When the {Bones} are Good

I pulled in the drive this afternoon, feeling frustrated with the day, and thoughts heavy on my mind and heart. It’s difficult to work at something and see no physical result, no monetary reward for your efforts, and have it result in a void of emotional fulfillment.

Do you ever question your path? Choices? Do you question your why? Do you question how you got just where you are? I do and am, and it’s one of the worst cycles I get into. I think we all want to matter, and I want to make a difference. I’m tired of closed doors and ‘no thank yous’ and ‘not for mes’. I want to remain true to my cowboy boot wearing, ball cap sporting self and still push myself. I don’t want to wear office clothes and drive to the big city everyday, stare at computers, answer endless emails, and talk on a phone that weighs a hundred pounds. We all want to pursuit passions and have it reward us in all the right ways, but is there such thing when the “bones of your soul” aren’t good?

When I start feeling this way, I default to feeling like I’m failing. I see uncomfortable and similar patterns. I want to run away. I lack patience, and I want to throw in the towel. I want there to be reward for my effort and know that I’m not throwing that effort after foolishness for something that might never be. I want to go back to what was, my comfort zones, and my safe places and familiar faces. The problem, for me, is in the waiting, the patience, and the lack of faith.

I don’t have a cure for these overwhelming feelings other than to gut it out and get through the moment. I don’t know how not to let tears of frustration well up, and I don’t know how to fight back the lump in my throat. I don’t know how to overcome the palpable silence in the big, empty room.

So, I pick up my camera and go for a walk. I walk and think and wipe away tears. Today, I walked until I crested the ridge and found myself smack dab in the middle of a bunch of feral horses. I sat down in the sage, breathed deep, and pulled my camera up, and snapped picture after picture.

I thought about the “bones” of my foundation, and I realized it will never matter what job I work if I don’t get right with myself, if I don’t continue to try, if I don’t find ways to cure the restlessness, if I don’t learn to trust the process, and in turn, trust myself and the path the good Lord has put me on.

So, in the meantime, I do familiar things that act as a salve to a rough day. I pet the happy puppy faces that greet me at the door. I catch my wily and fat ponies, nuzzle them, brush out the gnarled manes and tails, enjoy the cool fall air on my face, crack a beer, crank the tunes, and strengthen the bones of my foundation. I get back to being the old me for five minutes.

Tomorrow is another day to try again, and all it takes is one foot in front of the other. When the bones of your soul are good, the rest won’t matter, and the best will come. I want to be ready when it does.

Happy Trails~

Heather

Advertisements

A Life By Design

What would it mean to you to create a life by design and not a life by default?  Maybe some of you have, but I am betting the majority of us are the latter of the two scenarios.  What does it mean to live on purpose, live with intention, or live to commit to goals and not just to create them?

These last few weeks, I’ve been attending a weekly coaching class talking about such topics, giving me tools to implement in my real estate career, and  to create a life by design and not just default.  To say that it has opened my eyes is such an understatement.  I’ve learned about the impact of my mindset, the way my heart and head communicate and have become ardently aware of wasted time and my own nonsense.

I can’t tell you exactly what brought me to choose real estate as a career at 42, other than I hoped to make some money; but I’ve had to dig deeper than that. I’ve had to really find my “why”. My “why” is my family, my loved ones, and wanting to give back to something bigger than me.  That particular thought alone caused a ton of reflection.  Suddenly, it’s like I feel the blood of my ancestors pulsing through my veins, and I think of my family ranching roots.

It wasn’t easy leaving the ranch a year ago.  I never saw myself doing anything but riding down mountain trails on my horse hosting people, walking side by side my folks as they grow older, and working with extended family and keeping family traditions alive.  But there is one thing I felt was lacking and have always known I wanted, and that was to live with purpose on purpose.  I wanted what I did to be transcendental, reaching past just my own selfish wants and needs; I wanted it to last for the sole purpose of leaving this world a little something good.

