August Sky: Preparing for the Eclipse

Three days before the eclipse and the sky is on fire. Not in the west, like it normally is when the sun is going down, but in the east. What does it mean?

Sunny and I were heading back up to the house. But the glow was so beautiful it stopped me in my tracks. We had taken a walk, and I finished the barn chores while Sunny patiently waited for me.

I wasn’t in a rush. I had spent the day with writing friends. It was early evening and the air was still warm and humid. My skin was slick with sweat. Once you step into a barn and the dust settles on you, there’s nothing to do but surrender and enjoy being dirty.

I’d walked up to the ring to check the water for the horses. I caught Foxie rolling and Shady studied me with his ears pricked up, alert.

Earlier in the day I had read a funny strand on an equestrian site about horses and the eclipse. A woman was wondering whether she should do anything special to protect her horses during the event. Several people responded jokingly: “Buy the extra extra large eclipse glasses,” “Have you ever seen a horse look up at the sun?” I couldn’t help but laugh.

I remember a partial eclipse I witnessed back in 1984 in Charlottesville, VA. The sky darkened slightly, as if storm clouds had gathered. But they hadn’t.

William E. Schmidt, a reporter for The New York Times, described the eclipse in Atlanta, where it was close to full. “The temperature dropped six degrees, flowers closed their petals, dogs howled, pigeons tucked their heads under their wings as if to sleep and the whole city was bathed in a kind of diffused light….”

“As the light from the Sun passed through the leaves of trees,” Schmidt continued, “it projected on to the sidewalk pavement tiny wedgelike images of its own crescent silhouette.”

Thirty-three years ago I was on a farm in Virginia, and I noticed those crescent silhouettes sprinkled around in the grass under the trees. So many years later, they are still vivid in my mind.

On Monday, we will experience a 97 percent solar eclipse here on the farm in North Carolina. I don’t believe that horses need special sunglasses or that the world is coming to an end. But maybe the glow in tonight’s August sky and the coming eclipse are simply reminders. The world is full of incomprehensible beauty. The least we can do is pay attention.

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Alzheimer’s Support, Part II: A Window Into Caregiving

Spending time with my sweet mom while I was yearning to have a child.

As someone who has lived through a parent’s Alzheimer’s, I have deep appreciation for AlzAuthors and the compassion of its authors. I traveled a lonely path, caring for my mother whose memory began slipping when I was in my early 30s and trying to become a mother myself. Mom’s slow dance with Alzheimer’s lasted for 14 years.

Most of my friends had no idea what I was living through and, as a writer myself, I was hungry to read about the personal experiences of others who had gone before me.

I have a memory of standing outside my barn, feeling a light breeze as I watched the horses graze. I had no idea what was ahead on my journey with my mother, but I somehow knew that it would be important for me to share my own story.

Good books have always inspired me, and I wanted and needed to know how people not only survived this disease, but thrived in the midst of the grief and exhaustion of caregiving.

I remember spending hours late at night with a laptop perched on my knees searching every site that had the word Alzheimer’s in it. Twenty years ago, there was very little information and few books available for people like me.

Thankfully, all of that has changed. At AlzAuthors, caregivers can find a wide array of supportive resources – from handbooks on caregiving to memoirs about caring for parents, grandparents, spouses and other loved ones to fictional stories with characters who suffer from dementia to books explaining Alzheimer’s to children and more.

Part of my role on the management team will be to expand the reach of AlzAuthors on Facebook and Instagram.  You’ll be able to find us here on Facebook, and I’ll keep you posted about the upcoming Instagram account.

I’m honored to help spread the news about this wonderful resource. Let me know if you have any questions or ideas that might help get the word out to those in need.

p.s.

Motherhood: Lost and Found was featured on AlzAuthors this past January. You can read the post here.

p.p.s.

You can find “Alzheimer’s Support, Part I: Spreading the Word” here.


Hay Delivery!

Hay is a welcome sight this year. I’ve been more attuned than usual to the weather since we’ve been suffering from a drought all summer. The hay truck arrived this afternoon with 60 bales of a rich orchard grass mix. And more bales are on the way…. It was a tight squeeze. But the truck made it into the barn with several inches to spare.

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The hay was unloaded into our loft. I was thankful for the strong men who did this hard work. One stood in the bed of the truck and tossed bales up to the loft while the other stacked them.
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Each bale weighs about 75 pounds, so it’s not easy work.

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When your pasture looks like this…hay becomes even more beautiful. It’s been weeks since we’ve had an appreciable amount of rain. Normally our pastures are green and lush.

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The hay is neatly stacked. A full loft is a wonderful sight…especially when winter is ahead.

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Sydney shows off our lovely hay! It’s been pouring rain since I started this blog post. Maybe the key to breaking the drought is getting a hay delivery. 🙂 Whatever it takes!


Saying Goodbye to Smokey…for now

We’ve enjoyed having Smokey at the barn so much! Pound for pound, he has the biggest personality of all the horses. And he loves his mares! Last night when the horses heard that Smokey was leaving today, they all gathered together over the fence for a horse huddle. They were either coming up with an escape plan or saying goodbye.

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Smokey and April enjoyed eating their hay together one last time. Smokey was happy to have a break from his muzzle.

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Sydney cleaned up Smokey in preparation for his trip home.

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Smokey gives a big yawn….

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We’re all going to miss Smokey. Even Sunny was looking sad that her friend was leaving.

