Sunday, December 18, 2011

Steven Spielberg on Horses

War Horse by David Appleby/Dreamworks Pictures

Steven Spielberg by Kevin Lynch

The sun is in Sagittarius, and like me, many born during this time (November 22 ― December 21) love nature and animals. We also have a special affinity for horses.

The great film director Steven Spielberg, born this day in 1946, lives with horses and has been talking about them in recent interviews to promote his new film War Horse. He says, "I wasn’t necessarily attracted to War Horse because of the drama of World War I. I was attracted because of the pathos of that boy being separated from that horse for so long."

"My 14-year-old daughter rides. My wife rides dressage. We have 10 horses on our property, in stalls. I don’t ride, but I commune a bit. Thanks to my wife and my youngest daughter they’ve introduced me to an equine world I’ve kind of fallen in love with. So it was a natural impulse for me to be attracted to that story."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

For the horse lover on your list

Dorothy Brooke with rescued horses in Cairo

War Horse, a new film by Steven Spielberg opening in the U.S. on Christmas Day, has renewed interest in the Brooke Trust, dedicated to the welfare of working horses, mules and donkeys. How did the Brooke get started? Read on:

When Dorothy Brooke arrived in Cairo in 1930 as a young bride with her husband, cavalry officer Brigadier Geoffrey Brooke, she was shocked to find the city's streets full of skeletal former farm horses from England. It is thought that 20,000 horses belonging to the British, Australian and US forces were sold into a life of hard labor in Egypt alone. Brooke sent a passionate letter to the Morning Post, setting out her plans to help their plight.

"Out here, in Egypt, there are still many hundreds of old army horses sold of necessity at the cessation of the war," she wrote. "They are all over 20 years of age by now, and to say that the majority of them have fallen on hard times is to express it very mildly."

She ended her public appeal with a call for funds to be sent out to Egypt so she could buy back some of the horses and treat them. The public were so moved they sent her the equivalent of £20,000 in today's money. By 1934, the Memorial Hospital had been founded and Brooke had rescued 5,000 ex-war horses in Egypt.

"These old horses were, many of them, born and bred in the green fields of England – how many years since they have seen a field, heard a stream of water or a kind word in English?" Happiness comes like a dream of the past to these old horses when we buy them," she wrote in her diary in 1932.

"They cock their ears at an English voice, they even whinny with the old familiar smell of bran mash. Some few, who still possess the physical energy, roll in ecstasy when they find themselves on a soft straw bed."

Make an animal lover in your life happy this Holiday Season. Save gas, avoid the crowds and shop in your pajamas ― visit the online shop at the Brooke Trust or at American Friends of the Brooke.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A warm December

The Brook Path

Today was one of the coldest days we've had so far this season, and it feels like winter is setting in at last. Then again, look how green the grass is, and tomorrow the temperatures here in Massachusetts will climb into the 50s. This fall's weather reminds me of another warm pattern we experienced in 1998, now recognized as an early indicator of the climate changes we are experiencing now. Still, walking along the Brook Path today was lovely with no real wind to speak of, lots of blue sky and warm sun on my skin. I expect the ground will be covered with snow the next time I walk here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

About Carriage Horses

Photo: Carriage Horses NYC

I will be writing several posts about horses this December as the sun is now in Sagittarius, and like me, many born during this time (November 22 ― December 21) have a special affinity for horses.

Elizabeth Forel, President of the Coalition for New York City Animals, cares deeply about carriage horses and I do, too. I can never stand to see carriage horses in any city I visit. To me, it has always been clear that they are enslaved and suffering. Forel writes:

They have no voice and no choice. They are New York City carriage horses. Sweet, docile animals, they work nine hours a day, seven days a week, between the shafts of their carriage, in dangerous traffic. After a long day’s work, they return to a cramped stable. Dirty and sweaty, many of them are not cleaned up for the night. And in the morning, they begin another dreary day.

While working, they have no access to a pasture where they can run, buck and roll. It is particularly sad to see them pulling carriages through the park encumbered by equipment and blinders, barely able to get a glimpse of the grass that is denied to them.

Now, more and much needed attention is being given to the plight of carriage horses. On December 7th both The New York Times (note the main photo) and The New York Daily News ran important stories about the city's carriage horses, which I hope will outrage enough people to end the trade once and for all.

In the NY Daily News Forel writes, "The carriage trade is banned in cities ranging from London and Toronto to New Delhi and Beijing. New York City needs to follow."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Maxfield Parrish sky

The sunset at this time of year always reminds me of a Maxfield Parrish painting.

MAXFIELD PARRISH (1870-1966) was a unique figure in American art, not belonging to any school, part traditionalist, part inventor, sometime illustrator of gnomes and dragons, other times finding inspiration in the oak trees of his New Hampshire environs.

A meticulous craftsman, Parrish's idiosyncratic painting method involved applying numerous layers of thin, transparent oil, alternating with varnish over stretched paper, yielding a combination of great luminosity and extraordinary detail. In his hands, this method gives the effect of a glimpse through a window....except that the scene viewed is from the fairy tale world. Source:

Click here to peruse some excellent books about the artist.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

An ocean paradise on earth

Starfish in a bed of sea grass in the waters of Raja Ampat Photo: Romeo Gacad

I have never done any scuba diving, only snorkeling, but I’m ready to begin if it means seeing the underwater world at Raja Ampat, which means Four Kings, in eastern Indonesia's Papua province. These palm-fringed islands have been described as "a living Eden and the last paradise on Earth," and have some of the richest and most biodiverse marine life with nearly 1,400 varieties of fish and 603 species of coral.

According to Smart Travel Asia: "For serious marine diversity it doesn’t get much better than Raja Ampat. Over 1,500 coral-studded islands lazily pepper the Equator and the azure waters are home to a fabulous variety of colourful soft corals, and reef fish can be observed and large schools of fish populate the region, such as sharks, manta and mobula rays, dolphins, whales and turtles."

Like so many natural wonders, this still pristine paradise is facing serious threats. View some incredible photos and read more here.