The Rescue

I’ve loved horses since seeing “The Black Stallion” as a kid.  A quiet kid and his horse. Bonded by what happened in Africa. It couldn’t get any more poignant to a child like me, obsessed with Africa and wildlife.

I love Africa with all my heart. I love being quiet. I love horses.

Unfortunately, horses do not love me.

When I went to an equine camp in upstate New York one pre-teen summer, I don’t remember much about camp, other than playing soccer. (That tells you a lot right there.) Fast forward to high school. While working in Belize one summer, I was riding a horse through the jungle when something spooked it (tarantula? Scorpion? Choose your own adventure…) and it took off. I thought I was going to meet Jesus via death by canter until the horse came to a screeching halt in the field after barging out of the jungle. My friend helped calm the horse down. The horse stopped when he wanted but also listened to said friend. Me? I had no control.

My last experience was while in inpatient treatment for the ED. They had something in that remote town in Arizona called “equine therapy.” Pretty much you get paired by your treatment team with a horse who they think will be “good” for you, and you spend time grooming it, riding in the desert and stuff. I had visions of “cantering in control” with a black stallion, blowing past cacti and tumbleweed, blonde hair billowing in the breeze along with its black mane. It was one of the reasons why I looked forward to going there (as much as anyone looks forward to going to inpatient for a month and a half).

I watched as my friends got paired with the pretty horses. The calm ones. The ones with cute names. And then it was my turn. I was so excited; an idiotic grin was plastered to my face. Finally.

“Mel, you’re going to get Tigger.”

I blinked. The smile was now creepily frozen on my face. You know the look; lips turned up while the corners start to turn down as reality sets in and you can’t will your mind to close your mouth.  Therefore, your upper and lower teeth are protruding, bared in some psychotic wolverine look. Yep. Tigger. His name said it all. My face said it all.

His reputation preceded him. He knew I didn’t want him and feared him. And he seemed to be amused by it.

The next few weeks were a constant battle of the wills on the trails and in the arena. What I thought would be the highlight of my hospital stay turned into what I dreaded most out of my meticulously scheduled day. Weigh me daily. Take away my hairspray and Listerine and deem it contraband. Check on me to make sure I’m not doing squats in the bathroom. Just don’t make me stay with Tigger.

Oh, I had to stay with Tigger. Then there was the “show,” where we had to demonstrate our equine abilities to family/loved ones who were in for “Family Week” in an arena. Tigger and I beat to our own drum. My parents still have the photos of that horrible day up in their kitchen, completely unaware that I fought that dang horse the entire show. And he won said battle. Every time I pass that picture, I remember. I can tell how frustrated I was in that photo. But I realize that, as a chameleon, most people wouldn’t have known I detested not only that horse, but my team for pairing me with him and making me stay with him. “You’ll learn to use your voice, Mel.” It took a decade to realize that they were right to put me with such a beast. And it’s because of Tigger and their attempt to teach me something that I didn’t know I needed growth on that I recently started a new chapter in my life.

I’ve been working with a local equine rescue here in Vermont. I don’t believe things happen by chance. “Coincidence is God’s way of working a miracle anonymously.”  After my first month of recovery, I found myself asking, “Now what?” I was ready to start adding things back into my life, now that I had more time and energy to do so. The local paper had something about the need for volunteers at this nonprofit, so I emailed to get more info. I haven’t looked back.

I’ve stumbled upon an instant community, bonded together by the desire to help out but also the common understanding that sunshine is a gift that most people take for granted in the rest of the U.S. and life here in Vermont can be taxing beyond comprehension.  I’ve been craving the connection that only females understand, and many women working at the rescue have shared the same feeling.  It’s been the perfect place to connect with other females who are introverted, love horses, yet wonder where all the other women are at. (I wondered that for nine long months. Working in a predominantly male field and not having children, you really wonder where the other women are at.  Now I know. The equine rescue!) Ironically, almost all of them are also artists. Photographers, jewelry makers, and more. I often shake my head at how good God is. He knew just what I needed. And when. And waited until I was ready, knowing that when pushed, I often run far the other way.

