Despite the hostility I harbor for the recent sub-zero temperatures, I do believe this season comes with gifts, and I’m not talking about the ones that hang out under the tree.
And besides, things are looking up. Today it got up to a balmy -5.
Despite the hostility I harbor for the recent sub-zero temperatures, I do believe this season comes with gifts, and I’m not talking about the ones that hang out under the tree.
And besides, things are looking up. Today it got up to a balmy -5.
Summer is over. It’s official now. And it’s North Dakota, so next comes 48 hours of glorious, crisp, beautiful autumn…and then comes winter.
Give or take a few hours there, but you get the idea.
No, we don’t have much time now before the snow falls and buries all the projects we meant to get to when the weather was nice and warm. And so here we are in the first few days of fall and the checklist isn’t as checked as we envisioned.
It happens every year and this year is no exception, especially when we’re in the midst of this old place turning 100.
In 100 years a lot of relics get left behind in the weeds.
We went through the first phase of clean up when we began building our house in what was once the used-up vehicle section of the ranch. The first phase involved moving the old cars up to the top of the hill to await they’re final destination with junk guy.
Turns out in two summers, junk guy only really wanted the cool car with wings.
He’s not coming back for old pickups, augers, lawnmowers, dirt bikes or the three-wheeler.
No, we’ve got to find someone else to do the heavy lifting, and I’m making it my mission.
Because we’re on to the next phase. The clean up phase. The tear down and build up phase. The beautification process.
The next 100 years.
Coming Home: ‘Beautification project’ begins at the ranch
by Jessie Veeder
I’ve been writing music since I was a little girl. Some of it has escaped the walls that held me at the time, others have been locked up, unfinished, never ready to be played for anyone.
I have ideas. I try to show you. I try to tell it as I see it, or maybe as a stranger might. I try to share a little piece of me and my surroundings with whoever wants to listen.
I don’t always know what it is that I want to say.
Sometimes, if I’m lucky, the song knows better.
When I was in college touring the midwest in my Chevey Lumina, I wrote a song called “Heroes Proved.” It was the middle of winter in Northern North Dakota and I was cold. I was on the road and alone a lot. I missed home, the smell of the sage and horse hair, black cows and the way the grass bends in the breeze.
I missed the neighbors and how they would come and visit on Sunday and linger over coffee.
And I missed cowboys, the ones I was convinced no longer existed in the world, except the few I left behind, scattered and lonely on the quiet scoria road.
I didn’t know if I would ever get back to that place for good.
I didn’t know if that place even existed anymore.
I didn’t know anything.
“Heroes Proved” was my way of asking the world to slow down. I was desperate for it, but in a completely different way then I am now.
Now that I’m home and never leaving.
Now that I’m home and watching the world drive by–rushing, digging, kicking up dust on the way to meet the bottom line.
At 20 years old I couldn’t see the future. At 20 years old what I was writing felt so personal and disconnected from my peers. At 20 years old I couldn’t have known the progress waiting to barrel down that dusty road toward my family’s ranch, bringing me and the world with it.
“Heroes Proved” hasn’t been on my set list for years. I moved it out of the way to make room for new words and ideas.
I never considered that some of my songs might have become more relevant to me over time.
This is one.
He’s in a pink helmet. It’s not his usual get-up, as you know, but we figured he would need it.
See, for the past few weeks he’d been recalling dangerous childhood memories of the time way back in the day when he and his brother owned a ’75 Honda Trail 90 and rode like hell’s fury up and down and around the buttes of this place.
There are stories about ramping things, checking cows, running around with the neighbor kids up the road and, well, concussions. There were a few concussions.
Just the other night he confessed that, before he was old enough to be issued an actual drivers license, he and his friend drove that damn bike thirty miles to town and back again to catch a football game or something, he can’t remember.
It didn’t matter anyway, by the time they actually made it (it took a little while you know, driving at top speeds of 35 MPH and flinging themselves in the ditch’s tall grasses every time a neighbor drove by) it was past dark and whatever event they were trying to catch was long over by then.
Those are the stories we get from Pops. They’re good ones.
