To be nowhere
But in the moment.
Is exactly where you need to be.
There’s a moment between summer and deep autumn at the ranch that’s so good at being glorious that it actually makes us all believe we could last forever under a sky that’s bright blue and crisp and warm and just the right amount of breezy all at the same time.
We’re easily swayed to forget up here, you know, about the drama that is our seasons. I imagine it’s a coping mechanism we develop that gets the crazy stoic people here through -40 degree temperature snaps.
It’s forgetting that gets us through, but it’s remembering too. The combination is an art form.
Because at -40 degrees we remember that one-day it will be sunny and 75.
And when it’s sunny, 118 degrees and 100% humidity and there’s not a lake in sight, we remember that -40 degrees and somehow find a way to be grateful for it all.
Yes we keep taking off layers and putting them on again until we make ourselves the perfect temperature.
Funny then how we’re not really good at giving the in-between moments the credit they’re due around here. We usually grab them up and soak them in just enough to get some work done on a horse, paint the house, wash the car or get the yard cleaned up for winter.
Because we’re taught up here to use those perfect weather moments to prepare us for the not so perfect ones that are coming.
That’s why fall, though a romantic season for some, gives me a little lump in my throat that tastes a lot like dread and mild panic.
Because while the pumpkins are nice and the apple cider tastes good enough, I can’t help but think that autumn is like the nice friend who slowly walks over to your lunch table with the news that your boyfriend doesn’t want to go out with you anymore.
And my boyfriend is summer. And when he’s gone, I’m stuck with the long and drawn out void that is winter–with a little splash of Christmas, a hint of a sledding party and a couple shots of schnapps to get me through the break-up.
Hear what I’m saying?
But the change is beautiful. I can’t help but marvel at it really, no matter its underlying plot to dry up the leaves and strip them from their branches and jump start my craving for carbohydrates and heavy whipping cream in everything.
So I decided to give it the credit it was due yesterday and I took a break from the office chair intent on marveling at some leaves, collecting some acorns and walking the trails the cattle and deer had cut through the trees during the heat of summer.
I will never call this moment a season, it’s too fleeting and foreboding for that, but I will reach out and touch those golden leaves and call it a sort of magic.
The kind that only nature can perform, not only on those leaves, but on the hair on a horse’s back, the fat on the calf, the trickling creek bed, the tall dry grasses, used up flowers and a woman like me.
Yes, I’m turning too. My skin is lightening. My hunger unsuppressed. My eyelids heavy when the sun sinks below the hill much earlier than my bedtime.
My pants a little tighter with the promise of colder weather.
Ok. I’ve been reminded. Summer–a month of electric thunderstorms and endless days, sunshine that heats up my skin and makes me feel young and in love with a world that can be so colorful– is over.
And so I’m thankful for the moment in these trees to be reminded that I have a little time yet, but I best be gathering those acorns.
And pulling on my layers.
We’re right in the middle of a season change, and while it’s technically not winter yet, it kind of feels like it out there. I spend so much of my time documenting my world, watching the leaves fall from the trees and bend under the weight of ice and snow only to come out of hibernation a few months later in all of their green glory.
In North Dakota the four seasons cannot be mistaken. They don’t blend in to one another, they have their own distinct looks, smell and feel, changing everything under the skyT.
And because I am out there in it all year round, taking photographs so as not to miss a thing, today I’d like to share with you how drastically a spinning earth can change our world in this northern state.
Outside my door…
In the sky…
Outside the barn…
Happy almost winter everyone. And don’t worry, spring always keeps her promise.
Weekends out here can be bliss. Especially when it’s 50+ degrees and sunny and crisp and it’s autumn and your little sister comes over to spend the whole two days with you.
This happens sometimes–the weather cooperates perfectly with the plans you have. And our plans consisted of big breakfasts and coffee, a long walk through our favorite coulees,
a ride with Pops to our favorite spot in the trees
and a couple birthday parties for Little Big Sister and her Little Man.
Little Sister and I scheduled our weekend together and proceeded to tackle the checklist that ensured we got to everything from omelets to birthday cake. And we accomplished it all.
See, she’s been gone for a bit, out doing what we’ve been taught to do when we hit eighteen and graduate high school: get out, get going, see stuff, learn stuff, work and study and graduate and travel.
And come back if you want to.
