A piece of my peace…

We’ll, it’s officially 2011. Like three days in. And while people all over the country were ringing in the new year in fancy outfits, clinking classes filled with bubbly together, wearing cardboard hats while kissing lovers or strangers and then screaming “Happy New Year,” with flushed cheeks as the band or jukebox or the random guy on the saxophone played the appropriate song, I had been sleeping a good 12 to 16 minutes already.

Because apparently that’s what happens when you have enjoyed one or two glasses of wine with the in-laws and then sit down in the living room on the big, fluffy couch with three snuggly, blonde, pink fleece PJ wearing nieces who are undoubtedly on the edge of sleep (I mean really, look at their little faces) and pop on the DVD player to enjoy the gripping, thrilling tale of Tinkerbell and her friends.

And then shut the lights off.

Yup. In about 4.5 seconds father-in-law was snoring so loud I missed the explanation of how Tinkerbell actually wound up trapped in the doll house, so I turned to husband, who surely was following along, and found him in a full on, head tilted back, mouth wide open, fly catching slumber. I looked around the room for any kind of explanation and it soon became clear that all adult bodies had given in. And poking out from under the blankets were three sets of big, blue eyes that appeared to be glued open, careful not to blink because blinking could result in snoozing and they would stand for none of it.

None of it I tell ya. Because Tinkerbell was about to make friends with a real live human girl and they were taking notes, you know, in case they should happen upon a similar situation where they were greeted by a fairy of their own.

Yes, I bought them tutus and ballerina shirts for Christmas...I'm weak, I'm weak...

Yeah, they were so focused on the staying awake thing I guess they couldn’t hear me when I said “Psst..psst…how did Tinkerbell get stuck in there? Where is she taking her? Can she talk? Why can’t the girl hear her? Oh my gosh! I can’t take the suspense….”

And since no one was talking to me in fear of missing a thing and all hope of following a storyline this complicated was lost, I gave into the sleep thing too, drooling a bit on husband’s shoulder and as niece number two laid her head on my lap we became a regular, cuddly pile of love and pink and sweatpants and pajamas.

Best New Year’s I’ve ever had.

Which got me thinking about moments like these, you know the quiet, simple, wonderful, uneventful events in which we exist. See I have had a great year. A full year of hammering and climbing and packing and unpacking and chasing cats and cooking…uh, I mean eating and welcoming babies and making cheese balls and not doing laundry…you know, we’ve been over this. I’ve told you all about those adventures. But as I am thinking back and looking through the three thousand and some photos I have taken over the course of seven months, it occurred to me that I have failed to share with you a few things–a few good stories, a few simple moments, a few of my favorites. Neglected because of their lack of climactic adventure, gripping saga or sentimental story attachment, these snapshots, these breaths of life, these characters surrounding me got filed away under the “August 2010” or “Family” or “Music” folders to be saved for later, saved for another time when they become important to me again.

Well, today’s the day people. Today I present to you my top five favorite moments of 2010:



Pug, not so happy about swimming



Pug on a summer ride


There, now I’ve told you everything….good day to ya.


I kid, I kid.


But really, there are some things I failed to share, (that surprisingly didn’t involve that damn pug) even in the middle of every intention to tell you the story…

…of the turkeys I attempted to sneak up on this fall while the boys held my horse and watched, and probably laughed,un-beknownst to me, as I crouched and stepped lightly, moving toward the flock, sure to go unnoticed by the feather brained poultry if only I just stayed low and kept quiet…

…thinking to myself that I gotta get more life in my photography, more game, more feathers, more adventure and less dog…more wild and less flower…more movement and less tree branch…more…more…wow, my legs are burning…I’ve been walking a long time and I’m not getting any closer…

“Hey Jess! Jess!”

A faint voice called my name from the furthest butte…


Sounded like pops…

“What, shhh, dad, shhh….”

“Yeah, how far ya gonna go?”

“Shhh…I don’t know gosh…”

I turned around.

I was all alone

Except for the turkeys, who are apparently deceivingly fast, having already taken flight…

…and that voice calling from somewhere…saying something about a horse…

Anyway, so there are the turkeys, in case you were wondering why the only wildlife you get from me wore collars and bridals and had weird names.

Which reminded me of the elk.

The elk that you can’t see here, but is here…

…yeah,way out there in the middle of the shot, a little brown dot in the clearing between the two coulees of bare trees.

Turns out these boys, the ones I rode behind faithfully all the non-snowy season, have eyes, good eyes…

…and I need a longer lens…

…because there were elk all around us that fall evening. We rode a good portion of our land and were kicking them up left and right like cumbersome giants dwarfing the buttes that look so majestic under the hooves of the measly deer.

And I decided I hadn’t really lived until that moment I heard them crashing and clambering through the trees like dinosaurs tearing up my favorite coulee and coming to pose on the skyline on the other side.

Nope, I’d never seen life that grand spring across our humble piece of the prairie…

…a piece of prairie that rang with laughter and memories and children’s footprints this summer as the Veeder family gathered to share the stories these hills could tell, to pick her wildflowers, to roll in her grasses, to feel her heat and let the wind whip through their hair…

…and that ground had never been more alive, the leaves more boastful, rocks so proud.  Our little world never felt more love.

So as we reminisced in the summer sun, thinking of our grandparents and aunts and uncles who spent their childhood here, who worked the land and called this home, we felt sure we could feel them there with us as we grabbed at the same earth, smelled the yellow roses she planted and visited the homestead shack where they first settled this place…

So I coaxed Pops to stand in the very same spot, the very same way his father had stood next to the homestead shack in a photo I recall tucked away in an album somewhere.

