Wednesday, May 4, 2011

scared of heights

Wednesday, May 4th
This morning I wake up to rain. It is beautiful. Next to an open window the combination of birdsong, the rushing creek, and soft rain are the sounds that make my half-awake body curl deeper into my quilts. In bed, I do the same thing I start every morning with...the list. I read in a self-book once that if you begin your day—before your feet ever hit the floor—going through a list of things you are grateful for, it can change the rudder of your entire day, and eventually, your life. You're not supposed to run a checklist, but actually visualize and feel this deep feeling of luck and love for the things that matter most to you. I start out with a thankful prayer for the beautiful morning, for four-working limbs and a functioning brain to live in it with, for my family, my farm, my dogs, and I go through images of friends and moments from the last day that I was grateful for and ten minutes later I walk into the world feeling like the luckiest person in the world. Not because I have a farm, or a pony, or a truck outside: but because I have eyes and ears to use them with. And because (I hope) for the next few decades I get to hang around this world and see what I can learn. It starts today. May I be better at the end of it than I was in the beginning. Starting your day with a list of graces means you don't snap at the person who messes up your coffee order. You don't care if someone cuts you off on the way to work. You realize you're not the one who walked under the piano. You are still among the living, and will accept the soy substitute without complaint. Drink milk another day and revel in a new taste.

Outside I am armed with my cheap, plastic rain slicker, and am happy that the rain has called a break and I am just enjoying sounds of dripping trees and bouncing through puddles. I don't feel sick today. I think the 2 naps and long night of sleep healed me. I am thankful for this too and I call out to Jasper who walks to the gate. He isn't totally comfortable with me yet, but he knows I bring the hay and grain and that gets the happy ears. I feed him and say hello. While he munches I pull out my fence tester and stick the metal needle in the ground. It's attached by a long wire, like an outlet you stab into the ground, to a box with one red light and a wire hook on the end. I hold the plastic and stick the wire to the fence wire and watch in the still-blue morning dark the flash of red in half time. This fence, is on.

The sheep are fed, the chicken door opened. The young meat birds spill out like a tight plastic bag of quilt-batting was sliced open with a knife. They scatter at the feed and some run down to the stream to fill their beaks. The older birds come out next, much more dignified, engaging in regular acts of sexual congress (Roosters here start their day with their own reasons to be thankful), and last out is Cyrus: the gander. He comes out hissing and hollering because his woman is still on that nest. I hope the goslings come. They are overdue now.

Gibson jumps in the car and we are off to work.

I'm back in the gym before long and the mile feels like I am carrying dead weight. I dog it. I finish and am covered in sweat. The shower is longer than usual and once again, while shampooing my hair, I run through things more materialistic I am happy about. My truck flashes through my head, as does the new Chaco sandals outside. Plain black. I am blown-dry and dressed and only five minutes late to my desk.

At my workstation is a taxidermed deer head I named Clark (Gable is here at the farm) and I use his head and antlers to hold my vintage 1970's pioneer headphones and stack CDS on his prongs. This was interesting once, but now is as common an office fixture as the metal filing cabinets. I like my big headphones because they are the size of air traffic controller devices and say "Do Not Disturb" with force. I can put them on and plow through projects and designs. Today I have a conservation-based project based on a site I designed for the company, and a lot of html work. I look forward to Dog Lunch in the rain.

Gibson is out at lunch and pulls something, starts a small limp. It goes away by the end of the day but seems to come back after every half-hour sprint session with the other dogs. I decide to tone down the rest of the week. It is probably no more tragic than a sprain, but I side with caution when it comes to a working dog in training. I don't call the vet for him, but I do make an appointment with Saratoga Equine to come check on Jasper. He needs a list of shots and a farrier visit. We work out the details. I explain he was from the Amish Auction down state and the vet tech seems to understand exactly what she is dealing with. Just like the trainer I bought him from said: the Amish work their horses hard, and probably feed just what they require to run. I don't know if this is true or not, but would explain a lot.

That afternoon my editor emails me the cover of my next book and I squeal in delight. A favorite illustrator has been hired, the same who did a portrait of me for Paste Magazine back when I lived in Vermont. The type and images are wonderful. The title reads, like an old county fair poster "BARNHEART: the incurable longing for a farm of one's own. When I first discovered I had this disease I had three chickens in a 99 dollar hutch in the back of a rented house 2800 miles away. I am now learning to work with equine power to move firewood. I am on the path to my cure. I still have a while to go. People think Cold Antler as is, is a dream come true. What it is, is stubbornness manifested. My dreams are still a while off.

