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Posts tagged “Daily Prompt

Perfection

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 I’m not much of a fan of winter, but the horses actually seem to prefer the cold. No bugs, no humidity, no long hours in the blistering sun. They miss the green grass though. I guess life is always a bit of a compromise in that regard; you like some things about one season, but hate others. If I could create my own perfect world I think I’d keep all four seasons. Maybe shorten winter a bit, and summer too, but lengthen spring and fall. And there would be horses. Definitely horses.


Good Eats

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For Dharla every meal is good!

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Sticks and Bones

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Gus, enjoying his version of a Halloween treat.


Smile!

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Hazer says cheer the heck up. Now!


Discards

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And old broken-down, discarded vehicle sits abandoned, deep in the Salmon River state forest.


Try

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Nothing says “Try” like the expression on a puppy’s face!


Golden Years

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Taken late in the fall of 2010 and late in their lives, this has become one (of a series) of my favorite photos of our horses. That I even stopped to take this photo was nothing more than a bit of a whim, a challenge to try to use the foliage as an artistic frame for the subject. I was a rookie and little did I know how fortunate I’d been that all the right elements for a keepsake photo had come together for a few magical moments.

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And just moments they were. I had been out shooting some early morning landscapes and as I walked down the road toward home I came across all three horses sunning by the gate. That morning was unusually crisp and the horse’s breath rose in smoky white puffs that mixed with the gently rising fog. It’s pretty hard to sneak up on horses. Tia heard my footsteps first, and turned her head toward the sound. Bullet, though barely visible behind a branch in the foreground on the far right, also heard me. His head popped up and his ears flicked forward. Beanie was sound asleep and so it took him a little longer to hone in on my presence. Seconds later he turned his head in my direction, eyes and ears alert and scanning for the source of alarm.

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I shot maybe all of ten frames, none of which were taken particularly well because I was, after all, just a rookie. But the photos I took have become my favorites. I lost Tia only two months after these pictures were taken and Beanie followed ten months later. There would never be another golden fall morning when I’d happen upon all three of my horses quietly sunning and snoozing by the gate.


Redo

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I never wanted to be a writer. As much as I’m a voracious reader, it’s not like I ever once thought I’d sit down and write my own stories or share my opinions in writing. Instead, my writing grew from an insufferable state of loneliness that grew so intolerable, I was willing to learn how to type and use a computer to communicate with others.

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To say I’m verbose would be an understatement. Although I can quiet, even shy if I don’t know someone, give me an audience and a topic I know well, and I can hold my own. And then some. Back in the late 90’s I met a man who was instrumental in helping me get published. I wasn’t looking to write weight training articles, but I’d been an active member of an Internet weight lifting community for several months when this man tapped me as a reliable source for a couple of different venues. I was flabbergasted and flattered. I mean, handing out training advice online was one thing, but actually getting published on respectable sites and magazines was huge.

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I didn’t think I had the goods, but that idea was quickly put to bed when I got a phone call from one of the parties interested in my work. For once in my life I was pretty speechless, but before I hung up he extracted a promise to think about his offer, after which I Immediately phoned my friend.

“What am I gonna write about? “

“I dunno, Zo. Just write about the kind of stuff you talk about all the time online.”

“Really? Really? Do you think that’s what he wants?”

“Yes. Just do it.”

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My friend had had numerous weightlifting articles published in the proceeding months and years and while he’d made it sound easy, I knew it wasn’t. I sat down and stared at my computer, racking my brain for ideas. I felt blank. Finally, I just started writing. I wrote about how I found my way into weightlifting in the early ’80s and what a challenge that was for a woman to do back then. Once I got started things began to flow and before I knew it, I had written several pages. I re-read what I’d written several times, making a few changes here and there before I got the nerve to send it off to my friend for a critique. I waited several hours, giddy with anticipation. Finally the phone rang.

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“Zo, that was horrible.”

Silence.

“You there?

Silence.

“Zo? You there?

Silence.

“Zo, don’t tell me that was your best effort because it wasn’t. I know you and you can do better. A lot better!”

Silence.

“Look, I’m not trying to offend you, but nobody cares about your personal experience with the Iron Game. Unless you’re famous or on T.V. nobody cares! That’s just the way it is! Write something that will educate your readers. Say something they can relate to, but don’t make it all about yourself!”

Silence.

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I was shattered. I mean, I hadn’t gone looking to write an article for anyone. They’d approached me! Now that I’d finally caved and written something … something that I thought was pretty darn good … I was being told it was junk? The hell with them! They can find someone else to write articles for their damn magazine.

