Come rain or shine or rain or wind or heat or hail…

Rain on Leaves

Summer fun, rain or shine
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I’m telling you when it comes to getting the most out of summer, rain or shine, North Dakotans don’t mess around.

As a musician who has been singing at these outdoor events most of my life, I’ve sang “Home on the Range” when the skies were most definitely cloudy all day. And blazing down temperatures of 105 degrees, burning my skin and making a nice sweat puddle down my back and behind my guitar.

Or, like last week, pouring down monsoon-style sideways rain for hours on the Wells County Fairgrounds while the audience sat under a canvas tent in puddles upon puddles of muddy water with the strings of their hoods tied around their chins, nothing but blankets, raincoats and trash bags shielding their soggy bodies as they tapped their toes and swayed along to the music.

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When it rains on a summer day in rural North Dakota, we tend to get a little punchy about cussing it. Most sane people would just go ahead and let 3 inches of relentless, pelting rain ruin their outdoor celebrations, but that type of person likely doesn’t endure 17 months of winter. But we do. And when summer finally does come, it’s a glorious reward for those long winters, and we refuse to waste a moment.

So in North Dakota, we say things like, “Well, we need the rain, it’s been so dry,” and then the show goes on. Or the rodeo. Or the 4-H goat show. Or the parade…

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Even when, in the first 45 minutes of our three-hour trek across the state to stand on that soggy stage, the windshield wiper on the driver’s side of my dad’s pickup flung clean off into the abyss of the monsoon. I guess it was exhausted. And I laughed, maybe a little too hard, because, well, of course that happened.

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But Dad wasn’t laughing. I guess he didn’t think standing in a downpour for 20 minutes trying to make the repair so we could make it to Fessenden on time was very funny. Thank you, New Town Napa guy, for saving us so we were able to get back on that rainy road and arrive at 5 o’clock on the dot, right at showtime, running from the rain to plug in, mic check and do what we came there to do. Rain or shine.

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And I loved it. I loved that that die-hard audience of all ages with their jackets zipped up to the top reinforced all my ideas that we are here to live and love and clap along and say “I think it’s going to let up” in all kinds of weather. Rain or shine.

And so I smiled and closed my eyes and sang my love song to the rain, while outside that tent it was clear that no crops were to be planted that day, but we were going to be together regardless, swaying and singing and laughing and soaking wet…

Because we’re North Dakotans, and when it comes to summer fun, we don’t mess around.

All the things to love

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All the the things to love
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Last night, as we were driving back to the ranch late from a performance in a bigger town, my dad said he wishes he could live a whole other lifetime so he would have time to fit in all of the things he wants to do.

He said it sort of casually to our friend sitting in the passenger’s seat, the man who has played guitar next to me during most of my music career and stood on stages with my dad in their younger lives. I sat in the back seat listening to them talk about the getting old stuff they are facing now — retirement and bad shoulders, travel and finances and grown children.

But I couldn’t shake what my dad said about the other lifetime, because it’s the same thing that has come out of my mouth time and time again, but it was the first time I’d heard it come out of his.

I wish there were another couple hours to linger a bit on the most important, or the sweetest, or the warmest, or the most fun things. To sit on the back of this horse a little longer, or with my arms around my sleeping child, or climb another hill, or make a trip to see my friends, or help or host or work on the ideas that tumble and toss in my head — the ones that need nothing but a little work and the extra time, time that we cannot, no matter how we try, create.

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And it’s funny that he said it then, after we wrapped up a night of music in a beautiful park in the middle of a growing town. That evening I stepped away before we went on the stage to have a look around. I watched daddies strolling babies, grandparents taking walks, a woman playing fetch with her dog, kids screeching down the slide, and I thought, ‘Well, I could live here.’

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And then for a few moments I allowed myself to imagine it. It’s the same way I imagine myself being a part of the families riding their bikes down a charming city sidewalk in a quiet neighborhood in an unfamiliar town. I wonder what it looks like in their houses and then I recognize that there wasn’t ever just one way to be me.

This spot out here on the ranch, where the cattle poop in my driveway and eat my freshly potted plants, might have remained the quiet little pile of abandoned cars and farm machinery if I would have followed through with my idea when I was 22 years old to move to the big city and sing.

