Archive for July, 2008

The Conyers-Burton Prevention Of Equine Cruelty Act Of 2008.
July 29, 2008

October405123.jpg Shooting Star and Don Quixote -- upon arrival. picture by DogOnAHorse

Shooting Star, a wild Nevada Mustang foaled in a killbuyer’s feedlot, on arrival.

With much excitement for America’s horses, both domesticated and wild, there is a new bill being presented to Congress in the people’s ongoing attempts to end the slaughter of America’s horses for human consumption.

Called the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008 (H.R. 6598), this legislation will prohibit the sale and transport of horses for the purpose of human consumption, effectively ending the agony of horses being transported/exported long distances to Mexico and Canada for slaughter, sometimes on double-decker trailers intended for cows, and without food or water.

This new legislation differs from the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503/S.311) because its focus is the inherent cruelty of horse slaughter. Because of this, it has been referred to the Judiciary Committee for consideration. The Committee Chairman, Representative John Conyers, is the lead sponsor of the bill. It is very possible that this bill has a greater chance of being enacted than the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which has been stalled (most likely deliberately) in Committee since April 2007.

The Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing in regard to this bill on Thursday, July 31st, 2008, and the Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle will testify in support of the legislation. Testimony is presently being collected from Americans who do horse rescue, and who man the front lines of this awful, heartbreaking situation.

This is exactly what America’s horses need — protection and championing.

Let me shout it from the rooftops — Americans do not eat their pets! Pets are family, not food! Horses are considered pets and companion animals, not livestock or meat!

Why are we exporting our family members onto foreign dinner plates? Money, greed, and because the people who do so are counting on Americans to either not know, or not care.

We care! We care about the horses!

IMG_1026-2.jpg picture by DogOnAHorse

Shooting Star today.

All three horses in this photo were saved from slaughter.

(photos by Emily Murdoch)

Want to help? Please write, call or email your Representatives today, and urge them to support the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008. Your voice is God’s, for these horses.

Want the low down on horse slaughter, and a timeline for anti-slaughter legislation? 

Click here: LEGISLATION:  American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503/S. 311)
And for this current legislation:
Click here: Congress Addressing Horse Slaughter Cruelty in New Federal Legislation | The H
Want to see the Humane Society’s undercover slaughter investigation?  
 (WARNING — This is not for the faint of heart. Contains graphic images, and it’s heartbreaking.)


Why Do We Publish?
July 28, 2008

“I smile when you suggest that I delay “to publish” — that being foreign to my thought, as Firmament to Fin. If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her — if she did not, the longest day would pass me on the chase — and the approbation of my Dog, would forsake me — then. My Barefoot-Rank is better. You think my gait “spasmodic”. I am in danger, Sir. You think me “uncontrolled”. I have no Tribunal … The Sailor cannot see the North, but knows the Needle can.”

Emily Dickinson in an April 25th, 1862 letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson. 

Emily Dickinson

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this subject, lately, as I continue the query process. Why that thrust toward publishing our work? How are we sure we have something worthwhile or meaningful to say?

Since I finished my novel in May, my world has shifted from writing, or creating, to research into the business end of writing and the query process. Related facts and rumors, exchanged amongst writers, perk my ears and cause me to compare and contrast my own work, process, and motivations.

In reality, the query process casts a spell upon me that is both dark and grouchy; as soon as I find an industry insider explaining the perfect query letter format, I find another (and another) with a whole different take on this important letter (that may open the door enough for a crack of light to fall upon your work).

The fact is, I’m a writer. I’m an artist, a creator, a thinker, not a businesswoman. I only travel as far as I do down Query Road by pushing on, regardless, and due to my stubbornness — it really comes in handy during the query process.

Thinking on this further, I miss the writing part of my novel. I miss my main character. She grew into a close friend whose mind I snuggled up in and whose vision conjured up my inner champion. With her struggles being very relatable to three to five million human beings in the United States alone, she taught me the basics of human existence: how we all struggle toward love and acceptance, from others and from ourselves. On some levels, the query process isn’t immune to this truth.

I miss my days being creative and light, since the business side of writing feels like an uphill mountain trek complete with mental thunderstorms and shifting confidence. Actually, I’m supposed to be taking the summer off, spending my time reading and riding and kicking back after two years of hard work, seven days a week, rewriting and editing my novel. Only, I can’t seem to let go of it. Frankie is counting on me, and for the millions of people with eating disorders, there’s no vacation for them, either.

Just like tomatoes are actually fruit, (berries, to make the concept even more bizarre), like it or not, so are artists business people. Why do we publish? For many, many reasons. Because we want to show off our hard work, because we’re writers and that’s what writers do, because we have something important to say and to share, and even because of the difficulty of the process, in its artful mix of skill, hard work, and fate.