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I stewed on that for a couple of days, getting madder and madder at myself and the whole situation. On the third day I sat down at my computer and wrote what turned out to be the best article I’d ever write. And no, it wasn’t about me. It got rave reviews and it’s become the bar I use to compare everything I’ve ever written, against. It was that good. Sometimes good advice may sting or sound harsh, but if you trust the source then it can be life-altering.


Wish You Were Here

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When I’m not home I miss my critters more than anything.

 

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(Beanie: We both wish you were still here….)


Safe and Secure

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I’ve been reading Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. What I mean to say is that I’ve had my face buried in that book so much over the last two days that I woke up this morning with blurred vision. Literally.  The book is that good. And I didn’t think it would be. I ear-marked it for my reading list when it first came out, but then Oprah put it on her book list and that’s a total buzz-kill for me. I’m not an Oprah fan. And I don’t much like reading books that everyone is talking about. I like reading stuff that coasts slightly under the radar.

Based on what I was hearing I was ready to dismiss Cheryl as needy, narcissistic and shallow. Her mother died and her life fell apart. Boo-hoo. My father died followed two years later by my mother and my life didn’t come to a screeching halt. Granted, I wasn’t in my late teens or early twenties when they died, but still. I felt a disconnect with the whole premise of the book. That’s before I started reading it.

Wow. Just … wow. I was wrong.

Understand that I have an innate love and respect for the wilderness. I was an avid Scout growing up and our family did tons of hiking and back woods camping. I’ve been lost in the vastness of the Adirondack Park a time or two myself. Though I was admittedly only a few feet off the main trail when I was “lost,” that alone gives me a reasonable amount of respect for any woman who has the fortitude to try to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone, with no prior hiking experience or skills. Talk about not having a safety net!

But it’s not just the sheer audacity of Cheryl’s hiking tale that’s grabbing me, it’s the whole ball of wax: Her honesty. Her stupidity. Her strengths and weaknesses so carefully and truthfully exposed. There’s nothing gratuitous in this book at all. Well, the death of her mother’s horse was a little more than I could almost bear to read. But even that gut-wrenching story was frightfully authentic and contributed to the sum of the parts. Cheryl puts it all out there, lumps and all in a very readable, sometimes funny sometimes sad, but always sincere narrative.

I’m about halfway though the book. So far I’ve gasped, laughed out loud, cried, and had to set the book down to process the story more thoroughly before moving on. In other words, this book has made me THINK. Think about my past, my journey, my current life and my future. Think about how everything I’ve done in my past has made me who I am today, and how everything I do today will affect who I am tomorrow. All this from a story about a girl hiking a very long and remote trail all alone.

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We’re at that time of year when the leaves are falling fast and furious. I’ve been doing a lot of trail riding. Alone. (Hm. I think I see a common thread) And speaking of getting lost … I’ve been lost twice in the last two weeks. Not “Oh My God I’m lost!” but, “Dammit! I hope I can retrace my footsteps!” lost.  Either way, I HATE getting lost in the woods. I fear that moment when your eyes start to scan the landscape, hoping to fall on something you half-recognize. (Or try to convince yourself you recognize) Like the HUGE oak tree above. It’s hard to miss that beauty. Centuries old, still holding court smack-dab in the middle of a much younger crowd. She’s like an old friend, a lighthouse with a welcoming beacon for those who wander weary in her territory. “Come! Rest awhile beneath my canopy. Home is just over the next ridge.”

And so it is.


Play Me

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This took WAY more time than I intended, but somewhere along in the process I decided it might be a worthwhile endeavor, one I might enjoy looking back at a year or two from now.

So today these would be some of the songs I’d choose as my life playlist.

Warning: If you dislike posts with links then stop reading now.

Note: I abhor being in front of the camera. These are pretty much the only photos I have of myself.

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Childhood:

Joni Mitchell: Twisted

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Teens:

Simon & Garfunkel: Scarborough Fair

Joni Mitchell: Trouble Child

Eagles: Life In The Fast Lane

KD Lang: Theme From Valley Of The Dolls

Evanescence: Going Under

Karla Bonoff: Someone To Lay Down Beside Me

Karen Matheson: I Will Not Wear The Willow

Bill Withers: Use Me

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Early 20’s

Bonnie Raitt: Too Long At the Fair

Everything But The Girl: Another Bridge

Karla Bonoff: Home

Mary Chapin Carpenter: Rhythm of the Blues

Sting: I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying

Norah Jones: Shoot The Moon

Karla Bonoff: If He’s Ever Near

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Cheryl 1

Mid 20’s- to late 30’s

Rickie Lee Jones: Chuck E’s In Love

KD Lang: I Want It All

KD Lang: Consequences of Falling

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Studio

40’s

Seal: Bring It On

Natalie Merchant: Carnival

Sarah McLachlan: Plenty

Sting: It’s Probably Me

Norah Jones: I’ve Got To See You Again

Sade: Hang On To Your Love

Natalie Merchant: I May Know The Word

Sarah McLachlan: Possession

Karla Bonoff: Lose Again

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Garden portrait

50-55:

