Friday, December 27, 2013

Sorting cows on Christmas

Later, after the sky has changed
from silver 
with a rim of pink
lacing the Ruby Mountains

to a pale airy blue,
we shuffle from pajamas
into jeans and carhartts
and leave the warmth 

of the wood stove for the cold
bluegold of the day.  We sort
the three oldest calves 

into a new pen, leave them
with a bit of grain to ease
the transition.  They watch us

from behind long frosted lashes,
as we leave them 
to their new home.

For me, the day that follows
Christmas morning has never looked
quite like this.  As a child

my family went skiing after presents,
or my sister and i began to pack
for our cross-country flight

the next morning to visit our dad.
I still feel somewhat unaccustomed to
the life of a farmer, the serious

need of the animals waiting for you.
The responsibility of taking 
good care.  I am even less prepared

for my own willingness to trade in
my perceptions of what a perfect holiday
should look like, to walk through cold

sunny fields to do the work of a rancher
on Christmas.  But I am willing, and I 
continue to be surprised by my ability

to stretch 
and become someone
I never knew I could be. 
This  year I was very aware
of the fluidity of tradition.  
Most of our Christmas storage bins

stayed unopened in the basement.
Instead, simplicity.  Fewer decorations,
few gifts, less stuff.  More time

and space for the meaningful
bits of our days, the elemental.
Wood for warmth, candles for light,
meals grown and raised
entirely on our own land.

And I keep waiting for the let down,
the post-holiday low after 
so much anticipation.

But I'm starting to realize
it's not coming this year.
That I am ready to move forward

into the new year, into the heart 
of winter, with a new kind of trust
in the rightness of my days.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

the pictures I didn't take

It snowed last night.  Even when you know
to expect it, there is something so surprising
about waking up in a world that looks so different
than the one you fell asleep in.

My parents have both asked me in the last few days;
have you been writing about all of this?

And I haven't.

I've put together phrases in my head
and I've thought a lot about writing

as my imagined version of the next year
shifts and remakes itself.

I haven't taken pictures either, though
I have all these images in mind
of pictures I didn't take 
over the last eight weeks.

The image of myself
standing at the bathroom sink
holding the test and breathing
out one quiet expletive 
as I watched the tiny screen change.

Or the list of names
held to the refrigerator with a magnet, 
written in Amelia's neat
handwriting.  The soft fleece
of a tiny sweater that I'd packed away
years ago.  Smiling and 
thinking how I hadn't planned
to need it again.

Or sitting in the the waiting room,
knowing before anyone else did
that something wasn't right, 
that the tiny ocean I carried inside
was a much quieter place
than it should have been.

Or the way my body refused
to loosen its grip, and the strange
days of waiting for an ending.

I am raking leaves and waiting to miscarry.
I am splitting firewood and waiting to miscarry.
I am lying awake in bed waiting to miscarry.

Then finally the surgery,
the sweet nurses who said they were sorry,
the white round lights of the operating room,
the bits of memory wiped clean with anesthesia,
that slowly resurfaced
hours or days later.

Or thinking it was all finally over
the moment my dr. called to tell me
there could be dangerous cells
that were left behind, there will be 
testing and more testing 

How do you feel?

Really, the simplest words are best.
I don't know.

I'm reminding myself that now is not the time
for grand decisions
but all I want is for something to change,
it feels like not enough
to simply pick up
where my life left off
in October.

I have the utmost faith in time.
I know I will feel differently in a week,
or a month.  But I'm trying to tell myself
that's it's okay to not let this go yet.
As my friend, Sarah, wrote me, I need 
"to sit and feel what I'm feeling - let it
weave and wave its way out."

The snow is still falling,
a bit lighter now.
Just this, stopping to put it all
into words
was what I needed.
To give these weeks the weight they deserve,
to hold them until 
they are not so heavy
and I can carry them
with something like grace.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

right now

I'm doing something very ordinary, but it feels so adventurous.  I am sitting in an airport lounge, drinking an IPA, writing on my little laptop like a real grown up.  It's just beginning to get dark outside the huge plate glass window, but the mountains are so familiar that I don't feel lonely or alone.  The Bridgers, my brother is named after them, they're old friends.  I am flying across the country for three days, leaving my family in Montana. I'm going to lay eyes on Weston, my beautiful new nephew, and to see my sister transforming into someone new, a mama.

Driving here this afternoon, I talked on the phone with friends. We laughed and 'high-fived' across the miles, they rallied and cheered me on as I take flight alone for the first time in over six years.  My heart is light and happy.  I have a new book, and the latest podcast of 'This American Life' cued up on my IPod.  I am such a happy geek!!

I am struck by the total joy that can be found in this life.
New babies,
family, adventure, 
thanking the universe for 
ALL these incredible moments.
I am so

Maybe it's not so ordinary after all. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

fall notes: roadtrip

You leave town later than you'd planned,
nearly 11 by the time you fill the gas tank
and point the car north.  But the day

is radiant, and entirely yours. 
Your daughters sing along
from the backseat; The Lumineers,

Modest Mouse, the Avett Bros. 
Familiar landmarks stand
a bit taller than usual
against the brilliant
blue of sky.  The highway
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unfurls beneath your tires
in limitless possibility.
It is Sunday
and you've packed a lunch,
bathing suits, a camera.
An adventure is in order.
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Picnic at the Lewis and Clark Caverns.

