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Waiting for Freedom

Posted by on Oct 28, 2016 in Editorials, Featured, Inspiration, Personal | 0 comments

Waiting for Freedom

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I want to preface this article with a disclaimer.  I’m not stating anything that is not already known or considered by the respective legal teams, and all content is MY PERSONAL OPINION, which is still my constitutional right  to express. 

I’ve been watching the banter about the Alto herd for some time, in both Facebook  groups,  and had to finally step away because it had become so convoluted and complex, at times outright hostile.  Where I draw the line and feel I need to speak out is when good people in this community become targets.

About two years ago, when the mayor in Roswell banned all rescues from animal control and they started euthanizing 10 per day, those of us who were working to give the impounded animals a chance at life launched a national campaign.  His office was flooded and he was forced to rescind his decision.  That was the good part of social media . . . when it comes to animal welfare, pleas for help go viral very quickly.  The bad and unanticipated result, was that it also drew in all the extremists that give “animal advocacy” a bad name . . .  PETA is only one example of an advocacy group gone very wrong.   These groups and individuals continued to ‘hang on’ and cause divisiveness among those who were actually physically there and working for reform.  They had never been to the state, let alone the community, but they insisted on “directing” and causing havoc.

To some extent, I see a similar scenario with our community’s efforts with the Alto horse herd, and sadly they have also drawn in some members of the community and caused a major rift.  The Roswell animals did not then, and even today, do not have the community support  that the Alto horses have.  There is a lot more damage that can be done to everything we hold dear in our community unless we step back a little, get ourselves out of the way, and evaluate priorities.  For the sake of our horses, we may need to “adjust” our dream, not give up on it, but fine tune what we want as an outcome.

These are the key points in a nutshell, as I see them:

THE “WILD” LABEL . . . seems to be the major issue at hand, and what the legal battle is about.

A friend of mine first told me about the Alto herd a couple of years ago, so after the Little Bear fire, I went looking for them for the sake of photos (I was writing for Vamanos at that time).

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It is truly breathtaking to see them move quietly through the forest . They were grazing in the little patches of meadow in a residential area . . .  one of the resident dogs in the area chose to happily accompany me as I was trying not to bother the herd too much.  He was quite comfortable with and respectful of the herd.

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The stallion watched me out of the corner of his eye, and if I approached, he would silently signal the herd to move away.  Most of the mares stayed closer to him, except for one.   She walked right up to me, checked out the camera and sniffed around my jacket .     I’m not going to delude myself into thinking that I’m some magical “horse whisperer” and this “wild” horse miraculously sought me out.   She had belonged to someone once upon a time and remembered . . . especially that humans carry treats in their pockets.   I’m not saying this is true for all of them, but in this mare’s case, I believe it was so.  I don’t know if she is still with this herd.

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When we were plunged into a drought a few years ago, the cost of hay had skyrocketed.  Ranchers were shipping their cattle off and horse owners were trying to get rid of their livestock because they couldn’t afford them anymore.  As a last resort, they simply opened their gates and let them go.  In hard times, it’s the animals who suffer . . . it’s not just dogs and cats that get “dumped.”

You don’t have to be a “wild horse expert” to recognize the difference . . . you just have to be observant.  There’s a distinct look in a wild animal’s eye, especially a horse, when they see a human.  It’s one of caution and lack of recognition . . . “I see you, but keep your distance, otherwise I’ll run.”

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Everyone in this community, whether local or part time, has had a part in the fate of these horses.  Despite the warnings, they have fed them not only hay, but grain and all kinds of ‘snacks’.  These horses were clearly not starving, but they knew what grain was and because of this, it was easy to “bait” them, and this is in no way a defense of the person who penned them and started this mess.  We humans simply do not respect the sanctity of wildness.  That’s why people fall or are dragged into wild animal enclosures . . . they just had to reach out and touch, and then the animal is vilified and/or destroyed, all because of  human stupidity.

Even now, the group that has custody of the herd is doing their best to limit human interaction to preserve whatever “wildness” is left in them, yet some people insist on going there and feeding treats and petting them.  Why is it that when it comes to wild animals, we just can’t keep our hands off them?

THE “NINE SIGNERS” . . . put everything on the line to accept liability for this herd so that they could be returned home, and I’m including the person who donated the property in this.  They did this because the community wanted the horses back.   They have nothing to gain and everything to lose . . . it is one of the most selfless acts I’ve seen in all of this.  Yet, they have been accused of all sorts of ulterior motives.  They are following a legal agreement and need to be thanked and their wishes and decisions respected.  They certainly have my personal admiration and gratitude.

MANAGEMENT OF THE HERD (current and future) . . . the big, dirty word and the one causing so much controversy because foals had to be weaned from their mares who are getting ready to foal. The argument is that “they take care of this in the wild themselves.”

