The extraordinary ones…

The coulees that dot the landscape on the ranch are mystical places that I spent my entire childhood exploring. Each season they changed, and each year when I returned after a long winter, I found something new.

I walked them today again for the first time in several years and I was taken right back to the magic I feel they possess. I believe that the curious, the brave and special people that take the time to pick apart this prairie and get to the roots of the rough places give themselves a gift of beauty and life and discovery, losing themselves in a mystery like nothing else.

And so when I returned, I wrote….

There are secrets out here at the ranch that not many have explored. These secrets are quiet and hidden and full of magical life that only a watchful, imaginative eye can detect. This magic is not that far off the beaten path and most people, the ordinary people, never even turn a head or give this world a glance as they kick up dust from the tires of their SUVs.

But the special ones, they are curious. The special ones listen. They stand deathly still at the side of the road and hold their breath to hear through the wind and the traffic and the barking dogs. They lift a hand to shield their eyes and carefully take a step off the gravel—one step into the world. And then the brave ones take another and another…

Because they think they can hear something faintly calling to them saying, “hello up there” from way down below, under the tangle of grasses and cactus, along the base of trees, where the roots peek out from under the damp earth. So the curious ones, the ones who listen, move their eyes from the horizon and follow the call from the ground. Their feet bravely urge them to move from the top of the hills among the safety of the open prairie to the mysterious, damp, dark and prickly gullies of the surrounding coulees and creek beds.

They take in the panoramic view of cattails springing up like furry corn-dogs bouncing and bending on frail sticks in the breeze, congregating together under the care of the world’s largest street fair vendor. So the special ones are called to take a step a little closer and the smell of the marsh fills their nostrils as the once solid ground gives way to the dark mud under the reeds. And the water seeps into the brave one’s shoes.

A little startled, they look down and decide that soggy feet may be a small price to pay, because they’re on to something here. They need to get to the other side, to the trail that cuts along the creek that runs, uncommonly, up the banks of the ravine on a hot August day.

They wobble and slosh their way, deeper in, and with each step the voices get a bit louder, coaxing them to look down to the mushrooms and moss multiplying and spreading on the bark of the bur oak. The brave ones bend down to run their fingers along it, to feel the sponge of the mushroom’s fragile skin. Some might take a look underneath the caps of the fungus, not feeling at all silly at this point about making sure the stories of the fairies and the elves aren’t true. And they will be a little disappointed, really, to find, when they look, there is nothing there but a couple gnats…

And the curious ones have their eyes open enough to sense a soft rippling on the surface of the creek as the water bugs zip and glide and row and skim across the water. The brave ones feel the urge to jump in and splash with them, but don’t want to disturb the frail bugs.

Because, if not the fairies or the elves, maybe they are the ones who have called them here…

And when the voices (whoever they are) are drowned out by the buzzing of the mosquitoes and the air gets cooler and damper as the brush thickens up again along the path, even the brave ones can’t take it —they want to see the sky again, to see how the time has passed and how far they have gone. So they claw their way up the steep banks the creek has cut. They want to run to the top of the hill, but their legs are not meant to go so fast at times like these. Something slows them and they crouch to see how the tall grass looks against the overcast sky. They stand up and stretch their limbs to taste the ripe plumbs at the very tips of the thorny branches. The sweet juice pops in their mouths.

The curious ones bend down low to skim the vines for the rare red raspberries and wild strawberries underneath the mangle of green and they tiptoe along the juniper spreading up through the rocks and watch for the poison ivy that has, until the voices, deterred them from coming here.

And in their drunken wonderment, mouths puckered from sucking on the pits of wild berries and foreheads wrinkled from really seeing the small things, they are all surprised that the road has found them again, somehow.

Turning their heads back over their shoulder, they are bewildered by the look of it all from far away.

The trees put their arms around each other, moving so close together they all become one, the wind blows through the reeds, the grass stands up straight, the wild sunflowers spread open their smiles and everything (except the water who hides itself away, not so good at goodbyes) seems to wave at the brave and curious and special ones as they make their way home.

And the extraordinary people say a quiet word of thanks to the voices whispering their secrets, because the small world they thought they knew, the one they thought had belonged only to them, had become quite large indeed.

And after all that magic, it never looked the same again.