Come back for a while.
And so Little Sister has come back. She’s come back with the same sort of remembered wonder that I experienced a few short years ago when I did the same thing. I’ve tried to explain it here a few times in these lines and photographs I share with you, how rediscovering those secret places I used to wander at the ranch as a child hold a sort of haunting nostalgia and comfort when visited as an adult.
But now that I have arrived and am here to stay my childhood secret spots have become familiar again. I visit them regularly either for a stroll to take photographs or to chase cattle along the trails. I am remembering and learning every day where all of these deer and cow paths wind and twist and turn, determined to be capable of navigating the place the way Pops does one day, without pause or back track.
And it’s an interesting and adventurous task I’ve set out to accomplish, one that, growing up, was always tackled with a shadow following a few yards behind me.
I swear just yesterday I was hollering at that little curly-haired six-year-old in the purple barn jacket to “go home and leave me alone!” Just yesterday, wasn’t I suggesting that if she really had to build a fort along the same creek bed, perhaps it should be a little further up the coulee and out of my sight.
And there we were last weekend walking side-by-side, adult women with our own fears and worries pushed back until Monday, tucked away so that we might enjoy and remember the time the tire swing broke sending Little Sister flailing into the creek, how we used to climb the old apple trees behind the house, and the hours we spent following Pops chasing a cow or a deer in the oak trees and brush that line the creek bottom.
How many mittens did we drop along the way? How many times did our boots fill with creek water?
How many wood ticks and burs and grass stains did we accumulate?
And in all of the lines and photographs I share in this space about the magic and adventure the ranch, our home, holds for me–all the ways I tell you it mystifies and heals, puts me in my place and brings me closer to the version of myself I like the most, I have to confess it is not the landscape alone that holds the responsibility.
I imagine I could fall in love with a number of creek beds, oak groves and rolling fields, marveling at the way the afternoon sun hits the leaves that have fallen into the water, getting to know how the trail winds up the embankments, coming to understand how it changes with the season.
I know I could fall in love with many places and landscapes throughout this world.
But it is this one, this one that holds my father’s footprints, my Little Sister’s laugh, my mother’s call to come in for supper. It is this one that promises Little Man a place to run and learn to ride horse and Big Little Sister a refuge if she needs it.
It is these hills, these paths, these coulees, these acorns, these fallen trees and fallen logs and this mud and these thorns and soft grasses that have bent under my growing feet and the feet of those who know me the best that gives this place a heartbeat and makes the sunrise brighter, the trees grow taller, the creek clearer, the horses more capable…
and me more grateful every day that through all these years we can be out in it, loving it and living in those familiar spaces on a days that were made to be together.
One of my favorite autumn rituals has become my now annual trip down the road to visit the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park just outside the ever-expanding limits of my home town.
These days, more than ever, I believe this park to be a blessing and a gift, a reminder among the chaos of a bustling industry to slow down and remember the best things in life.
The quiet, wild things.
I like to visit those rugged buttes to be reminded that I am one of those quiet, wild things and last week I took my Little Sister along on a little hike so that she could remember that too.
See, Little Sister has just recently come into some major responsibilities after graduating from college last winter. And with her new teaching degree in health and physical education, she has found herself in a small school outside of our hometown writing lesson plans, leading jumping jack sessions, chasing around adorable kindergarteners and helping seniors prepare for college while working on getting a master’s degree in counseling and guidance.
I’m tired just thinking about it, but so proud of this woman who, in my mind, should still be 8 years old and following me up the creek to the forts we built behind the house.
I still find it a little disheartening that when we grow up that seems to be the first thing we give up…walks to nowhere.
And building forts.
But that’s what the ranch does for us, and places like this park. It provides us with a reason to walk to nowhere, to climb to the top of a hill and look down,
to notice how that jet leaves a white streak in the sky and to wonder where it’s going…
while we find we’re happy to be right where we are.
Happy to point out the small deer crossing the road or a chipmunk below our feet instead of worrying about deadlines and messy kitchens to clean.
Happy to notice how the sun shines through the changing autumn leaves on the river bottom instead of how the end tables need dusting and the windows need a wipe.
Happy to trip on a rock as we make our way down from the buttes, happy for a near-miss incident that we can laugh at together, thankful we made it in one piece.
Thankful that we’re not sweeping right now.
