Posts Tagged ‘dreams’

The View from Mattie’s Pillow

January 1, 2013

Being Resolute

After a break of many months, I’ve decided to return to this blog. This isn’t a New Year’s resolution, exactly, but it something I’ve been holding in my mind for some time now, waiting for when it seemed right to start again. Now, with the New Year and with a bit more than a week of Winter Break behind me and a week more to go, it seems like a good time.

My goal is to shift the direction of the blog a bit. Over the last few years, I found myself writing too much about friends who had died, and part of my silence here has been to take a break from that element of the blog. More than that, I am at a point when I’m looking at a major change of life—still a couple of years out, but closing fast—and I needed some time to feel right about writing about that change—retirement from my long years of teaching developmental writing and beginning a new venture, which I hope includes all the elements of this blog: horses, gardens, dance, poetry, the psyche. To write about this, I need to be more willing than in the past to admit to a few facts about myself, including how I feel about reaching a “certain age.”

So, in this time of resolutions, here’s a new start for Mattie’s Pillow: an exploration of how to change one particular life (dragging a few others along in the process) in a way that what lies ahead draws on all the things I love to do and do well. This may include the purchase of land for enterprises involving horses and gardens; it may involve some retooling and reorienting towards a new profession; and it will definitely include musings on simplification of this complicated busy life into a more sustainable one. I look forward to hearing from those of you who read this blog about how you have approached the process of life changes at any age and about helpful hints along the way.

In the meantime, things putter along here at Mattie’s Pillow. Mattie and Sam and I came through the summer happy with weekly lessons with Colleen in her new facility, Drouin Springs. In spite of his trickster nature, I was able to get a full summer’s worth of riding on Sam, no lameness, and he never managed to buck me off—not for want of trying. Mattie has developed more looseness in her stifle joint—the equivalent of our knee joint in her hind leg—which means that her left hind leg twists as she walks. In June, Tom put shoes on her hind feet that extended out from the hoof on the outside to make her balance her stance better and had a jar caulk on the inside—a weapon of a bar welded to the bottom of the shoe to dig into the ground and keep her from sliding her hoof or twisting it on the ground. She seems more stable with the shoes, though she’s always been a barefoot girl and hates the process of nailing them on. By the end of summer, she seemed stronger than ever and far more stable in her gaits.

Now, they’re on break and shaggy and bored. The last few days, the temperatures have risen to near freezing, and I’ve been able to spend time with them, longeing and grooming, and having their feet trimmed. As spring comes and the light returns, I’ll be getting them ready for another summer. Can’t wait!

The days are short now. We have several hours of lingering sunrise and sunset with three hours of sun above the horizon. It sounds so dreary to write this, but it’s actually lovely—the light on the snow reflects in shades of blue. The sky is streaked with orange and purple morning and night. The snow sits in puffs along the branches of the spruce and birch and willows, and redpolls and chickadees flit here and there. A deep peace settles in the woods here on the ridge, and I wouldn’t trade it for a night in Times Square, New Year’s or no.

To all of you who read this, may you go forward into the new year with confidence and hope of joy. We’ve survived an election, some storms, an apocalypse, and that cliff thing. Some sorrow, some joy. We continue on.

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Poetry Challenge 76

January 22, 2012

The long cold drags on.  We were warned.  I read in the paper last summer that we were in a La Nina cycle, which would mean long cold spells and little snow.  Here in the Interior, we’ve missed the 18 feet of snow they’ve had in Cordova on the coast.  What we get is the fine, dry stuff, the moisture freezing out of the air and falling in a thick mist over the backs of horses, fenceposts, car windshields and anything else that’s out there.

But it’s warmed a bit and today I spent a couple of hours raking and shoveling manure out of the corral, stockpiling for the summer’s compost.  And the light lingers longer, too, well past 4pm; after all, we’re a month past solstice, the darkest day of the year.  And I’ve already looked at seed catalogs online–tomatoes so plump and red, the lovely ruffles of mesclun lettuce–and I’m studying plans for swallow boxes to go up on the hill behind the house.  A little fantasy vacation to the summer to come.

It will be cold again this week–40 below at night–and the blankets are airing out, ready to go back on the horses.  We have plenty of chocolate and split birch wood.

So here’s the challenge: write about the days ahead, referring to the details of the day you’re in.  What is in flux?  What red tomato image holds you steady through this post-solstice time.  Use a vegetable in the poem.

————————

Karen from KD’s Bookblog sent this:

Trimming Leeks

Goodness lies
in cutting away
leathery greens,
lopping off rootlets
like idle talk.

