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July 6, 2012: Dear Readers . . .

By the time you read this, we’ll be caught up on posting dispatches. We fell behind last month – we had a lot going on here, what with processing fish, entertaining a much-loved guest, weeding, building a hay shed, tending to animals, and riding horses. It’s been a very busy summer for sure.

This morning I got an email from my friend Deb, who lives in Pennsylvania. She said she sat down with a cup of coffee and prepared to catch up with life in Alaska. However, she couldn’t access recent dispatches.

Alys reading
Alys reading at the recycling center

It pained me to hear this, but I was in an odd way gratified because it meant that someone out there is now regularly reading what I write. For sure, a readership of one is better than no readership at all.

It’s a thankless job, being a good writer. I could go on and on about the pitfalls—they are legion. However, one of the big ones is “making it” or, having a vast readership, as in “hey, isn’t that Alys, the writer? I read her last book and I was blown away. And that article she recently had published in the New Yorker, in which she makes the connections between animal and human cognition—it was absolutely incredible. Do you think she’ll sign a copy of a book? I never travel anywhere without one on hand.”

I used to stress myself out about making it. But I no longer do this. Rather, when thoughts about my writerly-audience related failings come to mind, I resume writing. If I’m a ways from pen, paper, or computer, I work on things in my head. If I’m close, I write on the page or screen.

An apt comparison can be made between horse training and writing. Horse training – there are days when I feel like I’ve just taken two steps forward and four steps backwards. But, as I’ve come to learn, these are days in which (on my part) real learning has occurred. For instance, the other day, at the near conclusion of my long ride with Vickie and Hunar, Raudi began dancing around like a wired hip hop enthusiast. The only thing missing was the mosh bit – her version being a huge herd of milling Icelandic horses. Instead, we had Tinni and Hunar who both had mojo and lacked balls.

Pete later came over to Vickie’s and met me with the trailer. Raudi loaded just fine, but was so fractious that she considered climbing out of the trailer window. Once we got home, she was again calm. Now, having going back in time, I realized that perhaps the strong winds on the latter part of the ride carried the scent of a nearby stallion. I also realized that I should have done some ground work with her once we got back home. Live and learn.

Writing – there are days when I feel like I’ve taken two steps forward and four steps backwards. But, as I’ve come to learn, these are days in which (on my part) real learning has occurred. For instance, the other day, I was working on an article on Hrimfara’s birth for the Icelandic Horse Quarterly. The story line had been slowly evolving, and finally included a part in which my animal behavior students were active participants in the ongoing saga of Signy’s overdue birth. I met my extended deadline, but later realized that I ought to have taken this idea a step further. I was definitely teaching inductively, that is figuring out things as I was going along. The risk that you take in taking such an approach is that you can, as I did, come across as a dumb ass. Maybe this needed to be said. Then, after giving the matter more thought, I realized that I might focus on what I did not elaborate on, say, for a publication on the subject of teaching.

Socrates said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. I have examined this statement, and found it to be true. Some might examine as they go along. I tend to take action, blast forward, stop, leap backwards, and then re-assess the previous action. This reassessment is, for me, where the rubber hits the road. (Sorry, but I like this cliché).

So, gentle reader of one, two, or three. Please don’t give up on me. The dispatches, though at times sporadic, are going to remain ongoing.

Next: 211. 07/7/12: Happy Anniversary