important caveat, don't infringe upon the rights of others.

The wide open spaces of the west, the smell of sage rubbed between fingertips and held to the nose. Raw. Earthy. Wild. Free.

Views that go on forever. Unobstructed.

Sunshine, without restraint.

This is a beautiful world we all share.

Freedom. It's who I am and, may I add, I think it's who we all are. We are all born desiring to be free.

Friday, February 18, 2022

An Appeal to 'Our Better Selves'

The greatest casualty of Covid was civility. I saw family fighting against family, in my own family. I saw friends against friends, with my own friends. When the vaccines were rolled out, I truly hoped that would be it, and we could begin to repair those divisions. I had studied the vaccine throughout its entire development, and I felt good about getting it. But I never wanted to see it mandated.  I hoped that enough people would get vaccinated to appease those calling for mandates, but it only grew worse.

In my own state, we watched as first responders, the people who were there for us during the peak of Covid--nurses, nursing home staff, snow plow drivers, state police--people who had contracted Covid on the frontlines before there was a vaccine, and had natural immunity--fired from their jobs. 

So. Much. Division.

I understand both sides, and I respect the fears that so many have for loved ones who are vulnerable, but at this point, those who want the vaccine protection, have had the opportunity to get it. Those who are truly vulnerable can wear N95 masks, which protect the wearer. We now know, via the CDC, that natural immunity was 6 X more effective than the vaccine during Delta, so natural immunity deserves to be recognized, too.

I was listening to Governor Glenn Youngkin this morning, and I transcribed his response to a reporter about Senate Bill 739:

The key to yesterday (signing the bill) is that parents have the fundamental right to make this decision for their children, whether to wear a mask or not to wear a mask. Both. Both. And I strongly, strongly, not only encourage, but appeal to all of our better selves to respect one another.

Throughout this entire process, I’ve asked everyone to love one another, to respect these decisions. Those decisions that are made by parents are made for particularly good reasons. And so when we have a colleague, a fellow student, a teacher, an administrator, who has a mask on, or doesn’t have a mask on, we should deeply respect that, deeply respect it.

And therefore, one of the things that we have spoken about frequently is not, NOT holding biases against one another, not judging one another. We shouldn’t judge one another based on the color of our skin, based on our religion, based on our sex, or based on whether we wear a mask or not.

So this is, hopefully, a new day for Virginia, where we can adopt a real sense of respect and love for one another.

What beautiful words of respect and unity. I am so sick of division, and those who sow it for political gain. I hate to see what is going on in Canada, next door. Canada has almost 90% vaccination success. Why can't they accept that as a big win, and leave people alone? Instead, it's a horrible national crisis, where "freedom" has become a bad word.

Haven't we had enough crises for two years? Can't we come together in love and respect and unity?

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Tumbleweed's First Float & These Beautiful Days

Yesterday was Tumbleweed's first teeth float. Our vet runs a special every year in February for 10% off to try to get ahead of maintenance care before the really busy foaling season starts up. We called Wednesday, and they were willing to come out Thursday, that's how open their schedule is right now. In a month, you'll be lucky to get one out in three weeks.

So, Tumbleweed has a perfect jaw for chewing in a circular motion, as they should. Yay. He had sharp points. No surprise. They all do. And he had a baby tooth that was loose, and was pulled to allow the permanent tooth to make its way in.

He was such a good boy during the whole physical and teeth float. While he was sedated they also gave him his vaccinations. He is ready for the big world of travel and training.  My vet said as he was finishing up, "Now, there will be no excuses." So true. But so far, he hasn't ever provided enough bad behavior to need an excuse anyway. He's a good boy.

Epona was next, and she also got a short physical and vaccinations. There had been some conjecture that her growth might be stunted a bit from her rough start, but our vet said she isn't showing any signs of that. He said she'll mature to 15.3 or 16 hands, so no growth stunt there. My daughter was a little disappointed with that news, as she'd been hoping for a shorter horse this time around. At the same time, she was relieved that Epona has come through this unscathed.

I had been cleaning out my tack room before they arrived and found unopened bags and buckets of milk replacer powder and pellets. I sent them off with the vets to give to some others who might be in need this season. Sadly, there will always be a few orphan foals. My heart goes out to those in that situation. 

After the teeth float, we put Cowboy and Tumbleweed out for a day of sun and fun, and then we went on another hike with Lucy. You may wonder why Piper doesn't come along, and it's because she is terrified of getting in cars. Loki had a bad shoulder, and he didn't like getting in and out of vehicles, so he passed that onto her.

There was sunshine.

Lots of snow and ice.

