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.

And then came the sun.

This morning I woke up to another dreary, snowy, cold, white, un-springy day, a husband who couldn’t make it to work on account of a night spent puking and a pug literally hiding with his head under the covers and his ass facing the world.

I felt like doing the same thing, not puking, but, you know, just letting my ass face the world. Because, I mean, look at it…not a crocus in sight…

I was going to tell you all about it, after I took a few photos of the icicles hanging off the eaves,

the gray, dreary sky, the white flakes fluttering across bare and brown branches,

cold, leftover leaves,

big brown dog’s big brown cold nose,

and  ground just begging to warm up…

I was prepared to feel like the pug who doesn’t wake up to face the dog dish until well after the noon hour, going to absorb the sad, gray, so unspringlike day into my veins and mope a bit over peanut butter toast and coffee that just couldn’t be black enough, ignore the dishes in the sink and just say well shit, it’s snowing. It’s snowing again.

But then the sun came out.

and the gray turned to sparkle,

the bland to beautiful,

the gray to blue,

and the leftovers looked a little less lonely.

Ah, the sun.

The sun!

Look at that, the sun.

What a difference you made.



I hope you found your sun today.

A boot in a snowbank and a puppy in the house.

And now, for a brief story about how my momma came home one evening last week to find one of her fancy boots laying haphazardly in a snowbank in the front yard…as told by my mother, to me, over wine sloshing in a glass while she waved it in exasperation and disbelief.  

Jessie, I have to tell you something. Did I tell you this already? I don’t know. Well, oh my gawd, yesterday I left the house to go to work, and, well, oh you know that puppy just makes me so nervous when I’m backing out of the garage. She jumps around and follows me, it’s like the most stressful part of my day trying to get her to stay out of the way. She’s so cute but, ugh, I don’t want to run her over…

Anyway, so I go to work and come home that night and open the door from the garage to the house, and, Jessie, I know that door was shut when I got home, and I’m sure I closed it when I left for work. You know that puppy tries to follow me in the house and I say, ‘no, get back’ and shoo her out of there, so I know I shut it.

But anyway, I open the door and I get in the entryway and I feel like something’s off, you know. Like someone’s been in here. Then I notice a FedEx package, so I figure that was it. The FedEx guy dropped off a package, no big deal. But I walked a little further into the house and I see little tracks on the kitchen floor leading into the living room, like the puppy had been in the house! And then I get to the living room and some of my shoes and clothes from my bedroom were strung out into the living room. And I look around then and there’s other things too, like dad’s gloves and hats from the garage are in the house. It was weird. So I wondered if somehow I accidentally let the puppy in before I went to work, but I’m sure I didn’t. I’m sure of it. And she was in the garage when I got home, but if she got in how did she get out?

Anyway, so I start picking up the stuff from the living room and notice one of my new Corral boots, you know, the fancy ones, the ones I just bought…yeah, those…one of them is missing! I can’t find it anywhere in the house. It wasn’t in the living room or kitchen or back in the bedrooms.

Well, you know where it was? Outside! Outside in a snow bank.

I looked out the window and there it was. And I don’t get it. How did she get in and how did she get out? Oh, that puppy, she just loves to drag things. Dad told you she got his box of gloves down from the shelf in the garage last week, somehow, I don’t know how she got up there, anyway, she pulled them down and spread every glove out on the garage floor and out into the yard. She’s even found his power tools, has been chewing on them.

Anyway, so my boot was ok. Thank gawd. Thank gawd it wasn’t snowing or anything and she didn’t eat it. But I still don’t know how she got in the house and out of the house while we were gone? I know I shut that door when I left and I’m pretty sure I didn’t lock her in there.

The only thing I can think is like maybe the FedEx man accidentally let her in when he dropped off the package. You know how she can sneak in the door behind you and if you’re not paying attention she’s gets in the house…but how did she get out? Maybe the door isn’t latching the right way…I don’t know…

I don’t know. It’s a mystery. But my boot? Can you believe it!? Ugh, thank gawd it was ok…

Oh, Juno...


Farmers at the Super Bowl.

So you watched the Super Bowl. You saw the game, you saw Beyonce shake it, you saw the lights go out and, among the flashy messages, the advertisements for M&Ms and beer and phones and underwear and cologne, you saw this:

Another ad for another product, yes. But one that had a message attached to it that has sent my world into a humming since it aired.

Now it’s possible you missed it. It’s possible you didn’t hear it tucked in there among the baby Clydesdale and the elderly escaping the nursing home for a night at Taco Bell.  It didn’t make the top ten commercials and didn’t get nearly as much buzz in other parts of the country, but it sure is buzzing here.

