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#8 ~ silly dogs and dreams

July 15, 2011

endless sea

I’ve been home several weeks now … I think I’m in the final phase of ‘re-entry’.   When returning from the arms of my Muse it always takes me awhile to get used to life here. Not to life here on the farm … that’s actually quite perfect for me.  Here I can safely wander around bumping into things when I’m up at 3 AM and to bed at 8:30 pm for several days of jet lag, and I soften the prolonged re-entry by brushing horses, watering plants, writing in the mornings after a ½ hour or so sipping coffee and watching birds.  I can be useful from those rarefied ethers by listening to songs Paul has written in my absence (he has no trouble finding his Muse anywhere he may be), learning new ones and preparing for upcoming gigs.  It’s the ‘being around other people’ part that I have trouble with. Culture shock. We Americans, even here in what we locals consider to be ‘the promised land’, are really very loud and fast! Don’t believe me? Go away for a month, preferably to the still of an ancient sun draped place drenched in color and myth, with welcoming waters and no clocks to obey, where you write and read and swim and smile and swim some more – and eat and drink and write – and move really, really slowly.

quiet

This loud and fast bit still surprises me – it used to be the landing at JFK that knocked me off kilter. Now it’s landing in downtown Nevada City!

My comparisons are to the cobbled streets and peaceful harbor in Skiathos, Greece where just about everyone greets one another in the mornings with a genuine “kalimera!” (good day!) and “ti kanis?” (how are you?). Or on the first day of each and every month, a “kalo mina!” (have a good month!) I like that. A lot.

On the island, almost everyone I pass and greet looks me in the eye with a smile. (well, except for that old woman clad in the black of a widow who spit at me when I passed one day! I was assured that it was for my own good, her spit … it warded off the ‘evil eye’ and protected me from the bad luck of any envy! I did notice that she had been looking at my ‘burnished rose’ painted toenails when she spit.)

Time passes slowly there, and it is kind.

So – I am reticent to venture out into the harshlands for quite some time as I readjust to the scuttle of daily life in America.  I have to work to hang on to the presence and peace I am blessed with on my journeys-to-the-Muse, and attempt to linger there and steep in it’s loveliness for as long as I possibly can. That means long stretches of speaking little ‘human’ and lots and lots of ‘equine/canine/feline and goat’

I was just looking over the many photographs I took on my journey and towards the end of the bunch I found the one I’d been able to snag of the Rev. Djuna Cupcake on my second day home. Djuna and his ‘Homeland Security Threat Levels’ have been written about previously here in my ‘notes from an endless sea’, but this picture captured the first seen – ever – ‘Homeland Security Threat level multi-socked and blue/white/purple/flowered undie’d’, which we translate to mean …

… ‘Un-effing-believably High’.

HSTL "un-effing-believably High"

Paul and I had gone out for brunch, a sliver of time together after a month apart, and returned home to find Djuna waiting with worry in his eye and several pairs of socks and ALL of the old undies that had been designated as his ––probably 8 pairs–– dangling from his mouth.  We’re thinking that he may have been pondering the thought (he has many thoughts, believe me) that one of us might be disappearing, again, and far too soon for his liking. (I’m thinking that his ponder went something like this … though Paul may feel differently … DON’T leave me with Dad – again. Don’t you dare.  I’m too old for this s**t.  I can’t possibly take care of everything here while having to let him think that he’s the one in charge, it’s indoggedly possible. He just runs around acting crazy, trying to make sure everything is freaking PERFECT, and I think he’s going to have a heart attack, and THEN what?  HOW can I keep everyone and everything else safe when I have to worry about him all of the time? Don’t. Do. This. To. Me.)

I am happy to report that he displayed this SOS one time only and is generally back to demonstrating his standard HSTlevel 1, “No Problem, I’m just a goofy dude”, which is only one pair of socks or the stuffie of his choice.

~

when words come ...

~

I thought it time to write a bit about progress made in my quest for finding a literary agent to represent ‘All The Little Graces’.

😉

To this point I’ve received 6 rejection letters (ranging from – a very polite “We loved your work and have no doubt that it will find it’s place in the world – we just aren’t actively seeking this type of project at the moment. Our best wishes to you!”, to the more straightforward  “This is not for us. Your voice does not stand out – actually,  it is imperceptible – and your writing is weak at best. Back to the drawing board, or better yet, forget about trying to be a writer.”  I really do expect many, many more of these, 40 or 60 or perhaps even 90, before the book finds it’s ‘place in the world’. I’m not worried – yet.

But really, this is how it will play out … I will print all of those letters and place the considerable stack in a folder titled REJECTIONS – in bold letters. I plan to take that folder with us to Greece where I will sit with friends and family on our veranda by the sea with the view to eternity, the thick folder on the table before us … we will propose a toast over it … a toast to dreams.

Because my published book will be sitting on the table there, right next to it.

Here’s to dreams … those dreams, don’t ever let them go!

look up! angels all around ... and a hawk!

#7 ~ prisoner of hope

July 1, 2011

morning still

The mornings come to me quite early here.

I am up before the sun. I make a cup of strong coffee in my room to take to the flower filled veranda that hovers just over the Aegean, where I watch the sun make its appearance as small fishing caiques purr past, gliding through a glassy sea infused with the golds and silvers of the new morn. Among the 5 or 6 colorful boats that pass by there is sure to be one with it’s captain, in full voice that ripples through the still, singing his way into his new day.

singing for calamari

the peaceful blue

I am alone … there, in the quiet that is natural to this place.

Just me, the wren singing his aria and the soaring gulls that float past at eye level … and the chorus of swifts that scream through the air above me, commenting in unison on the state of the day. Embraced there by this morning loveliness, I will write for a few hours before heading down to the heart of the village, the harbor, to watch it come to life.

psipsina mou

Psipsina and Koukla will meet me on my way out the front door … Psipsina is always waiting overhead in the arbor woven with night blooming jasmine, her upside-down Cheshire grin and a polite “maaaaoow???’ greeting me as I step out into the morning and after a somersault, a tightrope walk across the narrow wooden railing and a graceful float to the ground, she dances me to her feeding spot. I’ve known Psipsina for 3 years now – somehow the little redhead has survived life as a Greek island stray.

The cats still have it pretty rough here, but I have to say she always looks good. There must be someone who lovingly sees her through the leaner months for she has a soft, glossy bunny coat and does not sport weepy eyes or the telltale greasy, dirty nose of a street cat that must rummage through garbage for a meal.

