A day in the life…

And now for a day in the life of a woman who refuses to get a real, regular job and insists on taking on new activities as part of her “business plan” so she has time to take off singing, or photographing something or chasing a cow on a whim. 

Monday night, get home late from a random job shooting photos of a truck in the badlands. Husband gets home from a fireman meeting. 11 pm.  Says cows are out on the road. Call Pops, we’ll deal with it in the morning…

Tuesday morning, wake up girl, you’ve got a column to write, an interview today to meet a quick deadline and a trip to the big town to practice with the band tonight. Squeeze Husband goodbye and tell him to call if he sees the cows. I’ll go get them, you think in your early morning delusions…

But first, coffee. Ignore the dishes. I’ve heard they start doing themselves when left long enough.

Walk to the office. Clear off a spot on the desk for coffee cup. Check a few of those emails, but then get distracted by the photos of big horns I took in the badlands yesterday when I was supposed to be out scouting for places to take photos of oil trucks.

Yes. Look at these beauties…click…click…I should post these on the blog…

Phone rings. Husband says no cows in sight on the road. Decide to wait for the boys to come home to find cows. Decide it’s time to get to that column…

Stare at a blank screen for three to thirty minutes, I can’t be sure…somehow find myself watching a funny cat video on YouTube…

Focus Girl!

Type type type some musing about those damn burdock plants that will not die in our yard and how I think Husband might actually go crazy if he doesn’t get the garage doors on fast enough to prevent more barn swallows building nests and shitting on my car…then wonder how those black flies keep getting in the house…wonder if life would just be easier if we lived beside a sidewalk beside a lawn that was planted and groomable…

 

Wonder why I spent all that time trying to mow down the wild clover with Pops’ one bladed mower in our un-landscaped lawn last week only to come home the next day to Husband’s ambitious earth-moving, landscaping project turning up the freshly-mowed earth. We should really talk more…

Seems like an earth-shattering piece of journalism here…

Say “Shit” because it’s already noon and I have to tame my hair and get out the door in 15 minutes for an interview down the road about 30 miles. Run upstairs, decide hair is untamable, put it in a ponytail, brush teeth, deodorant, grab camera, pen, paper, check dog and cat bowl for proper levels of food on my way out the door…

Turn on radio, open windows, cruise down the gravel road with dust flying…wait. Cows. Those are our cows. Great…pull over so I can get a closer look…curse my flippy floppies as I trudge through poky grass …yup, those are ours. Call Husband. Let him know I’ve found the cows. Talk about when he’ll be home to help me…

Get back in car. Call interviewee to tell her I’m running late. Get to appointment, have a nice chat, stop for gas and a bag of Cheetos because I forgot to eat lunch.

Point car back toward home. Decide Cheetos are a terrible choice for lunch. Drive by where cows used to be and fail to see any cows. Decide to wait for the boys to come home.

Arrive at home. Start writing story. Respond to text saying Little Sister is at the barn scouting out wedding sites. Say I have to wait for a phone call but I’ll meet her down there.

Get phone call to tell me my phone call is cancelled. It’s now 4:00. Cool. I think I have time to catch horses and get cows in before I have to head to the big town to practice at 7. Get on 4-wheeler. Hope it starts. Call Husband to remind me how to put the damn thing in reverse. I can never remember. I should make a note and tape it to the seat.

Head down to the barn and say hi to Little Sister. Convince her to help me catch the horses. I swear I just saw them on the side hill. She can hold the grain bucket while I drive. It will take three minutes.

30 minutes, three Little Sister screams concerning the safety of her life on the back of the 4-wheeler, 3,000 horsefly bites and countless cuss words from yours-truly later, still no horses in site.

Go up one more hill…shit…4-wheeler is acting up again…it’s powering down…didn’t the boys change the fuel filter? Nothing? Sister squeal. Dammit. Shit. Dammit. Shit…

See if we can get the thing home…come on you piece of crap…

Make it through the gate to the big corral and that’s it. 4-Wheeler stall. Little Sister departs. I cuss and get in the pickup with the grain bucket. The horses must be in the trees. Text Husband.

Damn Horses. Damn 4-wheeler.

Husband calls. He’ll be home in 10 minutes. Make a goal to have horses in in 10 minutes. Drive old pickup around the corner. Spot the paint in the trees. Awesome. Yell “Come on Boys!” out the window of the pickup where I  am dangling a grain bucket. Horses come running.

Finally.

Get them in the round pen. Wonder why the easiest ones to catch are the ones we don’t want to ride. Give them a bite of grain (because I’m not a tease) and catch the two bays. Brush. Fly Spray. Saddle up.