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Dark skies on the way to Norris.

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Weary traveller.

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Waiting for the storm to pass at Norris Hot Springs. Nearby lightening cleared the pool.

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Yes! Mom, the pool's open!

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Recharged and perhaps fueled with a bit of junk food.

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Dropping into Ennis for dinner.

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The day's last light. And many miles still to go.

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Sandhill Cranes above, wet highway below.

From your booth at the diner in Ennis, 
you watch the windows grow completely black.  
There are three small televisions 
on the walls, all showing the same football game.
The girls alternately cheer for Chicago,
then Pittsburg, amusing the quiet tables

of flyfisherman and cowboys.  You give them quarters
to ride the automatic horse, the little train
with seats for two.
It is after 8 when you drive back
onto the highway.

In the backseat, the girls nestle
beneath their blankets
and close their eyes.

The going is slow.  Heavy clouds
and rain, a nearly empty highway,
lousy windshield wipers, the possibility
of hormonal deer charging into
your headlights.  You squint, grip

the stearing wheel.  55 mph 
for the next two hours.  
Gillian Welch sings her sad
songs as the occasional
semi sends waves of rain
into your windshield.
You can hear the girls

breathing quietly from the backseat
and you remember how,
as a child you loved 
driving at night with your parents,
how safe and warm, and protected
you felt moving across black
landscapes long after bedtime.

You take a deep breath,
relax your grip
and put your trust 
in the miles of dark highway

Saturday, September 7, 2013

singing hallelujah

We roll into the empty parking lot, 
windows down, afternoon light all 
angled and golden.  In the backseat, the girls 
are "singing hallelujah for the first time," 
along with The Head and The Heart.  

It is the begining of the first weekend of the school year 
and so we come to the river.

Wading in, I try to memorize the feel 
of moving water against my legs 
even as the current crawls to a whisper.

I lean deep into 'lasts' this time of year.  
Maybe I shouldn't.  Maybe I should be 
someone who lives easily in the present, 
devouring the seconds and minutes 
as I move  through them.  

But the end of summer 
makes me nostalgic in ways I can't ignore.  

This could be my last river swim until next summer.
This could be the last week we sleep
with every window in the house
This will be the last summer
my children look this small,
need me 
in this particular way.

I float on my back, 
feet pointed downriver the way 
you're supposed to.  

I watch and listen as the girls
play orphan cave sisters, 
gathering seaweed for the long
voyage to the north shore.

And for a second
I get a glimpse 
of the perfect completeness
of this moment, this perfect arc

of sunlit afternoon, of ending summer,
of my daughters; exactly as they are

And I remember that this day is ours,
and so is the next, that the future is one 
enormous mystery to move through.
Lucky us.*

*My friend, Nici, wrote a blog post last spring that ends with these same two words.  Simple as they may be, I think about them often.  Lucky us.  Helps keep everything in perspective.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

first grade

Dear Amelia,

You start first grade in a few hours.  You chose a backpack covered with different colored stars and asked me to put chicken noodle soup in your new thermos for lunch today.  Your clothes are laid out; brand new pink Mary Janes and a sparkly shirt.  For weeks you've been telling me that you're nervous about this new year, but last night as I tucked you into bed you looked into my eyes, tucked your fists under you chin and told me I'm so excited for first grade.

We have had such a good summer.  You learned to really swim and how to tie your shoes.  We camped, floated rivers, spent time on the lake with grandparents, welcomed lots of our family for a week here, a weekend there.  I will miss hearing you slowly thump down the stairs in the morning after the sunlight was woken you, wrapped in your blanket, your body still warm and heavy with sleep when I hug you and tell you Morning, Bird.  I will miss slowly easing into another warm summer day with you.

I know that I will think of you all day long.  I will try to picture you crossing the monkey bars at recess, or sitting beside your friends during lunch.  And I will wait for the big yellow bus to bring you home to me this afternoon.  I'll want to hear all about your first step into this new year.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

just before august ends

Today is another beautiful summer day.
Amelia and Aven change directly from nightgowns
into swimming suits and we pack the car effortlessly.

It is the end of summer and I don't even have to think 
about where towels or water bottles are.  Our days
have become streamlined; garden, river, campground, lake;

by the end of August I feel so graceful
in our happy summer orbit.  
In a week this all will shift into something else.
I am telling myself several different versions
of what this fall will look like.  I see myself running alone

puffs of breath made white by cold mornings,
I see myself in the campus library, 
my laptop and flourescent lights.  I see the yellow
school bus pulling up to our driveway as I watch
through a frosty windshield as my girl climbs
the steps and disappers. 

We've talked about changes
the last few days.  What it will feel
like to walk into new classrooms,
meet new teachers.  We talk about
being afraid 
to leap into the new.
I wake in the middle of the night
and feel this longing,
but I'm not sure 
for what.
There is something so lovely
and heartbreaking in this time
of year.