I come home from work in more rain. The sheep are all in their shed, but the horse is out in the rain, trotting to the gate to greet me. I hop over it and look him over. Besides being wet, he seems fine. I give him some extra grain anyway.

I am home just long enough to walk the dogs and feed them. I need to run down to Common Sense and grab some hay. We have a casual relationship when it comes to hay sales. I handed them three ram lambs for their farm and in exchange I get their dollar worth in trade for baled hay. I haven't paid for hay in months. It is glorious. My name is on a wipe board in the milk room. I am up to 64 bales. Almost the price of two rams. Inside their beautiful old barn (the cleanest in Washington County that actually hosts animals, I am sure) is a small pen with my three sheep. I see them and scratch their heads. They are all being bottle fed and weaned to grain and hay. They look so clean compared to my muddy scrappy four still on my farm. I tell them to keep their noses clean, load hay, and drive three miles back.

Night chores belong to the rabbits. I walk inside the barn and refill all the feeders, water crocks and bottles and look them over. The rex doe I bought knocked up should be kindling soon. The other two does I bred (one of my own homebrew: a palomino cross) and the new giant New Zealand/Chin cross are given new hutch tags with their breeding dates and personal data. When they are all attended too I collect eggs and come inside. I eat take out, and I feel full but bloated and unhappy at the choice. I decide tomorrow to make some serious dietary changes. If I want a quick meal, scramble some eggs and butter a slice of bread you baked the night before. I am done feeling full. I want to feel satisfied.

My night ends with this fortune cookie. It reads: The path of life shall lead upwards for you. I laugh at the scrap of paper between my scared hands. I'm scared of heights.


Blogger DarcC said...

Brilliant essay today, thank you. I particularly love the line "stubborness manifested".

May 4, 2011 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

"The young meat birds spill out like a tight plastic bag of quilt-batting was sliced open with a knife."

Very nice! What a visual. Best line in the post! (to me) :-)


Well, since you brought it up...
I've heard the same about the Amish and their treatment of horses. My opinion: they look upon them as "tools", work implements, and often the horses don't end up being the best cared-for. Not even up to minimal.

I'm glad you have Jaspar now. I'm sure his life will be much better!

Nice wordsmithing on that post. :-)

May 4, 2011 at 8:58 PM  
Blogger John Taylor said...

Glad you are feeling a little better. Will look forward to buying another one of your books when it comes out!

Grace and Peace,


May 4, 2011 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger nawrockifamily said...

I dig how you start your morning with a "list." Am totally stealing that idea! I get so caught up in what needs done, what I didn't get done that I should have...that I tend to forget to be grateful for the things that I did, etc. Thanks for another inspiring post :-)

May 4, 2011 at 9:04 PM  
Blogger Flartus said...

The first half of this would be a brilliant first chapter in your next book. All that detail draws you in!

How long will it take until you can tell if the does are pregnant? I remember from 4H learning to feel for "marbles," but I don't remember how long past breeding that was.

May 4, 2011 at 9:06 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Another great day in the life of Jenna...I can't wait for the Barnheart book.....

May 4, 2011 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Another great day in the life of Jenna...I can't wait for the Barnheart book.....

May 4, 2011 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger pjo2179 said...

The Amish do treat their animals as equipment. That being said, take it slow with Jasper. Don't overfeed, you don't want him to founder. Definitely get his teeth checked, I wouldn't be surprised if he was older than you thought. The Amish wouldn't get rid of him if he was still young and useful. Other than that, take a break, girl!

May 4, 2011 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger Pixie said...

I so enjoy reading your daily posts! Wow! Great news about a new book!

I sure hope Gibson will recover from the limp! Back in Jan. we had to take our dog to an orthopedic vet & she had to have surgery on a torn ACL on her back left leg...I never realized till sitting in the office how many dogs suffer this injury....:) Just hearing the word "LIMP" and running in the same sentence made me worry! I sure hope to hear the news the limp is gone!!!

May 4, 2011 at 9:20 PM  
Blogger georgie said...

Your family must be immensely proud of you and your accomplishments.
Does Gibson have soemthing in his paw pad causing the limp?
I do the thankful list at night, but will now do it in the morning too. One can never be too grateful for their blessings.

May 4, 2011 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger Rural Revival said...

I've heard and witnessed the same sort of equine treatment from Mennonites here in Ontario. My children's riding instructor bought a cart horse last year. Very thin and worn, she has improved significantly since joining the stable.

And I absolutely love how you start your day!

May 4, 2011 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger Sherry Sutherby said...

