the hearings..the long hot summer into fall…the lack of response from a “friend”.

Strange last few months. So very hot. It’s always hot in Florida, unless it’s December through February. Day after day the sun beats down mercilessly; like a heat lamp in a small box..I felt like a roasted chicken still breathing and walking. I did my barn chores; I watered the gardens, but my body screamed to hide in the shade; to run to the AC cooled house, to shower, to change, to become DRY, away from the constant sweat and its clammy chill when back inside. This summer and the start of fall has been worse than any other I have lived while here so far. Global warming? I don’t know..but we are all soggy toast.

We attended one of our Dressage club’s schooling shows in September. It was – as should have been expected – ridiculously hot. The poor judge, whom I scribed for one morning till noon, was surrounded by fans in the little wooden box-hut facing the ring. She suffered greatly from the stifling sun and heat and the closeness of it all in that small space.  I sat next to her and felt the solar burn as well; but being used to being outdoors often on the farm, I was happy to let all the fans and cooling units face her. I soldiered up and kept it cheerful, by trying to hide in a tiny sliver of shade in the back of the box, scribbling  notes on the tests to follow her thoughts.

Dressage tests are always interesting; at least to people involved in the discipline. Every one is different; every attempt by the same team in the same level is unique. The weather, the mood in the warm-up, the emotions of the rider; the attention of the horse, all affect the immediate outcome of that particular test at that moment in time. Rail-birds watch and judge ad hoc, sharing comments and critiques – for or against – depending on their own depth of understanding of the sport, and their politics; taste, and proclivities.

The rider is always aware of the multiple factors going on around them that can affect their own confidence, focus, and reactions to their horse and the people watching both. When it is successful, it’s what we all imagine of the sport.  Judges love to give good scores and nice comments. I have rarely scribed for one that was not generous, kind, and optimistic for all. But they are all from different schools of thought, experience and motivation for judging in the first place. Generational differences are present, as are ambition and politics, with each one. Scribing is a wonderful way to learn more about Dressage and riding Dressage tests; judging, scores, and competitive riding in general.  You get to talk to the judges more or less, depending on the individual and the time frame and their openness to it. Sometimes you hit it off with a judge in a way that makes a lasting friendship.

Scribing also humbles you. You see that even those upper level riders you might admire or envy have to work hard to get the nice numbers; and one little mistake or lack of attention to the geometry or transitions can affect an otherwise good score allot. No one is exempt from disappointment and responsibility for what they do out there. It is a very demanding discipline for both horse and rider, and no matter what school of thought or “tribe” you belong to in the discipline, it is never easy to do well every time in Dressage.

When we came home, the equestrian pursuits rested, while we turned our attention to the TV, and the Judicial Hearings on CNN regarding Judge Brett Kavanagh and his accuser Doctor Christine Blasey Ford. Mary was back in her office juggling calls and worldwide meetings for her job; and I was transfixed on the hearings. Somehow it all became more than a political moment for me. I was mesmerized…stuck..in the thrall of the moment. I listened so carefully to Dr. Ford’s words, her reactions, her appearance. I recognized something there I had not examined since it had happened to me decades and decades ago. My own high school sexual assaults. My own close escapes from rape. My own trauma un-acknowledged consciously, all these years.

Thinking about it all I began to realize for the first time in my over fifty years – that I had NEVER told anyone about those four separate incidents in that early period of my teen-hood.  Four times I fought off my assailants – either in parties or dates, struggling to maintain my virginity after being plied with alcohol and dragged into bedrooms or struggling across grass backyards with unknown boys pulling at my underwear. I kept my girlhood intact, but my reticence with boys and men lasted a lifetime, and manifested itself in different kinds of unhealthy behavior and loneliness.

I am not special. I know my story is not so different from that of many girls and women across the world. I never thought of myself as such. I simply learned to keep it to myself, stay away from danger, and remain wary. I am sure most women do. I never told a mother who was remorseful about her second daughter’s lack of social life and boyfriends, I never told my older sister whom I had followed and wanted to emulate, into those dark houses sans parents. She let me tag along, she and Mary Jane, my former horse crazy buddy in earlier youth; who had become a precocious dater, now more attached to my similarly interested older sister, than to backwards immature me. They led me to the slaughter, unbeknownst to them – or perhaps they were just too busy dealing with their own struggles in those unknown rooms with alcoholic induced excitement.  We never reconnoitered afterwards…it was always a singular experience, kept silent to oneself.

