Saturday, August 19, 2017

170818 Some thoughts


In the wake of the horrors of the past week, from Charlottesville to Barcelona to Sweden and Finland I want to stop to remember and to remind that there is good in this world.

For the past several months, since we found out we needed to move the horses from the property across the street, we have pretty diligently looked for a new home. We've asked people we know, friends, other horse owners, stable owners, hay field managers, pretty much anyone we could think of. Funds are obviously limited but we were willing to pay something if need be. We did find a few less-than-ideal places, all of which wanted to charge $100 or more per horse, sometimes for no more that a stall with no turnout space. Others, including friends, simply said no.

One morning, after repeated unsuccessful attempts to reach her, Elaine finally was able to contact Rachel (not her real name). Rachel, to her amazing credit, was willing to open her door this stranger, a Gringa, and listen to her explain in sometimes halting Spanish that we needed a place--immediately--to keep three horses for at least three months. Would she be willing to let us use her land?

At first skeptical--understandably so--she eventually agreed that, yes, we could put our horses on her land. This woman, who had never met us, knew nothing about us, didn't know what our "real" agenda might be, didn't know about horses, said, "yes."

Now our horse have a marvelous home, at least for now. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to Rachel. She seems to be getting more and more comfortable with the horses there.

And our gratitude goes deeper and wider. Despite the uncomfortable end of the relationship with the family across the street, we can only be grateful to them, especially Kiko and his daughter Sandra. For nearly six years, they have allowed us--with minimal intrusion--to keep our horses right across the street at very little cost.

Before that, for five years Dr. Lamela allowed us to keep the horses on his property right behind us.

There are many many horses owners with lots more money than we have who cannot get up in the morning, open the window and see their horses. These have been amazing wonderful gifts.

And one more: last week Elaine lost her purse with the usual collection of driver's license, credit cards, etc. She was pretty sure it hadn't been stolen, just misplaced. Friends as far away as Chicago searched their houses looking for it (we have such awesome friends!) as did friends closer to home where it was more likely she'd left it. It didn't turn up and didn't turn up but there was no suspicious activity on any of the credit cards either. She had finally pretty much given up when a policeman stopped at the house.

He told her the purse was at the panaderia (bakery) near the horses' new home. She went there to get a sandwich and left her purse. It was the only time she'd ever been there and she didn't even think of it.

When she went to the panaderia to retrieve the purse, Elaine talked with the woman. She told Elaine this is her mother's panaderia. Her mother found the purse and expected the owner to come back for it. When no one came to claim it, they set it aside. It was someone else's purse, someone else's business, and they had no business going through it. When the policeman came into the panaderia, the woman told him someone left this purse. Would he mind looking through it and see if he could find the owner? The officer found her driver's license and said, "I think I know this woman." He drove down to tell Elaine and thus, the purse was found and returned intact. What phenomenal integrity! And honesty! If only there were more in the world.

But we are humbled and immensely grateful for what there is.




Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Best moment 170814 Romping in the pasture




So the horses seem to be enjoying their new home. What an incredible joy to watch!

Monday, August 14, 2017

170814 Gone but back again

Sit back and settle in for a saga. It's been a lo-o-o-ong but very productive two weeks.

It's not that there haven't been best moments in the past couple of weeks - there have been lots of them. The problem has been getting time to write about them. (Who doesn't have 10 minutes a day to write 50-100 words about their best moments? C'mon! Really?) It's only sort of an excuse. The past two weeks have pretty much been all about the horses and being away from the house and the computer.

Monday, 7/30 - We had a great ride on the beach and the trails. Little did we know then how close we were to our last (for a while) ride on the beach.

 

Tuesday, 8/1 -  Elaine and I took KTJ and Chocolate for a swim in the ocean. If you've been reading this for a while, you know how much we all love that. It was spur of the moment so no photos.

Thursday, 8/3 - A break from horses. Elaine had a party for the volunteers Calorcito p'al Corazon, the group that takes blankets to hospital emergency rooms. One of the best, most active volunteers is our good friend Carole. Her husband Rolf has dementia and needs constant supervision. So Carole could go to the party I was given the honor and privilege of staying with Rolf.

Friday, 8/4 - We were supposed to meet with the mayor of Isabela about land for the therapeutic riding center but the meeting was canceled. Apparently there was some sort of emergency financial meeting in San Juan.

Saturday, 8/5 - We've known for a while that we needed to move our horses off the property across the street. We've been looking for a suitable safe, secure location for months but haven't found one. We had several sites that looked promising but for one reason or another they all fell through. We hoped the meeting with the mayor - the one that didn't happen - would provide some options. On this particular Saturday morning the sometimes eccentric head of the family that owns the property started stringing barbed wire right next to the road in front of the corral and our access gate to the horses. Not too subtle and it kind of freaked me out. He has been known to do unexpected, sometimes dangerous (to others) things without warning. All this led to...

