{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.

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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

Forgotten Words, {Remembered}

Dedicated to the forgotten and future versions of ourselves… Woman, man, boy or girl.  I hope that by offering up these simple and humble words, you find something to identify with, to love yourself for, to do better, to try, or dream.  Happy Sunday~

Aspirations. Dreams. Goals. Hopes.  When I was a young girl, I had these, and they were so grand.  If I had been smart, I would have written them all down and followed through, formulated the hows and whens and whys to get there.   So here I sit at 41, kind of wondering now, would it really have made the difference?

I can tell you now, that perhaps that letter to myself, that map of dreams, is so far from center and true and right than I could have ever imagined.  That damned ol’ hindsight…

Would I have continued on had I known it would be so different than that of which I envisioned?  Regardless, I did.  And this is my life made up of these series of choices, changed lanes and junctures in the road.  But had I known then what I know now, what would I change and do differently?

I wished I could have known that life would move me in ways unfathomable; that it would blindside me and confuse me and hurt.  But that it would also be so beautiful and inspire me in ways I never knew possible, and I that I let each sunrise and sunset breathe new air into my lungs.

I wished I could have known that I’d love people thinking I would always get that in return; that I would love people that I would someday lose; that people would hurt, disappoint, and change. But, I loved them anyway, and I gave it my best shot, and that love always finds a way back.

I wished that I had known I would someday be the bad person, the one that hurts others; that I would be alone and lost and so damn unsure, and that I would be so exhausted by the chaos of it all, I couldn’t always see the light; that the mistakes I make cost others in ways I couldn’t and wouldn’t know until it was too late.  But, I made them anyway, and I learned from them, and that forgiveness from others and myself should never be taken for granted, and that I learned to tread easy.

I wished that I had known there were events in life that I would never quite come to terms with, that the answers that I sought were not always the ones I wanted to find.  Or, that I would need to find closure on my own without taking the easy way.  But, that letting go was never quite as hard as I made it to be, and when I finally looked up from the search to the hows and whys, peace was there.

I wished that I had known that loving others was going to be easier than loving myself, inwardly as much as outwardly; that I would struggle every time I looked in the mirror accepting myself; that I tried to be a copy of society’s perfect human picture. But, once I learned to love my flaws, it reflected in other areas of my life, making that acceptance just a little easier.

I wish I could know that the best of life is truly yet to come; that serving others, being selfless, making mistakes, finding faith, and loving with all I have would make this crazy, messy, unpredictable life all that more beautful; that I survived it with some scrapped together grace and dignity, and that I left the world a better place for it.

Someday, I will reread this.  It will remind of the marks I made and missed.  I will be remembering words I had forgotten.   But, may I not be wishing I had done one thing differently.  Here’s to living authentic and hoping you remember your forgotten words, too.

Happy Trails~

Heather

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{Believe}

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” -Marcus Aurelius

Life. It’s unexplained; the highs and lows, the ebb and flow of good and bad, the mixed bag of emotions inside of us. It’s just life. But one of the most difficult things to come to terms with is your fellow man’s input on your life. Their perception and thoughts of you impact you far more than you should ever allow.

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We live in a society that plays on and profits from our self doubt. We are who we are, and we suffer because we imagine we should be different. We imagine we should be a replica of a celebrity, a friend, or a flawless more perfect version of our own reflection. We hold our appearances to a high standard and place our value and self worth on our outward appearances instead of valuing and nurturing and loving the inward. Starve those thoughts. Believe that whatever flaws you think you may have are your own brand, your own version of perfect. Believe in you. Just. As. You. Are. And that’s when you, yes you, become rich in the things that really matter.

Not everyone will understand your journey in the world; perhaps not even you. That’s okay. Stop needing the answers to it all. Just live with purpose, because the last time I checked, you’re here to live your life, not to make everyone understand or justify your choices. Those that truly love and accept you, know just where your heart is and don’t question. The sharpest critics are those most often blind to their own shortcomings, insecurities and mistakes. Their opinions truly aren’t your problem. Love. Love anyway. Because the happiest people are the ones taking care of their own business and choosing to improve themselves. Be one of those.

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Changing lanes in life requires ambition, going with gut instinct, grit, pain, and not always knowing the reason why. Not everyone deserves to know the real you, so let them judge who they think you must be. Be happy anyway, and wish them well, and be on your way.

Be grateful for your life; every aspect of it. Life is full of ups and downs and twists and turns. Guess what? That means you are alive. One trip. That’s what we all get. So, journey on. And don’t stop believing.

