May 29, 2010

golden birthday

Some people lament turning another year older; some people lie about their age; some people don't like celebrating birthdays at all. I've never understood that. Maybe one day I'll reach an age where I do. In the meantime, I am happy to be alive, and healthy, and loved. In 29 years so many things have happened, and I would not take a single one of them back.



p.s. my friend Lauren made me the best cake EVER. seriously. ever.
best cake ever

the list

29 things to do before I turn 30

1. go to a zen practice.
2. stay a night at timberline.
3. take a bikram class.
4. drink water straight from the source.
5. kiss at midnight.
6. teach the mare to smile.
7. visit keana's candyland.
8. renew my passport.
9. eat cupcakes at saint cupcake & cupcake jones.
10. run with the lizards.
11. step off the native soil.
12. reclaim former 200m glory.
13. rock the spankies.
14. see a pop idol live.
15. do handstands on the beach.
16. break a 7 minute mile.
17. dance cheek to cheek.
18. go clamming.
19. see the swifts (really this time).
20. watch all of the maestro's movies.
21. head out to the round-up.
22. drive in.
23. wear a sundress.
24. join the naked mob.
25. see the rainforest.
26. compete at training level.
27. complete a 100-day streak.
28. go east.
29. climb the ruined peak.

May 26, 2010

float

hi, I'm pretty

Today I took the morning off work so I could be there when Cookie got her teeth floated. Horses, like many animals, have teeth that grow continuously through most of their lives, and are ground down slowly over time as they eat. In a perfect mouth, they grind evenly, but more often than not, they wear down more in some spots than others, eventually making the taller bits into sharp hooks that catch on the tongue and insides of the cheeks.

Dr. Clabaugh (seriously, click that link and scroll down, she has the freaking bad-assest bio in history; I wish I had had more time to talk with her) was super sweet and fawned over Cookie -- always a bonus in my book, like somebody complimenting your kid. ("I'm a sucker for buckskins. You know, I'd like to think I'm beyond color, but she is just so cute. Look at those ears! I've never seen ear markings like that.") She had to give Cookie two doses of sedative, because after the first one she still pretty much looked like this:

treat?

.. and therefore not nearly sleepy/drunky enough. The second dose worked much better, though. It was simultaneously hilarious and sad to see my horse dosed up like that. Kind of like seeing someone you love really, obliteratingly drunk. Thank god horses can't read blogs because I'm about to show the internet how sad she looked.

Getting the speculum on:
sad face

having a hard time holding her head up (she hadn't been propped up yet); tongue lolling:
float face

Once she was all set up, we took a look. I got to see the ulcers she had on both sides of her cheeks from where she had rubbed/bitten them; her hooks weren't too bad but she had a "ramp" on her back molar -- it was worn down in the front but not the back -- that Dr. Clabaugh told me would be making it more painful for her to bend at the poll: in other words, making it unpleasant for her to keep her head in the appropriate place while I'm riding. She also still had her wolf teeth, small pre-molars not unlike human baby teeth, which bang on the bit and can be uncomfortable. We decided that in addition to the float, Dr. Clabaugh would also extract those two teeth. Ouch!

world's scariest dental drill:
mid-float

Fortunately for my wallet, one of the wolf teeth popped loose as she was filing the others. The $25 I would have spent on that tooth would have put the vet bill over $300. Thanks, tooth!

my camera sucks, but I wanted to get an action shot of the drill. (Or maybe just a sound clip). I should mention at this point that I did sheepishly apologize to the dentist for being a crazy horse mom. "Are you kidding? We get this all the time."



The whole process took about forty-five minutes. Not so bad. Cookie was so sedated she needed help walking to her stall. It's hard enough when your 150-pound friend needs help; imagine your 900-pound horse?



She was staggering. It was hilarious.

She got a round of vaccines (unrelated to the float) and we tucked her in. She supposedly would be more awake and alert in about 30 minutes. (I had to go to work, so I couldn't hang around & find out). I gave her some pats I'm sure she couldn't feel. Sleepy mare!

drunk.

