January 27, 2012

lately: juggling the opera and the symphony. arriving early to rehearsal at the opera, setting out page turn copies, tape, scissors, earplugs. making coffee. pacing back and forth through the room, nervous. greeting the early arrivals. then: saying a silent benediction over them all, and leaving. at the symphony, I get help focusing the projector, and then we are running haydn. in comparison to opera, symphony supertext is easy. I sightread. staff approach and thank me for being there; someone, unbidden, brings me a bottle of water. I imagine this is what it's like to feel like an expert at something -- only a mild tinge of nervousness, and then the show. reading the music along with the performance, pressing the button, feeling that tiny frisson of satisfaction when the title slide goes to black at the same instant as the final downbeat. as I leave the first performance, I am thanked profusely and told we will definitely call you again, which feels delightful. I pretend for a moment that I am one of the performers -- of course, I am, in a way -- and walk out into the night air among the flutists and horn players, violinists and singers.

butterfly rehearsal is very warm; the room is packed with people. our pinkerton looks just like will ferrell. our conductor, anne, is passionate and very exacting, and I remember how much I loved her during orphée. the percussionists play the giant gongs. having missed the initial run of the piece, there's nothing scary left for me to worry about, so I mark corrections into the next opera's orchestra parts, shaking the entire table as I erase.

lately: friends. between rehearsals, we order a giant pizza and, as usual, I eat too many pieces and feel a laughing sort of sadness, complaining to everyone about my pizza belly. after rehearsal, I flop down on a friend's couch and we drink through a few bottles of wine, stay up talking until 1 AM.

I bring my saddle and bridle home from the barn. I park the saddle on the living room floor, and it makes the whole room smells like horses and leather. I drape it over one thigh and clean it with a washcloth from the kitchen. it seems like the leather cleaner should smell abrasive, but instead it smells like honey, warm and wonderful. the bridle hangs on a doorknob. there is nobody here to care. everything important about me is all over the floor: parts to galileo, which I have spent the day correcting; a tower of unread books; a pile of dampened running clothes; a saddle pad; a letter in its envelope, awaiting a stamp.

January 24, 2012

cowgirl up

tonight I had one of the scariest rides of my life. it's a blustery day, rainy, and I almost didn't ride -- I was running later than I wanted, and was headed straight from the barn to a track meet, which I had been looking forward to for months. but I am committed to three days a week on that horse's back, so I decided I would get on her for half an hour and we would work on basics -- nice straight lines at the walk and trot, lots of circles, listening to my leg.

horses hate wind, because they are prey animals and the wind makes it hard to hear predators. windy days are spooky days, particularly on a worrier like my horse, who doesn't trust that I will save her from monsters. I suspected I was in for it when she had her high-alert ears on as she stood tied at the arena wall, before I was finished tacking her up. she was gazing at something in the distance, head raised, on edge. I could hardly get her to lower her head enough to put the bridle on. nevertheless, I got on. am I afraid sometimes? yes. I am terrified. cowboy up, people.

there was just no having it today. we really did not walk more than six normal steps at any one time before she would freak out. one longside of the arena is a solid wall, but the other is just a five-foot fence; the view on that side is hilly pasture and road, with horses in the distance. Cookie just would. not. walk within five feet of the wall. each time we so much as approached, she would jig and hop and spin so that she was facing the wall, her hind end out of my control. when I got after her, booting her forward, she reared. reared! lord in heaven.

