Saturday, October 24, 2020

12 + 4 Haiku: Spooktacular entries

This is really two posts, a long one featuring my Spooktacular Online Photo Show entries and a short one on 'life now.'  A couple days before the first presidential debate (Sept 30), three haiku rather suddenly insisted on appearing in my Notebook.  A fourth was born during the night of the debate.  Poetry of course is not unknown to me, but to have them pop into existence like that, without warning, was a little surprising.  I suspect quarantine life has something to do with it.  Those first four can be found at the end of this post.

Subsequently I decided that each of my entries for the Mares In Black Spooktacular online photo show was going to have its own haiku.  (I know, obvious connection!)  The entries suggested themselves in twos and threes; each time I successfully completed one, one or two others would arise in my imagination.  This went on until the deadline!  Twelve haikus later, I decided to publish them here.  The poem is above its photo each time.  I'm going to present them chronologically:  earliest entered first.

 Up to this point I'd used mostly photos I already had.   The prompt Your Horse is Weird, Dude was one of the few that really set me dreaming.  My original vision was of two people pointing at each other's not-so-normal equids.  But once I actually set up the scene, it took on a different interpretation. 

With Babysitter I wanted to emphasize that no matter how outlandish the coat color, Mom still knew best.  She was outlandish herself.  I got to make up a breed for her ("Celtic Decorator") but the poem is really a subtle comment on skin color.

This poem makes more sense once you know this horse took a dive off the computer and scratched up his near side something awful.  I still need to repair him.

This is as good a place as any to discuss Talisman's gender.  I first encountered the word 'risling' in Mary O'Hara's My Friend Flicka series.  I was slightly confused, pairing it with Truman Capote's biting comment 'Gertrude Stein suffered from undescended testicles.'  Only recently, with Honor A. P. running in the Kentucky Derby and being listed as a 'ridgeling,' did I do more research and realize these two words refer to the same thing.

Altynai is so narrow and slab-sided.  Upon turning him over, I decided 'he only has one.'

 The last line refers to George Orwell's famous quote from Animal Farm, 'None of you have ever seen a dead donkey..."

The only word you might need help with is 'desfile' which means parade.  But here's a full translation:  A festival parade is a happy occasion for the horses.

 Truly this next one deserves a blog post of his own.  He took 2 days to create.

Being the artist, I focus more on what went wrong, or what I think didn't go so right.  Yet he is everything I wanted.  My vision came true.


The following haiku can only be described as reflecting the current societal and political climate.  The first came before dawn on the 28th of Sept.  I'm pretty sure it refers to marriage: coexisting with someone 24/7 for months at a time.  Stress either cracks you apart or presses you closer together.  Also I'd gotten hold of James Nestor's book Breath.

These next 2 were written during the day.  The last line of this one could've been arranged several ways.

I was really struggling with not being able to see my parents.  Mom had finally, miraculously, come home from hospital and rehab after 7 weeks.  The first line refers to the springing distance, the space between predator and prey. 

This one was written after listening to about 10 minutes of the Sept 30 debate and not being able to stand any more.  I didn't know how the debate would end; I could only imagine what I wanted.  I'm quite pleased by the two ways to read the last 2 lines.

Quarantine poetry is a bottomless subject and I shan't go any deeper into it here.  Still I can't resist a grateful hug to the mask-makers of the world and a fond wave to the medical specialists who saved my life back in 2010.  They made it possible for me to be happily entering photo shows today.  Good luck to the judges of Spooktacular!

Friday, October 16, 2020

Behind a Scene

I had so much fun creating Talisman's photo for the Mares In Black Spooktacular online Photo Show that I can't resist sharing some of the additional shots which were taken.  I also want to share how I tinkered with the final result.  The shoot was a miniature adventure, grand all on its own.

