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July-clouds

I miss a lot when I choose to stay tethered to my computer or planted in front of the television. When I’m working on a deadline or doing something much less important like surfing the Web or checking Facebook I lose track of the beautiful world around me.

 

Last night we were later than usual getting out to feed the Golden Girls.

 

The day had been beastly hot and we were mired in a heat coma, unable to lift ourselves from our chairs, waiting, we told ourselves, for the day to cool down before we ventured out.

 

A storm was brewing to the west with ominous pewter colored clouds building over the foothills.

From our vantage point at the pasture we saw the most amazing clouds.

Watching a storm build when you are at a safe distance is an awesome experience. The occasional bolt of lightning sliced the darkened sky and we could hear the rolling of thunder in the distance.

In front of us, Pepper and Chickadee happily munched on grain, a chorus of frogs sang from the now-full pond, horses nickered in the distance and life seemed pretty much perfect.

 

As Pepper, our slow eater, chewed her final bits of grain, the first raindrops fell. We led her back to the pasture, loaded things into the car and headed for home.

 

As we drove away I realized how relaxed I felt.

The stress of deadlines had melted out of my body and I had renewed enthusiasm for everything. Some of my best ideas come when I’m with the horses.

So why is it that on some days I fight going?

I don’t take the time to get myself outside, reconnected with nature. And more important, reconnected with myself.

 

We humans can be so stubborn can’t we?

 

Is there a place in nature that you’ve missed lately? Is today the day to reconnect?

Wishing you breathtaking cloudscapes and chirping frogs to guide you.

 

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread. Places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

~John Muir

I am tied to the land.

There are places that I’ve visited since I was a child. I need them as much as I need oxygen and water.

And if for some reason I’m not able to make at least an annual visit, I feel it in my heart and more important, I feel it in my soul.

 One of my heart places is Vedauwoo, an area of rocky outcrops in Wyoming between Cheyenne and Laramie. The name is an anglicized version of an Arapaho word that means “land of the earth born spirit.”

My husband and I had taken a drive earlier this week to see some of the spectacular fall color. And to get me to Wyoming and Vedauwoo for a soul vitamin.

We weren’t disappointed.

It was a glorious day with the sky full of dramatic clouds.

Vedauwoo was nearly empty, which made it an even more powerful experience – to be alone in all that beauty.

We found plenty of color in the aspen, willows, shrubs and grasses of the area.

It was truly beautiful.

I got some great photos that I’ll likely share sometime down the line.

 

But as we were leaving I saw the landscape that I captured in the photo above.

It took my breath.

It filled my heart.

I wanted to cry at the stark and profound beauty that is Wyoming.

 

Talk about a soul vitamin!

 

Do you have places of the heart? I’d love to know about them. Leave a comment if you want to share.

Yesterday afternoon as I was feeding my two old sweeties, and stomping my feet in a feeble attempt to stay warm in the snowy, twenty-something-degree-day, I was given a gift.

The gift of a moment so golden, so magical it didn’t feel real.

And yet it was real – a simple, ordinary event.

It began with two young men walking down the dirt road into the pasture. One led a horse; the other pulled a blue sled. They let themselves in the gate, pushed through the Herd of Oldsters gathered for snacks, and continued into the adjacent pasture. They closed the gate to ensure their privacy.

You can tell from the photos, it was a distance away from me. How I wished for a better camera and a long lens! I watched as they hooked the rope of the sled to the horse’s saddle. And then off they went, horse cantering, sled skimming across the new snow.

It looked dangerous – and fun.

What else would you expect from young men?

Gradually a young woman with a blue stocking-hat and white pom-pom on top walked past me, leading her horse. She let herself into the pasture and joined her friends.

And a few minutes later, another girl carrying a lead rope walked past. I looked toward the horse-sled team and commented, “They’re having way too much fun.” She smiled. “That’s where I’m headed too. I’m going to ride bareback because it will be so much warmer.” She entered the pasture and found her horse. Soon enough she was part of the winter revelers.

They’d found a way to turn a gray winter afternoon into something really fun.

That alone was a nice gift – a reframe of my grumpiness at being cold.

But there was more.

The horses began to notice that something was up. Being curious animals, they couldn’t help but investigate.

One by one, they stopped, looked toward the far pasture, as if to try to figure out what was going on. And then they moved closer to the fence for a better look.

Eventually most of the herd (except the Herd of Oldsters who only had eyes for hay cubes) was gathered in the peanut gallery watching the horse-sled Olympics.

