It really was love at first sight; the ranch, the barnyard bustle, the summer morning air filled with the scent of horses and leather and timothy grass, the mountains and wilderness and the trails that wound intimately through, and my family working side by side. I knew from day one, the hold this had on me, the grip on my heart and soul. I knew this was it, that I wouldn’t need anything else in my life. Just this. And although I couldn’t see it then, I see it now. This way of life assimilated into a relationship built on real, true love, summer love.
And as with all relationships in its freshness and grandeur, I found myself giving it my very best, giving my all, losing myself in the ebb and flow of all the family outfitting and dude ranch business and the nature of what it had to offer. I let it form and mold and shape me at its whim. I took when it gave, it gave everything when it could, and I waited patiently when it couldn’t, and rested on the laurels of someday and next summer. Because I knew with each breath of a new summer season, it would once again envelop me in its arms. It needed me, and I needed summer even more. I loved it with every fiber of my being. I always felt that without it, I wasn’t me, that I wasn’t honoring what my family had worked so hard to build, and I wasn’t fulfilling the contract made to my heart without it. But, mostly it was an incessant need and desire that demanded to be satiated. I needed the mountains, the horses, the trails and the dust, the meadows, the influx of new people, and the daily touchback to my family and heritage; I needed it all.
This love took me places I never knew were possible or even existed. It pushed me, helped me see untapped potential within, and broke down walls I didn’t even know needed breaking. It opened my eyes to what this life could be, what it should be. It led me to new friendships, mountain peaks and vistas I would have never otherwise seen, the clearest streams filled with the most colorful stones, the intimate trust and love of a good horse, and it led me to my next love, my husband and children.
And as with all good things, true love changes, and you start to wonder if you’re both committed to forever. Your needs start to change and so does its. I started to lose my grip on what seemed perfect and what I felt would truly last forever. I started to see flaws in this relationship, and my ability to communicate my needs and desires broke down. And the ease and comfort of my life morphed into the next phase of true love, the change. And I felt myself changing with it. I felt like I was becoming two different people. There was the side of me, the drifter side, that wanted to continue to wander and wonder and love this life as it was. But the other side of me I felt emerging desired consistency and steadfastness that this love could not offer me. And they clashed, like a gentle war in my heart. And it was a wash, no clear winner, no giant victor; only small wins here and there in a fraction of time that soothed because one side of me conceded the game being played between head and heart to the other. But only until they crossed paths again…the epitome of should I stay or should I go?
The latter of the two won. The need to find stability in something other than my love for this way of life surpassed the need to drift freely. Because it no longer was free; it came at a price. It forced choices to be made and growth to happen. The next phase of life needed to happen because I could no longer ride the tide of summer love. I had others counting on me, and I needed to count on myself. And I let go…
I didn’t give up. I didn’t win or lose. This love became best tucked away with words left unsaid because it was better that way. Letting go wasn’t leaving the love, but rather leaving feelings left unexplored and thoughts left incomplete. It wasn’t about blocking memories made, good or bad. Letting go became an acceptance of what this love really was, realizing my own need for independence, and finding peace with what it remains to be. It was a giant and gentle step into growth and knowing that my heart and head needed a clearer, gentler path. No bitterness was felt and no blame needed placed, because there was really no fault. Just the rawness that change evokes.
So, there my true, first love lies, back in the heart of the mountains, in the family left behind, the friends made, the horses and trails ridden. We both gave it everything we had at the time, and when the morning sun arose, we both knew it was time. It embeds itself there, tucked away in the rough edges of my heart, occupying vast space, a burning flame, awaiting for our paths to cross again. I take those memories out and look at them, revisit what was, and sometimes wonder what if? But more than anything, I honor this great love, a no truer love, because it made me who I am today and for that, I am forever in love and forever grateful…