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Well, being in a paddock is NOT IN THE WILD!   These horses are in close quarters . . . there is no place to “send”  the weanlings, and unless you have been present at a “horse birthing” and understand how important that colostrum is, and how fragile a newborn is, you have no business questioning this decision.   Don’t think for a minute that if anything  is “mismanaged” and the result is death or injury, human or equine, that the livestock board is not going to swoop in and haul the herd away, AGAIN.  The precautions being taken by the custodial group are for the sake of the herd, not to be secretive or to keep the community away.  I cannot stress enough that everything they, we, are doing with this herd is being watched for any kind of “infractions.”   That is the reality right now.

If we are lucky enough to have the herd released in the wild,  whatever is left of “wild” in this community,  they will still have to be “managed.”  Here’s a sad tale of wild horses who were rescued from the missile range (White Sands) and transported to a refuge in South Dakota.  The woman in charge believed that the herd would “manage” itself  by not procreating when resources were scarce.  It was a false and tragic assumption on her part.  The herds she brought in mushroomed from 200 to 800 within a 2 year period, and when the food ran out (pasture and lack of funds for hay) many of them starved.  Starvation is how the herd “managed” itself, not by abstinence.   Once again, human stupidity and arrogance cost lives.  You only need to observe 2 horses together to figure out that the stronger will push the weaker one away from food.

ATTENDING VETERINARIAN . . . has come under attack mostly from non-local advocates. We’re fortunate in this community to have some outstanding veterinarians and we are very protective of them, especially  Dr. Becky Washburn-Brown, who has been referred to as a “country vet,” as if it’s a bad thing.  Some are requesting second opinions by a “wild horse veterinarian.”

First of all, while she does not flaunt her credentials and expertise, her skills as a veterinarian with domestic and wild animals is extraordinarily broad . . . she is respected and loved by this community, and recognized statewide, and probably nationally, I’m sure (although she never “brags.”)

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She ranks at the top of my list of heroes, personal and professional, not only because  she has seen me and my animals through many tough circumstances, but because regardless of circumstances, she never forgets that her first responsibility is to the animal.  She is also fearless in standing up for principles and for the welfare of animals.  Her heart and her compassion are truly unmatched, and I, as well as many others,  could write volumes about her accomplishments and her attributes.   I only wish she were allowed to treat humans, because if I were ill,  I would trust her over any “doctor of humans.”

In short, if you malign or give Dr. Becky any kind of grief, we will be about as “unhappy” with you as we are with the person who baited and trapped the horses.     Ethically and professionally, she only has to answer to the person(s) who asked for her services and who are responsible for the care of the horses, and fortunately they are wise enough to trust her judgment.

She could have declined caring for them, but she loves this community and most importantly,  the welfare and safety of the horses are her primary concern.  So she has placed  herself  “in the middle of this drama and controversy” to help animals who are really not being heard.   In my opinion, she is the only one at this point who actually knows what the horses need and what is best for them, because she understands animal, especially equine,  behavior, and because she can set emotions aside and be objective . . . something that most of the involved people are unable to do.

FUTURE “FREEDOMS” . . . the ASPCA refers to “freedoms” for animals. I think if our Alto horses, or any horse for that matter,  could “verbalize” what they want, it would be “freedom from pain and fear.”

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Unless they are truly wild, and I mean they have grown up without human interaction, where they live is not important, as long as they feel safe.   A truly wild horse will pace frantically when initially confined because they sense danger.  It takes time and patience to “tame” them, and sometimes they cannot ever be tamed.

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Our Alto horses right now are free from pain and fear.  And maybe that needs to be the focus, instead of “free to run wild,”   because truth be told, the legal outcome may be “up in the air” for some time, and can this community sustain the legal fees that are required to continue this court battle, especially if appeals are involved, and at the same time provide the care that this herd requires?

There are legal nuances involved in this case and most of us, including myself,  have not been privy to them.   We were repeatedly told in the beginning, that the livestock board broke the law by impounding them in the first place, but never given which law . . .  references were made to the Placitas herd.  Well, we found out later that the herd doesn’t exist anymore.  I doubt very seriously that the attorney general would have assigned an attorney to the livestock board if they had broken the law, and again, this is in no way a defense of the actions of the livestock board.

The plight of wild horses is a cause that is near and dear to Robert Redford, and many (including myself) sent emails to him, but as far as I know,  he never responded.

Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer

My guess is that he has a legal team that looks into these matters, and apparently there is “something” we are missing that is possibly not in favor of the horses being declared “wild.”

Initially, I wanted to see the horses returned to roam free in Alto again, and I would still want that under the right circumstances.  But since they’ve become celebrities and have now been touted as a tourist attraction for the area,  people will be visiting just to see them, and once again we’ll be faced with “human interference”,  because let’s face it, in general, humans don’t follow directions or respect nature.

