Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Life That Never Was.....

am weeping at a letter, one sent electronically, written by someone I have never met.

Beyond the fact that this was NOT the first letter of this sort, I am overwhelmed that someone would think to write to me. And, that letter would be the catalyst for THIS letter.

I won't divulge the specifics, but it is one of many letters, comments, online accolades. They sort of say the same thing, I suppose....I would like to tell you....you inspire me....I wanted to always do (fill in "x"), but was not strong enough, as you."

This letter, though, this letter was more dire. Words like "FAILURE" when speaking about themselves, dotted sentences here and there.

And that, that was what was shattering my heart.

The letter was scribed perhaps a month ago...and in that time, I was mulling it over, letting it haunt the recesses of my cobwebbed gray matter, and being surprised by it ALL.

And then I decided to write THIS letter, which I daresay I'll call a LOVE letter, for that is what I mean it to be....

First, let me say that I am SURPRISED--astonished, really--that people not only READ these ridiculous, long ramblings, but that they think it something to contact me about. More so, that they tell me about the aches of their hearts, ask for advice, write to me of their fears, confide in me.  I am honored....

But, it is embarrassing...because, truth be told, I am as fine and as foolish as the next soul out there. As recently seen, I am subject to as much tossing about and heartache as the next gent or gal, no doubt about it. In fact, I'm not even sure that I am writing this with a mixture of melancholy as well as fortitude, as so much seems to be happening all at once, that I'm not sure what to make of it.

I aspire to no known rituals to combat fear or do anything out of the ordinary and--in fact--STILL have done nothing out of the ordinary...I exist still as a dreamer with a horse and cart pipe dream and like so many dreamers...it just sits out there, over the horizon.

And, in fact, I could as easily say that my life was a failure too, but still I carry on, because I can, because I have this gift to move my bones and breathe air and see so much beauty and....it is all in short order.  In one week, I will have crossed the thresholds of what some might call old age in women.  I blink my eyes in blind wonder:  one moment ago, I was 20 with my whole life ahead of me, and now it's double-turned and I'd have hoped that I would have been further than this, by now. 

But I've nothing to my name, not unlike fabled Gypsies, and no more than a skill and trick or two up my sleeve, and the fearlessness to move forward...or is it? Because I know how short and precious life is--I have seen and seared the image of the soul departing in One Dear Man---and it will haunt me forever.  And it goads me ever forward to accomplish what I can, no matter how small it all turns out at the end. What is it for all of us just to do what we can with what we have?

Which brings me to another point: there is no failure in doing what is right, but may be "common." There are days when no original dream can be had.  One may lament that they could not do what their youthful heart wished upon, because of family, obligations, security, fear. But this would not label you a FAILURE. The bravest thing is to sometimes do the heart-crushing thing; do not think that I couldn't envy a person with a true house, secure money coming in. Do not think that there aren't certain pangs and longing looks each time I walk down an isle of baby clothing or see small children running around. But that life cannot be had by me, one who has chosen to live without a particular job set and lifestyle; I have no love of small mongrels of government mandating my life inside a box to push paperwork, but that decision carries it's own risk.

 Nevertheless, it is true; the grass is always greener, and sometimes those that look to have a life attractive to us also have longings, sadness, pain, or loneliness. It is the human condition, and we are all in this together.

There are days I would like to howl into the Wind, or wrap myself into a hug. Perhaps because my father's birthday is three days after mine, there are small, trembling sorrows...perhaps because so many little earthquakes are happening around me lately...who knows. Tomorrow, I will get back up and wrestle the world and smile a true smile, for life IS Beautiful, even if it makes you humble, even if it makes you quake and bow in front of it.

I have lived a Life that Never Was, too. I've no true career to speak of. No family, heck, not even a dog at this point. There are possibilities, though--always out there. And perhaps next week, next month, and most certainly next year, there will be adventures...heck, I aim to lasso a few adventures in a day or two, if possible.