5:30 PM.

Shit. I have to leave here in an hour.

Decide to trailer to the cows. Hold horses while Husband gets the pickup hooked up the trailer. Think that he’s moving sort of slow for someone who’s wife is in a hurry. Tap my toe. Hold my tongue.

Finally.

Load up the horses. Follow him in the pickup so I have a quicker way home if things go south.

Drive down the gravel road, spot a cow and a calf. Pull over. Wave to Husband who pulls in.

6:00 PM

Unload the horses, swing on and head for the cow who has magically disappeared. Take a route through a big tree row while Husband swings around. Try to keep horse from eating every damn piece of grass that touches his nose. Swat at the horseflies. Swat at the mosquitos. Wish I would have worn a long sleeve shirt.

Come out on the other end of the tree row. Spot the cows. Yell to Husband. He comes running. Notice how great the two look against the dropping sun. Wish I had my camera.

Follow the cows along the trail, up a butte, watch for holes, along the fence. Watch as they head toward the trees. Kick up the pace to head them off.  Go around the trees while Husband cuts a path behind the bovines. Watch as they all come out in an orderly fashion. Regret yelling at Husband in frustration. Apologize. Tell him he’s handsome. He tells me I should really start eating lunch. Push them through the gate to the dam.

Wonder where they got out. Ride the fence line to find out.

Declare what a nice evening this is. Swat at the horseflies biting my neck. Sweep off the swarm of gnats on my horse’s neck.

7:00 PM. Gotta go. Kick it up to a lope around the big butte to the road. Spot Pops on his 4-wheeler by the road. Stop to say high and bye. Leave the boys to chat. Lope off toward the horse trailer. Load up the bay. Get in the pickup head to the house. Strip off my clothes on the way up the stairs. Change into clean stuff. Look in the mirror, ah what the hell. Run downstairs, grab my guitar and head out to the highway.

Text band tell them I’ll be late. Just a half-hour.

7:30 PM

Turn up radio, roll windows down, drive…stop for gas station pizza, rethink my diet plan, get to town. 8:30.

Tune guitar. Promise to learn new songs. Make plan for next show. Laugh. Sing. See you later guys.

11:30 PM.

Get in car. Radio on. Windows up. Head home, bugs smashing on my windshield. Headlights pointing toward the badlands. Pull into the doorless garage, trudge up steps, pull off clothes, land in bed.

1 AM

Breathe. Think I should get a real job. Think life would be easier. Think I’ll think about it tomorrow. Think that was fun…

 

 

 

Hazy Skies

There has been a haze in the air for the last couple days. Fires in Canada couldn’t hold their breath any longer and so some puffs escaped our way, lingering in the calm, hot air and reminding me of living in Montana in August.

When the wind doesn’t blow here in North Dakota it’s sort of eerie, like there’s some secret we’re not being told.

This place is full of them, untold secrets. I’ve always thought that.

How the snow ever fell on all this green and gold I never understand come mid-July. How it could look anything like this, my skin anything but brown and warm, my hair fuzzed just a bit from the heat.

How pink flowers spring from the same earth that was frozen seven feet under just months ago…

and the once wooly horses shed their coats and transform into sleek, high-spirited creatures I can’t comprehend because I have decided it’s magic.

And so I can hardly stand to be inside.

There’s plenty to do out there in terms of work, so I wander around a bit, grab a broom and sweep the garage, pick a weed or two and then sort of wander off to a couple hilltops to see how the flowers look from up there. The purple coneflowers out in full force, sprung up overnight among the grass and clover stirrup high.

I was away less than a week and look at all I missed.

How can I be lonesome for a season I’m standing in the middle of? How can I be scared that I might not catch it all? It’s ridiculous to be so anxious about the flowers. It’s ridiculous to be so worried that I might blink and miss the best part of a summer sunset.

When I was a little girl I was convinced there were parts of this ranch that were yet to be discovered and so I was determined to explore every inch. I walked the trail beside the creek bed in the spring, throwing in sticks to see where the cold rushing water would take them. In the summer I took off my boots and walked directly in that water, my bare feet navigating trails to the big beaver dams.

In the fall I would crawl to the tops of the banks and count the colors. In the winter I would bundle up and trudge, trudge, trudge…not to be kept away no matter the weather.

It wasn’t until I grew up and came home, camera pointed out of every window, dangling off my neck on every ride, every walk, that I discovered the gift of this place is the very thing that makes me crazy and sends me walking, searching for the undiscovered places. The most beautiful things.