What if he never asked me to marry him? What if he bought that motorcycle he talked about and headed farther west while I headed east, uncompromising in the vision I had for myself at that moment as someone who shouldn’t go home again?

There’s nothing there for me. They told me so. Would I have bought a house in a quiet neighborhood in a suburb in the Midwest or traveled to Nashville like they all told me I should do?

Would I have broken his heart and met someone new? Would I have children now with different colored eyes and unfamiliar names and would we ride our bikes and play fetch in a park like this listening to another woman singing about a life I could only imagine?

And in these imaginary scenarios, I like to think that I am happy and content, that whatever choices I made would find me just fine. And if I’m being honest, a part of me wishes that there was some way I could find out what would have become of me in Minneapolis or in Nashville or on a ship on the Mediterranean. What would my new favorite places become?

Because as much as there are things in this world that terrify me, those don’t weigh as heavy as the weight of all the things there are out there to love, if only we had another lifetime.

“Oh, I hate this getting old stuff,” our friend said to my father and then they both got quiet, staring ahead at a dark and familiar road, the headlights lighting up the night.

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A song for strong women

On International Women’s Day I think it’s appropriate to share this video of my song “Work,” inspired by my Norwegian immigrant Great Grandmother Gundrun, and all the women who have built (and are currently building) their muscles out here in this cold, rough, beautiful landscape. 

“Strong women
may we know them
may we be them
may we raise them.”

Veeder Ranch to be featured on Born to Explore

Born to Explore

Last summer, Richard, from Born to Explore, a travel show on PBS, came to North Dakota. They stopped by the ranch for a little music, a ride, and an attempt at a dinner conversation with us and our two babies.

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My our collection of grills, unfinished house projects, chaotic kitchen and my North Dakota accent make an appearance, but so does the beautiful landscape, our babies, cows and some music on the porch with dad 🙂 It’s a great snapshot of North Dakota and all the reasons this place means so much to us.

Also, I don’t usually wear dangly earrings when we chase cows…but, you know, TV.

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The episode, North Dakota: Where Legends are Born will premiere on PBS stations on Feb. 23 and have multiple repeat broadcasts throughout the year. Check out the preview here and tune in!

Born to Explore #208(P)/North Dakota: Where Legends are Born preview from Born to Explore on Vimeo.

Thanks Richard and crew for a great visit!

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Northern Lights

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As I write this, the plane dad’s taking to get him home from a three month stint fighting for his life is likely landing on this frozen tundra of a place. He won this battle, and four years ago at the beginning of a frigid January, he miraculously won another one, when a valve in his heart tore open and, against all odds, he made it home.

I wrote Northern Lights, a tribute to his will to live, in the passenger seat of a long drive home that winter, watching the lights of the aurora bounce and dance across the back sky, offering a flicker of hope in the longest, coldest season.

Dad and I recorded the song in Nashville the following year and have played it at select shows since its release.

For some reason, it’s taken almost three full winters to finish and release this video. How fitting, on his homecoming, it is ready to be shared today.

Welcome home Dad. May you live to be that old cowboy they said you’d be.

TEDx: Making a living out of a life

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Happy Friday. It’s a beautiful fall day in Western North Dakota, the perfect weather for a Homecoming Celebration in my home town.

I spent this morning giving a talk to the 8th grade students. My focus was on my career path, ultimately hoping to convince them to follow the gut feeling they have about who they are and what they love at this point in their lives because it could likely guide them in their future career endeavors.

I’m not sure how they processed it. They were a little wiggly dressed in our school’s maroon and white gear, anxious to take on the rest of the day’s fun events, like coronation, the parade the homecoming football game.

But I always jump on the opportunity to share my story with the kids in the hope that it might give a kid like me a little nudge and inspiration.

As I headed towards the door after my presentation,  I was cut off by the marching band playing the school song in the hallway and I couldn’t help but feel glad to be there, suddenly struck by the memory of the feeling I had when I was a teenager dressed in my boyfriend’s jersey feeling sorta free and sorta nervous and sorta awkward and sorta invincible in my youth, not realizing the way the years fly like the yellow leaves  blowing from tree branches today.

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I don’t know if I would have thought I would be back here if you would have asked me then, married to that boy, having his second baby.