But there are days of feeling blue too...For healing, I have broken out old and dusty pencils and paper; I have not touched one artist's material for almost all of this year.  But...this was a special work.  It didn't matter the method of the work, I wasn't focused on stylizing it, as with some of my other little art efforts. Here was simple drawing the way I'd done it as a girl.....And, the beauty of this moment is that I could make My Bear Prince Father hug me, ever still.....

I write this to you as a friend, one who wishes the best for you, even when it is tough. Even when life seems to have passed you by. I suppose finding peace is the best way to put it, and being "ok" with whatever you have. For indeed, most of us are blessed in the world, even on our worst day.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Beekeeper's Lament....

There is an old--perhaps ancient?--tradition amongst beekeepers. How this curious custom began, I've little to go on, but it recognizes the importance, and perhaps the super-perception of these creatures..and it goes something like this:

Should something happen in the beekeeper's family, it must be told to the bees. The bees were considered part of the family, and would only thrive in families that upheld them with regard.  Usually, the bees are told is when the beekeeper himself, dies but,  if there are weddings, births, or deaths, the bees should know. There are some that say you should knock once on the hive, and then whisper it from the side of the hive, into the entrance, but all manner of the telling was done: beehives were shrouded in black cloth when someone died, or a piece of funerary cake and wine was left at the entrance of each hive. In some cases, the hives were even repositioned to face the grave of the beloved deceased.

Hives were beribboned for weddings and births, and sometimes the simplest thing to do is to lean over and tell the bees, hive by hive, of the news, and then walk away....

I've nary an idea as to why there is this tradition of Telling The Bees, but there are records of this in old Ireland, England, Olde Europe, as  far back as the Middle Ages.

So then, I ask you, what happens when the great news to tell the bees is actually about the bees themselves? How does one tell them?

What if the bad news involves not being able to deal with those little winged families, and that the "death" is within a business that you have grown to love?

To backtrack: I promised you the truth of this little journey, and as far as I find this road inspiring (and it IS inspiring), I also promised to tell you as much of reality as I could muster...

You may know I am a beekeeper---as was my mother, and grandfather. In fact, some of this old-time beekeeping mayhem has gotten me to Iowa and Illinois, has fueled part of the mini-Beyond Vagabond journey, led me to new friends, and has become part of my life.

The truth is a bit more complicated. The bees which I had worked with, which had made my name and purpose, were not mine, but my ladlord's and landlady's, owned outright by them but worked by me, as part of an urban revitalization project. After almost five years of work, there were differences in vision, and then, this past weekend, I would bid farewell to those animals, as I was suddenly no longer part of the project.

Whether this is temporary, I do not know. To be fair, there are many things afoot, and on shaky ground right now,  but I will say, it's rather like getting part of one's personality chewed off.

There is part of me that knows that I will regroup. It is easy enough, with so much Lifeblood full of beekeeping knowledge, to continue with that journey. There is money enough and time and resources to build. I have met loyal friends and customers, and I would hope they would continue the journey with me. I believe it will happen.

But another part of me laments for those creatures I've lost. Sure, you may laugh--shake your head, even, at the small grief over smaller bugs, all of which look alike. Perhaps it is no consequence for you. But each of those bugs--Apis Mellifera--was a teacher. Each showed me the need for calmness, and the way in which to truly think as they did. I have become a master problem solver, and have bridged a gap from old stories of my grandfather, to a living method of teaching. I was led into awe with each new discovery, and developed a profound respect for the powerful might of these small families.

And mostly, I have grown closer to my mother, who had shared never-before heard stories, some which she had nearly forgotten, because of this little project.

For this, I am forever grateful.....


Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Horse...Is A Horse?

omething about the mountains always calls me.  Pennsylvania, land of Appalachia, teases me with these monumental, mysterious earth-giants.  And, now, here I was, atop one of them, speeding up a mountain road…in search of some horses and driving lessons, to boot.

I had just left the Twisted Sisters (said with fondness!), Tina Sams and Maryanne--herbalists, soap makers, farmers, hip women, and future professional comediennes! Together with Tina’s daughter, Molly, you could not find three more creative, HI-larious, and kind people. This bunch, I daresay, was pretty much kin by the time I put my foot on the gas pedal and left the driveway.