The black bears in Yellowstone are a prime example.  By feeding them, despite warnings,  the tourists turned the black bear population into beggars.

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I personally  witnessed lines of cars full of tourists, handing food (marshmallows and chips) to the bears who went from vehicle to vehicle.  Everybody at that time thought “how cute,” but this “entertainment” had a long-term deadly effect. The bears  stopped foraging for food that was “good” for them, some lost a taste for it while others never learned how,  and many starved to death.

So what is the future for our beloved horses?

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I would personally love to turn back the clock and wish that they had never been baited, penned and  “abducted;”   but this act has forever changed the trajectory of their lives, and we need to get our heads out of the clouds, stop fighting among ourselves, and look at sensible alternatives if we don’t get what we want.

The writing was on the wall two years ago, with the “Rocket Star incident.”   Even if we are fortunate enough to have them declared “wild,” where would they be safe?  If they wander onto tribal land, they can be rounded up and hauled off to slaughter, and this does happen, and according to witnesses is horrific.  Tribal sovereignity is not going to recognize any “label” of  protection.

If they continue to roam in Alto,  an area that continues to grow with many of the large parcels of land  being fenced off  thereby limiting their grazing areas, and with the traffic on highway 48 getting increasingly busier and faster,   there is an increased probability of one of them being hit by a vehicle.  Could we all live with our decision to “set them free”  as we listen to the screaming of a horse in excruciating pain and terror because he cannot get up . . . the worst fate possible for an animal that relies on flight as a defense ?

We all have this utopian image of horses galloping in freedom across the lush green prairies and rich forest meadow, when the truth is that our wild, open spaces are rapidly disappearing.   Our horses are facing the same depletion of habitat as every other species everywhere in the world.  It just finally caught up to us here in Lincoln County.   We humans  should have been more considerate of the planet and other species before the world population of humans exploded to 7 billion.

A very large part of the community loves the herds of horses that are allowed to roam the area.  But I think we need to accept the fact that there is also a part of the community that finds them a nuisance because  horses  have no respect for boundaries or fences, and in the case of the Alto herd, no fear of humans.   By being “protected” under the label of “wild,”  it would make baiting and penning them against the law,  but thanks to humans, these horses know the taste of grain, and that makes them susceptible to being poisoned.

I fell in love with this community a long time ago and have called this home for 24 years.  I accept and am grateful for the good, and try to help where I can for the “not so good.”  Ruidoso/Alto is a resort area surrounded by national forest, tribal lands and ranches.   We have real, working cowboys (and cowgirls) who aspire to traditional values . . .  it’s more than once that a stranger helped me load something into my truck because he noticed I needed help.  They still tip their hats to ladies and hold the door open for anyone behind them.   Despite the bitterness and ferocity in this political climate, we are able to remain civil to one another, even when we pretty well know which is our candidate of choice.  No matter what was going on in the rest of the world, I have always felt safe and comfortable that somehow we, in this community, were immune.  I don’t want us to lose that feeling of ‘sanctuary.’

I hope that people in both “camps” read this with an open mind and understand that my words are not meant to be negative, and maybe some anxiety will be soothed so that we can keep moving forward and do what is best for our Alto herd, whether they are declared wild or not.  When it comes to our animals, what we think we want for them is not always what is best for them.

This community banded together and accomplished the nearly impossible . . . stopped the auction of our horses and got them back home.  Let’s not be so foolish as to define success as only one outcome and refuse to see viable alternatives.

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God bless us all, especially the animals who were entrusted to us.

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“I Have Slipped the Surly Bonds of Earth . . . “

Posted by on Apr 21, 2016 in Featured, Gallery, Nostalgia, Personal | 9 comments

“I Have Slipped the Surly Bonds of Earth . . . “

Today is my mom’s birthday and I usually write a little story about a memory we shared as a way to honor her.  Instead, I find myself grieving the loss of my brother, who was killed in a plane crash yesterday morning, and as I’ve done so many times over the years,  I’m looking through  the wonderful photo albums my mom spent a lifetime putting together, and finding a little bit of peace and comfort, at least enough to want to wake up in the morning.

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George was four years younger.  He was born in Philadelphia, and at that time, we lived on 5th Street, and were very much a part of the Ukrainian community there.  We may have been poor immigrants, but neither one of us realized it.  I remember being so happy when he was brought home . . . I finally had a “doll” that I could push around in the toy baby carriage.   When he finally learned how to walk, things really became fun.  I “helped” him cut his hair (to our mother’s horror) and together we decorated the walls of our bedroom with lipstick.

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As a baby/toddler, he did not know how to play nicely with someone his own age.  When the neighbor brought her baby girl over to play with George, they couldn’t be left alone because he would beat her up.

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Both of us inherited our mom’s sense of adventure and fun, and for better or worse, just plain orneriness and stubbornness.   Put a couple of kids like this into country life, and you end up with more  “adventures”  than you bargained for.

