What I don’t want to forget…

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Greetings from Minnesota. We spent the Labor Day weekend here with my grandparents and aunt at the lake cabin and in true family vacation fashion, we get to stay a bit longer because my car crapped out on us.

So send a little prayer up for my radiator so we can get on the road and head back west with the babies at a decent hour today.

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But we’ve had a nice time. Edie and Ada have the relatives wrapped around their tiny little fingers and it’s so wonderful to see Edie at this fun age developing relationships with our family.

It seems like there’s so much turmoil and unease in the news and in our world right now, some days it’s hard for me to stay grounded and optimistic about it all. But spending a stretch of days focused on extended family, creating memories, keeping it close to home, teaching and showing love and affection and feeling it in return reminds me that it begins here…

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It begins with our children.

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Coming Home: What I don’t want to forget

Yesterday I asked Edie if she pooped.

“Pew Eee,” I said, waving my hand in front of my nose, scrunching up my face.

“Pew Eee Hondo,” she replied, mimicking my actions and successfully blaming the dog for the first time.

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I guess it doesn’t take long for them to start figuring out how this world works. Like, I thought I had more time before she started declaring opinions about my wardrobe, but I was wrong. She demands I take my shoes off when they’re on in the house and when I have my hair up, she makes it clear that she prefers it down until I oblige and she can move on with her little life.

And she’s got even stronger ideas about what she should be wearing. Like absolutely nothing when she’s outside in the backyard, bending over to moon the world while drinking out of the kiddie pool like her BFF Hondo. And when she’s inside? Well, she must be in a dress.

A dress and a winter beanie — I’m sure she’s right in style and I’m just her old pregnant mom walking behind her making sure she doesn’t make poor decisions, like running wide open down the scoria road toward the bulls screaming “MOOOO!”

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These are the types of things I report to her dad at the end of the day when he walks through the door. Because not only do I never want to forget, it feels a little unfair that her only audience is a hormonal woman three months away from giving birth to another one of these mysterious, messy and magical tiny humans.

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Last week my family hit up the local farmer’s market to buy some peaches and listen to my dad and his band play. I stepped up behind the microphone to sing a few songs and Edie cried the cry of heartbreak until I plopped her on my hip to sing with me. It took a couple rounds of the chorus, but before long she leaned in and sang the words to “You Are My Sunshine,” as clear and as confident as a 1-year-old can be, right into that mic. And then she grabbed it out of my hand for another round.

I’ve spent the past few days hearing from my friends who have been sending their kids off to another year of school. So many talks of firsts and nerves and “where does the time go?” and big hopes and worries about tenderness, toughness and compassion as they navigate the time out from under their parents’ wings. It’s exciting and heart-wrenching to know it won’t be long before the little world Edie’s so intent on figuring out gets bigger and more complicated.

I mean, one stage performance has already secured her a bigger audience…

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And there are a thousand things to reflect upon and have opinions on in the tumultuous times we’re living in, but today I just want to tell you how on Saturday, when we came inside from looking at the stars, Edie waved, blew a kiss and said goodbye to the moon.

And it was everything.

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In the first place…

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Well we had a fun weekend last weekend. I’ve been so busy thinking about next weekend’s plans,  I haven’t had much time to reflect. All I know is now that we have Edie in our lives, time seems to go so much faster, even on the weeks I feel like I barely see her, which was the case last week as I spent my days getting ready for our Arts Council Showcase and a weekend full of music.

And it all went as good as can be. Thanks to my wonderful community and board members we enjoyed a flawless evening of music and art and I got to accompany Native American Hoop Dancer Kevin Locke as he performed and visited the kids at all our local schools. He was inspiring and the kids’ energy invigorated me.

Saturday morning our arts council hosted a writing workshop with an award winning author for people over 50 to help encourage them to share their stories and pass on their legacy.  I attended for most of it, but had to cut out early to hit the road for Bismarck for the North Dakota Music Awards. But I was so glad I popped in and to participate for a few hours and see my community members engaging in the creative process. So much of my life is focused on writing and creating, and lately I admit I’ve been feeling less than inspired as I try to balance this brief, but chaotic time in my schedule. Just a few hours of focusing on the process in a room with all minds on the same goal was just what I needed.