From year to year Psipsina has remembered me by the jingle jangling of my silver bracelets –– and once it’s established that yes, indeed, it is the ‘music of that kind food lady’ she hears, she sets up camp on the window sill above that delicious arbor and delights me every morning with her song and dance.

psipsina

When she’s not busy eating, she likes to just sit and chat and will sometimes climb into my backpack for a quick nap … but she also can be quite sneaky. I once opened the door to my room to find Psipsina sitting right there in the hall … looking up at me patiently, as though she belonged in the house.  There she was at my door –– there are 5 rooms on that floor –– no matter the front door to the pensione was closed, and locked! How did she get in? Only the cats will ever know that. But she marched right in and jumped up to curl in comfort on my bed.  No, this is not a typical street cat. Koukla mou (my little doll) is also not a typical street cat.  She’s a young, lithe, happy little thing, a beautiful dark calico who really seems more interested in socializing than eating kibble, curling in my lap while Psipsina eats, gazing up at me with what looks like a sure smile on her squinty eyed face, her white toes spread and paws kneading in a gentle ecstasy. Drooling.

koukla mou

There are 2 other mostly grown cats who also come to me to be fed regularly, Agapi (love) and Asprolaki (little white) … again, these cats are in good flesh, are clear eyed and would make beautiful companions for anyone with an open heart. Why they are plying the streets is beyond me. Abandoned? Perhaps. Though these two have a healthy fear of strangers, with the humans they trust they are chirpy and lovely and not at all shy about showing their gratitude. I feel blessed that they trust me.

asprolaki

street kids

In my last few visits to the island, spring and winter, I’ve noticed that several of the old neighborhood grandmothers, the yia yias, have taken to caring for cats. On one of the breathtakingly beautiful cobbled strolls I take from my pensione to the harbor, there is one small house … always emanating some delicious, herb infused aroma … with no less than 9 fat and happy cats lolling about the stoop waiting for their scarved and black clad slave to serve up the breakfast orders. These fortunate few are also not at all like those who must lurk in the shadows, the desperate, haunted ones, the sickly, hungry ones who live from garbage can to garbage can. But it is those cats I still find in abundance everywhere I go.

Caring for the unwanted ones is one way that I can give back to this island that has afforded me much peace and inspiration over the years. I do what I can for the strays of the village neighborhoods while I am there … there are many that are far more needy than my crew of fatties, and on my daily rounds to their feeding stations I leave heaps of kibble and any leftovers I’ve gleaned that they might find appealing. It’s never enough …

The very best I can do is sadly only for those who will allow my touch. I am able to dose these cats with a good ‘one spot’ product purchased from my Veterinarian, one that eliminates fleas, ear mites, heartworm and internal parasites all in one go – a pricey but miraculous treatment for these unfortunates of the streets. In the past I had to struggle to dose ears for mites with one product, use another product for the fleas and forget about worms … none of them would tolerate my jamming a pill down their throats!  This year I was blessed by the generosity of many folks who wanted to help in some way with the needy street urchins of the island. They donated money, used in part to purchase a lot of this miracle product that makes it possible for me to take care of more of the street cats than ever before. After treating the cats and setting a bit aside so that I could administer a second dose at the end of my month’s stay, I took the generous amount left over to the island’s dog shelter. Along with the remainder of the donated cash, it will all come to good use for the many dogs there. (The animals thank all of you who donated so generously to their cause!) You can visit this amazing place that is attended by angels by clicking the link to the right of this page –– Skiathos Dog Shelter.

I am never prepared to accept that there are any of them that I cannot help … but my heart is always challenged in one way or another at some point in every visit ‘home’. This year’s trial came to me late in a night blessed with a much welcome stillness; finally some quiet, after several noisy days and nights of construction that disrupted the peace in my usually placid neighborhood.

Mew.  Meeeew.  Mewwww.  I really didn’t take any notice at first. The sounds of cats … hungry, happy, fighting, mating … is hardly something unique in the soundtrack of a Greek village’s night. But it continued. And grew stronger, more insistent. Within an hour I was out there in the dark of the new moon with no flashlight and a 7-foot high wall between me and the yeowls, trying to figure out WHAT this was about. I couldn’t see a thing! I couldn’t do anything! The plaintive cries, sounding more and more like a kitten only 4 or 5 weeks of age, went on for awhile, pulling at my maternal instincts, tearing at my heart – but then, they stopped.

The next morning, just as I contemplated diving into a blank page with all the words still dancing around in my head a pathetic ‘mew, meeeeeew’ sliced through the quiet! I peered over the railing to the dense tangle of bush below but there was nothing there that bore any relation to those cries. It remained unseen. I flew down the stairs and out, walked through the construction mess next door over heaps of rebar and form planks and buckets and dirt, to bushes far too thick to investigate. Yet that is where the tiny thing seemed to be.  Where was its Mama? I’d not seen any new Mama’s in my little world of streetlings there in the neighborhood. This baby sounded desperate.

How did it come to be there?

I won’t say any more about that now other than this … there are boys, and girls, the world over who will do despicable things under the pressure of peers to prove themselves. Here, sometimes they still test their bravado, in the dark of a drink-fueled night, by tossing unwanted kittens over cliffs into the sea. And there are some people still see this as a way of curbing the population. So, I will never really know who was responsible, but whatever the intent, this one hadn’t been tossed far enough –– the dense thicket caught it instead, saving it from a sure drowning. But now it prevented the kitten being rescued!

There was nothing that I could do, so I went on about my day – haunted by those pathetic cries.

MEOW.  MAAAAAAAAW.  When I returned to my room in the late afternoon, the cries were louder still. Such strength of spirit! The kit was not growing weaker – it simply seemed more alive! But still, it was nowhere to be seen.

And late in the night when I came home from my evening’s meanderings? The cries were more desperate, more insistent. I could not sleep.  All I could hear was fear and hunger in that kitten’s cry. What could I do?  I wept. I had to close my windows, which for me was not at all unlike just turning my back. Even that didn’t work – I had to use earplugs to sleep.

And so it went for two more days and another night … on and on and on.  But no one else seemed to hear it! Was I imagining things?  Was this just the ghostly archetype of all that I find wrong in the world, distilled into the mirage of a motherless kitten?

Of course, I’m thinking … Great. I’ll have to just sit here, the helpless kitten in its death throes just feet away but out of reach?  Is this what I get, for saying that I like animals better than most people?  Are all of those people who think I’m a nutcase, RIGHT? As Paul has written, sometimes it’s a curse to care …

The next day, all alone at my secret, peaceful spot by the sea I daydreamed of a world where all living beings were cared for, a world where humans had common sense and did the right things, harming no one, harming nothing, a world with no hungry children … no kittens tossed to the seas.

... my secret place ...

And that night … to escape reality manifest outside my window I resorted to what I NEVER do while on the island –– I turned on the television. I watched the Greek news, bad Albanian soap operas, English films dubbed in Greek, anything to offset the sound of the unseen kitten’s wailing. It didn’t offset the thoughts, though … Was it in fear?  In pain?  Shouldn’t it have perished by now, no Mama, no food, no water?

Finally……..  in the evening of day three, it made it’s appearance.