Even though we had a huge yard and an orchard to play in when we moved to New Jersy, it was the paint cans in the shed that fascinated us.  Mom always watched us through the kitchen window while cooking or washing dishes.  Of course she spotted us trying to open the gallon of paint and immediately rushed out to intervene.  She put the paint back and told us to leave it alone . . . as if we were going to listen.   When she went back in the house, we immediately went for the paint again, but this time, we hid behind the shed so mom couldn’t see us. . . or so we thought.  We were sitting on the ground and working very hard, when as if by magic,  my mother’s feet appeared next to us.   I think we had to go into the house after that.

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George and I were the official egg gatherers.  We’d go into the coop to collect eggs and got some resistance from the hens, so one of us would hold a bucket over the chicken’s head to keep from getting pecked, and the other would get the eggs. . . pretty clever for a 5 and 1 year old.  We figured this out after George thought he could just pick up the hen . . . he had scratch marks over his stomach that were then doctored with mercurochrome . . .  that was his usual “attire in the field”  . . .  shirtless with a custom-designed red mercurochrome “tattoo” . . . courtesy of the chickens he was determined to carry.

The older we got, the more elaborate the pranks and mischief became.  Our dad had a habit of falling sound asleep on the sofa after supper.   We decided to wrap him in thread while he slept.  Mom watched and was already snickering in anticipation of the outcome.  I would have been happy with just a few threads, but not George.  He spent more than an hour, creating an intricate spider web of threads.  Then he woke him up by pouring water in his open mouth.  Well, the reaction was nothing short of the Frankenstein monster coming to life.  The more dad struggled, the tighter the threads seemed to get and the madder he got.  We ran away while mom was still laughing, so he got mad at mom because she said he had no sense of humor.

 

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Our adventures became more sophisticated as well.  We both learned to scuba dive in the Atlantic Ocean . . .  he was the one who introduced me to flying and amateur radio.    As we grew into adulthood,  it made no difference that geographically we were far apart  and circumstances kept us from getting together more often.  When we did get together, it was as if no time had passed and we picked up where we left off.

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Whichever adventure one of was involved in, the other of us felt compelled to participate whether it was snowshoeing, skiing, fishing, treasure hunting, riding horses, flying,  pretending we were rounding-up cattle (more like bulls, and that did not go well . . .  when we lived on a farm in Arkansas, George used to climb the rafters in the barn and then jump on a cow’s back while it was eating).

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We were and are kids at heart regardless of age, and for us there was beauty in the spontaneity of the moment . . . it was playtime and surprises galore.  Other than our mom, he  was the only other person in my life, even to this day,  I could count on who would say “OK” to any unplanned escapade . . . always a willing accomplice.

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As soon as an idea was planted in his head, those wheels started turning and he would figure out how to make it work. . . . and then turn it into some kind of hilarity that usually resulted in something unexpected.

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He really was much more extraordinary than most people will ever know or appreciate.  Although he rarely talked about it, even after a bottle of wine, he served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot.  There was little that he could not do.  And if he couldn’t do it, he learned how, and he wanted to teach everybody around him.  When he was here last time, he insisted I needed one of those little electric welders and went to great lengths to teach me how to use it.

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Undoubtedly his greatest legacy is the family he left behind . . . he and his wife, Suzy, the perfect balance to his zaniness, the love of his life (although he would never use those “mushy” words . . . ) and whom I love as a sister,  raised awesome children.  They filled their lives with music lessons, hiking, hockey, travel, and mostly, love. . . . there was no time or tolerance for unhealthy, detrimental behavior . . .     It didn’t matter how old they were, he and Suzy were always there for each of them, and for each other.

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I remember during one phone call as he was updating me on the kids’ progress in school and their plans for going to college, he proudly declared, “And they all still live at home.”   If he could have had his way, he would have kept all the kids and grandkids at home with him.  He truly loved being a dad.  I know his kids refer to him as a “great dad,” and  I can’t think of a better tribute for George.

Stories were important to George, and I imagine they still are.  He wanted his kids and grandkids to know about their ancestry . . . about his life experiences and escapades.   So that task now falls to me . . .    I have so much more that I could share about my brother, but I’m reserving those stores for those he loved the most, his wife and children.

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I remember when he had a “desk” job (manager) at the FAA . . . he truly hated being a manager and as soon as he could, he retired and went back to the only other thing that he loved as much as his family, flying.   In the end, he died doing what he loved . . . little comfort to those he left behind.

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Part of me is angry with the Universe, with the angels who are supposed to protect  all of us, even a little angry with my mom  . . . why didn’t somebody keep him safe?  Could  they not have reached down and pulled that plane over the trees and given him a chance to land safely?  Or why didn’t somebody intervene and have the plane sputter BEFORE he started the take-off run?  Don’t our loved ones have that power when they “cross over?”

