Happy Here

I feel beautiful around horses

Whenever I visit Silk, a horse that has a pasture across from a local park in town, I feel so serene.  This horse is twenty-five years old and survived Hurricane Floyd.  She swam out of her flooded pasture, as some folks who lived in a house near her pasture, unlatched her gate.  Every time I visit her, I think of her swimming in her flooded 3 acre pasture.  She defines grace.  She loves apples and carrots too.  Her owner works as an accountant for a business across the street from my house.

Silk in Spring

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” – Winston Churchill

Feeding apples with my son to my favorite horse

The only negative is there are many fire ant hills.  In fact, on this trip my son was digging in one of them thinking he had discovered a great dirt/sand pile.  Thankfully, he did not get bit.  I actually took him out here when he was a baby and just learning to walk and he didn’t get bit, even though he was barefoot.

Isn’t she a beauty!

“Horses make a landscape look beautiful.” – Alice Walker

My friend coming over so we can talk.

Silk meeting Ben for the first time

“The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom.” – Sharon Ralls Lemon

Change Creates Beauty

© Megan Oteri

November is my favorite month, even though it is a very sad month for me as well.  Change came sweeping into my life October 2003 when my father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.  It was sudden; it was swift.  November was a huge month, with her arms stretched out wide, encircling my entire life as I knew it.  It was a month of change, of acceptance,  of denial, of love, of hope, of life.  Then December came and November was gone, into the dark of the night of winter, leaving all traces of autumn.

November in North Carolina is a colorful month full of dark browns, cool red hues, and a collage of warm buttery colors.  I do love November in North Carolina.  Perhaps it is because November in North Carolina is so very far away from the 2003 November of Wyoming, when my heart stood still — stood thick, like molasses stuck in quicksand — sticky and sinking.

Change happens.  It is just inevitable.  Nature tempts us each year with metaphor and grace; her cycles a lesson.  I no longer just see color, I smell it.  It contains a small pea of memory.  This pea multiplies and muses me; November is a symphony of this music.  I breathe a little easier once past December 10 or is it 11?  Not so sure anymore, as the years have passed — almost a decade, minus one equals nine.  My father passed in the middle of the night. My mother held his hand as he died.  My sister begged to know the next day if the angels came.  My mother said, “No.  His pulse quickened and he was gone.”  My mother is a stoic one.  She is matter of fact and to the point.  Something I love and also something I get annoyed with at the same time.  She is a New Yorker, born and bred, with an adolescent Illinois backdrop.

Honest speak — we didn’t think my dad would die before my mom.  In fact, my mom had brain tumors diagnosed and brain surgery three years before the October tree began to lose its leaves.  I had been planning on my mom dying before my dad, in quite dramatic expectation.

Anyway, here I wanted to just post some lovely fall photos and I get all deep and depressing.  I don’t care. In fact, I admit I love to soak in the deep water of death, for I have rinsed my hands and wiped my own tears in it.   There is a beauty to death.  Something I am not afraid of, and at times I am almost callous about.  I have had several close friends lose their parents recently.  They are a mess (understandably).  I feel like a veteran, no longer a rookie on the pain of death.

Light Tree

“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

is Change.”
― Octavia E. Butler

For even in death, there is renewal.  When the tree loses its last leaf — a relief, for now it can rest. Growth will come, spring will awaken in spirit.

I often would pass messages to my father after his death through the birds. If a cardinal would appear, it always meant same day delivery, for cardinals were always my fathers favorite bird.  Well actually, I thought the cardinal was my dad. So I guess that would make it express delivery.


“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

© Megan Oteri

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche


“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”
― Eckhart Tolle

I am rather smitten with this photo. I just adore it.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ― Mother Teresa

The photo of the leaf above is my favorite photo.  I have so many photos I have taken, but sometimes I just hit it out of the park with the bases loaded at the bottom of the ninth.  (My dad loved baseball — he would appreciate my hyperbole metaphor and I think he would love this photo too).

It is the darkness that makes the light shine brightest.

Happy Thanksgiving, but Also Sad (and that’s OK)

Since this video is of Johnny Cash playing a Thanksgiving Prayer on the show Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman (which takes place in Wyoming), I thought it would be àpropos to post some photos of Wyoming.  I am very thankful for my ties to Wyoming, for this thick rope holds family, friends, memories, and a deep love for the landscape.  I met my husband in Wyoming and our anniversary is coming up this Friday.  We were married twice.  The first time we were married, my father had cancer and we had a small ceremony in my parents bedroom so my father could walk me down the aisle. The second time we were married was an outdoor wedding in July 2004. This is a post about the story of my wedding dress and how it was made, called The Dress and the Snake.

My father and I on my wedding day, November 23, 2003

My father was not able to get out of bed though.  Nonetheless, he was able to be present.  He was very lucid.  It was a beautiful day; there was a blizzard the night before and a thick blanket of snow covered the streets, sparkling like crystals.  My friend from California came out and said it looked like “a magical fairy land of sugary sparkles.”

That’s me and Mae — my friend from California (in front of Mabel — the stuffed lion) before the ceremony.

November is a difficult month for me since there are many emotions I feel.  I can’t help but think of my dad.  My mother now is in a nursing home and her health is not good.  She always made such an amazing Thanksgiving dinner, complete with relish trays, cheese trays, and an assortment of nuts — complete with a nutcracker.  My parents decked their house out with Christmas decorations.

I love the snow. This photo is from our 2010 trip to Wyoming and Colorado over Thanksgiving

It was always very special and wonderful to be surrounded by my family.  Now things have changed.  My mother is in a nursing home in Colorado. My father is in Heaven and my husband and me live on the East Coast.  What does remain the same is the memories and love.  I am very thankful for it all.

Photos from my wedding

Thanksgiving fell that year the Thursday after we got married.  We bought a meal cooked by the grocery store and all got food poisoning.  Not fun.

Have a great Thanksgiving.  May the force be with you if you need it.

I wish I was in Wyoming to see my people. This photo is from two years ago when I went home for Thanksgiving.

Your friend is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
 Kahlil Gibran

My mom was very healthy, considering her brain tumors (which she had in 2003 and was diagnosed with brain tumors in 2000 and had brain surgery the same year), at my wedding.  I wish I could go back in time, but I can’t.  This is part of the cycle.  I have the memories and the love.  This I am thankful for.

My beautiful mom. I am thankful for this moment, which is chiseled in my heart.

I am thankful for my family. I have a son now.  This beautiful two and half year old.  This little bundle of energy who is speaking now in complete sentences, no longer toddler gibberish.  This is part of the cycle. I am thankful.  I know many of you may be struggling with your own problems and heartaches (aren’t we all).  My heart and prayers go out to all bleeding hearts on Thanksgiving.  I think the holidays are very hard.  I find joy in them, but I also feel very sad around this time of year.  And that reminds me of a quote my mom would always say, and she could never get it out without crying.

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” – Kahlil Gibran

On Joy and Sorrow
 Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Kamilah, Kahlil's mother
Kamilah, Kahlil’s mother. Painting by Kahlil Gibran

My dad stopping to smell the roses. This photo gives me such joy.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with love and laughter, but also honor the tears and heartache for the ones you will not see at the table this year.  Many people have lost loved ones and it is hard, especially if this is your first Thanksgiving without them.

This is my family and I am thankful.