Where to photo model horses outside, on appropriately in-scale bare earth?  On a vacant lot about 1km from the house I discovered a scooped-out miniature box canyon, where some bulldozer had done its thing.  Perusing the classlist, the What Could Possibly Go Wrong prompt was combining in my head with Altynai and runaway obstacle driving.  I had vehicles with very long shafts.  Visions from Lightning McQueen out west and from Star Wars pod racers must have danced behind my eyes when I saw that canyon.  On October 9, one week from deadline and one of the last sunny days, I loaded up my stuff and drove over to it.

A very personal significance was that this was my first solo car trip without a mask around my neck, and also for so short a distance.  (I couldn't carry the tub for 1km.)

My point was that a standing driver was a driver out of control, and to make everything worse, his driving robe, supposed to be around the waist, was slipping down to his knees.  That he was a cowboy was both totally illegal (no one wears chaps during combined driving events) and charming (he happens to be my favorite doll).

My first set-up of the scene put the cones behind the cart, as having already been driven through.  Of course he'd knocked over a cone (!).  I had to assume viewers would believe the second guy on the ground behind him was a dumped passenger, as I intended, and not an official standing by.  This point would be emphasized by the haiku.  (A separate post on the haikus is planned.)

Who should show up but George, out for a walk. 
This explains how I was able to get photos of myself.  He said he was concentrating on my expression.

This pleasant interruption over, it occurred to me that "what could go wrong" was more properly interpreted by the cones being in front of the horse. 

Here's the haiku:

Luke fell off; so did

the dog; whip's broken, robe's down,

And you say you're fine??!!?

The difference between the above shot and the one below, which wound up as my final choice, was the head angle on the driver.  I didn't like him staring up at the sky.  I wanted him to be looking where he was going.  Only one shot showed that, plus both cones.

It was only now that I realized I'd left the tub in full view.  Oh, man, what a lot of PhotoShopping that was going to take...!   I could just barely see how to manage it...

I've used PhotoShop for decades, at first under George's instruction and later from a book.  Although it is the most empowering and creative program I've ever used, it also holds the record for 'that part of the computer which most often made me cry.'  Tears of frustration and rage!!  It's taken years for me to learn how to do everything I need for tack, horse and blog pictures.  Looking back it's amazing I kept going.  The clash between an impatient, stubborn, forgetful one-layer-deep artist and a complicated, sophisticated, multi-layered program was profound.  Yet there were enough successes to keep it sweet.

P.S. For those times when I was on the road and couldn't access my own PhotoShop, there is a marvelous free equivalent out there:  Photopea.

Every photo I take is downloaded from the camera (I don't have a smart phone) and organized in folders by date and subject.  Once chosen for posting, every shot is resized, signed (that is, initialed and dated), and then named and saved.  That's the minimum!  There are, of course, tons more possibilities, starting with cropping;  adjusting exposure lightness, adjusting color and fixing dust on a horse are just the beginnings.  This process explains why my posts are as rare as they are.  I have often been jealous of people who could so swiftly post their photos straight from a phone.  I couldn't figure out how they did it so fast.

The glorious lure of Spooktacular was that there was a place for this skill.  My formal entry in the Look Ma PhotoShop prompt deserves his own post too!  But back to Talisman and his standing-up driver.  In my eagerness to enter and in my pride and ease of accomplishment, what should have been rigid lines around manipulation of data started bending.  It took a FB comment by a Mare to open my eyes.  (I try to listen to the Mares In Black podcasts in order and have gotten to 33, but have also gotten 48; other recent ones are planned).  In the end only two of my 12 show entries have a significant degree of post-production processing, the golden Hamilton (he was born for it) and this one.

Here's the original, followed by my ultimate entry.  Notice not only the elimination of the box, but the addition of the white hat (it was hidden behind the cart) and the dog being made slightly more noticeable (enlarged).  Not much as it turned out!

Another place I fixed up was the bit shank angle.  I couldn't keep the long lines' weight from dragging them back, and I hadn't brought extra sticky wax.  I also wanted to practice rotation of a selection, because I knew I'd be using that on Laird my Hamilton.