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Then down the road I went to meet up with the band and sound check a performance. My grandparents and aunt from Arizona were passing through on their way back home to Minnesota, so it was a special treat to have my aunt in the audience when I found out you all voted me (along with the very cool Bismarck band Kids with Beards) as your favorite folk artist for 2017.

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Thank you so much for that honor, I don’t take your support for granted for a day. And you showed up then, the way you always do, on Sunday afternoon for my book release concert at the Heritage Center where you (and my grandparents too!) were able to be in the audience to see Edie’s stage debut.

Turns out my girl and I missed each other that week, so she couldn’t watch the concert without making a fuss about wanting me to hold her so she could play guitar, so at the end of the show my mom brought her up and, well, it was a sweet moment.

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Next time I imagine she’ll bring her harmonica and demand a solo.

The crowd was so wonderful to come inside on one of the nicest days of the year and hear my stories. I truly enjoy being out and about meeting you all. I like it best when Edie can come along too (thanks to my niece and my mom), even if it’s a little more sweaty and stinky and covered in cracker crumbs.

Click here to see a TV interview with me discussing that day’s concert.

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And so here we are, in the middle of a new week and I’m so glad it’s spring now. The grass is greening up, the forecast is in the 70s for the foreseeable future and I just want to sprawl out and let the sun soak in my skin.

So when Edie came home we went out to frolic a bit, to feed the bulls and tinker with fences and pick her dad some flowers.

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It was only for an hour or so before we had to head in and get supper ready, clean up and get Edie to bed, but it was a nice reminder for me about the importance of doing the non-urgent things together, the just sitting outside and watching her run.

And while I haven’t been much for recaps in this space, usually more compelled to reflect on individual moments, I felt like recounting the past few days tonight. Because some days, especially these days, I’m too focused on what comes tomorrow. And I realize as she’s one moment away from being able to open the door to the outside by herself, that her wings are coming in much quicker than I expected.

Because last night I opened her baby book and couldn’t remember how old she was when she first rolled over, or her first trip to the pool or when she decided peas were her favorite vegetable.  For a woman who makes a living off of memories, sometimes the short term ones, the dates, the logistics, they don’t stick. So I panicked a bit, realizing just how little time there is for reflecting in the middle of this parenting gig and just how many more reasons there are to give ourselves that time.

Like the way she runs to get her boots when we tell her it’s time to go outside. How she puts her cap on backwards every time.

The big swell of pride that filled my chest as I watched my husband patiently teach her how to scootch down the stairs on her butt, because he doesn’t want her to get hurt and she’s always trying to do it herself when we’re not looking.

I want to remember the way she says “puppy” and I know I’m going to forget. I want to close my eyes on the hard days and smile at the way she insists on sitting behind the wheel of the pickup every time we go outside.

Because she’s such an unexpected gift indeed and the stuff good songs and stories are made of.

And I think maybe she’s the reason, long before I believed I might ever meet her, that I starting singing them in the first place.

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Why God made wheels…

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If she had wings, she’d never come down from the sky.

That’s why God made wheels for this girl of mine.

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And once I thought He made her so we could show her things.

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But it goes the other way.

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Because she reminds us of a better, wilder world, every single day.

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Our responsibility. Their Future.

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This week’s column was written in the chaos before the election, before the results. It was written in the dark quiet of my living room after I put the baby down for the night. While my husband was serving the chili he made at his monthly volunteer fireman meeting.
It was written after months of agonizing over the choices we were facing in the race for the leader of our country, on the eve of election day with the weight of what our decisions mean for our children sitting heavy on my heart.
In my last post, on Veteran’s Day, I asked for you to share your stories of kindness, given or received or witnessed. Please continue to share your accounts of good in the world, as we all need to be reminded that we have one another’s backs…
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by Jessie Veeder
11-13-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com
I just put the baby down for the night. I rocked her a little longer after she fell asleep in my arms, kissed her head and sat with her in the quiet darkness of her room before I laid her down in her crib.