Or doing paperwork.
Or making dinner.
Thankful that someone set aside a place for us to go to get away from all of the things that seem to matter so little when it comes to a choice between watching the leaves change or watching a television screen.
Thankful that we can walk to the river and talk about the time Little Sister broke the tire swing as it flung her out over the coulee and dropped her in the creek. Thankful she survived the fall, though she was certain she was dying.
Thankful she has nearly forgiven my reaction of hysterical laughter.
Thankful that years later, though those jets could take us anywhere, we still chose to be out under this beautiful and familiar sky…
I was interviewed today on Trent Loos‘s radio program, “Loos Tales.” Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer with a passion for the rural lifestyle. “Loos Tales” is dedicated to exploring the interesting people and places of Rural America.
Listen to our discussion here:
Now onward! I have to tell you how I feel about roundup season!
There are some tell-tale signs that fall is in the air. The evenings are getting cooler as the sun sets a bit more quickly and I am thinking about canning tomatoes so we can have a piece of summer all year round.
Yes, I’ll try my hand again at preserving our garden vegetables, but haven’t yet found a way to capture the smell of the season changing and the color of the green and gold leaves against an overcast morning sky. This season is so unpredictable, sneaking up on us slowly in the middle of a hot summer day and leaving with a strong gust of wind.
But this year it seems to be settling in despite the heat. The trees that were first to display their leaves this spring are the first to display their colors this September and I’m reminded of roundup season and spitting plums at my little sister on her pony, Jerry, as we rode to the reservation to gather cattle.
Fall roundup has always been one of my favorite events of the season. My memories find me as a young girl bundled up in my wool cap and my dad’s old leather chaps braving the cool morning and a long ride through coulees, up hills, along fence lines and under a sky that warmed the earth a little more with each passing hour.
I would strip off my cap first, and then went my gloves and coat, piled on a rock or next to a fence post for easy retrieval when the work was done.
But moving cattle, even then, never felt like work to me. Perhaps because I was never the one responsible for anything but following directions and watching the gate–it was a task that provided me with the perfect amount of adventure, freedom and accountability.
It was during that long wait from when the crew located all the cattle in the pasture, grouped them together and moved them toward my post that I would make up the best songs, sing the loudest and find ticks for slingshots or the perfect feather for my hat.
Turns out today, as an adult woman, my role when working cattle with Pops and Husband hasn’t changed much. I am the peripheral watcher, the girl who makes sure the cattle don’t turn back or find their way into the brush or through the wrong gate.
I am given direction and then left to my own devices while the guys head for the hills and I wait to see if I will have to battle a horse who is whinnying and prancing and wishing he could go with them.
Sometimes I get lucky and he just stands still.
Sometimes I wait for what seems like hours for any sign of life coming from the trees–the best time still to make up a few melodies in my head and collect photo opportunities.
Because sometimes, most of the time, it’s just nice.
Nice and easy like it was on Monday morning when Pops showed up with our horses already caught and saddled and asked us to help him move the cows home from the west pasture.
Who could refuse that kind of valet service? So we pulled on our boots and obliged, sitting on the backs of our horses walking slowly, swatting the sticky flies with their tails and anticipating that the calm and sunny morning was sure to turn into a hot afternoon.
I could walk these trails on the back of a horse forever and not get tired of them. Because each month the pastures change–a new fence wire breaks, the creek floods and flows and dries up, the ground erodes and the cows cut new trails, reminding me that the landscape is a moving, breathing creature.
And I am the most alive when I’m out here. I think the guys are too, making conversation about the cattle industry as they make plans for the day. I follow behind like I always have and look around to notice the way the light bounces off of cowboy hats and trees slowly turning golden.
I wait for instruction and find my direction while Husband cuts a path through the trees to search for hidden cows and Pops lopes up to the hilltop to scan the countryside.
I move a small herd toward the gate and wake a bull from the tall grass at the edge of the pasture.
Pops comes up off the hill to join me, the cattle he’s found moving briskly in front of him toward the rest of the herd. We meet up and discuss where Husband might be and turn around to find him waiting at the gate with the rest of the cattle.
And that’s how it went on Monday, the three of us pushing the cows along, Pops at the back of the herd counting, taking note of brands and numbers,
Husband on the hillside making sure they turn the right way,
and me watching the brush.
