Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Blog

May your hay last until the green grass and your firewood until warm  weather.
May your animals stay safe, nor the deer knock down your fences.
May the ravens fly over you, and may your children thrive. May your New Year be filled with
My wood stove: "The Elm."     Be well in the new year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Here Comes the Sun

Despite week-long computer problems that have retreated without being resolved yet (as my computer guy is out with...a virus)...despite the ice floes in my driveway and the muck in my horse pasture...the chickens who, just a week ago, left me a promissory note in the form of a white feather were right.

This is what I found in a nest box this morning. Like birds singing in the spring dawn, my hens are ... well, laying in lengthening days, maybe.

I have more faith in their predictions than our interpretation of the Mayan calendar. I love the way chickens feel the slightest shift in the season. Yes, the farmers say "The days lengthen and the cold strengthens." I think it's a fair exchange.

OK, I can't help myself now: cue George. My favorite Beatle.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Looking for the eye of the storm

It's all too much. I read somewhere that we humans are really only wired to cope with the stresses, relationships and challenges of a tribe, of a village, of a few dozen people. All I know is that when I'm on overload, I'm grateful for chores. Moving hay. Feeding animals. Pitching manure.

This was the sunrise at seven-thirty this morning when I went to get a load of hay from Matt. I was hoping to get a picture of his pigs--they sleep in a pile and snore--but they were awake and eating breakfast.

Yesterday morning I finally had a chance to get a good look at the eagles living in Spencer a couple ridges over. One was eating a deer carcase in a field about fifty feet from the road. Then it flew to a tree in the hedgerow where its mate was perched. It was thrilling to see them: huge, powerful birds with such a presence, even at a distance. There are several pairs around here the past few years.

Today I turned off the news and mulched my garden until my muscles were tired and my mind was coasting and peaceful. There's nothing like manual labor to kick in those endorphins. My replaced-knee feels great now. I'm trying to push my body to adapt to a better range of motion, straighter posture, a smoother gait. And  probably the most familiar action in  my life is shoveling. Pitching. Repetitive movements from a million reps over thousands of days. So that's my workout plan. It makes me view the never-ending manure, matted goat-pen hay, and muck in front of the horse shed as opportunity and potential.

I let my small flock of chickens out of their run this morning so they could scratch all over the yard. The four hens aren't laying now. Last year they started up again the day after the winter solstice; they knew the light was returning. Tonight when I locked them up I checked the nests, hopeful and resigned. No eggs.

But one nest held a beautiful little white feather. A post-it note from a hen. An I.O.U.

I brought the feather inside. It's on my desk now as I type. A fluffy little white feather. It feels like a promise of all the good to come.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Plot Thickens

So damn, Sam--my video interview with Sean Faircloth is gone. And I just found out the new Richard Dawkins youtube has been shut down.

Sorry about the bait & switch. am I one of the victims in some vast conspiracy?? I can only hope. I have resisted using the word nefarious two posts in a row. Oops.

Can't find it in any of the independent channels either. Well. Stay tuned. More news as it happens.

Miz Liz goes to Washington

A year ago today I had the privilege of being interviewed by Sean Faircloth, formerly the Executive Director of the Secular Coalition of America, currently the Director of Strategy and Policy at the Richard Dawkins Foundation US.  I'd written a statement about religion-based medical neglect for the Secular Coalition's White House meeting in 2010. (I was supposed to fly to DC and read it myself but a blizzard intervened and shut down the northeast above Washington; this was the work, my daughter said, of the fashionista gods because I didn't really have suitable clothes.) Here's the link, if you're interested:

But last year I flew to DC to accept Sean's invitation of an interview. It was a one-day whirlwind. Buying a plane ticket means throwing yourself into the casino of airports, gates, flight schedules and security checks like a pinball in the machine. The trip spun out of control just as soon as it began.

I made it to Reagan (not my original destination) several hours late, swooping past the Pentagon and the National Mall. Sean's (borrowed?) car had a GPS computer voice feeding him directions for our hairy, rushed ride to the studio. Before my plane had even landed I'd promised myself to NOT worry about the skewed schedule and my desperate flight times.  I had an emergency trump card--the phone number of a friend's sister who, I'd been assured, would let me crash on her couch. So I focused.

You can see how it went right here:

Afterwards Sean drove like a maniac to the train station, all the while pointing out Washington landmarks.  I'd been too distracted to even bring a camera. We stopped for a red light and Sean said, "That's the White House." Sure enough, it was right there, looking crowded and as unready for scrutiny as I'd felt before my cancelled trip to it. 