So, the two people whom I love most in my life have both gone on this new “adventure” . . . and I can’t help but feel envious of that,  and sad that I was left behind . . .

Mom died almost eight years ago . . . George died yesterday . . .  my heart will ache for a long time.  It’s going to be hard to listen to a plane fly overhead and not think of George and remember.  He loved doing things on the spur of the moment and surprising everyone and whenever I heard a plane I would wonder if it was one of  George’s “spur of the moment” visits.

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As I was looking through the photos to include in this post,  I was flooded with memories . . .  reliving each moment as if it were yesterday.  That is the healing power of images, of photography.  And I wonder if that is what the “afterlife” is like . . . memories drift across a beautiful azure sky like soft clouds pushed and kissed by gentle breezes . . . and when we’re there, we get to pluck our favorite ones and relive the joy, and fill our souls with laughter and love . . . as often as we want. . . hold our loved ones forever . . .and never have to know loss or sadness. . .  ever again.

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Perhaps it is so . . . perhaps.

Good Night, George, dear brother and friend. Thank you for being a part of my life.  I love you forever and miss you more than you will ever know.

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Proof of “Living”

Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 in Epiphanies, Featured, Nostalgia, Personal | 0 comments

Proof of “Living”

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My mother loved to write.  It’s a passion she passed on to me when she handed me my first notebook and explained what a diary was.

This past weekend, as I was sorting through the many boxes at my mom’s house and trying to decide what needed to go or stay, I came across a folder of writing that stopped in my tracks.   It contained typewritten and handwritten stories that I had first looked for in the first few months after her death and could not find.   And now here it was amid the old grammar school workbooks from my childhood.  I am always amazed at how “things” do or don’t show up until the right time.

She had taken a creative writing class many years ago when we still lived in New Jersey in the 60’s. As I read through some of them, I realized what a treasure these were.  One story in particular caught my attention, about a young couple with a child who emigrated from post-war Germany.  After a few paragraphs, I realized that even though the names were different, this was our story.  She wrote what she knew . . .

I carefully placed all the typewritten pages into the folder and brought them into the house where they would be safe.

Technology is such a wonderful tool, toy, addiction . . . whatever you want to call it, and I certainly appreciate every bit of it.  But I worry that we are losing something very substantial and critical not only for our evolution as a species but for our own personal and spiritual growth.

A photographer on one of the national news networks claimed that in 10 years, there would be no “photographs,”  that for the first time in history, there would be a generation that would not have “visual proof” of their lives.  Everything, images as well as writing, is trapped in a cell phone or some other kind of device.  When people show you photos of their grandkids, it’s on a cell phone.  My mom carried a little package of photos in her purse . . . that’s how she shared her photos.

There is something magical about holding an actual photo, or piece of paper with a handwritten message, so that you can run your fingers over the words or the images.  It forces you into the moment, to slow down, to think about what matters.

One of the nicest compliments I received was from someone who followed my blogs: “I’ve even started writing myself.”  We are all born to serve, and also to teach and learn from each other.  That is how we stay connected.

So, write the stories of your life. . . the mishaps, the adventures, the little things that made you smile. laugh or cry.  Write what’s in your heart.  Humans have been documenting their existence since the days of the caveman. It was important then, and it’s important now.

Who will know you existed, if you don’t share your stories?

 


 

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To All My Clients. . . Adieu!

Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 in Miscellaneous, NEWS, The Art of Photography | 0 comments

To All My Clients. . . Adieu!

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I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to professionally photograph some very gracious and wonderful clients . . . clients who truly appreciate the value of the artistry of a professional photographer.  Contrary to what most of the public thinks,  a truly beautiful and magical photograph is not an accidents.  It takes planning, skill and very labor-intensive post processing, especially in portraits and weddings.   For me it was always a labor of love, whether I was photographing a bride, a child, a puppy, or Nature in all its glory.

This is my official announcement that I will no longer be accepting clients for weddings or other lifestyle events.  My focus has gradually been shifting to fine art and the artist within me often conflicts with the vision or lack of vision in other people.  As I have stated before, I’ve been lucky that thus far, because my clients have trusted my vision.  Now is the time for me to put more effort into the things that truly feed my soul, the passions in my life.

I will continue to offer limited editions of my works on this site and will be gradually converting the Zenfolio site to galleries that support my fine art photography and EXTRAORDINARY DOGS INC, our nonprofit organization for saving death row dogs.  ALL PROCEEDS FROM MY PHOTOGRAPHY WILL BE APPLIED TOWARD THE OPERATION OF THIS ORGANIZATION.

Please take the time to look at these event galleries and order digital downloads of the images you would like.  A personal use license comes with it so you can order prints or other products using this image at the lab of your choice.

Thank you for your support and for all of you who value the merits of a good photograph.