We pushed the cattle slowly with the sun warming our backs and sweat beading on our foreheads as morning turned to a sweltering afternoon.
We headed toward home and talked about lunch and the fencing that needed to get done that day.
And cattle prices.
And the deer population.
And a pony for Little Man.
And the weather and the changing leaves and all of the things that need discussing when you’re on the back of a horse, on the edge of a season, on a piece of earth that’s constantly changing…
even though, year after year, up here…
I always feel the same.
Last weekend Little Sister came home for the hustle and bustle and celebration of Little Man.
Have I mentioned that I love it when Little Sister comes home? Well if I haven’t said it sixty-thousand times already, I am saying it again and singing it softly to myself in a little tune I made up while I work on building her a quaint house in the oak trees next to mine, complete with a tin-can phone stretched across the yard and a couple of reclaimed lawn chairs from mom and dad’s junk pile.
It’s going to be just like old times.
Because here’s the thing. Everyone has people in their lives that they would like to keep wrapped up in a pretty little box in their pockets so they can carry them along and take them out whenever they need a good laugh, a smile, someone who really understands where you’re coming from, and who will, well you know, tell it to you straight.
My Little Sister is one of those people for me. I wanna wear her as a locket and show her off to friends. I want her confidence and quick wit at my fingertips. I want someone to drink margarita’s with and who will consume bowls and bowls of tortilla chips and cheese dip with me in the middle of the day in sweatpants without judgement…whenever I feel like it.
I know this is weird. I tested the theory out on Husband and he said I was a dork. Especially after I told him I wanted to wear him as a scarf around my neck so I would always have him there to protect me and provide for me better judgment wherever I go.
Well, it sounded good in my head, so I’m sharing it here. I imagine a few of you will be able to relate to my desire to be able to morph my favorite people into accessories and then un-morph (?) them back into people again whenever I feel the need…
Well, anyway, since I have yet to find that Genie to grant me my three wishes, I will just have to take what I can get of Little Sister when she comes around. And one of my favorite things to do when she shows up is to grab her and Pops and Husband and the horses and take a long ride out in the buttes. Because really, there’s nothing better than the smell of horses, crisp air, quiet trails, two of my favorite cowboys chatting about plans and my favorite high strung best friend on a high strung horse snorting and laughing and prancing along the prairie beside me.
So that’s what we did last Saturday as our chatter around morning pancake breakfast brought us too quickly into the afternoon It was a little chilly out there when we stepped out into the farmyard and Little Sister was dressed just a bit too fashionably for this type of activity, so I promptly dug out my dorkiest hat, gloves and fur-lined vest and we were on our way under the big gray sky that hadn’t made up its mind whether it wanted to rain on us or shine.
When taking a ride is my idea my posse generally agrees that we will have no particular agenda but to enjoy ourselves out here, to explore and tell some stories, check things out or just be quiet. And so that’s what we did. We strolled through golden grasses, and crunched through fallen leaves in the coulees, the two black cowboy hats in the lead and the frizzy haired women trailing behind.
We stopped on hill tops to catch up, to take a look around at how some of the leaves are desperate to hang on the oak trees, to check out the fences, to listen to one of Little Sister’s stories about school or one of my long stories that usually ends with me embarrassing the shit out of myself.
And as the words between sisters bounced off the hill tops and blew away with the wind and the guys talked hunting and horses, Little Sister’s horse, as he generally does, began to warm up enough to show his personality and the wild whites of his eyes. Here I will tell you that unless that horse and I are chasing after something that is running away from us, I prefer to avoid the Red Fury and stick to the Paint Mare, but Little Sister barely notices the animal beneath her snorting and prancing and all around making sure the other animals know that he needs to be in the lead.
So in the lead she went. That’s the funny thing about horses, while you are on their backs living your own little life, having your own conversations, thinking your own thoughts, they are underneath you, carrying you along on strong and quick feet and, if they are allowed, they are doing the same damn thing. And it was quite apparent that the Red Fury had only one thing on his mind that day and that was to be ahead of the mare I was riding.
It was driving him nuts.
And it was hilarious. Each time Little Sister’s horse would find himself a step behind he would snort and lift his head a bit higher and work on his rider to allow him at least one more step ahead. And so naturally I was tempted to see what would happen if I took off up the hill to catch a snapshot of my favorite people riding toward me. So I did. I rode up the hill ahead of the gang and turned around at the top to find Little Sister and the Red Fury flying up the hill behind me.
