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In which we celebrate the Gift of Stories with a Norwegian tale

The Boy Who Went to the North Wind (Norway)
Once upon a time, an old widow sent her only son out to the barn to fetch some meal.
Just as the lad was walking out of the barn with it, the North Wind blew up fierce and wild. Huffing and puffing, the North Wind caught up the meal from the lad's arms, and off it blew, far, far away.
The lad turned around and walked back into the barn. Once more he walked outside, carrying his bowl of meal. Again the North Wind came along, and with a huff and a puff, it carried off the second bowl full.
The lad shrugged and returned to the barn a third time. Once more the North Wind made off with the meal. Now, the lad stomped his feet.
"I'll go off and speak to him about his thievery," he said to himself. And so he did. The lad walked and walked, and finally, after the sun had set and the moon began to rise, he came to the house of the North Wind.
"Good evening, North Wind," he said politely.
"Good evening," said the Nort…

In which we celebrate the Gift of Stories with a funny old tale

What His Father Did (Ukraine) A large fellow went to an inn and demanded a meal.
“No money, no food,” said the innkeeper.
The fellow pounded the table, and stamped his feet and shouted, “If I don’t get something to eat, I’m going to do what my father did!”
The innkeeper got scared, and brought soup, bread and ale for the stranger.
The big fellow ate his fill, and then smiled peacefully and said “Thank you.”
Seeing that he was calmer after the meal, the curious innkeeper approached the man, and timidly asked, “Sir, please, if you don’t mind telling me, when your father did not get something to eat, what exactly did he do?
“What else could he do?” asked the traveler.“Why, he went to sleep hungry, of course!”

In which we celebrate the Gift of Stories with a Welsh fairy tale

The Fairy Reward (Wales) A man once lived by himself in a cottage on a hillside. One cold and windy night after he had gone to bed he heard a noise outside the door of the house. He opened his window and said, "Who is there? And what do you want?"
He was answered by a small silvery voice, "It is room and a warm place and water we want, to dress our children."
The man went down and opened the door: a dozen small beings entered carrying tiny babies in their arm; they remained in the cottage for some hours, washing the infants and themselves. Just before daybreak, they went away, leaving some money on the hearth as a reward for the kindness they had received.
After this, the man would to keep his fire banked and burning all night long. He would leave a vessel of water on the hearth, and bread on the table, taking care also to remove everything made of iron before going to bed.
The fairies often visited his cottage at night, and after each visit he found money left for h…

In which we celebrate the Gift of Stories with another fire tale

The Firebird (Whullemooch People, Puget Sound) Very long ago the people had no fire. They had heard of fire but they had never seen it. They ate all their food raw, and on cold days sat shivering and unhappy. They had no pleasant lodge fire to gather around on wet nights.

It happened one day, while the people were sitting on the grass eating raw meat, a beautiful red bird suddenly flew above their heads. It had shining feathers, and bright eyes like jewels, and its long, waving tail gave out rays like the Sun.
The bird hovered over the heads of the people, and flew in circles around and around.
"Bird, what do you want?" said the people.
"I come," replied the bird, "from a beautiful country far away. I am the Firebird, and I bring you the blessing of fire. The rays you see shining about my tail are tongues of flame."
"Oh, pretty Bird," cried the people, "give us the fire, so that we may cook our food and warm ourselves!"
"If you wish …

In which we celebrate the Gift of Stories with a Maori tale

The Origin of Fire (Maori)Fire had disappeared from the world. Mahuika, the mother of fire, lived in the underworld, and each of her fingers was a child of fire.

Maui the trickster, didn't wish for fire to come back to the world, so he asked Mahuika to give him one of her fingers of fire. When he returned to the world, Maui extinguished the flame by pouring water onto it.
Maui went to Mahuika again and told her that he had lost the first finger. Maui returned to the world again with the second finger and extinguished the flame.
Returning again and again, Maui eventually tricked Mahuika into giving him each of her fingers except for the last one.
Finally, Mahuika realized she had been deceived and threw her last finger into the forest of the world, causing a great fire to spread through the forest. Mahuika pursued Maui into the burning forests.
Fearing for his life, Maui took the form of a forest eagle and prayed to Tawhiri-matea, the god of storms, to bring forth rain, and a great …

In which we celebrate the Gift of Stories with an ancient Greek tale

Hestia (ancient Greece)
Hestia, goddess of fire, had a place of honor in the great Hall of Olympus, but Dionysus, the god of festivals and feasting, had none.

When a giant came to Greece, the gods could not overcome him, until Dionysus stepped forward with a wineskin that never emptied.Dionysus and the giant got so drunk together that that, at last, the other gods could capture the giant and throw him into the sea.

As a reward, Dionysus asked for a seat at the table of the gods, but none wanted to give up their own places, until Hestia stepped forward, and offered her place.

"I can give you my place,” she said, “for people will always come and bend to worship me.Long after you are forgotten, people will come with hands clasped before my fires on a cold night.”

When next you sit close to a fire, remember Hestia, who warms your hands.

In which we celebrate the Gift of Stories : "The Place in the Forest"

The Place in the Forest
Whenever the Jews were threatened with disaster, the Baal Shem Tov, (a great and righteous Rabbi) would go to a certain place in the forest, light a fire, and say a special prayer. Always a miracle would occur, and the disaster would be averted.

In the later times when disaster threatened, his disciple would go to the same place in the forest and say, “Master of the Universe, I do not know how to light the fire, but I can say the prayer.” And again the disaster would be averted.