I never felt safe as a young girl. My father left parenting almost completely to my mother who married young, from a country home, and was pretty naive herself as a young wife. We – my sister and I – were pretty much on our own. Heart to hearts with your teenager were not done in our day; at least not in our home. Our attire and our make up and whether we did the dishes or not was my mother’s primary focus in regards to us. She wanted us to have a “normal” high school social life similar to what she apparently had experienced back in her small town in Vermont during the war. But things had changed so much by the time we were teens,  and were changing rapidly each year. My mother thought of dating as a nice little early evening outing with a respectable boy well dressed, paying for a soda at the local fountain and chatting with hopes of a hand to hold; or a movie in a theater with a well-behaved beau respectfully sharing popcorn. In our experience, it was an alcohol laden scramble to keep from being raped, and afterward, to hide from the inevitable “boy brag-talk” in the cafeteria and halls of the high school about one’s indiscretion.  I don’t know how my older sister managed..we never compared notes. But she was considered a town beauty – with the self-confident haughtiness a girl earned from years of family favor. She was always told she was beautiful, and even in her girlhood, she was allowed to wear her tresses in long ringlets, laboriously styled by my mother. She was photographed in elaborate hand-made dresses with frills and satin bows, from earliest childhood. She was a real life “Shirley Temple” to my mother, a doll to dress up and admire. As she grew up, she never let anyone abuse her as far as I know. She believed she was “all that” and demanded a great deal of respect and appreciation from any boy who dared to desire her. She has never really changed.

I was the pathetic younger sister – The “Tom Boy”. I was bone skinny – built like an adolescent male well into my late teens. Like my sister, I scoured the pages of “Seventeen”, “Glamour”, and “Vogue”- the popular fashion periodicals my mother subscribed to for us to learn from. I loved fashion, and I loved the beautiful romantic images on those pages of clothes and make-up, and especially the perfume or jewelry advertisements. They always showed dreamy black and white images of pretty girls I thought I might emulate; with their boyfriends, embracing or laughing along a beach walk, a rainy city street, or a country lane – with all the hopes and dreams we girls of that time latched onto. I cut them out and pasted them into my scrapbooks, I pinned them to my cork board, and drew them in my sketchbooks.  I wanted that to be so for me..I longed for it. But in real life, I was not confident with boys..I had a tooth defect in my front tooth – a mark from a fall as a child from a high chair that affected my then growing permanent tooth. I didn’t smile in high school or any school. I grinned on occasion, careful to keep my lips closed. But flirtatious laughter, and flashing white smiles were not my reality. I had to be mindful of the mistake in my face..I had to be careful. My older sister was perfect. Gorgeous in fact. She resembled the all American girl image of the time. Dark golden blonde hair and a perfect Hollywood worthy smile; greenish hazel eyes and a pretty figure. She was the dream girl of all the boys in our county. But few ever asked her out. She was unapproachable, a “good girl”, a “lady”, still very much a title of benefit in those days, the early 1960s. She was friendly and sure of herself, but never “needy” never “wanting” or lonely. She valued herself highly and only deigned to spend time with those who behaved likewise. Somehow her natural grace and self-confidence was felt by everyone, and though she was selective, she always had a nice young man to accompany her when she wanted one. Most of the time she had one steady beau; though she wasn’t naive about her charms, and was aware of other young men in the wings, around her most of the time. I couldn’t even begin to emulate her, though for that short time in my early years in high school I tried to follow her some. It didn’t take long for me to realize her social life was out of my league. I was not perfect, I was not self confident, and I was not convinced by my own upbringing as she had been..that I was desirable.

Finally a cooler day after months and months of unrelenting heat, bugs, and discomfort. The sky is overcast.  I  love the grayness of it, it brings me back to New England and upstate New York, my home country. Who would have thought? Back then and there, we yearned for sweat producing summer days, in those few short months of green trees and lush grass. Here we sacrifice the glory of summer days where one can leap into any cooling stream or pond without worry we might be eaten alive or bitten, stung, and otherwise destroyed by some tropical critter.  There is a deep azure colored pond right next to our property here, through a few trees, and right where some kids have built a swing to splash into the water, where we might go. But it has never happened. It is too scary. There are gators in most of the water here, and water moccasins, and other dangerous life. Locals swim in it sometimes..and they seem to escape unscathed..but the sounds of baby alligators echo from there in spring, and we even had a few wander into our pasture pond for a bit this summer.