Peals of laughter in the distance made me smile. All grumpiness vanished as I vicariously joined in their fun.

 

And then to top the whole thing off and make the afternoon truly glow, as surely as if someone had taken a gold marker to gild the edges, the sky overhead filled with hundreds of Canada geese.

They were honking to each other, calling, nudging, supporting as they made their way from a nearby cornfield to their next destination. The sky was dark with their bodies above me. I could feel the air move with the beating of their wings. And the cacophony of their calls  was energizing and soothing at the same time.

Their migration lasted only a few minutes, but at the end of it, I was changed. I felt lighter.

Almost giddy.

And really blessed.

As I pondered this experience and its dramatic ability to change my mood, I realized that each of us has these opportunities every day.

Multiple times a day.

It may not be Canada geese and boys on horses and sleds, but it is something equally magical.

But so often, we miss them.

We get hunkered down in the business of our day, whatever that might be, and forget to raise our heads, look around us and be in this glorious, magical, beautiful world.

So as we head into the weekend, my wish for you is more magical, golden moments than you can count!

And if you’re so inclined, tell us what they are. Sometimes it takes one person seeing something before another can “get it.”

I’m always taking pictures when I’m out feeding my two old sweeties and their pals. Nearly all of the photos on this blog are mine.

In those rare instances when I use a stock photograph, I’ll tell you. It’s not good manners to use other people’s work without giving them credit.

Being with my horses is one of the most healing things I do for myself.

Every day.

I love interacting with Mother Nature – even on those days when it’s a challenge.

It makes me feel alive.

Centered.

Grounded.

Whatever particular stressor, deadline or problem I’m dealing with is put into perspective in the pasture.

So this week I was doing my usual – handing out treats, talking with the horses, brushing Bud and Pepper, and snapping photos. It was another of those gorgeous summer evenings and all seemed especially right with the world.

When I returned home and reviewed the photographs I’d taken, I found this one of Amigo and Red. Now I ask you, is that the look of two contented horses? Happy boys! They were hanging out with us, waiting for treats and enjoying the attention and the perfect evening.

My wish for you is to have that same look (or the human version) on your face this weekend. Take time, relax, be with people you like and revel in being alive. There is always something wonderful if you look for it.

By the way, I haven’t said this in a while: Thank you so much for reading this blog and being part of our community. I love knowing that you’re out there connected to us. Seriously – Thank you!

“We tend to make the thing in the way the thing.”

-Mark Nepo

 

I don’t know if you’re feeling the crush of projects to complete, commitments to honor, people to please, and in general, just a whole lot to do.

I am.

A huge work-related project has fallen into my lap with an early deadline and I feel buried.

Stifled.

Exhausted before I even begin.

For me, that often means I need a good old-fashioned dose of nature.

So I sorted through my photos to find one of my favorite photographs.

This picture of the late afternoon sky at the pasture always makes me feel better.

When I look at it, I remember to breathe deeply.

I sink into the clouds and the memory of the day when I pulled out my camera to get the shot.

My heart stops racing.

And I remember who I am and that I can get through anything by breaking it down into manageable steps.

If that sounds like a lot to get from one photograph, it may be. But somehow in the great mystery of life, it does just that for me.

And I offer it to you in hopes that it will do the same for you.

 

P.S. Send a good vibe or two my way if you’re so inclined. I can use all the help I can find. Thanks!

 

 

 

We are deeply into autumn.

Several days last week when Rick and I went to feed our two old sweeties in the evening, as we’ve done all summer, it grew dark before we finished.

Kind of dark, anyway.

Dark enough to make it hard to see.

And it was much cooler.

Both of which signal to me it’s time to move into the winter feeding schedule. I’m switching to DFT – Daylight Feeding Time. I know it’s another month until the official end of Daylight Savings Time, but for me, the important time change is now.

I’ll head to the pasture somewhere between noon and two – when it’s bright and sunny and warm.

(Check back with me around February on the warm part. I’ll probably be saying something quite different!)

It will take a few days for Bud and Pepper to adjust to the time change, but they’re smart enough to figure it out pretty quickly.

Especially when it comes to food.

And I’ll get into the routine as well.

I’ve enjoyed sharing this time with my husband and now I must re-orient myself to going by myself during the week. It’s not a bad thing – only an adjustment.

For years I didn’t trust myself to handle the horses alone. I thought I needed Rick because the horses were too much for me.

