This familiar place

Weekends out here can be bliss. Especially when it’s 50+ degrees and sunny and crisp and it’s autumn and your little sister comes over to spend the whole two days with you.

This happens sometimes–the weather cooperates perfectly with the plans you have. And our plans consisted of big breakfasts and coffee, a long walk through our favorite coulees,

a ride with Pops to our favorite spot in the trees

and a couple birthday parties for Little Big Sister and her Little Man.

Little Sister and I scheduled our weekend together and proceeded to tackle the checklist that ensured we got to everything from omelets to birthday cake. And we accomplished it all.

See, she’s been gone for a bit, out doing what we’ve been taught to do when we hit eighteen and graduate high school: get out, get going, see stuff, learn stuff, work and study and graduate and travel.

And come back if you want to.

Come back for a while.

And so Little Sister has come back. She’s come back with the same sort of remembered wonder that I experienced a few short years ago when I did the same thing. I’ve tried to explain it here a few times in these lines and photographs I share with you, how rediscovering those secret places I used to wander at the ranch as a child hold a sort of haunting nostalgia and comfort when visited as an adult.

But now that I have arrived and am here to stay my childhood secret spots have become familiar again. I visit them regularly either for a stroll to take photographs or to chase cattle along the trails. I am remembering and learning every day where all of these deer and cow paths wind and twist and turn, determined to be capable of navigating the place the way Pops does one day, without pause or back track.

And it’s an interesting and adventurous task I’ve set out to accomplish, one that, growing up, was always tackled with a shadow following a few yards behind me.

I swear just yesterday I was hollering at that little curly-haired six-year-old in the purple barn jacket to “go home and leave me alone!” Just yesterday, wasn’t I suggesting that if she really had to build a fort along the same creek bed, perhaps it should be a little further up the coulee and out of my sight.

And there we were last weekend walking side-by-side, adult women with our own fears and worries pushed back until Monday, tucked away so that we might enjoy and remember the time the tire swing broke sending Little Sister flailing into the creek, how we used to climb the old apple trees behind the house, and the hours we spent following Pops chasing a cow or a deer in the oak trees and brush that line the creek bottom.

How many mittens did we drop along the way? How many times did our boots fill with creek water?

How many wood ticks and burs and grass stains did we accumulate?

And in all of the lines and photographs I share in this space about the magic and adventure the ranch, our home, holds for me–all the ways I tell you it mystifies and heals, puts me in my place and brings me closer to the version of myself I like the most, I have to confess it is not the landscape alone that holds the responsibility.

I imagine I could fall in love with a number of creek beds, oak groves and rolling fields, marveling at the way the afternoon sun hits the leaves that have fallen into the water, getting to know how the trail winds up the embankments, coming to understand how it changes with the season.

I know I could fall in love with many places and landscapes throughout this world.

But it is this one, this one that holds my father’s footprints, my Little Sister’s laugh, my mother’s call to come in for supper. It is this one that promises Little Man a place to run and learn to ride horse and Big Little Sister a refuge if she needs it.

It is these hills, these paths, these coulees, these acorns, these fallen trees and fallen logs and this mud and these thorns and soft grasses that have bent under my growing feet and the feet of those who know me the best that gives this place a heartbeat and makes the sunrise brighter, the trees grow taller, the creek clearer, the horses more capable…

and me more grateful every day that through all these years we can be out in it, loving it and living in those familiar spaces on a days that were made to beĀ together.

5 thoughts on “This familiar place

  1. I have a big little sister too, but our childhood home is long gone. We grew up outside a lot, but in a totally different environment–on the Atlantic coast. Our home was torn down years ago to make way for a mini-mansion. The Colorado Rockies are my home now. I hope that my children will have many fond outside memories and return home as adults to spend time together like you and your sister. Thanks for sharing your story and pictures!

  2. Jess sometimes I think you are a “thought thief” or somehow read my mind from 425 miles away. Of course I flatter myself unjustly if I assume for one minute I could organize my thoughts into such beautifull words. Thanks again…. you can “steal” my thoughts anytime.

  3. I can’t even remember how I stumbled upon your blog but it brings me such pleasure. You are a truly wonderful writer….I get lost in your words and pictures and feel like I am right there with you. Your love for the land and your family is deep and true….something that I find pretty rare these days,

    Very long and mushy way of saying keep up the good work and thanks for putting the time and energy into this blog. Someone out there is glad you do.

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