Green’s my favorite color


It was a beautiful day. 70 something and sort of breezy, sunny. The perfect day to go out and collect some wood ticks.

And look for green and on-the-brink-of-blooming things.


A couple more days of this and we’ll be in full blossom.

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But all the years of searching for spring I know where to look for the earliest flowers and what trees turn green first.

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The tops of hills where the sun is warmest.


Down under the tall grass where the dirt stays damp.


By the creek where the trees with the white trunks grow.


That’s the thing about this place. It has its secrets, it’s little tricks just waiting to be discovered with the seasons.



Every day looks different here. Every day the sky brings sun or clouds to cast shadows so that if you want to explore something, there’s something new to see.


But there’s nothing like the waking up season. The door is open to the house tonight and the frogs are singing and croaking in the dam. I would bottle it up if I could and save it for the winter when there’s not much sound but the howling wind.

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Who would believe it now, that it was ever so white and cold?


I don’t.


I don’t believe it.

Not when we’re warming up so beautifully around here.

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Not when it’s turning green right before my eyes.

And green’s my favorite color.


The golden hour…

IMG_9124Summers don’t last long enough here. But the days are long and so we make up for it by squeezing every last inch of sunlight out of our waking hours.

We have supper at 11 pm. Quick. Whip something up. We need to sleep so we can wake and do it again.

I like every inch of this time of year, but I like the witching hour best, the time right before sunset when everything on earth is bathed in a golden light and the creek bottoms cool and the clover smells fresh and crisp and like every childhood ride I’ve ever taken.

IMG_9099Last night I rushed home from meetings in town to meet up with Husband to push some bulls and a few cows through the gate to the west. I ran inside and switched from my sandals and fancy shirt to boots and jeans and jumped in the old green pickup and on down to the barn. I rearranged the tack room and swept away dust while I waited for him and the horses to come down.


It would be a quick and easy ride, the cattle right by the gate. We saddled up and admired our animal’s sleek backs. They’re summering well, we said. Fat and sassy, full of gas.

We swung on and out of the barnyard and pushed those cows with their new boyfriends toward the creek. And they went well and so did our two bays and when they were through that gate we decided to keep going ourselves, to check the dam on the other side of the pasture. To just ride a bit and be out in it.

To make sure all the other cows were in between the fence lines.

I wish you could have seen it, the way the green looked neon and the purple flowers popped from the earth in the bask of the 9:30 sun sink. On a different Wednesday evening I might have brought my camera, but I left the house on a deadline and, sometimes it’s nice to just be there without the burden of trying to capture it the way I see it, because sometimes it just isn’t possible.

And sometimes it’s nice to just talk about nothing really and ride along.

IMG_9112Sometimes it’s nice to just say, “What a night! What a night!” and believe it between the two of you.


We made our way to the dam, spotting a hawk and a coyote and a couple deer along the way. Oh, and some cows. There were cows too.

Good thing there were cows.

And then the sun that was kissing the top of my husband’s hat, filtering through his too-long hair, making him look like a western movie poster, sunk down over the horizon, chilled my skin and turned our stroll into a trot, back across the new spring on the hill, down through the valley where the plums grow in the fall, up along the deep trails, across the flat, to the creek and through the gate we left open.


Feeling proud of our accomplishments and hungry for our 10 pm supper, we popped up over the hill that would take us to the pink road, past the grain bins and down to the barnyard.

But not before we came upon the cows and their boyfriends, the same ones we just pushed through that gate, munching and strolling exactly where we found them an hour or so before.

“Cows” I exclaimed as if my husband didn’t have eyes.

“Yup,” he replied in typical Husband fashion. And then, “Shoulda probably shut that gate…”

But if there ever was a night to do a chore like that twice, it was that night. Because in the golden hour or in the dark, we would rather be out there than anywhere…

And anyway, tacos taste best at 11 pm.


Winter Walking.

4 PM. Still in town. Hurry, pack up your briefcase. It will be dark soon. Get in the car, turn on the radio and follow the trucks home.





Get to the corner. Take a right. Speed up a bit. Notice the sky turning pink. Turn up that song.

Turn left at the white fence. Follow the pavement

Slow down a bit. Check on that  tree. Smile. Still looks mysterious and beautiful tonight.

Careful on the curve. Watch for ice. Hum along now. It’s not dark yet.

Turn left on the pink road, notice it’s plowed.

Over the cattle guard. Stop at the mailbox.

Bills and catalogs and no real letters.

There’s never real letters.

Glance in the rearview. Almost home. One more cattle guard, one more hill, one more turn. Open the door.

