The long way home.


Sometimes in the middle of an ordinary weekday, one filled with spilled coffee, peanut butter toast on the run, meetings, missed phone calls and long-lost plans for supper, the world gives you a chance to throw it all out the window and just get lost.

Yesterday afternoon on my way out the office, heavy-overstuffed briefcase on my shoulder, water cup in my left hand, my list under my arm and a trail of papers flailing behind me,  I dialed Husband to remind him it was voting day and asked him if he wanted me to meet him at home so we could make the trek together.

Husband works a good thirty-plus miles away from the ranch. I work another good thirty miles away too…in the other direction.  And when you live in the middle of winding gravel roads, you do not vote in the town that you travel 30 miles to work in each day. No, you take the gravel to a smaller town sitting nice and neat  alongside the county road and cast your vote in a quaint community building as your neighbors from over the hill, across the creek and down the road filter in and ask you about your family, how the house is coming and what you think of the weather.

I thought about taking the fifteen mile detour to cast my vote on my own, but the idea of a little car ride with my husband and the opportunity to actually show up in public together sounded like a nice one. He agreed.

And so we met at home, dropped our piles of work at the door, and husband drove me north on the scoria road, past the substation, and our friends mailbox where the gravel turns to pavement,  right on the county road and into Keene, ND where we would greet the ladies who have been working the polls all day and follow their instructions to fill in the circles dark and complete, and for goodness sakes, don’t vote in more than one party column or you’ve gotta do it again.

I took their directions and my packet and followed Husband into the little gym where we played volleyball this winter and where I attended craft club last week. I waited for my neighbor to cast her vote and I took her place at the round table against the wall.

I read the directions thoroughly, wondered if Husband, who was at the table on the other side of the room, was canceling out my votes, finished my civic duty, closed the folder and fed my sheets through the fancy machine.

Husband followed close behind. I waited while he cracked a few jokes, said goodbye to the neighbors and then followed him to the door and back out into a beautiful summer evening in the hub of our little township: Keene, ND-Population 266?

We contemplated heading back home to grill some brats and finish up the laundry. We talked about how the lawn needed to be mowed and that fence that needed a good inspection. We thought we could maybe get some work done on the new house before it got too late.

We said we probably should go home…we really should…

But it was such a nice evening, the sun was shining through the fluffy clouds, the grass was green and fresh from the recent rain, the farmers were out and it smelled so sweet. We rolled down the windows and pointed our car north toward the lake where we heard the restaurant at the marina had just been renovated and is open for business. What’s another 30 miles when the lake is calling and you heard they might have walleye on the menu?

What’s another thirty miles along new green fields, under big prairie skies, next to a handsome man with lots of things to tell you with the windows open and your favorite songs in the speakers?

It’s nothing.

It’s everything.

And the food was good, the water was crystal clear and the sun was hitting the horizon with a promise of a show as colorful as the rainbow that had just appeared in the clouds to south.

Husband pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the county road. He headed toward that rainbow, toward the ranch and our chores…but then, without a word between us, he ignored the turn that would take us there and chose the long way home instead.

I didn’t object. I didn’t ask why. I didn’t say a thing unless it was to ask him to stop so I could take a photo of the clouds reflecting off the glass-like pond in a rancher’s pasture.

The country church reaching up toward the sky.

A family of ducks swimming in reeds.

The sun sinking below the horizon.

We drove this way for hours, tourists exploring the landscape we knew so well, seeing it again with eyes wider.

Hearts more open.

I was exploring our homeland and my husband was my guide, a man who just wanted a little more time to move through the world he loves…

patient with the clicking of the camera and my need to let the cooling air blow through the crack of the window in the passenger seat…

humored by my theory on coming back after my death as a duck…

happy to hear his tires hum along familiar roads…

content to sit next to me and hum along with the songs we love.

And relieved to forget about the things we should do…


and just live in the moments, under the sky, moving quietly and slowly along the landscape that made us…

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15 thoughts on “The long way home.

  1. So many people gripe and complain and fail to see the small pleasures of life. They miss so much. This is the earth God made, and we should appreciate the effort. I’ve taken those kind of drives myself because they give me peace and solace that everything is OK. I like the idea of a duck with fuzzy hair, and, thanks for voting.

  2. Jessie, your photos and words make me want to move home. Especially when it’s 109 degrees outside of my over air-conditioned office right now, and will be until October. Looking forward to almost a month back in Williston this summer! Thanks for making me miss home!

  3. These photos are amazing, as always! Thank you for the beautiful post about such simple things…driving country roads, eating a good dinner, spending time together, seeing beauty in the everyday and the quiet countryside. Give me this any day over the city! Love to visit, but wouldn’t want to live there! ~ Sheila

  4. Wonderful photos and beautiful words as ever, I love it when I get a chance to re-explore familiar surroudings with wide open eyes, thinking ‘how did I never notice that before?’ or ‘i never get tired of looking at that’.

  5. Too many years have passed…forty nine to be exact…but if that’s the Lutheran church north of Keene, dad and I did a remodel job inside. If it’s not the same church, at least it brought back good memories of the time I worked with dad, so thanks. Beautiful pictures, as always.

  6. Just breathtakingly beautiful, the pictures were beautiful too, but your way with words to describe your love for your life, land and love just fill me with joy, thank you so much!!!

  7. Your pictures make your home country looks soooo beautiful. What a nice end to your day. Sometimes after church, my husband looks at me with a raised eyebrow and I nod, and we just drive wherever the car points – drives the kids crazy, as I go back through my past down all these little country roads – someday they’ll think of all those stories and glimpses though. I know I do, thanks to my parents doing the exact same thing a few (ahem) decades ago in this exact same place.

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