And here I touched the handles and levers of the old stove and imagined cooking supper between these walls, under this sky…

…and so it was a summer of reminiscing and moving on as I stood under the same sky to say goodbye to a piece of our world, a piece of history that holds the story of this small farming and ranching community who found faith and fellowship  under this humble roof in what was sometimes an otherwise lonely existence.

Yes, the summer of 2010 held the last service for our little church along the gravel road, in the middle of the wind swept prairie. And with no hurrah, no confetti or drawn out hymns, the neighborhood gathered in jeans and boots and their Sunday best to say goodbye, have some coffee together and take some of the dishes for crying out loud…

…so I took a chicken shaped sugar dish and wiped my eyes, cause I think I got some dust in them.

Oh, I can’t believe I didn’t tell you about it, but I think it was because there wasn’t much to say except sometimes it seems this world has grown a bit too big for the small things–the things that are too good and pure to make a fuss about the situation…

…like the mist that fell on a summer morning bike ride, clouding my vision enough to convince me that I may have found myself lost…

…lost somewhere a little more magical…

…a little more mysterious…

…a bit more innocent.

No, I didn’t tell you about that either. I didn’t show you what it looks like here when the clouds drop down. I kept it for myself.

Like this wreath I made on my birthday out in the heat of the summer sun using an old rope, fencing wire and grass….

…and these fragile spider webs that were quietly woven in the cracks and crannies of the old red barn, waiting patiently to be discovered by a crazy haired woman with a new camera…


No, I didn’t share these with you either and I don’t know why.  But I think it was because I felt like a secret, VIP guest in a microscopic world that I was welcomed into through the lens of my camera and the right kind of light shining through the cracks in the weathered barn.

And maybe I wasn’t ready to admit that I found this sort of thing, the thing we usually swat away with disgust, fascinating and breathtaking…

…and how could I convince you that this commonplace act of preparation and tradition and hard work, is comforting and hopeful to me? How could you possibly understand?

And maybe I just didn’t know how to explain that this, as much as anything else in the world, means home to me…

…or that North Dakota has mountains and they sometimes touch the clouds…

…or that when I came upon this in the pasture one afternoon all I wanted in the entire world was to be one of them…

…to know what it is to appreciate the warm sunshine touching my back and melting the snow…

…and have nothing to do but soak it up.

So there you have it. I didn’t want you to miss a thing, but I know I failed us all on that one. Because no matter how much we try, there is so much we miss.

Even when we work so hard to capture it, to see it, to remember the stories that go along, to remember what your father told you about your grandmother’s cooking, to never forget the day you saw that big buck on the skyline or the name of that wildflower or what your niece’s hair smelled like when she was still four and not quite five no matter how much she wanted to be five, we forget. We tuck those things away telling ourselves we’ll get back to it, but if the story is never told, it cannot be heard.

It can not be passed along.

And maybe that’s ok.

Because we know our stories, the ones we tell about ourselves that are funny and embarrassing and heroic and dignified and dramatic, in the end become a piece of us, a part of who we are.

But those moments when we are alone, where we hold our breath or sit down to make something with our hands, or wipe a tear that no one will ever see–the moments where we are quiet in a world that puts on a show and performs for us every day, how we applaud those small moments, how we exist when no one is looking, those moments matter more than we think. And maybe we don’t have to pass them along to everyone, but maybe we should try to keep those memories of the non-eventful events so we can go back there sometimes, when we need to…

…because maybe that’s what peace is…not the act of searching for a moment of silence or a butterfly in flight or a chance to float on a tranquil sea, but recognizing in your everyday life the small seconds and minutes when your mind is free…and then knowing where to find that memory when you need it.

And if those small seconds and minutes are buried too deep to find right now, don’t worry, I have gathered here for you some of mine…and you can use them anytime…


8 thoughts on “A piece of my peace…

  1. Wonderful pics from the past year..especially since I didn’t find your blog right away..the peeps on the hill remind me from a scen from, ” A Sound of Music. ” I guess very appropriate w/in your musical family. Wishing you and yours(including the critters) a marvelous 2011 with great things to come. I can’t wait to see where you take me to next. Countdown until spring is on. Fargo has way too much snow so if you want more, I’ll send it your way 🙂 Nicole

  2. You lucky, lucky people. I see the horses and wonder which one will carry Sylas on his first ride. I remember mine, and all my relatives remember theirs (on my Mom’s side). You wake up to beauty every day, and even though you work hard, you have the heritage of your great grandparents which you chose over a cushy life in town. God bless all of you!

  3. Love the photos!

    That song reminds me of my hubby every time (that and, “Common Man”). He blasts the old country station while riding in the tractor, singing to the top of his lungs.

    So won’t you make your mind up to believe in me,
    And leave this high living world behind?
    – John Conlee

  4. I loved your story about stalking the wild turkeys for a photo. They sometimes visit our neighbour’s bird feeder, which is always a shocking and unexpected sight to behold. Maybe you need to provide offerings!

  5. Lovely! Being in slow-speed-connection-land for so long, I had some catching up to do with stalking your blog. 😉 Loving all the holiday posts, but I think this one is my favorite. Thanks for sharing the ‘little things’. (PS: I hope your sissy didn’t injure you after you posted the ukelele vid. You’re SO dead.)

  6. I absolutely love your photographs! Especially the ones with the horses. I’ve always wanted to photograph them but the opportunity hasn’t presented itself!

    Lovely work!

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