I mean, look at this face. This is the face of your friend at 3 AM just before she passes out fully clothed in the bathtub. She had to lean her head against the wall. She couldn't even move. So cute/sad.

sleepy face

It'll be a few days before I can ride again, since her mouth will be healing from the extractions. I REALLY can't wait to see if the work changes how she carries her head. One of her chronic problems is head tossing/fussiness, so I'm really hoping the dental work makes her head carriage more consistent. And I'm glad, of course, that she won't be rubbing the insides of her cheeks off every time she eats anything.

May 24, 2010

25

Do you remember that stupid facebook meme that went around about a year ago? 25 things about yourself? I steadfastly refused to participate; it felt ridiculously narcissistic.

But hey -- that's what a blog is for.

It's literally taken me a year to compile this, and I'm posting it mostly because it's almost my birthday and I have a bunch of backlogged, half-written posts that I'm trying to find homes for so I can start fresh. So, uh, happy birthday?

1. Amelie is my comfort movie. I saw it for the first time when I was in graduate school, on the cusp of an excruciating breakup. When I finally moved out of the apartment I had shared with my boyfriend, I took to watching this movie nearly every night, cup of tea in hand. I can't explain exactly what I found so soothing: maybe the narrator's voice, maybe the color palette; maybe just the French. Most likely it was seeing Amelie's quiet, sweet little life that comforted me; I found it inspiring and was calmed by the hope that I could make something like that for myself. I haven't watched it in a long time but it continues to hold a soft spot in my heart.

2. I've paid over $200 in library fines in the past five years. It's not because I'm terrible about returning books -- it's because you can check out as many books as your heart desires, and I'm greedy. Then, if I miss the due date by just a day or two, KAPOW!

3. Things I have been paid to do: shovel horse poop, lifeguard, make frozen coffee drinks, sell toys, sell band instruments, manage a college orchestra, housesit four cats, mark scores at a professional symphony orchestra library, move chairs for a baroque orchestra, be a hypnotist's assistant at the state fair, play the thunder sheet. Also, I sold one painted rock to my next-door neighbor when I was 6.

4. I have a dreadful habit of eating in the middle of the night. I wake up anywhere from midnight to 3 AM and plod out to the kitchen. I'm awake when I do it but not enough to have much willpower. My food of choice is typically cereal, though if the kitchen's lacking in that department I've been known to eat cookies, pretzels, or bread with jam. I can't keep Pop Tarts in the house, ever. I also don't like to be caught eating, which has made Cristina joke about concocting wild schemes to catch me, like rigging alarms and setting sticky mouse traps.

5. After playing for over 15 years -- and despite picking mine up only five times since moving to Portland -- every time I hear a clarinet, it's like hearing the sound of my own voice.

6. I met one of my previous boyfriends online.

7. When they handed me to my mother just after I was born, I had the hiccups. They wouldn't go away. My mother asked if something was wrong with me. As a child I got the hiccups every time I laughed.

8. The first place I drove when I got my driver's license was the barn.

9. I had the same clarinet professor through undergrad and graduate work -- relatively unheard of, at least in our program. We knew each other very well, which could work for us or against us; we each knew how to 'work' the other. But we got along very well, and, I think, loved each other very much. For my final graduate recital, I was searching for an unaccompanied clarinet piece to play, and finding the available repertoire sorely lacking. My teacher offered to scour his library for me, and brought to one of my lessons a stack of six or seven pieces to choose from. All titles and composers had been whited out. "Choose the one you like," he said, "and I'll tell you what it is." I took them away to practice, and in my next week's lesson I gave him the winner. He asked me to tell him why I liked it over the others; I can't remember what I said. As it turned out, it was a piece he had composed for me; he had presented it in the way he did so that I didn't feel obligated to like or perform it. I was stunned, flattered, and profoundly relieved to have chosen it. "What if I had hated it, or if I hadn't chosen it?" I asked. "Then I never would have told you," he said. Today you can buy a copy of it; the epigraph at the top of the music dedicates the work to me.