I don’t usually comment on pop culture or what ‘s happening on T.V. or in sports here because I’ve made it my mission to talk about different things: the way the sun shines on the back of a horse, how the wind blows snow across the prairie and what it’s like to be a woman connected to a place, but as a girl who grew up feeding cattle alongside her father in the coldest winter nights, someone who watched him doctor horses, bring new-born and frozen calves into the basement of the house and nurse them back to life, as a former FFA president and the 4th generation on my family’s ranch, I have to talk about this.

I have to tell you why people like me have been so inclined to share this advertisement, to watch it over and over again, to shout its praises from the rooftops and, well, post it on every social media networking site they can link up to out here in the boonies.

Because finally, among the hype of sports, the glitzy glam of pop culture, the humor and the ruckus and the fight to be the winner, right there in the most prime real-estate of prime-time television someone out there felt it might be important enough to slow it down and tell our story.

Now, I wasn’t at every Super Bowl party in middle America during the 2.5 minutes Paul Harvey’s message was pumped into millions of homes across the country, but I was at one, and as soon as that familiar voice spoke the first word, the room fell silent.

We held our breath in that moment we were certain we were looking at an image from our backyards: a black baldie cow near a barbed wire fence in a barren, snow-covered prairie.

We were quiet because we saw our church standing tall and worn beside a country road,

we saw our grandfather with callused hands and a face wrinkled and weathered from the long days spent in the elements.

We shushed our voices and choked back a tear for the colt our father couldn’t save, laughed a little because we’ve ridden a horse using a head stall made out of hay wire and smiled at the memory of our father’s stopping the tractor to move a nest of newborn rabbits out of harm’s way.

We saw ourselves standing in those fields, our grandmother’s eyes under that hat, our mother holding our hand, our father holding on hope.

We saw our children in the steady cadence of comforting words and a familiar voice that we’ve heard coming through the static on our old tractor radio for years.

The rest of the story.

Our story.

Some days I feel like we’re moving further and further from our connection to the land and the understanding of the dirt from which that potato was plowed. Farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists are not known to stand at the pulpit and tell their stories to the masses. No. Many spend long days working alone in the combine, on the back of a horse checking cattle or working fencing pliers in the deep brush.We share our stories by living them alongside our elders, hoping to learn something, dreaming that one day we might be fortunate enough to try our hand at tending the land.

I know my grandfather’s story. I see the old equipment that couldn’t be repaired breaking the wind from the hilltops on this place. I find little pieces of wire, old engines, scraps of leather, worn coveralls and other little pieces of a life spent scraping and saving and getting by in the old out buildings, in the 100 year old barn, in the fences that need to be repaired. My father keeps the same collection, adding to it at will in case he might need to patch something up.

I know my father’ s story. I know that on Sunday mornings he will knock on the door of my house like he does every weekend for a cup of coffee and a chat between chores.  I know he will take off his boots, un-do his silk scarf and leave his wool cap on his head. I know he will keep his Carhart jacket on because he won’t stay long, just long enough to wonder out loud what might be wrong with the old tractor this time and discuss some plans about buying cattle, fixing the corrals in the spring and making things work better out here.

I know that tractor’s story. It’s been on this place for decades, bought used when my father left for college in the 70s. I know the only thing wrong with that tractor is that you can’t stop time, and we could not afford to buy a new one.

Each day my father has been the caretaker of the family’s ranch it has been an adventure to get that tractor up and running.

Every day it has been worth it.

Somewhere along the line a company like Dodge took notice of the kinds of people buying those trucks they were selling, not for the paint job or the heated seat, but for the horsepower and the muscle that it takes to haul a trailer full of bulls to the sale barn, a couple of priceless horses and a teenage daughter to her first high school rodeo, or through a snowy trail as your grandfather scoops grain for the cattle in the winter.

Somewhere in their marketing plan Dodge thought it  might be a good idea to mention those farmers and ranchers out there throwing bales and feeding the country, because quite frankly, they have helped keep them in business.

So they declared it the “Year of the Farmer” and are working their marketing plan so that spreading the word means supporting the FFA.

That moment a company like Dodge took to tell our story while they had the world’s attention gave us–the farmers, the ranchers, the corn growers, bottle feeders, chicken-coop cleaners, post-hole-diggers, pig-sloppers, 5 a.m. cow milkers, –a little reminder that ours might not be a glamorous story, but it is one worth living.


Click here to watch an interview with the Montana ranchers featured in the commercial.

Seeing it all.

