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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Serendipity's Moment of Zen


Accidental Sagacity does not seek to inspire you to shave your head, don an ochre robe and go chant on a mountain. You don’t need to become a monk to activate the endless joys and possibilities of Zen in your life. In fact, Zen is easier than most people believe. It is also completely applicable to horsemanship and a path toward greater understanding and harmony in everyday life.

To begin with Zen is to define the basic philosophy that awareness and mindfulness of not only the body and mind, but also of the psyche, are the necessary ingredients to fulfillment in everyday life. Zen is not a spiritual activity, it is an everyday activity.

Zen is the focus of attention on a given activity- breathing, walking, riding or driving- awareness of the activity is engaged, bringing the mind and body into the present. The mindfulness that results can help to instigate correct form and therefore function creating voluntary and involuntary activities that are more moving and fulfilling.

Ponder a moment on the incomprehensible beauty of breathing, of walking, of riding, of driving a horse. Simply by concentrating on the practice improves the practice and elevates it to an art form. By adopting such activities as an art, we can relax into the fluid execution of them and connect to our surroundings producing a serenity and harmony with life itself. Finding it hard to see cleaning a stall as one of life’s masterpieces? Imagine the ability to do it taken away from you.

In Surfing the Himalayas, a monk enlightens a snowboarder on how to perfect his craft. “You’ve got to be the board,” Master Fwap says. Apply that to riding and be the saddle, or carriage driving and be the harness, or be the bit and the reins, be the horse. In connecting to the vastness of the experience, through awareness and mindfulness, you connect to your surroundings; to the very ebb and flow of the life around you. Zen is about oneness. In riding or in carriage driving, do not separate yourself from the horse, become one unit of movement, unite.

Sounds lofty? Or like I've discovered religion? Nah, not really. My most profound moments of joy as an equestrian are times when I am riding/driving/working a horse and I hear a luv-duv, luv-duv, luv-duv sound. It isn't out loud. It is there, permeating my awareness, gently, rhythmically. Luv-duv. Luv-duv. I think it must be the sound of my heart beating in time with the horse's. The work or exercise becomes easier, the footfalls lighter, the reins become gossamer threads of energy exchanging between the horse and myself, timelessness and spaciousness wrap their empyrean dimensions around us.

I've heard it called...nirvana.

And that, is a moment of Zen.

Kind Regards,

Michelle Blackler

Serendipity

www.hossbiz.com

Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New and Improved Hossbiz.com

The birth of a new website! I had a client in London who told me renovating a house was like having a second child, you forget just how painful it was the first time. Ditto website design. This is the second website I have created on my own, the first with software that should have the warning label: "If you are over 31 years old, you will not be able to understand any of this. Go back to college and study Computer Science before opening this application or risk serious harm. Side effects include, but are not limited to: headaches, eye strain, immediate graying or loss of hair, panic attacks, dry mouth and heart palpitations."

But it is done now, and I am quite proud of it. Check it out:


Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Web Site Nightmares and Cleveland Bays

Still trying to get the new website up...STILL. I am so confused about so many things; mostly about why this bloody thing won't work. But! I have a super technician from my web hosting company helping me. Holla, Martin! Martin, by the way, has a Cleveland Bay! I know! I am impressed. Come to find out there are only 700 of these purebred horses in the world, but the remaining bloodlines have been pure [no cross breeding to improve type] for 100 years. Apparently about 1960 or so, there were only 5 studs left in the UK. So Queenie Liz stepped in and then there were 35. Funny how those royal warrants work. Luv ya Liz, really.

I always wanted a Cleveland Bay when I was little, probably because there were only five of them, [right, Ma?] so it is really neat to meet someone, albeit at the other end of my computer, who has one. I've asked Martin to get some photos of his mare to send to me and I will promptly put them here so everyone can meet her.