But then an amazing thing happened.

When Rick broke his leg a few years ago, it fell to me to take care of the horses.

Just me, myself and I.

I had a few challenging times, like the snowy January afternoon when several enterprising horses saw an opening as I was putting our guys back. They staged a mini jailbreak. I was freezing cold, a little scared and plenty mad. But eventually I got everyone back into the pasture.

Bud and Pepper were no help, I must say.

In hindsight, I realize it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime. I had to step up and take care of our old sweeties, and in the process, I gained confidence that I’ve applied to many areas of my life.

I’m no longer as afraid as I was when Pepper and I first became friends. I’ve learned about horses and perhaps more important, I’ve learned about me. It has been intense on-the-job-training, which I think may be the best way to learn most things.

What about you? Has life offered you an experience that’s helped you grow in ways you couldn’t even imagine? I’d love to hear about it.

For the majority of my life, I’ve lived in the west – the land of wide-open spaces and big, blue sky that rolls out endlessly above my head. It’s been part of my life for nearly forever, so I’m embarrassed to admit that sometimes I take it for granted.

A couple of days ago when I was in the pasture feeding our two old sweeties, I commented to Pepper that she lives in an amazing place. The sun was going down, tickling the outline of the foothills in a mélange of purples, oranges, and pinks. The clouds were tinged with the same colors, and had a kind of electric glow going on.

It was stunning.

Breathtaking.

“You are one lucky horse,” I said as I spritzed fly spray on my sweet old mare. “You get to see sunsets like this every day.”

She gave me one of her all-knowing looks as if to agree. “I do live a charmed life,” she would have replied if she could talk. And then I think she would have reminded me that the sky and sunsets are there for me (and you) to see every single day.

Every single day.

It’s just a matter of noticing.

Remembering to pay attention to something besides rushing from errand to errand.

Some years ago, I was driving to an evening meeting, feeling hassled and tired. I wasn’t all that interested in going, but nevertheless I was in my car. At a stoplight I looked up into the sky at the moon. It was full and gleaming yellow.

A big, round, fat moon beaming down at me.

I pulled to the side of the road and just stared into the sky looking at that moon.

After a few minutes, I realized something.

My mood was lighter. I was breathing easier and I felt energized.

All from gazing at the moon.

There’s magic in the sky.

I just forget sometimes.

And if I didn’t have Bud and Pepper to feed, I’d probably forget more often than I do.

How about you?

Are you a sky watcher?

If you’ll indulge me for just one more day by reading my stories about Snowy Range, I promise to get back to life in the pasture and my two old sweeties tomorrow.

Scout’s honor.

You’ve probably figured out by now that Wyoming is a special place for me. Especially the Snowy Range. If you live close by, you really should reward yourself with a trip to the Snowies.

Just don’t wait too long, because winter comes early at that elevation.

Back to the title of this blog post and a very short lesson in forest ecology.

And life.

Krummholz is a German word that means crooked, bent or twisted wood. It’s used to describe a feature of the sub-alpine tree line landscape. (Who knew I could even put that string of words together. Or care!)

It’s what you’ll find at the higher elevations in Snowy Range – sub-alpine landscape.

What happens is this: continued exposure to fierce and freezing winds (also a feature at higher elevations) causes the trees to become stunted or deformed. They only grow branches on the side away from the wind.

Smart eh?

Sometimes they’re called flag or banner trees. You can see it in the two photos I snapped on our trip.

So here are these trees fighting like everything to stay alive in a less than hospitable environment.

They adapt.

They figure out how to keep on growing, in spite of the challenges.

And they look quite interesting. Beautiful really.

I was paging through one of my old journals the other day, and found an entry I’d written years ago on a trip to Snowy Range. I was marveling at the wildflowers, which were abundant and blooming in such tough conditions. Some were peeking out from a blanket of snow in the middle of July. Talk about a short growing season.

I’d written the now-overworked quote, “Bloom where you are planted.”

All those years ago it made so much sense to me.

Instead of waiting for the perfect place to “bloom,” the wildflowers were an example of blooming just because they could.

In fact, in harsh weather years, wildflowers bloom even more profusely, as insurance for flowers in the coming year.

That Mother Nature is one smart girl.

Thanks Mom, for the reminder!

On our drive through Snowy Range in Wyoming last weekend, we caught a glimpse of two moose grazing in a meadow near the road. The only reason we stopped was the line of cars pulled over.