Kick off town boots. Strip off work pants. Toss earrings in the drawer. Find wool cap and camera.

Where are the damn dogs?

It’s getting dark.  Chase it down.

It’s getting dark. Watch it coming. Watch it turn from white to blue.

It’s getting dark. Climb. Climb. Climb.

Crunch. Crunch. Click.

Crunch. Crunch. Breathe.

Dogs pace. 100 steps to my one.

Wish I had fur today.

Wish I had four legs. Wish I could roll in the snow like that.

Wish my ears flopped.

Crunch. Crunch. Whew.

Make it to the top. Breathe. Notice the hay.

Remember how we used to pretend they were Frosted Mini-Wheats and we were shrunken people in a cereal bowl.


Follow the fence line. Time to cross. Don’t rip your pants girl. Easy now.

Walk in the fields, follow the horse trail. Notice the elk tracks. Think they must like Frosted Mini Wheats too.

Crunch. Crunch.

It’s so quiet.

Crunch. Crunch. Except for that wind.

Pull up scarf.

Pull down wool cap.

Lean into the weather. Walk on now. Keep walking. Hit the prairie trail. Follow it through the fence. Stop.

Hands on hips.

Look to the north.

Look at those buttes. Love them in white.

Love them against that pink sky.

Love this place.

Love this wind.

Love this damn cold and these damn dogs.

Love this snow.

Wish I had four legs. Wish I had paws.

Wish I had fur.

Wish I could stay out here all night.

It came in with the night….

Go find your mittens
so your fingers don’t freeze
slip on your big boots
pull your socks to your knees

Dig out your best scarf
wrap it round yourself tight
the snow has arrived here

it came in with the night.

 I’ll put the roast in the oven
and heat the milk on the stove
they’ll be right here waiting
when you come in from the cold

Knocking ice from the branches
and stringing Christmas tree lights
yes the snow has arrived dear

it came in with the night.

So squeeze on your knit cap
over wild wooly hair
watch your breath float and drift
in the crisp morning air

Break the ice for the cattle
put the saddles away
yes the snow has arrived here…

and I think it might stay.

Alone and breathing in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Well fall came dancing along in all its glory around here and we sure didn’t need the calendar to tell us so. Just like the uncharacteristically warm weather, the leaves on the trees were not about to take the subtle approach to the season change. Overnight the ash leaves turned from greed to gold, the vines bright red, the grass and flowers exploded seeds and even the slow and steady oaks began letting go their acorns and turning one leaf over to gold at a time.

It has been magnificent. But that’s the way it is around these parts, when it comes to the landscape and the great outdoors, you really can’t accuse it of being understated.

So after a challenging week I was ready to celebrate autumn the way it deserved to be celebrated. I was ready to frolic in it, to let go my agenda and my worries, ignore my pain and troubles and just climb a big damn hill and feel the warm breeze in my hair. So on Friday after a trip to the big town for an appointment, I moseyed on down the busy highway filled with lines of trucks and pickups and SUVs. Vehicles that moved busy humans at full speed along that paved ribbon of road that winds through buttes and half cut wheat fields, across the Little Missouri River that sparkles and meanders under the big blue sky and slowly sinking sun. I wanted to meander too, I wanted to meander among the things out here that are allowed a slow change, a subtle move toward hibernation, a good long preparation for a show like no other, a recital of how to slow down gracefully.

And I couldn’t help but wonder while I tried hard to keep my eyes on the road, despite the neon yellow trees waving at me from the ditches, if these people who were sharing my path were seeing this. Did they notice that the tree was waving to them too? Were they commenting on how the crows have gathered? As we came down through the brakes that move us through the badlands of Western North Dakota, our home, did they notice how the layers of the buttes–the line of  red scoria, the black coal, the clay–did they notice how in the late afternoon light the landscape looked like a giant canvas and the buttes seemed created with wisps of an artist’s brush?

Did they see that river? I mean really see it when they passed over the bridge? Did they take note of how it has receded a bit? Did they feel like stopping beside it to rest for a while? And as they approached the sign that read “Theodore Roosevelt National Park-North Unit,” a sign that indicated they were indeed on the home stretch to their destination perhaps, only 15 miles to the town to stop for gas, to make it home, to take a rest on a long truck route, were they enticed like I was at all on that Friday afternoon to stop for a bit?