 

 

The following were public events and will be archived at the end of the month:

2011 Ruidoso Songwriting Contest at Flying J

2011 HEAL Heroes Banquet

2011 HOSPICE Fundraiser at Flying J

2012 FUR Ball for Lincoln County Human Society

If you were a client, your galleries can be found at this link.  They will be archived at the end of the month and password protected.  Until then, downloads are available for purchase.

Remembering a Prayer

Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Nostalgia, Personal | 0 comments

Remembering a Prayer

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I took a quick trip to Roswell on Sunday to get groceries for me and the dogs at Sam’s Club.

On the way back as I entered Hondo Valley, I glimpsed flashing red lights.  Initially, I thought it was a traffic stop.  The closer I got, the more evident it became that this was much more serious.

It’s funny how different things cross your mind in a matter of seconds.  My mom and I used to make frequent trips to Albuquerque from Roswell, where she lived for thirty years, or from Capitan, where she spent the last years of her life.  We always made an adventure out of it.  We took all five  dogs.  My mom always packed snacks and coffee and no matter what time we set for leaving, she was ready an hour ahead of time.

We had a great routine . . .  first stop was at the Moriarty park for a dog potty break.  Once we got to Albuquerque, we would head to the doctor’s appointment (if she had one), go to Keller’s meat market  . . . she loved to shop there . . . the dogs always had sauteed beef, lamb or chicken with their kibble.  After a quick trip to Alpine Kitchen for some good German sausage and deli meat, we’d head back.  More exercise and potty breaks for the dogs in Moriarty, and we’d start the last leg of our trip at sunset.

The dogs were usually sound asleep and both of us were pretty tired by then.  My mom would make sure I stayed alert and awake by periodically asking me, “Are you awake?” or “Are you alright?”   I’d laugh and answer, “yes,” and we’d find some story to share or laugh about.

By the time we pulled into our drive, it was dark and my mom would always say, “Thank you, God, for bringing us home safely.”

Sometimes, you remember things that you thought you overlooked and the images are as clear as if it were yesterday.  As I take these trips, I sometimes think I catch a glimpse of her in the passenger’s seat and hear her asking me, “Are you alright?”

I hope that no one was seriously injured in this accident.  That day,  I remembered to share my mom’s prayer when I got home.

“I’m fine, Mom.”

Coffee with a Friend

Posted by on Feb 9, 2014 in Featured, Inspiration, The Art of Photography | 0 comments

Coffee with a Friend

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I love coffee . . . good coffee, and I especially like drinking it out of a special mug . . . one that has meaning to me.

Many years ago, a friend of mine gave a special, personalized mug with a poem from the heart and special photo of my Nicky.  I used that for every almost every cup of coffee at school until the images began to wear out and fade . . . image transfer technology was in its infancy then, around 17 years ago.  Because I had to leave Nicky at home while I was at work, holding that mug made me feel like we were together.

A few years later I came across a mug with a beautiful poem and the picture of a horse running through wildflowers.  I called it my “Seek adventure” mug.  Rather than simply copy the poem and use it on my own design, I felt the right thing to do was buy it.  I enjoyed coffee out if it for almost ten years until a couple of my doggies decided they liked coffee out if it, too, and I found it shattered on the floor.

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I talk a lot about the magic of photography and the feel of holding a print of someone special or a special moment.  Science has proven that simply seeing the image of a loved one has the same emotional and physical effect on the viewer as seeing that person in life.  I believe this also extends to happy times and special events or moments in our lives.

I used the same poem from my “seek adventure” mug and paired it with one of my favorite photos of Juliette, my palomino mare who died this past July.  All of my photos are gifts from the universe.  it’s almost as if God taps me on the shoulder and says, “Now!”   Juliette is walking briskly toward the light of the morning sun and a breeze is wrapping the fresh, glistening snow around her.  It was a perfect moment.

So, each morning as I sip my coffee, I can run my fingers over her image and read the message about “seizing the joy.”   I feel like she’s here beside me, and I remember, smile and am grateful for the gifts in my life.

The Secret Lives of Horses

Posted by on Nov 27, 2013 in Featured, Personal, Telling A Story, The Art of Photography | 0 comments

The Secret Lives of Horses

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If you have ever lived with and truly loved a horse, you know it’s not just a phase you go through.  They are entrenched in your heart and your connection with them is part of the fabric of your soul,  and if you take enough time to watch and listen to them, you may be lucky enough to witness amazing moments,  because when they trust you, they let you into their private world, and you become a part of their herd.

I was born in love with horses.  For as long as I can remember, I wanted a barn filled with these beautiful, noble creatures.  My dream came to fruition when I scrimped and saved to buy a beautiful quarter horse mare with an incredible show pedigree –a gray yearling with a kind heart, Jackie Bee Lucky or “Lucky”.   I kept both her foals, a palomino mare, Juliette, and gray gelding, Junior.  Those were my happiest days when I walked out my door and saw my dear friends, waiting for breakfast or dinner, or a simple hello.  It was my barn full of beauties.