Looks like I may have another message in the inbox from dear, patient Martin about this russin, frussin globtobendic latest website malfunction that I have performed. Must go.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Carriage Driving In The Air

Carriage driving is everywhere, despite the horrible winter weather. This past weekend, we celebrated a marriage made in carriage driving heaven. Teresa Burns and Harley Weyer tied the knot right here in Perry, Iowa. Teresa is a veteran of the carriage driving arena in Wisconsin and Harley is a beloved horseman and all round beloved local man. Family and friends of the wonderful couple gathered for the nuptials, great food and even better company.

It was an incomparable event to get together with carriage folk from Iowa and Wisconsin on a very merry occasion. I know I speak for everyone in wishing Teresa and Harley the greatest happiness.

Also this weekend, I was talking to some of the local movers and shakers here in Perry about, you might not guess it, carriage driving. One of them suggested to me that he had always thought it would be fun to do a stage coach drive on the old rail road line [slowly being developed into a trail] from Perry to Coon Rapids. Whoa, Nelly! That was not my idea, it may have came from my endless carriage driving talk, but it came out of his mind! My thoughts immediately went to a Coaching Run, fundraising/promotion for the trail and promoting business in Perry. I'm so pumped about this. Watch this space. And if you have any inspiring ideas: Let! Me! Know!

Snowdrift Indoor Driving Trial is this weekend at 3G Farms, still dependent on this cranky winter weather we're having. Harold Ault and I are developing an exhibition/lecture based on Moseman's Illustrated Guide to Horse Furnishings and Harold's collection of carriage driving accouterments. We are still working on the T Cart wheels, and my new website is whining to be finished. I will be giving a carriage driving presentation and having a booth at the Iowa Horse Fair, April 10 &11th. Oh, and I may have promised John Frieberger that I would bring a horse to the Hickory Knoll Combined Driving Event. May have.

Hmmmm, better stop blogging and get busy!

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

3G Farm Indoor Driving Trial

Iowa Horse Fair

Hickory Knoll combined Driving Event

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bloglessness

So I have been busy battling with the elements and the elements of Macromedia Dreamweaver. Between chopping ice, and slashing my way through the mire that is web site design, feeling like a feminine Indiana Jones against a green screen. I am physically and mentally spent.

Designing your own website if you are not a professional website designer is just like training your own horse, if you are not a professional horse trainer. Yes, you can do it. Yes it will be a trial and error process. Yes you will get a finished product that does approximately what you want. You hope. But there are so many functions that you will over look or miss altogether. So many steps that you are completely unaware of that are necessary for future development; like putting on the canter before you define the remote server.

So, why am I designing my own website? The current website was done by a professional and I learned nothing about it. As a result, I can't change anything without messing up the entire site, which upset the professional. A. Lot. He stopped taking my calls. Being that I am a Do It Yourself junky, I undertake the process with a bravery mostly fueled by stupidity. But I am learning. The tuition of do it yourself projects is in doing it over and over again until you get it right. Or something remotely resembling right.

I have developed a less love more hate relationship with Dreamweaver Help. I don't understand the instructions, the problems included in the Help section, nor do I understand the solutions. Even after I have read them ten times. The sentences are written in a syntax I did not learn in school and the terminology might just as well be in Latin. Thank goodness for Google, is all I can say. If I put in the key words of my dilemma, Google finds someone who figured it out and posted their light bulb moment on line. Bless those who went before me. And a capital letter Thank You for leaving me a trail.

Spring is coming, so I have to get this done. Now. Back to the nightmare weaver...

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

PS. For those of you who like irreverent, rapier wit and think Darwin may have had a point, AA Gill writes in Vanity Fair about the Creation Museum and takes along Paul Bettany, who plays Darwin, in the new film Creation. Gill writes:

"Just off a motorway, in a barren and uninspiring piece of scrub, the museum is impressively incongruous, a righteously modernist building resting in landscaped gardens filled with dinosaur topiaries. It cost $27 million and was completed in 2007. It answers the famous question about what God could have done if he had had money. "

I love Gill, nothing is off limits to him. But if you are committed to religion, give this one a miss.