But now…now was another story. The jalopy and I headed the OPPOSITE way of my house.  Little towns became lush forests and we headed up, up, up, until I could actually look down on the vista below. Memories of Upstate New York flooded me--that place held so much promise and so many small, broken dreams--but as always, it was about moving forward. It always was….

I was headed to Newport, PA. By all accounts, it between a small town and large farmlands…and by all accounts, I WOULD get lost, simply because I am a complete albatross on the roadways, direction-wise. I called my hostess--Kris. She ran a driving school, and would know the way. A jovial voice answered “You’ve gone too far,” because I missed a fork in the road. By then, I was looking at eye-high corn on either side of me.

After I rerouted, I managed to come up the gravel drive of a secluded cul-de-sac, and that opened up into beautiful fields. An Appaloosa grazed in the near pasture, a beautiful sight. My nerves and adrenaline were on hyper drive. I had built this crazy moment up in my head.

Months, MONTHS of frustration at not being able to do any of those things on my “want” list (learning to quilt, learning to drive horses, learning to play the fiddle, auditioning for the theater) had me wound on pins and needles.

Kris was a jovial woman, clearly old enough to have been in the horse world for some time. She greeted me with a firm handshake and twinkling eye, and then led me to the farm office nearby their house…

This place was the real deal. A tiny yellow rescue barn kitten ran around the office. Through the screen door, I saw several large chicken and a macho rooster strutting their stuff, on mantels everywhere, there were pictures of a young Kris, jumping and showing horses, and ribbons and trophies…and through the side door, I saw one of the advertised Percherons, eyeing me warily through the side of his stall.  I took it all in, excitedly…

Kris explained her program and I explained what I wanted. Her fee for driving was fair, but she suggested I come every week, which was probably stretching the budget. We talked about leasing horses, we talked about various things…and while I understood her standpoint of making a living, I realized it would be hard to get as much hands on experience as I would like, unless I found some extra means for money. I wasn’t 100% dissuaded, but it gave me pause. Plus, I realized that the distance between her and I was a bit more than I had originally expected, so the cost of gas was pushing the project right to the very limit.

I tried asking for a barter situation. What’s a farming/mountain woman wanna-be to do? I had no problem paying for certain things up front for sure, but I hoped to barter for some extras. Unfortunately, but understandably, she declined…but my heart sank a little anyway, and I started wondering about alternative ways to make up for any possible money discrepancies, anyway.

Undeterred, I decided to follow Kris out to meet the horses anyway.  The barn was huge, clearly well kept. We rounded into the stalls, where her magnificent Percherons were kept, and we seemed to hopscotch between the classic white, and black horses, looking at one or another in every other stall. And they WERE gorgeous, giant beasts that towered over one's head, and each gentle and friendly as kittens.

...But that was the problem, they were TOO friendly.  Each of them, though quiet and kind--and stunningly beautiful--would immediately walk straight up at me, inadvertently crowding me in order to sniff my hair, shirt, eye me. Again, there was no malice to a one of them, but there is something quite jangling about a beast so huge that their chin hairs brush the top of your hairline, and there they are towering directly over you.  I was waiting for their owner to command or move them back, and it never happened. This was a stark comparison to Joe's Percheron's, who waited for YOU to meet them, never daring to cross the invisible threshold between man and beast.

Kris sort of laughed it off, moved them briefly, and continued to talk as they sidled up again.  I  was a bit concerned, to say the least...and at one point, I even broke out the most basic of ground training an gently poked my two fingers into the clavicle of one of the mares. Immediately, she gave to the gentle resistance and moved backwards, as any well trained horse should. So I wasn't sure that the owner was just nervous or chatty, or wasn't too worried about the horses, but she wasn't asking them for proper and respectable space.

And so I left with the feeling of nervousness...and some worry....was I making too much of it? Was I expecting too much, with too little experience.  There was nothing but confusion and unease...and THAT would be the theme of days yet to come.....