I can’t say enough about this place.  “Not what I was; not yet what I will be…” When I’m happily shoveling poop, this runs through my head. These horses have been through a LOT. The founder intercepts many of the horses from kill buyers. Gives them a new lease on life. A chance for a second home, one where they’ll be cared for and loved.  The nonprofit is “dedicated to rescuing equines, restoring their health and wellness, and providing a natural environment in which they can heal both physically and mentally until they can be adopted into their forever homes.”

Their mission isn’t lost on a lost cause like me. And it’s hard not to be happy when you pull up to the farm and are greeted by three extremely social and lovable miniature horses who are the reason why this rescue started.

Meet Daisy, Duke, and Bo.

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Recently, I was asked to build fences at the rescue around two ancient maples that the new horses decided to munch on.

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I was a little worried that Foster and Sheila would be pissed at me for blocking off their new chew toy. And like with Tigger, I’m pretty sure Foster could tell that I was a bit fearful of him stampeding me while my hands were full of power tools.

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He’d come over often to check out what the heck I was doing. And then walk away.

I’ve been able to drive in and out with Taco (my Tacoma truck), secure the gate, and they don’t even care anymore. I was warned they may try to run out when I drive in. But they don’t. It’s like they have associated Taco as an extension of me, and they’re cool with it.

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I have a healthy respect for the horses here, and I’m finally to the place where I also respect and appreciate Tigger and the treatment team, and what they were trying to accomplish to help me. They knew what I needed. I just had a defiant spirit, determined to hold on to the last few things I thought I could, even though I knew deep down that I wasn’t giving it all over with an open hand. I wish I had trusted in the process more, but here’s to second chances. Better to learn a decade later than not at all.

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At the end of most days, I’m physically exhausted. My muscles scream at me from work at the rescue and work at home. I’m in the middle of prepping for the busy show season, I’m remodeling the cabin on a whim to chase a lifelong dream, and I’m at the rescue a few days a week, around amazing animals and equally-amazing women. But my days are full, and I am happy. I am happy. I tear up writing that. It’s been so long since I have felt that. A loved one recently told me they could hear the joy in my voice when I talked about the rescue. Yes. For someone like me, as much as I need alone time and a certain level of spontaneity in each day, I also need a bit of a schedule and companionship.  To be able to rest my head on the pillow at the end of the day, knowing it was full. Not just of things I wanted to get done, but things that help others. I crave serving. It’s in my blood. I wasn’t a born leader; I was born wanting to serve others. (I’m not talking about indentured servitude here, people. According to some digging my family has recently done on our family tree, we have discovered we came to America as white slaves, with young William Simcox being taken off the streets in England at age 12 and forced to come to America; a classic example of enslavement of Europeans by non-Europeans. So for those of you who said I was from noble decent because of the bump in my nose, I have to break it to you. I’m far from that. I fell down the basement stairs and broke it. No noble blood here. But so proud of how my family fought to get to where they are. Tangent. ANYWAYS.)

God knew.  The timing. The nonprofit. The work. The place. The impact it is having to push me into the next phase of my recovery. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, and if i think too much about it, it overwhelms me. But for today, I am content. And thankful. I am going to my parents’ house this weekend for Father’s Day. I will see the photo of Tigger and me. It will have taken a decade to not just see that crazy horse in the photo, but to also see that my best friends from treatment are in the background. By my side. Knowing the crap we’ve been through that most people will never, ever realize. This time, I will smile. Ah, Tigger. Thanks, bud. I finally get it.

I’ve found my voice. 

Only one question remains. A classic bumper sticker question.

Who rescued who?

 

 

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Please consider donating to the Dorset Equine Rescue.  Or going to their ball, which is being held July 9th in Manchester, Vermont. I can’t think of a better weekend to visit the Green Mountain State. For more information, please visit http://www.dorsetequinerescue.org.