Still later, the student after him would go to the same place in the forest and say, “Lord of the World, I do not know how to light the fire or say the prayer, but I know the place and that must suffice.” And it always did.

Five generations after the Baal Shem Tov, there was danger.The Rabbi of the time sat by his kitchen fire and said to heaven, “I do not know the prayer, nor the place, nor the way to light the fire.I know only how to tell the story, and it must suffice.”


The story was …

In which the Gift of Stories begins with a new story from Skookum

A Skookum Nativity

Up the hill two blocks from the main street of downtown is the Skookum Community Church—an ordinary-looking church building most of the year.In December, however, the church becomes a destination for visitors from all over Pilchuck County and beyond.
The reason that hundreds of people each year visit the little church on the hill is a unique vision that began with a preacher and a chainsaw.
William “Dub” Williams supported himself in college and seminary by working for the Park family, a gregarious clan headed by grandmother Halmoni Park.The mothers, aunts, and girls of the family spend hours each week combing the forest for mushrooms, ferns and barks, which they dry and sell to gourmet restaurants as far away as New York City.The men of the family work with chainsaws, salvaging fallen trees, rolling huge log rounds into the beds of battered yellow pickup trucks to be split into woodstove-sized pieces and stacked neatly for firewood.
Dub’s job was to carve bears with a…

In which every speck of sunlight is precious to us on Solstice Day

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Almost everybody celebrates (consciously or not) the return of the sun following Solstice. 

I got curious about how much sun and how fast it returns.   So, I looked it up:

Dec 22, 2011rise 7:55 AMset 4:21 PMhours 8h 25m 23show much? < 1sDec 23, 2011rise7:56 AMset 4:21 PMhours 8h 25m 29show much? + 05sDec 24, 2011rise7:56 AMset 4:22 PMhours 8h 25m 41show much? + 11sDec 25, 2011rise7:57AMset 4:22 PMhours 8h 25m 57show much? + 16s
Every second of light is precious, especially at this time of year.  Tomorrow, we get 5 additional seconds!  Wahoooooo!


To celebrate, Fiddle and I headed up the Dark Side of the hill...








Two days hence will start up the week-long Gift of Stories, posted annually on this blog. 
If you wonder why I do this, there's a story about it, posted HERE
Otherwise, just stay tuned and the Story Machine will kick into gear on X-Moose Eve with a brand-new original Skookum story.
Happy Solstice, everyone!

In which I'm not a huge fan of Xmas, but I do love silliness!

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Having holidays in the middle of winter just seem to me like Bad Planning.
Here's the last thing in the world I like to do in the middle of winter: anything.
Except, perhaps, be a little silly. Therefore, in the interest of silliness, I bring you:









In which I haven't forgotten how to write about farm and horses

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I've been writing a lot lately: working on the book proposal for Endurance 101, working on the annual Gift of Stories booklet, and writing a brand-new Skookum story, which I plan to post here on Christmas Eve. I haven't been riding as much as usual because it's winter.  It's cold, it's wet, blah blah blah.  I've been riding once each week for the last month, usually in a lesson. 
This week, though, I am determined to ride twice, so I saddled up Miss Fiddle this afternoon and took her for a ride down my own road.  We haven't done this since last February.  Fiddle was hyper-aware of all the Weird Stuff going on around us.  She is fine with cars and trucks zooming by on the road--she sidepasses nicely to the shoulder and stands still until the vehicle is gone.  Regular cars and trucks aren't even vaguely scary compared to the logging trucks that she isn't afraid of, so normal traffic is no big deal.
 However, there are things in the pastures beside our ro…

In which an entire endurance ride can be seen in just twenty minutes

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Endurance 101: a real ride (in 20 minutes)
Some enterprising riders in Texas decided that they were not only going to put on a new ride, they were going to make a little documentary film about it!
This video is just the thing I needed to watch on a gloomy December afternoon here in the Swampland: dirty, happy riders, crew, ride management, vets, and oh-so-many lovely horses in the sunshine of an endurance ride. I noticed some differences in the Texas ride from the events we hold in our region:

·Most (nearly all) of the horses in the video are Arabs or half-arabs. (I did see some lovely appaloosas, though). The folks in the video also said something about “all the pretty Arabians”. In the Pacific NW, we have a lot of Arabs, but there are also a lot of gaited horses, some quarter horses , mustangs and appaloosas, and a growing number of standardbreds--plus a few "I don't know what he is, I got him for $50 at the auction last summer" horses.
·People in the video repeated refer…

In which Endurance 101 presents a list of skills (for riders)

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” -- Seneca the Younger (ca. 4 BC – 65 AD)
Does anybody still play The Game of LifeTM?
The board game was popular when I was a kid:you would roll the dice to see how many spaces to advance along the board, you would make decisions (go to college?buy insurance?) and you were subject to random chance via the Life Cards, which told you that you had gotten a promotion, wrecked your car, or become the parent of twins.
I need to warn you now:endurance is a lot like that game.You can prepare like crazy, trying to anticipate every possible circumstance, and random chance will still have a huge influence on your ride season.
You may feel like you’ve got a talent for “rolling sevens”:your horse is awesome, your saddle fits great, the trails near your house are perfect for training, and suddenly, BAM!The universe rolls snake-eyes against you, and instead of trotting down the trail, you find yourself fixing multiple flat tires, hiring a new far…