Saturday, June 9, 2012

wonderful, this.

A great moment in television. Filmed on one little camera in the dressing room before the show. I couldn't stop smiling the whole time.

hoof and wheel (and trout talk over beer)

This past Yuletide, a reader mailed me an amazing gift: two pairs of hand knit socks. One was a natural cream color, the other a forest green. I wear them all season long, as wool is warm in winter, and wicks away sweat from your feet in the summer (both seasons require boots around this farm). Anyway, I was putting on the cream pair, now well worn and well loved, and I realized there was a toe sticking on on my right foot. I was already running late to meet Patty over at Livingston Brook Farm, but I liked these socks and wanted to wear them on our trail ride through Maple Lane Farm (the 200+ acre farm across the street from LBF).

I grab a needle and thread in my kitchen windowsill. I use them to quickly stitch up the hole (while still wearing the socks) and slide into my well-worn paddock boots and half chaps over my navy blue breeches. I am about to go on a trail ride, but I am taking my English saddle and British horse and we just are more comfortable out there as a team in a dressage bridle and bit and black velvet helmet than a cowboy hat, horned saddle, and jeans. I am what I am.

I head to Patty and Mark's place and the trailer is loaded. We hop in to go to Riding Right to get the MerMan. He's only there another month and then back to Cold Antler. He'll be living here with Jasper full time by my birthday, July 10th.

Merlin did wonderfully. He loaded with little difficulty into the trailer. He tacked up like a gentleman. He rode off onto the paved roads, country lanes, up driveways and though corn and hay field paths without a single issue. I was riding on a saddle mailed to me by another reader, and I realized how many blog readers were a part of this trail ride. Socks to saddle, Patty too, all of them came to me from sharing my life right here. Patty introduced herself to me at a Barnheart event at Battenkill Books. I was on a Virginian saddle. The socks, came in the mail... I thought about all this and clicked my tongue and pressed my heels into Merlin;s side. HE stepped into a trot and I started posting with him. It felt as easy, and even, as riding a car and shifting gears. We are starting to really become a team, him and I.

As many good things come off the blog, so do the bad. I thought about a reader who left a series of negative comments explaining to me what she clearly knew and I did not: that I was not a real equestrian. I was a joke, and as soon as I got hurt or scared I would sell that horse and write something poetic about learning from mistakes. She/he was an angry person. Very angry.

I thought about those comments as I asked Merlin to step gently down a steep slope, leaning my body back into the saddle to help distribute my weight with each careful step. My hands guiding him as much as my legs with the same ribbon-placing reins from a dressage show a few weeks ago. Not to mention the same reins that I lost when I flew off Merlin's back into a fencepost and slammed to the ground after I forgot to cinch the girth tight enough. I have known the entire spectrum of becoming a rider from this Pony—bruises to ribbons, tears to cheers.

Well darling, you can bet my girth was cinched tight today. You can also bet I don't believe the words of angry strangers who tell me what I am and what I am not. I was out on sunny summer afternoon riding my own horse across an estate land in the company of a good friend. Merlin was biddable, gentle, and calm. I felt in control, content, and ready to go wherever Patty and Steele wanted to go. I may not be a cowgirl. I may not be some adapt of the Religion of Horses. But I am by no means NOT an equestrian. Merlin and I trotted to meet up with Patty and Steele and passed by all sorts of distractions without fuss. A small dog at Merlin's heels, horses in a nearby paddock, trucks passing us on the road pulling trailers with tractors...Merlin was fine. He loaded back into the trailer fine too.

When we finished our ride we sat out on her Adirondack chairs and she handed me an Otter Creek Stovepipe Stout. "That's right." I said, leaning back into my chair and raising my bottle, " I like my beer like I like my horses, black and stout, with a little kick..." We clinked bottles and enjoyed the celebration. Another successful ride.