What’s left recalls
a roll of white paper.
The leek master
chops it, wilts it
in sizzling butter. Adds
broth, slivered potato, cream.
Purees, seasons, serves
her soup with thick slices
of sourdough.

The empty bowl
cradles the spoon and
a whisper of lost parts.
In the dark kitchen
discarded stems
decay like new bones
in an old casket.

Nutcracker Season

December 3, 2011

There are three more chances to see the North Star Ballet’s Nutcracker this weekend.  Today at 2 and 8 and tomorrow (Sunday) at 2 in Hering Auditorium.

 

I have been watching the dancers of North Star Ballet for twenty-five years, since the afternoon my son, then seven, insisted that he go to the audition, and Norman, then and still artistic director, looked at him and said, “Well, you’re kind of small but we can find a place for you,” and assigned him the role of boy cherub, trailing behind the Sugar Plum Fairy as she made her entrance onstage.

 

I’ll be going tonight and tomorrow afternoon, watching another set of girls swoop through the beautiful snow scene or dance crisply through the Marzipan.  Nutcracker season is when those who follow our ballet can see the developing potential in the North Star dancers.  A girl who was a gawky soldier one year becomes a graceful snowflake the next.  The girls in Marzipan sparkle their way to Snow Fairy or Dew Drop.  And always, there’s the dazzling Sugar Plum, the one whose dance characterizes the ballet and forms an apotheosis in her pas de deux with her Cavalier.

 

We’ve been having Nutcracker weather, too, the past few days—a warming trend bringing fat flakes of snow falling like pillow down through the dark light.  We’re heading to the darkest days: sunrise at 10:19 and sunset at 3:01 yesterday, the morning and afternoon a long twilight, tinged with pinks and oranges, and a slaty light in the evening sky.   We’re eating more chocolate and oranges now, and driving at slower speeds.  If it weren’t for the toad, work, as Phillip Larkin once said, we’d all be sleeping most of the time, or sitting in a comfy chair curled around warm coffee or tea.

 

Except for small community that forms around the ballet every fall—a hundred parents and volunteers bustling backstage painting on Mouse and Soldier makeup, tying Cherub pinafores and Party Boy ties.  The older dancers are lining up on stage for warmup as I write this, stretching on the barre, getting ready for plies and tendus, stripping away sweats and leg warmers as their muscles begin to loosen under the stage lights.  There will be notes after warmup, then they will bustle off to the crowded dressing room to be ready to be Party Parents, or Snowflakes in the first act.

 

I never get enough of it.  Sitting in the dark auditorium with my neighbors and friends and all the four-year-olds with tiaras on their heads and dazzled eyes and all that luscious music filling the space around us, I can feel the year turn and a sweet nostalgia for each minute that passes. The dancers are so beautiful on stage, so mature in the gesture and posture of the dance; the moments are so fleeting, like Clara’s childhood entering the Land of Sweets.  I don’t even try to fight the tears that always come.

 

After this weekend, I’ll be ready for the season, the deep dark, the warmth that endures through friendships and holiday meals shared, the slowly returning light, just a few weeks away.

 

 

Poetry Challenge 66

April 8, 2011

On Friendship and Transience

The days are warmer now–in the 40s (Fahrenheit), and a fresh snow has fallen on the melting snow, covering all the emerging dirt, spruce needles, scraps of paper.   I am glad of this warmth, even though it’s relative.  And I’m thinking of transitions.

I learned yesterday that my friend Kim had given up the struggle of her last days and slipped off into the vast ocean of consciousness–an image I once heard from a Buddhist monk.  I have been grieving her going for over a week now, and to learn that she had finally let go was a relief–followed by these warm bright days.

I still have not written the longer piece I want to write about her, but, for now, am thinking about transition–winter to spring, seed to plant, wood to fire, being to non-being, or as Faulkner put it “Was. Not was.”  Write about something in transition–the moment before the bird alights, the pause before sunup, the day before the river breaks up.   Write about things that are so transient they are lost before we have time to realize they have been present.

Post a poem in the comments and I’ll add it to this post.

—————————————————————-

Here’s one from an old friend, Larry Laraby;

Recipe for the perfect ‘Life.’

Indifference
Apathy
Fear
Pain

Strip
Salt and pepper
Sift
Simmer
Bake

Kill the beast of indifference,
Strip the beast of its apathy.
Cut the pain of sorrow from
The flesh of oppression.