This place never looks the same. Every day, every shift of light, every turn of season, every passing cloud, every breeze, every snowflake and raindrop changes it completely.

Gray sky, gray grass. Gold sun, gold flowers. White snow, white trees. Rain clouds, sparkling leaves.

It’s nature, but isn’t it interesting? Isn’t it magic how something so many miles up in the universe can change things for us, our mood, or intrigue, or plans for the day.

May the fires in Canada soon become a memory and the ashes turn to the greenest grass.

Because up here, the wind, the wind changes everything.

Among the clover.

I wish you could smell the sweet clover out here this time of year. I step outside and I’m flooded with a wave of memories of all that I used to be, summer after summer growing up out here. It smells like work and evenings spent sliding down hills on cardboard boxes with my cousins. It smells like ingredients for mud pie and playing house in the lilac bushes by the red barn. It smells like bringing lunch to dad in the field above our house, horseflies and heat biting our skin.

It smells like my first car and the windows rolled down, taking back roads with my best friends as passengers, kicking up dust as we tested the limits of teenage-dom.

It smells like my leaving, bittersweet. My last summer as a kid here before it was time to go and grow up already. Be on my own.

And it smells like coming home, take a right on the pink road, stop at the top of the hill and look at it all before heading down and turning into mom and dad’s for a glass of wine and a steak on the deck that looks out toward the garden and up the crick bed where I used to play everyday.

Pink Road

Last week we had family here from Texas, a couple of those cousins who used to help me make mud pies, a couple of aunts and an uncle I adore and then, of course the grandkids. The ranch was buzzing, laughing, full of life like I remembered it when I was growing up and our grandparents were alive and serving us push-up pops from the small from porch of their small brown house.

Funny how the world changes when suddenly there are kids running through the grass, pulling up dandelions, blowing bubbles and making memories on this place like the ones I hold so close to me.

After the Centennial celebration was over we did nothing but sit on the deck and visit, catch up, eat and then run inside to watch the rain pour. We laughed at the kids as they played and fought over toys and I looked at my cousin, the one closest to my age, the girl I used to wish was my twin sister, a mother now, and I thought, well, weren’t we just the same size as her baby A? Weren’t we just five years old running through the clover, itching our mosquito bites, begging for popsicles and just one more hour to play outside.

Now look at us, all grown up and still here on this place.

I was so thankful to be here with them on this place.

Because I know it didn’t come without a cost for our family, keeping it here for us, so future generations can smell the clover and be young and wild out here…

Country Cousins

I know that we did nothing but be born to good people who know the value of the land, not in dollars, but in something that is hard for me to find words for right now.

Pride?

Work?

Home?

A place to belong?

On Monday when the rest of his family loaded up and hit the road, Uncle W, stayed home one more evening. Little Sister came out and we saddled up our horses and headed out east, riding along and listening to the two brothers remember what it was like to be young out here.

Little Uncle W always found hanging back on a roundup, eating on a Juneberry bush.

Young Pops getting bucked off on the road when his little brother popped over the hill on his tricycle.

Milking cows and riding broncs and chasing girls and growing up together, out here on this place.

How many gloves and hats and scarves have been left dangling in these trees, scooped off heads and hands of little cowboys and cowgirls rushing on the backs of horses running through the trees?

How many wild plum pits have been spit at one another?

How many mud pies have been made in this barnyard, topped off with little pieces of sweet clover.

It’s so quiet here this morning as I get ready to head to a show tonight and then on to Minnesota to celebrate the 4th of July. If I had my way we’d all live out here together, my cousins and us, and those kids would be over the hill forever being raised by kids like us, and we would rehash memories and then create new ones.

Every day, out here on this place the way it used to be.

But that wouldn’t work. There’s space out here, but not that much…not enough…

So I’ll take the clover. I’ll breathe it in and I will remember when it itched our bare little legs in the summer while we searched for kittens in the nooks of the red barn.

Then I’ll remember the weekends, weekends like these, when they came to visit us out here along the gravel roads, and how small the kids were and how they were so little, because they’ll grow up too fast you know. Just like we did, out here among the clover.

Rain and how I imagined it.

IMG_1694

It’s been raining around here the last few days.

I’m listening to it patter outside my open windows now, taming down the dust on the gravel roads and watering my flowers. I could just lay down beside that open door to the deck and close my eyes and breathe, imagining that heaven is a good rain.

