The Night Train

Being obsessed with horses doesn't necessarily guarantee that you're going to make it to the barn every day.  It's a terribly annoying reality. It would be much more fair if loving something fiercely meant that the universe would grant you daily freedom to immerse yourself in said fiercely-loved thing. Boooo, Universe. (nevermind, don't boo the universe. That seems like a pretty terrible idea.)

But in this case, it worked out. Tonight I didn't get to the barn until around 7:30. Posie had already been fed, and only a few boarders were there just wrapping up. As I groomed Posie and refilled her salt bucket, the arena lights were turned off, leaving only the stall lights glowing and the radio humming. The last woman there kindly showed me how to close up the barn when I was finished, and I had the whole place to myself.

The dark arena seemed too good to pass up, and I decided to take Posie in for a quick session on foot. I led her in and let our eyes adjust to the single bulb in the far corner, and the light coming in from the moon and reflective snow outside. Since horses have built-in night goggles, Posie wasn't phased in the slightest, and she worked out beautifully. She was sound and true as a whistle; her ears were pricked and her energy high.  She jogged in perfect beat to the Pink Floyd coming over the ambient speakers. For a moment, it really felt like the dark side of the moon.

I took off her halter to let her move on her own, and she took off at a run and gave a good spring buck. She and I played in the dark for awhile, running back and forth across the dark flat dirt before she slowed down and walked toward me, letting me hold the weight of her head in my hands. I gave her scratches in her favorite places, and then walked her back to her stall for the night.  I gave her the apple slices out of my happy meal, and turned off the lights.

It was kind of a badass night at the barn.


An Excerpt of Marriage

Lorraine: You will like this. "One of things about beards is that, when men reach a certain age, they'd like to see if they can grow one. It's a phenomenon I understand very well. After you get over the itchy face, you go, 'Oh, I don't have to shave, that's cool.' And then you move into the philosophical thing-- people say, 'You look weird, you have a beard.' And you say, 'No, actually, it's weird to shave.' Having a beard is natural. When you think about it, shaving it off is quite weird."
-- Paul McCartney, on his Ram-era facial hair

Dan: That is the best quote ever.
I want to put that on a plaque and hang it somewhere important.

Lorraine: I'll cross stitch it for you.



Winter Wardrobe

I dearly loved the sunset that graced this blog for the past 6 months. I took it from the airplane on my last visit to California, and I think the colors perfectly symbolized my adoration of warm summer nights, the glorious colors of the sunset, and my renewed connection to the American West.

When Dan and I were at a pow wow this summer, I found these earrings that looked identical to this photograph.  I wanted them, but decided to be incredibly responsible, judicious, frugal, and conscientious.

I have regretted it ever since. Stupid frugality.

The new background is a photo that was taken on my phone in downtown Salt Lake City on a date with my person. It is a detail from the door of what is now a Zion's First National Bank, but was first known as the Octogon House, built in 1857. It has been a great many businesses, been known by many names, and it once even had many more floors.  Every inch of it harks to another era, but which era is hard to say. It is a culmination of years, but timeless all the same. She's a treasure.

And you? You're a treasure. You being here on the earth and enjoying your life? Totally a treasure.

Green Tea Lattes from Starbucks? Definitely a treasure.

This weekend is my birthday, and I have never felt so grateful for the chance to acknowledge it. Life is incredibly beautiful and incredibly breakable. There is a temptation to feel guilty for being okay, for being here, for getting another birthday.  But I have a precious human life, and this year, I want to live by the words of my friend the Double Lung Transplant Opera Singer: I want to live a life worth dying for.

I'm going to spend genuine time with the people I love. I'm going to relish having Posie the Mustang near me all winter at an amazing all-indoors barn full of kind and friendly horse people. I'm going to love my body for carting my soul all over the world. I'm going to let myself change authentically. I may or may not watch less reality TV. I'm going to choose my battles, and not let Facebook choose them for me.

 I'm going to be a better writer, a better wife, a better employee, a better friend.

I'm going to be a writer, a wife, an employee, and a friend, and be proud of myself for being all those things no matter what. I'm going to tell some stories. I'm going to do some really stupid things unintentionally, and I promise that I will tell you about it when I do.