Horse Clubs. GMOs we call them in Dressage. Group Member Organizations! Clubs that bring Dressage riding lovers together in an area, to help organize schooling shows, clinics and other activities relevant to the goings on in the greater United States Dressage Association. My own local GMO is called FCCDS – ie; First Coast Classical Dressage Society. It’s not really a Classical Dressage organization. It’s really a local competitive Dressage group..with schooling show series that accrue points, and then Championship awards at the end of each year. This GMO also accrues points, for members who show in Recognized shows, who proclaim those show points towards a GMO award series. The “Classical” part is more lip service than real..being that showing and show judges are not necessarily Classically motivated. There is some effort to educate about past Classical Masters; and emphasize humane and time-tested training. But it’s really about the little shows; or the big shows – and the fancy ribbons and the awards.

The fun of this kind of organization is participation with a group of like-minded people in a discipline or sport ..however you see it – on a regular basis, where love of horses and riding is paramount. It is a wonderful thing when it’s not fraught with the dangers of VOLUNTEERING! Volunteering is usually mandatory, (oxymoron I know), in all these clubs. It’s required to keep the thing functioning during shows, clinics or events that need manpower of any kind. If you volunteer the mandated no. of hours..in our case eight; it can be simple and uncomplicated. If you do more than that, it can become a mission; a devotion to the cause; with all the fraught relationships and disappointments that includes.

So…last month I took on a monumental project. I volunteered to take over our GMO – Club Newsletter. Not so hard I thought. I have done this before back when I was in my thirties in Vermont. I love to write and am an artist, so the design and aesthetic part of it should be enjoyable. The President of our club was suffering a family death and all the attendant demands that brings, so she was more than happy to have me take over one of the more time-consuming parts of her duties. I asked to use her template. She said it was “too complicated” …do your own. So I happily engaged my usual Google-Docs software and clicked on a simple Newsletter template and went ahead. Immediately I found enjoyment here. The use of images from my library of museum quality art involving horses, became an asset. The articles on past Dressage masters and living ones thrilled me with the research involved, and the fun of selecting pictures for the articles from the archives increased my knowledge and exposure.

I did have some issues with negotiating the software..I am no techno whiz. But I kept my design super simple so it wouldn’t overwhelm me this first time, and edited again and again – and again and again….before sending it to the lady that seemed to be standing in for the President of the club on this issue. She hated it. She tore it apart, but gleefully volunteered to edit it for me. She got into the program via computer sharing and it changed before my very eyes into something not at all like I had imagined. I went with the changes..or most of them. I wanted to be co-operative and a team player. But I balked at some of them and argued and “discussed”. She was pretty self convinced. Many edits came and went out by email. Finally I was exhausted and discouraged and frankly insulted. I felt my art training and experience in aesthetic matters trumped hers and wondered why she wouldn’t let me have at least a little creative leash. It went on for a week or more. Finally I met with her at the horse show thinking we had somehow worked it out for the most part. Then one night when she’d had a few glasses of wine too many, she told me her work and Lisa’s..the aforementioned President – was like a Five Star Restaurant, compared to mine, that was “Burgher King”.  I swallowed the insult in good faith at the  moment, and asked “what about the articles”? I was thinking OK..maybe she can do the design part and I’ll just submit articles.. “Burgher King” she said, and quickly added “and Lisa thinks so too”. “We will work together on this” she said jovially.. thinking all was good between us there and I would be fine working with her as my leader, given my effort that was so inferior..”Burgher King.”

I got home very late that night from the horse show and dashed off an email to Lisa; the President of the Club..still up in Pennsylvania attending a Memorial for her Mother.  We were all friends I typed in my own alcoholic haze…no problem..love you both..just can’t do this Newsletter with Heather on my tail calling it “Burgher King” etc. NO RESPONSE…

Over a week later here I am after a number of attempts to get an opinion from Lisa the President of our Club whom I thought was a friend of mine. Finally I am getting that there will be no real response to my appeal for a verdict on my Newsletter. Even my housemate Mary, a more formidable person than myself, and on the Board of this horse club..tried to get an appropriate response with a phone call to this same President. She got a simple short response:”am coming home from PA will do catch up.”