And Lucy found a souvenir she tried to take home.

Today is another lovely day of sunshine, so we will be trying to find another hike, maybe go to breakfast at Chaps (my favorite restaurant I wrote about a few blog posts ago), and enjoy this wonderful day together.

Life is good.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Free At Last

To recap: We have been iced in since Christmas, and long ago, I made a decision for my daughter's horse to put him out, and he slipped on ice and broke his shoulder. Ice is my nemesis, when it comes to horses. With that in mind, and with bated breath, I was ready to put the young ones out as the ice had mostly melted.  Mostly.

I spent yesterday morning going over every inch of the arena, and chipping out large sections of ice with a shovel, and tossing, or hauling, it out of the arena. Then, where there were iffy sections, I placed obstacles to slow them down. The worst section was the section by the gate, and for that, I blocked it off with barrels so that they wouldn't build up speed and come into that section and slip. Then, I waited until the warmest part of the day.

First, I let out Tumbleweed with Cowboy. Tumbleweed loves to herd Cowboy, and it's good for Cowboy to have to move those hips. Tumbleweed also decided to jump over the bridge I was standing on. He slipped a couple of times in the sand, but was actually really smart and sure-footed for his first day out and free.

Whew. No injuries.  I left him out for a few hours, and he was a thorough muddy mess by the time it was over, but very, very sweet and in my pocket. It was like he was saying, Thank you! I needed that! I thought I was going nuts in that barn.

Next, it was Epona and mama's turn. But first I called my daughter to see if it was what she wanted. She had inspected the arena the day before, and she was certain it was fine and wanted them released. I told her it was even better than when she had seen it, more had melted, and I had placed obstacles over the areas that were questionable.

Our little miracle, Epona. Such a sweetheart, and definitely a between two worlds kind of horse. Raised by humans and mama, she is our orphan non-orphan. She has the best of both possibilities. She looks to both for security.

The sketchiest part of this release was taking her into the arena. Mama was going nuts, running around, snorting, charging us--and Epona was nervous. I kept her on the long lead and let her do circles around me, while pushing Cowgirl away from us. Epona kept her head, and did really nice circles for about two minutes, until I felt it was safe enough to take her halter off. 

Sometimes she's a like a dog, and comes when she's called, but her first loyalty is to mama still, as it should be, because her mama's mean, and doesn't put up with much.

It was a beautiful day, and now that we're able to use the arena again, I can start Tumbleweed back up. His trainer is booked solid, and unable to get him in early. We talked about it yesterday, and she reminded me that I chose April and May because I wanted her to ride him out more, and those are better months for that. We're going to stick with the plan. Plus, there's no reason for her to reinvent the wheel with the groundwork. I can do that myself so that he's ready to go when he gets there.

Today I'm going to see my mom and dad. My dad is having good days and bad, but seems to have better days when we visit. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

A Time To Go Within

I'm living the life, combining time with the grandson with getting out and walking. It's refreshing to have such a simple new routine. 

Grandson loves the walks. He sleeps the entire time, 4 miles, and then a visit to the barn. Back home, he is still asleep. That's how great a Bob stroller works. I had purchased this one used on Mercari, but it works like new. We went over ruts, and bumps, even mud, and it performed like a champ, keeping baby fast asleep.

There are still patches of ice, but I was able to let Cowboy out into the arena. He rolled and rolled, then he got up and ran around a little. He has enough wisdom to be cautious around ice. I'm hoping today will be dry enough to let Tumbleweed out, too. He needs to blow off steam before Friday when he has a teeth floating appointment and vaccinations. I'm getting him ready to go to training early, if there's an opening in March, so I really need the arena to dry up!

I love Cowboy so much, I don't know if I can ever make the decision to put him down. It would have to be catastrophic. I thought about it last fall, because I didn't want to ask him to go through winter. But then I thought, no, I'll keep him busy this winter, and it will be okay. Then we got the endless ice, which shut that plan down. Yet, somehow he has made it through to now, and he's doing okay. 

I pulled another card yesterday. It's the Touched By a Horse Inspirational Deck.

"Go Within: To walk alone right now is part of your journey. Trust you own inner knowingness to guide you through this passage. This is your own walk. This is your personal journey and your destination must remain open and unknown to you at this time. Take the time to look within. Do not run or rush or create distraction. You are being asked to steadily walk, breathing in deeply and fully, finding your way a solitary step at a time. Each step takes you further into the unknown for now. Trust that you will e protected and shown the way from deep within. BE strong and do not spook easily. You are surrounded by more protection than you are aware of. Take each step away from the chaos and your usual means of support, to go quietly within. Only then will the lesson reveal itself so you can rejoin the herd."