I can hardly explain what the ride was like. petrified of everything, Cookie reared, and bucked, and bolted, and jigged and shied and every other horrible out of control motion you can imagine. it's so hard to tell you what it's like on a horse while they are freaking out. I've been riding a long time -- fifteen years, off and on -- and I've been riding Cookie for three. I know how she moves and although I can't predict what she'll do, I have a generally decent idea. there's the trigger -- a sound, a flash of something going by, another horse spooking -- and there's a moment when all her muscles tense up. then: flight. flight in any direction; flight which may include one end of her (who knows which) hopping into the air. when she flies, I center all my weight over my tailbone, drive my legs down as deep as I can, and open my left rein wide -- a one-rein stop. trying to use both reins, in the normal way, is fruitless on a bolting horse. they just pull and pull, and they are stronger than you. so, you make them turn, and when they turn they have to slow down. you have to make sure the turn is wide, or you can bring them over on top of you. are we having fun yet? ask me how I know all this?

one of my barnmates came down, having heard the commotion from the top of the hill. as she watched, Cookie bucked all the way across the arena. I had lost my right stirrup, so I grabbed a fistful of mane for insurance, and struggled to pull her out of it. we went on like that for a few moments, me yelling "can you please stop, mare, I have dropped my stirrup, sweet lord in heaven!!!" when we finally came to, I yelled GOOD GOD! and the barnmate said, "you know, you might feel crazy but you look like you know exactly what you're doing up there." lynne said, "I'm so fascinated! you stay on her while the others fall off, how are you doing that?" as we cavorted across the arena again, she yelled, "that's it! your lower leg is stronger than theirs!"

the ride which was meant to take twenty or thirty minutes took forty five instead. held prisoner by her bad behavior, there was no dismounting until she calmed down, lest I teach her that by misbehaving, she can avoid work. I always talk to her constantly anyway, but today I found myself just repeating over and over again, it's okay, easy girl, you're okay, you're okay, good girl, don't be afraid, you're okay, until I was no longer sure whether I was talking to my horse or to myself. it took her half an hour, but eventually we could, at the walk, trot and canter, circle half the arena (we avoided the scary, far end) without incident. we did not get there without mishap; on one particularly fast and nasty rear, she clocked my face with her neck, bashing the crap out of my nose and causing my eyes to spontaneously water. I had to stop and take a second, certain that my nose was bleeding and broken. it still hurts like crazy; whether or not it will bruise, only time will tell. I won't be able to blow it for weeks, I bet.

as for whether I fell off my horse? I won't speak of it. it's the one superstition I have in my life.

about ten minutes into the ride, lynne caught some video footage. it's a less dramatic moment, but it does capture one nice teleport across the ring.



yeehaw. I did not sign up for this rodeo. can I have a pokey pony now?

January 18, 2012

take two

I went for a walk last night in the snow. it was so lovely; the streets were quiet but for a few cars. other neighbors with similar intentions walked on nearby sidewalks.

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the snow clung to my hair, my glasses, the tassels on either side of my hat. good, thick, wet snow, perfect for snowballs, perfect for snowmen. it blanketed the streets and muffled everything, coating the branches in white. I did laps around my neighborhood, looking at all the trees, at the bright, snowy, pink-lit sky. I caught snowflakes on my tongue.

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at the bus stop on the corner, I built a tiny snowman, knee-high, to be a friend to the people waiting. I stripped branches off a nearby tree. he has a mutant left arm but I like him just the same.

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then I circled the neighborhood, looking for just the right house: darkened windows, no outside lights, no one on the street nearby. when I found it, I built an even tinier snowman, just maybe eight inches tall, in the center of their driveway.

I came across my own footsteps on the block just past mine; for awhile I walked inside them, and then decided to keep myself company, walking next to them instead.

when I finally came in an hour later, I took down my hood and a huge mound of snow fell from the collar of my jacket. my hat and gloves were soaked. I hung all the wet clothes in the bathroom, like when I was a kid, and slipped back into my pajamas. it was nearly midnight. the house was dark except for the light above the stove. outside, a lone bus went by. it was the best thing, all of it.

this morning, the rain was back.

January 17, 2012

snow-less day

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five minutes before my alarm this morning, on its own pre-ordained schedule, the coffeepot in the kitchen began to brew. unaccustomed to the sound, I lay in bed wondering where it was coming from before I finally smelled the answer. showered and blow-dryed, I checked my phone to discover that the office was closed for snow. what snow? there was no snow, but nevertheless I did a very real happy dance in my bedroom before re-donning my pajamas -- a ridiculous pair of pink leggings, lately -- and curling up on the chaise with my kindle and a coffee.