When I got back to the farm there was a note on the door. Jack, from Jack's Outback Antique Shop in town stopped off to deliver my spinning wheel. It's an old one, but in great working order, that I had been paying off in installments at his shop. The last time I was there we had been picking out bits and pieces for a friend/s birthday present together and I saw the wheel in all its glory in the shop. It came with bobbins and pins and all sorts of woolly accouterments. I hadn't picked it up yet because it wasn't paid off but Jack apparently was in the neighborhood so he set it on the woodpile of locust rounds on the side porch. I went to fetch it and bring it inside. How about that? Five years of sheep and finally a proper wheel!

Tonight is something to look forward to. Meeting friends in Manchester and a Fly Fisher-woman named Molly who is coming in to do an Orvis School Class and is being treated to a proper night out at a favorite Tavern, the Perfect Wife. It'll be classes of hard cider and good food with fellow fly-fishing ladies tonight. A grand way to end a day of horses, wool, milking goats, and reading in the hammock.

Life is good. Even when it's not, it is. And when it gets dicey...well, I still have good socks. And that counts.

campfire girls

Last night's campfire was exactly what I needed. A lot of good friends, cold beer, a campfire, and pot-lucked plates brimming with amazing feasts such as Flying Pig Farm pulled pork and Goats Milk Mac & Cheese (thank you Bonita). We ate, laughed, toasted, and eventually gathered enough chairs and haybales to all sit around the campfire. It was a lovely time. And the congratulations and words of support were around, all day.

While blog comments are kind and amazing, when you make a decision like this is is wildly comforting to get support from people you know, right in the flesh. It's something you need to hear and see. At least I do. And compared to other people around the circle, I realized my choice wasn't the biggest event of the night either! One woman just closed on her first ever home, another was about to go under the knife for major surgery. Another just got approval for adopting a child and another just moved up from Tennessee. Everyone, every single other person out there has a life as challenging and complicated and wonderful as everyone else's. I think everyone appreciated the night of celebration and Support and CAF was simply the humble host . I was glad to be. And the rain even held off long enough to enjoy it all outdoors.

Today after morning chores I'm heading for a day trip with Merlin. A trail ride with Patty and Steele. Not a bad way to use a Saturday, and a day on horseback is exactly what I need to ferment away the last of my doubts. Horses can do that.

Friday, June 8, 2012

two points for honesty

use her claws

The last words anyone said to me before I headed down the office driveway for the last time were "Enjoy your first afternoon of Freedom." It was nowhere near that simple. My mind was buzzing, wild with panic. Holy shit. What had I done? What now?

I got into the truck with Gibson, made a K turn, and then started away and I could not stop crying. I wasn't sad, or scared, or happy. It was one of those cries when you're just using tears, gasps and sobs to expel excess energy you need out of your body as quickly as possible. As I left the office property, and heading onto the two-lane road I started to cry so hard I almost puled over and Gibson grew concerned. He stepped on my thighs and licked my face. I told him that'll do, and he was a sweet boy, and pulled myself together for the next 16 miles or so home to Cold Antler.

When I pulled into the farm's drive I was no longer in tears, but still humming with that confusing and excessive energy. Unsure of what to do next, I went for a three mile run. My thoughts were simple: release the tension. Go out and exhaust yourself so you can think, Jenna.

I did just that. By the time I made it a mile and a half away from the farm it started to rain. Not a hard or intimidating rain, a gentle one. Drops of water hit my forearms and scalp like rain does on hot cement that's been cooking too long. It felt good. It felt like small blessings of holy water. I wanted to be one of the dogs in Dave Egger's short story I cherished. I thought about how he wrote about their open hearts, their free bodies. How every pumping stride of their sprints their claws dug into the earth, were what made it turn. I wanted to feel like a Fast, Fast Dog. I ran until my heart pounded in my temples.

I tried to suss out what was going on with me. Why wasn't I tearing off at a laugh? Why wasn't I thrilled, free and released? I had just taken a step I have been egging myself on towards for nearly half a decade. I had worked three jobs, figured out a business, had a full dance card ahead of me of writing projects, workshops, speaking gigs and more... and yet.