10. I dropped out of library school.

11. I own two NES consoles, a Super Nintendo, a Nintendo 64, a Playstation, a Playstation 2, an Xbox, an Xbox 360, and a Wii. At my mom's house, I also have an Atari 2600 and a Commodore 64. And I can beat you in Tetris.

12. In the eighth grade, I faked the science fair project which was a big part of our science class grade. We were supposed to do an experiment and document the results on poster board -- you know, the whole schtick. I hated my teacher and I hated the class, and I was smart but lazy. My project was "the effects of acid rain on trees." I don't remember now if I always meant to just fake it or if I merely procrastinated so badly that I HAD to fake it. I told my teacher that the saplings (I supposedly had a number of pine saplings to experiment on) were at home; I told my mom they were at school. My experiment was supposedly to water half the trees with water and half with orange juice and track the results. I came to the obvious conclusion that those watered with "acid" would not fare so well, and I drew appropriate pictures to correspond with my conclusion. I got a decent grade on it and no one was the wiser.

A year later, in ninth grade biology class, we were given the option to write a report or to enter a project in the science fair. Well! I was in a new school district and a new school. I think I must have been drunk on the power of relative anonymity. I decided to simply dust off my eighth grade science fair project and enter it into the science fair. So I did.

Imagine my surprise several weeks later, when, sitting in gym class listening to the morning announcements, it was revealed that I had won the school science fair. I remember my best friend laughing her ASS off at the announcement. Of course we couldn't believe it. I won a ribbon and the opportunity to enter the project at the Maryland Science Fair, which -- why not? I did.

At the state science fair I fared very badly; of course at that point I was competing against people who had, ahem, completed actual science projects that were WAY cooler than mine would have been even if I had actually done it.

13. Relatedly, in the seventh grade -- or was it eighth? -- I changed a grade on my own report card because I was too terrified to show my mother that I'd earned a D. It was a secret that, at that tender age, I knew I could never, ever tell another soul. Now I can't even remember: was the D in science class?

14. My favorite pieces of classical music to listen to, in no particular order: John Adams' Nixon in China; Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915; Brahms' Clarinet Quintet; Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring (the original 13-piece chamber version); Chopin's Piano Concerto in f minor; Saint-Saens' Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony).

15. My dream job is currently held by Slate.com's Emily Yoffe: human guinea pig.

16. I eat Skittles in the following order: yellow, orange, purple, green, red. Yuckiest to yummiest, of course.

17. I hate air conditioning. I haven't lived in a place with air conditioning since I was 13. I like warm climates in general and am naturally prone to being cold; plus, in my experience most people crank the air conditioning way too cold. In the summer, I have to wear a sweater at the office every day because otherwise, I freeze. There's no reason for it.

18. I truly believe you'll never meet anyone as good at finding stuff on the internet as I am. Seriously. Challenge me.

19. I'm a gum swallower. WHATEVER.

20. I almost always prefer exciting music to pretty music. In standard four-movement works, the movements I like in order of preference: 1, 4, 3, 2. One exception to this is Beethoven 5; I like the second movement because it has one singular clarinet note which is, in my opinion, one of the best to play in the literature.

21. I can type 110 WPM.

22. I participated in nanowrimo for five non-consecutive years. I completed the project twice. That's two 50,000 word novels. They're both terrible, but that's not the point.

23. I might be the single most annoying person to listen to classical music with, although I try very hard to keep myself in check when I'm not listening alone. From years and years of playing in an orchestra, I can't sit still when listening to something I know. I have to conduct, move, sing, make wild faces. For this reason it can be very difficult to attend performances of works I know very well. It makes me want to wring my hands and pull at my hair. I so desperately miss sitting in the middle of that sound. Audience members who have never played an instrument don't know what they're missing. If given a choice, I would choose to listen to a concert while lying on the floor in the very center of the stage.

24. I had something like a blog back before people had blogs; in fact, I've been blogging online for more than ten years, partially on journal sites that don't exist anymore. All that lost writing!

p.s. I find that old webpage a little cringe-worthy.

