Layers.

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.

Sunday Column: Holding on is the best part…

Wedding
Last week Husband and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. I went to the new grocery store and picked up crab legs, opened a bottle of champagne and we sat at our kitchen table and looked out the window at the tall grass and the setting sun and remembered what it was like

To be 15 and at the movies together for the first time

To be 16 driving the backroads in his Thunderbird

To be 17 and making plans to leave this place

To be 18 and away from home together

To be 21 and uncertain about where to go from there

To be 23 and married under the oak tree at the ranch with nothing ahead of us but time and gravel roads and plans we started making when we were 15.

Wedding Tree

Today my dearly beloved is outside hammering and screwing a big deck to the side of our house so that we can spend the rest of our summers opening the sliding glass doors with a glass of wine, a plate of steaks, watermelon for cutting or corn for husking, a magazine, a guitar or a good book to accompany us while we look out over our little homestead under the big blue sky or setting sun.

My future with this man has not always been clear, but it has always held him close: in the hot summer sun wiping the sweat from his forehead as he measures and saws and plans, bundled up against the winter winds on his way to work, rolling out his mother’s noodle recipe on the kitchen counter, throwing a stick for our big brown dog, riding a good horse behind some good cows, rocking our children and next to me, no matter what, just near me.

And so I hold on. I’ve held on since we I was eleven years old sitting next to him in band class.

Coming Home: Loving the same man for more than half my life
by Jessie Veeder
8/18/13
Fargo Forum
www.inforum.com 

I hold on because it just keeps getting better.

What you get when I’m stuck in the house…

Happy Friday to you. I hope you get off work early and have plans to sip cold drink on a summery deck somewhere.

I’m spending mine under a blanket on my cozy couch dosed up on pain pills after partaking in a little surgery (nothing major…and no, not a nose job) yesterday.

Yes, full disclosure, I’m on drugs.

Word is I’ll be feeling better tomorrow. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway as I’ve been enduring daytime television programming and small attempts at sounding coherent on work calls I decided to return since I am home and not supposed to go anywhere.

And now for your lesson of the day: you shouldn’t return work calls when you’re on hyrdocodone.

You probably shouldn’t respond to emails either. Or write a blog.

Horse

But I could be worse. I could be Little Sister. She got her wisdom teeth removed on Wednesday.

She looks like a chipmunk and can’t eat Doritos.

So there’s that.

At least I can eat Doritos. If we had Doritos.

I could really go for some Doritos…

Yup, we’re a pathetic lot out here at the ranch.  But while we’ve been resting Husband and Little Sister’s man have been working on putting up the deck in time for my birthday party because, besides world peace, my one birthday wish is that I will be able to celebrate  30 by toasting to old age with tequila on the beautiful deck attached to our house.

And my husband, bless his handyman soul, is doing what he can.

I’ll keep you posted.

But for now, in honor of Friday, mandatory couch time and my drug induced loss for words, I would like to give you a little update on what’s been going on around the old homestead these days.

To sum it up, it’s August and it’s been raining, which is not common for this month. Our ranch missed the recent devastating hail storm that rolled in across the country side, wiping out large wheat fields and leaving farmers to shake their heads at the loss.  We are shaking ours at the thought.

The cows have been finding a new hole in the fence to crawl through every day because the grass is apparently greener.

The horses are sleek and are spending the warm days swishing their tails, nodding their heads and running from the flies,

the chokecherries are ripe, the plums will soon follow,

the clover is tall, the late summer wildflowers are in bloom,

the oil is still pumping,

The badlands are at their best,

LIttle Man keeps growing up,

the dogs have decided it’s their duty to protect us from the squirrels in the trees, so that’s why they never stop barking if you’re wondering…

The dragonflies are back for their fill of mosquitos. So are the bats. And we don’t mind at all.

The thunderheads roll in at night,

and the sunsets are spectacular.

There’s even been some rainbow sightings.

And we’re pretty happy around here, even when we’re not on the painkillers…

So you should come for a visit. You can stay in the cabin. That came this month too.