Yes, there it was, just emerged from it’s snarled prison of bushes! I saw it from the veranda above, a tiny speck of white and ginger and calico perched in the low branch of a fig tree just outside the tangled copse!

wee foundling

At that very same moment, my future ally in a pending search and rescue also finally caught sight of the wee thing! Carla is a wonderful, rosy cheeked, matronly Swedish woman who was staying in the apartment below, and was, apparently,  the only other human within miles to hear 3 days and nights of frantic kitten screams. (… also an animal lover in need of a good night’s sleep!) Carla was on her tiptoes, peering over the wall after the kitten’s constant cries for help.

I heard her gasp aloud.

She looked up, our eyes met … thumbs up … we both smiled … and then we set to work …

the great kitty rescue (photo taken by Richard, our good friend from Munich)

Carla was all business. She marched right out over the construction mess in her going-out-for-the-evening clothes and fancy shoes to help me place planks of wood here and there that the kitty might use to make way from the tree by the bushes, to the higher ground where we might be able to catch it. Then she scared the living bejesus out of the kitty with sprays of water from a hose … sending it over a plank bridge and straight into my arms.

Pathetically tiny, the kitten was all bones, dehydrated, far too young to have been on it’s own all that time. She dove greedily into our offering of water, growling as she lapped it up after not having had any water or nourishment for three days. I held the bony little bit close to my heart so that it could absorb any warmth and life I had to give. A wild thing, she trembled in my hands, terrified.

safe harbor

But now what??  She was too small to eat kibble, we didn’t know how to easily come by goat milk – and we knew that our beloved landlady would have a fit if either of us chose to keep a foundling in our room.

“To zee fish market, to zee taverna!” Carla proclaimed!

Iannis, the owner of the fish market in the harbor, was known to take good care of strays there, feeding them fish and milk by day and giving them a safe place to get away from the harbor chaos. By night the cats all queued up to beg courteously from people dining at the neighboring taverna there at water’s edge.  So, Carla put the loudly protesting kitten into a bag and marched it down to the harbor and I watched, holding my breath as she set the tiny thing free … to face 5 fully grown cats and a forest of human legs there at the taverna. As if its last 3 days weren’t trauma enough. The kitten promptly ran off into the nearby bush.

My heart sank.

But that was the best that we could do.

I walked past the market early the next morning, hopeful, but not really expecting to see the kitten there. But there she was, quiet, her belly round and full, her tail up at full sail. By evening she was practicing leaping in and out of a small urn filled with fishing line and playing in a wild kitty abandon with two other tiny kittens all along the front steps of the market.

In just days she was adopted by a thin, black mama cat who allowed her to nurse alongside her own babies –– or perhaps this was one of her own, gone missing?

new life

Over the next few weeks I watched our foundling grow and thrive, observed her learning to beg for a bite of something at the taverna alongside her new Mama, saw her hanging out with all of the ‘big kids’ at the market’s morning rally when the fishermen brought in their catch. And often saw her sleeping in a soft, warm pile of kittens … She was safe. This one had a chance.

Of course I hope to see Psipsina and Koukla and the rest of the gang next spring when I return – I am always hopeful, but have learned over the years to expect nothing and just do what I can for those I find in my path.  There will be another story to tell, there always is, but I hope that along with some tale surely fraught with peril, I will be able to report that Psipsina came dancing to the jingle jangle of my bracelets, and Koukla has grown into a fine fattie who still likes to dream of lovely cat things while curled in my lap … and that there is a young white and ginger calico gal, sprawled in the sun on the fish market steps with the blacks and grays and oranges, stuffed with fish and goat milk, who seems to be winking at me as I walk by…

#6 ~ DOG is my co-pilot …

May 18, 2011

The Rev. Djuna Cupcake

It’s not easy to pack when there is a (very sad) 75 lb. dog sitting in one’s bag.

I had to look twice as I waltzed by the guest room en route from the office to kitchen for more coffee. Well, I’m not sure I waltzed at that time of the morn, I more likely was dragging in body, waltzing in mind, but no matter how I got from there to there, I did catch a large blur of black in the periphery as I passed the room. I was trying to weed out a passable lot of clothes-for-life-on-a-Grecian-isle from a hump of stuff piled on the bed.  The only place for my bag was on the floor.

And Djuna was sitting in it.

He frets a bit when ‘the bags’ come out … he knows well what it means. If I could take him with me – I would. In a heartbeat. But he is not a portable dog and will have to stay behind here on the farm to help Paul make sense of all of the chores and keep the animal-family in line.

If Paul is my soul-mate and the horses are my spirit …  if the cats are my familiars and the goats are a humorous conundrum …

Djuna is my heart.

He came to us almost 10 years ago. We’d been invited to a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with friend’s.

“Did you see the puppies?” Che asked.

Puppies?

I don’t even remember dinner. I only remember being smothered in a warm pile of 3 week old pups, all puppy breath and soft groans and grunts. I sat still, happily stroking soft puppy bellies, wondering what they dreamt about.

Paul and I decided on the drive home – after the pups were peeled off and I was dragged away – that it was time to bring a new companion into our lives. Old Lady Callie was aging and could use an intern – for all involved, it would be just perfect.  So I set my sights on a cute, fat little female, black with white tipped paws …

… who took no interest in me, whatsoever! I didn’t want another male dog.  I’d always been graced with the company of females, other than our rescued ‘terror’ Shorty and he never helped ‘male’ win over ‘female’ in my heart. Dear, complicated little Short-man.

3 weeks went by and each time I visited the pups (Often. Che started to wonder if I had moved in permanently.) I sought out that little girl, even though this other little black pup – a BOY – was the one to squiggle over to me to cover me in happy licks.  How blind was I?

When the day came to make ‘the’ choice I watched the pups from afar, now a pack of rolling, tumbling energy. I can watch puppies play forever.  They all were now were able to run about, albeit clumsily on their short, 6 week old legs and as I walked toward to squealing mass of delight looking for my little girl, here came that darned male pup, rolling head over heels as he tripped on his own paws.

And then he sat on my feet.

contemplating 'balls' at a young age ...

So – Djuna Cupcake came home with us. He was mentored by old Callie for the first year of his life, (In the dignified arts of ‘how to properly care for one’s Humans’ and ‘how to steal tomatoes from the vine and carefully pick berries from the brambles’) until she left us for those greener pastures.  He was schooled in the finer arts of dog play and general mayhem by the neighbors’ Jack Russell, dubbed Peenie,  who seemed to live with us much of the time for about 5 years … she taught Djuna how to dive through the cat door, which he did with great joy until he grew too large to fit any longer. He was taught how to behave properly by Mistress Lily, the Queen cat who always kept the dogs of the family in line, and because of his impeccable behavior he eventually earned the title of ‘honorary cat’.  The cats all love him.

Being born with the genes of both Border Collie and Labrador retriever has left Djuna with amazing intelligence, but also great conflict.  We joke that he’s got a bit of the Dr. Heckyll/Mr. Hyde syndrome going – Dr. Border Collie by day (all business, focus, job oriented) … Mr. Lab (mellow cuddle bug) by night.

Mr. Lab by night ...