25. I regret that I've lost the habit of journaling consistently. I have kept a diary since I was 8 years old; I wrote furiously throughout college, but the skill has petered out somewhat in the years since then, in part because the things I would write about seem so mundane as I write them. It's a stupid reason. Every time I reread my old journals, I'm struck by how wonderful it is to have these tiny details committed to paper. The notebooks I kept in college are very dear to me; the sheer volume of writing alone breaks my heart. There are 19 notebooks, many of them 3- or even 5-subject spiral notebooks, hundreds of pages deep.

May 23, 2010

finale

Cristina left town yesterday morning at 6 AM. It was raining and cold; I got up to help her load the rest of her stuff into the car and, of course, to wave goodbye. Although I spent a good portion of Friday -- the morning especially -- spontaneously bursting into tears in the solitude of my office, we actually managed to keep it together when we parted. In fact, I had imagined more of a send-off; in the end, we hugged and laughed and said, "talk to you soon," and she drove away.

Of course, she called me an hour later to gloat about eating ice cream for breakfast, and we talked four times during the course of the day, including once after midnight. So things don't really change that much, in the end.

This is the end of "sad week" around here (as I've been calling it). I imagined I had a million cornball, heartfelt things I would say, but I only need to say this: My PDX BFF is on her next great adventure now, an adventure I wholeheartedly support and admire. I am really, really going to miss her. We have had so much fun. And I can't wait to visit Australia...!

snugg-tastic

That cat, by the way, just sat on my lap and promptly drooled on my computer keyboard. Happy Sunday, everyone.

May 21, 2010

the journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

-- mary oliver

it's Cristina's last day in town. I woke up at 5 AM and then lost sleep thinking about it. no matter how you try to make the 'last' things sacred, they are still ordinary. you proclaim this 'the last time we'll eat fried pies,' or 'the last time we'll laugh at the cats,' but until it's over it's just another day of being friends.

May 19, 2010

reprieve

The truth is, every morning this week I wake up feeling sad that it's a new day, one day closer to Saturday, when Cristina drives off into the wild blue yonder. And I think, "We've had so much fun, and now it's over." And I feel like I weigh a thousand pounds because I'm full of sadness.

That sucks. So, to counteract that, have some sloths.

Meet the sloths from Amphibian Avenger on Vimeo.

May 18, 2010

scaredy cat

Yesterday at the barn, Larry, a fellow stall-cleaner and barn mate, mentioned to me that when her turnout door is open, my horse will stand with her head out the door but never goes outside. I suspected this might be the case but had hoped that maybe she was out during the day, when I wasn't around. Her stall opens on to a small pasture, and once every couple of days it's her turn to be out there. She's only been in this stall for a few months; before that, she was in a stall in the middle aisle of the barn, where there was no access to turnout at all. I considered this a major upgrade, so I really would like her to do more than stick her head out the door.

Larry's assessment was that she must be afraid to step in the mud immediately outside the turnout door. Because this is Oregon, and it's May, and they are horses, there's an area about two feet wide of puddle/mud next to the barn. The other horses just walk out into it and beyond, into the grass. Larry decided to take her out of her stall, walk her around to the outside gate that opens onto said pasture, turn her loose, and then feed her in her stall so she'd walk through the mud to come in.

This morning at about 11 I got a text from him with this photo:

happy cookie

I was so happy! Look at her go!

A few hours later we had a tremendous rainstorm in downtown Portland, and I thought, "Well, I sure hope Cookie's gotten over her fear of the mud and isn't stuck outside in this."

When I got to the barn, I walked down the aisle and, as I always do, called out "Hello mare!" which is usually what brings her to her door (if she's not already there). But: nothing. I got to her stall only to discover this morning's hay still on the ground, and no horse. I let myself in and peeked through the open turnout door. There she was, around the corner, just hanging out. She walked over when she heard me but stood about four feet from the door, on the 'safe' side of the mud.