Salt and pepper to taste

Sift the fear from the first blush
Of innocence. Combine equal parts
Of love and forgetting
And stir in a generous helping of hope.

Bake at the speed of light,
Sprinkle with grace
Let cool until Autumn colors the days with memories.

Larry Laraby (1-21-2010)

 

The View from Mattie’s Pillow

March 31, 2011

My grandmother has been in my dreams lately.  She was a woman who painted, gardened, swam daily, and taught me to eat with the right fork.  I’ve been puzzling over her sudden return to my sleeping life.  Then, this week, I learned that a dear friend I met in my twenties, a painter, calligrapher, gardener, who also knew about the right fork and who spent her entire life living her own way, is in hospice care with terminal cancer.  Now, it seems clear that, in the way of dreams, she and my grandmother have conflated and that she, Kim, was tugging at the fabric of the collective unconscious to let me know that she was in this transitional time.

I will write more about Kim later.  Some of you reading this blog know her, by coincidence.  She would be abashed to know that I am writing about her.  For now, I’ll post this recent poem about my grandmother and, I see now, about Kim McDodge.

——————————-

I Dream of My Grandmother in a Frank Lloyd Wright House

 

The roof pebbled flat,

the rectangular windows,

white stucco walls.

 

Inside, the light, underwater green,

filtered through curtains.

 

I find she

isn’t  home.  She has gone

somewhere interesting

in a big car.

 

On the table:

her bracelets, a necklace,

a few crushed tissues,

a filmy scarf,

dull gold.  And pens

and magazines, detritus

of a life–

 

she can’t wait any

longer for me.  I stand

with my intentions

smelling the stale air

in the house—or

is it the exhale

of her impatience

as she gathered up her keys?

 

In any case, she is off,

driving away

her own self, now,

headed to a gathering

of clear minds

 

 

Dancing in the North

March 25, 2011

Spring Gala White on White

Tomorrow night, the North Star Ballet dancers will perform in their annual Spring Gala—a little early this year.  They will be performing Snow White—a ballet set to a composite of music, retelling the story in a way that allows the Senior Company dancers to take on more roles.  There’s a cat, complete with tail, who leaps about, bossing the dwarves around.  And there’s Snow White, herself, and the wicked stepmother Queen.  I’ll go Sunday to see the final performance—tomorrow is the John Haines memorial—but I’ll really be waiting for the second half of the show.

It’s not a bait and switch, exactly, but it has always seemed to me that Norman does the choreography that really engages and stretches him and the dancers in the second half of the Spring Gala.  While the story ballet in the first half lures in the parents with kids who want to dance, the second half demonstrates just how technically developed and with how much range the North Star dancers are.

This year, the company is doing John Luther Adams’ “Dream of White on White”—a ballet in unitards to Adams’ geography-inspired music, spare, luminous, with chime-like tones inspired by the Aeolian harp which make tones as the wind blows through it.  As the dancers move, the lighting changes—the ballet provides a chance for Kade Mandelowitz to use washes of colored light as integral to the play of sound and motion.

I have seen this piece several times before, but when I heard the first notes through the thin studio walls one night as I was doing plies in Adult Ballet, I felt happy with anticipation.  The next week, as I was changing and the girls were in the dressing room preparing for rehearsal, I asked them how they liked it.

“It’s interesting,” they said.  One even said it was cool.  These are ballet girls, used to dance that imitates flight, that defies gravity, poised and tall on the small square-inch toe of a pointe shoe.  Often, ballet trained dancers don’t adjust to the earth-hugging Modern style, but these kids do.  They go at it with all the precision of a ballet dancer—and the dance reflects their ability and their connection with the place they live.  They are all Alaskan kids, after all.

There are other pieces in the second half, including the technical, fast-moving Tarantella.  At the end of Sunday’s performance, the kids will gather behind the curtain and hug each other and cry.  Their parents and friends will take photos of them, clustered together, mascara streaking below their eyes, clutching roses and carnations.

There are a few seniors graduating and moving on, but coming along behind them are a larger group of younger dancers, mid training, with lots of North Star performances ahead of them.  They may get teary-eyed, too, not knowing why, but I do.  They have the chance to dance to the work of a living composer, moving to choreography set just for them.  It’s an opportunity so rare that they won’t fully understand it till years later.

But those of us watching will.

Come watch these dancers and hear John’s music tomorrow, March 26 at 2 or 8pm or Sunday, March 27 at 2pm.