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In the time capsule letter I wrote to myself when I was a senior, and dug up at my ten year reunion, I confessed that I hoped I’d be doing something creative as the adult version of me. I hoped I was with someone I loved. I mentioned a family.

I didn’t quite know what I really wanted though, or how it might all play out. But I was willing to just jump into things that seemed like an opportunity or an adventure. Things that sorta scared me enough to put a little wrench in my gut until I found I was comfortable in it. I figured I’d eventually be comfortable in it all.

But I was wrong. Turns out being an adult means you feel that little gut wrench so much of the time, that being an adult does not, in fact, equal having it all together and figured out.

And thank goodness for that really. I’m not ready to give up the gut wrench. Hence, perhaps, the impending second baby. That one’s giving me a hellofa wrenching these days (not to mention indigestion, heartburn, back ache and insomnia).

Speaking of indigestion, heartburn, and insomnia, a few months back I was asked to take part in Bismarck’s TEDx conference as a speaker. I was honored to be considered, but hesitant to participate, knowing how tediously planned and executed these events and talks needed to be and knowing I would have to wrangle my off the cuff performance style.

And I wasn’t sure I had an idea worth sharing really. I would have to think on that one, really reflect. But I said yes anyway, because, you know, my guts.

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Anyway, I’m glad I did. I had a lovely experience and it helped me push myself to really think about what it is that I’m doing here.

They sent me the link to the video today. In true Jessie fashion I’m not going to watch it right now, because I will criticize my accent, my stumbles and the way I carry my pregnancy in my cheeks. Because when I left the stage I felt good about it and so I want to continue feeling good about it.

And I hope it provides you a little insight, a little inspiration and makes you think differently about how and why and where we choose to live our story.

Happy Homecoming Watford City and happy weekend friends. May it find you in your happiest places.

Peace, love and guts,

Jessie

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Let it shine…


Edie calls my guitar my “Sunshine” and I never want to forget it.

When I get my “sunshine” out she cries until I sit her on my lap and let her play with me. And we can only sing “You are my Sunshine.”

She’s so bossy and I’m putty in her hands.

Here she is on one of her 37 renditions of our song.

​I can’t help but look at her in these sweet moments and wonder what kind of woman she’s going to grow up to be. I wonder if she will spend her life behind a guitar or the windshield of a motorcycle, the screen of a computer or the wheel of a tractor…

In hard and confusing times like these, I’m so thankful that I have her to give me hope for the future. I pray I can do right by her, to help guide her toward love and acceptance and bravery when she’s worried and wondering. I hope I can always be her rock, the way good parents and good people should be to our children…

Funny, I never expected my baby to be my rock in return.

My rock and my sunshine. ​

Let it shine, my friends, in any good and decent way you can.

We need your light.

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Comfort found in the rain drops

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It’s raining this morning. The windows to my bedroom are open and I woke to the sound of it trickling from the sky in the darkness, the bathroom light on and my husband already up, downstairs, brewing coffee and getting our baby dressed for her day at daycare.

Although it took me a while to realize. That’s usually my job. I get her up and properly snuggled and dressed so he can take her down the road with him. But I blinked my eyes open to listen to the rain, and then I heard them on the baby monitor sitting on my nightstand, the clicking and swishing and chattering of our morning ritual.

“Blankie?” She said.

“Yes baby,” he said.

And I thought, “how sweet,” and that I could just lay here under these covers, under this roof, listening to the sound of the rain and their chatter as I drifted back to sleep.

But then I remembered her hair’s probably a huge mess, some standing straight up, some sticking straight out and the rest down in her eyes and she will need her ponytail, and her dad, with his big, calloused fingers, gets nervous about ponytails.

So I swung my legs over the bed and shuffled down the stairs, rubbing my eyes and sneaking up on them as they entered the hallway.

“Oh good, just in time!,” he smiled, handing me our daughter with one arm while carefully placing the tiny pink elastic hair tie in my hand. She laid her head on my shoulder and we sat together in the chair, putting on her finishing touches for the day, her shoes, her flowered jacket and, yes, her little ponytail before her dad swooped her up and down the road in the rain.