Because what could be better than breathing in fall from inside a place that exists raw and pure? A park. A reserve. A spot saved specifically to ensure that nature is allowed to go on doing what it does best while undisturbed by the agenda of the human race, which at that point on Friday afternoon I was firmly convinced didn’t have a grip or a handle or an inkling about how to live gracefully among a world designed for us…let alone accept and live harmoniously among what we can’t control or may not understand–like the change of weather and the seasons and the sun beating down on the hard earth we wish would soften, or a body we wish would heal and function properly.

And I was guilty as well of taking this for granted. I was guilty of driving by this spot time and time again as it called to me to take a rest, to visit, to have a walk or a seat or a climb.

But not Friday. Friday I needed its therapy. I needed to park my car and stretch my limbs and take a look around from the other side of my camera.

From the top of Battle Ship Butte.

From the trail at the river bottom.

From the flat where the bison graze.

So as I pulled my cap down and took to the familiar trail that wound up that big, daunting and famous butte along the road, I took notice of breeze clattering the drying leaves together, the birds frantically preparing for the chill, the grasshoppers flinging their bodies at the dried grass and rocks…

and then I noticed I was alone.

Alone out here in this wild place I’ve visited before as a tourist, as a resident of the area, on dates and outings, family functions and educational tours surrounded by inquiring minds and cameras.

But I’d never been out here alone.

Alone as I scrambled and pulled my tired body up the steep and rocky and slippery trail toward the top of my world  as twobison grazed on the flat below the buttes.

Alone as I reached my destination with no other ears around to hear me catch my breath and then sigh in awe at the colors and solitude.

Alone as I watched those bison move and graze, a spectator in a different world, a spy on a giant rock.

Alone as a ran my hand along the cannonball concretions, scrambled to keep my footing and wipe the sweat from my forehead on the way down.

Alone to take my time as I noticed how the trees sparkled on the river bottom against the sinking sun. No one to tell me that’s enough…enough photos, enough time, enough gazing.

Alone as I walked toward the river, keeping an eye on the time, but wishing there was no such thing. And there was no one there to stop me from following it a little bit further, to see what it looked like on the other side of the bend.

No one there but me and a head full of thoughts and worries that were being pushed out of the way to make room for the scenery, the quiet, the beauty, the wildlife tracks and magnificent colors and trails before me.

And because I was alone, because it was quite, because in here there was no speeding or trucks or access to my phone, because unlike on the ranch, I was unfamiliar with the trails and the directions I was forced to really pay attention, to use my senses, to make new discoveries,  I was able to notice that after a few weeks gone missing I was becoming myself again.

The self that understood this was my habitat, my home and surroundings. The self that knows the weather will be predictably unpredictable, but the seasons will always change, the leaves will dry up, the acorns will fall, the birds will fly away from the cold or prepare for it, the grasshoppers will finish their rituals, the snow will come and coat the hard earth, then melt with the warm sun, changing the landscape, if only a little bit, as the water runs through and cuts the cracks in the earth.

And the bison will roam because we let them and the antelope will too knowing or not knowing that their lives are fragile.

Just like ours.

So we must remember to be present,  live in it…breathe.

Thank God I remembered to breathe.

Please, remember to breathe.

For more photos of my hike around Theodore Roosevelt National Park, click here to visit my Flickr photo album 

Oh, and if you missed it, take a stab at my North Dakota Trivia Game from last week’s post for a chance to win a prize! There haven’t been many brave attempts (I think you’ve all been out enjoying the beautiful weather), so I’m giving you more time!  Get your ND history hat on a play!

The top of our world…

See those buttes, way off in the distance in this photo? Yes. You see them? Good.

I love those buttes. They are like the backdrop to this little painting we live in here at the Veeder Ranch. They are always there in the distance, reminding us of our neighbors to the north, reminding us that we are pretty small here on this landscape, you know, in the scheme of things, and staining as a fixture of the beauty that surrounds us.

The Blue Buttes. That’s what we call them around here. Why? Well, because they look blue don’t they? Yes? Bluish, purplish…

There they are again...way out there...

Every time I look at them I am reminded of a story that my pops told me about a drawing he colored of a cowboy on a mountain during a project at school. He used his crayons to make the man’s hat brown, his shirt yellow, the sky blue and the mountain he was riding along purple.

When the teacher asked “Why did you paint the mountain purple? Mountains aren’t purple!” young pops said he felt embarrassed and confused. Because the only encounter he had up to that point with anything resembling a mountain was the Blue Buttes that waved to him from about seven miles north. And they sure looked purple to him.

Oh, my heart.

Anyway, on Tuesday I found myself up close and personal with those buttes that have been such a far away mirage on this place. A new friend who moved to the area with her husband and settled into a little farmstead a few miles north asked me to come spend the day with her poking around the countryside, taking photos and climbing the area’s famous Table Butte.