Happy Trails-

Heather

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{Strong Enough} To Bend

It was a hot, high noon in July as I topped Pyramid Pass headed down canyon on an eight day backcountry trip to the heart of the Bob Marshall. I’d seen the burn scar late last fall after the fires subsided. I knew the devastation that lay ahead, but as I rode through it with fresh eyes of summer, I felt my heart strings twinge and the insurmountable lump in my throat form. I worked to fight back tears as my eyes took in the charred landscape sending more heart pangs deep in my chest and feeling them make way to the pit of my stomach. Gut punched. Heartsick.

Tears welled, and I pinched my eyes shut feeling them trickle down my dusty cheeks wondering if that were the one drop of moisture that I might feel all damn day on the twenty odd miles of barren trail ahead. My throat swelled and felt dry. I reached out to the burnt and gnarled alpine fir and felt it’s brittle branch snap as I pulled my sooted hand away and brushed it against my jeans. I watched the powdery dust plume with every step my horse took, and I lifted my eyes skyward. I didn’t ask why. I didn’t care anymore, but the thirty plus years of memories flooded back; memories of green, of the tree with grandpa’s initials carved in it marking his presence in the Bob; miles upon miles of memories riding different horses for long hours down this Young’s Creek drainage I literally grew up in. And I know the heaviness of those memories I felt, my parents and Aunt and Uncle feel ten fold as they ride these same trails.

I can’t begin to explain in any sort of tangible fashion the amount of space this place has in my heart or that of my family’s, and no matter how much I tell myself to not be attached to such earthly places and things, it can’t be helped. Or maybe I don’t want to help it. Being of the mountains, this place is steeped in every memory, every fabric in the tapestry of our life here. I know this place made me. It shaped character. It made me tough. The drastic change of the landscape, in some places almost unrecognizable… it just feels like a well aimed kick by the meanest son of bitching mule you’ve ever met.

I recenter myself in the saddle, open my eyes, and look ahead. I have to look ahead. We all have to look ahead. And as hard as that may seem, I look again at the curled, burnt, little pines that turn earthward after a fire, almost as if they signify a slight circle of hope. Little sprigs of green bear grass show their tufts here and there, the fireweed blooms it’s brilliant purple, the birch leafed spirea softening the blow of black. The quiet bubbling springs and elk wallows that never before revealed their presence now show as if to remind me this too will be beautiful again one day; even if it never happens in my lifetime.

Strong enough to bend. That’s what it means to see something that means so much through it’s worst of times. This new reality of living through fire reminds me what true rejuvenation means, it reminds me to grow and change with it, to love it thoroughly and wholly, and let it’s scar be a part of my family’s story of how we were all strong enough to bend.

Remember there is always beauty in every state of being in this life. We’re all strong enough to bend, and we’re all better for it when we do~

Happy Trails💕

Heather

{In Pictures}

“We take pictures as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.” ~Unknown

People ask me how I got into photography. I’ve always loved the same things as the next person… the pretty, scenic overlooks, rugged mountains, showy morning and evening skies… but when I moved to Havre a few years back, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I couldn’t see definition or change in landscapes or find beauty in the old, brown wheat rows. I had to look for it, and you know how it goes when you look too hard for what you think is the right thing, you miss something even better?

I’ve had that moment a lot in photography. One night, as I was out driving hoping to catch a sunset, I came across this old, white horse. Honestly, he was homely, scarred, pink skin around the eyes and nose, dirty and nothing spectacular. And just as I was about to speed on by, he turned in the setting sun, and he came to life in the light. And something spoke to me. Like once he was proud. Like once he was young. Like once he was loved. And I slammed on the brakes, jumped out of the truck and proceeded to take about 50 pictures of him. It was sort of an amateur photographer’s glory moment.

Whether or not the pictures were amazing, or the content was right, or the lighting and processing was good, became irrelevant. I remember this moment teaching me a lesson: slow down and look a little closer. I was missing a lot of beauty looking for the grandiose.

I still pull over for pictures. Sunrises. Sunsets. Horses in a meadow. A child smiling. Reflective water. I’ve taken thousands of pictures over the last few years. And I’ve learned a lot about myself looking back on the moments since I picked up a camera.

I’ve shared in some beautiful moments being behind the lens. I’ve seen beautiful smiles of people that love one another. I’ve scenic places that take my breath away. I’ve seen my children grow. I found new love behind the lens. I found focus. Simple as that.

That’s what I’ve grown to love about photography, and it’s my hope to continue to share these pictures I take care with all of you as a return ticket to a moment that would’ve otherwise been gone.