People, my horse is afraid of mud. My horse, who has been trail riding through the backcountry of Montana, who has lived for a winter in a stall prone to flooding, who spent her first several years outside all year in pasture in OREGON, is afraid of mud.

All I can say to explain this is that the mud in front of her stall door is trampled by the feet of many horses, yet very squelchy and wet; in places there is standing water. It's not very deep -- not even ankle deep on me -- but to a horse lacking higher reasoning processes, it must have seemed like a scary place to put her feet.

So, I put her halter on and began to lead her through. I stood next to her and gave her a pep talk, then took a few steps forward into the mud. She walked with me for a second, and then balked. I made reassuring noises. She was not reassured. She stood there and looked at me like, "yeah, right," and didn't budge. I stepped into the doorway, holding her lead rope, and pulled gently. She reared up a little and refused. Okay, okay. Take two: I grabbed a handful of treats, stuffed them in my pockets, and resumed my place in the doorway. Leaning out, I held a treat just out of her reach. She took one tentative step forward, so she got to eat it. I held out a second treat. Her front feet were lined up primly next to one another, just at the edge of the mud. She leaned her head as far as she could possibly lean it -- go go, Inspector Gadget head! No luck for her: the treat was just out of reach.

Finally, just like a kid who finally sums up the courage to dive into the pool, she seemed to take a breath and then LEAPT into the stall. Fortunately, I'd anticipated the possibility of getting run over and I got out of her way in time. She leapt so neatly that her back feet weren't even muddy. She looked relieved and a little sheepish, and dove into her grain bucket with relish.

What a weirdo. I'm hoping she's cured of it, but I didn't get an opportunity to drag her back outside yesterday -- I wanted to let her eat. When I left her she was surrounded by both her morning and evening hay, munching happily. I couldn't bear the idea of forcing her back out into the muck.

May 17, 2010

It's finally nice enough outside to sleep with the windows open most of the time, though the end result has been discovering that one of the birds roosting in a neighbor's tree sounds like a parrot with emphysema. There I am on Sunday, enjoying a weekend at last, just trying to sleep in, and this parrot is out there croaking its mating call, which I will never be able to think of as anything different than I'M A BIRD! I'M A BIRD! I'M A BIRD!

I'm not sure how it got to be mid-May. My birthday is in 12 days and my mother is actually exasperated with me because I haven't the faintest idea what I want. I also don't know what I'm doing that day or that weekend, and frankly I'm afraid I'm going to forget all about it, convinced that we're still living somewhere in April. A mythical, magical April where the opera season has ended and it's really nice outside. And there's pie.

Unfortunately, along with the bliss of ending the season comes the increasingly unbearable reality of Cristina's departure, a far-off fact I have up until now convinced myself was a half-imagined dream. My brain has been going LA LA LA LA LA LA for months now.

la! la!! LA!!! lalalalala I can't hear you

Unfortunately my brain had to shut down that soundtrack today. We had a yoga class today at the office that was simultaneously awesome and gut-wrenching; it's taught by a colleague and friend, who tailored our savasana and her words at the end of class to our impending goodbye. All four of us left in tears. Good tears, but also sad tears. And then I cried in the car later on. I think it's going to be this way for the rest of the week. If I cry in front of Cristina she's also going to lose it so I'll just tell her about being sad on my blog so we don't spend the rest of the week hopelessly sobbing. That would be a bad time.

Thanks, blog, for providing that service.

Otherwise: UNICORNS. Just so we end things on a happy note.

May 16, 2010

a little bit of earth

DSCF6425

I woke up dreaming my mother's garden—
fields in autumn, green turning gold,
grasses scythed down in the late, dark sun;
and here will be corn, she was saying, tomatoes,
flowers I never knew she loved.

I woke to a child climbing into my bed
—four-year-old girl of my sister's son—
hair like silk and the color of wheat
falling into her eyes, begging me to get up.

And in my mother's kitchen the strong light smelled of coffee
and autumn, in fact. In fact, my mother,
who hasn't gardened in twenty years, was taking a bath.
I heard her splashing through the walls. It was October;
the child came forward, one fresh egg cupped in her palm.