Of course I was on board and for many reasons. Number one is that I had a chance to spend some time with a woman who I hadn’t quite had enough time to really get to know in person, but who already understood that I was the type of person who would be enthusiastic about this kind of activity. She didn’t ask me to go shopping or to help her bake a pie. No. She met me a few times and understood that hiking might just be my thing.

And it was her’s too.

This had potential to be a great friendship.

Number two was that I have grown up here, traveling to the small town of Keene for youth group activities and meeting up with friends on the other side of the buttes, but never have I had the chance to stand on top of one of them to catch a glimpse of my world from way above and all directions. I was grateful for the opportunity.

So I headed up the gravel road in the morning armed with my camera, sunglasses, hiking shoes and water and began poking my way to her house, kicking up dust and admiring how the day was shaping up. The sky was blue, the clouds were fluffy and the breeze was just right. I followed my new friend’s directions and pulled off the main gravel road and down into a coulee to find her standing in the door of her quaint, renovated farmhouse and her border collie-blue heeler mix running up to greet me.

And I’ll tell you, it was all over from there. See, this woman from eastern Montana, who married one of my High School Rodeo buddies and found herself out here making her home at the bottom of the Blue Buttes, couldn’t have been more connected to the land or more appreciative of it if she had sprung from the soil herself. While we loaded up the dog and our bodies into her husband’s old pickup she drove me down the gravel road toward our hiking destination and talked about the history of the area as she understood it. Because she’s enamored with the stories and finds the old houses, barns and shacks that still remain as ghosts off a different time among the rolling pastures and fields of the countryside so intriguing, so mysterious. And while she spoke about what family owns what acreage and told me stories about who homesteaded in the little wooden house with the green trim and who taught at the old sandstone school, I was struck by the fact that just as much as my new friend was at ease in her new surroundings, she was equally, if not more, astounded by it.

And so we drove a few more miles, chatting about growing up, our husbands and the people we knew in common, a tail of dust floating behind us, until we reached our destination.

Table Butte. A well known sacred spot for the Native Americans of the area and a landmark, a striking feature, a special place for any rancher, farmer, teenager or passerby who has stood in its presence, no matter the heritage. As we approached I understood why. See as you head north, away from the badlands, the countryside evens out a bit, the fields get larger and more fertile, the oak coulees less thick, the clay soil dissipates. While you drive further from home you feel like the wheels under you are literall stretching the earth…

And you think the landscape might all just even out eventually, until you find yourself approaching two massive looming towers of rock and dirt and grass that seem to have sprung up from the depths of the earth in an explosion of rocks and vegetation. And although from the back of your mind you extract some knowledge about glaciers and weather that could scientifically explain the formation, what you really want to put in its place is the story from the perspective of the Native Americans who climb to the top on their vision quests.

We parked the pickup under the cliffs of jagged rocks, unloaded the dog, and made our way through a herd of red cows and on up to the top.

The climb was steep and as stories and childhood memories and marriage and family flowed from our hearts and memories and out our mouths, we had to stop halfway up to take a break, because it turns out spilling your guts and climbing up the face of a massive cliff at the same time requires a good amount of oxygen to the lungs.

And then we were at the top and words stopped in our throats for a few moments as we took it in.

From the cusp of the giant cliff you could see for miles in all directions. We could take in our entire rural community in one sweep. To the north the big lake laid like a dark blue slate.

To the south, the coulees of my home and neighboring pastures.

To the east, miles of grass, oil wells, a ribbon of highway and wheat.

And to the west Chimney Butte stood in our view, the other side of the story, another magnificent formation.

We milled around up there, kneeling down to pay tribute to a memorial that was placed at the top of our world in honor of two members of my new friend’s family, we watched her dog get as close as she possibly could to the edge of each rock while I had mini-heart attacks and my new friend called her pet back.

We knelt down and snapped photos of the wildflowers growing out of the rocks. We laughed and shared funny stories. We sympathized with one another as we told tough ones about the hard stuff.

We got to know one another up there as the sun moved from the east to the west and the wind tangled our hair and we had scanned just about every inch of the landscape with our eyes and our lenses.

And then we headed back down when we were ready…

back into the seats of the brown pickup, and back along the winding road, stopping at my new friend’s favorite places: that old house with the green trim,

the Sandstone School my grandmother attended…

By the time we pulled back into her yard I noticed the sun was planted pretty close to the horizon. I tried to guess the time as we chatted about her horses and her husband pulled into the drive…home from work already?