Thursday, January 14, 2010

White Coaches and Feminism Part II
















My primo attempt at sensationalizing this blog has been curtailed. Both Harold Ault and Vicki Nelson Bodoh have explained to me that the coaches weren't painted all white like the modern Vis a Vis in the wedding photos. Nah. It wasn't dramatic at all. Only a few panels on the body were painted white, or most probably cream. Rather like this photo of the Nimrod Road Coach, taken as part of the Seabrook Collection on http://www.caaonline.com/seabrook/nimrod.html

Still, Cornelia Bryce was a feminist to be sure and simply driving a four in hand put to a coach was in itself an affirmation of the Women's Movement in my book. I'm glad I took the time to research her, as I'm glad she was a forebear of the rights I now enjoy almost a hundred years after her drive in New York City.

I am gearing up for the arrival of spring, now that I am convinced winter is over. I am putting together a carriage driving lecture with the aforementioned Mr. Ault to be held in the coming months. More on that as details are confirmed. I will be making a presentation at the Iowa Horse Fair on carriage driving and setting up a booth there as well. Preparations on that are moving along nicely. I will have some rare edition carriage books, some mens and women's hats, rain covers for carriage seats, and perhaps even rain proof lap aprons in some seriously styling material. [No, they will not be coyote nor cashmere lined, sadly].

Harold and I have renewed our vows to the T Cart and begun in earnest on the wheels, again. We have made some progress, but sculpting wooden spokes and felloes with a rasp is painstaking work. More updates on that as it progresses. I might even start taking some Todd Frey-esque update photos of it. Watch this space!

I am brainstorming ideas about how to further develop the carriage market and will pledge this year to further explore the feasibility of a Pleasure Show or Combined Driving Event in the Des Moines area. Any comments or suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

J L Powell -The Sporting Life-




















J L Powell Upland Sweater
"A great hunting sweater not only retains heat, but stories as well..."

Oh, yeah, that is hot.




















J L Powell 3XDRY Bush Shirt

Who knew hunting was this sexy?

Notice the Horsehair belt- no harm to horses for production of such- see, there is a horse connection to this blog, not just a good lookin' man in spiffy duds...




















J L Powell Leather Hoof Pick Belt
Yet another horsey connection...




















J L Powell Camel Hair Trench Coat

OMG, yes, yes, yes, yes...[sigh], yes.

This blog post is only briefly influenced by horses. The first being that my dear new friend, Martha Stover of Here Be Dragons Utterly Divine Welsh Ponies introduced me to this superfly menswear company, owned by her brother in law. I snagged a catalog when I visited her in November, and just unearthed it from my computer case yesterday. Log on to the website http://jlpowellusa.com/index.html and request one! It is so delierously wonderfully produced, I sighed at every single page. The attention to detail and craftmanship is dizzying. After you get your catalog in the mail, buy at least one thing out of it. Now I'm not sure I know anyone who can spend $6k on a cashmere lined Coyote throw, but when you read about the lengths this company went to producing a $300 sweater, the cost seems reasonable...

"When we decided to offer the exact sweater that was worn in 1953 to the top of Mount Everest, it wasn't enough to find the very same combed wool from the Shetland Islands. It wasn't quite enough to carefully study the seamless construction. It wasn't enough to pore over the ribbing of the cuffs and hem. No, that didn't quite satisfy us, so we went out and found the original hand frames that first crafted this sweater. Is it all a bit daft? A touch mad? Perhaps. But once you slip on this sweater, authentic in every way, we think you'll understand the value of our pursuit."

I'm sold. Ok, now lets talk Qiviuk. The downy underwool of the Arctic Muskox. J L Powell makes a gorgeous hunky Fisherman sweater out of it for $800. Why...