And God willing, in a week I’ll have a deck and I’ll pour you a cold one and we can cheers to good friends and good weather and good health.

But for a little while, I’ll be here, under this blanket, eating Doritos and watching that deck go up from the cool side of the window…

Peace, Love and pain medication,

Jessie

In July…

There’s not much I don’t like about July in North Dakota. It’s like 1,000 degrees out today, and I’m still gonna say it.

Because there’s a breeze. There’s always a breeze.

If I could hold on to this month for another I would. I would take the horseflies if it meant another thirty days of thundershowers in the evening…

Wild sunflowers in the road ditches…

Haybales lined up nice and neat in the fields…

Chasing cattle in the cool draws…

and windows open at night.

I’d take the pissed off squirrel chattering in the tree by my head if it meant I could sleep with the cool breeze tickling the curtains for another few days.

It’s kind of a funny way to wake up.

Kind of like I’m sleeping in a tree house.

Which is a pretty perfect place to be in July.

It’s summer now…


It’s summer now and the days are long, the sun moving slowly across the sky and hanging at the edge of the earth for stretched out moments, giving us a chance to put our hands on our hips and say “what a perfect night.”

It’s summer now and before dark officially falls we ride to the hill tops and then down through the cool draws where the shade and the grass and the creek bed always keep a cool spot for us.

Because it’s summer now and things are warming up. The leaves are out and so are the wildflowers, stretching and blooming and taking in the fleeting weather.

It’s summer now and the cows are home…

and so is Husband, home before the sun sets. Home to get on a horse and find Pops and ride fence lines.

It’s summer now and the dogs’ tongues hang out while they make their way to the spot of shade on the gravel where the truck is parked. They are panting. They are smiling. They just got in from a swim.

Because it’s summer now and the water where the slick-backed horses drink, twitching and swiping their tails at flies, is warm and rippling behind the oars of the water bugs, the paddle of duck’s feet, the leap of a frog and the dunk of a beaver’s escape.

It’s summer now and we keep the windows open so even when we’re inside we’re not really inside.

We can’t be inside.


Because it’s summer now and there’s work to be done. We say this as we stand leaning up against a fence post, thinking maybe if we finish the chores we could squeeze in time for fishing.

Because it’s summer and we heard they’re biting.

Yes, it’s summer and we should mow the grass before the clouds bring the thunderstorm that will wake us in the early morning hours of the next day. And it’s summer so we will lay there with the windows open listening to it roll and crack, feeling how the electricity makes our hearts thump and the air damp on our skin. Maybe we will sleep again, maybe we’ll rise to stand by the window and watch the lightening strike and wonder where this beautiful and mysterious season comes from.

And why, like the storm, it’s always just passing through.

Listening.


I went to bed last night with the windows open in the loft where we built our master bedroom. It was our first night in our room we’ve been working for months to complete and when I returned home from a night away on a singing job I found that my bed was moved upstairs,  made and waiting for us to snuggle down and reap the benefits of another step almost complete.

I don’t know how Husband got it up there without the help of my giant muscles, but he did. And I was glad.

And exhausted.

When we were making plans for this house two years ago my idea was that when it was all said and done we would feel like we were living in a tree house and with the installation of the railing a few weeks ago I felt like our vision was finally coming together.

It made me feel like all that time spent looking at Better Homes and Gardens magazines and Googling things like “rustic railings” and “vintage lighting” and “log cabins” and “how to get wood glue and green paint out of my favorite Steve Earl t-shirt” was finally paying off.

I snuggled down next to Husband up there in our bedroom and made note of  how we were a little closer to the stars and I liked it that way, up there among the oak tree tops.

This morning I woke up to Husband sneaking out to work. I rolled over to catch a few more blinks, noticing how the sky was beginning to turn pink with the touch of the first moments of sun. I thought I should get up, rise with it, drink my coffee and start on my writing project, but I slipped back to sleep for a moment while the world lit up.

And I woke again to the sound of a pissed off squirrel in the tree tops next to my head reading another critter its rights over something like trespassing on his side of oak or a stolen acorn.