IMG_1692

On Monday Pops and I got stuck in a downpour on a little highway a couple hours south of us in the middle of the night. We were coming home from a music gig and we watched the big thunderheads in front of us as they lit up from the inside with lightning. I never heard the thunder, but we could see the electricity. It was a fireworks show and then suddenly we were under it, engulfed and waiting, watching hundreds of little white hailstones ping off the road and the hood of my red car where inside we talked about insurance and hoped that it didn’t get worse… for the farmers whose crop has just recently popped up.

But it did get worse, it covered the ground with white in fact. An ice storm in June for a about a mile or so and whatever little growing thing in its wake was likely injured.

Turns out for us, that storm just meant a good story and an extra half-hour in the car together talking about all the worst weather we’ve seen in our life, turning the radio down so we could hear ourselves hollering over the power of those clouds.

Rain make me feel nostalgic and sort of peacefully lonely. It makes me feel glad that I’m home. It makes me feel quiet and grateful and unfoundedly worried about things getting wet…and glad for the dams that are rising and the creek that is rushing and the horses getting relief from the flies.

And then, just a little bit, just for a moment or two, rain makes me feel like stripping down and flinging my arms up and running out in it, following the streams and rivets the water cuts, splashing and screeching and tilting my face up to the heavens raining down.

Just a little bit, just for a moment or two.

Yesterday I went to town to meet my sisters and take Little Man to a movie about dragons. The sky was churning up a good rain so I figured it would be a good night to sit in the dark theater and watch my nephew’s imagination ignite.

After the popcorn was eaten and the credits rolled, we chased Little Man around the lobby for a bit, indulging his fascination with Spider Man, pretending to be bad guys, injured at the sight of his little hands flinging invisible webs our way.

We made our ruckus and then made our way to the door, squinting at the sight of the rain pouring down well enough and then we said our goodbyes, three sisters who used to live under the same roof and a tiny little Spiderman preparing to scamper off in separate directions under a weeping cloud, three trying not to ruin their shoes, the littlest one very likely intending to do the opposite.

I stood under eaves of the building for a minute with Little Sister to say one last thing and then I told her to look.

Look there at our Big Little Sister, so petite and fashionable…elegant.. holding the hand of her tiny spirited son, running just fast enough so as not to splash and so the little one could keep up. “Look at that,” I said.

Like a photo, those two were so small under that sky, but it wasn’t the smallness that made me pause. It wasn’t that innocence that made my little sister look and hold her breath.

It’s just that they looked so much like one there, gracefully, innocently running away from us, running to get out of the rain, not knowing we were watching, with a mission to get home safe. Hand in hand they created a perfect picture I had no camera for.

My big sister has been a mother for almost four years, this we know, but I didn’t know until yesterday as the two of them ran down the street in the June rain, in our town, that this is the sort of life I imagined for them…

This is the way I always pictured them, hand in hand and trusting, sort of laughing at the simplicity of it all.

Last weekend that big sister and I learned that the youngest of us is getting married to a good man. Next June they will take vows.

Between now and then we will be making plans together, the three of us sisters. The family.

Then she will take his hand and be his.

We are all so happy.

And so I guess that’s what I’m trying to say, about the rain. It’s like a deep breath. It’s like relief and good news and plans for the future..a reflection of how I’ve been feeling lately…

Like throwing my arms up, turning my face to the sky and thanking God for it all…and then it’s unfounded worries that it all might be too good to be true, that we’re all ok. We’re all just fine here under these clouds…

Then it’s glad for the plans, glad for the future and to be able to see the creeks fill up…

But mostly it’s that peaceful nostalgia that makes me want to lay down on the floor next to the open windows and let the rain fall while I breathe a sigh of relief and feel glad we’re all home.

 

 

To be creative.

Today I’m getting ready to head to the badlands and talk to a group of health educators about creativity, what it means and how we achieve it.

Jessie Packaged Up!

To be creative is somewhat of an abstract idea and for me, a title I was dubbed with at a young age when my parents noticed my affinity for costumes, weird hats, singing made up songs and spending time writing stories about a cowboy clan or a turtle that found himself up on a fence post…

And while I think some of us are born with a louder or larger gene that compels us to create, to express and to feel and wear those things on our brightly colored puffy sleeves,  I believe that every one of us has it in us a tendency, a need, to express.

And I believe that the tendency comes from the need to help the world understand us.

And then, maybe, the other way around.

Because there’s so much going on here. There’s so many of us humans out working on the earth and some days we all just feel like we’re walking in a herd, or following one another in a line on that ribbon of highway that takes us to and from a destination.

But sometimes that destination is one worth talking about–what the sunset looked like reflecting off his face, how the rustic taste of red wine on your lips made you want to quit your job in the mid-west and move to a vineyard in the mountain.