Sunday, 8/6 - An early Sunday morning ride to move the horses to our extreme-last-resort-they-can-only-be-here-a-few-days backup site: Marie's back yard. We figured it would be our last beach ride for a while so we all determined to enjoy it.



At first they were happy in Marie's yard - lots of green grass, for one thing. But they quickly realized how small the area is.


Even though we took them out to exercise as often as we could, they still got bored.


Monday, 8/7 - Marie and I started dismantling the corral and fence across the street, rolling up the electric fence wire, taking down rails, etc. (With everything else that's been going on, that job is only partially complete. I still have to take down the posts. I'm hoping that will happen this week.) While I was working, Fred, the construction manager for a project down the road. drove by. I stopped him to ask about dirt that was dumped on the back of the property across the street. Fred and Elaine got to talking about our project and told him about our meeting with the mayor, now rescheduled for Tuesday, August 8. Turns out, Fred and Charlie (the mayor) have been friends for years. Fred offered to go with us to see the mayor and to help any way he could. Talk about serendipitous best moments!

Tuesday, 8/8 - We - including our new best friend Fred - finally got to meet with Charlie, el Alcalde (mayor) of Isabela. With a little help from Fred, Elaine started her presentation. About half way through, Charlie said, "I'm convinced. What do you need?"

After more conversation, Charlie said the municipio has a five-acre parcel that is not being used and has no current plans for. We have to officially apply to the municipal legislature the first week of September. Charlie is 100% behind our project and sees no problems. The only hick-up is the process will take about three months, putting us into November. That still leaves us with no immediate place to move the horses. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on their stay at Marie's.

Through a long convoluted chain, there have been conversations using the picadero, an arena and facility for holding horse shows that the municipio owns, as a place for therapeutic riding (TR). We are very interested because it would be a way to start the program fairly quickly. The mayor is interested because it gets his facility used in a very positive way. We can also work cooperatively with our other TR friends to do this. The big problem is everyone would have to trailer horses, either from Rincon, Truillo Alto way on the other side of the island, or from wherever our horses end up. Trailering horses is never as easy as people seem to think. So we were looking for land close to the picadero.

All in all, the meeting with the mayor could not have gone better. It was the most positive thing that happened all week. So far. 

Wednesday, 8/9 - There is a large piece of land within walking distance of the picadero that we've looked at before. Here is one of those times when Elaine's persistence really paid off.

After at least six attempts to reach the property owner, Elaine finally was able to talk with her. Once she understood what we wanted and why, she agreed to let us use the property for three months. We hope to convince her and the neighbors we're great tenants and stewards of the land so we can stay there permanently. That doesn't rule out the land the mayor is talking about either.

Once we got permission to use the land, we walked off the part we wanted to fence first and I was off to HomeDepot to get fence posts.

Thursday, 8/10 - Armed with 50 new T-posts and a brand new T-post driver, I was out bright and early pounding posts. By 2:00 pm, tired and sunburned and proud, I had fenced in an acre-and-a-half.

Friday, 8/11 - While all of this was going on, Elaine was juggling arrangements to get someone who could trailer the horses, who at this point are destroying Marie's yard, to their new home. First it was Friday, then Saturday, then Sunday, then Saturday again.

We went up to Marie's, got the horses out and worked them for a while, just let them get their ya-yas (pent-up energy) out. That's when the idea of riding the horses to the new home first surfaced. We considered riding them Friday afternoon but we figured it to be a 14- mile ride. In the heat of the day. At least part of it at "rush hour." We decided early Saturday morning was a better idea.

Saturday, 8/11 - Up early. We planned to be in the saddle by 7:00. Didn't quite make it but we were on our way before 7:30.




We started riding a somewhat familiar route, down to familiar trails and beach, then past Shacks toward Jobos. Our route was planned to minimize riding on busy roads.







From there we went up Jobos hill which I cannot even describe. From then on we were on roads that pretty much required our full attention so there are no photos until we reached the new home. Tired, hot, and a little confused at first, the critters did not take long to adjust to their new digs.



They've now been there for two days and seem to be settling in nicely.

Next steps: Finish the paperwork for our non-profit corporation. Make formal application to the municipio for use of the land. Check out the picadero to start therapeutic riding. I finally feel like the dominoes are starting to fall into place.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Best moment 170729 Shacks again


Snorkeling at Shacks again. This day wasn't nearly as good as yesterday. the sea was rougher and visibility wasn't very good.

Still, getting in the water is better that not getting in.

Best moment 170728 snorkeling Shacks


More vitamin sea, this time snorkeling at Shacks. It was a good day, calm, flat and good visibility, especially for this time of year.

I got to hang out with this guy. Octopus are so cool to watch and so intelligent. They are usually pretty shy and run to hide but this guy stayed out from under the ledges for quite a while.

In addition to the octopus, I swam with a big French angelfish and one of the bigger schools of blue tang that I've seen in a while. It was good to see them back on "our" reef.

Best moment 100727


Another four-legger went swimming!