Several days later..still nothing. I sent another email appealing to her for a decision. Nothing. I think she doesn’t like it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Second Day

Today it’s not raining..not yet anyway. And for a change we woke early and went out and rode our horses in the beginning of the day; instead of our usual ride as the day is ending. Imp, (my horse); started out quietly but the sudden sound of a whining  weed wacker – something he’d never experienced before – captured his attention and turned his reverie and work ethic upside down and sidewways.  His head shot bolt upright, and his ears were alert; his body tense; and his breathing fast and shallow. What was that horrible racket,  suddely in his space, whirring and buzzing?  It sounded like a giantic prehistoric horse fly on it’s way to his belly!

No amount of “good boy, it’s alright,” complete with stokes on the neck or half halts in my seat or reins made any difference. He was not having it; and any effort to produce beneficial work in our first foray into a morning riding schedule was doomed. He became a ball of fury -witheld, but burning hot. He kept trying to lift his head and turn his gaze around towards the source of the irritation, despite my efforts to keep him on track around a twenty meter circle; or a change of direction in any kind of order. He resisted all – no bit softening; slowing the rhythm of my body; or stirrup stepping was going to change this wound up equine main spring. He was huffing and puffing and tossing and twisting, determined to keep his attention on that intruder; Linda be damned.

Well sometimes you have to live to fight another day in the rectangle; and I decided that perhaps a face to face confrontation with the beast, so he could see it and better understand it’s benign prescence, was the way to go. I took him out of the dressage ring through the paddock gate and out onto the lawns to let him see the landscaper up close, whirring away the weeds and grasses cluttering up the rose garden aesthetics. He stood hard and still like an iron statue, transfixed. Then as if  a switch had been flipped, his body burst upwards, his torso bent like a pretzel, writhing away from my controls, in an attempt to make distance between himself and that thing. Sensing the futility of this strategy; I decided for both of us, that it was time to change the scenery.  He was clearly not ready for an upclose intervention. I gave him a little “come to Jesus” reminder in a tight circle; to bring him back down to earth – at least momentarily;  and when he began to feel like a horse again, rather than a fleeing dragon; I  headed him for the opening into the woods that was our personal trail head for hacking out.

Out of the bright sun and the morning cacophony of human activity, his breathing became better; his neck dropped lower; his fretful dancing ceased and his gait became a longer more relaxed though still quick – walk. The terrible heat of the mid morning experiment was “out there” where the scary man with the wicked wand remained, stirring up flying debris and dirt, ruining everything with fearful resonances of unknown terror. The forest and grasses; the impossibly green brush and ferns, wild flowers and slippery spring branches engulfed us.  The sanctuary of shade cooled air surrounded us as we moved;  and my fractious partner gave in to the radically changed atmosphere. We both revelled in the incredible beauty of Old Florida around us, the climbing vines; the twisted trunks; and even the old forgotten falling down shack alone in its place no human had entered for a very long time. Here my boy felt in balance; his steady marching stride through the brambles and forest detritus was no longer driven by frayed nerves and a worried mind. Here he could be himself; an animal in an animals natural place, the gentle quiet of a god made world.

By the time we wound around to an exit point, Imp had settled enough that he walked out of the wood and onto our dirt road leading to the farm gate with a rhythmic forward beat..leaving his hoofprints in the moist pressed soil; and shaking his head up and down as his hind legs pushed us forward like an old Tennesee Walker. Peace had returned to my little man’s world; and I praised him liberally as we swung past the usually terrifying garbage left out by the neighbors for tomorrow’s pick up; and into the farm drive of thick luxurious grass to home.

Perhaps in the evening just before sundown I would bring him out again; twirl him around on a lunge line before mounting; and see if we could do something resembling dressage in the sand ring on the other side of that grassy drive to the wood. Perhaps after a comfortable siesta in his stall during the heat of the day..under his large fan, with a net full of fresh cut hay; he would find equilibrium to sustain him as the shades of evening grew longer.

Imp is a “Saddlebred”; a very special American breed of horse; popular with the Civil war officers on both sides. They were always uniguely glamorous – statuesque; refined; and elegant, a product of their time – meant for long days checking the progress of cash crops on large land holds; elegant afternoon get togethers; and Sunday drives to church for the Southern Gentry. As the world turned, they became the breed of choice for all the starring equine roles during Hollywoods’ Golden era. Flicka; Fury; and Ashley Wilkes’ gentleman’s charger, as he rode off to join the Confederacy with Scarlett tearfully looking on were all Saddlebreds. They epitomized equine divinity in those days, no ponderous black Friesians or delicate pony sized Arabians partnered with the heroes and heroines of the silver screen.  The Saddlebred was the pride of the American elite; the obvious choice – “The Horse America Made.”

