Giacomo must be looking down on us and smiling. We have found a senior donkey to bring to Apifera.
And her name is Matilda.
My heart skipped a beat when I heard her name was the same as my mother's middle name. Matilda was recently rescued by the kind people of Lavender Dreams Farm in Washington, along with 8 other donkeys. The owner of the donkeys wanted to get rid of them, and didn't want to even bother taking them to auction [which would not have had a happy ending] since he wouldn't get enough money. He told the rescue he was going to have to shoot them in two weeks. They stepped in.
Matilda had been abused as a brood jenny. The owner was only giving her straw...yes, straw. She was bred every year for her whole life. The rescue's vet has looked her over and she is in amazingly good health considering she'd never had hay or supplements. Her teeth are pretty good but they are paying to have them floated [a procedure to shave off the points off an equine's teeth]. She is having regular farrier work too while she is there - her feet aren't too bad, thankfully. And they have been walking her to try to strengthen her back muscles and improve her sway back. Carrying the extra weight of a baby without proper feed or care put strain on her back, for sure.
I am so excited to bring her home and work with her. She has a loving personality, but is a bit shut down- who wouldn't be? I will be loving all over that donkey. She will participate in sing-a-longs, cookie breaks after nap time, rubdowns, ear poetry contests and sunset sit-ins by the barn. I will show her Donkey Hill and the magic Old Oaks, who talk to all newcomers, if spoken to.
And I'm thinking too she will be a wonderful candidate for senior visits with the elderly here at the farm.
He approached the red barn like a movie star on a Hollywood set, waiting for the lighting to be adjusted just right to catch his best features. If he'd been clothed in red velvet, what King or Pope could compete with his beard or his proud stature?
He glances out to a horizon line with a calm, internal force that tells the world,
"I am Guinnias, I am here."
Old Man Guinnias came to Apifera after we adopted him from the New Moon Goat Farm who had rescued him. He is one of five senior goats Apifera has adopted from New Moon.
Wilbur and Granny are settling in to their new world at Apifera. Whether it be Mr. Bradshaw or Chicken Jack, they seem to be easy going barnyard mates.
I think they should have called Granny "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena". She is small and frail looking, but look out, she can head butt with the best of them. I have to crate her during feedings because she knocks Old Guinnias over for his food. She is a cookie monster, and her one long front fang - which I am attempting to photograph and not having much luck at- must be watched during cookie giving.The space between her wonky front teeth make her tongue stick out, quite amusing.
And then there's Wilbur. Wilbur, Wilbur, Wilbur. I have a goat named Wilbur but he is not a goat. He is Lassie the dog. Wilbur follows me around, and when I move two feet, he is right by my side doing the same thing. And most charming of all, loves to be hugged and kissed...a lot. He is not as much of a trouble maker as I had imagined...so far. Although it is funny having a younger goat...er, I mean dog...around to watch him leap off hay bales and run up and down just for fun. Since everyone else is in a walker or wheelchair, I love having the younger fellow around, it is a nice balance with all the geriatric duties.
Wilbur and Granny [as well as Old Man Guinnias and our dearly departed Gertie and Georgie, were adopted from New Moon Farm Goat Rescue. Donations and art sales helps me bring them home, and a kind volunteer made the 10 hour round trip. You can sponsor a goat too if you'd like.
The weather has been beyond bleak. Having spent most of my life in the Midwest and East, the winters in Oregon are a trip to the beach. But we have winter, and we also have our fair share of irrational melt downs this time of year. Thoughts such as, "It's the end of the world," linger in the head this time of year. It's what my brother used to say in Minnesota when a spring storm would dump three feet of snow on the lawn just in time for Easter. Heartbreaking to one who yearns to be barefoot.
But last night the moon came up. To say it was magnificent doesn't do it justice, but it saved me from dreary thoughts. I had just left the barn, pitchfork in hand, sounds of the animals crunching hay as I shut the barn door, when I looked up and there she was.