Because I don’t know what babies dream about, but I do know it’s not the state of our nation.

She will not lose sleep over the big decisions and important matters we are faced with as members of our free country.

No.

She is too small.

She is too innocent.

And so it’s my job to worry for her. To make these decisions for her.

To speak for her future as I head to the polls.

By the time you read this, we will have elected the next president of the United States.

By the time you read this, that civic duty will be done.

But tonight, as I write this, the big decision is hanging in the air, looming in sound bites and accusations, scary threats and big promises and words assembled just right and I know for certain I will not sleep the way my baby sleeps tonight.

In the years I’ve spent writing this column, I have not mentioned many words about my politics. I promise you friends, I’m not going to start with it tonight as I sit in my easy chair in the middle of my life full of big plans.

In the middle of my country making big decisions.

No, I haven’t spoken much about politics, but I have spoken about kindness. I have mused at length about community and finding comfort there. I have talked about the importance of sharing our stories and how those stories connect us, turning strangers into friends or, at the very least, into people we have come to better understand.

Because we do not and we cannot and we should not all have shared experiences, opinions or beliefs. We shouldn’t expect it, no matter how it ruffles our feathers or makes us nervous or takes us away from our comfort zones.

It might be one of the most difficult tasks for a human (believe me, I know), but the acceptance, recognition and curiosity about all of our differences can be what make a full and well-rounded life. It’s what fuels our suppertime discussions, keeps us educated and, above all, gives us the chance to cultivate our compassion for people in situations we will never understand unless we try.

I’m writing this tonight as a reminder to myself as much as anyone else.

Because that baby sleeping in her crib down the hall? I don’t know who she will grow up to become. That’s the thing about children—their story is as much written as it is unwritten. They are as strong-willed as they are vulnerable.

And as much as I want to protect her from any harm or ill will or hurt feelings, more than anything I want her to grow up to find herself in a country, in a community (because we are a community aren’t we?) that accepts her and respects her for her accomplishments and potential as well as her differences and struggles.

And tonight I just can’t shake this sense of urgency in doing my best for her and all of those sleeping babies who are going to grow up and into our decisions.

And maybe that’s my politics.

Or maybe that’s my religion.

Or maybe that’s just my hope for our future.

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Making Memories. Making Pies.

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It’s a beautiful morning at the ranch, the wind is calm and the golden trees are sparkling in the sun, the baby is napping, the windows are open and I’m so happy to be home after six days on the music road.

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I’ve designated this day to unpacking and putting away all that was drug out in the name of traveling across the state with a ten-month old and my mother…which means we most definitely brought home way more than we left home with…

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Like maybe a few more outfits. And at least one new pair of shoes for each of us.

And maybe a giraffe suit for Little Sister?

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We sure have a fun and exhausting time when we’re out traipsing around the countryside. But we don’t get much napping in. And we don’t stick to a bedtime. And we try to cram as much fun as we can in between the gigs.

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Mini Merch Slinger

So we’re tired.

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I predict Edie will take the rest of the week to catch up on all of the extra time she spent kicking and clapping and singing along with her eyes wide open until the bitter end of the day when we plopped down together on the hotel bed, or the bed in my grandparent’s house, or the bed of our gracious hosts, and finally gave into the night.

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Sound check…

I’m contemplating crawling into her crib with her right now and the two of us could stay there all day. If only we both fit.

But not until I share this week’s column with you, a little story about the best part of this season change, which is most certainly more time in the kitchen with family reminiscing and making new, sweet flavored memories.

And I may be no Martha Stewart, as you all know, but this was my biggest attempt yet, getting as close as this non-pastry-making-family can get to pie perfection, thanks to the notes left behind from our grandma Edie…and maybe a little encouraging from above.

Happy season change. May the cooler weather inspire you to cuddle up and settle down a bit. I know that’s my goal this upcoming October anyway.

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Coming Home: Connecting with gramma’s memory over a slice of apple pie
by Jessie Veeder
9-25-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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My mom keeps a small wooden box in her kitchen, tucked up in the cupboard next to her collection of cookbooks. On the front it reads “RECIPES” in the shaky, wood-burning technique of a young boy trying his hand at carpentry.

