Little Atlas ~ Thanksgiving

Calico cat looks up all fuzzy, sleepy eyes from the corner chair. The heat clicks on with a gentle tick-tick-tick as the furnace fires up. It’s cold outside. At the end of each day, the house greets with a blessed quiet. A place to escape from too many voices and so many demands. All is safe here.

When the trees give up their leaves, from the kitchen window, I can see sunlight glittering on the Quaboag River. Mice scratch in the attic and sometimes find a way inside. The favorite nesting place is under the bathroom sink. How many have I rescued? How lazy can my cat be! There is something sacred about a tiny deer mouse released from a have-a-heart trap, shaking all over, then dashing off to find a safe place to rest.

These four walls know everything. They remember all the sleepless nights, moments of doubt and when we didn’t have enough. They knew all the cats and shared our adventures inside and out. The crack at 4 a.m. of Houdini breaking the pet door just cause he could. The realization that Poncho was not lying on my legs one night and finding him waiting patiently under the rhododendron for the door to open. Gigi wandering out to touch the warm grass. The wide-eyed appalled and disgusted expression from Sweetie at the scent of horses on the boots.

The best place to be is the sun porch on a lovely warm afternoon. We will always remember that day in June when the tornado was over the hillside in Brimfield. The winter of 2010-11 was a doozy. The snow kept piling on until the house became an igloo. The mounds cleared off the roof that cold day in February lay all around the house. In this moment, the house was named: Little Atlas. How on earth did it hold up all the snow.

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my home. After all these years, it is a fine place to be.

by Frances Ann Wychorski

Published: Spencer New Leader, November 22, 2o17


Celebrate Each Day with a Song ~ Flora’s Secret

Enya is a remarkable artist. The overwhelming theme behind each of her songs are the elements of earth, air, fire and water. Her haunting, at times ethereal voice, conveys the feelings of joy, sadness, hope and solace found in every heart. The songwriting team of Enya, Nicky and Roma Ryan create a wash of color and sound with each song.

All at once, the melodies and prose connect us to spirit. Our senses, especially the elusive sixth sense, are alerted, touched by her voice and her intention. The tactile world of root and rock. The fragrance of rivers and moss. The sight of poppies in bloom and wheat swaying under the summers breeze are in the musical tones and notes. The memory of Pomona, Selene and Nike are called forth to join in Enya’s songs.

The fey, celebrated and prolific artist from Donegal Ireland gives a song to the flow of sunlight upon flowers and moonlight upon lovers. “Flora’s Secret”, is a charming love song to the earth and all that makes life glorious. The waltz time measure lifts the spirits and remind us how lovely a moment can be.

“Flora’s Secret” is on the CD: A Day withour Rain, published by Warner Music in 2000.

“Flora’s Secret” by Enya

Lovers in the long grass
Look above them
Only they can see
Where the clouds are going
Only to discover
Dust and sunlight
Ever make the sky so blue

Afternoon is hazy
River flowing
All around the sounds
Moving closer to them
Telling them the story
Told by Flora
Dreams they never knew

Silver willows
Tears from Persia
Those who come
From a far-off island
Winter Chanterelle lies
Under cover
Glory-of-the-sun in blue

Some they know as passion
Some as freedom
Some they know as love
And the way it leaves them
Summer snowflake
For a season
When the sky above is blue
When the sky above is blue

Lying in the long grass
Close beside her
Giving her the name
Of the one the moon loves
This will be the day she
Will remember
When she knew his heart was
Loving in the long grass
Close beside her
Whispering of love
And the way it leaves them
Lying in the long grass
In the sunlight
They believe it’s true love
And from all around them
Flora’s secret
Telling them of love
And the way it breathes, and
Looking up from eyes of
Amaranthine …
They can see the sky is blue
Knowing that their love is true
Dreams they never knew
And the sky above is blue

Reflections on the Day ~ Garden Going to Rest

And so, on this warmer than usual weekend in November, the garden becomes the reflection of what has been. The leaves are off the maple trees and thrashed to shreds in the lawn. The grasses are still green from plentiful rains. A few violets have reappeared, confused by the waning sun but warmth of some days.

It’s time to harvest the herbs. Lovage, thyme and tender oregano are picked and dried for many a lovely pot of stew. The blueberries almost recovered from the attack of the gypsy moth caterpillars in June. The greedy things ate all the leaves giving the bushes a desperate, deadly appearance. A second foliage did grow out by September. No berries, not a chance.

The peach tree blossomed and produced a massive crop of fruits. After three years of late frosts that nipped the buds, success! To quote a line from Nathaniel Hawthorne’ s Introduction to Mosses on an Old Manse, “and peach-trees, which, in a good year, tormented me with peaches, neither to be eaten nor kept, nor, without labor and perplexity, to be given away. ” I learned to make a lovely peach butter blended with blackberries. A scrumptious dessert for everyday.