I woke up dreaming the harrowed fields,
sharp with stubble, my mother's lands.
She was already preparing for spring; she was already
stepping naked from the bath, away from grief—

a widow with work to do, weeds in the yard,
and the child calling softly to me, come on, come on, come on.

--waking elsewhere, cecelia woloch

Today I visited my new community garden plot. I've been on the waiting list for a year, which I don't feel so bad about because it turns out there are 1400 people on the waiting list.

1400.

The plot is a couple miles from here, nestled in an area of southeast Portland that's impossible a challenge to navigate because the streets start and stop randomly. You'll be driving down 57th and suddenly it dead-ends at a house and picks up again six blocks later. I lived in this neighborhood when I first moved to Portland and there were truly nights in the first few weeks where I would drive for two hours just trying to get back to the house.

I got lucky, because not only did I get a garden plot, I got a SHINY NEW garden plot. The garden is expanding this year and there's a new section with 23 new raised beds.

DSCF6426

The plot is 20' x 20', which I just want to point out is bigger than the studio apartment I lived in during graduate school. (For real: the studio was 15' x 15'). I am SO EXCITED! I had a balcony garden for two years in my last apartment, and I got such joy from it. I already have a list of things to cultivate: tomatoes, peas, salad greens, cucumbers, kale, basil, chives, tomatillos, garlic, green onions. Sunflowers. Sweet peas.

It rained this morning, so I mistakenly thought it was a lousy day outside and therefore didn't step foot out the front door until 4 PM. In fact, it was the perfect temperature; a sweet, late-spring warmth. The opera season is over, and summer is coming. The sky glows faintly with the last of the day's light until well after 9 PM. My favorite time of year, while the days are still extending and extending; the flowers are still blooming, and summer is still a hopeful promise, a sweet singular taste.

May 13, 2010

floozing

Tonight, pre-show in the production office, we talked about the new flavor of Cheese-Its (pepper jack?) as well as a variety of yogurt-related topics. Upstairs in the makeup room, we talked about whether or not the Japanese are a tranquil people (?) and about the benefits and drawbacks of peppermint oil. Next to me in the dressing room my dresser is cursing at her knitting. Over the monitors, our Rosina is singing one of the most famous arias from the show: una voce poco fa.

There are four female supers in this show; two go on in the first fifteen minutes of Act I, and the other floozy and I go on most of the way through Act II. I laughed tonight, watching one of the first act supers get dressed. She wears the funniest, most saccharine-looking pinafore; it looks like something straight out of Babes in Toyland. She slips the dress over her head and POOF! She's done. My costume, on the other hand, takes me forever to put on. First I have to bandage my knees -- our costumes originally covered them, so we could wear kneepads, but they've since been altered to be above the knee. In order to protect the cartilage on my lower knees, I wear a pair of knee highs with the toes cut off, folded into quadrants and wrapped around my knee; then medical gauze; then an ace bandage; then medical tape. After that are fishnets and ballet slippers with pointe ribbons that have to be wrapped around the ankles and tied. Then a corset that of course is laced by a dresser; then pants that I can't put on myself because of how they latch. Then I have to get fake cleavage drawn on upstairs, and false eyelashes glued on.

Then I'm onstage for approximately 90 seconds! Ah, theater.

As much as I'm going to be SO RELIEVED to be finished the season, it's always bittersweet to leave the theater behind for a few months. In stress, frustration, and fatigue, it's easy to forget how lucky we are to be surrounded by what we love every day. Just listening to the principals warm up every show night makes me happy. I have to remind myself sometimes that most other people don't work in environments like this one. I was particularly reminded of this tonight when I came downstairs and everyone in the green room commented on my drawn-on cleavage. It was a completely hilarious, totally comfortable conversation that could not happen at so many other workplaces.