"We're content to let others pursue fabrics that are the latest triumph of molecular science and petroleum. We'll stick with wonders like the underwool of prehistoric animals. The extraordinary Qiviuk, truly a fiber like no other, can be spun more than ordinary wool to create sweaters with a softness that is unmatched. The 100% Qiviuk turtleneck and seamless crew are crafted by Peurvians knitters who shape the garment to fit the body...a sweater that is completely timeless."

...because a great looking, well made sweater like this will last a lifetime or two, so the overall cost is less than $10/year. Now who wouldn't spend ten bucks to look that good? Any man that puts that sweater on is going to have everyone wanting to touch him. I guarantee it.

There is also a blog, for all you hunting, fishing, shooting enthusiasts, and it has some other nature things in it too. It is a well spiced mix of historical/days gone by stories with 100% natural material input from the haberdasher, himself, Josh Powell, who is a cross between Ralph Lauren and Sir Edmund Hilary and Ernest Hemingway. And he is the man in the photos.

http://www.jlpowellusa.com/blog/

Gentlemen readers, buy yourself something J L Powell. Ladies, indulge your man, just don't tell him how much it cost. Or break down the cost per wear. That's when indulgence makes sense, even if it's only cashmere socks, chaps. I can really see Bob Nervig sporting the Selkirk Coat, Todd Frey would be dashing in the French Lambskin Car Coat, Aaron Achenbach handsome in the Roosevelt Jacket, Mike Rider would be oh, so suave in the Qiviuk Turtle Neck and the Montana Drover Hat and who would turn out better than Michael Scott in the Suede Sports Coat?

Hey, maybe we could get you guys a gig modeling the clothes around the carriage house for a future catalog! The Sporting Life, The Carriage Collection! I'm contacting Mr. Powell for you! See, I still managed to end this about horses.

Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

White Coaches and Feminism














Cornelia Bryce Pinchot (wearing hat) marching with striking clothing workers, Mahony City, PA, June 17, 1933
In an effort to prove my initial theory that the women driving white coaches in the Ladies Four In Hand Club processions might be a political statement, I looked first to Miss Cornelia Bryce, who was mentioned in the New York Times archive article as driving a white bodied coach trimmed in scarlet. I discovered an article at foresthistory.com, http://www.foresthistory.org/ASPNET/Places/GreyTowers/Severance_CorneliaPinchot.pdf

Miss Bryce was born in 1881, which would have put her in her early twenties when the original article I posted on Monday was published. She was raised with privileges of private education, European travel and was a product of political and philanthropic lineage. The article also states she "enjoyed competitive sports-especially hunting, polo and driving." In 1914, the New York Tribune wrote, "Miss Cornelia Bryce-beautiful, cultured, charming, with the utmost of wealth & position at her command, she chooses as her chief interest, the causes of the working woman."

Bryce served on the board of a hospital, in a study to promote the rights of working women, as a fire inspector on a safety committee, and in the suffrage movement. She met and married her husband, Gifford Pinchot while campaigning for Theodore Roosevelt and together they continued a tireless platform of human resources, education, labor reform, conservation and civil rights.

A remarkable woman, it is certain, but as they say on History Detectives: could she have been making a statement of feminism by driving a white bodied coach trimmed in scarlet during those promenades of the Ladies Four In Hand Club? I think, maybe. Bryce was described in the article as "a natural rebel-loved to upset people by doing outrageous things."

I can't be sure, but thus is the culmination of my historical detective work.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Shocking Coach Colors from New York Times Archives















Continuing with my fascination of the Ladies Four In Hand Club, I unearthed the following article from the New York Times Archive:


It references the Club's annual parade with some very entertaining and interesting headlines:

"Women The Whips Parade of Coaches
Ladies Four In Hand Club Has It's Annual Park Display
Brass Buttons and Beavers
Much Skill Shown in the Tooling, Horses and Vehicles Make a Fine Appearance"

The article details the coaches' [probably park drags] colors with a shocking revelation for me. It describes Mrs. Thomas Hastings turning out Henry James Smith's "very dark blue" coach with corresponding blue gowns on the feminine guests. Yellow was the dominant color of the coaches, however, there were two with white bodies! Miss Cornelia Bryce drove" a white bodied coach with scarlet trimmings", and adorned her horses heads with red and white rosebuds. The coach driven by Miss Guliver had a soft green body and decorated her horses with gardenias!