But he has a job, and that keeps him happy. He keeps us in order, metes out our farm duties and shadows our every move. (Hey hey hey turn THIS spigot on! I have to keep you safe from this snake that looks like a hose!  Now … isn’t it time to turn out the Horse? How ‘bout I get pony for you? The birds the BIRDS let’s feed the birds – now!!! Want me to get that goat away from your roses?  Aren’t we supposed to be IN the car NOW?  And what about the BALL?)  When both Paul and I are home, he is more relaxed and will actually sleep in – on the bed – with whichever one of us gets to enjoy that pleasure. And sometimes we are dragging him off the bed, late for work!  Mr. Lab sticks around until about 10 AM, and then Dr. Border Collie is down to business until the chores are done and the dusk has settled.

He is quite smart.  He was able to figure out how to stuff 3 balls in his mouth at one time as a 6 month old. He worked on that one for a few weeks and happened to master it at the exact moment that I had the camera in hand.

We only saw him do that one more time and then he was on to the next challenge. He knows Greek. – Sit, please! Do you want to play with your ball now? Let’s go to the barn and see the horses!  Shall we feed the birds now? Now? Let’s go in the car!  –  All, in Greek.  He learned English far too quickly and because of his ‘all business’ nature, would anticipate our every move. So we started to spell words like ‘bird’ and ‘ball’ and ‘car’ … But then he learned how to spell.  So, as Paul and I are students of Greek, we started practicing our minimal skills on him.

But, well … now he knows Greek better than you do.

Djuna 3-balls

As you know, the U.S. has been under a strange sort of ‘Home Security Alert’ of varying levels and colors since 9-11-01.Well, Djuna has devised a sort of ‘Home Security Alert’ system of his own.  If both Paul and I are ‘in country’, meaning he sees us both here, at home on a daily basis, his threat level is quite low.  He knows for certain that we are both safe. NO worries.  If we go out and leave him behind, he will greet us at the door upon our return with his bowl, or one of his ‘babies’, a stuffie, in his mouth. Mr. Hedgehog who grunts, or Mrs. Duck who quacks.  This is ‘Baby level, threat 0’

But then, we move to ‘Sock level’.  If we are gone for a longer period of time, say we’re off to a gig, he will begin to fret just a bit – and then we move to ‘sock level, threat 1’.  He greets us with a pair of my socks in his mouth.

The threat level goes up from there to ‘sock level 2’, 2 socks … and ‘sock level 3’, 3 socks…

But if one of us is away, far away as Paul has been for this last week and I am about to be for a month, the level changes altogether. Not only is Djuna my constant shadow, if left behind when I go out for errands, a movie, to visit friends and must leave him behind, he will greet me at the door with MOST EXTREME SECURITY THREAT level – 3 socks AND a wad of my underwear in his mouth…

I know that he is thinking – very clearly – How In The World Can I keep This Stupid Human Of Mine Safe When I Cannot Be With Her Every Moment? He does not trust me on my own.

Don't bother my person, she is working ...

I’ve had to give him his own little basket of socks and discarded undies so he doesn’t abscond with and slobber all over my favorites.

Paul is home now, but I am packing to go off to take a long drink from my Endless Sea. I will recharge and heal, work on ideas for a new novel, laugh a lot and miss my loved ones, drink too much and float on my back on waters of warm glass, always looking up. I will feed and care for the furred street urchins with Djuna, my heart of hearts, and his kitties in mind.  Djuna is on Highest Security watch now, and cannot look at my packed bag without then looking at me with sad eyes that make my heart break.  And often, with a sock and several undies in his mouth.  Reminding me. He is good at that.

But I know that in days he will recover, he will realize that he still has a human here to care for. Paul and the rest of the clan will stay safe under the ever watchful eye of The Reverend Djuna Cupcake (yes, somehow he ended up with one of those certificated from the Universal Life Church … if you need someone to marry you …) and I will know that all is well in my world.

I will try to post something along my way, some notes from an endless sea …

Look up!

#5 ~ the queen of everything

April 28, 2011

The Queen of Everything ~ 2011

Last week my friend Maggie’s Belle had a birthday – she turned 33. Now that is really not so old, unless you are a horse, which Belle is … a ranch horse, a foundation bred Quarter Horse born on the prairies of Calgary. Maggie was working on a ranch as a young woman, learning the cowgirl’s tools of the trade from her mentor, a kind horseman man named Bill.  She had always figured her ‘once in a lifetime horse’ to be a flashy, shiny sorrel, so when Bill gave her a young and talented, flashy, shiny sorrel colt to train … and subsequently sell (a right of passage for those who want to be in the business of horses) … she was elated. She trained George to perfection and then sold him for good money. It was that ‘selling’ part that broke her heart. She was nursing grief around her loss of the beautiful George right around the time that one of Bill’s old mares gave birth … and a plain, brown filly slipped into the world and into Maggie’s heart. Bill, feeling so sorry for Maggie in her sadness, gifted her then and there with that little foal – and Belle has been by her side ever since. Belle and Maggie grew up together … showing, working cattle and riding the wild lands, and have traveled many a mile from there to here over those 33 years. Belle helped to raise Maggie’s boys, and even gave her that flashy sorrel filly she had always wanted, but they never quite bonded in the way that Belle and Maggie had – so it turns out that Maggie’s ‘once in a lifetime horse’ all along was Belle. The wise and beautiful old Belle.

Maggie and Belle

There is something truly mystical about the horse-human bond. My own love affair with horses started when I was about 5 – with no mother to nurture me, my grandmother made sure that the delightful things, like the sea, and books and dogs and horses figured largely in my life. Black Beauty, National Velvet, a wee fat (real) pony named Merrylegs and a large, gray horse name Seagull started it all and I was infected straight away with the magical and lifelong ‘girl lives and breathes horses’ disease. I learned to ride well and speak their language and as I grew, any extra time I could muster was spent in their company. I lived and breathed the amazing beasts and would clean a barn full of stalls and a roomful of tack if I had to in exchange for lessons or show entries or just to give me those added precious moments to spend being close to them.  I could watch them for hours; at work or at play; asleep flat out like dogs, squeaking their pleasures with legs twitching as they galloped through the air of their dreams. Sometimes I would sit quietly in a sun-drenched pasture full of horses, in calm ecstasy as I watched, breathing their beauty and magic into my soul until, enchanted by their grace I would drift to a peaceful sleep … awakening to the sight of 12 horse muzzles, drooped and quivering in their own rest, just inches away and circled in protection all around me …

River and Tempest and Elle 1995

They are yet another safe harbor in my Endless Sea.