Comment on the Amish treatment of horses. Yes, they are tools for them. That being said, they take very good care of those tools. I've been studying, visiting, and doing business with the Amish for over 25 years. You have to be careful...many "English" folks who are in horses, toss the "Amish" tag around to make a sale. I also had the same thought on the extra out, a pony will founder very easy with excess grain. You'd be better off to up the hay at this time. Good luck ~ I hope he works out for you.

May 4, 2011 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger redhorse said...

The Amish often wear their horses down so badly that they (horses) can't misbehave if they want to. Then someone like you (or me) gets them and feeds them properly, treats them like a member of the family and they start feeling good, then whoohoo! All kinds of things happen.

I'm still trying to figure out the horse on the right in my avatar, she's not from the Amish, but from a similar type of handling. At first, if you raised a hand around her, she almost flinched and ducked. She tries very hard to do the right thing, but I think it's because she expects a 2x4 if she doesn't. She has a couple of scars on her head, so I know she has a right to feel that way.

May 4, 2011 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

I love the day in the life of Jenna series!

I thought Jasper looked thin when he was behind the gate in the last photograph of him. My husband bought an Arabian that was skin and bones literally. I had never seen anything like it in person. She had a skin fungus that took me ages to get rid of.

Feed freely hay to put weight on. I wouldn't increase grain. Our Arabian filled out nicely over time and grew a beautiful coat.

Enjoy Jasper! :)

May 4, 2011 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger damnyankee said...

Loving these "day in the life" posts. Gonna make my mental list of gratitude this coming am. Thanks Jenna. (PS watch giving the pony extra grain. Extra hay is ok, but grain can get touchy, founder. You never want that.)

May 4, 2011 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Thank you for the morning prayer list

May 4, 2011 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Reading your blog reminds me of a very good time in my life when I too lived on my own farm. I've traded it in for easier city living (for the meantime) and as such, relish the extra long detailed posts about the simple daily routines I miss.

That being said, I'll admit I know nothing either of horses or Amish, but one thing I have learned in life is that a stereotype rarely does anyone good, not the target and certainly not the sender. I feel uneasy when a person lumps certain groups together with certain behaviors because it creates an ugly desire in others to give evidence, not so much from a desire to "help" but because it feels good to be part of a group agreeing on something.

Your blogs embrace so much openness, gratitude and purity. The stereotyping just doesn't seem to fit in.

Thank you again for sharing the simple things with us.

May 4, 2011 at 11:27 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

I like the idea of starting the day with a list of gratefulness. I put thanks in my prayers at night, but I can see how acknowledging them and being grateful for them at the beginning of the day would change how your day goes for you.

I'm going to start doing that. Thanks Jenna.

May 4, 2011 at 11:53 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

Thank you for another wonderful post. The details are so clear, I feel like I am right there, walking along with you.

I also love the idea of the morning list, I shall begin this today.

Congratulations on your forthcoming book, can't wait for it. Glad to hear you are feeling better.

May 5, 2011 at 3:43 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Love starting my day with your daily posts! And I can't wait to read your new book!

May 5, 2011 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger candisrrt said...

I look forward to this every morning! Nice

May 5, 2011 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Matt_Middleton said...

Your post today was just what the doctor ordered for my barnheart "affliction"

May 5, 2011 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Like others have said, I'm going to try the "list" tomorrow morning when I wake up. I've always been an extremely positive person, but I think remembering things I'm grateful for would be good for me right now.

May 5, 2011 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Patsy said...

The Amish are not particulary kind to their animals. We were behind a horse and buggy one day and the girl was driving the horse and it was a horribly hot day. The horse finally just collapsed and she got out and just looked at him. Not sure what happened after that but a few folks gathered round to help her and they just shook their heads. I am sure Jasper is much, much better off with you.

May 5, 2011 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Lavigne Photography said...

thanks for the idea of starting the day right!

May 5, 2011 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Don't stress about Jasper being out in the rain - horses and ponies seem to prefer to be outdoors no matter what the weather is doing. They may look miserable, with rain streaming through their manes, and their ears and heads down, but if you give them a choice between a dry barn and a wet pasture, most seem to prefer the wet pasture. If it rains a lot, just keep an eye on his skin to make sure he doesn't get rain rot (feel for bumps under his fur).

I love the gratitude list idea. Great way to start a day.

May 5, 2011 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Brilliant post,look forward to reading your blog every day

May 5, 2011 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Oh Jenna, another winner of a post. I love how you write -and congratulations on your next book!

May 6, 2011 at 4:40 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

You don't need much to use an animal to move firewood. We always used a mule with harness and a sled. The sled was just two small tree trunks with a wooden bed. Now I use a thick sheet of polypropylene and a small tractor.

May 6, 2011 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Julia said...

wow. such an inspiring read. thank you.

May 6, 2011 at 2:35 PM  

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