We’re finding our way to the end of January, and around these parts that’s a huge relief.  I’ve been keeping busy playing music, writing and eating carbohydrates, and after a Friday evening spent singing to a full house, I was thawing out and happy with the way life gives you gifts, like 40 degrees on a January weekend.

Funny how a little warm up can turn an attitude around. Suddenly I was in love with winter again and while Husband worked on hammering and nailing and putting up walls in our master bedroom, I worked on ways I could sneak out the door unnoticed.

Because I decided it was of utmost importance that I load up little Juno and give her a tour of her new home turf.

Because we needed to check on things, ensure the gears were grinding right, the snowbanks weren’t too deep and the view was still as beautiful.

We needed to make sure those weird clouds weren’t storm clouds above us.

We needed to introduce her to the horses.

We needed to play…

and run…

And do whatever Tucker was doing here…





That looked like fun.

See, around here, if we chose to look, we can see things like this every day.

And although winter gets long, it’s one of those seasons that changes the landscape constantly. And so I suppose I’ve made it my mission here to keep tabs on the way the horses grow beards to ward off the chill…

The way the clouds roll and shift and change directions and colors…

How the light hits the grass and makes it sparkle…

How the horses settle lethargically into a pile of grain…

and how their noses feel under our hands.

I watch it all because I don’t want to miss it.

Because I like the way a puppy kiss looks.


And the sound of snow melting under a blue sky.

And the tree rows planted all those years ago? I like that they’re scraggly but standing still under a slow to rise winter sun.


I like the idea that this all will be green again, but first it has to be blue and white and brown.

I like that I’m here for all of that changing.

And I like the feeling, that like Juno, I’m hearing it all, seeing it all, discovering it all for the first time…on a 40 degree weekend at the end of January.

To be a human in winter.


Mid January in Western North Dakota doesn’t have the best reputation. It’s indecisive. One day it’s a kind, 20 some degrees,


the next a bitter, chilling 20 below.


Then, just when you find peace with your wedgie-inducing long underwear, it decides to warm up  enough to melt the snow. “How nice!” you think to yourself as you get in your car to drive to town. “I think I could get used to this winter thing if it stayed like this…”

But you know better and you should have never taken off those long underwear, because as soon as you get far enough away from home that turning back wouldn’t make much of a difference, the wind picks up and drops the temperature enough to turn that once slushy highway into a long and lethal ice-skating rink where a constant stream of semis and oil tankers are your competition.

And you’re no Nancy Kerrigan.

Ah, shit. I admit, January and I are enemies. I try to stay positive, keep my guitar out and my snow-shoes and neck-warmer handy. I try to do some sledding or walking or make a snow angel or something…


but mostly I wind up in my sweatpants under the John Wayne blanket reading a book about someone near the ocean before I turn out the light for the night and prepare to tackle mid-winter in the morning.

White knuckle driving, the “arms-out, it’s icy out,” sidewalk shuffle, an intimate relationship with Henry, the morning weather man, phone calls to Pops and Momma and Husband and Little Sister and my friend down the road about whether or not to believe the storm report, feet shoved in slippers and then in boots and then in slippers and then under the covers, soup and coffee and tea and some sort of disgusting warmed up cold medicine because everyone’s sick around here….and a constant craving for pastries.

Yup, that’s January.

And although it comes every year, I’m always surprised how this month seems to suck the creative light right out of me and makes me question the practicality of packing up the pug and heading south.

But I’m not leaving.

Well, there’s the Vegas thing in February, but as of today, I’m planning on coming back. Because I’m here for the long haul, and the longest haul of them all just happens to be winter.

I was thinking this last night as I sat behind the wheel of my four-wheel-drive and turned up the volume on some melancholy music, singing along soulfully and feeling frigid and uninspired and hungry for carbohydrates. I put my foot lightly on the brake to navigate a snowy curve, when up ahead, about five mils from home along the side of the road I noticed a large, tall, dark figure moving slowly toward the white ditch.

I slowed down as a few hundred scenarios whipped through my mind as they do when you see something unexpected on a very familiar path…to big to be a deer…

A grizzly bear?

A tall, scary, insane hitchhiker?

Bigfoot?

An alien? Probably an alien.

No.

No.

No.

I pulled a little closer until the length of my headlights revealed the figure: two massive and stunning bull elk moving with ease and confidence across the road toward an oak filled coulee on the edge of the badlands.

I stopped in the middle of the road and looked around. Not much traffic meant I could relax and bask in this mysterious moment for a beat. And apparently those elk felt the same way, not the least bit intimidated by the flare of an oil well behind them casting light on their bodies and transforming them into beautiful silhouettes.

