Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sunday Stills: Halloween

Okay, so I'm a day early...but tonight is All Hallows Eve when the mists between this world and the next grow thin and creatures from the other side cross through into our world.

This is the spooky, scary, creepy Halloween photo (altered via Kodak EasyShare):

This is my favorite -- a simple statement of the season:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


So apparently I need to carry my camera during all dry-weather dog walks. I missed a great shot the other day. Grrrr!

We were on the home stretch following our daily tour through the subdivisions last week and came around the corner to find a great blue heron (GBH) perched on top of a neighbor's fence.


The fence is about 4-feet tall and separates two back yards. Two summers ago one neighbor put considerable effort into landscaping their backyard complete with a fountain and small pond. The GBH was standing on the fence overlooking the pond. He looked like he was smacking his lips (quite a trick, since herons don't have lips). So if the pond was stocked with fish, it wasn't any more.

GBH's are large birds! Pretty spectacular to stand within 10-12 feet of one. I stopped to watch him (he couldn't see the dog and Indy had no idea the bird was there). The GBH wasn't afraid of me in the least. I couldn't stand there forever, so Indy and I continued home. But it was quite the experience.

Years ago when Lacey and I were living in my last apartment, we startled a GBH out of the koi pond during our pre-work stroll through the complex. That was pretty exciting. GBH's have quite the wing span, so the bird wasn't the only one startled. To watch something that size take to the air right in front of you is really something!

So...I missed another photo op. Doubly disgusting because there won't be many dry days for whipping out the camera in the months ahead.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Stills: Landscapes (Fall Foliage)

The trick to capturing fall foliage in the Pacific Northwest is finding deciduous trees among the conifers. Since I didn't travel across the Coast Range or Cascades...I settled for closer to home on one of our dog-walking routes.

I liked the rusty-red roof in this shot and, actually, I kind of like the power lines -- since hydro power has so much significance in this region.

Swing the camera to the right and the viewfinder locates more farm buildings and a bit of color against the distant backdrop of Doug firs. And...more power lines.

The suburban landscape provides the following series of shots, from late September into October. These trees have since completely blown their leaves and are "nekked" for the winter.

Final fall foliage scene: Red on Red

Friday, October 23, 2009



I'm not ready for our wet winter to arrive!! It was dark, windy, raining, and lonely at the barn today.

As anticipated...Phantom was soaked by the time I arrived at the barn today. I got him a new turnout sheet with attached neck cover, but temperatures have been up in the 60s thus far this month. Brief rain squalls have been alternating with sunny days -- too warm for the neck cover combo. So I threw on his old turnout sheet that I'd just had cleaned. I intended to use this well-used turnout sheet as a back-up/emergency one this winter.

Well, earlier this week I discovered the old turnout has lost its water-blocking qualities. Phantom's shoulders were soaked, as was his croup. Fortunately, his back, flanks and barrel were dry (his core). So much for using it as a back-up blanket. Then I noticed the date I'd written in it. The old turnout had first been used in the fall of 2006 -- so I got three winters out of it. Not bad. Still....

Thursday was supposed to be a dry and warmer day, so I reluctantly put the damp old turnout back on Phantom before I left on Wednesday, with profuse apologies.

So I wasn't surprised to find him wet today. His exposed head and neck were soaked, as were his lower legs. And once again Phantom's shoulders and butt were wet beneath the turnout.

However!! By the time I left today, Phantom was bundled up for a typical western Oregon fall and winter. I braided his forelock, re-banded his mane, and re-braided his tail. I tucked his tail into last year's Lycra cover (Note to self: Buy a nylon, waterproof tail cover). And finally I fitted him into his brand new combo turnout. He was covered from his ears to tail flap in pretty gray and burgundy. *sigh* The combo turnout sheet will never look as nice again.

Well, you get the idea. Wrong breed and color of horse, and the navy version of the turnout sheet instead of burgundy -- but this is Phantom's rain outfit. All he lacks is an umbrella and galoshes. Hmmm.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Writer Personality

I always look forward to receiving my electronic copy of The Willamette Writer, the monthly newsletter of Willamette Writers. We have some very talented and knowledgeable writers and editors in the region, so I always learn something from each newsletter.