"You know I'm here every night, why the gasps tonight?" she asked.
She rarely spoke directly to me. She is the moon, busy putting on nightly and daily performances with the tides, so for her to stop and just speak so directly to me was...important.
"Tonight you are washed in even more gold, and you're an earring to the tree you sit above," I told her.
All night, even in slight fog, I awoke to her warm light sprinkling a sense of optimism on the leaves outside the bedroom window.
Once there was a lonely red ball. She had no idea what she was suppose to do all day. She rolled around a bit looking for other balls, but never found one. She rolled out to the road hoping to find a round rock, but they were all pointy and uninterested in her red roundness.
"I shall just deflate into nothing, purposeless," she sighed.
"Wait, what is this in the distance?"
She felt herself being lifted, the air blowing the sand off her body as she flew through up high and landed abruptly on soft grass.
As she settled into a divet of turf, she saw his face for the first time - big, brown eyes, a smile of red tongue, and ears flapping as he shook off energy.
From that day on, she was never lonely again and her precise purpose was very clear to her.
"Everything today has been heavy and brown. Bring me a Unicorn to ride about the town." Anne Morrow Lindbergh
The bleakness of the cold rains can have one hallucinating about such things. I forced myself to go out in it and take pictures. Bleakness can be beautiful and still feel heavy, especially when long dead sunflowers still stand and the rusted barn wall is the same color of the daffodils soon to emerge.
No unicorn arrived, but all my animals cheered me on, as will my Dirt Farmer soon to arrive home. I can see him now, sitting in the rocker in front of the fire telling me about his day, his socked feet looking damp.
During the months where it's not quite winter and not yet spring, the skies are gray more than blue. Gray is one of my favorite colors, but it needs accents from time to time. So I allowed myself the pleasure of a visit with one of earth's new companions. Her name is Arabella and she is born of the same mother and father as Apifera's Pino and Lucia.
Before I say anything more, stop...just stop what you are thinking. I did not bring her home with me. Nor will I. She was just a dalliance for me. My brief hour with her was like skipping barefoot in the meadow I lived by as a child.
Post note: I received an email from a follower of my art and writing yesterday. I had finished this painting minutes before, she had no way of knowing that. She wrote to tell me she had followed my work for years, and the subject of Egypt came up, She wondered how I might express the day in art or writing. She wrote a beautiful note about it, and explained her son in law was Egyptian. Eerily coincidental? I do believe the winds of freedom did reach me, from all those brave people. The writer ended up buying the painting, and I was really touched by that. The story it will have for members in her family...very nice.
I watched the television and the images stayed with me all morning. I hadn't planned on painting something for Egypt.
But as I sat down to paint something, first a small rabbit appeared. I really had no clue what to paint, and was just watching the piece of wood before me for shapes and colors to appear- it is how I always start a piece.
But when the rabbit appeared, I looked up the symbolism of the creature and I found this somewhere:
"The flooding of the Nile was encouraged by sacrificing Osiris, who in the ceremonies, took on the form of a hare. As this process occurred annually, the rabbit/hare became associated with resurrection. "
I looked up the Egyptian flag and found this:
"The red band symbolizes the period before the Revolution, a time characterized by the struggle against the monarchy, and the British occupation of the country. The white band symbolizes the bloodless nature of the Revolution itself. The black band symbolizes the end of the oppression of the Egyptian people at the hands of the monarchy, and foreign imperialism."
The beautiful, bold flag of this country has an eagle in the center white strip.
As someone who paints in layers of color, I enjoy creating simple images with one watercolor stick. Blue is a very spiritual color. This ongoing series helps me draw each day, though some purists would not call it drawing. They are just questions or answers on paper, past thoughts from long ago, dreams, fears, blue seconds in a line.
I must focus on what's here, and the things I desire will find their own way to me, in their own time. It has happened like that over and over, and it starts with a feeling in my heart or underworld, then peeks out on a crude sketch....and one day, it's here.