And the from-scratch buns she served with supper.

And the familiar casseroles that you could smell cooking as you walked up toward the tiny brown house from the barnyard after a ride on a cool fall evening.

Every once in awhile my mom will open that box on a search for a memory tied to our taste buds. She’ll sort through the small file of faded handwriting and index cards until she finds it, setting it on the counter while she gathers ingredients, measures stirs and puts the dish together the best way she remembers.

I’m thinking about it now because it’s sitting on my kitchen table, the one that used to sit in my grandmother’s kitchen all those years ago acting as a surface to roll out dough and pie crusts or a place to serve countless birthday cakes or her famous April Fool’s day coffee filter pancakes.

And so they’ve met again, that table and that box, which is currently sitting next to a pie pan covered in tinfoil.

Because last week we pulled the box out on a mission for guidance on what to do with the 50,000 pounds of apples my little sister inherited from the tree in the backyard of the house she bought a few years back.

“Maybe we should make applesauce or apple crisp,” we said as Little Sister plopped the fourth bag full of fruit on my kitchen counter, my mom sipping coffee and my big sister entertaining my nephew beside her.

I reached up in the cupboards to dust off a couple recipe books because we all agreed then that apples this nice deserve to be in a pie, and Googling “pie making” seemed too impersonal for such an heirloom-type task.

Then Mom remembered the recipe box.

And that Gramma Edie used to make the best apple pies.

It was a memory that was intimately hers and vaguely her daughters’. We were too young to remember the cinnamon spice or the sweetness of the apples or the way she would make extra crust to bake into pieces and sprinkle with sugar when the pies were done, but our mother did.

And most certainly so did our dad.

So we dove into the recipe with the unreasonable confidence of amateurs and spent the afternoon in my kitchen, peeling apples, bouncing the baby and rolling and re-rolling out gramma’s paradoxically named “No Fail Pie Crust,” laughing and cheering a victory cheer as we finally successfully transferred it to the top of the pie using four hands and three spatulas, certain this wasn’t our grandmother’s technique.

Wondering how she might have done it.

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Little Sister carved a heart in the top to make it look more presentable. We put the pie in the oven, set the timer and hoped for the best.

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We fed the baby and gave her a bath. We watched my nephew demonstrate his ninja moves. We talked and poured a drink. We cleared the counter for supper. We put the baby to bed.

And then we pulled the pie from the oven. We marveled at our work. We decided it looked beautiful, that we might declare it a huge success, but first we should see what Dad thinks.

So we dished him up a piece. It crumbled into a pile on his plate, not pie shaped at all. But he closed his eyes and took a bite and declared it just the right amount of cinnamon, the apples not too hard, the crust like he remembered, not pretty but good.

We served ourselves and ate up around that old table. We thought of our grandma, wondered if she might have given us a little help and put the recipe back in the box right next to her memory and the new one we made.

And we closed the lid.

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Sunday Column: Haunted

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Another Halloween has come and gone and, although I this year didn’t find me traipsing around to parties dressed as my favorite farm animal, it did get me thinking, for some reason, about the origin of this all.

The art of the spook.

Mysterious things left behind.

And the definition of haunting.

Because out here we’re surrounded by a history that has left behind artifacts for us to contemplate, old abandoned farm houses, out buildings or shacks that many midwesterners have standing on their properties, out in fields or cow pastures, little snippets of stories of who used to live there hanging in the air as dinner table discussion or campfire ghost stories, leaving us to wonder who was here before.

So this week I dug back in my memory to reflect on an old homestead that used to sit up behind the house where I grew up…and all of the things we leave behind….

Screen shot 2015-11-02 at 12.49.51 PMComing Home: Items left behind in abandoned houses create
ghost stories for us country kids
by Jessie Veeder
11-1-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s a gloomy day, the rain is falling, the sky is gray and the trees are stripped from black branches. It’s Halloween season and all of the sudden I’m reminded of the old house that used to sit up in a grove of trees behind the yard where I grew up.