In the November 2009 issue, President Cynthia Whitcomb discusses the writer personality. Not only did I enjoy her viewpoint, but I was greatly relieved to learn that I'm not an anomaly.

Cynthia begins by relating her experiences serving on panels at writing conferences when someone in the audience asks the professionals, "When do you write?" Like Cynthia, I repeatedly hear answers such as "every day without fail," or "three to four hours daily." I've even heard and read the response, "eight hours a day, seven days a week." (Need I note that invariably this response comes from a man, undoubtedly married. Otherwise he would have starved long ago in his rancid, unwashed clothing.)

Cynthia, however, admits that she doesn't have discipline and doesn't write every day. Sometimes she doesn't even write every week! This from a successful screenwriter and playwright.

Cynthia notes that she has observed that writers come in a variety of personality types. She adapted the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for her own assessment of writer types.

Cynthia's criteria include: Introvert/Extrovert, Disciplined/Undisciplined, Perfectionists/BestIsGoodEnough, Focused/Scattered, and Organized/Messy.

Myers-Briggs uses an Introvert/Extrovert criteria, but describes it as the individual's preferred method of recharging. Are you energized by a party or exhausted? Do you feel renewed after some time alone or do you go batty in isolation?

By the M-B definition, I am an Introvert. I have on more than one occasion spoken before a large group of people without much fuss, but to recharge my batteries I need alone time.

Otherwise, I'm pretty similar to Cynthia: introverted undisciplined non-perfectionist scattered messy writer.

I am Not Disciplined -- I do not have a fixed hour and amount of time spent writing each day. This is often due to scheduling issues. Although retired, I am the household chauffeur so on the days I don't go to the barn I am driving to appointments and helping run errands. So writing still comes at the end of the day, and sometimes not at all when I'm knackered. However, I have noticed over the years that I have a method of letting my writing projects sit untouched while mulling over the next scene or section. It's my "back burner" or "percolating" writing method. Once I know what comes next, though, I can become focused and absorbed in my writing.

I'm definitely a Non-Perfectionist. This approach, I think, evolved from my work years. Correspondence had to go out in a timely manner in the best shape possible, and when the project deadline arrived no more changes could be made. Plus, I observed my father with his paintings and must have understood that at some point the artist must stop applying oils to canvas.

I am most definitely Scattered. I do not seem to lack for story ideas. The problem is to not let the newest idea sidetrack me as inspiration and possibilities burst forth. It's very much like Toy Story; the new toy is much more exciting than the tried and true older toy. But flitting to another project can, at times, be part of my "back burner" process so that I return refreshed to the older story.

Messy. Most definitely messy. In fact, this was just a topic of conversation on my Facebook page. Only sick minds have clean, orderly desks. ;-) At home or work, my desk has always been at the bottom of piles of paper and other fascinating stuff.

Cynthia sums up her article with encouraging words: "Whatever personality type you turn out to be I promise you there have been great and famous writers with your exact combination of traits."

That's a relief!

She goes on to say: "Stop criticizing yourself for being the way you are and just be the way you are and work the way you work."

This goes for more than just writing.

Finally: "Figure out who you are and how you work, and then BE YOU. And work YOUR way. And let yourself have a little happiness and satisfaction along the way."

A fun assessment of creative personality types and good advice no matter what your pursuit.

Thanks, Cynthia!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mt. Hood Territory

The view on my drive to the barn.

The photo was taken from Barlow Road, Clackamas County horse country.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flight Plan

We've been experiencing windy days in the valley as Pacific storms push inland. This creates a riding dilemma. As with most stables, windy gusts rattle the large doors of the barns and arena. The wind tugs at blankets on their hooks, rocks the pitchforks hanging on the wall, and sends dust and shavings sailing down the aisles. Thus, wet and windy days tend to become longeing days, as no one wants to ride a horse spooked by all the creaks and groans.

Only today we had sun breaks, plus the new outdoor arena. What to do? Risk the rattling arena doors inside? Or brave the wind gusts outside?