I celebrate the old ladies … I’ve known quite a few of them, calm and patient and wise, fully in their spirit and all with more personality than most Human people I know.  Today, my own old one, Tempest, turns 24 … 24 going on 5, and I would say that the ‘patient and wise’ parts will probably come along to her at some later date. Neither of those adjectives describe my old girl! However, now at about the age of 70 in people years, she is a Grand Dame, opinionated and certain, surely the Queen of Everything and Everyone here and I think that, were she human, she would be much like my dear grandmother – benevolent and bawdy, benignly dictatorial and full of spirit, and insisting, at the age of 90, upon setting sail to Venezuela – on a freighter, not a comfy cruise ship.
Tempest is one that you must always ask, and never demand things of.  She came from sadness, abuse and neglect … a friend found her starving in a field when she was just a two year old filly. She was a royally bred Quarter Horse that opportunists wanted to make into a show horse and use up quickly, for fast money. People who knew her story enlightened me – she was trained brutally at an age that no one had any business even being on her back. As she is quite the willful girl, we are certain that she did not ‘submit’ to the abusive handling, did not do what was demanded of her and this is why she was punished … ridden in a twisted wire bit and left saddled in a stall, her head tied around tightly to the right side of her girth one day, and to the left the next and on another, down to the girth, between her legs. She was kept like this in her prison cell, a 10×10 box lined with electric wire. She is know to have torn boards from the sides of a hitchcock pen … an oval, walled ring used for training … in a desperate fury, effectively ending that session by trying to kill her trainer.
Eventually those folks went broke and tossed their horses into a grassless, barren field to fend for themselves. Found and rescued by my friend Michelle, they were bags of bones and covered in balls of mud, with skin and hair peeling off in great patches.

Baby T 1990

I inherited Tempest – sullen at the time, with little use for most Humans and certainly harboring a hatred of men in cowboy hats.  One luscious autumn day Michelle asked me to go riding with her. As I was an experienced rider, she put me on a young, gorgeous copper chestnut filly. “She needs a calm and steady hand.” she’d said. I rode the little mare in a simple hackamore, a gentle bitless bridle, and tried to stay out of her way. Crow-hoppy and balky when we first set out to ride the 600 oak and cow studded acres, she eventually relaxed and softened and we had a good time together – I discovered that she loved to be sung to, morphing more and more with each verse from a tight, ear-pinned ball of funk to a happy, forward-eared delight with a loose swinging walk. After our ride, she stood quietly while I brushed her and whispered love into her ear, her head hanging low with eyes closed and 2 inches of tongue hanging out as she sucked every last bit of pleasure from a bit of apple I’d given her … Michelle walked up to us and with a devil’s grin told me that Tempest had never gotten along with anyone. Ever. “A pishy mare.” she said, one who rarely had a rider for she tended to throw balking and bucking fits. Bucking fits that usually abruptly put an end to the ride. And then, she told me Tempest’s story.
“Do you want her?” she asked.


So ………. the little red mare has been with me ever since. It took a year for me to quietly gain even just a little more of her trust. And then another year.  And even another to get through issues and bad memories that came to surface in one way or another with almost every ride. There were times that I was plainly frustrated with her. She was not the warm, outgoing personality that my ‘horse of a lifetime’, a young thoroughbred named Bliss, had been – she was a challenge, not only to work with but to my patience. Sometimes I couldn’t even tell if she liked me at all and I wanted to just give her little miserable self away.

Thankfully I was able to see that, were I to sell her, she would most likely be used up as a breeding machine just because of her fortunate genes, OR she would end up as someone’s dinner in Japan because most people found no good use for a crabby and sometimes dangerous horse. I was also able to see that she was my teacher. Horses are Divine Inspiration … far better for me than any meditation practice or Master could have been in helping me learn to flow, to be, to be present, to be still, to be patient, to give without expecting anything back … Tempest gave me all of this and more.

We’ve been through a lot in 20 years … from long meanders through endless green fields, to the metaphysical and artistic discipline of dressage which, despite her bulky QH build, she took to like a chunky ballerina while quite obviously loving the

Tempest and Elle 2000

challenge … I could almost see her brain churning as she mulled a new test of her abilities, and feel a palpable joy in her when she figured it out. In that span of time Breelyn, who half jokingly calls Tempest one of her furry siblings, has gone from girl-child to amazing Woman, we’ve endured the deaths of 4 of our beloved dog-family members, 6 of the cats and several Humans … and she has survived a debilitating trailer wreck and the removal of a sarcoid tumor by an eye, hoof abscesses and check ligament injuries … several corneal ulcers that required weeks of doctoring requiring attentions every 3 hours, 24 hours a day … I’ve learned to give, and she has learned to give in, ultimately learning to trust that we are only here to help her, and to know that she will never again be hurt by the hand of a human. She is a bit stiff these days and going gray here and there, and is ‘retired’, spending days at leisure in a lovely field with ‘her’ pet, the pony Molly, who quite good naturedly allows Tempest to boss her around. But really, under that ‘Queen of Everything’ routine, with the squeals and sneers that no longer foretell of anything sinister – they’ve morphed into things like “(squeal) please put that pan of food down here now!”, or “(sneer) You dare to brush me, before you’ve kissed me?” – she’s really just a big, red softie with a wide grin, the empty shells of old habits and an addiction to sucking on sugar, or carrot, or banana, or a scrap of anything edible in absolute ecstasy with ears askew and eyes closed, tongue hanging, even humming sometimes.

Big Bad Tempest. She still does not often reach out to people – but we know her well enough now to understand that if she chooses to just come close to you, quite close and stand quietly with her eyes closed, you have passed her test with 10 gold stars – you have been honored by one who has traveled a long road to trust. We all, Paul and Bree and I, Molly and the dog, Djuna, the goats and the cats, are her herd, and she is at peace.
I’m watching she and the pony doing their spring ‘dance for joy’ in the wash of green outside my window.  She has lost most of the dullness of last season’s coat and is glowing dappled copper in the bits of sun that sneak out from behind clouds. While the squat pony bucks and farts, Tempi does her ‘airs above the ground’, caprioles and pirouettes, leaping and twirling, kicking out, head high with her tail a up like a gorgeous flag and snorting loudly as she floats in grace over the grass.
I imagine that the next 10 years will slow these expressions – but I have a hunch that they will also offer some of that great wise calm that Maggie’s Belle has now.
The Queen of Everything, I celebrate you and your great, free spirit today.  I celebrate you and the wondrous depth of a horse’s heart … and I celebrate you and all of the old gals in your wisdom and beauty,and all of that which is yet to come …

smiles ...

#4 ~ looking up

April 20, 2011

look up

It was summertime, and I was at Church – my ‘church’, the 2 stall barn that houses our hooved girls, Tempest and Molly, my ‘home’ place of grounding and peace that is filled with the woody, earthy scent of horse and hay.  The mares had been turned out to pasture for the morning and I was in the paddock picking up manure, chatting with my shadow companion Djuna Cupcake in that finely tuned place of moving meditation from which I could hear everything round me … a nuthatch sending out a distress call … the operatic wren, and the slight wind whispering through summer oak leaf that offers shade as the sun strides towards it’s zenith … squirrel thumping a tree branch in mock warning to the big black dog snuffling below … loud nestlings begging from the barn rafters , probably the 3rd brood of the summer for Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow … and the lawn mower humming somewhere 15 or 20 acres away – I could almost smell the freshly cut grass.