It’s not so uncommon around here for a family to purchase land from neighbors or inherit an old family homestead, so there aren’t many farmsteads around these parts that didn’t come with an old structure lingering on the property, providing ranch kids with plenty of bedtime ghost story material.

And so it went with the old house that stood tucked back on the other side of the barbed wire fence, against a slope of a hill, surrounded by oak trees and the remnants of Mrs. B’s famous garden. Her hearty lilac bushes, her grove of apple trees, her wild asparagus and rhubarb still thrived in the clearing she made in those trees all those mysterious years ago before the family up and left, leaving that garden untended, the root cellar full and a house seemingly frozen in time.

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“What happened to them?” I would contemplate with my cousins, one of our favorite subjects as our eyes grew heavy, tucked in bunk beds and sleeping bags scattered on the floor, together growing up, together trying to figure out what the passing of time really means and how a story could be left so undone.

Gramma took some old dresses, vintage black smocks with pearl buttons and lace collars, from the small bedroom closet of the old house. We would pull them over our heads to perform pretend wedding ceremonies or attend fancy parties like we saw on our mothers’ soap operas, the fabric smelling like mothballs, dust and old forgotten things.

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But no matter what character you were that day, you couldn’t help but think about who the real woman in those dresses once was.

And who would leave them behind?

So, as it goes with kids, our curiosity outweighed our fear and we went on a mission to collect samples of this family’s life that still existed between those walls.

And while I remember kitchen utensils hanging neatly on hooks, canned beets and potatoes lined up on shelves, the table and chairs sitting in the sunlight against the window, waiting for a neighbor to stop over for coffee, I also remember bedrooms scattered with old newspapers and magazines, the dates revealing the last years of occupancy, the fashion of the season, stories of drought and cattle prices sprawled out among diary entries and old letters, a glimpse into a world that existed long before us kids sifting through the rubble in tennis shoes with neon laces.

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And then I remember the dentures. Or maybe I just remember the story my oldest cousin told about the dentures. It doesn’t matter now who was actually there to witness it, it evolved to belong to everyone. An expedition to the old house, a creak of a cupboard door, a jar full of teeth that nobody noticed before.

“The place is haunted.” That was the consensus, especially when, at the next visit, the unwelcome house guests were greeted at the door by a flurry of bats (or, more likely, a bat or two). Yes, the spirits of that mysterious couple came back to the place. How else could you explain the thriving asparagus plants? The teeth?!

And so that was our story of the old house, a mysteriously fantastic pillar of our childhood adventures and a structure that had to eventually be burned down due to its disintegrating floor joists and general unsafe environment.

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I stood in my snowsuit and beanie and watched the flames engulf the graying wood and shoot up over the tops of the black oak trees and wondered how it all eventually came down to this … a life turned into old forgotten things, turned into ashes, turned into stories.

Maybe that’s the scariest tale of them all.

But each fall the apples in the old woman’s orchard ripen, each spring her lilacs bloom and each year their names come to our lips because of what they left behind, making me wonder if we were right about the haunting thing after all.

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Sunday Column: Full car, empty tank…

Rear View Road

In my life, by my own unscientific, not so mathematic, sort of a wild and exaggerated calculation, I estimate that I have driven approximately 7,538,390 miles.

But it’s probably more.

I mean, living 30 miles (give or take) from the nearest town and having acquired my drivers license and a 1982 Sorta Pink Ford LTD I liked to call Rosie when I was only 14, I’ve had ample opportunity to put plenty of road behind me in twenty or so years…

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Take that and add the five years I spent touring up and down the country singing for my supper and you think you could call me an expert…in maps, in traffic laws, in emergency preparedness, in flat tires and rear-enders, turn signals and every gas station from here to Ada, Oklahoma.

And I am. I am an expert in some of those things. Like emergency preparedness.

Just take a look in my car right now. I have everything you’d ever need if you were ever stranded…at a party…or a bonfire.

road 2A can of Big Sexy Hairspray. Sunflower seeds. A guitar stand. Blankets. Magazines. An extra pair of Toms slip ons. A beach towel. Wrapped Christmas presents I still need to deliver to my best friend and her kids in Bismarck. Thirty-seven half drunk water bottles and one sorta-full Snapple. Can cozies. A partridge in a pear tree.