In 1886, upon Emily Dickinson’s death, 900 (unpublished) poems were found in her dresser drawer tied up with string, and the rest is history. Maybe she was right; if fame belongs to us we cannot escape her, not even in death. Just like Emily, with or without recognition, or even publication, the writers I know write anyway because they are writers. What else would we do?


Colorforms Weather.
July 24, 2008

“Who knows that ’tis not life which we call death, And death our life on earth?”


These gray, overcast days always remind me of my paternal grandmother. With fans spinning all around me now, as they were back then, and the rain falling intermittently, my grandmother knew best how to keep kids occupied.

It’s a memory I haven’t accessed in years — sitting under the umbrella of the picnic table, if the day was only gray, or, snug and dry at a table in the screened-in porch of her house, listening to the rain make music on the roof and hunched over my Colorforms.

Colorforms are thin, die-cut vinyl images (my favorites were the Gumby playset, and the Raggedy Ann and Andy playset) placed on a slick, cardboard backdrop scene and held in place by static cling. The figures are removable, and so, can be arranged and rearranged endlessly, limited only by a child’s imagination.

Other rainy days, my grandmother set out paint brushes and cups of water and out came the Paint with Water books, with convenient tear-out sheets making for perfect refrigerator art.   

The only thing that could tear us children from our creations was the song of the ice cream truck coming around the corner. Like the Pied Piper’s flute, children emptied from rows of front doors into a river of bright faces, sweaty hands clutching quarters that used to look much bigger, then, and the grinning ice cream man akin to a celebrity sighting.

My grandmother always had change. Being the country mouse visiting from a place that didn’t have streetlights or sidewalks, corner stores or enough children to make a river, let alone ice cream trucks, I was always more excited than the city children. Grinning from ear to ear (as my face’s muscle memory still remembers) in that goofy, free and un-self-conscious way that always makes childhood magical, (no matter what’s going on around you), my never wavering choice was the red-white-and-blue Bomb Pop.

I think it’s why I love Monsoon Season so much — it reminds me of my grandmother and of some of the best memories of my childhood. She once told me how much I reminded her of herself — little feet, diminutive height, (exactly the same height), big personality, life of the party — and I couldn’t see it all, back then, as I can, now. The fact is even more precious to me as I grow older.

I see the resemblance most when I’m alone at night, a night-owl on the couch watching old movies at two in the morning, just like she used to do.

Last night, the terriers began barking down the empty hallway; I watched their eyes follow something I couldn’t see, all the way over to the space beside me, and it’s not the first time. That’s when I wonder if she’s dropped by for a visit, sitting down next to me to catch the end of the “show”.

Perhaps that’s why I’m hyper-noticing today, out of the blue, the sound of the fans and remembering the distorted voices of children yelling into them. Or, the rubber snake from Woolworth’s that I just had to have, and the expensive marionette she gave me for my eleventh birthday.

All I need to make the memories complete is a slice of her favorite treat — Entenmann’s Raspberry Danish Twist. At a time when food really was love, and as uncomplicated as air, perhaps it’s those food memories I cherish most of all.

I’ll be sad to see the sun come out, today, and break this nostalgic spell. But the horses need it, like nature’s blowdryer between storms. That’s okay. Memory Lane will remain gray, wet and full of noisy fans, just the way I like it.

(And on that note, Grandma, if you’re listening? Could you please send a few of my query letters to the right agents? Maybe find an agent who likes Colorforms, Paint with Water, and Entenmann’s? It couldn’t hurt. Thanks.)

Here’s To You, Mr. Hemingway.
July 22, 2008

“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.”

Ernest Hemingway


The Hemingway House in Key West, Florida.

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are two famous birthdays I always remember: Antonio Vivaldi’s, and Ernest Hemingway’s.

If you’ve never listened to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, then your life is incomplete; but don’t fret. There’s still time. Vivaldi’s birthday is March 4th, and I remember it because I think of it as march forth, as in, march forth and conquer with exquisitely beautiful and brilliant music. Even the horses and donkey love Vivaldi, which I’m prone to blast from the porch as I muck manure in the corral. I swear Donkey even chews in synch with the violins; he’s a very cultured donkey.   

Hemingway’s birthday is even easier to remember because Ernest and I share the same birthday — July 21st. Yesterday, as I opened presents and ate cake, I toasted Mr. Hemingway as I always do, and vowed to read A Moveable Feast. I envisioned swinging in the huge rope hammock on the porch, nibbling slices of apple and cheese and reading the good parts aloud to the terriers.