How you fell in love with her because her brown eyes, tan skin and warm voice reminded you of the dessert where you were raised.

And how the ocean waves look like wheat fields when the wind blows back home and though you could never live on the sand, that water is somehow a part of you now.

When I first moved back to the ranch four summers ago there were pieces of me I had dropped along the way to being gone and back again.

I was focused on getting somewhere and I forgot to roll the windows down and let the wind mess up my unruly hair.

Then the summer sun turned my skin brown again and I found my notebook and I started poking around the place to see if I could find those missing pieces.

And so I picked them up, one by one: my curiosity, my small but determined muscles, my dirty bare feet and windblown face, my determination to get the gates closed on my own, the smell of the plum blossoms, my well-intentioned helpfulness and unwavering clumsiness and tendency to break farm equipment, and my affinity for hats…

And something in me woke up again. That little girl who followed the creek every day after school building forts and singing at the top of her lungs emerged slowly in an enthusiasm for the discovery of the first sweet pea of summer, or the rush of the snow melt in the spring and then the sound of the frogs. And that girl wasn’t scared then of falling off horses the way she was yesterday, because she felt a little braver out here among the trees and rocks and grass that knew her so well…and they said welcome home.

And so today I’ve been thinking about all this, this creativity. This thing we call inspiration. And I think, never in my life have I been as inspired as I was when I was eight or ten or twelve or fourteen years old and the world was small but open and I wasn’t out in it yet so it didn’t have a chance to hurt me and show me that there are a million people out there with ideas that are better than mine.

When you learn that sort of thing it’s hard to keep wondering about words you are sure have yet to be said or songs that just need to be sung.

And so we might wake up one day to find that we haven’t sung for months, and then one day it will be years and that is it then…

But I never wanted to stop singing and so when I came home I looked for my voice.

And I found it in all of those missing pieces I picked up…

So this is what I think now, that when I was eight or ten or twelve or fourteen I was creating because I was looking to understand myself and how I fit in this world. I was creating because I found it all so fascinating, the way those frogs croaked, the way the crocuses came every year after the cold. The way I could keep growing and changing but this place stayed the same and loved me anyway…

I’m a grown woman now. Twenty-one years after my tenth birthday and I know some things about myself that I didn’t know then.

I know that I grew up and kept my hair long. I know that I never stopped riding horses, something I worried would happen to me.

I know that I will live the rest of my life in this place, a place that keeps me climbing to the tops of hills to see what’s growing and how the sun will look when it hits the horizon tonight.

I know now that it is this place where I am most curious, most inspired, most lost then found, most frustrated, most relieved and most myself.

And I know now that there are a million reasons to keep quiet and stay in line, but there are also a million pieces of you out there waiting to be picked up, put back, rearranged, set out on your sleeve, screamed from the hilltops, explored and written somewhere in a book for curious eyes.

So you see, I think it’s the gathering that is creative. It is that gathering of those pieces that make us beautiful humans in this strange and beautiful world.

Brian Andreas-Story People

 

Between “I do” and “death parts us”

It all starts with the best of intentions. Most clean-up, housekeeping, get-some-shit-done-around-here tasks do. Unfortunately, most of my clean-up, housekeeping tasks also end with me questioning the meaning of life, love and why I don’t just live by myself in a tiny fort made of logs by the creek like I planned when I was ten years old.

Because inside our houses, the ones we share with the people we promised to have and hold ’till death do us part, there lies unexpected secrets, secrets just waiting to jump out at us when our guard is down, when we’re comfortable and on task and thinking that this time we might have it under control.

Our poop in a group.

Our shit together.

But no. Those secrets remind us that marriage is not always the blissed-out, romantic, snuggle, love fest those ridiculous bridal magazines told us it would be.

No.

Because sometimes your husband leaves an uncooked egg bake from a camping trip he took three weeks ago floating in a cooler filled with beer and warm, melty, mushy, cloudy, curdled water and you, in your attempt at the whole “getting our shit together” thing,  has the privilege of being the one to get the first whiff.

And because it’s wedding season and the two of us had just returned from a lovely one in Minnesota, complete with mason jars and lilacs, heirloom dresses and lights strung across the beams of an old barn, I was feeling sort of romantic about the whole idea of the two of us living out our lives here in the country, quietly and easily, just like we had planned.

Perfectly planned weddings will do that to you…you know, create delusions.

But nothing says love like pulling on your muck boots, turning on the hose and testing how long you can hold your breath as you dispose of your dearly-beloved’s moldy concoction and spray down the inside of a rotten cooler, gagging and gasping when you inevitably have to take in air.