Oh, and the backpack my mother-in-law packed for me in case of an apocalypse. There’s that to go along with the winter gear.

I’ve got piles of it.

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Yes, I’m a true North Dakotan, so in case the summer kegger doesn’t spontaneously occur, I’m covered for winter too.

So I should have known better…

Coming Home: Car stocked up for any situation, except running out of gas
1-11-15
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Hears to full tanks and full hearts.

Happy Trails.

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Sunday Column: The longest season

It’s been snowing all weekend.

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Actually, it’s been snowing all week.

Yesterday, after a night out singing with the band until 4 am I was a pathetic pile of “I’m too old for this…”

and, thankfully, the weather cooperated with my lack of sleep. On and off white-out flurries outside my window coincided nicely with the opening and closing of my eye lids.

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At one point I mustered up enough energy to look at myself in the mirror and actually scared myself.

“Wow,” I said to MYSELF from our bathroom upstairs. “I’m a mess.”

To which my husband replied a little too quickly and a little too loudly from his perch at the kitchen table downstairs, “Yup.”

“Shut it,” I said said as I found my way back to the fuzzy blanket on the couch with my kitten.

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And that was about the extent of our conversations that day, up until I woke up from my late afternoon nap and wondered out loud what he was going to cook me for supper.

But he was putting together a gun or something on the kitchen counter, (classic hunting season scene) so I decided on macaroni and cheese and thought maybe tomorrow I would try life again.

So I went to bed.

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And today I woke up to more winter.

And so it begins.

But thankfully we saw it coming. We heard about that pesky Polar Vortex, but we could smell it in the air, see it in the wooly fur on the backs of the horses and the crust of ice on the stock dam in the mornings long before the weatherman came up with the clever graphics.

So I called up Pops and the two of us went on the last ride before the snow flew while Husband was out sitting in a blind working on filling his bow tag and our freezer with venison.

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And that’s what this week’s column is all about. It’s about noticing the signs of a changing world. It’s about the animals and how they move around us, the coyotes running wild outside our door, the deer in the rut, the horses carrying us into a new season, and this bald eagle that perched out in front of the windows of our house, posing just long enough so we could all see him before spreading his wings and flying away.

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IMG_9932Coming Home: Change of seasons hits inside and out
by Jessie Veeder
11-16-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s about the minutes we spend just being aware enough to exist out here and appreciate it for what it is.

Gold turning to gray. Sun going down turning a blue sky black and our breath to puffs of smoke.

Fall turning quickly into the longest season.

IMG_0165I write a weekly column for North Dakota newspapers. Look for “Coming Home” Sundays in the Fargo Forum, and weekly in the Dickinson Press, Grand Forks Herald and Bismarck Tribune. Want my column in your newspaper? Let me know and I’ll help you make it happen!

Once I was a mermaid.

We are preparing for a weekend winter storm here and as I make a checklist of the things I should pick up for supper and plan for the things we can get done around  the house while we’re stranded, I’m feeling grateful for this unfinished home and worried about the families on the east coast braving winter weather after enduring such a devastating storm.

Sometimes we feel so safe here in the middle of the world, landlocked and grounded under familiar skies that promise nothing less than snow and wind and lightning and rain and winds that we lean into.

Winds that hold us up some days.

Sometimes that sky swirls and rages and touches the ground, scaring us, but not surprising us.

Because out here that sky is predictably unpredictable, but never has an ocean wave washed over our homes. Never has a river swallowed us up.

Never have I been forced to run from a storm.

And I can’t imagine it. I cannot imagine the ocean, a world so mysterious to this prairie girl, deep and powerful and dangerous and magical, splashing over my neighborhood, remodeling city streets, breaking down buildings, rearranging houses and changing my world.

When I was a young girl I used to sit on the granite rocks on the top of the hill beside my grandmother’s house and pretend that I was a mermaid swimming in the sea. I imagined those rocks were coves at the bottom of the ocean, the biggest stretching so high that the tip jutted out of the water, allowing my mermaid self to sit at the surface and look out at the mysterious landscape of the shore.