I was so fortunate growing up on the ranch in Montana; fortunate beyond measure.  I don’t mean in monetary terms, but more so in what really matters- the matters of the heart.  I’ve seen more mountain splendor than most will see in a lifetime atop the best horses God ever made. I’ve watched my grandparents dance at their 50th anniversary like two young school kids still madly in love until the day they passed. I’ve seen the sunlit wheat fields in central Montana aglow with the prettiest sunset built in orange and pink hues that stopped me in my tracks.  I’ve watched a cutthroat trout rise to a fly cast with art from the skilled hands of my uncle.  I’ve witnessed the bugle of the bull elk, and rattled in a whitetail buck for harvest. I’ve heard my daughter’s beautiful voice sing its song to a crowd that listened intently and with awe as her words floated on a summer night’s breeze.  I’ve seen my son learn to hunt, fish and trap and develop a deep love and respect for the outdoors.  I’ve shared days in the saddle with tough cowboys while we worked a herd as they willingly shared their knowledge. I’ve watched my mom turn a fresh colt into a steady steed.  I’ve seen my dad’s hands labor and mechanic on intricate motors and turn the pages of a worn Bible to share scripture. I’ve seen wild horses run through the sage, smelled the desert after a rain, and have known the tremendous love and respect of a good man.

Tangible moments. Heart moments.  Intimate transmission of memories from heart to head and back to heart all for the purpose of creating a life by design, not by default.  His design.

Real estate may not have been a choice I saw coming, but this last month has given me more purpose than perhaps I’ve ever felt, all while not yet making a dime. I thought I wasn’t living with purpose if I wasn’t witnessing and doing all the previously mentioned things, but I now see that it doesn’t matter what profession I’m in, but the purpose in which I’m living, and knowing my big “why”.

I refuse to be distracted by comparison.  I want to be captivated by the purpose.  So, learn to appreciate where you are in your journey, even if it’s not exactly where you want to be.  Whatever you do, do with your whole heart, whether that is a 9-5er, a fireman, a writer, a mill worker, a waitress, a coach, teacher, doctor, or a cowgirl.  There truly is a reason to every one of your seasons under the sun.  Appreciate it. Relish in it. Do it. And grow with it.

Happy Trails~

Heather

 

 

 

Last Call for the {Blues}

She looked around one last time at the now barren four walls she’d called home for the last nineteen years feeling nothing. Ironically, she’d pictured this moment in her mind a million times over the course of the last year, secretly picturing her things and herself gone; had felt the giant lump welling in her throat that had threatened to choke her down so many times before. The off white walls held casted shadows where pictures once hung, nail holes showing, dust settled on window sills, and his favorite worn leather recliner now sat alone in the corner next to a small table with a empty glass stained with bourbon from the night before.

She pulled her ball cap on over her unwashed, braided, dark hair, slid her aviators over her swollen and dry eyes, bent to pick up her last bag on the floor, slid the hand written letter to him on the entry table next to the house key, and turned and walked out the door, gravel crunching under her hastened stride. She felt like running, wanting to make this moment speed by. She wasn’t uncertain of this choice, but the guilt of the moment threatened her soft heart with indecision. She knew if she could make it to her old Ford, where her border collie anxiously awaited her in the front seat, she’d be in the clear. She could get in, put the truck in drive and leave everything behind her.

She checked her horses in the little two horse trailer, securing the door latch, took one last look at the tires, and set herself behind the wheel and fired up the ’76. Her pup looked over at her with questioning eyes, and settled down resting his head on her thigh. She lit a cigarette, put the truck in gear, and pulled out of the drive.

Her mind mulled over the memories that lead her to this point; the breaking. She found herself empty hearted and her soul longing to live in color again. She’d soul searched, paid a therapist, rode miles on horses, taken solo vacations, journaled, begged and pleaded with her heart and mind to fall back in love just one more time with him, but there was too much water under the half burned bridge. And life wasn’t waiting around, and neither was she. She wanted to steal some freedom while there was still a chance. She wanted to take the whole world in.

Because behind all the blue she’d been feeling lately, there was still a fire and light that burned inside of her. She didn’t want the emptiness she felt to skew her point of view any longer. She looked through the cracked windshield, seeing a red tailed hawk glide effortlessly on the breeze overhead. Signs. She believed in them. She knew one day there would be solace again. She took a deep breath, gripped the wheel tight and let her feelings go with that hawk on the wind.

And she pointed the truck north to Big Sky country.