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Countryside Chronicles III: Into the Countryside

"Stop the Car!" I yelled to my cohorts, sisters Maryanne and Tina.  We had been riding around the beautiful countryside of Manheim (or was it Mount Joy?), amongst Amish farmsteads and rolling hills...and as we rounded the corner, there stood the vision of TWO horses and a large mule, pulling a harrow that dug up a large field. A boy straddled the equipment, already an expert in his young age.

Foolish as it was, I wouldn't have minded pitching myself right out of our moving vehicle, just to be able to trot up to the lad, and ask him HOW DO YOU DO THAT?  Nevermind that he would have taken one look at my crazy hair, and probably the dirt and mud I'd have accrued from flying headlong outside of a moving automobile...and probably pronounced me something straight from the underworld...no, I wanted to know. How, OH HOW did you train those animals to do that? What was this secret that I forever seemed to be on the other end of?

But no, my women friends managed to talk me from the plummet and rolling part, and off we went....

Along the journey, we would see charming farm stands just idly up by the road, or signs for BROWN EGGS. PEACHES. SWEET CORN. We finally stopped at a farm that had RAW MILK and RAW MILK ICE CREAM.  I can't help it, I've always liked milk the way my mother's generation had it. And in Pennsylvania, it's legal to sell raw milk.  We turned down the road (driveway?) to what would be a Mennonite farm. Their huge barn and farmyard housed several large, bug eyed Holsteins. Two young boys puttered with some sort of farm tractor. The farm wife, bonnetted and paisley aproned, was on a lawn mower in front of the house. She waved curtly as we swung into the front of a little farm store, the screen door waggling behind us as we found ourselves in front of a bare room with freezers and a refrigerator.

But...it was charming. A little board had the day's items and prices. There was an open cash register with cash and coins laid out; this place was working on the honor system, and I loved that.

I was happy to find jumbo eggs for sale at $1.75 a dozen (!!) and the raw milk in Harrisburg is almost $7.00 a gallon. Here? THREE WHOLE BUCKS (!!!)  I bought one of each and made a note to visit this place everytime I visited the sisters. I supposed I would have gorged on the $4 a gallon raw milk icecream, but how would I transport it back?

Soon enough, it was time to go drove around for a little while more, finding secrets along every road and curve. Eventually though, the sun was going down and we were off to another fun "chore."

If I hadn't divulged it before, I say now that Maryanne makes soap. Fantabulous soap. Dare I say soap as good as my super duper soap-maker and farmer friend (and writer!) Donna OShaughnessy.  Maryanne's was on par with that good soap, but it was different. Different oils, colors, designs...which is why there can be many good soapmakers out there....and I was in for a treat--I would watch Maryanne and Tina make soap.

Their soap making headquarters is actually a sweet little storefront originally made for the Christmas Tree farm Maryanne's husband runs on the farm. It has since morphed into a cozy workspace with oils, essences and soap ingredients, and has an area for soap drying. Plenty of wonderful and unusual soap is made here, and you can find these at Lancaster County Soapworks.

The ladies are super-efficient at their craft, mixing and batching soap with skill that comes with running this little business for over a decade. The sisters were funny and insightful, chatting with me about all sorts of things--business advice, life advice. I seeped this in, stunned at their candor and frankness. They told it like it was, without being harsh, and one got the sense that these two should rent themselves out as those sort of Aunties that helped you with everything. In fact, I swear that---should I close my eyes---they were filled with equal amounts of magic and gravity that the Aunts from Practical Magic could very well have been in that room.....

We talked more over a dinner of pizza and ice cream...and I suppose this is a great segue-way to introduce Tina's daughter, Molly. The young lady (I dare say we were all old enough to call her "kid") is a beauty...equally as direct and funny as her mama. I wouldn't have guessed that Tina was someone's mama, but that's only because her spirit is so daredevilish, there is nothing typically domestic about her. Let me be clear though---from what I understand of her life, that she is an absolute amazing mama....I'm still trying to adopt her and her sister as those "Aunts" I was telling you about!

I was quite sad to leave, the next day...but part of the weekend journey also had me going out the opposite way past my house to visit a woman about riding some horses. Ever the mamas that they are--I was given FOUR FREE bars of soap (I think I will be clean for at least a year!), and Tina Tucked some of her homemade applesauce into the box that held the milk and eggs for the trip home.  I loved these people. Loved them.  I was finding kindness everywhere...