Poetry Challenge 62

January 24, 2011

Shakespeare and (not yet) spring

The signs of the season–more light lingering in the afternoon, an orange sherbet color in the late afternoon sky, the luscious greens, reds, yellows of seed catalog photos, the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theater Bardathon, the sparkle of snow now that the sun’s high enough in the sky to reflect from each crystal.  From Ocala, news of the birth of Fiddle’s newest foal, out of the stallion Shakespeare, named Bard of Avon–splay legged and already showing the high shoulders and strong haunches and just a hint of coil in the spine that can uncoil in a sprint down the track.  Not any where near spring, but far enough away from the darkest winter that we feel ourselves awaken to dream of spring.

Write about what gives you an inkling of hope, a sense of the change of season to come.  Or, like a new foal, what holds promise for the months and years ahead.  Post it in commments and I’ll add it here.

The Post of Don Sam Incognito

January 20, 2011

Il Cannone

Since solstice, there’s been Christmas and the rush of baking and socializing, then collapse into flu, then travel to Florida to visit family, then a return sick with strep, and now here we are about to begin another semester.  We’ve passed through the darkest time of year, and now the afternoons are lengthening so that there is still some light in the sky at four in the afternoon, and there are longer and longer periods when Mattie and Sam can stand with their sides to the sunlight before the sun shifts behind the ridge.

Sam and Mattie are likely bored and waiting for it to be warm enough—above 10 below, that is—and light long enough for us to be back to our spring training routine.  So I’m not telling them about Ocala and Il Cannone.

We were visiting family in Orlando over the holiday and Ira called his friend, Allison, a former TV writer who loves the process of breeding racehorses—mixing bloodlines, finding a bargain mare at auction and breeding her to a stallion who just might have the right mix of qualities to produce a colt or filly who could run and take our breath away in the process.  It’s a kind of slow gamble fraught with the pleasure of choosing the mare, dreaming of the foal, then seeing it—long legs and all—grow into a two year old in training.

He now owns two mares and their two fillies and a colt, boarded at a brood farm in Ocala. We rented a car and drove north from the gated developments and malls of Orlando to the farm country around Ocala.  I was still a bit sick, maybe even a bit feverish, but when we got to Ocala, I noticed something unusual: there were horse trailers parked everywhere.  The land opened up into farmland—no more swampy areas, and no more palm trees, but slightly rolling pasture land and spreading live oaks and loblolly pines.  Under the trees: horses.

I needed to buy gear for summer riding and we found a tack shop where I found boots, helmet, breeches—all I need for this summer’s Intro A and B—and maybe C–dressage tests.  Then we went to a deli for lunch.  Standing by the cash register, a guy in breeches and boots; at the next table, the talk was horses; the images in the deli were of horses.  I felt much better, suddenly.  Out the window, I saw horse trailers zipping by every few minutes.

We used the GPS to find the horse farm.  As we came to the intersection, there were arrows with the names of farms lined up, pointing in each direction, rather than road signs.  Finally, we turned into a long sandy lane and pulled in under the live oaks where we were greeted by Elaine, on her golf cart loaded with alfalfa, feed buckets, and two Jack Russell terriers.  The air was softly moist, as it can be in Florida, and smelled of pine needles, sharp and sweet.  We followed Elaine to the paddock where a half-dozen brood mares stood, their attention divided between the feed buckets and Elaine and the two strangers.

“When they see strangers,” Elaine told us, “they think it’s either the vet with shots or the farrier.”

We walked into the paddock with her as she dumped the contents of the feed buckets into the feeders in the plank-sided pens at the near end of the paddock.  Each mare knew where her feed pen was and walked into hers as her feed was dropped in.  Elaine closed the pen gates behind each mare and we stood talking about them as they ate.  Allison’s horse, Fiddle, is a small dark chestnut mare, well-built and sweet-faced.  Her colt is Il Cannone, a gentle chestnut yearling, named after a famous violin.

Elaine took us to see the yearlings—a rowdy bunch of colts and one filly–in the next paddock over.  The filly, whose name I’ve forgotten, had a wide blaze and a high-headed alertness—she was already the boss mare.  The yearlings came over to see us and let us scratch their wide foreheads and brushed our hands with their muzzles. Il Cannone sniffed my curled fingers—curled to resemble a horse’s nose.  He was curious and gentle; all the potential of a yearling is in the personality and conformation before humans get much of a hand in.  This bunch seemed playful and energetic and very interested in people.  But Elaine had the buckets. They each went to their feeding pens and waited until Elaine fed them.