And the reason we did what we did.
Coming Home: Stories ride in on Pops’ old motorcycle
by Jessie Veeder
September 15, 2013
Happy Trails to You.
In honor of throwback Thursday and all of the new Veeder Ranch followers, I wanted to share with you one of the first stories I wrote on this blog. For readers new to my shenanigans, it might help you understand what it felt like for me to spend my first summer back on my family’s ranch under the buttes as an adult. For those who have been with me for my long haul of misadventures (Three whole summers now! Thanks for hanging in there and I love you!) this will be a testament to how much I’ve matured since then
Anyway, that first summer I spent in my grandmother’s little brown house was romantic and whimsical and nostalgic. Everything that surrounded me was so familiar–the smell of the clover, the pink dust from the scoria road, the sound of the horses grazing in the pasture outside my bedroom window, the way I can always find a cow pie to step in–yet I felt like I was experiencing it for the first time.
And, because I didn’t have a job lined out, because the plan was to take a breath, I had some time to poke around in the barn and look for new baby kittens, to pick wildflowers, to make mud pies, ride my horse bareback, keep the grass mowed, kick the cows out of the yard, splash in big puddles, and, well, slide down the gumbo hills in the pouring rain.
In my pajamas.
Every thrilling, agonizing minute.
When I am asked to speak at events I often read this post as a way to introduce the audience to the woman they’re dealing with for the next 15 to 45 minutes. I read it not only to introduce myself and to entertain, but to remind them (and me) that regardless of the outcome, regardless of how much we’ve learned about keeping our composure, keeping out of trouble and keeping out of the hospital since we turned into adults, sometimes all we need is to allow ourselves the freedom to act on impulse.
And fling our bodies down a muddy hill because, well, we think it could be fun.
So I invite you to take a minute to read about a silly grown woman who lost her head for a moment, but never regretted it.
And more than likely will never do it again…unless there’s lots of tequila involved.When spontaneity strikes, at least put on pants…
From the archives
August 10, 2010
Peace love and ointment,
July is full of so many seasons out here in the middle of America. We have fireworks season, chokecherry season, lake season, running through the sprinkler season, county fair season, street dance season, grilling season, family reunion season and, of course, wedding season.
This month holds so much potential for fun and connecting with community and family that it’s one of the reasons I wait for it all year.
And one of the reasons each day of sweet July is planned, each square on my calendar is filled in with an idea and an event I cannot miss.
This weekend was one of those that has held its spot of anticipation for months. The youngest of the Veeder cousins had a date to get married and so the rest of the cousins were summoned from Western North Dakota, Eastern North Dakota, Southern North Dakota, Washington DC, South Dakota and Texas to give him hugs and cry because he was all grown up.
And so we were all together to celebrate most of the seasons: fireworks season, wedding season, grilling season, lake season, dancing season and family reunion season.
This past week spent with the cousins and family who used to gather in my grandparent’s tiny house tucked in the buttes of the ranch for Easter egg hunts and turkey dinner and carols by the Christmas tree has been the highlight of my summer.
And so I’ll tell you all about it when I sort through the photos.
I promised you last week and I’ll keep my word.
Because you have to see these beautiful and talented people. And I have to show you a photo of what we used to look like when we ran around these hills as kids decked out in our fanny packs and neon t-shirts, side ponytails and scraped knees.
You won’t believe that we all turned out to be pretty cool in the end.
It’s true, despite, well…this…
But for now it’s back to the grind and back to life on this ranch, a place that rings with the laughter of my cousins and the adventures we made for ourselves out here when we were glued together by grandparents that left us too soon.
Tonight Husband and I will move some cows from the home pasture out east, because July is also made for ranch work. I will sit on top of a horse I learned to ride under this very hot July sun all those years ago and think about the blessings and lessons this ranch has taught me about horses and family and what it means to hang on tight.
Coming Home: Learning their language, horse whisperer or not
By Jessie Veeder
This is what it looks like when you put a house cat out in the snow for the first time in its life.
Coincidently this is also the face that was staring back at her after I peeled her out of my arms like a piece of velcro with really strong legs ..and then again off my head…and then again off of my boots.
