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I can’t believe how fast this year is going. We are already a week away from midterms. The Barrett-Jackson car show, the Phoenix Open, and the Arabian Horse Show have come and gone. It’s getting ready to be spring, and we’ve only just had our first rain of the year. Probably one of the more perfect times in our corner of the desert, and what people fall in love with when they come for a visit. Especially with the kind of winter everyone has been suffering through this year! Polar vortex indeed.
It makes me glad to be here, but at the same time the snowbirds glory in our 80° February, what they don’t realize is that even for us, it’s unseasonably warm – and dry. It harkens to a tough year ahead for fire season, drought, habitat loss, and stress on wildlife. Not to mention a scorching May – September. I’m trying not to think of that now, and just revel in the glory of living someplace snow-and-windchill free.
I feel a blog re-vamp coming on (again), so look for some changes coming up. While I have loved using WordPress.org, and having the customization freedom it offers, I am frustrated by the fact that when I read through some of my posts, half the time the pictures don’t show up (WTF?). And the whole hosting situation is a pain in the rear. So I’m looking to move the whole operation over to another web hosting site, hopefully with lots of improvements.
I’m taking Austin Kleon‘s advice from STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST, and stealing ideas for how to make this site better. Austin sends out occasional newsletters with a quick update on his projects, along with links to interesting things he’s found on the internet recently. Alex Yeske from Dreams + Jeans blogs beautiful pictures and product recommendations. I really like how both of these bloggers give a succinct post, paired with images, and suggestions from around the web, and hope to implement their best practices here.
I’d also like to make to make this site better for YOU, my readers. Any comments? Suggestions on improvements? I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any progress on my book, and with going back to school, it’s been a bit on the backburner (again), but with some recent encouragement from writing friends, and a Unicorn-loving little girl, I think it’s time to revisit Ruby.
Chroicoragh, the Unicorn in my backyard, inspired me to write this book. Ruby is a 13-year-old girl, growing up in the middle-of-nowhere, Middle America. She might seem familiar to you. Here’s my “elevator pitch”:
Her parents are breaking up. The hunky farm boy down the road doesn’t notice her. She’s having strange dreams of hummingbirds, and all she can think about is getting a horse. But when she discovers a Unicorn in her neighbor’s barn, Ruby Fortuna goes on the adventure of a lifetime.
An elevator pitch is something you could use if you ever are stuck in an elevator with, say, Faye Bender or Jennifer Laughran, or George Lucas, and they just happen to say: “Oh, you wrote a book? What’s it about?” Then you give them your pitch, and by the time you are stepping off the elevator, they’re shaking your hand and going, “Have your people call my people.” Then 12 months later you are at the book release/movie premiere/Newbery Awards, saying, “Thank you, thank you, it all started with a serendipitous elevator ride…”
But first, one must finish the book. :) Working on it! Until then, a teaser:
RUBY AND THE UNICORN
Dodder’s Field sat on a low hill above the river. The small cemetery dated back to the days of the town’s founding fathers, and some of the limestone grave markers dated over 150 years old. Elm and walnut trees stood guard over peaceful grounds, seldom visited, but well-kept. Graceful stems embraced granite monuments of residents past.
Moonlight shone down through the trees, giving the place an eerie otherworldly glister. Bad enough being in a cemetery at all hours of the night, but the strange glow trickling through branches and and reflecting off headstones made it seem they had stepped into another time. Though the air felt balmy, Ruby shivered as they entered the hallowed grounds. David looked around, scanning the shadows. Chroicoragh went forward, and sidestepped walking over a grave, out of respect for the mortal remains within.
Ruby, taking note of the plots, looked down and realized her boots and legs were not getting wet anymore from rain soaked grass.
“Hey, look. It’s dry here,” she said, and startled herself by how loud her voice sounded in the stillness of the graveyard.
David paused to glance around him.
“Huh, you’re right. Must not’ve rained here. That’s weird.” He was careful to use a more subdued voice.
“Really weird,” stated Ruby, “especially seeing as how big that storm was.”