All seemed peaceful on the place—the arching live oaks, the tall pines.  We bumped around the farm, three in a golf cart plus two small dogs, and visited some coming two-year olds and some older yearlings.  As we rattled around, Elaine told us about her life in the racing business and how, when she went college, she made sure not to go anywhere more than two hours away from a race track. She dropped out half way through college to make her life with racehorses—the farm is her retirement.  She made the life of a breeder seem so simple, but, as I thought about it, I realized that it seemed simple because of her years with racehorses—on the track, in the breeding shed, on the brood farm, training—a life’s worth of experience.

We stayed as long as we could under the trees, talking, breathing in the pine scent, listening to the horses eating and moving about.  While we were there, a truck and trailer pulled in with a dapple gray filly, just off the track, coming home to the farm to rest up and “just be a horse” for a while.  Elaine went into the stall to greet her and, though the filly had been away on the track for more than a year, it was clear that she knew her as she turned her head towards Elaine in the dark stall.  If I were a racehorse, I could think of no better place to come home to to recover from a stressful season on the track.

Finally we left and made the drive back to Orlando.  We didn’t make it back to Ocala again during that short visit, but now, here in the Interior where it’s hitting 30 below on a full-moon night, I go back to that spot in my mind.  Mattie and Sam don’t know that place exists, and I’m not telling them till spring.

Poetry Challenge 61

December 30, 2010

Travel

At the turn of the year, the holidays tempt us to travel to visit family, or, for those of us in the Interior, to visit the sun.  As I prepare to fly south for a week, I’m reflecting on the fragmentary memory of previous flights–images of landscape below, fragments of conversation, faces in crowded airports, the adrenaline of rushing down corridors to make a connection.  I remember waking in a plane, puzzling sleepily over the words “White lights lead to red lights”–what could that mean?  It seemed profound after 12 hours of flying.

After the flight, the visit, the return, what’s usually left is just the memory of the highlights of the visit, but what about the memory of travel?  What we ask of our bodies and psyches–hurtling at high speeds through the atmosphere, dropping briefly into unknown spaces with unknown people–is extraordinary.

Write about the lost moments in airports or on planes; make a collage of impressions and see what it forms into.   Post it as a comment and I’ll add it here.

————

Jan 15

A response from Greg Lyons, from his new blog 21st Romantic

Alaska

She falls on her knees to help him
smash the lid of his suitcase shut.
He pulls the tongue back, tightening
the covering with each tooth

clenched. The motion makes a noise
like the turning of an empty stomach
as if this is the first time they’ve talked
about this moment, a whisper

gasping between them. Before the zipping
completes, a sleeve spills out and she stays
his hand with her hand. He nods,
defeated. Their fingers work the sleeve back in

to zip. His bag rolls behind him and her eyes
have bags holding the luggage he has left.

———————————–

Here’s mine.  I’m still processing my recent travels, and will post more on the trip.

(I still haven’t figured out how to copy poems into a post without the extra spaces.  Sometimes it works as with Greg’s poem, but mostly not.)

Pre-dawn, Orlando Airport

Sky above runway: swimming

pool blue, streaks of lemonade

and tangerine, a white cartoon

vapor trail dividing night

from morning.  Dazed awake,

we wait to bolt into air, one

more thrill taking us home.

 

An hour ago, at the curb,

in moist air, you and I

patted backs.

Under my palms, the bones

of your spine curved, a flightless

bird.   That long leisure,

such hard work, bends you.

The sky lightens, a wash

of sun across the waiting room,

each passenger wrapped

in stillness, meditating

the astonishment of flight.

The embrace

 

of memory: one minute a child

listening to dishes clatter

in the kitchen, wrapping

deeper in quilts, hearing

a rumble of voices, a name

that sounds like ours

blinking through dreams

like last night’s

firefly.

Poetry Challenge 60

December 18, 2010

Days away from solstice now.  The light is slaty blue in the deep afternoon–sundown around 3:30 and losing a minute and a half of daylight each day.  Temperatures hovering at around thirty below.  Things that don’t seem to belong together merge: the cold of metal feels hot to the touch; hands turn to flippers in  layers of gloves topped with mittens; the darkness holds light reflected in all directions by the white snow; the ice on the roads gains friction as the temperature drops; and deep in our drowsing psyches, some wild energy stirs, gives us dreams, reminds us of the extravagance of spring months away.  Someone asked what the brief time between sunrise and sunset should be called and I suggested “dawnset,” the state of daylight for us in the Interior this time of year.

So write about opposites merging, their energy, their resolution into a whole.  Or write a complaint about the deep bitter cold.

 


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