I think the most difficult thing about this existence is change that involves the loss of loved ones, human and non-human.  As the years passed, my friends left for the pastures across the “rainbow bridge.”  Lucky died six years ago on the eve of my birthday, and more recently, my precious Juliette, on June 29th of this year.   Yes, they will always live in my heart, but it’s only in my dreams that I can brush their manes and tails, or ride them across the back pasture overgrown with  golden wildflowers.

When Juliette died, Junior, who had never left her side through her illness, ran to her gravesite and pawed the ground.  I’m not sure who was in worse shape, he or I.  My grief over losing her turned to concern over his emotional state.  He was clearly in mourning and sinking into a depression.

There’s a lot of truth to the expression, “when God closes a door, he opens a window,” and through this window arrived Extra Little Halo, a beautiful black thoroughbred mare.  Her owner had tried her in racing and she was seemingly not interested.  So he thought  some hunter/jumper training might work for her, and that didn’t work out either because of an annoying injury, which was quickly remedied.

When she arrived on July 4th, it was as if she had come home.  Junior and I both fell in love with her.  Her disposition is as sweet as Lucky’s.  Junior shares his hay by dragging his pile over to her.  They eat side by side in the pasture.  When his foot was bothering him and he developed a slight limp, she carefully lowered her head to check it out.

Often, in the late afternoon, I’ll watch them stand side by side and massage each other’s withers and enjoy the warm sunshine and soft breeze.   It’s those moments that make me sigh and smile, and thank the universe and my horses for letting me be part of their lives.

 

Dedicated to Dr. Warren Franklin  . . . who brought Halo to our lives.

 (Franklin Veterinary Clinic in Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico)

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Junior with his best friend, Juliette, in happier days.

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A Bittersweet Retirement

Posted by on Jul 30, 2013 in Featured, Inspiration, The Art of Photography | 0 comments

A Bittersweet Retirement

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Ansel Adams once said, ” Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”  Truth be told, I think this is a feeling that is shared by many of us who traverse this earth with camera in hand.  For all of my most cherished images, it was a split-second decision . . .  if the shutter didn’t click right then, the magic would be gone.  To be at the right place, at exactly the right moment, is indeed “divine intervention.”

The images I offer as Limited Edition Prints are imbued with not only a piece of my soul energy, but that of the subject.  They’re not just “pretty pictures” and I’m happy that those who collect my work find an emotional attachment to it.    My photography is my way of “praying” and I gratefully acknowledge that each image is a gift from the Universe . . . an extraordinary moment that vanished as quickly as it appeared. . . the setting sun breaking through a rainstorm over the winter landscape of the Bosque wetlands, or the antics and ruffled feathers of a Snowy Egret . . .  when everything came together for that fleeting moment.  And my Juliette walking into the morning sunlight on a frosty winter morning . . .  I won’t have another opportunity for this capture.

So,  the above image, “My Juliette, into the Light,” is now officially retired.  Prints can no longer be purchased and the image will be available only for digital viewing here, or at my studio.  Is the retirement permanent?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  It’s a decision to be made much later . . . between my  Juliette and me.

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To see or purchase currently currently available prints, go to Fine Art America.

To read the story behind the image, “My Juliette, into the Light,”  look for the August issue of Vivacini.  To receive notifications of new issues and posts, please consider subscribing here.



The Path to My Soul

Posted by on Jul 27, 2013 in Epiphanies, Featured, The Art of Photography | 0 comments

The Path to My Soul

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If you’re lucky enough to have a horse in your life, you know it isn’t just a phase. . . it’s a “forever thing.”  You know that the trust and love that is shared between the two of you transcends this reality, and you quickly recognize this kindred spirit that continues to share the fabric of your soul.

Between the two of you, there are no questions or doubts, and fear does not exist.

You both know that you were born to find each other.

 

 

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A Call to Action for Fearless Photographers

Posted by on Jul 25, 2013 in Featured, The Art of Photography | 3 comments

A Call to Action for Fearless Photographers

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The winds of change have been gusting through the world of professional photography ever since digital made its debut, and this world is about to be turned upside down.  For some genres of photography it has come sooner than later.

The younger generation of emerging professional photographers is facing an uncertain future, a world where everyone has a camera,  everyone wants to be famous or recognized for something, and where the general public seems to have no concept of what makes a photograph  good, let alone great.

Yahoo’s CEO recently ignited a firestorm with a comment that included,

“. . . , with cameras as pervasive as they are, there’s no such thing, really, as professional photographers. And then there’s everything that is professional photographers . . .”

The Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire photography staff, and plans to use freelance photographers and reporters to shoot photos and videos.  Add to that the myriad of “amateur photojournalists” who bombard the media with their mediocre photos for the opportunity to be “published” or recognized, quickly giving away their copyright for the hope of becoming famous, or at least noticed.