We’re in a fight, but don’t feel bad for her, the weather is warming up and I think it’s time she gets acclimated to this wild place.
Yes, tomorrow it will be March and my longing for green grass, crocuses and creek beds overflowing with melted snow will summon me to pull on my muck boots and go exploring for the slightest change in scenery.
It will be March tomorrow, and I feel the chilled surrender that January brings start to break up and separate inside of me, even as I stand under a gray sky that blends into the horizon as if it weren’t a sky at all but a continuation of the snowy landscape…below us, above us…surrounding us.
Flakes fell from that sky yesterday afternoon, big and soft and gentle they drifted down to the icy earth and summoned me from behind my windows to come outside and stick out my tongue.
When the snow falls like this, not sideways or blowing or whipping at our faces, but peaceful and steady and quiet, it’s a small gift. I feel like I’m tucked into the mountains instead of exposed and vulnerable on the prairie. I feel like, even in the final days before March, that someone has shaken the snow globe just the right amount to calm me down and get me out of my head.
When the snow falls like this I go look for the horses. I want to see what those flakes look like as they settle on their warm backs, on their soft muzzles and furry ears. I trudge to the barnyard or to the fields and wait for them to spot me, watching as they move toward that figure in a knit cap and boots to her knees, an irregular dot on a landscape they know by heart.
I know what they want as they stick their noses in my pockets, sniff at my camera and fight for the first spot in line next to me. I know they want a scratch between their ears.
I know they want a bite of grain.
They know I can get it for them.
Our horses in the winter take on a completely different persona. The extra layer of fur they grow to protect them from the weather makes them appear less regal and more approachable.
I like to take off my mitten and run my fingers through that wool, rubbing them down to the skin underneath where they keep the smell of clover and the warmth of the afternoon sun. I like to put my face up to their velvet noses and look into those eyes and wonder if they miss the green grass as much as I do.
On this snowy, gray, almost March afternoon the horses are my closest link to an inevitable summer that doesn’t seem so inevitable under this knit hat, under this colorless sky.
I lead them to the grain bin and open the door, shoveling out scoops of grain onto the frozen ground. They argue over whose pile is whose, nipping a bit and moving from spot to spot like a living carrousel. I talk to the them, “whoah boys, easy” and walk away from the herd with an extra scoop for the new bay, his head bobbing and snorting behind me.
In a month or so the ground will thaw and the fur on the back of these animals will let loose and shake off, revealing the slick and silky coat of chestnut, white, deep brown, gold and black underneath. We will brush them off, untangle their manes, check their feet and climb on their backs and those four legs will carry us over the hills and down in the draws and to the fields where we will watch for elk or deer or stray cattle as the sun sinks below the horizon.
I move my hand across the bay’s back, clearing away the snowflakes that have settled in his long hair and I rest my cheek there, breathing in the scent of hay and dust and warmer days.
He’s settled into chewing now, his head low and hovering above the pile of grain I placed before him. He’s calm and steady so I can linger there for a moment and wonder if he tastes summer in the grain the same way I smell it in his skin.
My farewell to winter is long, lingering and ceremonious.
But it has begun. At last, it has begun.
I woke up this morning with a little krink in my neck, my back stiff and sore, my arms reminding me of muscles that hadn’t been used in a while. The sun was shining through my bedroom window, backlighting the lush green leaves that have come to our world to stay for a while. The cool breeze through the screen prompted me to pull the sheets up to my neck and scootch in closer to Husband.
It’s Monday morning and it seems like the workweek has come in with sparkle and style. I appreciate it.
But the weekend? Well, judging by the dirt hanging out under my fingernails and the size of the laundry pile it seems it was one of the good ones.
No, we didn’t have anything extravagant on our schedules, no vacation on the beach, no road trip to the mountains, no concert or festival, just a couple days spent inside a simple life that we’re working to create here. I wouldn’t even have much to mention about it really, except for somewhere between chasing the cows that got out into the fields with husband, planting Pops’ tomatoes, catfishing on the river with Little Sister and sitting on the porch with a vodka tonic and my mother as the sun began to set at the end of Sunday, I found myself wishing there was more time in my life for chores…and I think I might have realized why ranchers don’t take many vacations….
