Last night the cold and storms that have been lashing the rest of the USA hit us here in Nthn Arizona – in particular this little corner of Cordes Lakes. The sun, as welcome as it is here and as home as it usually seems to feel (given its cheerful presence most of the time), hid from us most of the day. By mid-afternoon it was definitely cold, wet and windy.

On Tuesday while it was the sort of winter’s day we expect and why we live here (sun, gentle breezes and blue skies) Mariah, the little grey Arab mare who I am proud to say I own (have the papers and all to prove it!) arrived. We had been living up in the Rimrock area and when I made the move down here a month ago she stayed until I had the new abode ready for her.

I had planned to bring her down with friends on Wednesday (that’d be yesterday) and was blithely ignoring the weather reports. (After all, I know that people who aren’t used to ‘weather’ get quite excitable about a bit of the white stuff…) However, the friends took it upon themselves to announce they were bringing her that morning – Tuesday.

As they were doing the driving, were quite capable of loading her into the trailer and were also very good horseman I was not in a position to argue! My plan to drive up and be there to load her, then follow the trailer back was moot. I allowed that others could do what I can and could help me make this work better than I had foreseen, as the weather reports seemed to be more dire than I had wanted to believe. I moved the days’ plans about (also perfectly easy to do) and prepared the yard at the community co-op stables a mile from my house.

About 90 minutes later there she was, calmly leaving the large stock trailer. (She was able to turn around and come off facing the way out, her preferred method of disembarking and thus far less stressful than barreling off backwards, hitting her head as often as not.) To my surprise and relief, Mariah, this light, narrow-bodied, flecked grey Arab mare, was interested and relaxed, rather than antsy and anxious.

Ignoring the horse next door who was doing its best to intimidate, startle and generally make a scene, she wandered around, looked near and far, ate the alfalfa, slurped the water and that was that. Even the local old cowboy were impressed by this little A-rab mare!

The next day, the day of her planned arrival, the weather really moved in. She was by then fully settled and comfortable. Although she had been fed late afternoon, I was concerned with the extreme weather change and wanted to give her some extra feed that night. (A late night snack also meant I wouldn’t have to be down here at 6am!)

Making the little trek down there in the dark, the wind whipping about, everything soaked, I was grateful that someone else was driving and all I had to do was jump out and take the grain to her. (Mariah was quite unperturbed by the late night visitation of the Feeding Fairies, taking this odd event in her stride.)

This morning the two of us who share this house, split the mornings’ tasks between us. I finished the dishes from last night, made the coffee, checked in with the news of the road closures, (canceling a days’ trip out) and David made the dash to feed the little grey horse.

(I would have, but his truck was parked behind mine and I am not yet at all ready to drive his big Nissan, let alone in challenging weather! It was a little odd to be in the house, by choice, while someone else fed my horse. I cannot say when that last happened.)

Later I went down to clean the yards. There she was, standing in the shelter, amidst the deeply biting cold, looking as if she had been there forever. We stepped into our old routine, little extra feed, cleaning the yard and exchanging a greeting and rubs.

Feeling my cold hands in her long rough hair, warm breath on my face as she reached to find the feed, surrounded by the chill of the hard snow flecks and the smell of mud and wet manure, I was comforted. Carrying sweet green alfalfa, the exertion of wheeling the barrow to the manure pile, my feet frozen in their boots, I knew I had finally moved into my new home.

It has been like this the whole month of December. Plans made and changed, a gradual settling into place and home, unexpected moments of great joy and sudden anxiety. Visions dancing like the proverbial sugarplums in my head, and then reality.

The winds of the season, storms and tempests, gorgeous blue skies and hot sun, stunning sunsets, have come and gone with little warning and no real lasting effect at all. The one constant is the unfolding life I have chosen.

My daughter came here for almost a week, leaving the day after Christmas. This became a house-full. Even though the moving in is not complete it felt like a real home.  David and I sharing our first ever December together, a daughter coming to visit me in a place where at last there was room for her to spread out, his daughter on the phone first thing Christmas morning. (‘Have you opened the gift I sent yet? Hurry up! I am dying of anticipation!’)

We have a clay studio in the house. David is a ceramist. I had thought my daughter and I would drive up to where I used to live (where Mariah still was) and ride the horses there, we’d paint the bedroom, maybe the three of us would hike. I knew she’d be interested in the clay studio and assumed we’d do some things there, but I still thought of her as, well, just her and I.

However, this place, this home for family that David and I had created for ourselves and then extended open always-anytime invitation to our daughters, wove its own spell. The rumpled look of not being quite moved in, two small dogs who greet all with enthusiasm and delight, the sofa with old cushions, and candles that are always burning, defined Welcome. Piano, guitar, shelves of books and, seen through the two openings leading from the living room into the studio, a potters wheel and benches urged creation.

This house creates its own space for freedom and creative endeavor. Welcome, it says, come and play, be who you are.

So she did, we did. Alexa set a new tone as she embraced the home that we had been working so hard and busily to create. Along with the late sleeping and much eating, there was sitting in the comfy chair. David and I had looked at it where we put it knowing it’d be a great place to hang and read, but had not actually been able to find the time to sit. It took the daughter visiting, feeling at home, to actually use it! (And dub it the Comfy Chair.)

Of all that we did (and we didn’t paint the room or ride or hike!) the activity and energy in this house with the three of us came from the studio. One by one my daughter and I had guidance in making pots from David, patient artist/teacher who so generously and joyously shared this craft with us. He did so in a way that allowed us to find our own artist within, through a medium with which he has journeyed since his early teen years.

Pots were made late at night and the last of the under-glazing completed the morning she had to leave for the airport. Sometimes two people were in there, sometimes one, sometimes all three of us engrossed in creating art. Against the backdrop of Christmas, this family and this home came to life emerging through the womb of the clay studio.

Today, observing that little grey horse who arrived and accepted her new surroundings with grace and calm interest, who ate, drank and looked near and far, and who turns her tail to the wind but greets me with an open eye and ears forward, this awareness is the great gift of this holiday season. I cannot always control how each detail of my life turns out. I can just be in it.

It took my daughter to really open me to the home we had. The glimpses I had had in the making of it had been overwhelmed by the effort of moving, maintaining work and shifting from who I was and how I used to live to who I am and how I now live.

Remembering how she moved into this place, accepting its embrace, while maintaining in her true essence, I become more aware of my own inner strength. I can accept the gifts and the changes and know I will not lose myself.

The weather will do what it does, people will step in and be there even when I don’t ask. I will sometimes be lost and sometimes overwhelmed, losing sight of what is right in front of me. It won’t matter because when I sit in the comfy chair I will look about near and far.

What is right in front of me: I have my piano and horse here, my books out and a writing space set up. I have a home.

And, more than all of that, more than the things and the place and the stuff, I have been given by the universe someone with whom to share it all. Someone who will also feed my horse, create art with my daughter and most of all, greet me in the home we are making. A gift indeed for the new year and a blessing from the old.

May your year end as sweetly and the new year, 2011, bring such visions and reality to you. May you have a creative space in which to play, discover and rest. May you share love and home however that is for your heart and place. May you be well.

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