I love my husband every day…I just don’t like him every minute.

I know for a fact that he feels the same way about me.

Anyway, after I returned from the dump, I trudged inside to grab a beer from the fridge and sit on the back deck to contemplate the meaning of life and the consequences of actually living by myself in that little fort by the creek.

I took a sip and listened as the birds chirped and frogs croaked at the dam below the house and thought that some days, on hot days like these, I think I would be ok with being a frog–cool water, an abundance of flies, no worries about what outfit to wear to a quaint Minnesota wedding and definitely no three-week-old egg bake clean up surprise.

There isn’t mention of three-week-old egg bake cooler clean up surprises in any marriage vows I’ve ever heard.

Which got me thinking, when it comes to starting a life together, no one really talks about stuff like that. I’m not just talking about the annoying and surprising things, but the things that come with sharing a house, and plans, and dinner and dogs and babies and landscaping/housebuilding projects together.

The real things.

Because hopefully here is a lot of life in between those “I do’s” and the whole “death parting us” thing. That’s what I was thinking when the bride took the groom’s hand last weekend and made promises to him. I thought of all of the things that couple has been through together to get to this point.

And then I thought of what almost 8 years of marriage has looked like for us and I realized that not too often has it looked as lovely as that day we were in with the beautiful couple before us. Not even on our own wedding day, you know, the one out in the middle of the cow pasture complete with cow herd crashing, a random drunk guy trying his damnedest to spill booze on the pastor and the groomsman nearly plummeting to his death out the door of a moving RV…

Wedding Tree

Let’s just say there have been more “tragic egg bake style incidents” than I planned on. But I should have known. Just because I got married doesn’t mean the two of us (or our luck) changed. No. We just became a combined force of mistakes and small tragedies, goofiness and bad ideas, opinions and forgetfulness and big plans in the works.

But that’s what you get when you’re in it together–you get two. You get a witness. You get a built-in dinner date that sometimes is really late to dinner and it pisses you off.

You get a man who takes off his work boots and stinks up the entire house, but you also get a man who will drive around the countryside for hours and take a detour every day before and after work looking for your missing dog, not because he particularly likes him, but because you do. And that sort of quiet gesture makes up ten-fold for the stinky socks. And the late to dinner thing.

But forget the even score, because from what I’ve learned in eight years of marriage, there is no even score.  He will work late. You will drink too much with your girlfriends the night before and ruin the plans he made for leaving early on a fishing trip. He will take out the garbage and you will forget to get groceries until you’re both eating saltines and wondering  when the new Chinese food restaurant will start delivering to the ranch. You will unload the dishwasher, he will never remember where you put the spatulas. You will be thankful you married a man who uses a spatula.

No, the chores will never be equal because life might be a balancing act, but it sure as shit is never balanced (except when it comes to dog puke on the floor. In that instance, you will keep score). But that’s ok. That’s why you’ve got each other.

Because life is so annoying sometimes, and sometimes it’s his fault. Sometimes it’s mine. But I tell you what’s also annoying, that damn pickle jar that I can never open myself or the flat tire he’s out there fixing on the side of the road in the middle of a winter blizzard, proving that regardless of our shortcomings, life is easier with him around.

I hope he could say the same for me, regardless of the inevitable mess I make in the kitchen when I actually attempt to make a meal or the hundreds of bobby pins I leave laying around the house, driving him crazy. I think at the end of the day that’s what we really want out of this crazy love/union that we all enter into blindly knowing that it just has to work out.

It just has to work out. That’s something isn’t it? As if the whole working out thing happens on its own because we love will make it so.

Now I’m no expert here (if you want experts, ask my grandparents. They will be married for 60 years this September) but here is what I know. Love will never make you agree on the arrangement of the furniture, but love goes a long way in laughing it off when he backs into your car in the morning and forgets to tell you, leaving you to wonder all day when you might have had a car accident you can’t remember.

Love will not make him throw away that ratty State Wrestling t-shirt, but it will make you change out of your favorite sweatpants, the ones he loathes, every once in a while, you know, on special nights.

And initially, love will send him running when he hears you scream in the other room, but there will come a time when he won’t immediately come running. No. He will wait for a followup noise to help him make the decision, because love has made the man mistake a stray spider for a bloody mangled limb too many times.

And love will laugh her ass off when he gets clotheslined by the dog on a leash, leaving him laying flat on his back on the sidewalk, the dog licking his face along a busy intersection in a mountain town while drivers yell out their windows “Hey Rollerblades!”  And love will let her tell that story at every party because, judging by her hysteric laughter, it brings her great joy.