The perennials give way their strength and return to the earth. The vinca vine seems to be spreading over rocks and into the field. The lilac is perfect. The forsythia has gone crazy and is overwhelming everything. How did they get so large! Plenty of pruning for winter afternoons. Now is the best time to consider the winter trim to the massive maples starting to cast too much shade on the yard. How high they reach to the sky now. All to do still.

The one friend who won’t be returning to the garden next year are the dear old shoes. Four years of tramping all over has worn them to shreds. These shoes were always a bit too large. We went all the way to Sicily together the first year. They climbed up the hillsides of Segesta, past the fig trees into the amphitheater and gazed out at the azzure blue sea. We climbed the cliffs at Scala dei Turchi. We walked through the great cities of Modica, Noto, Taormina, Naro, and Ragusa. They felt the pain of the blood blister that grew to be a frightening thing. We stood in the mists over Tripani and felt the presence once again. She is here. The goddess did make herself known at Donnafugata, Ortygia and Erice. My foot was so swollen by the time I got home. How I will miss them. Maybe I’ll save them for the annual brush burning and give them a dignified exit. Let the element of fire take them to ashes. How I will miss them.

So, the bunny comes out of hiding once more to greet the walkers on their daily journey. This bit of whimsy under the rhododendron and settled in a bed of sweet woodruff. Now comes the dream time to plot and plan for that great garden to be. Next year, I promise to be more attentive and grateful for this space. This beautiful garden. My solace and my savior.

A View from Letter A – Pineland Farms – Carl Hester MBE

The woodlands and fields surrounding Pineland Farms Equestrian Center in New Gloucester Maine were shrouded in thick mist on Sunday morning. A young horse sculpture, Gwyneth McPherson fondly calls Rusty, watched as travelers drove through the entry gates and parked in the adjacent fields A select group of 14 horse and rider teams participated in a unique opportunity to advance their skills with one of the world’s best riders and trainers. The big red barn with two cupolas welcomed dressage riders, trainers and enthusiasts on October 14 – 15th for the New England Dressage Association’s (NEDA) Fall Symposium 2017 with Carl Hester MBE.

After checking in at the registration table, auditors entered into the large indoor arena fitted with stadium seating behind letter C, long side B and A. NEDA reported a total sale of 989 seats. The welcome packet included a glossy magazine with a biography for every team working with Hester. Everything was so carefully arranged, down to the announcer reminding the audience to be cautious about the chairs habit of flapping up when the sitter rose, “don’t let it slap the back and startle horses.” No photos, cameras or videotaping were allowed. The penalty would be the culprit finds themselves on the outside looking in.

Hester was dressed casually in a soft black sweater, jeans and barn boots. He was spare in his movement but his posture was tall and alert. He often commented on the most fundamental of movements and praised as much as cautioned riders. Whatever was presenting, Hester went with the block or tension that needed softening to bring out the best in horse and rider.

Your right hand, oh your right hand is open and not connected on the rein to the horse. It’s a habit of having the hand open when you ride. But it’s confusing the horse. Work on that. It’s a habit, you don’t know you’re doing it, you try to change but go back to it without thinking about it.

“Yutt, Yuutt that’s it, Yahutt” Whenever Hester made that sound, the rider could smile inside, “Yutt, that’s fine.”

There’s a Zen expression that says, every time you meet someone, they are different. So true with teams that participated on Saturday and Sunday. Hester told Emily Smith he was speechless after she rode the asked for uphill canter, and was that the same horse? Apparently, the nerves got to Dublin the previous day. Hester often informed Sunday participants on what happened Saturday. It was this attentiveness to the audience that was appreciated most. He commented to the trainers in the crowd on what was important here.

Breathing, you’ve got to breathe when you ride or it messes everything. Sit up straight, sit up when you ask for the transition, you are pitching forward and confusing the horse on what to do.

Jessica O’Donnell and her five-year old, Don Dreamer, received high praise with Hester talking about looking at a young horse and thinking someday Grand Prix. Yes, this horse, even when tired, kept giving something back. He had the cadence and calmness to get there.

Don’t move about like that when changing leads, it’s bouncing around upsetting the horse. It’s too much motion. Sit quiet.

Karin Persson and her beautiful Swedish horse Giuliano B surprised us all with his enthusiastic kick during a gallop around the arena. Hester had encouraged Persson to let him out a bit with a romp to settle down. Hester commented that it was a positive sign in the six-year old gelding. He hasn’t forgotten how to have fun along the way up the levels.

Your reins are too long, too long. They are long enough that you can scratch your belly already. After that, where are they going to go now.

The outstanding training moment in the day came when Hester became the center post for Molly Maloney and Fellissimo’s canter pirouettes. He was the anchor which they moved around in a lovely series of careful wide pirouettes. The cadence and impulsion were excellent. It was inventive and delightful all at once. Hester has a charming and grounding manner of teaching. When he asks, and how he asks enables the confidence to flow between trainer, horse and rider.