Imp’s high spirit and undaunting desire to go are part of his legacy –  a treasure to the folks that made his kind the “Peacock of the Show Ring” in the heyday of Kentucky Saddle Horse and Fine Harness competitions following the two World Wars,  before the onslaught of European trainers and imported continental horses changed American equestrian life forever.  The relative isolation of US equestrian culture up to that point; that led to the development of our own distinct riding disciplines of: American Hunter-Jumper; Saddle Seat and Western Horsemanship, was bound to be disrupted; as travel and media moved into the second half of the twentieth century. It brought European military trained riding masters looking for work away from a broken landscape at home, and a Disney movie “The Miracle of the White Stallions” to American theatres across the country.  The horse world we had was about to change; and the everything regarding the culture of the horse as we knew it would be affected irrevocably.

 

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I am a Dressage rider; and having Imp as my Dressage horse partner,  is the realization of a childhood horse dream. A dream that expanded; specified; and became a lifelong yearning; a desire that never left me; no matter where I was or what I did.  The dream was an unlikely one for most people who ride Dressage; and for most people that love the American Saddlebred breed of horse.  But to the average reader; it would seem reasonable – yes? Well if you are a horse person; and especially a Dressage involved one, you would know how unlikely a dream that was. You would know how unlikely to meet the approval of any Dressage trainer or coach; let alone judges in a Dressage competition setting, that pairing would be. But of course all of this started long ago; and things change and move forward in lots of ways; including thankfully; the opinions of people about the suitability of Saddlebreds for many jobs formerly thought unsuitable.  However, I am getting way ahead of myself here. No story about Saddlebreds and Dressage would be simple I think; and mine is no exception. It involves a lifetime of turns and twists and convoluted paths left behind.  It requires a very long look back; to a picture of a nosy little girl; rumbling through old magazines in an older neighbors garage. It involves the indelible images of  the champions of a bygone time; captured on leaves of dusty old pages. and all the many lives – horsey and otherwise – that that same little girl; came to live afterwards and before; Imp and I ever came to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I began my British and Continental training during that first wave of European style equestrian influence, that started for me in 1971 at the Potomac Horse Center in Potomac, Maryland. While studying for my British Horse Society Certification as a Horsemaster, Stable Manager; and Instructor – I worked  under the tuteledge of BHS Betty Howett; BHS Colette Stevens; and the incredible Swedish Master Col. Bengt Lundquist. After receiving my Certifications; I followed the directives I was given; and purchased a thoroughbred – off the track and barely started by a local trainer over fences. I wanted to focus on Dressage; and the gaits of my chunky little Morgan; whom I had ridden and showed since her purchase during my high school years in the traditional Saddle Seat style expected for them then, seemed short and limited after riding and learning to sit, gallop and jump so many different horses at the school; most of which were thoroughbred; or crosses; or one of the few new “warmblood” breeds coming over from Europe.  I loved my lessons over fences; and the weekend “jollies” I took part in; chasing Potomac Horse Center’s Fox Hunting lover and patron:  Mr. W Harding playing the fox. Those of us who wanted to have a real adventure were free to join him on weekends on our day off; and try to keep up with him, as he galloped and jumped his immense Irish Hunter around his giant estate of land; then undeveloped in Potomac Maryland. It was glorious and exciting; especially on an old four star British event horse; my mount for the chase. But for me; there was a stronger draw to the new way to ride on the flat I had begun to know.

Perhaps because of my start in Saddle Seat; I preferred the study of Dressage; the ultimate achievment of the partnership between man (or woman); and horse. The mysteries and magic of the complex and difficult classical study was like a magnet for my love of beauty and symmetry; and my wish to train with kindness, and with a natural sympathetic way to find collection and brilliance in riding.