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an occasional flake went by.

from my fuzzy blanket nest, I read many more chapters of a clash of kings (but still appear to not have made a dent). I drank three cups of coffee. I wrote a letter. I got up and dutifully loaded the dishwasher, made a salad, hard boiled some eggs. I took out the trash. I made a cup of tea, fielded a phone call, picked at my nail polish. if it weren't for my horrific chest cold, I would have gone for a run.

all day it did not snow. I ran to pick up a headphone adapter for our conductor. I went to the office, where rehearsal was in progress despite the office being closed, and dropped off the adapter and a latte for our stage manager. I had a doctor's appointment. I put on a bunch of sweatshirts and fed the horses. it misted cold rain and I booked it out of there in a hurry, fearful that the damp would turn to ice.

now: it's snowing. I say that to you in a conspiratorial whisper. I stand giddy at the window and press my face to the glass. big fat flakes come down overhead. it has a certain way of making all the world seem magical, doesn't it? even after all those snowy years in syracuse, I still feel full of wonder.

January 13, 2012

lately

• listening to hey jude on repeat
• clutching an assortment of objects in my hand while I sleep
• throwing my clothes on the floor because there's no time to pick anything up
• making haircut appointments and then canceling them because I'm not sure I want to cut my hair?
• finally not feeling guilty on nights when I don't ride, because danielle is out there riding on those nights
• endlessly reading a clash of kings because it GOES ON FOREVER
• not bothering to change into barn-friendly attire when I feed the horses at night, because I feel that coming home with hay flecked around the hem of my dress reflects my inner nature somehow
• imagining complicated blanket forts
• never hydrating enough, ever ever ever
• staying late at work, and running late night errands, and staying at the barn until 10 PM, because suddenly I realize that being thirty and single means that I get to do whatever I want with my time
• doing back-end work on two new blogs, because apparently the two I already run aren't enough?
• suffering endlessly from excruciating hip tightness, knee pain, and absolutely murderous back pain
• changing my marathon hopes to half-marathon hopes
• discovering that when you're surrounded by the right people, this struggle against pain and injury and dashed running plans, while still disappointing, is also completely manageable and okay
• waiting for spring. is it here yet?

January 11, 2012

I am so, so tired. so very tired. exhausted to the bone. things are already very busy. I'm not complaining. I'm just tired.

on saturday, my horse sent her younger half-leaser to the hospital. in an ambulance. on a backboard. she'd been bucked off again. maybe you can imagine my frustration and worry; I paced around all afternoon.

I rode her sunday morning, prepared to have a serious discussion with her. of course, as is always the case, she was a nearly perfect angel.

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her high-alert face, which sometimes precedes a twenty-foot teleport across the ring

we rode for ninety minutes. she was hot but cooperative. I popped her once with my dressage whip, lightly, because she had blown through my outside leg at the canter. then she had a minor, momentary explosion -- the only moment of bad behavior.

so, there's that.

yesterday was the company holiday party. I am on the planning committee; we've been planning for months. I worked almost exclusively on the party on both monday and yesterday. I got to the office early and stayed late.

the theme this year was 'game night.' we hosted jeopardy, set up the ping pong table, put up the projector and played just dance on the wii, set up a 9-hole mini golf course through the office, which included a beer cart at the halfway point (just before the music library). there was blackjack and a raffle, a ms. pacman game cabinet, board games.

a lot of us, not in collusion with one another, came as clue characters.
the clue murderers.

there were two peacocks. perhaps we could have been sad at having worn the SAME PROM DRESS, but instead we did this.

peacock v. peacock:
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Photo on 2012-01-10 at 18.35 #2

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peacocks.

unfortunately I'm pretty sure there is not a single good photo of my costume, which took me two days to make and included eight yards of tulle and a flurry of felt peacock feathers. I lost the costume contest by a nose to a giant chicken holding a slingshot (angry bird). to be fair, his costume was hilarious AND he kept it on all night. won fair and square. birds = rule.