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood

The Adirondack Coffee Table

It’s helpful to know a bit about a client when you are asked to make a custom order for them. In this table’s case, I’ve been in their home; I know their style.

I also know that she could have easily been an interior designer if she wanted.

Her style is like none I’ve ever seen: a modern twist on colonial Williamsburg (is what comes to my mind). It’s absolutely beautiful. She has an eye for design, and knew what she wanted while trusting me to create something that would fit her style and add value to their already beautifully-designed home.

We collaborated together to pick out the legs, a beautiful pair of cast-iron pieces that I purchased from a friend who is fueling my love of wood-meets-industrial streak. It’s a win-win since he owns a shop that holds salvaged treasures and I’m constantly looking for a one of a kind salvaged base for my next project. (Check out Green Peak Elements in Manchester, Vermont if you are looking for something unusual! He has the most awesome stuff in his store.)

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Since I know the client loves barn wood, I decided to use some of my most prized stash of “blue barn wood” (I have no idea what it’s called, but the rough side looks blue to me, and the reverse side, when sanded and treated with Waterlox or oil, is absolutely amazing) from the Adirondack barn, and created a design where it would rest on a primary beam and two supporting beams that would only accent the design. I cut the beam intentionally so that the the presence of the original nail in the structure was visible on the end.

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The planks were sealed with many coats of Waterlox.

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And then delivered with love and some muscle to its new home.

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This is by far one of my FAVORITE custom order builds.

If you have been dreaming about a piece that you’d like in your home, please send me an email with a photo! I’d love to work with you to create it.

 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood

The Kamikaze

If anyone hacked my phone (please don’t…that’s just not cool), they’d see an odd list saved under the notes section. It includes a pirates parody with Michael Bolton. Another from the Hoff. A link to strange animal pictures. Andy Samberg at his best in an old SNL skit. I pull up one of the items listed if I’m in instant need of a smile. If something has made this list, it’s a surefire way to make me smile or laugh no matter what has just happened.

In order to fully understand the situation that I’m about to describe, I suggest you visit https://www.comedywildlifephoto.com/gallery. Look at the first picture of the winner from 2015.

This is the one:

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(And take a look at the whole gallery from 2015 and 2016 at some point. Trust me. It’ll make your day.)

Ok. So you’ve heard about Diesel, the chipmunk I’ve befriended. There are plenty of chipmunks around. But Diesel and I have a bond that I don’t have with the others.

Imagine my surprise when I was enjoying coffee on the back deck a few weeks ago, listening to the church bells ringing through the valley on a beautiful Sunday morning, and a little furry chipmunk runs toward me at full speed and doesn’t stop until she launched herself onto my boots. Like, running leap. It reminded me of when we used to run at the chain link fencing around the tennis courts in college and jump, sprawling out all fours and sticking onto the fence and holding the pose.

She just sat there and looked up at me like it was the most normal thing for a chipmunk to do to a human.

Maybe the word was out that I was the thing to go to for a free breakfast. Or that I wasn’t a predator. Or the peanuts she was hoarding from last year and is now eating had started to ferment.

But when she ran at me like a bat out of hell a second time, I began to wonder if she had a screw loose. Kami, the crazy fur ball. Kami, short for Kamikaze.

I was outside in front of my shop, bent over to spray paint the legs of this table black, and through the cloud of black mist, Kami appears like the 2015 winner pictured in that link. She seems to emerge out of the cloud in slow motion as my brain tries to register what is going on in front of me. When it caught up, I yelled and swatted at her to avoid having a chipmunk clinging to my face. Besides, it’s not healthy for me to inhale those fumes, let alone a creature that size. Also, she may or may not look like a baby black squirrel from her little stunt. (Dude. WHAT KIND OF ANIMAL JUMPS INTO A CLOUD OF SPRAY PAINT??)