Then, as it always seems, I was on the road. Those folkloric Pennsylvania roads would lead me to the horses and horse training of my dreams....or would they?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Country Chronicles II: In The Land Of Women

A long awaited 2nd edition of a weekend adventure; this life is so busy, I've NO TIME to be busy!

"A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until she gets in hot water" Eleanor Roosevelt

f I think about my journey--the entirety of it, not just a weekend's worth--I realize this: the common thread binding it all....are women. Yes. Women. Strong women. Loud, outrageous and courageous women. Through all of the states I've traveled, they have been friends, co-conspirators, cheerleaders. A million mothers am I blessed with.  Don't get me wrong--there have been husbands, sons, brothers. But the ones that got me there--from Iowa, Illinois, Florida...and even now in PA, are women. They have seen me through everything.

Tina Sams and her sister Maryanne, are no different. When I last left you, we had just left another amazing woman, Sarah Preston, who had seen me audition to teach dance at her radiant shoppe, Radiance. I was amazed also, to know, that she has gotten her first hive, an AMISH made one, and would I like to teach classes?  Why yes, that I would. We talk about apiary matters, for some moments, but soon enough, Tina and Maryanne have me whisked away.

There is much to do. They have soap orders to deliver to the historic Landis Valley Museum. But first, we rush across the cobblestone street, and over to the large historic Market right in Lancaster City's square.

The place is hopping. Throngs of people walk or dally in front of various farm stands, kiosks and other shoppes that occupy a huge open floor plan. Everything, and I mean, EVERYTHING but the kitchen sink is in here. A Doggie bakery brushes against a blown glass stand, and sweet shoppes display mouth watering calorie whoppers. An Ethiopian deli neighbors a little quilt stand where a be-kerchiefed Amish grandma steadily sews--on sight--as quilted bags, purses, potholders, and more harken to another time.

I am overwhelmed...in a delighted way! Too much good food and good vibes over the loud and happy din of busy shoppers supporting local farmers and artisans....just what a gal like me likes to see.   We don't have time to dally--we are still due at the museum, but Tina and Maryanne buy soft pretzels from a happy vendor and she laughs at our jokes. They kindly offer me one....tasty stuff!

Then we are off, piled into Maryanne's car. We talk about the neighborhoods we are passing, and the two share a bit of history about Landis Valley. Seems that two antique-farm collecting brothers had gotten themselves tons of old farm equipment, and these eventually became the foundation of Landis Valley. Basically, the place is a beautiful historic property with buildings, structures, and more based on old Dutch/German farms. There are driving horses (more on this later), an heirloom seed project, and lovely old buildings and shoppes.

Soon enough, we pull into the main gift shoppe, which looks like a beautiful old Shaker saltbox construction. Inside, the ladies talk with the shoppe owner whilst I peruse the goods for sale. Beautiful redware pie plates, figurines, and even Christmas ornaments glint at me from shelves. Old woven rag rugs, beeswax candles, tin candle holders and treenware are for sale, as are handmade brooms, woolen items and other primitive wonders. I was in love. Tina shows me upstairs where tolle-ware, free hand cut out pictures (a Pennsylvania tradition), and more beautiful items awaited. I wondered how I could stow away, to permanently be surrounded by this beauty.

Soon enough, the handmade soap was offered up, and we were off...but not before we went to the main desk. My lovely benefactors wanted to MAKE SURE that I spoke with someone about the horse driving program. Tina was sure I could volunteer with the horses, but I had no luck on the phone, getting permission to do this.  The girl at the front desk, though baby-faced, was tenacious. She gave us THREE different numbers, and was sure I would get a response. I thanked her profusely, impressed by her spirit of helpfulness.  Since it was the weekend, I would pursue the matter once Monday hit.