And yet it was still too much in the actual execution. Too big a step for simple high fives and raised glasses. Maybe if I came home to someone else who could tell me, something like "Great News! Let's go celebrate" and could guide me through the motions of life change like a seeing eye dog, I'd be on better footing. But there wasn't any roommate with banners and streamers, no husband or boyfriend waiting. There were about 85 animals interested in dinner, water, and milking and a house desperately in need of some serious TLC. It wasn't "squaller" but it wasn't the clean I was comfortable in.

So I mopped the kitchen floor. That's what I did with my first night of Freedom. I mopped the floor, and then poured a cocktail of lemonade of Firefly (a sweet tea vodka) and went out into the new hammock chair I installed on the giant King Maple outside the farmhouse. I crawled into it and its soft ropes held me swaying over the ground, suspended and still haunted by that hollow feeling of change. My body was sore from the jog, and the housework, and the emotionalism of it all. So I just finally resigned myself into that hammock, and took a bitter sip of my sweet drink. It felt like a cradle from a lullaby, but with booze.

Everything is going to be okay. I know that. But big steps like this (for me anyway) are all long-time coming but short-term explosive. I knew this day was approaching, but I met it numb and shaky. It was too much to swallow in a gulp, no matter how long I was holding the glass at my lips. I wish I could tell you all that I left that office cheering and laughing, and came home to milk a goat singing and then went out for a round of drinks on the Cambridge Hotel. But none of that happened. It mostly involved a lot of heavy breathing, sweat, and swaying. And falling asleep at night was very hard to do.

But this morning, it is different. I woke up with my day's plans brimming over. There's a party to plan here tonight.: a potluck bonfire! It is that celebration with friends and coworkers I feel I need to support and guide my choice a little. I'm doing it right, too. I have 7 pounds of pork defrosting for the bbq and a few cases of beer ready for ice in galvanized tubs. Tonight as the fireflies come out for their big show we'll be around a campfire behind the barn in the forest, sipping cold drinks by torch light and talking about our summers ahead.

Everything is going to be okay. I know that. But I am a bit scared, and uncertain, and know Monday morning will be the real wake up call. My new schedule starts that day, with writing in the morning, meditation, chores, running and more writing before lunch. I am ready for it. I just wish my footing was more certain. I feel like a jungle cat trying to climb a tree in tennis shoes. Everyone told her they'd help with her traction, and all she wants to do is use her claws.

If this all sounds negative, that wasn't my intention. My intention was honesty. It wasn't all back slaps and bluster, like a Frat party graduation. But those kind of celebrations? That happy certainty? I know it is on the way. I just wanted to share what I actually felt, and what I actually did. And I hope you'll stay tuned for what's ahead.

I feel like this blog is just about to start.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

left on the night stand...

Dear Corporate America,

The last seven years have been truly wonderful. I'm grateful for the time we shared. But I think we need to start seeing other people.

You've been such a comfortable and accommodating partner, you really have. I'm not angry, and I still care about you very much, but I need to set out on my own now. It's complicated, but necessary. I know we saw most of this country together. From a University campus to Tennessee mountains, to Idaho dogsled rides and Vermont log cabins...but it's time. You know it, too. This has been a long time coming.

Right? It shouldn't come as any shock. You've noticed how I've been drifting, haven't you? Wasn't the whole "I need to get my Friday's back" the last nail in the coffin? That and calling in late to repair fences and meet up with farriers? You knew the excuses when you heard them. And you knew in your heart this other guy just took over, swept me off my feet. I fell in love and I can't pretend anymore.

See darling, people just change. I'm not the girl I was out of college, clutching to dog-eared copies of HOW magazine and driving to her first big design job in her red Jetta. I now have a pickup truck full of dog hair and sheep poo and it is dented as all get out. There is nothing left from Ikea in my home. I still design, sure. I do logos and websites every so often, but I dabble and you know that. I haven't gotten off on design in years. Even that ol' Helvetica lowercase a doesn't get me going anymore. Okay, maybe it still does a little... but nothing that sustains me. Nothing that can sustain us.

The truth is I fell for someone else. That rogue cowboy out there, the guy on horseback tipping his hat into the sunset. Yes, him, Self Employment. He's what I need right now. He gives me the space and independence I need. Let's be honest, you were pretty clingy. I mean, yeah there were great benefits, but....every day? 8 hours together without a break? I need room, dammit and he's an artist. No, he doesn't hold my hand in doctors offices but he the guy who was by my side when I got into the fix that landed me in the emergency room in the first place. It matters.