Semi-brave individual that I am, I took Phantom outside after a brief longe inside. There was his accustomed spooky corner (I haven't yet figured out exactly what "horse eater" resides in that corner, but it seems to be a permanent resident), but otherwise he did pretty well. I worked on a large circle in the middle of the arena, making smaller circles within the larger one. Phantom's inside shoulder bulged toward the center of the circle going both directions, since he had to keep watch on the "horse eater." So my goal for the day was to just get his head centered and his body bent correctly.

The whole exercise was "enhanced," shall we say, by the steady wind and occasional gusts. Up Phantom's posterior as we turned northward. Spiky mane in my face as we circled eastward. And gasping, in-your-face wind as we headed south. Between the deep footing and wind resistance, Phantom got a good workout in a brief period.

I really did feel like I needed to file a flight plan today before taxiing onto the outdoor arena.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Over the years of horse ownership I've been a member of the "Barn Bunch" at several boarding stables. Sunday I spent the good part of the day at Two's A Team to catch up with Trainer Cathi and more friends than I expected to see.

Two's A Team is just down the road from CEC and it is another of the low key, friendly establishments in the area. Trainer Cathi spends a day there periodically to give a series of lessons. For me it was like a free clinic. Watching other folks work through their challenges made me appreciate where I am in my stage of riding. And per usual, I picked up some helpful ideas just listening to a talented trainer work with others. Today I tried out a couple of the things I heard yesterday and made a few improvements in our work. Dang, those trainers know what they're talking about!

I was pleasantly surprised when one friend trailered in for a lesson...I wasn't expecting to see her and her huge new horse. Each horse has something to teach us, and her Clydesdale/quarter horse cross is teaching her to quiet her mind and be patient. A lesson we can all use.

I had the good fortune to be present when an acquaintance arrived with her potential new horse. Then her sister and my friend showed up to inspect the new "family member," a handsome Keiger mustang. It's always exciting when someone joins the ranks of horse owners and a new horse arrives on site.

So I had a great time chatting with friends I haven't seen for awhile. Caught up on events in their lives, as well as gave and received hugs.

Meanwhile, back at CEC....

The kittens are back at the little barn! Scar's cast has been removed (If you recall, he had a close encounter with one of the horses that resulted in a broken leg. Why is it the "free" animals seem to rack up the vet bills?!), and he and brother Mufasa are back in action. Indy is scared of them. The pair make perfect Halloween cats, with hackles raised, backs arched, and hissing up a storm! They're not black, but orange fits the season. The boys have grown, and are full of vim and verve. Caution to all boarders, check your vehicle before departing. As I was about to leave, Mufasa managed to get himself wedged in my wheel well. I teased him by cuddling Scar, which made the car less desirable, and offered "assistance" in removing him from my vehicle. The boys are extremely friendly and personable. Let's just hope they won't use up all nine lives before they reach maturity!!

The last I heard, CEC has two vacant stalls. As Trainer Tracey observed...summer is over. Even the sunny days have a bite to the air, and overnight temperatures are definitely chilly. This week is predicted to be a wet one. For folks who haven't yet secured a stall for the winter and beyond, now's the time to act.

CEC is one of the small boarding stable gems in the south Metro area. The facility is well kept, the horses get daily turnout as well as individual feeding, and the people are friendly and supportive. Both western and English riders are welcome. Resident trainer, Tracey, is a successful dressage trainer and competitor -- but there is no pressure to compete.

For horse owners on a limited budget, the smaller barns in our area are lifesavers. The board is reasonable for a stall, care, and access to a covered arena. Unlike the expensive show barns, there are no requirements to place the horse in full training plus take a minimum number of lessons. The boarders are always willing to help newbies and "talk horse."

Tack Extravaganza

The "Canby Tack Sale" is scheduled for this coming Saturday at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds. It's actually a benefit for the county's equestrian 4H program, but everyone just refers to it as the the Canby Tack Sale.