From there, we hit the local burger joint....but there was nothing ordinary about it (though I dare say now, my old-age memory fails me for a name!).  The menu didn't sling greasy meat and potatoes...nosiree! This place was high-falutin': an interesting assortment of burgers--including vegetarian fare...and sides, were the name of the game. In fact, we had spicy fried mushrooms for a side, and I had a burger made of CHICKPEAS, with cucumber and a toasty bun. Maryanne, I remember, had a sort of apple crisp between two pieces of toasted bread. An unusual meal, with great conversation.

After that, and a moment at Tina's house, we did a most usual AND unusual thing...they actually honored my request to just drive around the countryside which, by luck, was their neighborhood. Yes, mightily exciting stuff, right?  But, indeed, THAT, to me, was exciting. I remember--too, at some moment--both mentioning how they hadn't realized,  in some time, how lovely and lucky they were. I suppose when you've lived in a place long enough, you will find a thing very mundane. I could say the same thing about the large city which I lived in--it's interesting to see excitement through a tourist's eyes, I suppose.

But truly--we went past yellow corn fields, plummeting roads that overswept old white centurian barns...zoomed past lowing black and white cows, past fields and fields of weeds that had names by people a century ago. We joked every time a saw a horse that I'd grab one and fling it in the back seat of the car. We laughed and told stories. We rounded bends with streams, watched hawks and crows dive, and...and...

We took a sharp corner past a corn field and on the other side, my heart stopped...there on the other side of a field, stood a kid--maybe fourteen or fifteen. And he was standing on a harrow, pulled by two drafts and a mule!  Foolish, indeed, but I literally yelled out with excitement...for what person like me sees such a thing this close with her own eyes. Actually, what of ANY of it had I seen. Every moment was a picture perfect post card, seared into my head...for eternity and a day...and here I was, with two new women friends, to share it all....

And there was still more to come....

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Countryside Chronicles I

ather ‘round, My Lovelies, for this story is one that might best be told around campfires and gatherings and such…at least I’d like to think so.  I suppose, in many ways, this isn’t the first story about what happens to a wild-haired city girl, when she dares venture into the wily countryside, and yet, each encounter is its own fingerprint, unique and stand-alone.

You will find the fruits of my weekend as shown above, with these wonderful little trophies found along the journey. Truth is, they are but a small representation of that time,  lovely tokens of a far grander picture. I found the stoneware (and antique way to hold old kitchenware), and the two rolling pins (for future old-timey bread baking, and each a dollar, to boot!), at an old antique outdoor market near Lancaster. The soaps were a gift from Soap-making/herbalist/editor in chief/general mischief maker sisters. All in all, not a bad score for a weekend outing. Honest-to-goodness, though, that wasn’t the finest prize to be had….

So sit back, my Friends, and enjoy this story, and you will understand the Countryside Chronicles….

This tale is one that is typical in two ways: it involves the splendor of the country, and it involves some amazing women. Which is just the right mixture for abundance and--of course--mayhem. Do not put a group of high spirited females together and expect less than magic, I tell you...and you can take that statement to the bank.

I had been out into the countryside, a couple of weeks back, and spend a good deal of time, then, with artist friends Carolee Clark and Jen MacNeill-Traynor. I had also spend a few hours with friends Tina Sams and her sister Maryanne, who lived a bit further up, in Manheim, which was far more rural than Jen and Carolee’s small town environs.

It wasn’t until this trip around, actually spending a night amongst the sisters, that I would fully understand their surroundings and, to some degree, why these dames were so funny and vivacious.

Somewhere beyond long, rounded roadways, beautiful corn and cow fields, and old barns and spring-houses, is a Christmas tree farm. As outlandish---or at least unique--as this place seems in the midst of old-time conventional farming, it’s unpredictability mirrors the sisters who live in this magical place.

Tina Sams is the editor of The Essential Herbal, been an herbalist for more than two decades and, in many ways, paved the way for herbalists after her. Her magazine is superb, a full compendium of every way to use herbs, and other related herb topics. Her sister Maryanne and her husband Bob, own the Christmas tree farm, living on the opposite side of Tina, on a most spectacular piece of property. Behind the evergreen branches, you will find berries and herbs and fruit and nut trees tucked away. And beyond these, an enchanted little cottage holds a wholesale soap business of Maryanne’s, with Tina as an astute assistant.