The pregame show for lambing season has begun with three to four weeks until the live performance. I have separated out the mothers to be from the flock, have their lambing stalls ready where they dine on special protein feed and alfalfa. The other sheep tell me it would almost be worth being pregnant with twins to get some of that alfalfa, which we only feed to the pregnant ewes. This year I chose to only breed four ewes - Daisy, Lilly, Bessie and Audrey. They know my compulsive routine will now begin - daily tail lifts to look for signs of...anything. Undignified. They ignore the fact I stare at their udders morning and night, looking for that last minute blow up, a real sign something will pop soon.
"Why she bothers with all this, " I can hear them think, as they chew some cud, "we get it done every year, the same way, usually when she's sleeping."
Daisy is my elder stateswoman and one of my favorite ewes. She arrived in 2004 with Rosemary and Joe Pye Weed to start our flock. She is not only a wonderful mother, she is dignified and what I would call a "subtle leader". She has her place in the upper hierarchy without being pushy. I can rely on her to answer my calls and get the flock to move anywhere, anytime. I almost didn't breed her this year, but each time she came into heat she was so pathetic looking, standing for hours just staring up to the ram pen. She is programmed to breed. I caved. She turns eight this spring and I won't breed her again, so this will be the end to our initial line. She has given us so much, it is her time to rest. I've noticed her limping more this year, and it isn't foot related. Those skinny sheep legs get old too, so I thought it was time to retire her.
Each painting can be a prayer or a calling of some kind. One doesn't always know what one is calling out for, but this little piece seems to beckon to all my powers to help me make good choices this lambing season. We all know I've made mistakes. Half this stuff you learn on the fly, and some times there are grave consequences. I've been conversing with the flock, telling them it will be fine.
But we all know sometimes things aren't fine. It's just the way nature works - I'm not the conductor, I'm more like the flute player trying to keep up with the beat, and send out good vibrations.
Still, spring is the season, as is lambing time, for optimism. It is a clean slate. Beauty will be born in the barn right along side the sounds of old goats eating their hay.
I do not have much trouble letting go of paintings after their completion. It is part of how I make my living, but also, it is the encounter I have with layers of paint, textures and feelings while I create it, not the actual product, that make me an artist. However, there are always some that sing a bit more. Sometimes I hold those back to savor them, but this piece was painted for a show and sold right away. I have no idea who bought it since galleries currently seem to think they have the right to withhold that information from the artist, so I don't know if it sits on a mantle, or is tucked in to a closet with old sweaters. Either way, my time with it was short and my work is done.
But when I was picking one new piece to add to the online print section, I chose this one. I hadn't looked at it carefully for a long time. It is one more example of my art telling me a story I need to hear, but that story might have changed since the painting was made. Depending on what is going on around me, many of my paintings have been a map to the future, my conscious just wasn't ready for it when I made it. And while I had a donkey, and chickens, and braids, when I painted this a couple years ago, I can now see yet another one paragraph story emerging from this piece - "The wind was blowing in just as the daily performances began. She sat at the side stage, covered with a trusted creature who would not complain. The wind died down just for a second, and that is when her braids blew up to the skies out of exuberance for her current situation."
She is a walking minstrel, a poet with her paws as she graces each table top unannounced. She has everything she needs, she's an artist, said Dylan; perhaps he too had been inspired by such a feline the day he took pen to paper.
Each day, she paints the sky with her body while sitting in a window behind a drape. Like any abstract, it comes deeply from within her, and no one really knows what it means. But like any art exhibit, the viewer can walk away with a personal experience, if they only stop to look.
Spring is soon to arrive, according to the Official Hen House Almanac and that means the ladies have been strutting about in some of their spring underpants to see how they feel in action. I know much of the country is still struggling through storms after storm, so I thought this would give you hope that Spring will indeed come to you too.
We have a special melody we sing this time of year in honor of spring underpants. It is sung to the tune of "I've a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts".