Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Risky Business

     I participated in risky behavior this past weekend. Because I live cupped in a valley between lots of mountains, I see more sheep than people in a day. But, I want to publish a children’s book and I’ve discovered that one of the realities in the publishing world is the necessity for networking. So this past weekend, I pulled on my big girl panties and travelled to the Society of Children’s Book Writers Mid-Atlantic conference in Arlington, VA. I saw more people on Friday than I have seen in the past six years and that was just the ones I passed on the interstate during rush hour.
     Then on Saturday, I spent the day with 300 other aspiring and some “yeehaw I’ve made it!” authors. They were all lovely people. I heard Lisa Yee (a highly published and popular author) speak and listened to agents and editors talk about how to make it in this business. I had my first ever face to face meeting with a delightful agent, who although she wasn’t interested in my book, still made me feel hopeful. I had lunch with a new found friend who gave me the name of her editor at a magazine I’ve been trying to crack. I collected artist’s cards and studied portfolios so I could spiff mine up. I ate homemade pizza on an urban front porch with good friends and watched what appeared to be UFO’s fizzling across the sky. It was truly a great weekend. And, I moved outside of my comfort zone for a while.
     As I grow older, I want to be sure to break out of my rut, even though it’s a beautiful one, every once in a while. My grandmother, Nana, was always forward looking and eager for a new adventure. She lived to be 102 and even though she went to heaven to give God some pointers a while ago, I still feel her lively curiosity. Nana quoted Shakespeare to me every chance she got, which guaranteed that I was sometimes a little big for my britches. I’m embarrassed to admit that at ten years of age, I could be heard saying things like, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Nana was also dogged and passionate when she wanted to make something happen and I am trying to channel that confidence. So, Nana, even though my trip wasn’t as successful as I had hoped, I’m not giving up. The world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open.
Readers, what have you done lately that caused your heart to beat a little faster?

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Daily LLama

     The predators move ever closer. I have seen more bears this year than all my years living here put together. Coyotes howl on the ridge tops and we shepherds anxiously count our sheep each morning. We’ve lost 16 this year, another neighbor has lost 15, and yet another 13. There are bones scattered in every meadow and pasture. The local trapper announced at a recent meeting that these wily canines and hungry ursines are here to stay and we will just have to find a way to coexist. Some farmers are penning their sheep every night, others are using llamas and Great Pyrenees dogs as sentries in their flocks and others are just giving up.
     Coyotes are cruel hunters. They kill by biting the ewe or lamb in the neck and then hanging on until the animal suffocates. I don’t think I would mind it so much, if they would just eat what they kill, but often they eat a chunk or two and then move on. At least bears drag the lambs off and bury them for future meals.
     My neighbor, Cindy, has been penning her lambs each night in a small lot with snares set in the areas where a coyote might creep through the fence, but the coyotes are avoiding those holes and digging new ones to get to the sheep. She was in tears the other day as she told me about the loss of her five year old daughter’s pet lamb. Cindy hasn’t broken the news to her, yet. Instead, she went and bought a guard llama. The llama comes with a guarantee. If a coyote succeeds in getting past its hooves and head then the vet who sold it to Cindy will replace it with another or refund her money. This is a serious business. But Cindy’s daughter is interested in her new and strange looking pet because it is cute. The llama stands a whole sheep taller than the ewes it guards. His neck rises above them like a periscope and he is constantly turning his head and flicking his ears as he scans for danger. His name is Charlie and although he lost a lamb the first night, he has since bonded with the flock and fought off all predators. Cindy told me that the first time Charlie saw a black Angus cow, he charged it. Her guess is that the cow looked too much like a bear for Charlie’s taste. The sheep follow along behind Charlie in a single file line. When he moves to greener pastures, they parade behind as he leads them safely through the valley of the shadow of death.
     The sheep have come to trust the llama and it seems their trust is well placed. So, another of my neighbors may stay in business after all. In a community that seems constantly under threat from a spiraling economy and an ever-encroaching predator population, that is good news indeed.