Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Good News Abounds!

If anything, today’s weather is worse than yesterday’s. It’s cloudy, a stiff wind is blowing, a drizzly rain is falling, and the temperature is a chilly 56 degrees F as opposed to yesterday’s high of 66! Even so, I prefer this weather to last week’s heat and high humidity. It’s a good chance to catch up on indoor chores without the misery of constant sweating and clammy floors and furniture.

At the height of last week’s heat, I was visited by a newly found saddle fitter who evaluated my saddle and my horse and declared that he could take my saddle apart, narrow the tree and restuff it to fit my horse better. Since it’s a quality saddle in good condition and needs only these minor adjustments, I won’t have to go saddle shopping again! The long and short of it is that this culminated a long-time goal of mine to “do something” about a saddle that I knew was a little too wide for my horse but that is comfortable for me and that I love. Thanks to a Chronicle of The Horse online forum, I was able to find a saddle fitter in Michigan who was highly recommended by other dressage riders. If the fit turns out well, I’ll share his name.

The other thing I accomplished over the past week was to finish weeding the flower beds, plant the wax begonias and install edging blocks along the front of the old garage flower bed. That made a huge improvement in its looks and helps to hold the water in, since one end of the bed is higher than lawn level. All of my new perennials that survived the winter are doing spectacularly, and the foxgloves are now blooming in lovely hues of magenta and cream. I’m going to wait until next year to move plants around after evaluating their different growing characteristics and bloom times. This year I’ll install more edging blocks along the long fence bed and dig out more sections between shrubs which will make mowing the lawn easier for my husband.

In about ten days, Horse Shows By The Bay will begin its expanded three week series of shows in Acme, and I’m hoping to get over there to shoot at least a couple of times. There will be an all-afternoon series of polo matches that are must-sees as well.

In honor of HSBB, I’m thinking of starting a new painting or drawing using one of my images from past shows. There are so many good ones to choose from that it will be difficult to make a choice! Should it be hunters, jumpers, dressage, ponies or a general horse show scene? Or, perhaps I’ll start my planned series of horse show dogs.

There is more good news that Mural Mosaic’s The Horse Gift will be displayed at this year’s Calgary Stampede. That’s the mural I did a panel for last year, so if you’re up that way and going to take in the Stampede, be sure to search out the mural. You can’t miss it; it’s 22 feet high! So far, the mural has been shown at Spruce Meadows, Quarter Horse Congress and the National Finals Rodeo; all top horse venues with lots of visitors. Reports are that visitors are just blown away by it! You can buy your own poster of it, too, or buy a book and put together your own life sized horse poster of the mural. I have books, if anyone is interested.

At the top are my foxgloves blooming. And below is my panel for The Horse Gift.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

One Chapter Closes, Another Opens

Last week we took a trip to Alexandria, VA to attend a memorial service and burial for my mother at Arlington National Cemetery. Our daughter, Tina, accompanied us, along with a chair that my sister wanted but couldn't take home with her on the plane back in March. We fit everything in my Subaru wagon with a few inches to spare and saved a lot on gas versus driving the SUV such a long distance. Tina had a lot more room on the way home, needless to say.

It's been quite a few years since we took a vacation of any sort, much less travelled east to the DC area where my sister lives, so it was a real treat to get away even if only for a few days. DC/Alexandria is one of my favorite places in the world, and I would love to live there if it weren't for the heat, humidity, congestion and traffic! It's a far cry from northern Michigan in all respects, but is so loaded with the history of our great country that there is tons to see at every turn.

I was quite disappointed that I didn't take my camera because the flash cards were acting up, so I had to depend on my husband to take photos and thus didn't get a lot of shots I would have taken if I'd had my camera. So, there were no photos of the mountains in Pennsylvania or Maryland or all the interesting barns we saw along the way. And, not many photos of family once we reached my sister's house in Alexandria.