Apparently the Red Fury wasn’t about to allow this, and Little Sister didn’t care. She was along for the ride. The ride which I tried to document up until the part where the space between her ass and the saddle measured about a mile and I was almost certain she was going to be launched.
I think I yelled something like “Hang On!”…which is always so helpful in times like these…
but Little Sister just squealed and laughed and said she was a bit rusty after sitting in classrooms.
Which brings me to the point of my story, I do have one (besides embarrassing my sister.) I remember growing up here and taking these rides in the fall air, smelling the same smells, and feeling the same blessed. I remember making a promise to myself not to grow out of this. Not to ever say no to a ride with my father, to a chance to really live out here on these trails. I remember knowing, even at 10 or 12 years old, that I was lucky to have this experience under my belt, even when I had just hit the hard clay ground so hard I couldn’t feel my left arm after being bucked off of my gray mare yet again.
I remember telling myself that until I was old and gray I will always ride horses. No matter the agenda, no matter the responsibilities, no matter the fear of falling. I will always ride.
So seeing my Little Sister fly up that hill on a horse that has just as much attitude and free spirit as the woman on his back, I was reminded of that little girl with wild curls on a white pony named Jerry trailing behind me, singing songs to herself, telling me to wait up, getting her beanie hooked on a branch while riding through a trail in the trees, smelling those same smells, feeling the same breeze and promising herself the same things.
An hour before in the house over pancakes that memory was another life. It was other people in another time with different agendas and thoughts and outfits. But in that moment when Little Sister reached the top of that hill having recovered her balance and her breath, out of my mouth came laughter that was so familiar to me, and out of hers came the same. We were those children again, tucked snug in our puffy coats, cheeks rosy, chattering and riding with Pops in our own little world, promising one another, if such a promise can be made, not to grow up. Promising to stay out here just a few moments longer, to run just a little bit faster.
To stay together.
To remember we are blessed.
And so we rode. We rode with our father, with our other best friend, side by side or tail to nose, or spread out wide over the flat, under a sky that had decided to shine its sun on us after all.
So if I can’t have a locket at my fingertips to hold these moments with my sister, or a scarf around my neck that is Husband’s strong arms keeping me safe from the world’s worries,
or my Pops on a horse forever riding beside me telling me I’m doing fine…
…at least I will always have that promise. The promise to make more moments like these.
and to always ride horses.
There’s nothing more spectacular than a season change. And around here, we all have the chance to get up close and personal with the shifting of breeze, the cool down or warm up and the new colors the big guy decided to paint with. So when I feel the shift, when I hear the leaves start to crackle or take notice of something new poking through the ground in the spring, I pay attention. I look around. Because I hate to miss a day of it, really. It happens so fast. One morning you will be walking through oak groves of plush grass, under a canopy of leaves sparkling with life and green, and the next those leaves have all changed clothing and some have already decided to turn in early for the year.
It’s this time of year, the autumn, that I hate to be away from the ranch. I hate to miss the 50 and 60 and degree weather, perfect for rounding up cattle and maybe, if it’s the morning, digging out my neckerchief.
I hate to miss how the horses seem to lay a little longer in the sunshine, breathe out breath we can see into the crisp early air and work on growing their wooly, winter coats. I hate to miss the days the leaves on the oak trees start turning from green to yellow to orange one by one or the crunch of the leaves under my feet and the smell of the damp air reminding me of a childhood spent in these very same places, in this very same season-change ritual.
Oh yes, I’d hate to drive away from this toward warmer sun in the south or shut myself in between safe and heated walls and miss all of the miraculous and well planned preparation going on around me. Because I fear that if I didn’t pay attention to the shifts occurring on the top of the buttes, under prairie grasses and animal skin, I wouldn’t understand what was happening to me….
…why my skin has faded in color and is begging me to put on long, wooly sleeves, why I want to warm up soup and sink in next to husband on our big chair and talk about plans and life and how I adore him. Without taking notice of the cool breeze, settling plants, and a sun that sinks below the horizon at an earlier hour each evening, I may not understand why my eyes feel heavy, my body weary and my bed calls my name at an hour when I may have still been on a back of a horse miles out in a pasture just months before in a season we called summer.