“So,” David began, “this all started with a hummingbird?”
“I think so,” Ruby replied.
The two had been discussing the day’s events, and David was still trying to put the pieces together. Ruby had told him about her dream and then seeing the hummingbird when she woke up, and then later, in Molly’s barn, with Chroicoragh. And she told him all about the storm, and the lightning, and discovering the Unicorn.
When David had asked her why she’d been out at Molly’s in the storm, she told him about her parents’ fight, and that creep, Mr. Miller, and of the ruined photograph. She didn’t say anything about seeing Bobby and Missy and the other kids in the car. She’d been embarrassed and humiliated, and besides which, she didn’t want her best friend David to know she had a crush on Bobby, his bossy big brother. It would’ve been too weird.
“Well, I wonder what the bird has to do with any of it,” David pondered.
“I don’t know,” said Ruby, “I never really thought about it. I just thought it was strange to see a hummingbird. Have you ever seen one around here? My grandparents had some around their ranch out west, but I’ve never never seen one here.”
“Nope, me neither. Why don’t you ask her?” David said, thumbing in Chroicoragh’s direction.
Ruby perked. The thought hadn’t occurred to her, and she’d almost forgotten about her ability to communicate with the Unicorn, since the creature hadn’t spoken to her since they’d left David’s house. Chroicoragh seemed to be aware of Ruby’s thoughts, because the girl then heard the soft lilting voice in her head:
Child, sometimes ‘tis better to listen than to speak.
“What do you mean?” Asked Ruby.
The boy has a good heart, he will suit us well on our path. As we walked, I did not interrupt your tale so that I may better attend to the essence of your companion. “Where your mouth may make you blind, your ears may make you see” she quoted.
“What’s that from? It sounds familiar,” Ruby asked.
‘Tis wisdom of the Ancients, replied Chroicoragh, passing a large lichen-covered mausoleum.
“Where your mouth may make you blind, your ears may make you see?”
“What?” Said David.
Ruby repeated the phrase, and pushed a fern out of her way.
“What does that mean?” He asked.
It is a lesson. Remember it well, the mare cautioned.
“I’m not sure,” started Ruby, “but I think it’s the same thing my dad says to me sometimes when I’m arguing with him. Only he says it ‘Sit down and shut up.’”
Yes. One cannot hear what he speaks over.
“Anyway, Chroicoragh, do you know anything about the hummingbird?”
Dappled moon-shadows darted grey and white on the soft grass as they walked, and shafts of shimmery light stood like columns in a cathedral.
Humming bird? The mare questioned. What is a ‘humming-bird’?
“The little bird that was flying around your head today, in Molly’s barn.”
I saw only the sprite, Chroicoragh answered.
“Sprite?” Said Ruby.
“Sprite?” echoed David, “you mean like 7-Up? Ouch!” he said. He had run into a blackberry bush, and its thorny brambles stuck to his shirt.
“No, ssh,” said Ruby to David, “I’m trying to hear her.”
“What Sprite? Like a fairy?” Asked Ruby.
“Oh, yeah,” said David to himself, “shoulda known that. Duh.”
One of the fair folk, yes, Child. Siofran, Lord Chamberlain of the High Court. A wood-sprite; an honorable breed.
“Oh. Sounds important.”
Yes. Very important, Chroicoragh replied, but said no more.
Ruby noticed they had almost reached the far edge of the cemetery. She turned to David.
“Where did you see it? The fairy ring.”
He got his bearings.
“Well, there’s the Pierces’ plot, over here, and the Ayers monument is that way…where’s the tree with the ‘No Hunting’ sign? It marks the back of Schultz’s property. That’s where the fence is down and you can cut through.”
“How’d you find this place anyway?” Ruby asked him.
“Debbie showed me.”
“Debbie Twist?” Ruby said, in disgust.
“Yeah. Old Schultz is their grandpa. What?” He asked, noticing the look on Ruby’s face.
“Ew. I don’t see why you guys are always hanging around those Twists. I can’t stand them. They’re so phony,” Ruby tilted her chin up in defense.