My sister has an ideal location just off the George Washington Parkway north of Alexandria proper. She's also a few miles south of Mt Vernon which we visit almost every time we go. There is a wonderful biking/hiking/running path that goes along the parkway which my biking/running daughter took advantage of a couple of times while lamenting that Ann Arbor, where she lives, doesn't have anything nearly as nice. There is just a small strip of woods that separates the parkway from the Potomac at this point also, which makes the area very beautiful. To top it off, Alexandria is a city that oozes with the charm of colonial style architecture and buildings dating to the early days of our Republic.

The weekend's events included a mini family get together as well as the ceremony at Arlington where my father had already been laid to rest. My oldest sister and her daughter joined us from S. Carolina and Georgia, and my niece and her husband came from England. My nephew and his wife also live in Alexandria, so we had some good times visiting at my sister's house and having great food and fun conversation.

The weather cooperated, and the ceremony at Arlington couldn't have been nicer! My sister did a wonderful job of planning it, and all who wanted to spoke a few words about my remarkable mother. Afterwards, we had a delicious luncheon at the Army/Navy officer's club (thanks to my retired Army brother-in-law's connections) and then went home and took a nap. We were all pretty exhausted by that time.

The next day the three of us took in the wonderful new museum at Mt. Vernon and learned much about the Father of our Country. If you have a chance, be sure to take it in the next time you visit Mt. Vernon. That night Tina was invited by her cousins to join them at a concert of The Gipsy Kings at Wolf Trap. She had a wonderful time.

On Sunday we said our goodbyes and headed for home with me feeling a sense of peace, both for myself and for my mother. With this chapter of my life closed at long last, perhaps now I'll have the time and emotional energy once again to devote to my art; my life's work.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lilac Season

The lilacs above are an old fashioned variety that were here when we bought the property over thirty years ago. They had probably been here for many decades before that since this property was once a farmstead along the banks of the lake, going back to the nineteenth century when the area was cleared and homesteaded. Hard as it is to believe today, northwest Michigan was still very much a wilderness until late in the 1800's. Some southern Michiganders still think it is!

Our lilacs are now in bloom, and their sweet fragrance fills the air when I do my daily tour of the flower beds. Unfortunately, we can’t see them from the house, but there are small lilacs planted along the road fence which will be visible from the house once they’re big enough to put on a real display. I was told they need lots of manure to bloom well, so I must remember to bring some home from the barn each time I go. Last year they got a dose of Moo Doo, but it didn’t spur any blooms this Spring, much to my disappointment.

Last weekend I drove all over in search of the annuals that I wanted for the flower beds; wax begonias with green leaves and pink and white flowers. By experimentation, these are the colors that work the best in the beds along the driveway and house and the round bed that hides the well pipe. These are partially shaded areas, and the begonias do better than any other plants I’ve tried, plus they bloom profusely well into autumn. I just love them!

I also bought a flat of pansies, another favorite, and will plant them in the road fence beds as border plants where ever there is a need. Several years ago these happy little plants bloomed so well that they could be seen from the house and even managed to over winter and bloom again. I lost the remaining ones when they dried up one summer before I could get them mulched. I don’t know what it is about that bed along the fence; whether it’s a thick layer of insulating snow that the plows deposit or what. My snap dragons come back every year, too, and are now about five years old.

On Sunday I weeded the driveway flower bed and planted some of the begonias; by far the earliest I’ve ever planted before! Usually, June is ending before I get around to this chore, and wouldn’t you know it; there was a freeze warning for Sunday night! We missed the freeze, and the plants looked healthy the next morning and happy to be out of their confining little boxes.

For the time being, I’m contenting myself with this form of creativity while winding up other urgent projects around the house and figuring out how I can fit in significant blocks of time for artwork. I suspect that means curtailing computer time to an hour a day instead of the several that is the current routine. Goodbye Facebook and other mindless wanderings around the internet.

Just as I had hoped, my last blog post about the licensing agent has exorcised this unpleasant experience once and for all and has allowed me to move on. As negative as it was, it had a very positive and beneficial effect. Such people are just not worth stewing over!