They stood still in that warm glow on a flat, snowy patch of ground and stared at the metal contraption lit up in front of them.

An alien.

I rolled down my window to hear them breathing, to hear their hooves squeak in the crust of the snow. As they moved along the highway I lightly pressed the gas pedal and moved with them, imagining I was on my way to the oak grove on the edge of the badlands, imagining my body was held up by a set of massive, hoof-clad legs.

Imagining my coat was thick and my head was held high and I could run like that.

Imagining I was one of them.

But people were made for houses I suppose. Houses and words and questions and the wisdom and thumbs to make wool caps to protect us from the cold.

And of all the qualities a glorious North Dakota elk possesses, I don’t imagine he can be inspired.

Although perhaps he is the definition of the word standing magnificently on a snowy flat, staring into my soul.

So I’ll take it. I’ll take the ice and the fur lined boots and the hot cup of coffee because being human on a cold January evening means the ability to become breathless and warmed clear through and falling in love, over and over again with our big, wide, white, frozen, wonderful world.

Winter Walking.


4 PM. Still in town. Hurry, pack up your briefcase. It will be dark soon. Get in the car, turn on the radio and follow the trucks home.

25

45

55

65

Get to the corner. Take a right. Speed up a bit. Notice the sky turning pink. Turn up that song.

Turn left at the white fence. Follow the pavement

Slow down a bit. Check on that  tree. Smile. Still looks mysterious and beautiful tonight.

Careful on the curve. Watch for ice. Hum along now. It’s not dark yet.

Turn left on the pink road, notice it’s plowed.


Over the cattle guard. Stop at the mailbox.

Bills and catalogs and no real letters.

There’s never real letters.

Glance in the rearview. Almost home. One more cattle guard, one more hill, one more turn. Open the door.

Kick off town boots. Strip off work pants. Toss earrings in the drawer. Find wool cap and camera.

Where are the damn dogs?

It’s getting dark.  Chase it down.

It’s getting dark. Watch it coming. Watch it turn from white to blue.

It’s getting dark. Climb. Climb. Climb.

Crunch. Crunch. Click.

Crunch. Crunch. Breathe.

Dogs pace. 100 steps to my one.

Wish I had fur today.

Wish I had four legs. Wish I could roll in the snow like that.

Wish my ears flopped.

Crunch. Crunch. Whew.

Make it to the top. Breathe. Notice the hay.


Remember how we used to pretend they were Frosted Mini-Wheats and we were shrunken people in a cereal bowl.

Sigh.

Follow the fence line. Time to cross. Don’t rip your pants girl. Easy now.


Walk in the fields, follow the horse trail. Notice the elk tracks. Think they must like Frosted Mini Wheats too.

Crunch. Crunch.

It’s so quiet.

Crunch. Crunch. Except for that wind.

Pull up scarf.

Pull down wool cap.

Lean into the weather. Walk on now. Keep walking. Hit the prairie trail. Follow it through the fence. Stop.

Hands on hips.

Look to the north.

Look at those buttes. Love them in white.

Love them against that pink sky.

Love this place.

Love this wind.

Love this damn cold and these damn dogs.

Love this snow.

Wish I had four legs. Wish I had paws.

Wish I had fur.

Wish I could stay out here all night.

Winter Wonderland (Prize Alert!)

I’m happy to report that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here, and it isn’t just the giant, ten foot tall, six foot wide Christmas tree standing in the middle of the construction zone that is my home!

Nope, it’s because it has been a frosty winter wonderland for the past few weeks, bringing with it some sparky trees and fluffy soft snow.

I just love the way our world looks coated in a little frosting.

It almost makes me forget about the sub-zero temperatures and icy roads it produces. I mean, those elements are quite forgivable when they create for you a postcard worthy world.

Today the sun is shining and the frost has melted off the trees, but I spent a few moments this week trudging through the snow to capture those magical moments when things are sparkly and fresh so I could share them with you.

Because I think this is the way Christmas is supposed to look.

Now all we need is a one horse open sleigh to put these lazy, fluffy and hay fed horses to work!

In the spirit of the season I’d like to invite you to share with me your favorite winter photo from wherever you are. Post to my Facebook page, Husband and I will chose our favorite and you will win a signed copy of my new album “Nothing’s Forever” and a matted photo of one of my favorite snowy scenes.

I’ll pick the winner on Sunday (because I love Sundays) so share away! I can’t wait to see your world!

Merry Almost Christmas!

I wish you were here with us to make snow angles and frost sugar cookies.

Love, peace and snowmen.

Jessie