Bonnie Raitt: Angel from Montgomery

Norah Jones: Don’t Know Why

Rickie Lee Jones: A Lucky Guy

Mary Chapin Carpenter: Come On Come On

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Photo 6

Now:

Norah Jones: Come Away With Me

Lyle Lovett & His Large Band: All Downhill

Casting Crowns: Praise You In This Storm

Karen Matheson & Idir: A Vava Inouva

Jeremy Camp: Restored

John Mayer: Say

Karla Bonoff: Isn’t It Always Love

Joe Cocker: Ain’t No Sunshine

Mary Chapin Carpenter & Alison Krause: I Was a Bird

Roy Buchanan: The Messiah Will Come Again

(Bear with the spoken intro. The song is worth a listen!)


Color Me Pretty

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New England, dressed in beautiful fall colors.


Lady Godiva

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I’ve yet to ride through town naked on my horse, but I’ve been known to choose to wear clothing that’s seen better days. Like this flannel shirt. Hazer chewed through the chest pocket to get at a couple of crumbs left over from an earlier Frisbee or training session. Did I ever wear the shirt again? You bet! That’s one of the perks of living on a farm; no matter how worn out or ill-fitting, every article of clothing can (and does) get down-graded to barn wear.

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At times it’s been pointed out that I ought to care more about my appearance, but as someone who’s entire working career consisted of wearing (first) a white uniform, which was eventually followed by wearing scrubs, I never learned to put much thought into what I wore. In my thirties I took up sewing and learned how to make a pretty snazzy working wardrobe. By then I had evolved into a (dental) managerial position and I liked dressing up a bit more for my job. But not long after I started that career AIDS, HIV and bio-hazard issues downgraded the office dress code to scrubs. I never understood why the person who answered the phones, booked the appointments and made all the financial transactions had to wear scrubs too, but there you have it. I always felt a little foolish asking people to pay thousands of dollars for their implants, bridges and crowns while dressed in what looked like brightly colored pajamas.

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Today I’m somewhat of a conglomerate of comfortable, casual and maybe even a touch of slob. I don’t find my identity in what I do or don’t wear and I put comfort high on my list of priorities. That means my style  is one that relies heavily on active wear and/or sport clothing.


Take Me To Your Leader

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One of my favorite pictures from when Gus was a puppy last summer. During the afternoon we’d often take a  walk down to the horse pasture to get a bit of exercise. Poor little Gus was so small that he nearly got lost in the long grass and weeds. Often, on the way back to the house Gus would fall in behind Hazer and let him lead the way up the dusty horse path. Here, I caught Hazer patiently waiting for Gus to catch up. This picture is especially special to me because I knew there would come a day in the future when Hazer probably wouldn’t tolerate the little man’s company so gladly. That day has arrived and I’m thankful that I can look back and revisit a time when everyone was a tad more congenial toward each other.

*Sigh*

Cattle dogs …


Balance

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Certainly not my best effort, but I get a kick out of the symmetry of the Great Blue Heron and it’s reflection in the pond.


Trash or Treasure?

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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.


Got Game?

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Gus is very good about waiting for someone to throw his ball!


Flaunt It?

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I have two wonderful old garden rose bushes that burst into blossom every spring. The interesting thing is that I haven’t done a single thing to deserve such a glorious and fragrant display of beauty. In fact, I often wonder why these bushes have been so dependable and stunning for the last thirty years since I’ve probably done just about everything to kill them? When I’ve pruned them too late in the season they’ve rebounded with even more blossoms than the year before. When I’ve failed to fertilize or water them during the dry summer months they’ve respond with vigorous new growth. When I’ve ignored various pests or unfavorable growing conditions they’ve rallied and pulled through on their own. In short, I’ve been terribly negligent with these rose bushes, yet every year my reward has been an amazing floral display.

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Thinking I’ve been blessed with a mysterious talent for growing roses, I planted several more rose bushes. After all, my theory about gardening is do more of whatever works. So over the years I’ve bought more rose bushes and, thinking I needed to be more attentive, I carefully tended them. Some years I even followed a strict protocol for feeding, watering and pruning the newer shrubs. And I’ve been rewarded with less than stellar results.  Meanwhile, the old garden roses (that I still completely ignore) continue to blossom profusely every spring.

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Obviously, I don’t have half the talent for growing roses that I thought I had. And as I’ve come to suspect all along, the old garden roses are simply so well established that they’re practically impossible to kill. It seems they’re impervious to my negligence and lack of gardening skills … thank goodness!


Show and Tell

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Show me passion and I’ll show you a great teacher.

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This woman and her husband did a raptor demo at a large local fair. When I first laid eyes on her my initial thought was: Whack-a-do! I mean, her choice of clothing seemed a bit odd. But as the program progressed I became engrossed in the show. (And I learned that her attire was chosen for a specific reason) This woman’s desire to educate her audience went far beyond any other wild animal demo I’d ever seen. Animals can be unpredictable and therefore, all animal performances can have moments of entertainment. But It didn’t take long to see that this woman was downright serious. She was almost bursting with passion and pride for her raptors and she was deeply committed to making sure her audience walked away with at least one new tidbit of knowledge about the birds. Did she strike me as being a wee bit odd? Yes, but it was her passion that really made her stand out as a great teacher.


Lemons

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When life gives you lemons you make lemonade.

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Meet Dozer. Life wasn’t very fair for Dozer. Keen on playing Frisbee since a young age, at age five Dozer suddenly started missing catches. We noticed that he tracked the flight of the disc with his ears, waited for it to land, then found the disc by using his nose. Why? Because Dozer was going blind. This happened long before I’d heard anything about Cattle Dogs and heritable eye diseases. And never having had a dog with eye problems, I didn’t know how complicated it would be to find a canine ophthalmologist who could properly diagnose and treat the problem. Not that the only solution was good …

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Nobody wants to hear their young dog is going to go blind. The news hit hard, even though the vet tried to soften the blow by telling us we could try treating the condition for a little while. She was just trying to buy us more time to adjust to the fact that the dog was going to lose his vision. I cried for days. I think my husband cried …. in private. Hearing the diagnosis felt like my heart was being cut out of my chest with a dull pocket knife. How was it possible that our young, active herding dog was going blind? I wanted to blame someone, but who? I guess we could have blamed the breeder. Obviously, they hadn’t tested the breeding pair that produced our pup.  But it was our fault too, for not knowing enough to ask about eye tests and heritable diseases in this breed. Pre-Internet, that information was not as easy to come by. And now we were going to have to pay the piper for our ignorance.

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And yet, the one who paid the highest price never once complained. Dozer lost first one eye, then nine months later he lost the other. Unable to bear the thought of our sweet boy having no eyes, we decided to have one eye removed and the other was retained as a prosthetic. But by age six Dozer had no vision at all. This didn’t slow Dozer down the least bit. He continued to play Frisbee by ear. He still went to work with my husband every Saturday morning, and he didn’t hesitate to patrol our farm just like always. He navigated several flights of stairs with ease and jumped into the cab of the truck like it was no big deal. His ability to get around was anything from amazing to uncanny. He only struggled when snow covered the ground. Otherwise, he just used his nose to find his way about.

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Living with a blind dog provided a few comedic moments. It was pretty much guaranteed that if Dozer was running across the front yard he’d somehow manage to bonk into the bird feeder pole. He’d always miss the big huge trees, but then he’d clip that  skinny wrought iron post every now and then. And If he got terribly excited about going outside he’d sometimes miscalculate the a kitchen doorway and bang into the wall. At first this really bothered us, but eventually we learned to accept it as part and parcel of living with a bind dog.

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In the seven years Dozer was blind I learned a lot of things. First and foremost, I learned that our perception of a handicap is everything. Dozer didn’t think anything of being blind and when I took my cue from him, I didn’t think it was a big deal either. I have Dozer to thank for teaching me not to sweat the small stuff. Second, I learned that if there’s a will, there’s a way. I watched Dozer figure out how to do just about everything he used to do when he had sight. In other words, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Last, but not least, I learned that blind dogs can “see” us with their heart. Though Dozer lacked sight, he more than made up for his blindness with love. Dozer didn’t hesitate to give us his all along with his total trust and devotion.

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Dozer lived to be thirteen. He eventually developed a dog form of dementia which, coupled with blindness made getting around difficult. He gradually began to lose his mental map of his surroundings and started to get lost in places he once knew so well. We always said that when he started to show signs of hesitating to go up and down stairs or get into the truck we’d revisit his quality of life. The picture at the top of this page was taken the morning we sent Dozer over the bridge. He still insisted on playing Frisbee and we let him enjoy his favorite game right up until the vet pulled up the drive. We buried him with his beloved disc.

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Life isn’t always fair, but Dozer lived every day like it was a party, and he was serving lemonade.


Gotta Wanna

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Public speaking and performing are often something we find hard to do. Fortunately, if I have passion for something or a great deal of knowledge about a subject then I can stand up in front of just about anyone and talk about it. I’m not, however, a performer. This means I tend to shy away from things I might enjoy for fear of being forced to demonstrate my proficiency in it. Things like dog sports, horse shows and even certain photography events strike a chord of fear and trepidation in my heart. I like the comfort of anonymity. Blending in with the background and not having the limelight shine on me is probably a learned (and defensive) way of avoiding criticism. And since some criticism can be constructive and helpful for growth, this is something I’m trying to chip away at one step at a time. After all, like poor Stella (above) nobody likes to be forced to do something they don’t want to do. Better perhaps, to face your fears by desensitizing at a pace that lets you adjust your level of comfort gradually.


Let’s Dance

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A bit of an exercise fanatic, I’ve tried every new fad that’s come down the pike since the late 70’s. If asked, I’d say Zumba ranks pretty high up on my goof-ball list. I think I’d file it right after Crossfit, which beats Zumba (but not by much) for sheer stupidity and risk of injury.  I don’t know what it is that makes women want to gather in a large (either much too hot or far too cold) ugly room and dance to music that most of them would never be caught listening to, little own dancing to unless alcohol was heavily involved. But since every female my age has been raving about Zumba for several years, I decided to check it out for myself. I mean, how wrong could they be?

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When I was in fifth grade my entire gym class had to take square dancing. I’ve been highly suspicious of any activity that has you line up on a gym or a dance floor ever since. As I searched for an out-of-the-way spot on the hardwood floor I had the good sense to try to carve out as much personal space as humanly possible, but that didn’t last long. As more and more women joined the class I found myself practically standing on top of the women on both sides of me. I knew that wouldn’t bode well.

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It seemed like everyone was pretty familular with one another and there was plenty of camradarie, which is code for: newbies stuck out like a sore thumb. A couple of ladies asked if this was my first time. When I assured them it was, amused looks passed between them. Then one lady said, “Dont’ worry. Nobody knows what they’re doing at first.” I’m sure that was meant to reassure me, but I found it a trifle annoying. Like, I was about to become the token entertainment for the evening. When they said the best place for a newbie was right up front, I knew they had to be kidding. About then a pretty, willowy, 30-something woman walked to the front of the class. She wore a huge smile and far less clothing than the chilly winter air seemed to dictate. She welcomed everyone, gave a few announcements, then addressed the newbies joining the group. (Me) “Just do what you can and have fun!”

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Bottom line, you’re left to decipher the moves yourself. Some steps repeat enough that by the time the song ends you might have one or two steps figured out, but as I soon found out, that’s rare. Each song is accompanied by an intricately choreographed dance that borrows heavily from hip hop, jazz, tap, Latin, rap, ballet, and salsa. In all honestly, I’d never heard any of the music before in my life and some of the lyrics had me wondering just what the heck I was “dancing” to? I felt beyond silly and I’m sure I looked even worse. Every now and then I’d glance around. Lo and behold if we didn’t ALL look like idiots! Only the instructor looked great. She really nailed it.

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Most people think Zumba is a great way to burn calories and have fun. Maybe it is, but it’s also keeping the orthopedists busy. Many participants say it’s addictive, which means lots of middle age women are taking way too many Zumba classes every week. And that adds up to over-use injuries. For those who shouldn’t be jumping around five (or more) hours a week, some Zumba instructors will teach ways to modify their routines. But not all of them do. So it’s up to the participants to figure out if they should make changes, and most don’t until it’s too late.

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I dunno. I happen to think the photo in the header is pretty accurate and it makes me wonder if life won’t offer enough opportunities to make an ass out of myself without signing up and paying to be publicly humiliated.


Dawn

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No matter how crazy life gets I’m thankful for the peace and beauty of every new day.


Thrill Me

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Nothing excites me like having the opportunity to photograph a hawk in the wild. I’m not sure if the thrill is from the challenge of the shoot (it’s hard!), or if it’s just because I like hawks so much. In this case, the excitement hit me during the processing. Until then, I didn’t realize this hawk was missing an eye. I’m always secretly hoping this hawk shows up in my photos again someday.