Turning to the hills…


The summer has never looked better around here. Despite the crazy months that lead up to late June, I have taken a moment or two to admire how the grass is growing and how happy the cattle look out there munching away.

It’s funny to think that, if everything turns out according to plan, after all of these years, this will be the last summer of my life spent walking these hills with the little voice of worry and wonder about what we should do to make ourselves a family.


Since I was just a little girl, I’ve always taken to these hills to work things out, to be alone, to take a moment, to breathe. The first sixteen years of my life in these coulees were spent wandering and creating and singing and dreaming of what life would be like when I grew up and got a chance to work things out on my own.


In between then and now I spent my time visiting these hills, riding and admiring and remembering and saying “we’ll be back someday,” and then packing the car to leave again.

And in those between years, when we were juggling new jobs and new houses, learning what it means to be an adult and losing hope for the family we were trying to make, when it didn’t work out, I found my way home to these hills to cry and ask why.


Besides on the shoulder of my husband, these hills are the only place I’ve truly allowed myself to wail.

Because no one can hear you when you’re out here alone.

And the trees don’t have ears to wonder about those sorts of things.


When we finally found our way here for good, five years ago this summer, a period of time that seems so long and so short all at once, I walked these hills with many moods and agendas on my shoulders…to get my butt in shape, to work out a new career plan or creative project, to train the dog, to shoot photos of wildflowers, to check the horses in the field in the winter, to get the creative juices flowing, to ward off a bad mood, to scream at the top of my lungs or to just breathe.


Not once in the last seven years have I walked these hills without the quiet voice in the back of my mind that wondered about all those unborn babies…and the ones that might make it to this earth to be ours and grow up in these hills like we planned it.

And so I don’t really know what to do with the news that perhaps, this time, the dream might come true.


That we found a doctor and the doctor found a problem and two little white pills fixed it and now I have a belly that makes it so I can’t button my pants and a due date that makes it so I can’t schedule shows into the winter and a house full of stuff we’ve accumulated during nine years of marriage and not one closet open or one room cleared out for another human, no matter how much we hoped to plan for this one day.

Because despite the hope, we just kept living, filling those closets and filling our lives with work and things and people we love, because that’s what you do when plans don’t work out, you just keep living the best way you know how.


But what do you do when all of the sudden you wake up with a hunch and day by day you hope and wait and realize that maybe those plans are working out? What do you do when you realize what you’ve wanted for so long just might come to you after all,  God willing…


How does a person handle being every bit as terrified as you are excited? What do you do when the people you love, upon hearing the news, congratulate you, tell you they’ve been praying, eyes swelling up with tears at the relief of it all?

We hug back and smile.

But honestly, we’re still in shock. In disbelief.

Because we don’t know how to be the normal people with a normal pregnancy and a normal plan.

We don’t know how not to be terrified.

But we also don’t know how not to be hopeful…obviously…or we would never have made it this far.


Last night after an evening spent in town saying goodbye to a friend who has become part of our family over the last couple years, we pulled into the driveway and I stripped off my town clothes and pulled on a t-shirt, pants and my walking shoes. It was a beautiful evening and I needed to climb these hills, check on the way the setting sun hit the wildflowers, let the grass brush against my legs, smell the growing things and stretch my muscles.


I think I can feel this baby move inside of my belly.

I don’t know if I’ll ever believe it.


But walking out on that trail that leads to the fields, putting the barnyard behind me, my parents’ place to my right, my favorite pasture to the left and no particular destination ahead, it was such a familiar view, a familiar thing to do, but I don’t feel like myself.


I haven’t felt like myself for months.

Perhaps I won’t ever feel like my old self out in these hills again…

       IMG_3160  IMG_3165   IMG_3177   IMG_3183 IMG_3187 IMG_3188 IMG_3191 IMG_3194 IMG_3200 IMG_3203 IMG_3206  
God willing.

15 thoughts on “Turning to the hills…

  1. That was so beautifully written. I couldn’t get through it without tears in my eyes. So happy for you. I will keep you in my prayers.

  2. I’m so happy for you! I haven’t commented in a long time but still read faithfully-I guess if you ever make it out to Yellowstone for a horseback ride we will have to round up a pony too! 🙂

  3. Having worked in the medical field for many years, I knew you shouldn’t give up hope. Best of luck to you and your family.

  4. I look forward to your writing and pictures–they are very inspirational. My wife and I enjoyed your concert at Fargo not long ago. When I see the words, “God Willing”, I think of my grandmother as she would say that all the time. I will include you in my prayers that all will go well with your pregnancy, and that you and your husband will be blessed with the joy of a child in your family later this year. Psalm 121:1-2 “I lift up my eyes to the hills–from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

  5. Such a beautiful piece!!! Congratulations!! So happy for you two!! Your normal will never be normal again, but you will embrace and love every minute!!!

  6. Dear Jessie,

    I love your writing, and your ability to share your vulnerability with us all. You are a special person, and that husband of yours is too! I’m so happy that your dreams are coming true and I believe that your child(ren) will have the best parents ever!

    Hugs and love from,

  7. Beautiful words and pictures. I’ve been following your posts for awhile because I miss ND so much and have enjoyed your perspectives on many things. My mother was from Watford City and I’ve spent many happy days there in past years. I know things have really changed there due to the oil but I still hope and pray I can get back for a visit someday. I’m so happy that you’re going to be a mom and may God bless you and your husband in this new chapter of your lives together. Proverbs 3:5-6 are my favorite verses…

  8. When I started blogging four years ago, your blog was one of the first that I found and followed. Although I don’t know you, I love hearing about ranch life and enjoying your beautiful photos and writing. I’m so happy that “this will be the last summer of [your] life spent walking these hills with the little voice of worry”. Congratulations, Jessie! 🙂

  9. Your pictures are amazing and your message on why we need to spend time in nature to renew our spirit really reminded me to get out and walk daily in the mountains near my house. Thanks and all the best as you nurture that new baby to his/her birth day.

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