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Eleven years married and this is what our life is now, a series of balancing and handoffs and what’s for supper? Did she eat? Did she bath? Did you see her latest trick? And some days this life feels more overwhelming and out of our control than others, with a crazy schedule and bills and bad news and bad weather and bad things happening to good people and we can’t do much about so much…

But this morning we all rose slowly together under the calm quiet of the morning, a team of a little family who has each other’s hands, and hearts and ponytails under the roof that is a our messy little sanctuary, under a sky that’s raining again…

Thank God it’s raining again.

Coming Home: The hope that lives in a rain shower
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Rainbow over east pasture

It rained last weekend. For the first time since spring arrived, the clouds rolled in during the early morning and they hung over the land all day like a sweet, life-giving blanket, sending waves of drenching water, turned to sprinkles, turned to mist turned back to heavy rain, on and off all day.

It rained. It really rained last weekend. And it didn’t matter if there was an outdoor event planned, or a camping trip, or a parade — we all welcomed it on our skin, remembering what it felt like to be given a promise that the dust will settle.

We’ve been waiting for this moisture for months, although the drought hasn’t affected us or hit us as hard as our neighbors to the south. Our hay crop is alright this year. We have enough grass. Our livelihoods don’t fully depend on the cattle we raise. We’ll be fine.

Others are not so lucky this time around.

And I can’t help but think of how the weather controls us as I stand with my face pressed to the screen door, letting the rain speckle my cheeks, watching it drip off of the deck railing, shiver the leaves on the trees, turn the garden dirt black and open my purple petunias up for a drink.

It’s magic really. I’ve been watering those flowers for months from the sink every day with Edie and her little green plastic watering can. And they were fine, if not a little sad and hopeless sitting there stuck in the hot sun in those pots.

And then it rained like it did and they grew new leaves, petals sprouted overnight, vines reached toward the sky and they were alive again, with one big gulp.

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I felt like those flowers, sluggish and worried about lightning strikes and fires, stuck inside in the afternoons with Edie, eating popsicles and both of us refusing to put on pants.

I remember hot summers like this from my childhood, the sharp, dry grasses scratching our bare legs as the buzz of the hoppers cut through the heat.

The dog days of summer had its own smells of dusty hay bales and sprinklers waking up the lawn. It tasted like water from the hose and sweat and push-up pops on Grandma’s front porch. It felt like the prick of a cactus after a misplaced seat and mosquito bites itched clean off the skin and sweaty horsehair sticking to your legs after a bareback ride to pick chokecherries.

But when it rained, it changed our world from dust to mud, from popsicles to warm soup, from itchy legs to soaked jeans, from grasshoppers to chickadees, from sprinklers to puddles.

And maybe it’s just how I was raised, but even as a kid, even on the days I planned on swimming in the big lake or meeting friends at the pool or riding my horse in the parade in town, I can’t remember ever being disappointed by a summer shower, knowing full well, maybe even then, that in those tiny drops, hope lives.

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Listen to my song, “Raining”
From the album “Nothing’s Forever”

Buy it on iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby or on jessieveedermusic.com

A song comes to life

Coming Home: How a song comes to life in the garden

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She was munching on a pea pod I’d plucked from the plant in front of her, her fine blonde hair escaping from the ball cap she insists on wearing backwards, rendering it completely useless for protecting her rosy cheeks from the 80 degree day.

Before she finishes her first garden treat, she’s reaching out her hands, mouth full, mumbling “more.” I pick her two, one for each hand. Pleased, she struts across the garden in her cowboy boots and shorts, trampling over my onions on her way to see if she might get the chance to pull up an entire bean plant before her momma tells her “no!”

We’d been in the garden together for approximately 10 minutes and this is about the way it goes — a series of “come heres,” “no, no, nos” and “stop walking on my peppers!” as if a toddler understands any more about the concept of a garden than the cool touch of the dirt and the crunch of that pea pod she’s started asking for by name while she points out the window toward the yard.

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I was removing the grip of her chubby fingers from the leaves of that plant when I looked up to find my husband and dad, back from the hay field, apparently taking a moment to see how this scene was going to turn out, a pregnant momma trying to save her garden from Toddlerzilla.

I put my hand up to shield my eyes and hollered, “hello” as they made their way over to take a seat on the grass in front of us, smelling like diesel exhaust and sweat. Edie squealed “Papa” and ran toward them.