It's over. You just need to accept in I know it seems early, and I know you had other plans for me right through my thirties, but this is something I need to do now. I can't pretend anymore, and I can't keep going through the motions of this dead relationship. It isn't fair to either of us. You know that. You know this isn't right, baby. And if you're angry, or confused, take heart in this timeless truth:

It's not you. It's me.

-j

brave enough?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

a good sign

Two days left at Orvis and I used my last-gasp chance at our 50% off discount to buy a rod, reel, line, and some flies. I finally have time to fish. Next week, If the weather and time grants it, I will be in a river casting for native trout and telling you all about it. I now have the tools.

I've missed fly fishing so much...

a boy with a quiver

That's Ian Daughton, who came over to help with Merlin and Jasper's pony shed pre-building work. These boys already helped move fallen trees out with the aid of Jasper, and then got to work preparing the sigh and planning the new home for my Pony Boys. After the day's work was done we had a little hot dog and brat cookout (they sure did enjoy chocolate goats' milk with their dogs!) and shot some arrows at the broad side of the barn at a deer target painted on burlap. It was a grand day. I miss these guys, haven't seen them as much as I like. But since they are a home-schooling family and I am now the owner of a cottage business...I think I will be seeing a lot more of them!

Monday, June 4, 2012

package at the front door

When I came home from work today there was a package by the door. It said 468photography on it, a familiar name and logo. I knew it was a print I ordered of Jasper and I. Inside the large, thin box was a photo of me holding Jasper's head. He has blinders on and I have my straw cowboy hat over my eyes. We are side by side. I wanted the photo because it marks this point in my life so perfectly, so sadly. In that photo you might see a woman holding a working horse, looking certain and confident. I see a terrified and anxious woman. A woman at her heaviest weight of all time. A woman who barely sleeps more than 4 hours a night. A woman who was about three weeks away from quitting her job because she there was no room for it anymore.

Honestly, I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep up with the three-job lifestyle. I was writing, farming, and a 4-day a week corporate employee. Between those things I felt spread so thin some mornings I would just lay in bed, dreading going into the office. Not because I disliked the work or people—it was and remains an amazing place to work—there was just too much of my life here. Too much to care for, plan, expand, and create. There were workshops and books and visits from out of town guests. I had family and personal issues to work through. I had a body to heal and start treating right, not as simply the brute force to do chores and dishes with. I had gotten a fairly serious case of carpel tunnel and went to the doctor to talk about it. When I told him I am a full-time web designer, farmer, and writer he seemed surprised I still had limbs...

If you read this blog you may think I seem fearless, or cavalier. I am neither of those things. I'm scared of this place and my decisions all the time. I am however, too stubborn to give up on a goal once I set my ears back and raised my hackles to face it. Everyone has a shining virtue and mine isn't grace, or beauty, or intelligence. My virtue, my driving force, is stubbornness. I will get where I am going, damnnit.

Back to that photograph of me and Jasper. In that picture I am feeling fat and tired. I remember it like it was half an hour ago. It was a beautiful day and I was surrounded by people I adored, but my mind was reeling. I was at war with the decision to leave work and worried it would mean losing everything. If this venture fails the animals, the land, the house, all of it could be lost. But I knew just staying at the office I was already losing. I was putting off the dream, waiting for a safe moment or a small windfall of cash to land in my lap. Well, guess what? There is no such thing as a safe moment, and I don't see any new book contracts coming in this summer. So I chose to jump. My plan is to waste no more time dreaming. To tell my fear to bother someone else for a while. And now that I am forced to make this place work with just a few months of savings and some ideas for new books....I will really see what I am made of.

This summer is also about slowing down, a lot. It's about taking time, not rushing through tasks. It's about jogs, and meditation, and wearing wrist braces and drinking more herbal tea and less coffee with cream and sugar. It's about healing. Not because I am broken, but because I feel I am in need of some maintenance as the train moves to a new set of tracks.