(Photo by Marc Averette, courtesy of Wikipedia)

I can’t think of Hemingway without thinking of his band of polydactyl (six-toed) cats, happily petable and weaving between my legs. A few years back, I was lucky enough to visit the Hemingway house in Key West, which now houses the descendants of the cats he left behind. Lagging behind on the tour, I even laid down on his bed, (shhhhhhhh), when no one was left in his bedroom but me. 


There’s a beautiful piece of art on the bureau, a gift from his friend Pablo Picasso, and of course, as a writer, the other thing that stood out was his typewriter. It was easy to picture him sitting in front of it, pounding away. It’s said his favorite was the Royal portable typewriter, the Quiet Deluxe model.


(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia) 

He even frequented Sloppy Joe’s, a famous restaurant/bar which I have to agree has excellent food and ambiance. Following his old haunts, you almost expect to see him nod hello as he passes on the streets, or find him sitting next to you at the bar, passing the salt and ketchup.

So many of our great minds succumb to depression, and worse, suicide, as did Ernest Hemingway on July 2nd, 1961, just weeks before his 62nd birthday. A memorial in Ketchum, Idaho is inscribed with his own words: 

“Best of all he loved the fall
The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods
Leaves floating on the trout streams
And above the hills
The high blue windless skies
Now he will be a part of them forever.”

Ernest Hemingway – Idaho – 1939

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hemingway. You knew the secret writers have always known — through words there is immortality for mere mortals, minus the storms that plague us and free of the minds wired to create and destroy so exquisitely.

I bet you’d smile to see people reading your work on their Kindles. I wonder what computer you’d prefer — laptop or PC, Mac or Windows?     

What Keeps You From Writing?
July 20, 2008

“The passing spring, birds mourn, fishes weep with tearful eyes.”

Matsuo Basho

I never get writer’s block, and there isn’t much that keeps me from writing. As a matter of fact, my husband happily catches up on television shows because I’m often choosing, instead, to crank some music and pound away on the keyboard.

There is one thing that sets my mind and emotions spinning out of orbit, and consequently, (and temporarily), silences the keyboard — existential sadness. That all-encompassing sadness that comes from the overwhelming helplessness of knowing too much of the world’s horrors. With babies being thrown in dumpsters, children kidnapped and murdered, animals starved, abused and tortured, and war raging everywhere, at times it can be hard to look upon the world with wide-open, hopeful eyes.

If only there was a button that disabled all the horror in the world. If only they sold a remote for that.

Lately, for me, the great sadness has been the plight of the wild mustangs. America’s wild horses. I fall apart inside at the thought of any human or animal being hurt or forgotten. I believe all life is sacred. All life — not just life at the top of the food chain.

Read more here:  Saving The Wild Mustang Herds.

If you know horses, then you know that horses know. They feel, think, ask and apologize, plot, play, exhibit a sense of humor, and depend upon our compassionate behavior for their very lives, and their quality of life.

Pets are family, not food, especially in America. Americans don’t eat their pets. (You don’t see American restaurants pulling “dog” off the menu because the Olympics are going to be held here.)

Death isn’t the only horror to befall a horse. The anguish, fear and confusion a wild horse experiences upon round-up is extremely upsetting to think about, and so is that same horse later experiencing the slaughter process. It saddens me that, understandably, it’s easier to look away from the darker side of life and from the horrible things that are done to our animals and children. It’s easier not to know than to feel the swirl of pitch-black emotion that knowing brings.

It’s why I’m grateful for all the “knowing ones” out there, who carry the burden of bearing witness. They willingly carry the weight of the darkness in an effort to bring about change. They walk away from the happy and easy, to help alleviate suffering in the world.

Marvin Gaye was singing on the radio last night, through the monsoon rains that finally let loose. “Mercy, mercy me, things aren’t what they used to be …” and I nodded as I tramped through puddles with a tower of hay in my arms, with hungry rescue horses stealing bites and following me to the shelters where we’d all be dry. No, things aren’t how they should be, not yet, and not to the credit of a human being’s capacity for reason, empathy and compassion. Maybe one day things will be different, as minds and hearts continue to evolve.

I hope the wild horses are still alive and running free, then. I hope all the babies fished from dumpsters can be brushed off and soothed.

I’ve also been saddened by the story of the United States Marine in Hawaii who threw a puppy over a cliff to its death. The story resurfaced recently, as news of disciplinary action against the Marine was disclosed. The very helplessness of any puppy makes the story all the more heinous.

To honor its life, I think the puppy deserves a name — like “Brio”, which means vigor, vivacity; mettle, fire, life.


Brio was here.