In our part of the country, and maybe everywhere, though I can’t speak for everywhere, a string of cars on the roadside usually means someone has spotted an animal.

A wild animal.

It might be bighorn sheep or elk – two favorites in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Or it could be moose.

We slowed the car, found a suitable parking spot, and walked back to the line of cars. We looked into the meadow, the same as everyone else.

Sure enough, it was a pair of moose.

Wow!

They seemed huge and were a lovely shade of deep brown. Like dark chocolate.

Rick dashed to the car for the camera. The result is the picture that you see with this blog post. Yes, there is a moose in the frame.

You must trust us on this. Think we could use a longer lens for our camera?

Drivers continued to slow down and inquire why everyone else was stopped.

“What are you looking at?” one asked.

“Is it a moose?” another guessed.

For the moment there was a feeling of community among us. We were sharing something quite wonderful. A glimpse into the wild.

I have a theory about this. I think that most of us live fairly ordinary lives, tucked into our homes in suburbia. We are defined by civilization. It makes things easy and safe. But all that asphalt and conditioned air leave us yearning for a taste of the wild. It’s buried deep inside, like an itch you can’t quite scratch.

Maybe it’s a connection to a time when life wasn’t so safe, so predictable, so sanitized. Some of us try to address the itch by going camping or river rafting or mountain biking or fishing, or hiking.

We garden, we ride Harleys, or keep horses or chickens or llamas.

Anything to scratch the itch.

To remember that at our core, we are still wild and free.

I needed to get out of town last weekend in the worst way. I’ve been stuck at the computer for hours on end, working and worrying.

It’s not a good combination.

I was on electronic overload, my eyes glazed over from staring at the illuminated screen.

And my brain felt like it had a short circuit.

Bzzt, bzzt, bzzt was the most it could produce.

I needed a nature fix. Most of the time, going to the pasture with the horses will do it for me.

Working in my garden or going for a walk usually helps get me back in balance.

Not last weekend.

I had to pull out the big guns, the super antibiotics for the soul. I needed a double dose of Mother Nature.

I wanted to feel wild and free.

Unfettered.

And especially, I wanted to be unplugged.

A few weeks ago I wrote about going to Vedauwoo, in Wyoming between Cheyenne and Laramie, and how it’s one of my heart places.

Another of those is the Snowy Range, west of Laramie.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a magical place.

A power place.

A place of healing.

I’ve gone to Snowy Range nearly every summer since I was a little girl.

Years ago I learned to downhill ski there.

I’ve camped and hiked and picnicked.

I’ve roasted marshmallows and hot dogs over a blazing campfire.

I’ve huddled in a tent waiting out the rain.

I’ve chilled watermelon in a snow bank.

I’ve catalogued wildflowers and spent hours watching marmots at play.

I’ve dipped my tired feet into icy streams.

I’ve felt that good kind of exhaustion from physically pushing myself beyond anything I thought I could ever do.

So when I was in need of a dose of nature, Rick and I decided it had to be Snowy Range. We only had one day, not enough time by a long shot, but we made the best of the time we did have.

There is something about the wide-open spaces of Wyoming that immediately soothes me.

Yes, it’s home and hardwired into my psyche. But also, I think it’s the uncluttered prairie that helps my overly cluttered brain relax.

Not even fifteen minutes out of town, I started to breathe easier. The day was cloudy and overcast. I got lost watching the sky and the many shades of gray in the clouds. It was stunning really, so many variations of color.

We drove through Laramie and headed west toward the little town of Centennial. All the while, my brain continued to un-kink, unwind and relax.

We didn’t talk much. I didn’t even want music.

I just drank in the landscape that I’ve loved for so much of my life.

We had no plan, no agenda, and that suited me just fine.

Harleys lined up in front of the historic Wolf Hotel

On a lark, we decided to drive on to Saratoga for a late lunch.

It was all good.

In Saratoga, our noses led us to an amazing restaurant – Tommy’s Smokehouse BBQ.

As Rachel Ray would say – delish!

It was really a “find” – the Pants on Fire sauce was fabulous, the pulled pork tender and smoked to perfection. The Kaiser roll was soft and tasty.

Yum to all of it.

And the best part?  I felt better. Much better.

Good food, a healthy dose of Mother Nature, and time with my husband were doing their magic.

What do you do to recharge your batteries?

P.S Tomorrow, more about Snowy Range and the moose. Stay tuned!

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