Because when the sun is shining on my back and the cool breeze moves through the sweaty tendrils of hair that have escaped from my ponytail, it’s hard to be too upset that the cows got out. In fact, sitting on top of a good horse watching so the cows and their babies don’t miss the gate as Husband moves back and forth behind them, gently pushing the pairs along, I find I’m glad for the work.
And glad that I got to push my horse to a full-out run as I raced to stop the lead cow from finding her way to the brush. Grateful I had that chance to cowgirl up, feel that wind in my hair and power of the horse beneath me.
Proud the two of us turned the herd around on our own and happy to be working alongside a man who loves this work as much as I do.
Summer weekends like this remind me of what it was like to grow up out here, a ranch kid with three months off and no driver’s license. Sure, I had the occasional coveted trip to town to swim in the public pool, but for the most part we were out here riding in the fencing pickup with Pops, chasing cows on sunny mornings trying to beat the mid-day scorching heat, mowing the lawn and eating summer sausage sandwiches for lunch. The work with Pops was never stressful or hurried, just constant and quiet and he was glad for the company…it didn’t matter if the ten-year-old and fifteen-year-old in the seat next to him were too uncoordinated to run the wire stretcher.
I remember the heat, the sweat, the horseflies and wood ticks we would find as we rode through the thorny brush on our way to find a stray cow. I remember the country station coming through the static and speakers of the old fencing pickup as Pops climbed out to fix a wire and I leaned my head on the sill of the window and watched the grasshoppers fling themselves to the sky. I remember taking my little sister to climb up the clay buttes while we waited for Pops to emerge from the mud underneath the stock-tank he was fixing.
I remember taking a break from the sun under the shade of the tree line and the way the cool grass felt under the pockets of my jeans.
I remember the smell of the wet dirt as Little Sister and I dug in the ground below our house on the hunt for worms…because the work was going to have to wait…Pops was going to take us catfishing.
When I think of early summer I think of these things. And this weekend it seemed I had an instinct to recreate and live life the way summers here were meant to be lived. So after the cows were rounded up on Saturday, the flowers were in their pots and Husband had enough tinkering with the plumbing on the new house, I called up my Little Sister who has just moved back to town and told her to bring her cooler.
We were going catfishing at the river.
The process is always the same: pack a bag full of sunflower seeds, bug spray, long sleeve shirts and something chocolate. Fill a cooler full of beer. Hunt unsuccessfully for all remaining pieces of the fishing supplies you haven’t seen together in one place for months. Patch together a mis-mash of fishing line, hooks, reels and poles and say it’s good enough. Search high and low for the missing camp chairs. Put on your short shorts and get in the pickup, roll down the windows and head south toward the Little Missouri where the water runs low and slow through the slick clay banks of the badlands.
Each year we debate about the location of our favorite fishing spot, wonder if we’ve missed the turn and discuss how the moisture from the previous winter has changed the trail. And we are reminded once we arrive of why we come here, the seclusion and quiet of the untouched banks makes us feel free and wild and capable of catching our own supper.
We kick off our shoes as they grow heavy with the mud of the banks. Little Sister and I cast lines that have been prepared for us.
And then we’re quiet, our attention turned toward the calm flow of the river and the beaver who is working on tearing branches from a willow branch on the other side.
Then my line tips. We hold our breath. Someone says ‘reel’ and everyone stands up as husband runs toward the banks to ensure a safe arrival of this strange looking fish emerging from the muddy water of the river.
We laugh and celebrate. We brag. We take a picture and re-worm our hooks.
Open another beer.
Sit on a rock.
Watch the clouds roll in.
Spit seeds on the banks.
Declare 8:00 pm to be the witching hour.
Wait for another tip to bend.
Leap up when Husband starts reeling. I jump and holler in excitement but do nothing to help ensure the fish makes it safely to shore. Husband moves toward the deep mud at the bank as the fish flops and struggles and the fisherman leaps to grab it…
But it’s too late…it’s escaped to the mucky water, a worm in its belly leaving two fishermen stranded in mud up past their knees.