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Sydney combed out Smokey’s tail and started braiding.

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Waa la — a fish tail! Wait…I thought Smokey was a pony.

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My friend Lynn brought her big truck over to help us move Smokey. We hooked it up to my dusty trailer and pumped up the tires. We loaded Smokey, and he looked so small in the trailer. In fact, on the ride over to his old home, he turned himself around and ended up on the other side of the trailer. When we unloaded Smokey, we didn’t even have to lower the butt bar. He just walked right under it.

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Smokey recognized his old home right away. We are so grateful to MeLanie for letting us use him!

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Smokey let out a long whinny to say hello to his old friends, then happily started eating hay.

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Bye, Smokey! We love you!! Hope to see you next spring!


Preparing for April

Today, April will be delivered to us from South Carolina. She is a Welsh/Thoroughbred mare, owned by a friend of a friend. Our plan is to lease her so that Sydney will have a horse to ride while I spend some time training Foxie.

While I was riding Monday morning, Sydney and Joel prepared the barn for April’s arrival. We decided to switch around the hay stall and the stall that Smokey has been using, so that April will be closer to Foxie and Misty. First, they moved the hay and the pallets. Joel loaded and unloaded the wheelbarrow with hay bales and Sydney transported them. Joel stacked the bales neatly in the corner stall.IMG_4232

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Next, Sydney filled April’s stall with fresh bedding. She put in several loads of sawdust. Looks inviting, doesn’t it?
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Sydney also hung clean feed and water buckets and tied up a chunk of Himalayan pink salt for April. She’s excited to have April here and begin riding her!

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We can’t wait to welcome April to our barn! IMG_4228


Morning Routine

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The girls walk up to the big pasture and bring the horses in for breakfast. Sydney brings Foxie, the lead mare. Misty and LK follow and Smokey brings up the rear.

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The girls groom the mares in preparation for their ride. Sunny sprawls on the cool cement floor.

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Sydney on Foxie

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LK on Misty


Fire in the Sky: a Time of Transition

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After losing about a month to illness…a sinus infection (hidden deeply behind my right eye) and perhaps a touch of bronchitis and/or pneumonia, I am returning to the land of the living. Out of necessity and lack of energy, I had to pull inward, drop out of many of my normal activities. As I sat with myself for so many uninterrupted hours, I couldn’t help but ponder the transitions that have been and are afoot around our place. We’re caring for horses again on our property after a good decade of having the barn empty, and six years of homeschool are coming to a close. Both of these things feel major, and one is the beginning of a new (and old) venture, the other is an ending (at least for now) and also a beginning. And as someone who likes to put things in order, this tangle of beginnings and endings has been confusing.

One of the startling things to me about bringing horses back to the farm is how familiar and different it feels at the same time. In some ways, I’ve stepped into old roles, often without even realizing it. As I’ve been teaching Sydney and Lauren-Kate about horses and giving them riding lessons, words come out of my mouth that I had long forgotten were even in me. I even find myself standing or walking differently…a stance and a pace from my 20s and 30s, the days when I taught a dozen or more kids and kept five horses at our barn.

What is also startling is that my daughter has suddenly (seemingly overnight) become a responsible horse woman. She brings horses in from the field, feeds, grooms, checks water and does every other barn chore without needing to be reminded. She seems to have a sixth sense about how to handle horses.

My last memories of having horses at the barn a decade ago were somewhat dreary – me, childless and exhausted from caring for my mom, feeling as if the day-to-day chores were endless. And so, although, I love horses, I was in no hurry to have several in my care again.

It has been such a sweet surprise to see how Sydney (and our friends) have happily taken to barn chores. I pinch myself almost daily as I walk down to the barn and am suddenly transported back to my own teenage years. I remember how I “did it all” as my mom stood to the side, and now I see Sydney doing the same thing. Not only does she not need my help, she likes being independent and showing me her new-found skills. And, of course, this is a little confusing too and requires some adjustments on my part. While I am “the professional,” I must take care to step back and give my daughter the opportunity to be “in charge” of certain things.

At the same time as barn and horses are shape-shifting in my mind, so is Sydney’s schooling. She is no longer (and hasn’t been for a while), the child who needs me to oversee each project. She has been taking the reins (pun intended) and setting her own course. And next school year, she’ll be stepping into a new situation, one where my presence will only be necessary in a peripheral way.

Most parents, who don’t homeschool, probably experience this change much earlier or perhaps in a gradual way as their children move through the grades of traditional school. But the shift from homeschool to traditional school is more abrupt, and there are bumps, even though both Sydney and I are excited about what’s ahead. She’s looking forward to fun social opportunities, days full of activity and new experiences. I’m excited to hear about her new adventures, encourage her through these transitions and have new pieces of time for myself.

But navigating these new situations will be a challenge. Figuring out my new role and respecting hers will no doubt cause friction at times. Change doesn’t occur in a straight line. We’ll both no doubt slip into old patterns and stumble our way into new ones. Learning who my daughter is becoming and what she needs and doesn’t need from me is somewhat daunting.

I’m sure that on occasion I’ll miss the toddler who ran into my arms for comfort. But at the same time, I celebrate the changes that Sydney is embracing. She is an amazing young woman who both challenges me and expands my awareness of what it means to be a loving parent. I adore her and look forward to this new stage of life! It has been the most incredible gift to be Sydney’s mother. As always, I pray for God’s grace as we travel the path ahead.