They sat there together for a bit, commenting on the cool breeze, feeding Edie more peas while I pulled up radishes and weeds and that was that, just another moment in a series of moments on the ranch.

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“I went home that night and I was choked up about it,” Dad said the other night as we were driving home from a performance. “I saw you out there with her and it just reminded me of that song you wrote…”

I dreamed you high up on his shoulders, on a horse, riding along. I dreamed you digging in the garden and I wrote you in a song…

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And I thought, oh, of course. That song I wrote all those years ago, dreaming up that very moment, which seemed so out of reach at the time. I only sang it alone in my house and cried through multiple takes in the studio where I recorded it weeks after losing my fourth or fifth pregnancy … I lose count.

And then there we were, together in the middle of that scene, sweating in the hot sun and getting the chance to take it all for granted.

But leave it to Papa to say, “Well, look at you now! Who would have thought?”

Yes. Look at us now.

Because in this life we’re all made for something, holding tight and letting go. And some things, they are certain, and some things we’ll never know…

List to full length version of “For You Child” from my 2012 album, “Nothing’s Forever” available for purchase at www.jessieveedermusic.com 

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Life and art on the road, on the ranch, in our neighborhood

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I’ve done it to myself, and it’s all good things, but the past few weeks, and the following two weeks are full to the brim.

I kicked off my official book concert tour last weekend across the state in Fargo and Grand Forks and I could spend the morning gushing over how amazing it was (and always is) to get off the ranch and meet people who read my column in the newspapers or online, who sort through the pictures and stories and songs and find a connection, but I’ll just say this: when you grab my hands after the show and thank me what I want to say is no, thank you. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for sending me messages. Thank you for coming out to meet me and tell me your own stories.

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It’s my favorite part and it’s completely overwhelming to see a room full to the brim with people who chose to spend a few precious weekend hours with a ranch kid and her dad.

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In the meantime, my mother worked her butt off setting up the merchandise table and selling books, making sure I ate something and got places on time and didn’t have lipstick on my teeth, you know, all the things that good moms do.

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And while we were away, baby Edie was home helping her dad check for baby calves…

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Traveling to see her cousin perform in a dance competition, watching her other cousin play in a softball came and directing her other Nana and Papa in her new role of starting a family band.

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Oh, and I hope that she was practicing cuddling her baby dolls as I’ve been working to get her ready for her new little cousin set to arrive in a couple short months. She’s got the kissing thing down pat, now if I could just keep her from throwing them to the ground after…

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And while the book has finally arrived, this week another one of my big projects is coming to fruition. For a couple years I’ve been working with a group of like minded individuals to put together the Long X Arts Foundation with the mission to bring quality arts programming, education and access to our rural and sometimes isolated community.

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We’ve received such outstanding support in our efforts and tomorrow we’ll be hosting our second annual Badlands Arts Showcase where area artists will showcase their work in an art show followed by a performance of area artists and musicians in the new and beautiful high school theater space that I’m so proud our community invested in.

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It’s been lots of work, but it’s been so refreshing and inspiring to discover and feature all of these wonderfully talented people right in our backyard.

Plus, there will be dessert.

And coffee.

And Mexican food.

I am nervous that all will go well, but so excited to show off what we’ve put together for the community and raise some more funds so that we can develop art classes, concert series, dance programs and beyond.

And then I’m out on the road again this weekend, heading to Bismarck for the North Dakota Music Awards on Saturday where I’ll be performing with the long lost boys of Outlaw Sippin’ and then my book release concert on Sunday at 2:00 PM at the Heritage Center. 

This time Edie gets to come along, so if you come too, I’m sure you’ll find her roaming the halls of the Heritage Center, dancing, singing and bossing around the giant dinosaur in the hallway with my niece trailing behind her.

Until then, I’m sitting with my feet up, my laptop on my lap, answering emails, making lists and watching the calves sneak through the fence to try to get a taste of the green grass on my lawn.

Oh. And I should probably do a load or two of laundry so I don’t have to resort to wearing my back of the closet outfits…

See ya out there!

Peace, Love and Harmonica Music,

Jessie

For a list of upcoming book release concerts and to order “Coming Home” online, visit: www.jessieveedermusic.com 

Jessie Veeder Book Cover copy