 

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Facebook claims that 208,300 photos are uploaded every minute. Yahoo!’s Flickr service reported that it logged about eight billion photos during its whole run, and 27,800 photos are uploaded to Instagram every minute.  In fact, according to Yahoo!, this current trend suggests that as many as 880 billion photos will be taken in 2014.

 

From Whence We Came and Whither We Go

In the days of film photography, cameras were much more complex and there was no such thing as “program mode.”  Anyone using a camera had to understand things like f-stop, shutter speed, film speed, and how they all tied together.  There were the darkroom and touch-up issues as well.  This was why we went to professional studios for those timeless portraits, and there was a certain skill that had to be mastered before a photographer declared him or herself “professional.”

Today’s digital cameras can do it all and it seems that almost anybody can take a good photo. Nikon, Canon, et al, cater to this vast market of consumer photographers by making higher resolution cameras with an almost excessive selection of automatic settings –“menu driven” photography.

 

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So where does this leave the professional photographer?  Is this the beginning of the end of a time-honored profession?

As I see it, those of us who embrace photography as a serious art or profession can do one of the following:

  • go the way of the wedding photographers who continuously moan and groan about the masses of “pseudo-photographers” to the point of banning them at any wedding they cover;
  • give up and find something more lucrative;
  • or take the higher road because we truly love what we do and become part of the re-defining of photography as a profession.

 

Resisting the Seduction of Social Media

Part of the reason that the market is so flooded with photos is that no one takes the time to self-edit, perhaps because the difference between a poor and good photo is unclear.  In today’s society it seems to be more important to be noticed. It doesn’t  matter for what, and the more outrageous, the better.  The same holds true for the photos that are posted online.

Remember the days when grandma or grandpa would pull out the family photo albums or made us sit through slide shows that spanned ten years?  Well, it’s so much worse on the internet.  At least the slide shows and family albums had a limit . . . film was expensive, and actually the album and slide show experience was much more interesting, especially from an historical perspective, than what is on the internet today.

Images are meant to be seen and we photographers love to display our work. But not every photo made should be displayed online or elsewhere. I think one of the biggest distinctions between the professional and amateur is discernment in the presentation of their work.  The amateur will take 50 photos at an event and post every one of them to Facebook and other sites.  The professional will scrutinize every one of those 50 photos and select maybe 1 or 2 as signature photos, and only those will be posted to professional sites or online galleries –not Facebook or Flickr.

 

Vision,  Style and a Body of Work

Why do many celebrities choose Annie Leibowitz for their photography?  There are many glamour and fashion photographers who are experts in their field, yet many of the world’s celebrities seek out Annie Leibowitz for their photography because she has the ability to “think out of the box” and come up with an image that reflects the uniqueness of her subject.  She’s able to translate her vision into an image and from that has developed a style –you can recognize a Leibowitz image as quickly as you can an Ansel Adams.

As a group, we photographers tend to be self-centered, self-righteous, condescending and sometimes plain rude and envious.  How many times have we looked at the works of “famous” photographers and thought to ourselves, “I could do better.” We seem to gravitate to one of two extremes:  Either we guard our “trade secrets” so ferociously that we alienate well-meaning friends and colleagues, or we believe that our way is the only way to the point of becoming obnoxious and stagnant.

Vision and creativity have a difficult time pushing their way through this kind of garbage.  Vision needs a clear highway to rise to the surface, not one strewn with egotistical fantasies, fanaticisms and other negativities, and it begins before we even click the shutter.  What are we photographing?  Why?  What do we want the viewer to see and more importantly, feel?

It takes a lot of planning, hard work, and especially editing, to come up with a successful body of work.  It doesn’t happen by post processing 500 photographs and grouping the “prettiest” ones together in an attempt to glean a vision.

 

A New Frontier

Good photography is not easy.  We have to take time to experiment and play –it’s an important part of growing in our craft.  There are also times when all we want to do is be a “snapshooter” and simply capture the moment for posterity or for no reason at all.  But if we want to make a living through photography or take it to a professional and artistic level, we have to use our mind, heart and soul before we even pick up the camera.

I think the label of professional photographer is going to gradually fade out of existence and be replaced with a term such as “artist photographer.”

The “artist photographers” will be the ones who work at their craft, know what message they want their work to impart, adopt techniques to match their style, will be fearless in their creativity, ruthless in their self-editing, and will demonstrate a consistent sense of vision in all of their “professional” work, whether it’s a wedding, event, portrait session or a lifestyle series.

For those of us who call ourselves photographers, now is the time to step up to the plate, forego the narcissism and drive to be recognized,  reach down into our souls to nurture a vision that is true and unique to each of us, and simply enjoy the ride!

Welcome to the new frontier of professional photography. . . it is not dead, just being redefined.

 

 

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