101 thoughts on “The extraordinary ones…

    • Well, you will have to schedule a visit when we get our ranch vacation up and running….check back for updates on that! We would get you on a horse and chase some cows and pitch some hay and make your life. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thanks for the nice comment. I’m by no means an expert in photography, but love my surroundings so much I spend a lot of time trying to catch it like I see it. So glad you enjoy!

    • I just stopped by your blog…love it. Thanks for reading neighbor to the South. And yes, there is nothing like this open space. We are pretty lucky aren’t we? Thanks so much for stopping by and if you’re ever up North, stop in!

    • Oh Catherine, thanks for your kind words. Those berries are wild plums and they are delicious…My next adventure, I am going to try making jelly with them. Wish me luck! Thanks for stopping by!

    • You’re welcome! Thanks for coming along with me. There are more walks (and horseback rides) hiding out on my blog, I hope you discover them and maybe someday you can come along with me out here at the ranch. Thanks for reading!

  1. Thank you for taking me on such a wonderful journey with you. For a moment, I had an adventure of solitude and peace, wonder and beauty, curiosity and amazement. Your photos and your words took me there…

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  3. Wow, you’re writing is beautiful! And your pictures capture the moment perfectly. I especially love the low angle shot of the rye ascending to the skies.

    A girl who takes time to appreciate the little things most people miss…I’m a fan!

    • Thanks for stopping by and living in that moment with me. I like to get down to see the world from a different angle sometimes…and what a difference that makes. Thanks for reading!

  4. Simply fabulous blog, Thank You!! I loved it all, the pictures, the prose, it all was wonderful, I felt as if I was there and one of the Extraordinary Ones! Kudos, and Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • Yes, nature is something…I am surprised by it here everyday, especially in the ever changing seasons of North Dakota…

      I like the fungus shots too…there is something magical about them. When I was little growing up out here I really wanted to believe mushrooms were home to fairies or elves or something from the books. I would tell my sister to flip them over to find out, but we neither one of us has had a fairy spotting….yet 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  5. Time is most precious when the blessings around you are most appreciated…but then you already know this don’t you.
    You have a wonderful wonderland that you live in. I’m inspired by the peace and tranquility that you share.

  6. I was spending my golden childhood in the place as you depicted.I really miss those days ,and want to go back at this scenery ,this way of life ,but everyrthing nature has given to mankind has been Destoryed.

    • I hope I could give you a little glimpse into a place that is seldom visited by anything but the deer, coyotes and cattle…and sometimes a wandering woman. There are still places like this out there in our great, wide world. Thanks for visiting.

  7. I stood on the Edge of the road somewhere in Kansas.. like you described… trying to hold still on the gravel…the wind whistling as it zipped through grass ..around fence posts in soft strange ways.. I found myself wanting to just walk off into the distance- just feel the sun and just keep walking.
    Thanks for this -the magic you saw and felt has carried through your words to a cricket filled night here in PA ..Corn dog cattails !! what a hoot!! Blessings.. Bev

    • Oh Beverly, I am so glad I could take you back to that road in Kansas. Sometimes we just have to listen don’t we? I try everyday out here to just listen…there is so much to hear. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Great pictures, great prose. I love places like that, secret wild places that call to the soul, filled with wonder and beauty. You captured it well. Damn, those plums sure do look yummy.
    All the best.

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  10. What a wonderful walk back through the things i explored as a young girl!..the “cattails springing up like furry corn dogs” is a brilliant description..when i was a child, they were so elusive to me, it never occurred to me to go in after them and get my boots soggy. I would be brave enough to do that now, and bring in a cutting of cattails for a wonderful bouquet of whimsy on my kitchen table….your photography is so pleasing, and i especially like the picture in the creek, which to me looks like a watery mosaic. I lingered on it for a while. Thank you for writing – Sarah.

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  13. Love the way you wrote this and love your beautiful sensitive eye and your personality shines through both your photography and your writing. What a beautiful gift! Lucky you 🙂

  14. Love your blog…I hope you don’t mind my checking in. I love being reminded of how amazing the west is…..but oh how I miss it.

  15. Beautiful post. You had my heart pitter pattering. I, too, grew up on the edge of the Badlands. I spent my childhood alone wandering the coulees, drinking the cold hard spring water from the grounds and eating the beautiful wild things that grew around me.

    Thank you for posting. I look forward to following what you’re up to. Your description of what you want to do with the place echoes some of my dreams.

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