In the end this was too small to notice much, but I acquired the valuable practice of rotating selections in PhotoShop.  That practice would yield truly splendid results when it came to changing Laird's rack into a trot,... something I'd been dreaming of since very early on after I saw him.

But that's another story.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

TSII #457: Finish and Delivery


Timaru Star II #457, my second Clyde Goehring Mexican silver parade saddle, was delivered in person deep in the forests of south-central Pennsylvania on October 4th.  After everything that had happened this year,.... after the loss of every live show and of a live BreyerFest,... the value of seeing a friend in person, precious at any time, had only grown.  During the dark times of quarantine the dream slept, steamrollered by officialdom:  Penn State, for instance, required a 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travel by professors.  Yet all along, even from last fall, I had cherished in my secret heart the determination to visit Eleanor again and deliver this set by hand.  She was only half a day away.  I clung to my vision.

This is a good place to list all 7 previous posts on this saddle:

Tree skirtsSilvering the Tree,   Starting the conchos,   Hock Deep: EngravingFixing Problems,   Left Cheek, Right Cheek,   Alta Cincha Close Up 

 In 'Left Cheek, Right Cheek' I documented how hard it was to keep creating in July, when conditions finally caught up with me.  In hindsight, this was the effect of my Mom being in the hospital, starting on June 28th, two thousand miles away from me.  In no small part does this story hinge on her miraculous recovery.  Although she didn't have covid19, the virus made what was already hard incredibly hard.  Would I have covid19 to blame if I had to say:  I never saw my mother in person again??!  Work on #457, which should have been finished in May, slowed down to a crawl.

I still have not seen Mom, but she is doing so much better, improving daily at home.  The uptick in my creativity coincided with her leaving the hospital, entering rehab, and then being successfully discharged and going home September 14.

By the time the saddle was finished, I had had two successful in-person visits with other model horse people, the Pomeranci in August and Margaret Loesch in September.  These visits really emphasized the value of planning and how much effort by everybody it took to pull one off.  In May I had sicced my best navigator on the problem of my visions about #457.  To my delighted amazement, he found a location that was equidistant between our two homes and which was out in the woods.  We had never visited Caledonia State Park, but Google Maps is a wonderful thing.

My customer knew about this proposal and approved.  In one of the most charming coincidences of this entire saga, the saddle was officially finished on her birthday.

I just love this portrait of Toucano, my Straight Bet.  In early September, Mares In Black mentioned this piece of tack and that I was putting it on a Duende.  I had posted him on my FaceBook August 26.

The last part to be done was the Alta Cincha or decorative cover for the girth strap.   This had also been the last part to be finished on the first Clyde Goehring.  I flatter myself the second time 'round was an improvement.  This part is covered in its own blog post.

 The great day dawned.  Here is a very brief glimpse of my co-driver and fantastic trip-taker, Navigator Supreme, at the culmination of our journey.  The car's name is Moxie.

I wonder whether the cars talked.
We had plenty of space to distance with.

It was heaven.  An important item of business was to transfer the bit, taking out the Clark bit I had used and putting in the Argentium one.  Here Eleanor first examines her new bridle.

TSII #457 had come home, and it is now in the hands of a Curator of the Smithsonian.  Note the copy of the Humboldt book, in its haversack (thank you Lynn!), which had to be present too!

I think she likes it.  :)

 In so much joy, there had to be a few goofs.  I somehow did not get pictures of the Clyde Goehring II with its proper bit installed.  That will have to wait until we meet again,... god willing.  We will trust that this will come to pass!

Yet I've already shot this set a great many times on a great many horses.  There was one horse I shot it on that she could not resist viewing once I told her about it.  Despite claiming that I would not do this,... despite knowing that Saddlebreds are not shown in parade at the rack,... it turned out I could resist for only so long, about 2 days.  I will end with a glimpse of what, after all, seems inevitable.

I named him Laird Crown Imperial.  Crown Imperial for the book I was reading at the time (Dorothy Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon), and Laird because,... well, go look up Laird Hamilton yourself.  Being marine people ourselves, the pun was too good to pass up.