I might not understand why I don’t allow myself to go down easy, why I hustle around the house at 8 pm putting the finishing touches on projects and work, strumming my guitar and singing songs into the darkening sky, making sure all living creatures in the household know that I have things to do yet, I’m still here, regardless of the light. I would find myself crazy and alone in a world that was trying to get some sleep already if I didn’t witness the sky putting up the exact same fight during this time of year…
See, she’s not quite ready either–not ready to turn in her party dress. Because this time of year, more than ever, in the evening hour, right before dark I catch her showing off her biggest, most fluffy clouds with splashes of fuchsia and deep orange costumes as together they threaten a heavy fall shower with big, splashing raindrops when all the world thought the next thing to come was the dark and the snow.
I see her, I know what she’s doing, I understand the need to make a scene like this and I hear her laugh as she watches the crazy woman with the camera gaze at her face and dream about climbing those very clouds and laying down there for the winter, held softly in the warm fluff of the sky, eyes closed tight, knees to chest like a child, sleeping soundly through the winter until she lets me down with the rain in the spring.
But it can’t be so. I must stay here on the crust of the earth and watch her performance as she turns down the lights and paints the world soft pink, how she keeps the rain in the sky for a few moments, under small and un-daunting slivers of fluff evoking a trust and wonder in the creatures below basking in the uncommon warmth of a late fall evening.
Yes, I must wait here and watch as the sky pushes her sun further down the horizon line, lighting up the farmstead one last moment before she lets loose those big drops of rain, slowly at first, onto the crazy woman’s head.
Because the sky thought the woman needed one last reminder of a warmer world.
And she was right, the sky, she was. The crazy woman who could see the barnyard, a small dark dot on that very horizon, quite enjoyed the way the drops stuck in her fuzzy hair…
the way her feet helped float her body down the butte toward the light glowing from the kitchen of the farm house….
she laughed at the sound of her big brown dog’s paws hitting the dirt, his mouth blowing out air, his tongue hanging and bouncing along his clumsy body as he found his rhythm alongside a woman who was running now…
Running in the autumn rain, under a sky who is wrapping up her show, a season, with a reminder of the scent and feel and colors and sound of summer…
One last rain.
So I slowed my pace because a little rain never hurt anyone…
and me and the sky, we were not going down easy.
Dear Little Man with the wispy hair, bright blue eyes and smile that sweeps wide across your face, lifting those squeezable cheeks toward the sky…
This is your crazy aunty here, you know, the one that will do anything, including crawling around on the kitchen floor and underneath coffee tables, jumping up and down frantically or singing “You are my sunshine” forty-seven million times in a row if it means that you will keep laughing.
Hello there. I have something to tell you. Something I intend to tell you every year when the leaves on the trees outside of your window start to drop from their branches and blow away in the chilly wind. Someday your momma will ask you to rake them up into neat little piles. Someday, when you are bigger you will happily oblige and you will fling your body into the middle of the pile you created, feeling happy and free and glad to be out in the crisp fall air playing and running and jumping and kicking and all around creating havoc like little boys should.
Yes, someday you will.
And someday you will detach and drift and blow with the wind like the very leaves that dropped to the ground on the day of your birth. Someday you will fly away with them into a world filled with adventures and challenges and mountains to climb–the same world you are learning something new about every day.
But today I want to tell you that we are so glad you are here. Before you arrived we were a family, we were happy and full of life and things to do. Before we met you we dreamed you. We dreamed your hair with some curls, your eyes big and blue, your smile the way it showed up on you…always there, lighting our lives. We talked about what you might look like and when you might arrive and who you might become and how we would teach you things about why then sun shines and where the stars go at night.
But we had no idea. We didn’t understand what one little child with two tiny hands and two tiny feet and a nose that turns up just a bit could do to a family that was happy and full of life and had things to do. When we heard you were coming, when we got the call, we couldn’t wait. We drove in the dark in the earliest hours of the morning under a moon that was full and bright to get to you, to welcome you to this earth with open arms. We didn’t want to miss it. We needed to see you first thing!
So we waited, impatiently. We paced the floor. We called our friends. We were nervous. Your momma was brave. And we were so proud as the moon disappeared and made way for that sun that would hang high and bright and shiny in the sky above you. And that earth that just moments before was preparing for a long winter sleep woke up bright and beautiful as your cries bounced off of the walls and out the door and into the morning air on the day you were born.