Coaches with white bodies! Note Henry James Smith's coach was Very. Dark. Blue. Did the women whips own these coaches? Was painting the coach white or soft green an assertion of femininity? I find no mention of white bodied coaches in the writing of Underhill, Beaufort nor Rogers. Not unlikely, as there is very little mention of women at all in these tomes, save for what the coachman should wear when in charge of a ladies vehicle. Harold Ault assured me white vehicles were limited to children's hearses.

This is a shock. If any one out there can help further my knowledge of this, please do. I really was under the impression that good form meant turning out a coach or park vehicle with Very. Dark. Colors. Or else, I'm going to have to play history detective...but I shall not be repainting the gig!

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ladies Four In Hand Club

This caught my fancy, I hope to follow in the footsteps of these women someday...





Ladies' 4-in-hand-club [Harriet Alexander driving]


"AGAIN OLD COACH LIBERTY; Miss Harriet Alexander to Tool First Day's Run to Country. May 11, 1915

"The famous old coach Liberty, which has a history dating back to 1893, when James Gordon Bennett used it in trips from Paris to Rouen, and which Alfred G. Vanderbilt often drove in this country, will on next Friday be placed in service between the Biltmore and the Gedney Farms Hotel in White Plains. John McE. Bowman, President of the Biltmore, is the sponsor for the undertaking. ..."




Mrs. Thos. Hasting's Coach leaves Colony Club, May 10, 1911

This was likely an exhibition of The Ladies' Four-in-Hand Driving Club. The Club’s founder and president was Helen Benedict Hastings, wife of the famous architect Thomas Hastings, designer of the New York Public Library, the front fa├žade of the U.S. Capitol Building, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. National Sporting Library

Mrs. Arthur Iselin (vice president), is seen here driving the coach (whip), with Mrs. Hastings seated next to her. Mrs, William Goadby Loew (Miss Florence B. Baker), seated to the rear, can be seen between them. The Ladies' Four-in-Hand Driving Club regularly made trips to and from the Colony Club." With the advent of Spring weather and the roads in good condition, the Ladies' Four-in-Hand Driving Club, an organization of enthusiastic horsewomen of this city, will inaugurate the 1912 coaching season with daily trips between the Colony Club and Rockingstone, Bronx Park."New York Times




Harriet Alexander, whip, on an outing of the Ladies Four In Hand Club in Central Park

From the National Sporting Library's website:

"The Ladies' Four-in-Hand Driving Club was formed in New York City in 1901 by several prominent society women who took an interest in driving. The club was a counterpart to the city’s famed Coaching Club, many members of which were husbands, fathers, and brothers to the members of the Ladies’ Club. The Ladies’ Club took regular trips to the different boroughs as well as longer road trips to destinations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut; for a short time they even ran a small shuttle service through Manhattan. Under the tutelage of renowned driving instructor Morris Howlett, most of the members became quite accomplished drivers. Each year, the Club held a parade and review through Central Park onto Fifth Avenue. The Club’s founder and president was Helen Benedict Hastings, wife of the famous architect Thomas Hastings, designer of the New York Public Library, the front fa├žade of the U. S. Capitol Building, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. Other notable members of the Ladies’ Club included Mrs. Arthur Iselin (vice president), Louisa Gulliver Sheldon (secretary and treasurer), Marion Hollins, and Harriet Alexander. The Club flourished until automobile traffic on the city streets made coaching impossible."

Kind Regards,

Michelle Blackler

Serendipity

www.hossbiz.com

Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.