Upon my return north after my graduation in Maryland;  I found that dressage trainers at that time; the early 1970s – were few and far between in America. My atttempt to become a working pupil in the only place that offered it close to me – the newly opened “Dressage Institute” in Saratoga New York’s Skidmore College; became a game changing tragic disappointment. Still painfully shy and without the skills or materials to present to an employer with any confidence or recommendation; I stumbled into the small tack room office at the end of the big indoor at Skidmore; and mumbled hesitantly about my qualifications and deep desire to learn and work for Dressage knowledge. It was a quick interview; a passing icy dismissive glance from the patronizing lady in high cut boots and a barely uttered comment that I only recall as something like “you’re too small and dainty” to do this work”.Instead of presenting her with my hard won British Horse Socity Certification that clearly qualified me to be there; I became the self deprecating kid I had always become when feeling cast away. I was just in a hurry to disappear – to remove myself from the company that would be witness to my tears and feelings of inferiority. My face flushed and my eyes quickly found refuge elsewhere, fighting back the tears and desperately looking for a the quickest path out of her sight. I  skittered away from her and my shame of rejection, like a counterfiet field mouse found in the hallowed halls of Classical Riding.

 

The First Time

It is raining so hard I can hardly hear Alexa above the din. She is bringing Brahms to my room here in NOFLO on a little farm called Owl Creek Road Farm. NOFLO is my acronym (doesn’t everybody have one?) for North Florida. Somehow it suits.

So I am finally, after years of thinking about it – starting a blog. Or that is what it’s called I guess when you type your thoughts out for everybody to see. I am just setting this thing up today in the grey drizzle of a waning June day. I am alone – which is unusual, in that my friend and technical employer, Mary is away on one of her nearly weekly business trips. The furr kids are here of course; my old dog Remington; the probably Patterdale Terrier I rescued from the notorious NYCACC back when I lived in Brooklyn; and her “brother” Louie, a mostly Papillion whom I rescued a year later from the Manhattan version of NYCACC, to keep her company in my second story loft; while I was out working or shopping or doing whatever out of our studio and home.  They are old dogs now, with grey masks, limps and bumps and lumps of various kinds, and more weight than they should be carrying. They have been my best friends and companions since those late youthful days in NYC when I tried to live the serious artists’ life, of sacrifice of all security and comfort, for the dream of being relevant in the big urban world of ART with a capital A.  I just heard some thunder – and again – so I have to stop this conversation for a bit; to go clean horse stalls in our small barn, and bring the nags in; since we don’t want any chances taken with our beloved horses.

Ok! a bit later. Quite a bit. It’s only 3:30 something and our automatic lights on the front of the barn are on already because of the dark skies around us. Wow!! what a crashing banging ground shaking thunderstorm we just had! I just brought the horses in by their fly masks; one at a time (they are so polite :)); and put them in their stalls poop and all. No time to do the niceties. The storm was ON us fast and furious. Got them all in before the deluge hit and the serious cracking; flashing and rocking above.  I managed to go out in the worst of it, and get some hay from our hay shed, which is through the front paddock and all the water it was accumulating; and bring the old Vermont cart with me to get two bales to hold them over till morning. Luckily I had the big plastic anorak on, Mary got me a while back. My feet just gave in and dove into the deep puddles in simple sneakers and boot cut jeans.

Having hay to eat really helps horses to relax. At least for the most part. But this storm was so furious even the most docile among them had a pause. It was even a  bit scary to me; enough so I turned off the fans in the stalls and the electric that drove the radio and center aisle fan. The wind took up the slack blowing through the back of the barn like a nor’easter. Poor Arella; Mary’s beloved Trakhener mare; newly pregnant, was shaking like a leaf and wouldn’t think of eating anything. Even old Pia the 23-year-old Hanoverian from the State Stud in Germany – usually a Viking woman if there ever was one in horse clothes – was nervous; standing at the back of her stall, ignoring her new hay and watching the storm from the open slots in her outer stall wall.

I remained in the barn for a half hour to keep them feeling more secure. Talking to them, reassuring them, stroking their necks and faces; telling them they were safe. I was swigging my wine in my favorite plastic cup from The Betty Griffin house for abused women and childrens’ thrift store.

Clearly I am back in the house now. Alexa is silent..Brahms is no longer with me. The storm took out the public WiFi she needs to function. Thankfully so far we still have lights! The rumbling thunder comes and goes..the rain is soft mist now. The trees drip with their load of water; and the fields choke on the bounty of more rain than they can swallow. Frogs…and toads of many kinds here in NOFLO celebrate above it all…to them this is a dream come true; water water everywhere. Nothing in life is bad or good – someone is always benefitting or losing. It depends on what toadstool you are sitting on. Happy Birthday my little sister Paula..you are far away; but in my thoughts.