We were there to hear that first cry. Your momma, your daddy, your grampa and gramma and me. Your other aunty was calling, anxious to meet you, to hear about your eyes and your hands and your hair. Your grandma and grandpa hundreds of miles away were saying their prayers and holding their breath, waiting to hear the news of your arrival. Your uncle came rushing down the hall to hold you in his arms and say hello. He drove fast to get there just in time. He said you were tiny and perfectly perfect.
Your momma cried tears of joy.
And in that moment we couldn’t imagine a world without you.
It’s been a year Little Man and every day you amaze us. Every day you learn something new, you grow just a bit more. Every day you bring us closer to one another as we fall more in love over your busy hands, your belly laughs, the way you crawl and climb and stand and reach and taste and touch and hold on tight.
We hold tight right back. We don’t want to miss a thing. We don’t want to forget.
And all of wonders we thought we would teach you, all of the things that we thought you should learn from us? It turns out we just don’t know a thing, except the way that your hair plops over your eyes when you play and how your breath sounds when you’re fast asleep.
And so I will tell you year after year as the cold comes marching in, the leaves let go and the moon shines longer into the night, as you reach higher toward the sky, walk stronger on the earth, speak words true and knowing from your mouth, I will tell you on the anniversary of your arrival, on the day of your birth, of all of those things we thought you would be–a wonder, a blessing, a gift of a life–
Happy Birthday! I love you…
Now can I please have a bite of that cake?…
Fall is one of those fleeting seasons around here. The kind that doesn’t get much attention because everyone is busy digging out their wool caps and puffy coats in preparation for what’s to come. But boy, this fall, this season, has been truly spectacular so far around here this year. Just like the rest of the seasons, it has not disappointed.
So on this Wednesday as I prepare for one of my good friend’s visit to the ranch, I would like to take a moment out of my frantic cleaning, organizing and thoughts about baking something to pay this season a bit of the attention it deserves….
Because who knows, we could find ourselves in a snow globe scenario in the morning.
Here we go: On behalf of northern people everywhere, the ones who get out and take walks, stroll their babies through the parks, rake up piles of leaves and let their kids and wives and dogs jump in them while they laugh and stretch out the kinks in their backs before joining them. From the people who carve pumpkins and press pretty oak leaves between the pages of their books, the ones who enjoy a hot cup of homemade soup and light jackets and cardigans, the ones who paint eloquently, photograph with great care and detail, the ones who look, who really see…on behalf of people like these we would like to present this award of appreciation to the season of autumn.
I hope you display this giant, ten foot trophy proudly on the shelf on your wall–the shelf where you hang photos of your changing leaves, vibrant sunsets, rolling clouds and golden hues.
I hope you invite summer over for a cup of cider to brag a little. She’ll have time to stay for a bit now that she’s on vacation. And winter, I imagine he will want to see this too, as the only award he’s ever won was from snowboarders and skiers thanking him for staying so long.
That winter really likes to chat doesn’t he?
And spring. Let him know that he’s next in line. Maybe the two of you could talk to wind and ask him to tone it down a bit, he’s always trying to ruin a perfectly pleasant season change.
But for now autumn, this is all about you.
You and your understated beauty, your crunching leaves and well worn paths. You and your picturesque views from the hilltops, pleasant temperatures and crisp air.
Thanks for quieting down so I could hear the acorns literally plunking to the ground in the coulees behind my house. Thanks for dropping those acorns,
I forgive you, because you and I are on the same page about the whole “the world needs more oak trees” thing.
Thanks for putting a sparkle in the stock dam,
a shimmer in the chilly creeks,
a glow on the tips of the trees.
Thanks for reminding me what red looks like…
Because of this and how hard you have worked to paint a picture outside my window each morning and put me to sleep at night with your cool breezes, I will forgive you your cockleburs, the hornet that stung the favorite part of my hand, and the excessive and obnoxious amount of grasshoppers. They are only out there because you have given them longer life with your warmth and sunshine.
Thanks for that. Thanks for letting us sit outside and read a book, do a project, or just poke around. Thanks for sticking around long enough for me to take your picture. Because I’m sure your friends will want some for their walls.
Now go call your momma, she’ll be so proud of you.