zapata

Be ever so little distracted, your thoughts so little confused, your engagements so few, your attention so free, your existence so mundane, that in all places and in all hours you can hear the sound of crickets in those seasons when they are to be heard-Thoreau

 

kathyongrater
Photo courtesy of Page Steed. Check out her website. You will enjoy her wildlife photography and unique vision.

The crisp chirp of crickets, the low grunt of buffalo, the impatient neigh of horses, the trickling rivulets of water and sand, and blessed laughter; I gratefully heard them all last week while attending the Zapata Ranch Workshop: Women, Horses and the West.

We rode in the morning and discussed literature in the afternoon.

 

riding out
Photo courtesy Page Steed. My mount was Merlin. Slowest horse in the West. He deserves his own chapter. Maybe another day.

Thoreau jump-started our week by helping us adjust our sight as he described ‘Simply Seeing’.

 

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Not so luxurious a soil as to attract men-H.D.T.

 

 

Author Dan Flores proclaimed the Plains are the American Serengeti. He explained how the Plains are ‘a sensuous feast of the minimal’ and how loving the grasslands is embedded in our DNA.

 

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Sunset in the San Luis Valley, Colorado

 

Dr. Bonney MacDonald, Professor of English at West Texas A&M university led our lively afternoon discussions. Bonney is brimming with contagious energy and passion and she had me reading and studying like crazy. If you ever have a chance to hear her speak, you must take it. I love her.

 

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Bonney preparing to ride.

It was a special joy to spend the day….beginning at 4:45 am!….with photographer/geologist Stephen Weaver.

photography

I learned I have a nice camera, but I don’t know how to use it. I made terrible mistakes with my photography this day and lost many a fun capture. I felt like an idiot even though Stephen was unfailingly encouraging. Learning is hard. Guess who will forever check her white balance setting before she shoots another photo?

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Mostly my pony and I sauntered behind the main group. Merlin wore a comforting, plodding cadence and I wore my appreciative grin.

 

Kathy
Photo courtesy of Page Steed

 

There was always an experienced wrangler nearby, just in case someone made a newbie mistake or needed help retrieving lunch from the saddlebag.

 

wranglers
The wranglers. Aren’t they gorgeous? Each and every one extraordinarily smart and gracious. Thank you!

My favorite and most lasting memory of the trip? Well, that would have to be the ladies in attendance! To describe them as professors, music teachers, caregivers, corporate-types, photographers, volunteers and healers somehow fails to summarize their sweeping personalities and spacious hearts. Conversation is a lost art these days. We’re too concerned with being right. Zapata’s legacy for 2017 is the expansion of my mind. Some days it felt as wide and bright as the sky.

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Is it possible my sight was adjusted? Even with the nagging problems with my eyes, was I noticing more?

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What am I hearing/seeing now? A certain gray-muzzled wiener dog impatiently dropping the tennis ball at my feet, the greeting neighs of the-best-old-lady-horse-in-the-world, the Texan watching old Star Trek episodes, and the grands giggling over hauling a perch out of the lake.

Oh, Thoreau! Here’s to fewer distractions, confusions and engagements. Here, here to an uncluttered mind and the blessing of a mundane existence! I’m raising my glass to the sound of crickets. Cheers, everyone. Thanks for reading.

Headin’-west love to all.

chairwithboots

following light

It rained. I went from looking like this.

birdfacesTo looking like this.

handsuphannahPraise God! Answered prayer, for sure.

I have lots of bovine friends who are ecstatic, as well.

roundupPhotographed a recent branding at the northern NM ranch. Look at the green grass!

I took tons of pictures. Played with all the settings on my camera; shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Figured if I took enough photographs maybe one of them would be worth showing.

This recent foray into ranch photography served to reinforce the principle of the golden hour. Or in reality, the golden FIVE MINUTES known as sunrise/sunset. Let me demonstrate.

Here’s a picture of a couple of cowboys.

reidandwillAn OK photo taken at midday.

Now, take a look at the same cowboys at sunrise.

willandreidBe still, my heart! I’m in love with this light. The guys are alright, too.

Why does sunrise have to come so early? A sunrise photographer must be dedicated and carry lots of concealer to cover the bags under her eyes. The flattering light is short-lived.

cassadyThis young lady and her glistening sorrel horse are simply magnificent. She’s nice and smart, too. She looks beautiful in the golden morning light. These subjects make me look like I know what I’m doing with my camera. Thanks, Cassidy!

Following the light-a metaphor for life, right?

More sunrise glorious-ness.

sunrisejingling

 

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Unfortunately, there is action that takes place AFTER sunrise. I did the best I could.

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Preparing to gather the pasture.

Ray1

rhettroping
Ropin’ and draggin’.
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Cowboy Ray was my favorite subject. I know a great face when I see one.

 

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Branding fire.

 

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A couple of antelope roaming.

 

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A budding cowpoke still in his jammies.

 

I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve got to get up early and stay up late to get the most outstanding photos.

Hope you enjoyed branding day at the ranch. Now I’m off to purchase more concealer.

Stay out of the dark places.

Enlightening love to all.

browns

Are you up to your eyebrows in Christmas busy-ness? Have you checked your list? You baking your guts out and then snicky-snacking your guts out?

With the assistance of bad cell phone photos, I’ll bring you up to speed on my Christmas preparations. Here goes:

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Over-achieved one evening and made Christmas cookies. This was the easy part. Looked like a multicolored tornado raged through my kitchen when I decorated them. Can you say ‘backache’?
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Sunday found me in the choir ready to sing John Rutter’s ‘Gloria’.
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We had a full house, though you can’t tell it from this photo. Started to take a selfie in front of the big Christmas tree. I resisted.
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Took a walk today. 60 degrees and perfectly calm. I was struck by the winter browns. Gray, beige and brown rule the winter-time around here. Saw a lovely herd of deer.
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Dead tree. Victim of too many years of drought. It does provide a nice home for a barn owl, though. Don’t look too hard-the owl is NOT in this pic! Sorry.
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More browns surround the lonely little country house.
barn
Was Jesus born in a barn like this?
pnut
I doubt there was a mini-horse at the manger.
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Was there a big animal close by who sniffed the head of the newborn king? A donkey? A sheep?
pnut1
Did the animals sense the importance of the star?
roxy
My side-kick. On our walks, she manages the security on the ground. She savors the scent of every deer, jackrabbit and snake. She resents it terribly when I tell her there was no dachshund present at Jesus’ birth.

I feel incredibly blessed this Christmas season. I know so many others though, who are hurting and suffering. This time of year can be a trial for people. I try to remember to give thanks for my blessings and pray for those who are struggling, realizing we all have our trials. God bless us.

Here’s a couple of fun pics I took with the good camera. They make me smile. You’ve already seen them if you follow me on Facebook.

reindeer Dressing dogs in Christmas costumes. It’s a sickness, I know. It’s just that the doxy loves it soooo much!

hannah
My vote for December picture of the month.

Did I mention blessings? I’m grateful.

Is your heart ready for the hope and wonder of the Savior’s birth? He’s coming.

Here’s hoping the browns aren’t getting you down.

Green, shiny tinsel-y love to all.