A few small things

Around here it’s not too challenging to see the big picture–the buttes against the skyline, the cows in the pasture, the big brown dog in the dam, the fields of wheat and ditches full of yellow flowers, the oaks and birch trees reaching up toward the sky. I love standing on the top of the hills around our house and scanning the horizon and the pink ribbon of road below me, to see who might be coming or going–the sun, a neighbor, an oil field worker on his way home.

But often I feel like looking closer to see what’s happening down there in the grass, bushes and oak trees, in the shady cool places of the ranch. See, all those small pieces that make up the mosaic of this landscape fascinate me, so I pull on my walking shoes, take my camera and my husband if he’s willing and hit the coulees and the rolling pastures to have a look around–to immerse ourselves in the quiet places of the ranch.

We don’t talk much, to blend in, to make sure we see it all as we take turns leading one another through the cow and deer trails and notice how the dragonflies are in a frenzy, swooping and swerving and finding mates…

and how their delicate and transparent wings reflect the sun.

We stay silent as husband pushes a path with his boots along the side of the beaver dam and I take a moment to reflect on the signs of late summer, like the cattail that’s beginning to fuzz…

and the flowers that hang on down here in the shade, staying cool and crisp as they reach for small glimmers of sun peaking through the trees.

I kneel down to check out the mechanics, magic, motivation or science that allows the water bugs to stay rowing and afloat on the surface of the creek…

and husband is also looking closer, pointing out the school of minnows flashing their silver bellies in the hot sunlight warming the water.

I look at him, we look up at the birch tree branches.

He looks at me and I tell him to watch for mushrooms growing on trees…

and chokecherries and the plums in the draw where we picked bucket-fulls last summer…

or the thorns that could scrape through your long pants…

And we walk. Along that creek that runs between the two places and down to the neighbors’, through beaver dams and stock dams and ponds where the frogs croak wildly. We clear a path through bull-berry brush and dry clover up to our armpits. We jump over washouts and scramble up eroded banks and notice how some oak trees have fallen this summer, hollowed out and heavy with the weight of their age, the weight of a world that keeps changing, no matter what, no matter if a human eye ever sweeps past it or inspects it or theorizes about it, or tries to save it…it changes.

My wish is that he and I walk together in the coulees and off the paths in these acres for a lifetime with eyes wide to the small things that live and thrive and swim and crawl and grow outside our door.

My wish is that the small things will never lose their mystery and that the way husband and I move through those trees is the way we continue to move through life–switching leads, pointing out beauty and wonder, asking questions, being silent, stepping forward, taking time and loving the moment…

Sunflower touching the sky

and one another in it.

11 thoughts on “A few small things

  1. Just lovely.. very good, but what is a butte honey, you write that often but being a foreigner and all i have no idea what you are referring to.. is it a hill?.. c

  2. I’m a native NoDak who is living in Wash. D.C right now because I’m in the USAF. I love reading your posts. The pictures remind me of everything I grew up with. I can’t wait to retire and come back to NoDak.

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