Longer days ahead

Christmas has come and gone at the ranch. Weather made it challenging for so many to travel as they’d planned for the holiday and we weren’t really the exception here, considering that one tractor was in the shop and the other one broke down during the Christmas day 50 MPH wind whipping and drifting and working hard to block us all in our respective driveways. We celebrated a mile down the road at Mom and Dad’s as we usually do. At one point in the afternoon I asked Chad to make a quick run back to our house for something I forgot and he spent the next hour trying to dig himself out of a snowbank. He nearly missed prime rib dinner. Whoops.

We had a couple balmy 37 degree weather days since then to help us forget and now we sit in that magical time between Christmas and New Years where we play with all the toys, hang with the cousins, stay up past or bedtimes every night and eat sugar cookies for breakfast. The floor is sticky, there’s toys everywhere and I’ve spent countless hours as a hair stylist, manicurist and audience member for dance shows. I’ve loved every minute.

Last night Dad and I headed up to Lake Metigoshe at the Canadian border to perform for a Nights of Christmas event in a beautiful resort, braving some icy weather and arriving back at the ranch around 2 am, so I’m dragging a bit.

Some late nights still pepper this music gig of mine.

As I type this I’m supposed to be getting ready to head to the big town for a little date with my husband that includes taking some gifts back and getting a Costco membership, because we’re romantic like that. Send prayers for me as I attempt to supervise my husband in the warehouse that is a big box store full of big box deals. The amount of cheeseball buckets we return with could be harrowing.

We took this week off from the podcast because I’ve failed to keep any sort of schedule and we’ll be back to whatever our regular programming is after the New Year. Hopefully with equipment that works and more above-zero temps.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you for following along, this community of followers continues to fill my cup. Much love.

Longer days are ahead
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The winter solstice welcomed us with a fresh blanket of snow this morning. It came as a surprise to me after a three-day blizzard that kept us at the ranch, simultaneously working to stay tucked in and dug out. I’ve taken a break from the weather report.

I followed the tracks of the single truck that was awake and driving our county roads before me, with my daughters dressed in their best red and green, bows and ribbons tucked in cozy under blankets in the backseat on our way to school, 30 miles in the dark.

I turned my favorite Christmas music on the car stereo and the girls and I sang along, “Noel, Noel,” as I navigated the very beginning of the shortest day of the year. The temperature stared at me from the counsel, -18 and I couldn’t help but think for a moment, even with the heat blasting along with the music, safe for now in this four- wheel-drive car pushing snow, that this was crazy. That hibernation is a real thing in these northern climates. What are we doing out here?

The solstice marks the official beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, although our winter here in Western North Dakota knocked on our door mid-November and has held us in her grip ever since. But on this day, December 21, the sun appears to stand still at the southernmost point of the equator and we enter into our longest night. For many cultures, this signifies the rebirth of the sun as the days gradually get longer once again. With the New Year upon us, some people mark the solstice by setting intentions. In Native cultures the coldest, darkest nights of the year are the time for storytelling and for many, a time for grieving.

On days when the wind blows and drift snow upon my door at 40 miles per hour, and the trees and ground are heavy and cracking with the frost, I think of the animals and the humans who came before us out here and how they survived the brutality of it all. It had to be with a long preparation followed by a slow down. A reflection. It hasn’t historically been with the invention of heated seats in four wheel-drive-tractors and blades and snow-blowers, the things man has invented to push us through this season so that we don’t skip a beat of progress.

But as I wake my sleepy daughters in the dark and chill of the morning, as they snuggle into my arms, their eyes begging to stay closed for just a few more minutes, I wonder sometimes, up here, these days, if we’re doing it a bit wrong. Can we truly have progress without rest? Without reflection?

Is it instinct we’re feeling here, to feed our bodies full up, to lay down when the sun leaves, to feed the livestock an extra pitch or two of hay, to take to drinking tea or another splash of coffee, to gather up?

Last week at the ranch, when the temperature dropped well below zero, I turned on my faucet to wash my face and came up dry. Suddenly the thing we simultaneously rely on and take for granted the most was not available to me, or any of my neighbors. After a trip to the barns to check tanks and a few phone calls it was concluded that a line had broken in our rural water system and, in brutal temps and deep snow, it was likely going to be days before it could be resolved.

When I was a kid growing up on the ranch, the water to our house, as well as the water for the livestock, was fed by a natural spring in the trees. When we turned on the faucet and came up dry, there was no one we could call to fix it. It was on my dad to solve the problem with whatever willing soul stood by him with the flashlight, which was me sometimes, holding and handing tools and looking down into the well where something was broken. I had no idea what could be done or what was wrong, but I trusted he’d fix it up like usual, my dad not letting on about the panic and uncertainty likely welling up in him at a time like this.

So many of us have never lived in a time and place where the work, the manual labor of our every day existence was done for the sake of staying alive. When things like this break out here, when the temperatures drop and the snow piles up and our modern conveniences forsake us, it’s hard not to think about whether or not we could go without.

To make a phone call about the water situation was a luxury not lost on me. To drive this warm car loaded with bundled up babies, the sun slowly rising behind us with the promise of longer days, it’s a privilege.

Merry Christmas. Happy Solstice. I wish for you rest. I wish for you reflection. I wish for you time to tell stories, time to grieve, time to celebrate. Time to be.

3 thoughts on “Longer days ahead

  1. Jesse, your music makes my Dakota soul glad, but your writing SO very often reaches in to speak to my heart. Keep offering us your gift!
    I wish you the same blessings you speak of in this new calendar page. We were blessed with 3 new, tiny family members this year….gift beyond measure….reflecting with smiles and a full heart.

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