The {Old} Man

The sun was making its way into the morning, cloud-covered sky. She stood there in the pasture calling the horses in before leaving for work, feeling anxious about the day ahead, needing to get going. Annoyed, she called again, as she saw two of the three head slowly descend down the hill making their way to the corral. Whistling one more time, the two pick up their pace to a trot, but the old man’s silhouette yet remained to meet her eyesight on the horizon.

“Damnit. I don’t have time for this. Why can’t he just come in with the rest of them?” she muttered as she hiked her dress slacks up and tiptoed her way through the dewy grass and mud in her wedges. She rolled her eyes at the inappropriateness of her attire, and much preferring her boots and jeans to this business casual look she had to wear. Truth be told, her annoyance wasn’t at the old horse that wouldn’t come in, or the fact she was late, or even at the clothes she was wearing; she wanted to stay home, to take in a much needed day with her equine pals doing a whole lot of nothing except just being. But she refocused on the task at hand…

Pausing to call again and catch her breath, she waited, and looked up at the orange and pink hues of the sunrise. It was honestly breathtaking. But still no sight of her old paint friend.

Worry started to set in and formed a tight knot in her gut. He’d been awful slow these days, taking his time grazing his way to the barn, his arthritis showing more and more. But she loved the old horse, and wasn’t quite ready to part with tangible moments and be left with only the memories they’d forged over the years. He’d taught her so much, listened to her, been patient with her when she wasn’t with herself, been brave when she couldn’t, stacked her in the dirt when she’d needed it, humbled her, and given her confidence to try again. His love stitched together her heart and soul. Selfishly, letting go wasn’t something she was prepared for yet.

As she crested the knob, she held her hand up to her brow blocking the blaring sun and searching for him. The sweet smell of the bright, purple lupine patch greeted her nose, and she took in her surroundings- the crisp and clean mountain air- the sound of the little irrigation ditch rumbling its way through the high field- and finally, she saw him.

He lifted his head at the sight of her approaching and nickered his low, muffled sound. The knot in her stomach turned to slight tears of relief threatening the corners of her squinted eyes. She walked up to him and he took two slow steps toward her. She met his neck with her hand and bowed her head against his.

“Hey old man… it’s time to come in.” She slipped her arm over his neck, dropping her pant legs to the wet grass, no longer tiptoeing on her wedges, which were now muddy and ruined, and they walked to the barn together with the morning sun at their backs.

She smiled. He always had a way of making her stop and take all of life in, in the moment. The day ahead of her no longer mattered, because right here, right now is what mattered most to both of their hearts.

The rest of the world could wait…

Thanks for the {Ride}

It’s been a ride here, friends. A good one… I’ve decided to hang up the reins for now on my column, Cowgirl Ramblings- turn the page on this chapter of my book. My life is a little busy, my words are feeling a bit redundant, and things have changed enough for me over the last couple of years, that I just feel it’s time…. time for new beginnings, fresh ideas, and untried goals.

Seeley Lake and the surrounding communities- Ovando, Condon, Potomac-will always be home- the place where the mountains touch the sky, the place where people know me by my first name, and smile when they see me pass through- my schools, my friends, and lastly, my family- all of you have been supportive and kind and open to my heartfelt, and sometimes, silly, ramblings.

Thank you to Nathan and Andi Bourne for giving me a platform and a place to share my words. There’s something rewarding about seeing my words in print- bold black and white- tangible, real and staring back at me from my small, hometown paper.

I will continue writing here and there, and you can still find me on my new blog on WordPress, Facebook and Instagram under a new name- The Wayfaring Cowgirl.

It’s been a good and happy trail to ride with all of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your acceptance. May your trails and trials ahead be filled with so much beauty and grace and goodness, it fills you up. Tip your hat for me to that beautiful Swan Range, explore a new trail, help your neighbor, forgive your enemies, wave at a passing car, give all you can and give some more, support the kids in sports, log some trees, share the land, lend a hand, and continue to make the Seeley Swan Valley a place that all can live, love and enjoy-

Happy Trails my friends~ Thanks for the ride and ramble on…

Heather

{Mustang}

She watched a scorpion scamper from underneath the corner of the porch to a patch of sage smattered with orange and red paintbrush. It was her favorite wildflower. It always had been. She’d seen it blooming in June in her hometown mountains in western Montana; the vibrant, deep red always caught her attention riding along the trails. But here, in the sagebrush steppe of Nevada, the color appeared more orange in tone, and the way it looked against the greener, spring tones of sage, subtly yet strongly standing out, made her love it all that much more.