“Oh, come on, Debbie and Missy aren’t that bad. Besides, our parents have been friends forever. We’re just used to seeing them, that’s all. Oh, there it is,” he said, heading for a large elm, an old metal sign nailed to it side, and rusty barbed wire enveloped in its skin. The fence had deteriorated enough to let the three of them pass through, single file. First David, then Ruby, and Chroicoragh following behind.
As Ruby stepped from the sanctuary of the graveyard to the woods beyond, she thought she heard light notes of laughter, like a giggle.
She trailed after David as he wound his way through the overgrowth, backtracking and correcting his path along the way, studying the trees around him, trying to find a particular spot.
We are near, Ruby heard Chroicoragh’s voice, but there are others.
“Others?” Ruby stopped, and reached out to grab David’s shirt, “wait up.”
He stopped, and the tinkle of laughter floated to them again.
“Wait a minute,” David said, “that’s where it is. But who’s over there? Did you hear that?” He asked Ruby.
She nodded, holding her finger to her lips in a “ssh” motion. Then she waved her hand, pushing toward the ground, signaling to go slow. She wanted to find out whoever was in the woods before letting her own presence be known, and especially didn’t want any strangers seeing two kids out by the cemetery at night with a Unicorn. Try explaining that, she thought.
With that thought in Ruby’s mind, Chroicoragh understood, and hung back just enough to be able to see the children, without being seen herself.
David inched forward, crouching low behind ferns, and a fallen tree. Ruby crept up beside him, and peered into the grove.
A circle of oak trees formed the border of a clearing, carpeted with thick moss. In the moss dotted with acorns, another perfect circle formed, a ring made of hundreds of mushrooms, some tall, some short, broad and button-like. Ruby could see why they called it a Fairy Ring. The moonlight within the ring flickered and shimmered like glitter in one of her grandma’s snow-globes. Mysterious and magical, it drew her in.
The sound of voices reminded her to remain cautious, and she pulled her focus away from the ring. Across the clearing on the opposite edge near the trees, lay a young couple canoodling on an old blanket. The boy wore cut off shorts, and tube socks. He kissed the girl, oblivious to anything else, and his hand groped beneath her blouse. Suddenly Ruby’s face felt warm. She avoided looking over at David, afraid he would notice her spying, even though she knew he saw the same thing.
The girl arched her back, and spoke softly. A ray of light illuminated the view, and Ruby’s heart caught in her throat.
END OF CHAPTER 12
I’m kind of scared to be putting this out there, so be gentle with me. Let me know what you think in the comments.
— NEWS! I can now offer a FREE Breeding as part of Keira’s sale! See her page for more info! —
We are currently downsizing our herd—meaning, we are going from two horses to one :) Keira is for sale. I hope to find her a happy, loving, forever home, hopefully one with lots of little girls to pet her and brush her and put ribbons in her hair.
The reasons we are down-sizing are many, but it has nothing to do with WANTING to sell Keira. I love her to pieces, and it will break my heart to see her go. But our horse journey has changed drastically in the past 7 years, since Chroicoragh first trotted into our lives. Back then, we had dreams of building a modest herd, taking them to all-breed shows; entering them in the Parada del Sol and other parades; training them to drive a cart; and eventually have our own breeding stallion and move to a 200-acre farm somewhere and happily live out our days breeding adorable Gypsy Horse babies.
But then the economy took a dump, we came very close to losing our house, like many Americans, and to top it off, we ended up having a very long, expensive, and complicated battle with the school district in regards to my youngest son.
That fight, for the most part, is now done. I will not go into details here and now, but I may at a later date, and hopefully a much more public format. They say the pen is mightier than the sword…and I would LOVE to slay some public school dragons. Anywho…our lives, jobs, and family have gone in a different direction than when we started. And now with our oldest son in college (how is that friggin possible?? I’m not nearly old enough to have a kid in college!), our youngest finally in high school, and with my husband and I looking down the road to our not-too-distant future, some rearranging and simplifying is in order.