These ladies are a hoot, to say the least. They’ve been around the block, painted the town red, and have the funny and insightful tales to tell. Within minutes of seeing them in action, I could tell that they both are a barrel of laughs, like just enough good clean fun, and are kindhearted people. They are also extremely clever business women, and willing to lend an ear, and plenty of advice in regards to helping others with theirs.

My trip to see them would also include a few other wonderful women--and I was country-bound, actually, for reasons that had nothing to do with visiting. See, you may remember I have this dancing fever. It was quite a part of my youth and I haven’t quite managed to shake it. So I drag my old(er) bones 'round and teach dance, and it would be no different in this case.

Sarah Preston is the radiant proprietress of the equally titled Radiance, an amazing shoppe that carries herbs, oils, holistic items and much more revelrie in an enchanted space. Sarah herself is the picture of kindness and beauty and was nothing but supportive when I mentioned to her that I taught dance. She wanted to host classes, and I would stop by that weekend to show her some of my fancy moves.  So off we went--Tina, Maryanne, and I--over the river and woods and into the heart of Lancaster City.

I hadn’t an inkling that Lancaster--the proverbial heart of Amish Country--had a CITY, but it reminded me of a trendy downtown…full of art galleries, cafes, outdoor parks, and other little charming nooks and crannies that make such places appealing. Not the hustle and bustle of mad metropolises such as New York, this place was quaint, if busy.  Old buildings stood as historic sentinels, and in the middle of this, on the third floor of an old brick colonial place, was Radiance.

The place swirled with color and light, and I met lovely Sarah and was ushered into the large dance space, festooned with Indian sari and batik fabrics.   I did two routines, and then suddenly, the sisters and I were off and running, out into Lancaster County and it's outskirts.....

Yes, it’s not quite a country tale, but when we were done, there was FAR more bedlam to come.  Farmer Market Mayhem, Countryside Romps,  Soap Making, and the horse and wagon tale that…wasn’t!

And THAT, my Lovelies, is Tomorrow’s Tale!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On All Four Hooves...

s you may have heard, I have a slight horse predilection.

It's a fever, People, and it's been far too long since I've let the horsen ways stick in my craw, and gut....and just exactly how do you propose a horse and wagon project without a horse?

I've actually been a little despondent about it lately, truth be told. I mean, here I was, breaking a sweat--if not my back--in a crazy physical job that, while satisfying (and keeping me seriously THIN), was not at all what I'd thought I'd see myself doing.....

But...but....I was near Lancaster county which, by some lore, legends, or nearby gossip, was olden horse country. The Amish lived here, and generation's worth of farmers, and they all had horses, or knew of those who did.

So imagine all the moving, all of the job training, all of the uncertainty, all of the running around--fun as some of it was--but....no horses.  Yes, there are colorful costumes for dance, and drumming, and growing of free and tasty food. But not a hoof in sight.

Oh, I drove by them plenty o' times--darn near crashed the work van just wanting to stop on the highway...but no. Dutifully, I sped right by beautiful pastures and stunningly ancient barns and forgot about the farms, headed to another client in my modern day job. Ahh, life is a jagged little edge some days. 

Who lived on these farms, I wondered? How did they afford these near obsolete giants? Did they still use them to work? The storyteller in me concocted passels of stories, any number of possibilities, for these phantom farmers that I never saw, and their bucolic properties.

Amongst these stories, I'd hoped to add mine but...as with so much lately, the ending isn't certain....or maybe it is??   Finally, finally, I've connected with a farm that actually TEACHES this sort of thing! Right in the heart of Central PA, there is a beautiful farm that works with Percherons...a great sign as they are my favorite breed of large horse (besides the Gypsy horse, but I'd have to marry the King of Prussia to afford one!)

And so, this weekend, I am off on a merry-go-round adventure: a dance audition of Eastern proportions, a cup of tea--or more--with friends, and the big visit with the horse-driving whisperers! Wish me luck!

It's an exciting time---let's hope us all stand on all feet, and all four hooves....