She rested her folded hands on the railing of the rickety porch, squinting into the late afternoon sun, her green eyes creased at the corners showing crow’s lines. She grabbed the end of her black, platted hair, and fondled with the handmade silver concho securing it in place. Her fingers were adorned with old silversmith rings and donned her favorite shades of jade and turquoise and her veins traced and bulged under her copper bracelets at her wrists. Her style was eclectic; from her weathered, old high top, custom buckaroo boots, pant legs tucked, to her braided horsehair belt and old pearl snap thinly worn shirt with the sleeves rolled. She was naturally beautiful and never fussed with maintaining her appearance. Her mid sized frame showed the hard work she’d put in outdoors fixing fence, working cows, and riding young colts.

She’d made a trip to Wadsworth to bring her Gran some horsehair for hitching. Gran. She was something. Jade looked back over her shoulder at the old Paiute woman with so much love and admiration. Gran was what everyone called her. She’d loved and raised and mothered more strays than anyone, and she’d taken a liking to Jade when she first expressed interest in wanting to learn beading and braiding. Gran had learned how to hitch hair and braid from her husband, an old vaquero from from California, selling her pieces to make ends meet.

Gran’s gnarled hands gently worked the gray horse hair. “This is a good color, Jade girl. You got a good one. A good bbooggoo.”

Jade smiled at Gran’s Native tongue. Bbooggoo was simply horse in Northern Paiute. She’d seen the steely gray colored stud not far from her shack early this morning when she’d been out gathering in the yearling colts, and heard the yips and howls of a pack of coyotes trying to move in on him. He had a busted shoulder; no doubt the recipient of a life ending blow dealt by another stud scrapping over mares. He’d hobbled up the hill and was struggling to get away. She knew the kind thing to do was put him down.

She pulled up her lever action .30-30, lined up drawing an x from each ear to eye and pulled the trigger. Her heart sunk along with the gray’s body to the ground. She fought back the bile in her gut looking to make an exit. She hated to do it, but hated even more the suffering. The coyotes scattered at the shot, and Jade made her way to the carcass. It was obvious he’d been struggling for a while, ribs showing, his appearance shrunken, and his hide covered in ticks.

She reached down and touched the neck, closed her eyes, and muttered a blessing over the horse. It was something Gran taught her, to always give thanks to the horse for his existence. Only then could you harvest any of the mane or tail hair. The mane was preferred for hitching and braiding because it was more soft and supple, and it also made the best mecates. It was only fitting that a wild horse that lived here, also met his fate here in the rocky sagebrush patch. She took in the toughness of his muscle, the shape of his hooves with the prominent frog, the square jaw, wide set eyes, small ears and short back. She stroked him one last time before she took what she needed of the hair, closed the eyes on the dead stud with her palms, tipped her hat and walked home.

It was a way of life here, and not one easily understood, but she embraced it fully. Jade turned around and found a chair next to Gran on the porch. Gran reached over, patted her hand, and smiled. She was missing teeth, her skin weathered, but her deep brown eyes always sparkled and spoke of her youth.

“Stay for supper, girl?”

“Sure thing, Gran,” Jade said, reaching over and clasping the old woman’s hand.

Born {Game}

“Baby sister, I was born game, and I intend to go out that way.” ~Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) True Grit

It’s a funny, enlightening, scary and humbling thing to write out a list of things you feel you’re good and bad at. I did this recently. I will tell you, there were direct correlations and similarities between the two contradictions. I realize I’m pretty darn good at drinking coffee until it’s an acceptable time to drink wine. I’m good at laughing at inappropriate things at even more inappropriate times. I’m good at praying on a Sunday and cussing because it’s Monday.

Self awareness comes to us in raw moments in life, and you have the choice to embrace it or put in on the back burner of life and never take a look in depth at the real you.