I say I can’t believe it got away.
Little Sister laughs hysterically as she watches me snap photos of my dearly beloved sinking deeper and deeper by the second into the slick mud of the riverbank while he tries to hand me his pole so he can escape.
The sun sinks toward the horizon and the thunderheads move in, reflecting blue and gray on the surface of the murky river water. We declare it time to reel up.
We let my catfish go, deciding it’s not enough fish worth the work of cleaning it. And besides, I have steaks waiting for us at home.
Muddy and tired and full of mosquito bites and bug spray, we head for the trail that leads us to the highway and then the pink gravel road that meets up with the ranch house. Husband fires up the grill. I pour something over ice.
We open the windows and we are us. Dirty and hungry and smelling of horse hair and sweat and fish.
It’s summer at the ranch and the tomatoes need to be planted. There is a house to finish, plumbing and wiring to be done, and corrals to be patched. The cows found an open spot in the fence and are heading down the road. We will know this tomorrow and we will saddle up to bring them home after coffee and bacon in the morning.
The sun will be shining, the breeze will be cool, the cows will be willing to move…
…and we won’t mind the work.
Last week in the middle of a life that sent me down to the scary basement of this old house to search for things to throw away, I found something I didn’t know I had.
And that something might have turned into one of the most important pieces of my life.
See, among our snowshoes, highschool yearbooks, that old radio noone can throw away, games of Cranium and Catch Phrase, college text books and papers, canning jars and countless pairs of boots was a box I didn’t recognize.
And in this box filled with odds and ends that echoed the man who was outside trying to start our lawnmower– an old rope, a tarnished belt-buckle, a necklace made from deer antlers, a tupperwear dish full of shot-gun shells and two-dollar bills– were little pieces of paper, neatly folded and tucked away in a shiny cardboard package…
My 16-year-old handwriting telling our love story.
I would have missed it, the memories of a love that blossomed when we were much too young for things like love, if one of those neatly folded letters didn’t find its way out of the box and onto the dusty floor as I moved that box into the hallway in an effort to consolidate the neglected pieces of our lives. I tossed the box aside to retrieve the piece of paper that looked so familiarly intriguing. I squatted down on the floor and unfolded the page.
I recognized that handwriting.
I recognized the feelings.
But I didn’t recognize the words.
Up and down notebook pages, on typing paper and inside homemade cards were professions of my adoration toward a boy who used to meet me at my locker and walk with me to class. A boy who played football and had a yellow dog, whose hair was never right and neither were his parents. A boy who gave me my first kiss and drove a Thunderbird too fast on the highway to my house every Sunday to ride horses and teach my little sister to play chess…
A boy who received those notes, folded them back up, put them in his pocket only to tuck them away in a box to be saved and moved from place to place as he went off to college with the girl, drove her to Yellowstone National Park in the middle of July with no air conditioning, proposed to her under her favorite oak tree, married her there and proceeded to work on the happily ever after.
I didn’t know the boy kept the notes.
I didn’t know the man still had them.
I didn’t remember the girl who wrote them.
A quirky girl who made up stories about turtles stuck on fence posts in an attempt to make the boy laugh. A girl who unabashedly poured her feelings out on pages she hand delivered to the boy who would write her notes back with no notion that any other eyes would ever see…
I took those notes out one by one and on the floor of the grimy basement I was reminded of that girl with frizzy hair and a Ford LTD that guzzled oil and needed a jump start after school.
I was reminded of the boy who always had jumper cables waiting when the bell rang.
And as each page unfolded so did the memories of what it was like to be 16 and so in love.
We were all there once weren’t we? You can remember it can’t you? Your first car ride together. Your first kiss. Fight. Breakup.
Most people have gone through the process and then started it all over again with another first kiss, another first car ride, another first fight…a series of excitement and emotions that cycle through in different ways with different people until you find the one you choose to hang on tight to. And you may or may not have written love letters. And they may or may not be in someone’s basement, someone who is a stranger now, someone who remembers you with a scent of perfume or an old favorite song on the radio as they are driving down familiar roads.