I said hello, told one more story and loaded into my pickup to head home. I took a look at the clock for the first time that day.

8 pm.

It was already 8 pm! Ten hours I was out there among the grass and wind and sun and in the company of a new friend. A new friend that I felt had known me for years.

What the heck!? I had so much fun I forgot about lunch! That never happens.

I meandered home, snapping a photo or two of the wheat fields on my way,

and gave husband a few words about the day before stripping off my clothes and crumbling into bed, my spirits lifted, my body tired, my heart a little lighter from a day on top of the purple colored buttes.

So yes, when I went out the next evening and looked toward the buttes, I thought of their purple color, of course, and the story of my pops as a young, net yet worldly boy. But I also thought of the day I spent with my friend…

The friend I got to know on the top of our world…

To be alive…

So here I am in Red Lodge, MT getting ready to climb into husband’s new pickup with him and my built-in-best friend and take the trek with a camper up Beartooth Pass and on into Yellowstone Park for our family reunion last week.

I was excited to set my eyes on the magnificent views of this intensely steep, stunning, rustic and dangerous highway, so although I may come across as graceful while captured in the air, I will tell you I stayed true to form and landed awkwardly on the ground only to limp my way across the parking lot as husband shook his head and told me to get in the pickup already, geesh.

So we got on with it, happy we finally made it this far after spending fourteen hours on what was scheduled to be a six hour route.

But before we go much further I have to say that the open road, big sky, crisp air,  home in my rearview mirror, family next to me and more waiting ahead made me more grateful than ever to be alive.

That and the fact that sometimes in the middle of your grand plans interrupted by flat tires and small deer that fly out of the ditch to dent your new ride, life hands you a deep breath, a close call, a reality check to make you say a silent prayer to whatever you believe in for perfect timing, that damn flat tire and another day to live in this magnificent world.

Because as we climbed up the pass that day, our eyes focused on the snow capped mountains and the cold blue lakes pooled at their feet…

as we stopped to pick up an ambitious young man who was attempting to roller-ski up the pass and talked to him about his life full of adventure and challenge, as we counted yellow wildflowers and inched closer to the peak, our thoughts were with the man we found laying on the interstate the night before.

The man who, just moments before we found him, was celebrating a beautiful summer evening on the back of his motorcycle. A man who appeared before us a pile of broken flesh, bone and steel alongside the road as the sun sunk down over the horizon– a perfectly uneventful, every day drive, stopped short by an unexpected twist of fate and timing.

We could have been miles ahead of him, long gone and safe in our campsite by the time the man’s motorcycle made contact with the deer in his path, violently sending his body hurling toward the cool, rough pavement on the shoulder of the interstate.

We could have missed the entire thing and not thought twice as we made our way through winding highways, forest, flowers and mountain streams calling to us quietly.

Or we could have been a moment too soon, laughing as we told stories of good times spent together. We could have glanced over at one another just long enough to miss the headlight blinking in the middle of the interstate, to miss husband’s chance to slow his pickup down enough to maneuver through the lifeless deer, the dented bike and the broken man.

We could have been telling a different story entirely.

But no. We are telling this one. The one of our pickup parked safely along the road, the 911 call, the run to the nearest mile-marker, a cloth held to the man’s wounded head while he sucked in the Montana air and recounted his birthday. The one where kind-hearted and capable travelers stopping to help work through it, to direct traffic, to talk to him and tell him everything was going to be ok.

The one where the man was broken but alive.

The one where we were shaken but alright.

The one where we moved on to stand at the brink of a waterfall,

to sing around a campfire and climb a mountain,

to feel the steam of a geyser on our hot faces, the cool-down of the star-lit night and a prayer for a stranger on our lips.

We awoke the next morning to a stream bubbling by our campsite, little man laughing next to us and the mountains reaching toward a crisp, clear sky.

I couldn’t help but notice my senses were heightened, my heart more present, my body positioned closer to the family beside me.

And so we went into the mountains this way, all of us feeling more alive and grateful.

We laughed louder.

Embraced longer. 

Climbed higher.

Looked closer.

Saw more clearly

Reached a bit further. 

Took more time

Held our breath and found more patience to exist in an another day…

because we were reminded it is nothing but a gift.

Thank you family for bringing us all together here, for letting me hold your babies, for climbing that mountain with me, for cooking me a s’more and some chicken, for making sure we were all together as Old Faithful was erupting…

and holding on tight as I held on tight too.

Thank you for existing, in this masterpiece with me.