Archive for May, 2012


For the first time I went to the Devon Horse Show over the weekend. I had debated whether to take a camera or not. Having that lens between me and the world around me is a sometimes welcome, sometimes cumbersome barrier. It can distance me emotionally and remove me from being fully in the present. On the other hand I usually find myself scanning my environment for interesting shots and there are sometimes one of a kind photos I would love to capture. It is actually a pretty tough decision at times for me…more so when I am with someone. But I try to find a balance, careful to nurture my relationships with the attention and focus they deserve, and then, at other  times, sometimes alone, sometimes with another photog, feeding my need to take pictures.

However, in this instance, I finally decided at the last-minute to stuff my camera and 1 lens into my bag. I slung it over my shoulder, staggered a moment under the bulk and then piled into the car. It was a wise choice.

I love horses. I think they are just gorgeous creatures. Powerful, elegant and remarkably fragile, all at the same time.

I absolutely believe I have the best commute in the world. Each morning I drive through the most beautiful countryside liberally dotted with farms and stables. This is big time horse country and I have learned a lot about horse behavior in the months since I started this new job. I never knew they slept lying down for instance. It shocked me the first time I saw a couple of horses  down in their pastures — I was sure  I was looking at some horrific epidemic that was just wiping out horses right and left. I learned, of course, that they do indeed lie down to sleep at times.

I have noticed how interested they are in what’s happening in the world around them. When a postal worker  pulls up to the mailbox invariably I see horses gather along adjacent fencelines to watch. I have this mental image of one horse muttering to another, “She’s running a little late today.” The  other horse responding with a derisive snort, clearly unimpressed by the selection of a noisy, gas-guzzling mode of transportation.

One beautiful spring morning I was fortunate enough to see two horses at full gallop race each other across a field, night blankets snapping in the wind behind them like superhero capes. Absolutely breathtaking.

Back to the Devon Horse Show, where I wandered over to the warm up track and caught  horses and riders going over jumps.

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photo by amjwriter

Then, I was truly fortunate to see a special performance by 14-year-old Lizzy Traband. Born without a left hand and forearm, Lizzy has ridden for much of her young life. Atop her white pony Toby, Lizzy circled the main performance oval, flying over jumps, guiding her horse solely by artful balance. A colorful harness of red roses draped Toby’s neck but there was none of the more commonplace leather halter or harness. Riding a horse without a halter is akin t o driving a car without a steering wheel. Terrifying but freeing at the same time. It takes a lot of trust on both sides of the saddle.

All in all, an amazing performance that unexpectedly brought me to tears.

photos by amjwriter

There are magical times in life when horses, and humans, can defy gravity and truly fly. This was one of them.

Okay, so how big can a toad get? I mean, really?

We finally put in the vegetable garden this weekend. Nice planning on our part since we waited out some beautiful 73 degree weekends, and then ended up having to do it  in 90 deegree heat in order to actually have some veggies before October. Sunscreen, straw hat, sunglasses are of little protection when you are planting tomatoes and squash on what  feels like the surface of the sun.

As I  was working I heard some rustling nearby. Glancing over the garden fence I saw what initially looked like the rear end of a rabbit disappearing into a tunnel under the barn, the former home of George the groundhog. George apparently has moved on. God, I hope so. I don’t think I can take another incident of the dogs getting trapped after chasing George back into his warren of tunnels under the barn floor. After the last time we erected a fearsome barricade of fencing, firewood, lawn chairs and garden tools to keep them out. So far, it has worked, but the perimeter of the barn is looking a bit like a Rube Goldberg experiment.

Anyway, it took me a moment to realize I was actuallly looking at the colossal rear end of a toad. I think I had seen this same toad last year near the barn but it has clearly doubled in size. A testament to good eating I suppose. Clearly we must have a good selection of bugs on the menu.

This may even be the same creature known as Mr. Toad who lived closer to the house a few years ago and who used to phlegmatically stand his ground when the dogs and I came across him in the early morning. Back then, he reminded me of an amphibian ‘Columbo,’ the late great Peter Falk’s  memorable TV character, with his rumpled, somewhat world-weary demeanor. Good to know he may still be around.

So… how big can a toad get?