And, just for the record, sometimes love is not patient. Sometimes it needs to get to town and she’s trying on her third dress of the evening.

And sometimes love is not as kind as it should be. Because love is human.

And no human is perfect. Not individually and surely not together.

Because humans leave egg bakes in coolers in basements for three weeks.

The same kind of human that is my husband, the husband who once told me that love, to him, means doing all that you can to make the other person happy.

“Like going to that Dixie Chicks concert with you, or running to town to get you popsicles when you don’t feel well, or hemming your choir dress in college because you failed Home Ec…”

There’s so many fancy ways to say it, but if I were to do it over again, I would put things like this in my vows. I would vow to be a combined force of mistakes and small tragedies, goofiness and bad ideas, opinions and forgetfulness and big plans in the works.

And then I would promise, no matter the mess we got ourselves into, to never run away to that log fort by the creek like I planned when I was ten years old, unless I take him with me, you know, to help build a fire…

The greening up…

 When it decides to green up around here, it sure does a good job.

This time of year is my favorite. I love it so much I don’t mind the ticks.

(Like, I mean, lots of ticks.

Like, I had so many I had to strip off my clothes and put them outside. Like, I won’t tell you how many because you would never sleep again and also, I had one stuck on my butt and that was one of those conversations you don’t really want to have with your husband, but, well, let’s forget I ever mentioned it.

And while we’re at it let’s also forget that I found a tick in my bed last night…)

Annnyywaaayyy… ticks or no ticks, there’s something to be said about being the first one out there to find a patch of sweet peas.

There’s something so new and refreshing about it all, the green grass poking up out of the ground before the weeds and brush take over.

The fresh air before all the bugs wake up.

The smell of rain coming in.

The damp dirt and the birds and all of the sounds and smells of things coming back to life.

I feel like I’m coming back to life.

So I make it a point to go out in it. In the middle of the long, cold winters those are the promises we make to ourselves: If it ever gets above freezing we will not complain about the weather.

We live here and we endure this because this is what we’re promised. We’re promised the greening up. And the process couldn’t possibly be as beautiful, as spiritual and soul reviving if we didn’t fully understand what cold feels like.

Yes. We know cold.

And endless white.

And to know the white is to truly know the green.

And all the life that comes with it…

Spring, up close.

I left the house yesterday looking for signs of spring. The wind and sun had dried up that last late April snow storm pretty well and I wanted to see what was emerging under that warmer sky.

It took some looking, but I’ve learned out here that while the big picture can be quite beautiful,

sometimes it’s the smallest things that are the most intriguing. Like a bud on a tree and how it knows it’s time to emerge from once bare branches, in perfect form. 
Or how grass seems to turn from brown to green overnight.

How something so soft can emerge from brown thorns.

Or how a bright color can thrill me here at the beginning of spring, before I’ve grown accustomed to the vivid landscape that comes with summer. 

Or how this blue, clear sky was pouring down ice only 24 hours before.

And that we all made it through, softer and alive…

like the crocuses on the hilltops, because it’s what crocuses do.

Sunday Column: I’ll be an old woman

I’ve been thinking about growing up lately, about my age and what it means to be an adult, to be a grown woman. To be established in my skin.

Maybe it’s the changing of a season, another summer coming upon us and the noticeable way my plans have changed from frolicking around the hills on the bare back of my sorrel horse to fulfilling obligations and responsibilities, meeting deadlines and penciling in time for the fun.

Maybe it’s the new silver scattered in my hairline, the silver I just sat in a chair for hours to have covered, to camouflage the passage of time as it’s made a splattering of an appearance for the world to see.

It could be those things and then it could be how it feels to watch my big sister raise an almost four-year old, my little sister finish her Master’s degree and my parents make plans for a new chapter in their lives.

Or it could be tax season and the oh, so grown-up responsibility and that cringeworthy check I’m plopping in the mail for the government today.

Maybe. Maybe it could be that.

When I was a little girl no one told be about these things. About what it’s like to wake up one day and realize that the growing up part isn’t like a music montage in a Disney movie.

No one told me the adult version of myself might forget about the ten-year old girl who used to wonder out loud when a person turns from a kid with energy to burn into a tired adult who would rather sit on the porch and drink coffee. No one told the ten-year-old version of myself that one day, I too would find myself a little too tired at the end of the day to build forts in the trees and stay out until dark or suppertime, whichever came first.

No one explained to me that one day that supper would be my responsibility and it’s importance would eclipse my waning desire to lean logs up against fallen trees.