And then, I heard them coming – like a flock of unruly teenagers laughing and yelling or maybe singing their way home from school, pushing and shoving in fun, a random elbow sending one, and then another, careening out of orbit. I could hear wings whirring – and a sort of laughter – and thwack. “LOOK UP” they called. Thwack. I looked up, just in time to see them tumbling in air from the cover of trees behind me. It was a small skein of Canadians, maybe only 8 of them. But this was not at all something of the ordinary.  It looked as if the geese were playing in the air.  And it sounded like they were flying in fits of laughter. The thwack was the sound made when one goose shifted feathers and lifted a wing, a move that sent it staggering into it’s neighbor, thwack, sending it, then, into a shallow but out of control dive – just for a moment. More goose laughter. They HAD to be playing. One or two would cut suddenly under the others and like dominoes falling, they each began to flip and flail, turning, one after another, into a whole round sideways somersault and this flying ball of gosling somersaulted its way directly overhead and into the veil of trees beyond.  Of course, my camera was sitting by the computer, in the house, in the office, 100 feet away.

I had seen this phenomenon before, years before, but only on television – some Discovery or PBS special about geese, most likely. Yes, they play. Pups and kitties play… and piglets … lambs, foals, fawns, calves … humans … every species’ young plays. Why not geese?

look up

Of course I told Paul all about what I’d seen, I went on and on like a little girl who has seen the Faerie Queen in the garden, and he nodded politely and smiled. Thankfully, he too eventually bore witness to the shenanigans of the giggling, upside down, gymnastic geese … a few summers later the same thing happened again. We have large flocks of Canadians here, some migrate, some stay put for the winter, but there are always geese in the vicinity and they are so delightful to watch that one can’t help but become familiar with their antics, their sounds … In air they are quite precise, orderly, there obviously is reason for what they do up there, and why they do it but what I heard when they came somersaulting my way that second visit again had no order to it, whatsoever. It was an absolute, joyous cacophony, like kids laughing hysterically at fart jokes.  I looked up to see them coming, flying low and then directly over my head (did they do this just for me?), giggling and bumping into one another and flipping in the air. And there I was, hooting and hollering and cheering them on. Laughing.

Looking up.

look up

It is these little, sparkling gems, these gifts of astonishment that light up this cover of darkness for me, the murky pallor that envelopes the world now. They act to save me from a grave sense of helplessness in turbulent times – or from myself – and can lift me into a clarity, helping me to remember to breathe when the air just seems too filled with sorrows.

I tend to have a need to linger upon each of these moments of wonder with all of my senses … am desperately compelled to remember every sound, every scent, and to stare like I can’t seem to get enough of it, until it feels as though I am seeing with ‘other’ eyes that are really sight and sound, feel.scent.breath.life.beauty all bundled up together … to take them in, like life, with each breath as if drawing every bit of essence from an experience will place it somewhere deep within, somewhere safe, perhaps safe within my heart, my own personal bank that is filled only with Peace and God and Beauty, and when Peace, or God, or Beauty is needed I can close my eyes, make a withdrawal of a bit of the bounty there, to get me through. This wondrous awe fills me with smiles, laughter, a moment of purity, like seeing or sensing something as only a child will – all that banishes the dark …

A few mornings ago, on my way to the barn through the cool grey of late spring mist I happened to look up.  Actually, I always try to remember to remind myself to look up, now  – if I don’t I might miss the color of the newly rising sun on the fresh leaves of spring, or yet another otherworldly cloud formation I’ve never seen – or those geese!  So, instead of watching my feet trace the path I’ve walked almost every morning for the last14 years, I looked up. There is a huge, round bush of wild tea rose that grows close to the barn – it volunteered itself, rising like a phoenix from the ash of a burn pile years ago, grown now to 10 feet tall and 20 feet in circumference. It goes threadbare through the winter, leaving only enough of it’s leaves to help the deer with their forage and gives the goats something to do with their obsessive compulsive selves (they trim it to perfection and to total nakedness  up to 3 feet and the deer take it from there.)  … it is awaiting it’s brush with spring now, but still offers a bit of cover to the small birds that like to do their bird things amongst it’s branches during the day.  So I looked up – to see this stately rose bush all a’glow … with blue balls!  No. What? Yes, there were fluffy vivid blue balls of something set against the starkness of barren, winter gray branches, like strange ornaments or an exotic fruit. As I approached one of the balls quivered and flapped blue wings and as it flew off I realized that this was the family, newly fledged, of one of our local pairs of nesting Scrub Jays. 7 of them in total, Mom, Dad and babes, thinking they were hidden so smartly there in the naked bush! I stopped, stared … with those other eyes. Settled softly … Drank it in.  Electric Koolaid Acid Blue Balls Of Fluff In A Winter Rose Bush. This was one of those moments. For me at least. Would this excite everybody?  Probably not. But I was delighted, and stilled myself, took it in. Breathed it. Banked it. One by one the babes flew clumsily, all a’flutter like tweety bird, to the branches of the oak just beyond. Will I ever see this again? (Camera? Sitting by the computer, in the house, in the office, 100 feet away.)

look up

If I’d not looked up, I’d have missed it. It made me smile.  It makes me smile, still as I write this. I banked it, and it’s coming to me in it’s maturity now, in spades … no, in gold.

So, in these times when fear is being handed out like candy and spreads like a mutant virus, when the hard things are all around us, when many of us are losing so much, and so many, I hope that you will please try to remember to look up. Literally. Metaphorically. Even in the city, every sky offers up breathtaking clouds, each new day’s fingerprint, unlike those of any other day… or you can find the magic in an old woman’s face, brightening with the gift of your smile, or in the bounty of good blessings you feel seeing a homeless person gently caressing a beloved dog companion – or in that hawk riding the thermals above or taking it’s park-catch home to it’s own nestlings at home somewhere up on a sky rise’s ledge … You may see things that take your breath away and in some strange way, fill you instead with hope … Looking to the goodness doesn’t mean that we need to forget about all of the hard stuff that is out there for us to pay attention to – it just means that we are taking care of ourselves. Filling up so that we have something to give back. Please, look up and take whatever crazy, beauteous moment you find and with all of the senses you can muster, bank it away deep in your heart – it may come in handy the next time you despair, or the next time someone needs a bit of a lift from you.  It will pay you back well, I promise.

look up

the hard bits …

April 9, 2011

 

It’s supposed to be snowing, but I think that forecast was just a cruel joke played on those of us trying to get spring earth readied for garden plantings now that it is no longer a soupy mess … and on those of us gaining our land legs back after a sea of wild winter, gazing through a wash of sun and the new-life-green of freshly bursting oak leaves to the horizon of summer … certainly a cruel joke to those who live a bit further up the mountain, who have had to dig snow caves into their homes through drifts that reach up to second story windows. No – the sun is shining today! Moggie is asleep at my feet, sprawled on his furry back in the warm light that pours through the window, four white-splashed paws to the heavens. Djuna Cupcake – Mr. Lab by night, Dr. Border Collie by day – is at my side, boring into me with those human eyes … “let’s go come on come on come on, let’s go, it’s time to get going with the chores, already – Madame Slacker Person.”  Once the sun is up and/or he is out of bed (he has been known to keep us from making the bed until 10 AM.)   … and Mr. Lab has been banished for the day … my darling, crazy boy is ready to get on with it, but this morning before we move out to the horses and the old lady goats I need to write a bit about Margarita.