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I almost had a heart attack while mowing this past week and Kami ran right up to the lawn mower. Bounced right up full speed to the blades. Yeah. Again. NOT COOL.  This crazy chipmunk is going to give me a heart attack.

Soooooo…the table is names after Kami because I will forever look at these iron legs and shake my head, thinking of that incident.

And fittingly, the Kamikaze cocktail is made of equal parts of three ingredients. This table is made from three things: wood, rock, and iron.

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I know better. Wood, stone and iron are heavy. This table takes two people to move it easily.

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I love a stone inlay in almost anything. I also love how I didn’t have to chainsaw this slab. Thank you to whomever did the work for me on a remote road and left this present for me.

This will be for sale at whatever show I have an extra set of muscles to lug it to. In the meantime, it’ll reside with the original Kami, who hopefully will dial it down a notch.

Posted in Reclaimed wood

“Steampunk” End Table

This new item is available for purchase at Vine & Branches Gallery in Bennington, VT! Check out this store and many others in Bennington this Saturday during the 32nd anniversary of Mayfest!

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Thank you for shopping locally and supporting small businesses!

 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood

Live Edge Table/Bench

So much for building smaller pieces.

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This 9′ beauty was sanded, sealed, and then attached to a base I made from walnut bed frame pieces.

Makes a great coffee table for a huge sectional or in a great room, or it’s the perfect bench for a massive entryway or covered porch.

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Please email me if interested! Delivery is available.

 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood

Party for One

People say that it takes 21 days to develop a new habit. There’s a whole diet program based on this, promising that you can transform your life in as little as 21 days. Some say the 21 day habit thing is a myth while others disagree. I probably fall somewhere in the middle; sometimes you just need something to believe in, even for a little bit. Even if it’s just believing in yourself. That you can. And you will.

You know how when you carry a secret, you act all wonky around people until you finally blurt out what it is? Ok, maybe you don’t, but that’s how I am. I’ve been told that my face gives things away. This is why I don’t play poker. But yeah, that’s how I feel lately about writing. I just don’t want to. I have a quiet online presence these days because my energy is devoted elsewhere. Some days it’s all I can do to go about my daily routine or post a pic on Instagram to keep some sort of business momentum going. Writing takes a great deal of effort right now.

My secret is a happy one, but it still terrifies me to voice because I don’t know what tomorrow holds. Still, that’s part of this journey. If you’ve read previous posts, you have  an idea of what motivates me to build what I build and my struggles to get to this place. So. A few weeks ago I celebrated 21 days of recovery. (I KNOW. HUGE. The last time I celebrated 21 days straight was over a decade ago.) On that day, I quietly retreated to the woods to reflect on the how much love and grace and mercy had been extended to me. Few knew just how big of a day that really was, and it seemed more apropos to spend it in solitude than throw myself a party or announce it in a group text or on social media. If you have been in a similar place, you know that you want to shout the news from the mountains and hug strangers and dance with joy, yet cry and nervously look around you manically while wondering if you’ll hit day 22. It’s the craziest, wildest range of emotions. Words can’t do it justice. And in those 21 heartbreaking, harsh, raw days, my short-comings and flaws and character deficits became more glaring than ever – some realized by myself, some pointed out painfully by those I love. I was overjoyed to have come that far, yet overwhelmed to the same degree.

“Addictions are safe little deadly hiding places where sensitive people retreat to ensure that the only people who hurt us is…us.” ~Glennon Doyle Melton

When you stop using your addiction to cope with life and how much you despise yourself, the layers you built up  (in my case for over 16 years) slowly get chipped away, and you are left extremely raw. Yep. That’s where I’ve been. Licking my wounds, waiting for the new skin to get thicker, and trying desperately to shelter myself even a little bit from the blows while in that vulnerable state.

It’s taken a conscious effort and unspeakable effort to re-train my brain to stop believing the lies about myself. No one should go through life with that much self-hate. The problem was, I went from hating myself to being stripped of everything, and realizing then I REALLY didn’t like the me that was left behind. There was no place to hide any longer, and the most offensive person in my life was…me.