One more performance of Barber to go until we close. Take it away, Bugs:

proud mama

So, I have to take back everything I said the other day about the birthday mare. Although she might have her spooky moments, she did me very proud on Tuesday. I was lungeing her in the riding arena when a barnmate's mom brought her horse down and tied her. The other horse is one I dislike because she has terrible, pushy ground manners; I clean her stall twice a week and I'm forever having to threaten her with the rake to make her back out of my space. (Poor ground manners are, for the record, one of my biggest equine pet peeves).

The barnmate's mom tied her horse to a tie where the clip that attaches to the halter is broken and won't stay shut. The broken clip is a recent development, and most of us know about it and avoid that particular tie. In just a moment (only long enough for the mom to leave the arena and begin walking up to the barn), Piper had gotten loose and took off for my end of the arena, bucking and galloping, headed right for us. Meanwhile, we had been working at a canter and Cookie still had a lot of steam. I was standing in shorts and sneakers in the middle of the arena. What a place to be! Two wild horses, one attached to the rope on my arm, one loose and not very nice and headed right for us.

I could not immediately get Cookie to stop, in part because she likely had the same reaction I did ("OH SHIT"), so I had to trust that if Piper ran at her and tried to kick her, she would defend herself at the end of the line. They both ran a couple of laps before Piper paused at the corner of the fence; I took the opportunity to ask Cookie to halt, which -- wonder of wonders -- she did.

Meanwhile, the barnmate herself -- Piper's rider, whose mom had brought her horse down -- had seen what happened and had come into the arena to try and nab her horse. And isn't this always the way? Her horse is one of those horses who refuses to be caught. She ran back and forth along the fence line, bucking, throwing her head, occasionally kicking out in our direction, and steadfastly refusing to be caught. Her rider eventually gave up that battle and ran back to grab a bucket of grain in hopes of luring her away from us.

And can I just tell you? My horse, standing on the end of that lunge line, stood stock still at complete attention and waited for me to tell her what to do. She was clearly a little freaked but she didn't bolt or kick, not even when Piper approached, as she did several times, and kicked out at her. Fortunately for us both, I was holding a six foot whip in my other hand, which I brandished as a weapon. After about five full minutes of craziness, Piper was finally caught.

These situations are funny; as horse people we might know what we're supposed to do in hypothetical terms, but in a moment you learn what your real reactions are. The worst, but also most natural, self-preserving thing I could have done, would have been to drop the line and run out of the arena to safety. But I never would have considered dropping that rope. As for Cookie: you never really know how good your 'whoa' is until you can test it. I suspect that she would not have been quite so obedient had I been in the saddle -- I think she would have bolted. But I was proud of her for how well she listened; her listening made it much easier for me to stay safe.

She got a lot of treats afterwards.

May 10, 2010

detritus

it's one week before the opera season ends. every year I reach this point feeling a little crazed. our last opera, barber of seville, is easy as far as shows go (especially in comparison to some of the others we've done this season) but by this point we're all pretty much just done. I look forward to next sunday, the first day of 'opera summer,' with intense relish. the weeks that follow will be 9-5, monday to friday deals where I can hang back at a more leisurely pace. it can't be overstated how nice it is to go back to a regular, ordinary-person schedule where each day is the same and you don't have to work evenings or weekends. I'll be happy just knowing what day of the week it is.

once the season is over I'll go back to riding my horse more regularly, something I have mostly given up over the past couple of weeks. I could squeeze it into my schedule, but it takes a great deal of physical and mental energy to deal with princess spooks-a-lot, especially when she's coming off of a hiatus and it's spring.

her royal space case, it should be noted, turns 8 today. a fine age to stop running off in a panic at flies, rogue blades of grass, and gates she has seen one hundred times. our first lesson upon my return, evidently, will be learning to wear our grown-up horse pants.

other things I've been doing:
  • blog avoidance
  • studiously pretending that cristina's not leaving town, and then country, in eleven days
  • stuffing as many drinks and fried pies into my face as I can in that time
  • definitely not falling asleep at 8:30 on a sunday night while watching streaming movies on netflix from the comfort of my bed
  • getting my dresser to tie my corset as tight as humanly possible for my role as a floozy in the opera
  • running: either a 6:40 mile or a 12:40 mile, depending on which garmin reading you believe
  • growing my hair out, which is happening a thousand times faster than you'd ever believe. last week: bald; this week: buzz cut.
  • letting everyone feel my no-longer-quite-bald head
  • hoping for sunshine
it's mid-may, and just over two weeks until it's time for a new list. how much of the current one can I conquer?