speaking of:
a tiny peek of birds

all my people are larger bodies than mine, with voices gentle and meaningless, like the voices of sleeping birds.
-- james agee

January 4, 2012

day 4

things are pretty crazy. I came back to the world's largest pile of seemingly unending work at the opera, and I'm trying to bushwhack through all of it while simultaneously maintaining a running and horseback riding schedule, continuing to trod through the second game of thrones book, finish my knitting, and not turn the apartment into a total sty. and it's only january fourth.

january fourth. my friend hannah had her baby this morning, genevieve moira, a healthy baby girl. the entire office -- nay, seemingly all of the internet -- waited all day with bated breath. I got to work very early this morning and for the whole morning tried to direct my iron will towards my to do list, while internally pacing like a wild thing. now that we're all accustomed to acquiring information at the moment it occurs, having to wait even eight hours was agony. there were audible cheers down the length of the hallway when joe's announcement finally popped up on facebook. when a friend texted me a photo of hannah, eyes full of love, holding her little girl, I cried. these are some of the best people I know, truly, and without them I would hardly have survived the last bit of 2011. I can't wait to see them as parents, can't wait to hold their baby. isn't there a less hackneyed word for "joy"?

my new year's resolution is to write at least ten minutes a day, every day of 2012. to be honest, I am already 50% behind, having missed both new year's day and yesterday. the tacit understanding I've built into the resolution, though, is that it isn't a streak; a day of forgetting won't wreck the year. there is no failure. there is only ten minutes of writing a day, every day. writing = letters, journals, involved personal emails, blog posts. opera blog posts may or may not count, depending. (I can't draw the line, but I'll know it when I see it). this is in hopes of returning to a practice, one I kept without thought in college but lost later.

I would like to write more letters. wouldn't you like to receive more letters?

I have a lot of minor resolutions that aren't really resolutions, but something more like proverbial presses of the reset button. one of them: I rode my horse last night, for the first time in a month. a lot of things have been keeping me away: laziness, nervousness, injury. but when we celebrated our three year anniversary, I suddenly realized that having a horse was my little-girl dream come true, and I haven't been honoring that dream. cookie is well taken care of, but I take her for granted. eleven-year-old me -- the girl who tied rope to her bike handlebars, to make them into reins -- would be appalled at how little I am out there, grooming and petting, feeding treats, riding or just hanging out. I want to do better, both for cookie and for that eleven-year-old, who with every good report card got to pick out a toy from the toy store and who always picked the breyer horses.

January 1, 2012

the life list

also known as the bucket list, the mighty life list, etc. I've been lazily editing this forever; it's very short and a real work in progress.

go local
ride the tram
compete in the adult spelling bee
stay a night at timberline
go to the pendleton round-up
catch razor clams
go to the drive in
take the shanghai tunnel tour
ride the train to canada

be brave
sing karaoke
take a ballroom dance class
visit a country whose language I don't speak
shave my head
get a tattoo

accomplishments
do a split
run a sub-3:45 marathon
run a sub 20 5K
compete in a triathlon
knit a sweater
take a ballet class
keep a 5-year journal
pay off my credit cards
go to the stupid orthodontist
learn to sew

adventures
ride in a foxhunt
summit mt. hood
ride horses in mongolia
skydive

visit
the eiffel tower
the uffizi
the crazy traffic jams of india
a white sand beach in the caribbean
the northern lights
la scala
machu picchu

read
war & peace
the pulitzer winners
a catcher in the rye (it's embarrassing but I admit I've never finished it. worst english major ever)

watch
rocky
james bond
godfather II, III
the best picture oscar winners

learn
become fluent in french
become proficient in italian, german
drive a stick shift
take good photos
do a good free handstand (not against the wall)
shoot a gun

live
meet all my siblings
tape an interview with my grandmother
get a dog

everything else
slide down a bannister
slide down a fire pole
get published
wear a cape