Now, weeks later and still in recovery, I’m often overloaded and overwhelmed. Life keeps throwing me curveballs and I find myself in situations that are stretching me far beyond my comfort zone, but instead of resorting to my old ways, I’m finding that I’m…surviving. Growing. Not thriving yet, but I can’t wait for that day, because I know I’m getting closer with each step. Every day that I tack on another day of recovery, my head becomes less foggy and life comes more clearly into focus. I find solace in the woods and in my shop, surrounded by strangely-behaving animals I know aren’t there by accident. Like Sam, who wanders down the mountain to see if I’m home, then disappears, only to return five minutes later with his old buddy, Zach, in tow once he knows for sure I’m around to play with so not to waste his old friend’s energy. He’s the most considerate dog I’ve ever met. Like this friendly grouse who wandered out of the woods in central Vermont and followed me around for awhile, then chased my truck as I pulled away like an itty bitty velociraptor.

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(So cool. Yet so odd. Grouse usually are very elusive.)

Like Diesel, who seemingly has forgiven me after he frolicked in my epoxy jar and lost all of the hair on his back end. (That’s a story for another day. I still feel really bad from screaming when I first saw him, thinking he had mange.)

Or like this fox who ran up to the truck last weekend in broad daylight.

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Wild animals are acting really bizarrely around me. Like, really. And they aren’t sick or rabid or frothing at the mouth or attacking me. They are just coming close, so close I could reach out and touch them, and they stay close until I decide to leave. They never leave me first, and this doesn’t go unnoticed by me.  I can’t make this stuff up. Sometimes I wonder if Wall-E is misfiring to the point that animals within a 30 foot radius are hearing a high-pitched noise, hence explaining their strange behavior. But then I remember what someone once told me.

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When you are as raw as I am right now, it’s natural to withdraw. I know God is reminding me that I’m not alone, even if I choose not to be around a multitude of people as I heal. I am getting stronger. I’m learning to hold onto things with an open hand. That those who sit next to you in the gutter may not be the ones you expected would be the ones pressing their shoulder to yours with their quiet strength. That there is strength in weakness, especially when you realize that that strength doesn’t come from within.  That I am lovable and loved, even if people say or do things that lead me to believe otherwise. Even when I do things that lead me to believe otherwise.

“Some people don’t feel like they deserve love. They walk away quietly into empty spaces trying to close the gaps of the past.” ~ Into the Wild

It was only appropriate that as day 21 approached, I built the Party for One. Made entirely out of reclaimed materials found in my shop or under the deck, this little portable table/bar unit was slowly reconstructed out of discarded shop materials to become something functional. Surprisingly, these funky, small, stand-alone bars that I built last year were huge sellers at festivals. I guess I’m not the only one who likes to celebrate solo.

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I intended to pop open some bubbly and celebrate, but the mountains were calling. So I went.

Here’s to living a brave life. Because there is so much to celebrate for even waking up this morning. Give thanks for a new day, because mercies are new every morning.

“Not what I was, not yet what I will be…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood

Fire Pit Coffee Table

Finding/getting old fire pits is probably one of the greatest treasures to me. This one came to me a lot easier than last year’s find. (You may recall my running adventure where I found one discarded in the woods and dragged it home. Yeah. Not so involved this time around.)

My sister gave this rusty beauty to me.

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I have big plans for the fire pit top, but I decided to first use the base to make a table with some of the wood reclaimed from the Adirondack barn a few weeks back. I’m really digging the industrial look these days. Mixing barn wood with repurposed iron never fails to be a beautiful marriage.

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AHHHHH. THIS GRAIN! LOVE LOVE LOVE.

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Barn wood tends to be brittle, but Waterlox is the perfect solution to not only enhance the beauty of the wood but preserve it at the same time.

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Posted in barn wood, Reclaimed wood, rustic decor, rustic table