I wouldn’t have believed them anyway.

But all that doesn’t matter now. I’ve made it this far and between the work and the worry I decided I needed to make some promises to myself.

About getting older.

About the kind of woman I want to be.

The kind who doesn’t bother with things like gray hair and doesn’t get worked up about mud on the floor.

The kind that saddles her own horse and breathes in the spring air, declaring the beauty of the season change while searching for crocuses.

The kind that doesn’t mind the passage of time. Who wears the lines on her face and her weathered hands with grace, a badge of a life well lived under the big blue sky of home.

Making these sort of declarations is freeing. To know how I want to turn out, to see myself there in my garden below the house, to know with as much certainty as that ten-year-old girl I used to be that I want to be the kind of old woman who doesn’t just live here on this place, but becomes a fixture, like the old fence posts holding stretched wire across the landscape–expected, subtle, weathered, wise.

Useful.

Beautiful.

Coming Home: When I grow up, I want to…
by Jessie Veeder
4-13-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Catch me at the
North Dakota Bloggers & Writers Workshop
Monday, April 14, 2014
Fargo, ND

We’re ok.

It’s been three months since they rushed dad off of the ranch in an ambulance. Three months since his heart betrayed him.

Three months since we sat with him, night after night, in that hospital room in the big town as this brutal winter froze us over and life’s unexpected struggles brought us to our knees.

Three months since I told him, hang on dad, in a few months it will be spring and we have so many things to do.

And for three months it has just been my husband and I living on this ranch, going back and forth between work and home, one house and the other, checking on things, making sure everything’s fed and things are running right.

See, my parents decided to stick out the winter a little closer to town, to recover and take a breath, avoid the drive on icy roads and call someone to come in and renovate the house, nice and new for when they returned.

For three months I have been sending up a prayer each night thanking God for giving us our dad back. And for three months I’ve been telling myself that we are so blessed, so lucky to all be together in one piece.

And so it’s for all those blessings that I should jump for joy each morning, ready to get up with that beautiful sunrise outside of my window, but I haven’t.

I haven’t risen to shine very bright.

It’s been one of the longest, coldest, hardest winter of my life.

But let me say this, when we moved back to the ranch, almost four years ago now, it was not to get away from the big wide world, it was not to quiet and slow things down or to live inside a fantasy of a “simple country life.”

I grew up out here. I know it’s never been simple. In fact, living thirty miles from town on a gravel road that turns from dust to mud to ice and back again, has the potential to complicate a lot of things.

I knew this. And we came home anyway. We came to work. We came to learn. We came to make a life out here surrounded by a landscape we love and a family that can help us make the most of it.

But something shifted this winter, in the way I see this place, in the way I see this world we chose to surround us. Maybe it was the unexpected call in the middle of the night and the threat, the knowledge, that it all can be taken away in a second.

Maybe it’s our ongoing struggle to have a family and the realization that some people just don’t get what they want, no matter their prayers or their faith in something…

Or maybe it was just the relentless cold piled on top of it all, keeping me from climbing to the tops of the buttes for fear of frost bite, when climbing to the tops of those buttes is what I’ve relied on to heal me up time after time, but in the past three months this world has revealed to me her edge, and in response, it seems I’ve created my own.

And I want to tell myself that when that first crocus pops up under the warm sunshine that edge will soften and I will feel more like myself, but the truth is, I don’t think I need to go back there.

I’m not sure I want that.

Because this place is my refuge, yes. When I was a little girl so green and sheltered, it was here I belonged, here I could grow up sort of innocently unscathed for a few years before being thrown into the real world, and that is what I loved about it and one of the many reasons I returned.

But I’m a grown woman now. I’m at the age where money runs out and babies don’t make it, we don’t get the job and parents get sick…

Running into the trees and singing at the top of my lungs is not going to save me from these things, but those trees can hold me for a minute, help me breathe, help remind me that I can survive these human shaped tragedies.

And that even when this place is cruel, it is simultaneously beautiful…

Human shaped miracles happen too.

I know that. I’ve seen it.

Yesterday mom and dad moved back home, back to the ranch. Mom pulled into the yard and dad was waiting there, shoveling the drive from Monday’s snow storm, ready to grab her bag full of shoes and help her with the groceries.

Husband and I came over to visit, to see their new floors, to talk about furniture arrangement, have a glass of wine and welcome them back.

Back from a lonely winter.

Back from a hard time.

Back on the right side of life’s unexpected twists.

And I know now that we’re not all always going to be ok out here, but we’re ok right now.

Right now, we’re ok.