If there is one thing in my life that makes me wonder about fate and choices and understanding the human connection, it is this relationship I have had with this boy who is now my husband. The familiar road? I never strayed. That favorite song? It has not stopped playing.
That first car ride together? We’re still driving.
And sometimes I’ll admit that I wonder if I knew anything back then. That hair? Are you kidding? Those high-water pants? Kill me. The decision to buy two baby turtles and raise them under a heat lamp in an aquarium in my dorm room? Not the most logical.
I admit there have been times I have wondered if I missed out on something, if I shouldn’t have gotten so comfortable, if I should have had my heart broken a few more times…kissed more boys…
But I read those letters last week, the ones I scrawled during study hall and math class when I should have been paying attention. My words were never chosen carefully and mostly I said nothing at all except something about a test that and a note to him about luck at a football game or singing on the weekend.
Then I came across a note with a drawing of a house with a chimney in the crook of a hill. Beside it I drew a barn and below it a creek that wound through a fenced in pasture. In the pasture I drew two horses, one for him and one for me. I also drew a pig and a goat, a cow and boat in the dam I built with the creek on the edge of the paper. There were two vehicles in the driveway: A pickup for him. A car for me.
Now, I had been looking for love stories lately, hunting them down and reading them, watching them on television, asking people how they met, opening my eyes to see one walking down the street, at a table next to me in a restaurant or in the line at the grocery store.
Lately I’d been feeling like maybe our story wasn’t enough.
Then I opened another letter and read: “If we can say we loved each other for a lifetime I will have lived my dreams.”
Now I didn’t know anything then about life and how hard it can be to live out dreams and make things like this work.
I still don’t.
But I have to give that 16 year old credit. She may not have known what she wanted to be, how far she wanted to travel or how to properly boil an egg.
But she knew what she was doing.
She knew what love was.
When I was ten years old Pops gave me a hard covered journal that he pulled out of the basement of his parent’s house. He retrieved it from a bookshelf and handed it to his middle daughter, the one who would scribble poems about dogs and horses and big prairie skies on notebook paper. He flipped through the blank pages of the journal, inspecting it for forgotten words, and then handed it to me. And told me to write.
I imagine the book was something my Pops picked up at a gift shop or got for Christmas from a family member, an object that could have been tossed or used for grocery lists, but instead sat stored away in that basement for years waiting for me.
I have a memory of when he handed that book over to me, one I’m not certain I didn’t make up in a dream or something. It’s a memory that is full of inspiration and imagination and possibilities. It was as if my father had handed me potential–blank pages that smelled of must and mothballs waiting for someone to write something brilliant and touching and moving.
Waiting for me to be brilliant.
I had those pages filled before my twelfth birthday with poems about the creek behind my house, rodeos, horses, wildflowers and not wanting to grow up. My handwriting was neat and loopy, slanting diagonally across the unlined pages, sentences about the colors in rainbows and wishes trailing right out of my adolescent head and down the center of the pages.
I didn’t know it at the time but that book is where my music career started. Those words I wrote turned to melodies when I picked up a guitar for the first time, practicing other people’s music, but spending most of my time creating my own. I would play with my words, ramble with the lines and phrasing for nobody’s ears but my own. And because I was the only one listening, I could say what I meant or make no sense at all.
It didn’t matter.
It was for me.
Besides my little sister who was sleeping with her door half-open across the hallway from my bedroom, my dad’s ears were always the first to hear my music.
I’m thinking about this today because I am in the middle of recording a new album. It’s an album of music I’ve been writing since I moved back to the place I grew up…back to the place where that ten-year-old tomboy scraped her knees and caught frogs and wrote it all down. I’ve done this studio thing before and I’ll tell you, it isn’t easy to introduce music that you’ve written on lazy Sundays, in the middle of the night or pulled over sitting in your car on the side of the road to a room full of musicians you respect and admire. Performing songs for the first time that only the walls and dogs have heard have been some of the most intimidating and emotional experiences in my life.
Because I believe in it. I know what I’m trying to say.