And I wish I could say it had nothing to do with finances. We are trying our best to provide our kids with an education that they will not have to be paying for in the form of student loans for the next 30 years. Our oldest is pursuing a degree in International Business with a double minor in Spanish and German. His dream job is to work for Porsche, BMW, or some big fancy car company. (He loves horses, too, as long as they are under the hood!) He will be headed to Germany in the spring to fulfill his study abroad requirement for his degree, and hopes to land an internship at one of the car companies while he’s there. (I know, he’s crazy smart and motivated, neither of which he gets from me)
Since I left my job, my current focus is to finish my book, and then find some sort of career that will help prepare us for our golden years. Now, ideally, this job will be promoting and selling my book and going on international book tours (there’s a little Law of Attraction for you!). But it never hurts to have more than one feather in your cap, so I am preparing myself to either A.) Go back to school and get my degree, or B.) Pursue another career to be named at a later date.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that after 16+ years of being a stay-at-home mom, then 3+ years of schlepping magazines, you are pretty much screwed when it comes to looking for a real job. I have no degree, no skills, no experience; I must be a flipping idiot. How do I even make it through the day?
So, back to the point…what was my point again? We are going through lots of changes around here. But just because we will be a one-horse-herd family, doesn’t mean I haven’t stopped dreaming about my 200-acre Gypsy Horse farm with lots of babies and a beautiful stallion! I mean, going back to my whole LoA thing, when I sell my book, and get back from book tour, I might need to invest my earnings in some real estate, right?
So, let’s just go with it! I’ve just gotten back from my months-long excursion, traveling the world, and signing lots of copies of my book (yes it can happen! here’s my inspiration). I just sold the movie rights to Harvey Weinstein, and I’ve got to invest my big check so Uncle Sam doesn’t take it all.
Time to go stallion shopping!
If I could stock my stable with a dream-boy lineup, this is who I would pick:
(click on stallion’s NAME to go to their home pages)
Umm….yeah, do I even need to say anything about this stallion? I mean I think if Sundance Kid is the Brad Pitt of Gypsy Horses, then Starbuck must be the George Clooney. And I loooves me some George Clooney… :)
♘ ♘ ♘
Here are a few that are new to me, but I could easily fall in love with them.
If I had to guess, I’d say Lucky got his name from the lucky “Gypsy Kiss” on his forehead. A Gypsy Kiss is a small dark spot in the blaze of a white faced horse. Please click on his picture to see more photos on his page.
Phantom Knight, a very unusual colored Silver Dapple stallion owned by Mike Nenni in Florida.
It’s very easy to get distracted by a horse’s color, but if you look beyond that—on each of these wonderful stallions—you will see the best in conformation. A Gypsy Horse breeder will breed first for temperament, next for conformation, hair and the gorgeous coloring is just the icing on the cake.
If you are in the market for stallion service for your mares, or are simply in the market for Gypsy Horse in general, I highly suggest visiting some of these stallions’ homes on the web. RESEARCH. Look at bloodlines, previous foals, and the quality of the farm’s broodmares.
And, finally, my all-time favorite, the AMAZINGLloyds, also owned by Michael Vines:
Lloyds is attributed to be Chroicoragh’s sire. The DNA tests came back “unconfirmed.” Which either means A.) The DNA results were simply incorrect (this has happened before – someone told me that a mare that she bred herself -well, not herself, ha ha – came back with inconclusive DNA results, and have heard other similar stories); or B.) A colt of Lloyds covered Chroicoragh’s dam while out to pasture, which has also happened before. In England and Ireland, it is common to turn out a stallion with a band of broodmares, and let nature take its course. If there are young colts in the bunch who decide to take a turn, they can sometimes impregnate the mare.
Either way, I’m happy with Chroicoragh, I don’t care who her sire is. I’m still convinced it’s Lloyds – she and all of her siblings inherited his gorgeous head – I just see too much resemblance there to think otherwise:
When I saw the filly on the left, I did a double take – I thought it was a photo of Chroicoragh that I hadn’t seen before. Like I said, it doesn’t matter to me if Chroicoragh’s sire is Tony the Tiger, I love her all the same.