The sale is held in the spring and summer. Anyone may rent a space to set up her or his wares. Although there is an emphasis on western gear -- you can find everything from antiques/collectibles, horse-themed crafts, any piece of tack you can new clearance and close out items from local tack stores.

It's also quite the social event. You never know which members of what Barn Bunch you'll bump into at the sale.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Stills: Photoshop

Since I don't have Photoshop, this was a bit of a challenge. The following photos were taken with my Canon and adjusted with Kodak EasyShare.

I had never played with the creative adjustments before, other than to crop an image, add a "fuzzy frame," or go B&W or sepia.

So, here goes....

Psychedelic Pony

Blue Merle Puppy

Red Pony

White Pony

I may purchase Photoshop with my next tax refund. Emily said she'd show me the ropes.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Art Saves Lives

Somewhere during my travels I spied a bumper sticker that said "Art Saves Lives." More accurately, it should have said, "Art Saves Souls."

Today I spent a very pleasurable afternoon with my friend Emily who is majoring in Art with the intent of becoming a professional photographer.

She is experiencing the difficulty that many Art majors encounter -- most family and friends don't consider the arts as "real jobs." She was an Honor Roll student in high school and others interacted with her as if she was the intelligent young woman that she is. However, now that she has declared as an Art Major, it seems to Emily that folks treat her as if she is an airhead. You know...the archetypal flighty, artsy-fartsy type. How cute -- she thinks she can make a living throwing pottery, printing lithographs, sculpting figurines, etc.

The primary reason I wanted to get together with Emily is to provide what moral support I can. I grew up among professional artists so I know that people can make a living in the arts. My father and grandfather were professional musicians, and my mother did some sewing for a fee. Not that it's easy -- but it's possible. Emily's choice of photography as her medium seems to me to be more viable financially than other artistic pursuits.

During our conversation it occurred to me that the reason so many people don't value artists and their product is because they don't see the effort that goes into producing the art. Plus -- there is a certain magical aptitude that comes naturally to the artist. Yes, there is the craft, and the hard work and practice that comes with learning that craft, but there is also the artistic ability that not everyone possesses.

Folks don't think twice about asking a talented dinner guest to play the piano for everyone's entertainment. It would never occur to the host to expect the guest who happens to be a plumber to repair the toilet or the attorney invited to dinner to update a will during the evening.

The average person sees the printed book on the shelf at the book store or in the library. They never witness the years (or even decades) of research, writing, and editing that went into producing the manuscript. They have no idea how many years of study and hours of painting went into producing the framed oil for sale in the art gallery. No one sees the sketches, fabric and trim selection, muslim samples, and hours of sewing that result in theatrical and movie costumes. Audiences listen to the symphony musicians in their formal black "tails," but no one sees them practicing at home or sweating through numerous rehearsals prior to the performance.

Emily is still learning her craft. But she already has an eye for capturing her subjects to reveal their personalities as well as their hopes and dreams. I'm convinced that she will be a success in her chosen field. She's not adverse to doing the scut work expected of an intern, nor "groveling" in the dirt to get the perfect angle for a shot. She appreciates the never-ending challenge of learning and perfecting an artistic medium.

Making a living by way of the arts is never easy. But it's possible. And bless those who have the courage and persistence to pursue their dreams, because...

Art Saves Souls.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Messing With Minds

During one of the sessions at the Willamette Writers Conference, the presenter said "Writers mess with people's minds." I believe it was Eric Witchey, but regardless -- I loved the concept!

Those of us writing fiction strive to create a world populated by characters that absorb the reader. We want her or him to "fall" into the universe of our creation and live there for awhile.

Pretty heady stuff.

James N. Frey (the author of How to Write a Damn Good Novel -- not the other James Frey) made some interesting points in his guest blog at Storyfix. In "Who You Are and Who You Ain't," Frey addresses writers and says "Words to ancient people had power." He explains that "People in ancient times understood the power of words. They were in awe of the power of words."

Frey contends that "...writers are the most persecuted minority in the history of the world." People fear writers because they can "bewitch" them. "We can take them out of their everyday reality and make them, even against their will, dream the fictive dream."