Thank you for a great year, Internets. And thanks for the LOLcats.

(Oh, and I promise that this will be my last serious and self indulgent post for awhile. If you're still here, you've earned at least 3 or 4 self deprecating tales of my humorous existence for the sludge of impending winter doom you've trudged through with me!)



TwelveTwelveTwelve (And Night 5)

I wasn't paying attention when the clock changed.

I was deep in the photos and conversation threads on Ancestry and JewishGen when the twelve o'clock hour rolled by. The number is a beautiful one, a rare one, but it's more than 12/12/12 to me today. It's the fifth night of Hanukkah.

Every year, the silver menorah of partly lit candles remind me that one-eighth of me is connected to thousands of years of stories about one group of people.

FYI: This is not a post about Israel and Palestine. Lucky you.

It is about my search to find my family.  The man that connects me to all this, my biological grandfather, was not a part of my life, and his own life was complicated. I can't do anything in my life to reconcile that. I can't do anything to connect to him or to understand him, and I don't know that I would want to if I could.  It's funny then that it's him that connects me to this story of the Jews, this story that I want so badly to know, to understand, to be a part of. As the fractions get ever smaller, I feel like I owe it to them to know their names. And, I suppose, I want to believe in every part of me.

My great great grandmother and grandfather boarded a boat in 1914 in Europe and disembarked in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with their children, leaving behind Bessarabia, or what is now Moldova. Yeah, that weird former Soviet Union country I visited three years ago. I know their names, some of their experiences in America, more or less, and that they were Jewish. They spoke yiddish. They were pottery merchants in Susleni, Moldova before they moved to the capital city of Chisinau, and then to the Americas.  They left just in time, because in the decades to come, Soviets would wipe out huge swaths of Jews in that territory. But there is so much left to know.

Less than a century after my ancestors left Moldova, I stood in the village of Susleni and looked at the foundation of a house, which the owner told me was the same foundation of the Synagogue before it was "bombed".  I can't imagine what my ancestors would think of me going back to that place. Would they be touched, or horrified, or embarrassed, or hopeful?

The only photo I have of the house built on the Synagogue's foundation

When they arrived, they changed their last name from Abramovicz to Abrams. They changed their first names, too. I have no idea if my great great grandparents continued to practice Judaism, though they were buried in a Jewish Cemetery. My great grandmother became a Christian Rosicrucian, and that was the end of Judaism in my family.

I don't think I'm looking to convert from one complicated religion to another, but I am looking to save the few scraps of their memory that are left, and honor it the only way I know how: To light a few candles, search a few dusty documents, and show them that we haven't forgotten.

On this Gregorian calendar day of rhythmic numbers, I'm trying to put that synchronicity to work.  I'm looking for the hidden messages, buried deep in the heart of the flame.


No Me Marcho

"Que Marchas?" My Spanish host mother used to ask me. I loved this verb, Marchar. It was probably my favorite Spanish verb that I learned in Spain, after Comer, to eat. They are both verbs that I learned by living them. Often they would go hand in hand: "Me marcho a la tienda por mas galletas y helado a comer." (I am heading out to the store for more cookies and ice cream to eat).

Six years later, I think I finally burned off that last scoop of lemon gelato at the gym last week.

More importantly, six years later, I feel like certain parts of me, the right parts of me, have let go of Marchar.

It's hard to describe colloquially how marchar is different from walking or leaving. It's sort of like, walking with purpose, or walking as a function. In my heart, it sort of implies a certain mindset, to be constantly on the move, lest anything become stale or purposeless. The Spanish surely don't approve of this interpretation, but this is 'Merica, and we love to misuse other people's languages.

I think some of my current coworkers may read this, so I don't want to dilly dally around. I got a job offer somewhere else, recently, and it was a really neat job for a really awesome company, and it was five minutes from my front door. It would have changed everything, and I am sure that I could have had something really amazing and happy there. But I turned it down. For the first time in a long time, I feel content to stay. 