It’s easy to identify and align yourself with family traits and traditions, and grow up thinking one way your whole life, thinking this is all that’s important to me, this is all I will ever want. But someday, you will realize your life has taken its own course like you just picked up your own reins to your own horse to ride over your own mountain pass. There you sit in the saddle, and how tall and strong and true you sit, matters. You look ahead at the mountains and the picturesque beauty, the blush of new beginnings, the clear mountain streams that bubble from the hillside giving you crisp, clear hopes calling you to dream bigger.

Life twists and turns down the trail; it’s going along status quo, your packs are riding on your mules nice and square, and then, you start chewing on the choices of your life like a piece of sinewy, tough jerky, you just pulled out of your day old lunch from the saddle bags, and you don’t always like the taste. The words of Jesus and the devil play simultaneously in your ear and talk over each other. And there becomes this sudden rush of trying to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong for you, because daylight is burning on this one trip around the sun.

The trail becomes this hot, scorched burn scar and life is baring down on you. I believe in those moments, that’s what you find what you’re really good at. You’re good at being tough and squaring your shoulders. You’re good at following your gut. You’re good at remembering what makes you, you. You realize God has His purpose for you.

You pass a green tree starting to emerge through the ashes next to the trail, and you identify. You realize you can’t see much beauty, but you see traces of what’s to come. And you know it’s just a matter of time before its beauty fills you up again.

Baby sister, you were born game… Hell, ya might as well go out that way.

Happy Trails-

Heather

{Gone}

Sometimes I get these wild and crazy ideas about stories I’d like to write. I literally have ideas on a continual turntable running through my mind, and I’m terrible about putting them down somewhere when they come to mind. Sometimes inspiration comes from the slightest things- like watching my horse’s mane move on the breeze- sometimes it’s a nostalgic feeling that washes over me remembering the used to be- sometimes, it’s song lyrics- if the truth were told, my mind never really shuts off. So, I decided to put one of those ideas down- it’s just a little quip- a little insight into a story I may or may not someday write- but here it is…

She cracked the heavy oak door open to her modest, old ranch house, and stepped out onto the wrap around porch. The scent of piñon pine and sage wafted in on the early summer night breeze. She watched the last orange and pink rays of the sun warm the high desert mountains before waning into the horizon.

Her eyes drifted to the dirt road and the tail lights leaving. They didn’t pause, he didn’t slow, there was no hesitation. “That’s it,” she thought. She wasn’t sure how she felt yet- she knew it was coming- but in the moment she had no tears to cry, no assuming lump in her throat- because she’d been too damned independent her whole life. At 42, she rather enjoyed her solitude. “It is what it is,” she muttered to herself and let the words float away with the lights. What he didn’t know was he’d be better off in the long run.

She sat a moment in the old rickety rocker on the porch, listening to the creaking of wood on wood, as she pulled a pack of blue American Spirits from her jacket. She lit one up and breathed deep- letting the smoke roll over her. She rarely smoked. But tonight- she didn’t care- she just sat there and blankly stared into the night’s sky. The stars were starting to glow.

From the corral in the distance, she heard him nicker. Her longest friend. She got up from the rocker, took another drag, and strolled over the rocky drive to the corral gate. He walked up to her, and she reached for the familiar silhouette- her old bay friend. She ran her fingers through his mane, took the last long drag on her cigarette, and tossed the butt down, crushing it with her boot heel. She reached for him with her other hand- sunk her forehead into his neck- and just held on.

This is where her feelings surfaced. This is where she felt something- felt everything. It was her process. This horse had been through it all with her. He’d wandered through her remote place in the Virginia Range with a small band of mares- a young, strong bay stud. He caught her eye from the get go- the scars- the muddy, craggy look of his face- the shiny red mixed with black- and she lured him into the corral one morning. He willingly came, and when she shut the gate on him- he never flinched. It was like he’d been here before- so she held on to him- that was 15 years ago…

And now, here he was, standing quietly… just being. As she stood there letting his smell fill her nose, she finally felt that lump form in her throat- tears stung her eyes… and she thought of the news she received last week on her annual doctor’s visit. Words like “Stage 4” and “too late” and ” we could try” filtered through. She let the tears spill from the corners of her tightly squeezed eyes.

The bay lifted his head, nickered loudly in her ear, jarring her back to reality. She raised her head, looked up, and stroked his neck. She saw the herd rolling through in the distance. He nickered again-

She turned and walked away and he followed. With her back to him, she opened the latch on the gate, and turned back one last time, wiped away tears from her cheek, and stroked his mane. She stepped aside, out of his path- and let the pony run. After all, he was no different than her- he was just some wild thing- and he didn’t owe her one damn thing anymore- he never did. It was the right thing to do.

She sat down in the dirt, right there by the gate, leaned her head back against the post- and closed her eyes.

All the Way {Back} to Me

The foamy sweat rolls under the curry comb as I watch each line the blade makes in the red color of your winter coat. It’s unusually warm for January. You cock your hip and lick your lips standing quietly, eyes slit against the sun. My hand runs through the course and knotted mix of gray, red, white, ambers, and black hair that makes up your mane. I let my knuckles catch in the knots and lean in, resting my head against you. I feel the weight of my thoughts dissipate, fading off with the gentle breeze and I just breathe.

I let the pungent, sweaty stench from your hide fill my nose. At this particular moment, I just feel- feel moments that have made up my life and how the horse played an ever present role in it. How you, my friend, Twist, brought me all the way back to me.

I don’t think you will ever know the scope of how you’ve impacted me; how you reminded me of what I once wanted to be. As life with horses does, or maybe just life in general, confidence came and went. I lost it. I didn’t have it anywhere in my life. Not as a mother, not as a wife, not as a woman, and certainly not as a horseman. I was no longer feeling like that carefree girl with life ahead to frivolously waste. I trembled at steps, stumbled over decisions, filled my head and heart with negativity, and shut the door on all sorts of dreams.

And then, there you were. I don’t remember the exact moment you brought me back to life- to the realization that love and forgiveness of myself was essentially the path back to being in love with horses again- in love with life. Perhaps it was a slow progression, a steep yearning inside to smile again… just a quiet reminder that I was a cowgirl- in my heart- in my spirit. All I needed was to put that foot in the stirrup, grab a hunk of mane, and swing back in the saddle.

Somehow, here with you in this moment, I look back on the last eight years with you- and I see you’ve taught me so much- you held that mirror up to my soul- you taught me to forgive- you taught me to trust- you brought me full circle, reminding me I can, reminding me to pick up the reins of life and ride for all it’s worth. You brought me all the way back to me.

I let the ebbing streaks of the remaining afternoon sun soak in. I look at you and the corners of my mouth begin to turn upward. Setting the brush down, I give you one last run over with my hand, untie the lead rope and lead you to the corral. Watching you roll three times all the way over and half way twice, and I just smile- the kind of smile a young cowgirl does when she’s just spent the day with her horse. Thank you, my old roan friend- For all those happy trails- the rocky pasts, the more assured present and the good Lord willing, the happiest of future miles…

Happy Trails-

Heather

Worn

Coming home always stirs up memories. Traveling down old roads in favorite, familiar places does that. I let my my mind run its course through those memories, linger in the dents and curves and worn edges of my heart and soul, and I just… smile.

It comes to mind that the best thing about these memories is that they feel comfortable and happy and worn… Worn like the faded color of the photograph of my grandpa smiling back from atop his favorite black and white pinto. Worn like the grayed and weathered wood Bob Marshall sign on top of Pyramid Pass. Worn like the leather on my saddle and the feel of old horsehair mecates. Worn like the miles on old roany down dust laden trails through mountain passes. Worn like Daddy’s bible and his hands from a hard day’s work and Mom’s favorite recipes in the family cookbook and the smile lines that etch the corners of her mouth. Worn like love that binds us all and has seen us through our best and our worst. Worn like my first old pick up truck and the dirt roads I drove down. Worn like the words carved on epitaphs of loved ones and hand written on cards from my grandma. Worn like the town I grew up in that made dollars on timber, that loved their neighbor and didn’t shut down their parking lots, and opened their doors to strangers. Worn like old friends and familiar smiles.

Worn. Memories worn so thin you could see straight through them. Memories so precious even when they’re just a little torn. I find the finer things don’t hold a candle to these worn memories because the finest things worth keeping are worn.

Make a lifetime of memories. John Lennon said it first… “Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.” Make worn memories.

Happy Trails~

Heather