Frey believes fiction is a tool that teaches the reader about life. "Romance novels teach us how to love. Mysteries teach us about justice. Adventure stories take us to new places; sci fi, to other worlds and other dimensions. It is by our stories that we truly live."

Frey tells writers "By mastering your are gaining a sort of supernatural power, the power to create stories that cause people to enter into a kind of trance, to be in the story world that you have created, to think and feel things they never would have thought or felt in their ordinary life."

No matter the commercial success, aspiring authors "...experience what all creative people -- writers, artists, musicians -- experience: the ecstasy of being a co-creator of the world."


I love messing with people's minds!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Stills: Happiness Is

Happiness is friends who share a common passion. In this case, horses.

A few of the current gang at CEC:

The Garage Girls sharing an adventure in southeast Oregon:

Cathi and Cyndi at Lake Oswego Hunt event:

Halloweens past:

Ashley and Phantom at a Thomas Ritter clinic:

These are only a few of the fabulous horse folks I've met over the years. Recollections of our shared experiences with horses always make me smile.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Riding Solo

I had the barn and arena to myself yesterday. It's a mixed blessing. Part of the joy of riding is hanging out with the friends one makes at the barn. On the other hand, sometimes it's nice to have access to the entire arena. Being alone at the barn does have a certain hazard level, since there's no immediate help if anything goes wrong. But I also find I'm a little more relaxed without an audience or adapting to the traffic flow.

It doesn't matter where I board nor who the resident trainer is -- I've always felt a little tense sharing the arena with the pro. I imagine the trainer is rolling her or his eyes at my riding and thinking "What a nice horse, too bad the rider isn't better." Now realistically, the trainer is involved in the horse being ridden or the lesson in progress and isn't paying much attention to me. But I can't help but feel inadequate in the presence of the pro. So my relaxation factor goes up when I have the arena to myself, silly as that is.

Then there is Phantom's Mixmaster canter and my Ugly Sitting Trot. Takes awhile to get Phantom settled into a canter, especially on the right lead. Ditto for me to get my act together for the sitting trot. An audience of any kind during the unattractive phase of these activities adds a level of tension that is counterproductive. So once again it's kind of nice to be alone in the arena. Never mind that the other boarders are involved with their own riding issues.

The best part of riding solo is the opportunity to ride a variety of patterns at will. I have a frequent warm-up pattern of riding up the center line and making left and right circles to the rail and back as we progress down the center line. I often fall back on what I call the loop-and-circle pattern used by Sue Sherry in the clinics I took from her. Basically I work along one long side of the arena and at each end I loop back toward the long wall. At the center point I make a 10 or 20 meter circle. This was a good exercise to get both Phantom and I relaxed into a pattern and gradually loosening up for the changes in bend. My corner-X-corner pattern is a subtle method to work into lateral work. Generally I sit the trot and work on changes in bend from the corner, to the center line at X and the next corner. Another pattern I use to work on bend are 10 meter circles within a 20 meter circle. When riding alone in the arena I can ride whatever pattern we need at the time, as well as throw in some serpentines or whatever else I think will get us where we need to be.

If you've ever had to share the arena with an "Arena Hog" or boarded at a multi-use facility -- you really appreciate having the whole arena to yourself. Every so often you encounter the fellow boarder or trainer who has absolutely no consideration for other riders. Whether out of ignorance, extreme absorption in his/her ride, or just plain arrogance, this person thinks they should have the right-of-way at all times. At multi-use barns there can be jumps and/or trail obstacles left in the arena, western riders suddenly executing a sliding stop immediately in front of you, and gaited horses coming up behind you with rattling ankle chains. There were the cowboy polo team members who tied their horses along the rail until the arena was theirs, leaving the boarders to ride around the horse butts. And the little "hellions" racing around the arena on their shaggy ponies before their parents began their evening of team penning. Also the group lesson students awaiting their turn to jump who completely blocked the rail. My favorites: everyone kicked out of the huge show arena because a single boarder was getting a private lesson from Big Name Trainer, and closing the arena for motocross competitions!

So riding solo can be an occasional treat. But gosh, I missed my barn buddies.