At least that’s what I imagined as I woke from a dream about nothing in particular that I can remember.

I laid on my back and listened to that squirrel chatter, his obnoxious, angry squawk rising above the hundreds of bird species singing their morning song, the breeze rustling the full grown leaves and a truck kicking up dust on the pink road.

And although I couldn’t hear it, I thought about the swish of the horses’ tails in the pasture, the buzz the flies make around their ears and the soft nicker in their throats when I approach with a grain bucket.

I thought about the cattle pulling dew covered green grass from the ground, munching and chewing and bellowing low for their calves.

I thought about the croak of the frogs in the dam, the familiar sound I fall asleep to each night we let the windows open and the air in.

I thought about the plop of the turtle leaving his rock for a swim in that dam. I thought about the howl of the coyote and the sound of the dogs crying back.

I thought about my fingers squeaking across the strings of my guitar, sitting out on the chair under the small oaks, working to make a melody.

I thought about the sound of my husband’s breathing and the words he says out loud at night when the world is sleeping and so is he. I thought about what he might dream about.

And then I thought about the silence in this house as I lie listening to the world I was letting in through open windows. Silence between walls that have absorbed the noise of saw blades spinning, voices discussing dinner, crying over tiling projects and laughing at the memory of the stupid kids we used to be. It will be quiet in here today with the exception of my fingers moving over the computer keys, the coffee pot beep and the ice cubes dropping in the refrigerator. I will run the shower and get ready for a trip to sing outside in a different town this evening.

When I get home it will be late and Husband will be sleeping on the couch, the television reflecting the light of other peoples’ stories off his scruffy face. I will switch it off and walk up the steps to our bedroom to get closer to the stars and fall asleep to the sound of the frogs, thinking about the mornings to come in this house, the sounds of Christmases and birthday parties, failed dinners and dancing in the living room, conversations with friends, fights about bills and schedules and time, sobs about missing someone and laughter about having just what we need in a tree house with the windows open to the sounds of our wild world.

The evolution of a season.

It’s another rainy, windy afternoon at the ranch. It seems like once the sky decided to open up it just can’t stop. It feels like March when the sky wouldn’t stop snowing. It feels like this spring has been finicky and harsh and extreme and it has enjoyed every minute it has kept me waiting.

Waiting for the snow to stop.

Waiting for the sun to shine.

Waiting for the rain to come.

Waiting for it to stop raining.

Waiting on the sun to shine.

I know there will be a time this summer where the dust will blow again and we will pray for a bit of relief from the heat and the dry, but where I come from there is not a balance.

There is only extreme.

Extremely cold.

Extremely windy.

Wind

Extremely hot.

Extremely green.

Extremely wet.

Extremely dry.

Extremely perfectly beautiful.

Some days I feel like the weather. These days especially. The windows have been streaked with rain for a few weeks and I have been suffering from a weird sort of lingering head cold that refuses to break up and leave like the damn rain.

I’ve been working hard to ignore it, to say the rain will clear and I will feel better, but today I submitted. I stayed home under a blanket to watch it fall.

I’ll feel better tomorrow.

Head cold or no head cold, it seems I’m always so affected by the seasons and how they change, like the weather and my mood hold hands to greet the day accordingly.

Which makes me wonder how annoyingly bright-sided I’d be if I lived in the sunny, 70 degree climate of southern California.

It sounds nice right now, the sun.

But I think the constant change of seasons help me and what my husband refers to as my “restless spirit.” He says it’s hard for me to sit in one place. It’s hard for me to be comfortable in routine.

He says it’s good for me to have all this space to wander out here.

Maybe he’s right and maybe it’s hard to understand how a girl can be so rooted and so restless.

But it’s no worry to me really. I know where I belong out here, changing with the weather.

Evolving with the season.