At the station Sean hurriedly signed me a copy of his book. I caught a train, late again. My plane was boarding as I speed-hobbled into the terminal. I still had to get my ticket. I won't even go into the security check; amputees have to put their feet on the designated footprints and be wanded. And where the hell was a wheelchair, a golf cart, anything when I really needed it? I was one click away from Toddler Meltdown, ready to lie on the floor and bang my head.  (I flagged down a luggage trolley,prepared to offer the guy five bucks to haul me to my gate but he was going the wrong way.)

Suffice to say I made my flight. I was sweating and panting, and the flight attendants weren't giving out water, but I was so pathetic they relented. After that, it was cake, even the rain and fog delays. You know the drill.

The interview received upwards of sixteen thousand views in a year. Last night I hit the Youtube link for it and found this: "The Youtube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement."

So of course, I was thrilled: I pictured the Christian Science church coming with torches and pitchforks... Alas. The whole Richard Dawkins youtube channel had been shut down. Apparently this happens sometimes. I don't know any details, nefarious or dull.

Now their new channel's up. My interview's on it. See what you think.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Still Life with Goats & Horses

The flip side of the Dark Days before the winter solstice is the good dusks that settle gently, powerfully, without threatening my emotional balance.

Yesterday it took me a while to get outside to start on my animal projects. It bothers me that it's hard for me to get going. I used to pretty much live in my barn, or in the riding ring working horses and teaching lessons, or off freelancing ditto; years before that I spent on other people's farms and at a small racetrack in the exact middle of nowhere. Even just a few years ago I moved from outside to inside and out again so many times in a day that I called my home "a run-in shed" like the free choice shelters I keep my animals in.

Four months have passed since my knee replacement surgery. When I finally got cracking (mid afternoon) (OK, late afternoon) on my outside tasks, it felt wonderful. Moving, working, accomplishing things! I cleaned and refilled all the water tubs & buckets, then juggled loose goats and my St. Bernard grand-dog (here for the day) as I cleaned the goat pen. 

Goat pens tend to grow deep (like two feet deep) with droppings and wasted hay. They yield an unending supply of great mulch for gardens and flowerbeds. Six months ago I was in too much pain to fork matted hay and goat manure for an hour and wheelbarrow it out to the flowerbeds. Last night: no problem! Cleaned down to the floor, raked in front of the shed, dumped the last load and bedded down the does: J.J. & Tiki,my older daughter's former champions of the 4H ring, now retired, always eagerly awaiting their next feed.

As it got dark I turned on the lights to finish. I don't have a barn now, just sheds I built. But fresh pine sawdust smells like the same comfort and safety of chores I've done since I was seven years old. My little pony wandered in and pawed furiously (translation: I want supper NOW) and my two mares nickered. It was familiar, homey. 

My fear of November darkness is tangled with the "last day" I rode and biked and ran in 1975; that night my knee swelled while I was watching TV, the beginning of a disease that  forced so many changes on my world. It's no wonder I don't like to go inside, these evenings. Of course I don't want my day to end. I want to grab hold of the sun and stop it slipping over the horizon.

But last night felt good. One of the hardest things I've learned since I began writing about my hellish bone disease, about shame and depression, about recovery and amputation, is to allow myself to remember the normal days of my childhood: a time  when I couldn't imagine life coming off the rails, when I believed my legs and running were a right instead of a privilege. The most difficult has been to recognize and inhabit the memory of a happy thirteen-year-old who raced around on her own two legs as well as her horse. For too long I was terrified of the emotions that can flood me at sunset. I've come to identify them as a resonance of pain, the shape and vibration of it which is the closest thing my brain allows. I'm learning to make peace with my fear, and so defuse it. And this year has reminded me about patience in relation to physical progress.

Last night something slipped back into place, a kind of chiropractic adjustment of my self, or maybe of the relationship with my fifty-year-old body that's been worked disproportionately hard over the years. Again, I've made it to December without disaster. It's one more piece of evidence against my Last Day, the personal apocalypse I experienced thirty-seven years ago.

...Just looked up 'apocalypse' for the spelling. Its roots mean 'uncovering' or 'unveiling.' Pretty cool. So as Inspector Clouseau says, Until we meet again and the case is solv-ed. *click heels*