That probably seems like a strange card, coming after Covid isolation. You'd think it would be the opposite--run, run, run, back into the herd!  

But it's right. I feel like I can breathe a little right now. Last year went like this, starting in January: Sedona, Florida, Texas, host a Big Gender-Reveal party, new puppy, Epona's birth, Epona's dysfunction and almost dying, remodel our bathroom, June heat wave, host bridal shower party here, Epona's daily care and weekly vet trips, host a wedding for 200 here, host a multi-family baby shower here, grandbaby born (I got to be in the room), grandbaby and mama move in while daddy commutes to new job across the state, Loki passed away, host Thanksgiving, host Christmas--and now, back to normal.

Yes, it is definitely a time to go within. I haven't posted on Facebook since November. I'm done with it, except to keep up with my groups and see photos of people I love. I feel the same way about Instagram. It's mostly advertisements. I've kept the blog because it's a space for me to reflect. No word limit. No counting "likes." It's just an extension of my space, and if someone finds it, and gets something out of it, that's great, too.

Today is another beautiful day! Sun is shining! Horses are eating breakfast. With any luck, it will be a productive day with the herd.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Dance When You're Perfectly Free


The same poplar tree, but different circumstances, and those different circumstances can make you feel different emotions. One makes you feel like the world is vast and endless, while the other makes you feel as if the earth stops at the fog line.

This is a perfect symbol for how I have felt the last two years. I've written that 2019 was the best year I can remember, and that is because we closed down a very busy private practice and moved to working at home. Life in the office had taken its toll on my health. I spent most of the day sitting and staring at a computer screen. Beautiful days would come and go, but I wouldn't see them. I'd go to work early, and be off after dark. But 2019 changed all of that. I was free again, and so happy to be home with my husband and our herd. We couldn't believe our luck.

That was short-lived. A year later, things were closing down. Our state parks were locked and / or sealed off with yellow tape. We weren't even allowed to go on hikes. The east side of the state, where we live, is much different politically than the west side, and thanks to that, our county and city parks remained open, but because the state parks were closed, the remaining parks (much smaller) were overly crowded. Still, we were happy to have even that little bit of freedom.

In many ways, our lives did not change. We are definitely homebodies--before Covid, and after. We were already working from home. But it felt like the difference in the two photos above. 

Despite being in the middle of winter, and still being iced in, it's starting to feel like the world is opening up again--physically, spiritually, and mentally.

We haven't changed. The lakes haven't changed. The world is, in every way, the same as it ever was, but the feeling is different. 

Yesterday, we went on a hike with little Lucy--our pandemic puppy. She is 10 months now, and the hiking partner we hoped for.

We are older, and both of us neglected our screening appointments these last two years, but my husband went in for his physical and blood work, and checked out healthy. I went in for mine, and the blood work has come back good, but still waiting on the mammogram. 

I feel like, if I have come out of this time healthy, too, it is a good chance for a mental and emotional restart. With all the people around me recently diagnosed with cancer, and one extended family member who was diagnosed with lymphoma last June, and passed away before Christmas (she was only 65, and had been extremely healthy)--if I have a clean bill of health, I will feel ecstatic--like I dodged a bullet. And lucky. 

Update: as I was writing this post the doctor's office called with the mammogram results. Though there is a lot of dense tissue, they said it is benign, and no reason for more screening until one year. Yay! I feel like that weight is off my shoulders.

I'm trying not to fall into the trap of comparison. 2019 was wonderful, and it had its moment in my life. 2020 and 2021, though they felt like the tree in fog, were actually full of wonderful moments, too. The poplar tree is, after all, still the same tree. 

It's time to embrace 2022. I contacted my trainer this morning to see if she can fit Tumbleweed in early, which would be March instead of April. We have a number of stay-cations planned for March and April--little trips, close to home, that can be easily canceled if they need to be.  There are plays to see again, and music to hear. One of my favorite pianists, Inon Barnatan, is returning to the Spokane Symphony in April. Glorious!

I have one last thing to leave you with, something I had meant to share a long time ago, and that I hope you will find enjoyment from, as I did. When the symphony had their first performances since the Covid shutdown, one of them was performing with the cellist Inbal Segev. She played a piece written for her by Anna Clyne called Dance, based on the Rumi poem. Each section of the music is based on a line from the poem.

Dance, when you're broken open.
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. 
Dance, in the middle of the fighting. 
Dance, in your blood. 
Dance, when you're perfectly free.