All The Little Graces is based to some degree in truth.  It’s most essential element, in addition to the usual balmy air … hot sun … calm, azure waters and earth, steeped in mystery and bedecked with Olive and Antiquity, all found in perfect abundance in Greece, is an ugly, very loud, small stray dog named Margarita.  She, and the rest of the tribe of the streets are the ‘in truth’ part.

Breelyn, Minou and Margarita

Margarita found us in the autumn of 1990. Paul and I were traveling in Greece with our daughter Breelyn, then 13, and friends Mikail and Yvonne and were just at the beginnings of a six week long lush Aegean island adventure. I swear the needy creatures smell Bree and I coming.  That dog barked her way around and through our peaceful island neighborhood evenings and eventually into all of our hearts. But of course, this wee agitator – who we came to find was simply protecting her litter of three pups – fit perfectly into my island bliss, and Bree, with a magic only the children possess, went to work immediately, whispering love and trust until the crazy little dog’s defenses melted away. She was a scrappy hellion, a wily, ugly street-smart bitch, and a veteran survivor even at the tender age of 4 or 5 … we didn’t ever really know how old she was …  but she had a heart that was bigger than Big. Though we never would know how many of her other litters had survived, those three babes she was furiously protecting then were soon swept off to loving homes with two young travelers from the Netherlands. By the time Margarita had wormed her way into our beds (Oh, poor Matoula, our beloved landlady …) she was a big part of our daily lives; at the very least she knew where to find a warm bed and a cup of kindness at the end of each day. We could see that she knew her way around the town, had friends – and enemies – here and there and it wasn’t long before it became quite obvious to us that she had loved and lost ‘someone’ before we came into her life … obvious, because she had a name … She knew what humans’ beds were for (They were for her, of course!) … She loved to be tickled … And once she loved us, she wouldn’t let us out of her sight.

the balance ...

On our initial trip to the same island, in 1986, we had only seen what we wanted to see; the magnificent ruins and ancient art, pristine beaches, plentiful OUZO, feta and kalamata and the fat and glossy cats on a whitewashed wall overlooking the sparkling sea … even carefully tended ponies that were used to transport cases of wine from the ferry to the tavernas. We fell deeply in love, then, with the culture and the people and ‘our’ island’s lush, whitewashed beauty –– but in 1990, with Margarita at our sides, we began to see through another lens … we saw another Greece, one darkly populated by thin, wary animals slinking through the streets who suffered at the ignorant hand of Humans.

How in the world had we missed that before?

Perhaps it was as simple as … that Greece is one of the most beautiful, magical and incredibly hospitable places on earth … a country and her  archipelago steeped in an infinite history and blessed with people of great heart, people of the earth and sea with a depth and wisdom unlike any other people I’ve met. Beautiful Greece had cast her spell on us.

In earning the trust of the little dog we were immediately set upon a winding, cobbled maze of adventures that took our breath away … some were more lovely than lovely, some seemed conjured from the materials of our darkest nightmares. There, in that crazy beautiful place of Peace, Margarita opened our eyes to her tribe – the countless hungry dogs and cats that lived in bushes and begged at taverna tables and ran the island’s roads and beaches, bickered over scraps at the garbage bins and hunkered under discarded vehicles, fiercely defending their young.

Ghataki mou

Many were sickly, and all of the females over six months of age were pregnant. Sterilization surgery was not something at all easy to come by there at the time. And forget about vaccinations, for there wasn’t ever a vet even to be found on the island! We came to see how people treated the animals. In our ramblings through the country we found thin, angry dogs chained short with nothing to eat but a crust of bread swimming in curdled goat milk. And mules … tethered in fields, wearing halters of braided metal (what??) with flat nosepieces that upon closer inspection were found to have dug so far into flesh that it was growing over the metal. Worst of all was the seasonal poisonings of the strays – in 1990 and beyond, sanctioned by the island municipality, poisoning was the way to cleanse the island of what was thought to be something touristswouldn’t want to see.  Skinny hungry little dogs and cats.

 

Whole neighborhoods of strays would go missing at a time.

This ‘seeing’ was not for the faint of heart.  I wept a lot.

–– I do have to stop here and take a moment to defend this place and it’s people and loudly declare that there were many who loved the animals, kind people who looked after a street posse and had taken in a stray or two … evidenced by the occasional glossy, happy cat or well fed dog we would see perched on a neighborhood stoop or skipping along at the end of a leash … and there was always a clan of contented felines holding court morning and evening at the island’s fish market in the harbor. This is not just a horror story! The sad realities simply overshadowed the happy ones. ––

As all the little graces go, there was also much goodness that tumbled around our knowing and loving Margarita. To this day we enjoy deep connection with people we consider to be family, people of incredible kindness and generosity … and we are the beneficiaries of an ongoing education that offers us better knowledge of Greece’s long and deep  history, an education that has encouraged an understanding of ‘why’ people may have acted the way they did towards the animals. The ‘why’ does nothing at all to excuse the behavior – to me, there is never, never anything that can excuse bad behavior towards the voiceless ones, be them animal or human, or to our Great Mother earth for that matter – but it offers the ability to see people’s actions with a bit more compassion, and helps me to act with less demand. I can perhaps hope to ‘show’ a way to a better caring for the animals.

the place of Angels

I have loved that little island and it’s people madly for over 25 years, and over the course of that time I’ve seen a general intolerance for the animals shift for the better, and soften a great deal … the situation is not perfect and it may never be, but change for the good is change for the good! In the mid 90’s came the birth of a home for the unwanted dogs – a place of immeasurable love, run by foreign women/angels. It has seen its ups and downs, but it still stands and is able to home an amazing number of animals to other EU countries, and the UK, yearly.  But even today the shelter gets overwhelmed at times by the sheer numbers of lost and abandoned ones… the heartbreak of the stray animals of Greece still exists. Just as it does here. Just as it does anywhere in the world.

 

I will be returning to my island again in May, and the first thing I will do –– after a tsipouro and mezedes overlooking the still harbor while plying the begging cats at my feet with tasty tidbits –– is buy a few parcels of cat kibble and a bag filled with canned food and go off to look for the hungry ones hiding in the nooks and crannies.