I don’t know why I wanted to be a mermaid. At that point in my life I had never touched the ocean, never felt the sand under my toes or tasted the salt of the water. In my mind the ocean was warm and clear and as fresh as the lake I swam in on hot summer days. I imagined the waves gentle and calm. I imagined whales making grand appearances on the surface. I imagined big ships and sailboats gently rocking between waves. I imagined diving with colorful sea creatures–giant turtles, yellow fish and orange sea horses. I imagined myself with long flowing hair and a sparkling tail, breathing under water in a world so colorful and crystal clear. So different from my own.

It never occurred to me that I could become seasick on my first boat ride across and ocean bay when I was seventeen.

I never dreamed the power of the waves could knock me down and roll me across the sandy ocean floor. I didn’t understand the sting of the salt on my skin or the bitter taste it could leave on my tongue.

I never thought my first encounter with a dolphin in the wild would find me as a grown woman on my hands and knees under the breakfast table of the cruise ship, nose pressed to the porthole glass, crying with excitement and wonder as the creature jumped and splashed and swam alongside our giant boat.

Our world is so big.
Our world is so big.
Our world is so big.

I see it on television, snippets of elation and suffering, misunderstanding and sacrifice, disagreements and hopefulness on the faces of people on top of mountains, inside skyscrapers, under the heat of a desert sun, along suburban streets and next to the ocean.

And I am landlocked and tied to a place that’s tied to me, under a sky that’s spitting out snow and threatening to blanket us in white for days on end. But I am not scared of the snow. The snow is my ocean and I feel like that mermaid I used to pretend to be, sitting out on a rock far away from the rest of the world that looks so small and mysterious from the unchangeable distance.

And as I say a quiet prayer of thanks to the prairie, I add a reminder to not hide too safely in the familiarity of this place that I dismiss the power of the ocean and the people who love the shore.

Because once I was a mermaid.

A good day to be a horse

I like it when the clouds do this.

It makes me feel like I am not so small after all, like I could reach up and pluck one out of the sky, put it on an ice cream cone and go walking through the pastures, taking licks and bites of the sweet fluff as I make my way to the hilltops.

Under clouds like this the horses get sleepy and relaxed, their ears twitching the flies away, four feet taking turns resting while the breeze blows through their manes and the sky provides intermittent sunlight and shade.

It’s a good day to be a horse and I’d like to imagine they are happy to see me as I come marching their way. They nuzzle my hand for a snack, check my pockets and sniff my hair as I bend down to take their picture.

I also imagine they think I’m strange, but they’re used to it. The woman in the plaid shirt always pointing and clicking and leaning across their backs.

But they humor me.

Between biting the tops off of new wildflowers and munching on the new green grass they lift their heads up and lean in close to pose.

To check out the camera.

And fight over the spotlight.

I like this time spent with horses. The time where I catch them in their element, but I don’t need to catch them. We don’t have work to do. I don’t have an agenda or a plan to bring them in and saddle them up. I just want to see what they’re up to scattered across the rolling landscape in their favorite grazing spot east of the corrals.

I like the way they look up there against the green and gold grass, the blue and white sky. They add something special to the painting I sometimes picture when I look out my kitchen window or through the windshield of the pickup as I come into the drive.

Is it wistfulness?

Peace?

Sentiment?

or just beauty…

I try to decide the words to describe what the sight of a horse has always done to my spirit as I scratch under the buckskin’s chin and he leans in a little closer.

But when I rub my hands down the sorrel’s back, brush the flies from under the mare’s belly and breathe in the familiar smell of dust and sunshine and grass and sky that our herd of horses keep under their skin I decide…

I may not be the best cowgirl and these might not be the best horses. We might not win buckles or keep the burs out of our manes. We might limp a bit or sport an attitude.

We may over-indulge, roll in the mud, stomp at the dogs and find holes in the fences so we can escape to the fields…so we might get away for a bit.

But we always come home.

Our home is the same.

And if I could I could be a horse I would wish for wild black hair and sound feet, a slick coat and pastures of sweet clover under blue skies filled with clouds.

If I were a horse I would want to run with these guys.