The world is full…

This world is full of wild and thirsty things

skin and bones and muscles
feathers on black wingssoft petals on pink flowers
and stem and branch and leafwaiting on the cool rain
waiting for the greenThis world is full of a sneaking kind of goldyou can find it on horizons
can’t be bought or held or sold and only in the morning
or at the perfect time of night
welcoming a new day
setting up the lightThis world is filled with the most peculiar sounds croaks and sighs and wails
and squeaks coming from the ground and up above a whistle
and from the hills a lonesome cry and I wonder if the calling
is hellos or sad goodbyes This world is full of wonder and moments to be brave and moments to remember
why we’re here and why we came and moments to be thirsty and moments to beholdand moments just to listen to all the life outside our door

Crocuses and how it could keep getting better…

It’s officially crocus season, and that’s good news out here on the edge of the badlands where we’ve all been patiently waiting for them to arrive, as if the blooming of the first flower gives us permission to pack away our sweaters and pull out the short sleeves.

Well, that’s what I did anyway. I made a mountain out of the sweaters shoved in my closet. I pulled them out ceremoniously flinging them to the floor, purging my room of winter before I stood back and seriously contemplated throwing them out the window and lighting a match on the whole damn pile.

But that would have been crazy, and, well, let’s be honest, I’ll need them again in a few short months. Anyway, I didn’t have time for that. Little Sister was coming over and she had plans to soak up the sunshine and I had plans to procrastinate painting the bathroom.

So we grabbed our cameras and the herd of dogs…

One…

Two…

Three…

Four.

and went climbing around, scouring the ground for the purple flower.


Turns out we didn’t have to go far.





When you become familiar with a place in all of it’s seasons, you memorize where the crocuses bloom in the spring, where to go to pick chokecherries and raspberries in the summer, and to always, no matter the season, watch out for cactus.

We know these places because prairie people like us have vivid memories of hunting for crocuses with our grandmother, sisters, mothers or fathers, bending over to pull them from the tangle of brown grass while the warm spring wind picked up the loose hair that escaped from our ponytails.

I’ve been living back at the ranch for three springs and I will be here for the rest of the springs I am given. I will never forget what it felt like to climb to that hilltop and pick the first crocus of the year as I stood with my husband we looked down at our home.

And we were happy to be together, happy for summer to arrive and happy to stand on that hill for a moment that we were sure couldn’t get much better from here.

Then my Little Sister moved to our hometown and now the whole family is together and close and on Monday mornings I can expect a call asking me what I’m doing this weekend. Because my Little Sister plans ahead and I’m glad to be consulted on those plans.

So Saturday’s plans made room for crocus hunting in the warm sunshine next to a girl who used to follow me on my after school walks up the creek to my fort. I used to wish she would leave me alone then. I used to holler at her to stop following me and when we came in the house crying and fighting, our mom would promise us that someday, we would be best friends.

Funny how moms are usually, most likely, pretty much, always exactly right.

Funny how some things change, but I still haven’t mastered the art of convincing Little Sister to help me with my chores…like, oh, you know, painting the bathroom.

Funny how she still doesn’t listen to me.

Funny how the crocuses bloom on the same hill every year and someday we might have a chance to watch our own children run to the top and pick us a purple bloom.

Funny how it could possibly keep getting better.

A walk.


In honor of spring and the wind and the sun and the green grass poking up around us, I would like to take you along on my favorite trail, the one that leads to the east pasture from our house, up along the buffalo fence, to the top of a rocky cliff and then down again to the stock dam and back toward home.

Next week this walk will be a little bit greener, a little bit warmer and, hopefully, I’ll find some crocuses.

Next week maybe I’ll leave the damn dogs at home so they don’t scare away the wildlife with their slobbering, panting, running, and puking.

I guess that’s what happens when you run at full speed after a duck, ignoring the screams from your owner to come back.

That’s what you get when you try out your instincts after seven months of lounging.

It’s been a long winter.

I would have puked too.

Anyway, I hope the sun is shining wherever you are and you have the chance to explore your favorite spot this weekend.

Now, off we go…

Sorry weird cat, you gotta stay home…

























Take a breath. Take a walk. Take a break. Take some time.

Happy, happy weekend.