To hear them together, and then the struggle to be free in movement 5, brought me to tears at the time, and continues to bring me to tears when I replay it. I play it a lot. The more I hear it, the more I love it. I don't know of a piece of music that so perfectly encapsulates this time. Here are the movements on YouTube, and it's also available on almost every streaming service.

How I felt about 2019.

and then 2020

Spring, 2021

Autumn, 2021

Now, I feel this.  Dance when you're perfectly free. And how much more sweet, complicated, and full after the first four movements.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Artist Aaron Hazel & The Black Cowboy

Last week we went for a walk in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. It's about 35 minutes from our house to the downtown, so we go there quite a lot to walk around the lake and grab a bite to eat. They also have a few art galleries, and our favorite is the Art Spirit Gallery. They feature regional artists, and Aaron Hazel attended college at Whitman, in Walla Walla, and currently resides in Boise, ID.

Artist Aaron Hazel. "Horsepower" (I've ordered a 20x20 copy canvas of this from his site.)

As we were looking at all the beautiful displays in the gallery, I was stopped in my tracks by a grouping of "outlaw" paintings. They were displayed in a square--9 paintings of individuals, with one group of outlaws in the middle. It was stunning, and I was mesmerized by them.

As we left, one of the attendants thanked us for coming and asked if we had a favorite. Without hesitation, I said, "That group of outlaw paintings! I wish I could buy them all and display them together just like that." She smiled and said, "oh, they're beautiful. That's Aaron Hazel. He's really gaining popularity."

"Hmmmm, I said, Aaron Hazel"...and as soon as I got to my car I pulled out my phone and looked him up. Here is his website.

Yesterday, we went back for our weekly walk, and the art gallery had changed out their displays, but they still had Aaron Hazel's pieces arranged in a different location. I made sure to take a photo this time.

(Bill Pickett by Aaron Hazel, 2018)

The real Bill Pickett

I wrote about Mark Maggiori in my last post--a French immigrant who romanticized the west and now paints these amazing portraits with big clouds and vibrant colors. One thing I admired about Maggiori is that he has also set out to memorialize black cowboys in his work. He began that journey in 2020. (Here are a few of Mark Maggiori's pieces to give you a perspective, and then I'll share my photos from yesterday's Aaron Hazel exhibit. All of the pieces from Aaron Hazel were painted in 2018.)

From Mark Maggiori:

more Maggiori

Historians estimate that one in four cowboys were black, but you'd never know that from the western movies and art. The new 1883 series has a starring role for a black cowboy, as did Lonesome Dove, and there are a number of new westerns that showcase their history--but it was definitely neglected.

1883--Lamonica Garret plays Thomas, noble cowboy taking immigrants across to Oregon. We watch 1883, and he is AMAZING!

Now for more of Aaron Hazel's powerful, emotional pieces we saw at the gallery.  His portraits grab your attention and inspire respect for the subjects. It's like they're looking right back at you. I don't know if my photos of them capture that quality, but I hope they give you a little glimpse of what I'm talking about. Also, these were painted in 2018, two years before Maggiori began showcasing black cowboys.

Stagecoach Mary Fields, 2018.

Stagecoach Mary Fields was the protector of stagecoaches

Nat Love, 2018. Here's his own account of his life. Netflix has a new western called, The Harder They Fall, and it has a lot of these cowboys and cowgirls incorporated, including Nat Love, but in fictional circumstances. 

Nat Love photo.

The next one is titled "Outlaw," 2018 and is probably why I called it the "Outlaw collection." (The middle painting last week was of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids, which I found online, and will include at the bottom.)

Junius Groves, 2018  Kansas--successful entrepreneur. 

Finally, Bass Reeves, first black deputy US Marshal west of the Mississippi River. He worked mostly in Arkansas and the Okahoma Terrirotry. During his long career, he had on his record more than 3,000 arrests of dangerous criminals, and shot and killed 14 of them in self-defense.

 Bass Reeves

Last week, this painting was in the center of the others, but it was stored away this week. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids.

It is an amazing exhibit, and I'm so happy I was able to see it and to learn about Aaron Hazel. I have since ordered a copy of his horse painting, Horsepower, on canvas. I'm so excited to get it, and I hope to own one of his originals someday. If it's going to happen, it better be soon, because his artwork is being purchased by corporations like Starbucks, Facebook, and Nike. A fast rising star in the art world.

I'm going to arrange them all here to give you the effect of how I first saw them, and why I'd love to keep them together.

You could probably get these 6 for about $9,000 right now. Can you imagine all six hanging together? That would be a cool wall!

Update: 2/7/21 Aaron Hazel was featured in Southwest Art Magazine! These are from his Instagram account.