Or at least I think I do.
And when I make the decision to share it, to record it, to perform it, to get in the studio at long last, I second guess that decision about seventy to eighty times before I make the trip down the interstate with my Pops and our guitars.
But it comes down to one thing in the end.
And the songs are mine. Soul-baringly mine. So eventually I’ve got to play them. It’s kinda the whole point.
So I start by plucking my guitar, closing my eyes tight and leaning in against the microphone, wondering if it’s possible to hold my breath and sing at the same time. The first note rings out and then the first verse and it’s just me exposed waiting for my father to pick up his guitar and add a rhythm, my dear and talented friend to lean over his dobro and fill in with a haunting lick, the bass to kick in a long lonesome note…the drums to find the heart beat.
And soon my song becomes their song and the room is filled with it. The guys I’ve trusted with the notes have given it a pulse and the music I wrote on my living room floor lends itself to a harmonica part, a guitar breath…a long pause.
And sometimes it happens that I’m in that studio, two days into laying down tracks about the landscape, my home, my love and maybe even a quirky song about a dog, and things are going well. I think I’ve almost made it through the hard part, if only I could skip through the song that scares me the most.
Because it’s the one that is so personal I am certain no one is going to understand. It’s the one that makes me cry big sobs before I reach the end.
The one that they are telling me to try. Just try it out.
And so I take a deep breath and work to come down off a bouncy song I wrote about being happy and living in the moment.
I suppose living in the moment counts for hard stuff too, so I take my own advice…
play the notes on my guitar…and sing…
“I dreamed you on the prairie,
on mountain tops and oceans wide…”
I hear my voice waiver through my headphones but I’m ok. I decide I might get through it…until I hit the second breath and the sweet sound of my friend’s guitar part fills in the quiet spaces the exact way I have heard it in my head…if only I could play that way…
“I loved you before I met you…”
My voice cracks and it’s over before it started…but my band keeps playing, coming in with a low bass part and a quiet whisper of a drum.
So I keep singing and sniffling because the music’s just too beautiful to give in to an emotion I’ve pushed down so long that it became fed up.
I decide that if it’s time for this I might as well capture it. Isn’t this what music is about?
So the guitar lead pulls me into the chorus and I whimper the words behind the glass of my isolation booth. I wonder if the guys can see the tears streaming down my face behind the shield of the microphone…
The sound coming out of their instruments makes me feel less alone though, which touches me so deeply that more tears roll and no words come out.
But the guys keep playing, taking me through the bridge of my song as I sing it like I’m collapsing in on myself.
I close my eyes and breathe in the rhythm they have found for me as I gather myself for the ending note, the note that I squeak out but they let hang subtly and quietly in the air of the studio.
I wipe my eyes and apologize as I put down my guitar to step out of the room only to find the two men who have been the background to my music my entire life: my father and the sweet talented dobro man, with eyes red and teary too.
Feeling for me.
Playing my music like it is their own.
So I’ll tell you this today as I sit in the middle of this music project and reflect on the weekend I spent lost in the music. When I moved back to the ranch as a grown woman with plans to make plans I wasn’t prepared to run into my ten-year-old self again. I wasn’t prepared to fall in love like her, to get the same flush in my cheeks, to embrace loneliness, celebrate life and morn losses the way I used to when I was so young and vulnerable and completely honest.
I didn’t expect that she would grab my hand, take me on walks, sit with me on hilltops and quietly push me to fill up some blank pages again…and then sing those songs out loud to the prairie sky.
But she did. And I open her book today and find poetry and stories that are innocent and awful and embarrassing. But I’ll tell you if I had to save something in a fire it would be that book. It has sat on my nightstand next to my lamp for nearly twenty years, a reminder of the girl who chose to fill it up with the stories about her world and everything that was inside of her.
And the only way I can think to thank her is to keep doing what she has done…
Curious about the new music coming from the red dirt roads?
Listen to me talk about life in oil country as I play my new song “Boomtown” live from my momma’s kitchen
Follow the progress of my new album at www.jessieveedermusic.com
Recording at Makoche Recording Company in downtown, Bismarck, ND