Don't get me wrong- I've got lots of Marchar left in me. I just want to use it more abstractly. I feel less compelled to run away from my literal circumstances to create new purpose or adventure, and more compelled to maintain my environment and enrich it. The purposeful walking is the sort that must be done down the long corridors of thought, of passion, of intent, of creativity. And amazingly, by staying in place for just a little while at the job I have now, I have had so many new doors opened that can only come from long term commitment and the gradual building of trust that comes over years, and I've never had that in my career. Staying, in fact, is the most foreign journey in the world for a girl like me.

I have been walking for a long time. I'm ready to meditate in place.


How To: Nashville in 48 Hours

I present to you a smattering of photographs intended to guide you through 48 hours in Nashville, about 16 of which was spent in a conference, 10 spent sleeping, and maybe 2 hours collectively in my hotel lounging/getting ready/packing or unpacking/bathing.

First, you must get in a plane and leave behind these:

and this:

In exchange for this. Oh Tennessee:

Then, you must go to the Marriott Vanderbilt, ask for a Northwest facing room. Check into said room, and open your curtains to reveal this:

Take a shuttle to Music Row, find the tourist nature of it a little bit overwhelming and depressing, and walk to the waterfront, where you will see this: (and feel instantly better)

Then, realize that you passed the Ryman Auditorium without knowing it, and go back and get a picture:

or two:

Succumb to the touristy nature of Music Row and snag a stool for a modestly good country cover band at The Stage:

Cruise around to a few other venues including one made to look like a trailer park, and then wearily stumble home to bed in an attempt to be alert for your symposium the next day.

DAY 2:
Wake up at 6:15 and don't think about what hour you went to sleep. Just throw on your clothes and follow the sun through the fog, which will lead you here:

And eventually to this:

Sit here, and enjoy the morning for a bit. Leave when you get cold:

Attempt to be artsy for the sake of your travel blog, if only because it brings you joy:

Be a civil war nerd for about 10 seconds, and don't fret that the Parthenon doesn't open until 9am. You still have tomorrow:

Arrive at your symposium at 7:58, and if you're lucky, someone saved you a seat.

After symposium, ride the coattails of the smart people who found real bluegrass off Music Row. On the way, stop and stare in awe at the Lucchese store:

Then head to the Station Inn, hosting real music and excellent cheap pizza. Thank your lucky stars when you are the 4th-to-last person in the door before it hit capacity:

You'd have gotten there sooner, but you probably stopped at Two Old Hippies to buy a certain someone special some Martin Guitar Strings:

Walk into Station Inn, and Marvel at the vintage bluegrass festival posters spouting off the name of every legend your father once forced you to listen to, and then weep openly a little in gratitude that your father taught you who Bill Monroe is:

Enjoy some of the best live Blues and Bluegrass you will ever hear, courtesy of some Nashville legends. (Jack Pearson on steel guitar)

(Jim Lauderdale on guitar/vocals)

(Randy Khors playing every instrument known to man and then a few he made up himself)

(Bluegrass Child Prodigies the Moore Brothers)

After all the awesome, attempt to walk home before realizing you're an idiot, and hail a cab. But get a picture first:

Take one stupid picture of yourself in the Hotel Room, to prove that you went out in your cowboy boots and didn't watch the marathon of Real Housewives of Atlanta that was on:

DAY 3:

Go Back to the Parthenon instead of going to lunch, and admire the 7 ton brass doors:

Turn around and realize you were being watched:

 Have someone handy to take this picture for bragging rights, as well as for the sake of scale:

Go back to your symposium. No really, just do it. You will learn something. Or at least you will write things down that you intend to learn later.

With your last hour in Nashville, go wander the Vanderbilt University Campus, which really is the gem of Tennessee, especially in the fall:

Admire that there are dead people buried on their campus with books on their graves. BE JEALOUS:

Get back on a plane and come home, but not before eating at the Gibson Cafe in the Nashville Airport, where the tables are shaped like guitar picks:

Finally, spend the next several years of your life wishing you'd had more time in Nashville, until eventually you go back, make it big, meet Brad Paisley, do a killer hit duet together, and buy a pair of Lucchese Boots with all your country star money.

THE END. (for now.)