Monday, July 29, 2013

midsummer notes

i climb from bed 
to feel cold  morning air,
every window open and the sudden

summer shiver of bare feet 
on the wood floor.  I dress
quicky for my run,
flip on the car's heater 
as I drive the quiet early miles
to my favorite dirt road.
I pass two velvety looking bucks
their heads down, graceful in a sea
of alfalfa.

I run east, toward the smoky
outline of the Tobacco Root range,

not turning back until the sun
starts to rise, a thick vibrant pink
a color that says
I'm used to getting what I want.
I chase the retreat of purple shadows back
toward my car.   

Even here, 
just over a month past solstice
there are reminders everywhere:
a patch of yellow in the cottonwoods,
the river current crawling into lull, 
exposing roots and thirsty stones,
the perfect V of geese flying overhead,

Even now,
in the lush fullness of midsummer
there are reminders-
in the mountains of Montana
winter never feels
far away.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

june dance

There's a place I love on the Birch Creek Rd where, after winding around a few small hills, the road rises and drops again, leaving you with the view of the entire north side of the Beaverhead Valley, the Tobacco Root Mountains, the Highlands.  It's breathtaking every time you see it.  The graceful blue transition of foothills to mountains, the velvet soft roll of hay fields.  This land doesn't often look soft.  But at the beginning of June it changes.  There is this surprising lushness on the desert, the smell of cottonwoods, and the impossible blue of sky.

Today, as you drove past this spot, you stopped.  

You left all the windows down, turned the radio up, 
and whooped to your girls to climb out and dance.  

"And we should consider every day lost 
on which we have not danced at least once."
 -Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, May 31, 2013

for amelia bird

You walked out
of your kindergarten classroom
for the last time today.

This year has felt
impossibly long
and also
like the blink of an eye.
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Being a parent stretches
your capacity for instant nostalgia,
for attempts to wrap
your arms and mind
around something that was here

just a second ago
and is now gone.
It bruises your heart

the way muscles bruise
when you push them
to run faster,
carry more and more
It is a good bruise
that means we are all becoming

who we are.
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first day of school

When I left your classroom
on the first day
I made it as far as I could. 

I hurried past the other teary moms,
pushed through the school's front doors into the warm September morning. 
I bit my lips.  I looked at the sky,
watched my shoes. 

I made it to my car.  Before I cried.

I cried while I tried to imagine what you were doing. 
It felt so foreign to have to guess, to not simply know.
I drove slowly through our town.

Back and forth
on sunny streets.

And I let my heart break
over the wonder and pride
and utter loss
I felt
over your first day of school.

I finally parked
and wandered
into a basement thrift store.
As I walked slowly through the store
a woman I barely knew
smiled and asked me
how are you
just the way people do.

I had never before cried
on a stranger's shoulder.
All I could say was
it's my daughter's first day
of kindergarten before she
wrapped me in her arms
with an awe, honey.

I cried because I couldn't see your face.
I cried because how can this be right,
to send you far from me
each day?
I cried because what if your feelings were hurt,
or you were tired, or you needed me?
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I cried because
I love you more
than anything.
I cried because I was afraid
you'd struggle

and maybe you'd fall.

But you flew, Bird.
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Of course you did.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

sweet gray morning

An hour alone in a coffee shop feels ridiculously indulgent.  Nevermind the mellow gray skies hanging low outside, the door propped open wide.  Nevermind the cool, fresh air, we'll happily leave sweaters and fleeces on, just order another hot americana and marvel and the soft voices, the lazy trickle of customers through the open door.  Greens are lush on the sidewalk of the flower shop across the street, the peonies and geraniums are brilliant in the muted light.

We happily bubble toward this new season, faces tilted up, raised to new rain, soft air, pale sunlight that makes us squint like old friends trying to place one another.  

This morning I ran for miles, climbed a small mountain or maybe a large hill.  Breathed in and out.  Felt like I was floating.  I want to absorb this precise beauty, this pace, to hold its quiet loveliness inside my chest and sip from it when I need it most.  When I'm rushed, or tired - maybe I can find this reservoir.

There are things I need to do this morning.  I need to find cowgirl boots to wear to a wedding this weekend.  I need to buy a new coloring book or two to help ease the drive.  I need to pick my car up from the shop.  Good little things.  Good little morning.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

weekend: spring rain

I didn't think they'd climb all the way.  First, crossing our pastures then climbing over the woven wire fence into our neighbor's dryland hills.  They were wearing rain boots, had gone looking for puddles before spotting the silhouette of a herd of antelope at the top of the hill.  I watched them grow smaller as they waded the ocean of grass.  
I caught up with them just before they reached the top.  Thrilled with their solo climb, they pointed to the Pioneer Mountains, Lets do those next!

I spent hours in the hoop house, listening to soft rain on the roof.  The smell, the softness of the air was something I had nearly forgotten.  Rain.
I want to plant everything at once.  Today I settled for transplanting all 35 tomatoes and planting bean and summer squash seeds.  My hands feel like sandpaper and my muscles are tired and happy.

This weekend we built tents,

soaked up the heavy gray skies,

& took naps...among other things.

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