May 5, 2010

thoughts on baldness

It's taken me a couple of days to settle into my baldness. Here are my conclusions so far. Some of them are things I had already anticipated:

1. Your hair really does keep you warm/you really do lose a lot of heat from your head. It is BREEZY up there now. The best way I can describe it is that it feels like I have wet hair, constantly. The same sense of chill.

2. Reactions can be divided into three main categories:
a. Unabashedly complimentary: "You look beautiful!" (my favorite, of course)
b. Complimentary/fascinated: "Your head is a great shape!"
c. Covertly uncomfortable/needing reassurance/assuming I am uncomfortable with baldness: "Well, it'll grow out fast!"

3. I was right in believing that losing my hair would heighten my desire to perform my gender. I feel okay as long as I can wear eyeliner and earrings. Clothes I never would have given a second thought to -- the hoodie and jeans I wear to work at the barn, my running tights -- I am suddenly self-conscious in, aware now of their gender neutrality. I felt palpable relief last night when the cashier at the grocery store called me "ma'am."

4. Likewise, despite the plethora of compliments I've received, I feel significantly less cute and less noticeable as a girl. Already. A friend in my running group casually suggested we go out for snacks/drinks recently and I feel sheepish but I'm honestly nervous that he may be less enthusiastic now that I have no hair.

5. For all these reasons, it does occasionally take a great deal of my courage to step out the door. My coworkers were all warned, but there are plenty of friends/acquaintances who I see on a frequent basis who did NOT know about the shave. I was very aware of this at the barn yesterday, running in to a number of folks who weren't informed beforehand. Some commented on my head, some did not.

Overall, although I was expecting it I'm still surprised to feel that shaving your head -- as a woman, in particular -- is a real act, despite the fact that it is JUST A HAIRCUT. The people who seem to need my reassurance are exasperating; it's as though they subconsciously want me to feel as though I've made a mistake and regret my transgression. Another person close to me was positively horrified when she heard I was going to do it. She seemed to believe it indicated I was on a downward spiral. As if I'm a different person because my hair is a millimeter long.

I don't love it yet, but I don't regret it. I'm curious to see what happens as my hair grows in, which it's doing FAST; I suspect there will come a time when I feel less bald and it starts to feel more awesome. My current level of hair is a delightfully tactile level of fuzziness that still LOOKS too short for my taste but is really fun to touch.

And I raised $855 for St. Baldrick's, a number which surpassed my goal by nearly $400. You people are awesome.

day 2

May 2, 2010

number 24

holy crap we did it

more on this tomorrow. I'm bald!

May 1, 2010

derby day

We take the Kentucky Derby very seriously in my family. Observe:

Our choices: Mom - Mission Impazible
Travis - Awesome Act
Ashley - Sidney's Candy

I got my mint today. I'm placing bets online tomorrow. Saturday, I'm putting together some kind of beautiful hat to wear. Coverage starts at 4:00. I'll call you around 5:30 and we can
talk about Bob and anybody else that's noteworthy.

Love,
Mom


(Bob, by the way, is the trainer Bob Baffert, who my mother and I have fun loathing for various reasons.)

I spent most of the rest of my day dyeing my hair.

round one: bleach

bleach

round one: bleach

round one: goldenrod

round two: dye

round 2: dye

dye results (wet)

dye results (dry)

round three: dye (again)

dye results, part two

I picked blonde because it was the color I would be least likely to dye my hair if I actually were going to do it on a permanent basis. I thought it would look wretched but it's actually kind of fun, in an artificial, Barbie sort of way.

Tomorrow is the shave. The reality of what 'shaving your head' means is beginning to sink in.