Margarita’s story, and all of that adventure through the dark and into the light, begged to be told. Hopefully, with the aid of the beauty and peace of its Aegean heart, it can come to be of help to needy creatures, somewhere.

ripples …

April 2, 2011

ripples

 

The rains have ceased and the sun is spilling all over the spring green that spreads like a waterlogged blanket outside my window – thankfully the earth always offers the blessings of the spring no matter what hand wild winter chooses to deal.  The Vernal Equinox Frog Symphony has been quite vociferous and there’s a ceaseless chatter as the nuthatches and titmice and house sparrows do their courtship dance … male bluebirds dressed to the nines in sapphire and rose show off all of the available living arrangements to prospective mates. Many of the winged ones have tufts of red or black or white hair protruding from full beaks … they’ve found the little banks of spring shedding that’s been coming off the old mare and her pet pony in sheets. I feel like one of the daffies, lifting my face to the light.  Spring is here.  A little grace.

I thought that this second blog post should be about the novel and the process I’m in the throes of right now, here in between the telling of a story and it’s becoming a Book – after all, ‘Book’ is why this blog even exists.  So … I’ll start with a bit about this sea I find myself treading water in now … this vast expanse I’ve never before set foot in, let alone charted but if I read the stars right will lead to the birthing of a Book.

All The Little Graces is my firstborn of this nature and proportion … I have coaxed and coached the birthing, nine times now, of children of musical spirit but they have all come along over a span of many years and have always been gently borne of collaboration with my partner and husband, Paul Kamm. Neat and tidy and beautiful, these recordings can take many years to develop, but the birthing itself always comes easily. This, my new child, was a twinkle in my eye twenty-one years ago, yet after a gestation that spanned a decade it took another six year to come into it’s own.   And now that it is here, what a messy little thing it is, leaving a trail behind us of five page synopses here and two page outlines there, ten page summaries and three paragraph query letters –– but these are useful little bits, all tools of persuasion that I must utilize now to entice folk in the ‘world of the business of words’ to read my writing.

I do hope to be published. I want to touch the lives of the animals in a bigger way. We – the book and I – are in the beginnings of a process that will hopefully lead us to that end. We’re thinking big. But in reaching for the stars, there are tricks one must learn in order to find a way through the black holes of the literary universe.

For each agent or publisher willing to accept unsolicited manuscripts there is a different criterion for us authors-in-hope to fulfill in order to come to the chance of having even a bit of our manuscript read. I think that they all have joined forces to conspire against us … perhaps to shorten the queue of hopefuls, eliminating those of us who just can’t bring themselves to, yet again – and again – reinvent their novel by reducing it down to a thickened two pager … or even further, to a bulging, viscous two or three paragraphs. It’s not an easy thing, to jump through hoops with so many words in one’s arms, so I’m  learning well how to take a story that spreads 373 pages deep and wide and tell it with few words on even fewer pages, but with as much dignity and color intact as possible.

Actually, the process makes me chuckle and I willingly follow where it leads in the hopes that the long and interesting path will end with a beautifully bound book settling upon your chest as you sink into a peaceful sleep, fueled by Aegean dreams!

So, back to my endless sea, the animals, and to All The Little Graces, my mighty little behemoth, written in honor of all of the lost and abandoned, hungry and abused animals everywhere.  Though a fictional account, it is based in truth … on a six week long love affair that my family and I had with a rough little stray dog on a beautiful Greek island in 1990.  The animals are like air to me.  As essential as Margarita, the stray, is to my tale, the animals are to my being. My daughter, Breelyn, jokes good-naturedly about her sweet, furry siblings, as many as eight at one time who all shared the furniture and our home with her as she grew. Now neither of us can pass by an animal in need without a painful gasp of breath and a deep ache in our hearts demanding we minister aid … now!

They whisper to us from the shadows.

The depths to which all of these furry characters have burrowed into my heart will play out in laughter and sadness on the pages of this blog as the months go by … but in my next post I’ll get back to that one wee scruffy stray, and tell you about her story …

 

my endless sea

March 26, 2011

I just need to begin.

To begin.

Now.

This blog is called Notes From an Endless Sea.  But here I sit, landlocked … no sea in sight … a coastal mountain range, a fertile expanse of valley and a tumbling of foothills to my West and 2800 vast miles of continent to my East!

What I have discovered is that ‘endless sea’ really is metaphor for that well of inspiration that we each find our own ways to draw from, and for me, a well that is most certainly made more tangible by sense of  ‘place’.

Sometimes it is the south fork of our Mother Yuba River, here in the Sierra Nevada foothills of northern California –– Mother Yuba, with her cleansing waters pouring ‘round sun warmed, rounded granite boulders, welcoming us all, “lie down” she whispers while she takes our troubles from us and offers them to the ocean … sometimes it is the Glastonbury Tor, that first glimpse when coming upon it on a hedge shaded, sheep cluttered lane in the English countryside – an otherworldly vision always accompanied by a gasp of wondrous awe … the Chalice Well, too, into which I once peered and saw myself, thousands of years ago, and heard the voices of a hundred women, singing … or laying with my daughter in the heather and gorse within a prehistoric stone circle surely touched by Brigid, deep in the Dartmoor wilderness, surrounded by the wild ponies … some days it is simply a deep blue sky pocked with white upon white popcorn clouds, all washed with a broad stroke of diaphanous morning orange …  always, always look up!!   … or when I lay my cheek on the red mare’s soft neck and feel her magic shooting deep into the earth, grounding me as I listen to her fluttering sigh … or even the moments like –– just now –– when my Djuna Cupcake, the black lab and border collie of my waking dreams, my sweet goofy heart of hearts runs up to me wearing a huge waggy grin with a wad of my underwear hanging from his mouth (well, that I will explain at a later date).  Laughter, peace, beauty, awe, depth … and more,  they touch, they percolate, they brew and stew and turn into magic, into epiphany –– they are inspiration.  One way or another.

Mostly, my ‘endless sea’ is indeed an endless sea and all of the blessed moments spent at her shore embraced by her calm as I gaze out over waters of cerulean glass from the shade of one of Athena’s olives, or from the prow of an elegant old blue and white fishing caique … into a horizon borne of myth and medusa, Goddess and God, the ancient mariners and the marriage of sun and earth and sky.  Breathing in the peace, breathing out a sometimes-writhing cacophony of thought, breathing out politics and all that bodes of ill in the world.  And breathing in –– again –– peace. The Aegean Sea.  Pure Magic. My literal Endless Sea, gently letting me empty so that I may fill, and begin again …

All of it, the home of my Muse.

So that endless sea has everything to do with the whys of my attempting to begin this blog … it is all of that inspiration that conceived, gestated, nurtured and then allowed me to birth my first novel, All the Little Graces.

I dedicate this space to beauty, to sweetness, to dog pads and cat fur, breathing in the green of spring and the red of heart, to Grecian journeys and far away friends and all of the homeless and weary creatures I meet along my way.  And to my book!

You Need A Blog, they said – Ok – so here it begins.

Welcome to My Endless Sea and all of her notes.

Where is your endless sea?

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