A telegraph from Elysium

As he is in my memory, Handsome Redred
Two of our horses were in the dream, the Arabians, both of whom perished last year. So, too, the miscreant aptly named Pyewacket— a fierce disagreeable little cat whose provenance is known only inasmuch as she is the progeny of one of the feral cats that took up residence in the barn a few years ago.

I was trying to connect with the horses at turns. But my Night shade was finding them, not the real me— a defensive version, relating to Pye; always the trickster version,

It spooked and scared the horses, the gentle kind— So they told me, in their way, I must find them as myself.

I whispered in my sleep “I don’t know how.”

And Red somehow telegraphed the message to me through what technology he found in that place, it told me

When the stars are going out—
And you’re looking for a face before you leave—
Make it mine.”

And I tried like hell to escape the deep molasses of sleep, to find him; to remember— To shake it all off and just recall that one moment, of him.

Him, merged with my childhood; Magic; the Elysian Fields, the Farm— the Infinite; revisiting me. And I did, sort of— but he was talking about when the Stars Go Out. So I’ll meet him when I die.

I have to wait. (I’ll always look for his face.)
Animals are the closest I get to religion.

.   .   .

Later on,  I painted that little sketch of him. Here’s the one I did when he passed:


And here’s one of Red and Comet, our red and black Arabian gentlemen:



Idylls following a solstice

Red barns in snow
The view from my upstairs window in the morning after new snow

Cold and picturesque, the Farm this week; a winter idyll. The drive upstate was unfettered by traffic or difficulties; highway dark on the eclipsed solstice, save the odd bling-lit freight truck. Not a wink, not a star—no Orion out the passenger window.

Red barns in snow
View of the barn from the pasture
locust trees in snow
The stand of locust trees, perished. My mother says they must come down; I’ll miss those stoic sentinels.
horses in snow running
The stout lads in their winter coats

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Farewell, Red

Red (HB pencil, eraser, and watercolor)

Here is a portrait I did this week in memory of my horse, Red, whom we lost on Monday. He was 35 this year, and feisty as ever— now running and grazing in the Elysian Fields.

The finished pencilling, prior to watercolor

I’ve been planning to write about him this week, but the portrait was a softer catharsis. Instead, I’ve unearthed what I wrote three summers ago, late one August night at the Farm:

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Red in the sun

Prince and Red.

His mane is exceedingly long, quite proper for an Arabian (though his face looks mostly Thoroughbred, despite his having only 25% of that breed in his Anglo-Arab genealogy.)

Some photos of Red from my trip Upstate to the Farm. He’s getting up there– 28 years of age; still the master of the herd. He’s lost many of his back (chewing) teeth, which has resulted in his subsisting largely on mash, though he still spends a lot of time grinding away at green grass– but his jaw has lost some of its muscle. Still a handsome devil, though, and still feisty. More images after the jump–

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A horse and a lady in a fine coat

These are both more examples of drawings done from old photographs, although to decidedly different effect than the earlier ones. These were done last night, the first Art Night of the new year.


Wolf on the wall

Impatient for lunch! (Prince, Dad)

Saturday wander, back in Bklyn– Vinegar Hill segment (Kim, brother Jon, Anders, Ben)

Random things I remember from 4H

Brad, Romona and myself (age 11 or 12) after a trail ride. Also pictured: Ramona’s horse Cody in the rear, and mine, Chief (too busy grazing on the lawn to lift his head for a photo).

I was in the Monroe County 4H Equine program when I was growing up, until I was around 15 or so (when Punk, New Wave, and boys ate my brain). My oldest brother and a number of friends and I were all in a local 4H group (the Rush Riders, named for our township) that was a part of the Cornell University Cooperative Extension. In addition to trail rides, horse shows and Wyomoco Horse Camp, we participated in a program of testing known as the Star Tests, of which there were five levels. I made it to level four before quitting the program, and we used to practice by staging horse bowls– kind of trivial pursuit games, but only regarding horses. We had study guides and books. Someone out there (probably Cornell) even published papers which we received piecemeal, to put in a binder, gradually making up a textbook of horse knowledge, from tack terminology to basics of veterinary care. Somewhere at the farm I have my four little star pins still, I think. It’s pretty amazing to think about now; I took it all for granted at the time, since I started when I was around eight.

Some of us also took part in the Public Presentations program, for which my presentation on Anglo-Arabian horses (that’s a Thoroughbred crossed with an Arabian) made it to State level. I titled it “The Best of Both Breeds.” (Such a geek! I was mainly interested in that program because the talks required visuals, so I had the chance to design and draw loads of posters for them. Probably cemented my future career as a designer.)

So, here are some random bits of horse geekery that were floating through my head this morning for some reason:

  • Lipids are the building blocks of protein. (!)
  • In a horse, the caecum is a vestigial organ similar to the appendix in a human. (In looking up the proper spelling, I’ve since learned it exists in carnivores as well but evolution has decreased its size)
  • A horse has 206 bones, save for pureblood Arabian horses, which have one fewer vertebra.
  • When a horse’s hooves are properly trimmed, the resulting angles (in relation to the ground) should be 45º for the front feet, and 50º for the back.
  • In the US, any horse standing fewer than 14 1/2 hands tall at the withers is considered a pony. (One hand = 4″, so that’s 58″. The withers are the bones at the base of the neck –essentially the topmost points of the shoulder blades– just behind which rests the foremost portion of a saddle.)
  • A horse cannot breathe through its mouth.
  • A horse’s age can be determined by looking at it’s teeth. (The phrase “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” refers to this. It would be tantamount to receiving a car as a gift and immediately checking the  odometer to see how new it was– considered rude, ungrateful.)
  • A horse’s small intestine is about 75 feet in length.
  • Eohippus, or “dawn horse”, was around the size of a small fox, and had paws not hooves; horses retain a vestigial toe of sorts in the form of a callosity at the rear of the fetlock known as an ergot, similar to those found on cats and dogs.