Amber has always loved the water and loved to swim, ever since he was a pup. When he was small, we'd take him to the lake. If we picked him up, so his feet were out of the water, he would lie quietly. If we lowered him, as soon as his feet touched the water, he would start swimming. Pick him up, the swimming switch turned off. Lower him, the swimming switch turned back on.

Vizslas are bred pointer-retrievers. Swimming is in their being. They even have webbed paws to make swimming easier.

For years, Amber swam in the ocean a lot. He learned to body-surf: he would paddle out then turn and watch for a wave and ride it back to the beach then swim out to do it again. He would play "fetch the stick" in the water until his legs were too tired to move. And then go one more time, (For the record we never let him go that long.)

In the past couple of years, as the issues with his back end and back legs have progressed, we don't take him swimming much. It's pretty hard on him. He's not as stable when the waves hit him. He still runs on the beach everyday and some times plays in the shallows, but he doesn't swim much any more.

We were going for bit of "vitamin sea" therapy and decided to take Amber with us. We were just lounging in the shallow water so it was a perfect time. He walked out - a little unsteadily - and started float. And then to swim. I think he really enjoyed the swimming and it was a joy for us to watch. He didn't swim long or far (we used to remind him that Desecheo Island is only 17 miles away but he would still have to swim back) but he got to swim again.

As long as the ocean is calm and flat, we'll do that again.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Best moment 170726

It's been a pretty low-key week with not a lot going on good or bad.

Wednesday seems to be a catch-up day. Our morning yoga session with Rosie was wonderful - as always. Sometimes yoga is more work than other times and Rosie always encourages us to go a little farther, a little deeper. I always feel so much better afterwards. There is so much that I am carrying over into everyday life. I stand and sit straighter, not slumped over; my shoulders are more relaxed and not hunched around my ears. My breathing is better, more purposeful beyond just necessary.

Elaine taught at the stable in Rincon yesterday so she missed yoga. When she came home, we went out to work with the horses. Our friend Lisa stopped and told us it was a beautiful evening to take horses to the beach. So we did! A short bareback ride and into the water we went. The beach was more crowded than we expected but everybody was fine. The people on the beach seem to mostly enjoy the "show" of the horses in the water.

Chocolate went swimming again with me on him. Riding a swimming horse is such an amazing, different experience.

Wednesday night we had an incredible lightning and thunder show. I was outside watching when I notice an odd thing in the sky. The edge of he system, whatever it was, was right over our side yard. To the east the sky was clouded over and crashing huge lightning bolts and thunder. To the west of that line - and it was a hard edge - the sky was clear and full of stars. Really quite amazing, almost like something from a sci-fi movie.

So, Wednesday - a day with two best moments and another moment of wonder! A pretty good day all in all.

Best moment 170724

We had a great, fun night at Ola Lola's. Friends we haven't seen in a long time stopped by and spent most of the evening. And it was a good night for business overall. That's a good ti\hing after some of the slow nights we've had.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

170721 A digression


You would think those whose life and livelihood depends on the ocean would be the most conscious and respectful of it. Not so. I found this just lying on the beach yesterday. I thought it was just a bit trash dropped or washed up. When I picked it up, I discovered the aspirin bottle trash had a wire leader and a fish hook attached. On the one hand I applaud the fisherman for the creative reuse of the plastic container. On the other hand the jerky fisherman left the trash AND the hook lying on the beach. Fortunately I picked it up and it didn't wind up in a dog's paw or child's foot.

 I so want to respect the fishermen but they make it impossible.

Definitely not a best moment, but I needed to rant. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Best moment 170720 Steps Beach, Rincon


Have you seen the documentary Chasing Coral? It's streaming on Netflix right now. (At the risk of sounding like a Netflix commercial, even if you don't have Netflix, you can get a one-month free trial. If you have any love for the ocean, it's worth it just to watch this video.)

The video follows a mixed group of folks who set out document the coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.  It is a beautiful, amazing, enlightening, heartbreaking film.  I won't say any more about the film, other than to say - watch it!

We've watched it three times since it was released on July 14. It made me curious and concerned about some of the coral stands near us.

I've written before about the elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata). Once ubiquitous throughout the Caribbean, since 1980 90% to 95% of the elkhorn is dead. The causes are all the usual suspects: rising sea temperatures, human activity (over-fishing, farm runoff, wreckless divers and snorkelers), disease. 

For some reason there is a huge healthy stand of elkhorn in the Marine Reserve along the coast of Rincon. Granted, the protected status of the Marine Reserve has a lot to do with it. But that doesn't completely explain it. The Marine Reserve can't protect against higher ocean temperatures for example. 

I haven't snorkeled at Steps Beach in Rincon since 2015. After watching Chasing Coral, I wanted to see how it looked. On Thursday I had the privilege of snorkeling there with three amazing ladies. For two of them this was their first time at Steps. 

We were very pleased and a little surprised to find the elkhorn healthy and thriving and beautiful.

So there were two best moments in that trip to Rincon: finding the coral healthy and sharing it with good friends.

You can see more photos of the elkhorn in a new Flickr album.