Changing directions always requires repairs.

So where am I going? Well, in a few days the entire tempo of my life is going to change. I keep thinking about it. It's been as exhausting as it has been exciting. I am about to embark on a whole new kind of life. Since pre-school I have not ever been in control of my time, certainly never my weekdays. All of it revolved around permissions and times granted from parents, school, work or paid vacation time. I went from elementary school to high school, high school to college, college right into 40-hour-work weeks and have done so for nearly a decade since graduation. But when I wake up Friday I will have left an entire lifestyle behind me. The only life I've known.

I'll be looking for crows in pairs. I will need them.

run and ride

I was on my way to ride Merlin by 7PM. Post-office chores had taken an hour and a half, the normal time, but the whole time through feeding sheep and chickens, straining evening milk, and sweeping the dog hair off the living room floor all I could think about was getting on that horse. I missed him.

Riding is a lot like running in the sense that once you get into the habit it your body misses it more than your mind. You may want to relax on the couch while it rains outside but your legs ache to be stretched and moved across the landscape. You put on your running shoes and you go out in the weather, thinking of the hot shower and tea on the couch after it is earned and the beast is at rest. I already went for a jog at the office gym (barefoot, since I forgot my running shoes but too stubborn to not get in a mile jaunt and some sit ups) and I wanted to feel a horse under me. The body demanded it. Muscle memory joining forces with the mind's need to relax. These two things mean saddling up.

When I run I think. I write stories and blog posts, novels and songs. I go through relationships, fights, and people like index cards. I sort through things, work them out. But on a ride my mind goes away. It's just me and that horse, and we focus on things like right diagonals and proper seat and I am so wrapped up in basic communication that I can't think of anything else but us. It is a wonderfully selfish time. The kind of insulating mental activity that is necessary for self preservation. Granted, yoga classes would be a hell of a lot cheaper, but I am a woman who wants to shoot arrows from horseback some day. So I ride.

oh aye

Sunday, June 3, 2012

the garden, post rainfall.

go team!

Today was my third team practice, and my third time handing in score sheets to be added to the East Kingdom's list. As of now I am an official archer in the Society. Not the best, certainly. I have a long way to go in skill and effort, but I earned my silver crossed arrows. They'll be awarded to me at a practice at a future date. I will wear that medal with pride during events and reenactments. It will hang on my quiver.

It's so rare as adults we find things to work towards that aren't part of our careers or possessions to add to our homes. We aren't usually still preparing for dance recitals or yellow belt tests. We tend to think tests of skill are for children. But this year I took a dressage test, and am working on my scores and awards in archery. I don't mean to sound crass, or like bragging. I'm not GOOD at these things, I'm just capable enough to pass. That said, I don't feel childish at all. I feel thrilled every time I nock an arrow or grab those reins. Just as excited as a child, but old enough to let myself fall in love with that nostalgia as it is happening. Makes you feel rich.

melons and more

I planted big ol' things this weekend. I planted pumpkins all over the farm, in feral patches of compost, hidden from chickens and goats but sunny enough to have a shot at Hallow's Lights. I also planted some butternut squash and watermelon yesterday, which is a true act of hope. I doubt I'll get melons but you can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket. I planted 6 little mellon starts. Here's hoping.

Man, do I love watermelon...

Archery practice today with my SCA team. It may be canceled due to rain. The next whole week will be a long, wet, one. I am hoping it clears up by my campfire/cookout here Friday Night. I invited a small army of girlfriends here to enjoy a potluck/cookout in the woods behind the barn. Should be a hoot!

Tomorrow is the start of my last week at the office. I go into my first day of self employment Friday, June 8th, with big plans and that big party. I have a contracted book to finish about the agricultural/spiritual year, speaking engagements to plan and discuss, and workshops and camps here at the farm. Fiddle Camp is nearly full, and Beekeeping with Meg Paska and the Soap/Candle workshop is getting a healthy interest and sign ups as well. It is all encouraging news, like a pat on the back. I'm getting less and less worried about making this happen, and more and more excited about what is ahead.