The horse is not so good in the corners. Well, let’s fix that now. Ride him straight into that corner and stop. Make him stop, turn around and trot back. Do this until he gets the idea, you are in charge. This horse wants to take over and tell you where to go.

What a surprise it was for this auditor to hear the same words heard in lessons, repeated and reinforced in the riders on Sunday. I had at first said no to this event, what would an amateur, returned to riding after a 25-year absence learn from this? A lot! It was all about position, clarity of the aids, being one-sided (horse and rider), straightness, inside eye, blocks in the body, tension, breathing, hands, etc… The thought was at this level, horses and riders are more advanced and complete in the training. The horse is athletic and responsive. The riders have dedicated years to cultivating their dressage skills. It’s still the attention to the ever-changing details that makes a skillful ride.

To feel what you are doing, ride the transitions with eyes closed.

Everything about the day was wonderful. The horses were spit spot in almost ready for the show ring turnout with brilliantly white NEDA saddle pads. Several of the riders presented a uniform appearance in white breeches and gloves with a fitted dark blue long-sleeved shirt. Even the boxed lunches were fresh and filling. The mist was just starting to lift when we sat down to eat on the hillside in back of the big red barn. The horses were out in their paddocks munching on hay. The warm gray Maine skies were quiet above us. This was a day to remember. Thank you NEDA staff for the two years of hard work organizing this event. Thank you Carl Hester for encouraging all with kindness and sincerity.


Dark Moon Time

The lunar phases channel a lot of energy into our lives. Weather forecasters warn about coastal tides during a new or full moon. Sacred holidays for a wide variety of beliefs occur with new or full moons too. Moonshine in fields and forests guides predator and prey on their nightly pathways. The lunar cycles have four distinct phases of first quarter, full, third quarter and new. There is one more cycle that can have a profound effect on earth spirits. The dark of the moon, a three-day period just before the new, is underestimated and the most yin phase. The moon cannot be seen in the night sky. Sensitive souls will already be aware of the insight this phase has to offer. The darkness gifts us with a time for reflection and wonder.

The dark moon phase for October begins 17 – 18 – 19 at 3:12 p.m. EST. The new moon rolls in October 19th.  The full moon of the 5th celebrated the harvest and completeness of Earth in Libra Sun. The last of the crops are being gathered in the northeast. The fruit and nut trees are ripe. Herbs and perennials flowered and formed seed pods ready to burst, be consumed or fall to earth. Trees that struggled from adverse weather conditions will send out seeds too. They may be predicting a harsh winter ahead if a lot of them fall to the ground. Perhaps the elements will take trees to the roots, but the next generation has been set free.

If you’ve never noticed this lunar phase, pay attention now to the subtle changes of energy and pressure. When the moon rolls into this three-day phase, notice how you feel. Are you down, agitated or bored? Sit quietly and listen to your thoughts. Notice what you say. Are the thoughts and words destructive? Are they bitter? If there is a physical sensation of a dark cloud around you, that’s your energy melding with lunar influences. Sometimes the awareness is tiredness and stiffness in the body. Perhaps you feel like lying low or taking a mental health day to disappear from routines and people. The sun provides an abundance of yang energy. Daily life activities are largely in the yang. The moon reminds us of yin energy and the importance of balance in all things. So too, your energy needs to re-balance and know the yin. The dark moon is a time to restore energy. It’s not always a good day. The dark of the moon is the best time to harvest angst.

Honor the drain on your energy and lie low for a while. It’s okay to put aside the busy chores for a few days. It’s okay to stay in and skip stimulating activities. This is a time to be out in nature and feel the goodness all around you. If it’s safe, take a walk in the dark of the moon, perhaps around the backyard at twilight time.  Know that it’s okay to feel the darker emotions we all have. If you have a sacred space, create an altar honoring those dark aspects of the soul. Perhaps put to pencil or canvas writing or drawings of how you feel. If old scars surface around emotional or physical hurts, let them rise up and be heard. Words and actions committed against you can diminish with time but the shadow always remains. It’s okay to feel tears, tensions and turmoil about what happened. It’s okay to look at secrets. Everyone has a skeleton or two in the closet. Now is the time to stop denying the uncomfortable side of our memories. In meditation, or in action, let those energies rise. Face them and don’t try to hide from them.

Be advised to avoid activities that may amplify the dark tones that have surfaced. Stay away from all music at this time, don’t try to mask the negative feelings or tensions with upbeat tunes. Avoid intense television and films as well. Perhaps alter that diet to include foods that are grounding by nature. Include root vegetables well cooked and seasoned for meals. Stay away from candles or burning incense. In other words, don’t enhance the negativity and don’t try to cover it up. Just go neutral and be. Be in the presence of your own shadow time. Look at who you are. Look without looking away at all sides of your nature. The dark moon will reveal those parts of you that are to be acknowledged and accepted.