Good luck finding YOUR dream horse! I know I left out many many other great stallions, but I only have so much time! These guys are my personal favorites.
Which one is yours? Leave a comment below, I love hearing from you!
We have FINALLY gotten some much needed rain down here in the desert. It is making for some very humid don’t-even-bother-straightening-your-hair days, but things have cooled off ever so slightly and the dust has been kept to a minimum.
There is a certain smell that springs from newly damp desert ground, but I suppose it smells just as good as any other place when long overdue rains arrive. I actually put it into the first chapter of my book. Here’s a peek:
The western sky was the kind of blue that comes after a cleansing summer rain, and the breeze still smelled of damp sage and pine. Leather reins lay slack in her fingers, resting on the saddlehorn in front of her. Closing her eyes, Ruby breathed in the beautiful day.
You’ll have to wait to read more, but I’ll try to pop in a few tidbits here and there. Until then, enjoy some recent photos of the girls (click images to enlarge):
Living in the desert can be great…sometimes. We have absolutely beautiful winters here. While the rest of the country is freezing and shoveling snow, we* are playing golf and drinking freshly squeezed orange juice.
Summer is creeping up on us. Last weekend we had our first round of 100+ temperatures. Like a little teaser, it only lasted a few days. Then we got the very welcome and much needed blessing of a brief rain shower.
In the desert you find yourself yearning for rain like a castaway scans the sea for ships on the horizon. It is a sign of life, sent from faraway.
We haven’t had nearly enough rain lately. Arizona’s yearly average for rain is about 7 inches. Last year, the Phoenix area totaled a little over four inches – for the whole year. This year so far we have not even reached .75 inches of rain.
Is a drought in the desert redundant?
All I know is, it’s dry. Too dry. And when it does rain, this is how I feel:
But in between winter and summer, we do get a little nibble of spring. It’s that sliver of time before all the non-native plants start turning brown from the heat.
You can tell it’s spring when the Palo Verde trees bloom.
The Palo Verde (“green stick”) is Arizona’s state tree, and gets its name from the green bark it wears.
In the spring, these trees burst into color, covered in yellow flowers, and virtually hum with the presence of bees, busily drinking the nectar and pollinating away.
When the blooms expire, they carpet the ground.
This yucca is about 25 feet tall.
oleanders (non-native), a hedge.
And since I am a midwesterner at heart, I have to have little bits of annual color on my front porch.
I wanted to get a picture of a Saguaro Blossom. Saguaros (pronounced sah-WAH-ro) are those huge cactuses (cacti) that you see in the stereotypical desert panorama:
The state flower of Arizona, the Saguaro blossom forms in clusters at the top of each arm of the cactus. They bloom April-June, and since they open at night, the main pollinators are nectar-drinking bats.
Did you ever wonder about the pleated structure of a cactus? Cacti are pleated to allow for the expansion that occurs when the plant is able to soak up large amounts of water, as it does in monsoon season. When the cactus dries out, the pleats deepen and become more pronounced. This has the added effect of being able to provide shade for itself from the heat of the sun.
Since you pretty much need a ladder to get a picture of the saguaro blossom, I thought I would just search for a good shot for you on the net. I have no idea how I’d get a ladder into my Civic.
Here you go:
And just for kicks, here are some new horse pictures:
As always, thanks for stopping by.
* and by “we,” I mean everyone else in Arizona. I don’t golf.
While I’m working on the new site, I’ll post here and there so as not to leave you out there in cyberspace, wondering what the horses are up to.
Fina has been sold, which is both bitter and sweet. We had planned to sell her before she was even born, but it’s still hard to see one of your babies go. She is a very sweet filly who will grow into a beautiful mare. She is to be trained in dressage, perfect for her floaty movement and snappy trot.
The silver lining of the sale is that she is going to a family who will love her and spoil her like crazy. Just as Chroicoragh was MY finally-found-dreamhorse, Fina is the same for her new owner: