Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pasture Present

There's a place I go to when peace needs to invade my soul. Its the pasture where my horses live, which means I also go there to feed and groom my mares and scoop their manure. So this place serves many purposes.

It supplies the quiet of a place filled with trees and grass, quiet that gets deeper the longer you listen.

There's plenty of wildlife - squirrels that live in the barn and chew our stuff if it's not contained; twittering birds that appreciate the buckets of water we leave in the corral; deer wandering through because the pasture is in a part of the Deschutes National Forest that's a wildlife preserve so really, its their yard; a bald eagle that soars up and down the Metolius River, but also makes me nervous because my small dog putters around with me in the pasture.

And the most special treat of all...a river otter playing in the shallow riffles near the headwaters.

My brother and his wife spoke their vows to each other in the pasture, on a warm summer day with the horses grazing nearby.

It's a place that requires some work to keep it healthy, so dirt under fingernails and smudged across my face is a given.

When we lived in Camp Sherman, managing a lodging place there, I'd stop in at the pasture after town days to de-tox after the grind of Costco. Stepping into the sunshine, smelling the aroma of those pine trees, I'd feel all that town stuff roll off, replaced with a smile that started somewhere near the bottom of my ribcage and spread all the way to my fingers. The horses never minded when I twirled around with my hands in the air, thanking God for the gift of grass, trees, water and dirt.

Goddy and I walk the perimeter of the pasture a couple times a year, checking the fence and making repairs. (I'm really glad my practical husband knows how to do that!)

Though if the horses really, really wanted to, they could push it over in a few places, it's that old. But they seem content with the 60 acres inside the fence. The rare escapes have occurred when there's been some bullying going on, behavior that gets resolved in a few days. I guess its hard for horses to remain grumpy in the midst of all that peace too.

I share the pasture with two fine women who feel just as I do about this place. It's a joy to care for it and our horses, and we know we are the most fortunate of women to keep our beloved buddies in there. This field of grass and wild flowers tucks into the quiet places of my heart and I always feel better for going there.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Family Ties

I've been to Anacortes again this week, and it was a visit that included seeing most of the family. Goddy drove up for the weekend so we could take a look at some tax stuff for Dad. That took about an hour to realize we didn't have everything needed and even it we did, it might be beyond our meager financial capabilities.

So...then it was onto fun stuff, like raiding the garage, walking around town and other places and seeing how many times we could make Mom and Dad laugh.

Mom and I went to La Conner, a cute little town a bit southeast of Anacortes. We stimulated the economy a bit by having lunch and shopping. We both love independent book stores and this one didn't disappoint.

My mom gave Goddy carte blanche in the garage, as long as he carted stuff he didn't want to the dump. A win-win for everyone.

We stopped in with Evan and Crystal for a night on the way home. Crystal was out to a hockey game so we took Evan to the Mongolian Grill for dinner. I wish I'd had my camera handy while our creations were being cooked. Makes my efforts at stir-fry look pretty amateur - I seem to stir a lot of the fry onto the stove!

We had breakfast the next morning with our favorite person under three feet tall, and his mother. What joy there is being a Gremmy, sharing time and space with my grandson, but just as much in watching Alyssa be a mother. She is skilled in a vocation that so many struggle to master. I love seeing the expressions on her face as she talks to Rowan, and his when he responds. Who needs media entertainment when life plays out in front of you?

I've always tended to be a watcher rather than a doer. And then I think about what I've watched. It is joy indescribable to witness the life of my family.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Delphina, My Darling

There seems to be mention in the news lately about pork, political pork, that is. I don't understand the political use of the term and can't quite make the connection, but in the spirit of jumping on the bandwagon, I've decided to add some pork to my blog posts...

*(This story takes place when the boys were very small.)

We've always named the animals that have lived close to our hearts and house. My husband and I graduated from the school of thought that animals have personality; therefore it's natural to give them a moniker.

Sometimes the names reflected the character of the beast - Hercules the lamb overcame the challenge of being the rejected triplet; Nibbles the goat ate every garden plant within reach. Occasionally the names resulted from flights of fancy, names such as Delphina.

Delphina was a pig. A very beautiful pig and worthy of her name. Her hide glowed a healthy pink, stubby yet shapely legs supported lovely, meaty hams, and her eyes twinkled with perpetual good cheer. She oinked a greeting, standing for a scratch behind the ears anytime a visitor arrived at her pen. Inevitably, Delphina became a pet.

We raised our pigs to fill the freezer and supplement the endless supply of lamb we ate. They came to us as weaners, after they'd lost their cute piglet looks. We'd fatten them up for a few months and then enjoy a supply of Sunday roasts and chops.

Delphina presented a problem when we couldn't resist her charms and fell in love with her quirky personality. She was just so darn cute! We even overlooked her major fault - a penchant for escaping from her pen. More often than he liked, Goddy arrived home to find me with a baby in my arms, shouting out the window, "Delphina's out, again."

He'd sigh and wonder if he couldn't please have a cup of tea first, but one look at my red face and hair standing on end was answer enough. He'd trudge off to try and capture the darling.

Anyone who's chased a pig knows it's an exercise in futility. Those critters seem to have rubber bones andthere are few appendages to grab hold of. Delphina's short legs became a blur of motion with Goddy in hot pursuit, dark thoughts of our "pet" flashing through his mind. He really knew better than to try herding her, but there was something compelling about the chase. Must be the hunter instinct in a man.

Eventually, he'd resort to rattling a can of pig pellets. Delphina loved those pellets but when she was on the lam she paid the offering scant attention. Those food related cliches about pigs are meaningless when your pig doesn't want to go back to her house.

Faced with Delphina's stubborn refusal, Goddy stomped back to our house for that cup of tea, letting his temper simmer down too. He'd attempt to work out a game plan, but in reality Delphina made all the rules. First, galumph around for a while, rooting in interesting places. Then pretend to head for the road, veering off just before the gateway. Explore the laundry line and chew on those tasty leather labels on the jeans. Lead the man in a futile chase before refusing food. Lie in the sun for a bit while the man is having his tea, then jog meekly back to the pen when food is offered again.

There were variations on this theme but it always ended with Delphina trotting along, pink ears flapping to the rhythm of her fat little legs and her snout raised in glee. It was impossible to hold a grudge against such a cheerful pig.

I'm pleased to say that Delphina's story has a happy ending. The empty freezer loomed before us but we couldn't bring ourselves to fill it with our carefree pig. We sent her back to the farm she'd come from, where she became a breeding sow and produced many fine litters of piglets.

This is Delphina, and I'm holding two of her babies.

(P.S. We got anonymous pork after that, except for one time, but that's another story...)