Happy Trails~

Heather

{Ride}

Yesterday, as I was sitting in the alleyway of the barn watching Twist munch on his oats, listening to music, drinking a beer, and taking in the first signs of spring, I thought about my grandpa. It always hits me being in the barn, and especially this time of year, just how much I miss him after all these years. I don’t know if it’s the old, dust covered harness that hangs in the rafters, the pile of tack that needs oiled and cleaned, the smell of horses, leather, wet earth and oats, or maybe it’s the combination of all of it. And as my eyes drifted to the mountains and the landscapes of home, I wondered what he’d think about all this change since his passing; the change in the last place he called home, the mountains he left his childhood home of southeastern Montana for, the family that’s left here to carry on his legacy and name and dreams, yet working to forge their own and honor tradition. Would he liked what he saw? Would he be proud? I wished I could talk to him as the forty year old version of me and not the nineteen just once. To have five minutes with him to seek a little wisdom and insight about it all. About this life and what’s in store. And as I looked back at my horse finishing up the last bit of his grain, it hit me that if he was here, he’d say “just go ride, Heather Anne”.

And he’s right. It doesn’t matter what’s changed. It doesn’t matter what the future holds. It’s about living in the here and now and taking change in stride. And the best stride to take it in is that of an honest horse.

You see, Grandpa was right about a lot of things, but the one thing he was most right about is the therapy that comes from riding; the peace it brings.

So as spring slowly forges it’s way in the form of mud, rain, and little flowing rivers in the barnyard, I’ll wait patiently for those mountains to thaw and reveal their change they undoubtedly hold. And I will ride down the muddy roads close to home until then, and think of him when I do.

Miss you, Popi❤️

{Horse Tradin’}

It’s springtime… no wait. Not in my neck of the woods anyway. It’s January 78th, 2018, but that’s another story for another day.  Anywho… What I meant to say is that it’s horse trading season again for the dude ranch, and given the going price of horses these days, we should’ve spent less money on diesel for snow plowing, starved the kids, forgone Christmas, hit the millionaire jackpot and hocked granny’s fine china. All I can figure (and hope for) after reading through some of these for sale ads on Facebook and Craigslist is that these people must be in dire need of furthering their educatin’. Because if you’re going to ask $10,000 for a horse, but you can’t bother to check the punctuation and spelling in your ad, then friend, I’m probably not real interested.  There is a difference between knowing your nuts and knowing you’re nuts.

Uncle Jack always says that when it comes to horse trading that “you don’t have a good starting price until you’ve insulted the owner. Not the horse, the owner.”  I chewed on that thought, and after reading through some recent sale ads, I figure he’s on to something.

Not that I’m an expert on your horse you’re itching to part with, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and bet that there are some other cowboys and cowgirls out there thinking the same thing.  Here’s an example of an ad I came across while scrolling:

“For-year-old sorrel gelding. Green broke great foundation, great on trails no Buck no rear. Needs to be finished. Very willing ties all day trailer front shoes. If interested please call. $3500.”

I assume the horse is a four year old? Green broke? We all have different ideas on that subject. You can read the rest for yourselves… Sorta leaves you scratching your watch and winding your butt, doesn’t it?

Example 2:

“Selling my 2 yrs. old paint mare,She’s registerable, she’s halter broke, leads, trailers, she’s a little clumsy with her feet , but she just needs some training with her feet.
She’s about 141/2 hands. She’s had a saddle put on her , and she was ridden , so you could call her green broke. $1500”

I don’t know about you, but there ain’t nothing better than a clumsy footed horse. Next…

“Gentle Quarter Horse Tricolored Paint Gelding, 9 years old, 15 hands tall, 1150 lbs. Has a very nice disposition with   good conformation. He is a gentle horse. He steps right out, no spurs needed. He is bold on the trails, can be ridden out by himself and can be taken anywhere. Horse has a very nice disposition. No buck, bite or kick. Also, he has been ridden downtown. I am almost 70 years of age and I enjoy riding “Horse”. If you know how to ride a horse, you will enjoy riding “Horse”. He works very well in the round pen, his ground work is excellent and he is easy to work with. Awesome mountain trail horse. He walks out nicely on the trail. Goes through rivers and streams, over pack bridges and crosses over downfall easily. “Horse” has been on several back country pack trips in the wilderness. You can lead the pack string off of him or you can use him as a pack horse. Also, he has been roped off of and has moved cattle from summer to winter pasture and back. “Horse” has a friendly disposition and is willing to please. He learns new skills quickly. He stands quietly at the mounting block to get on and off. “Horse” loads/unloads into the trailer easily, and he stands quietly for the farrier and was just recently shoed and recently had a vet check and his teeth floated. Must go to a good home. I want him to go to an amazing home. I will be picky. He is for sale, not on sale. $9,500 cash”

Dang, he really has done it all.  Did I mention he bucks a little high and to the right? And he really needs that $9,500 to pay off a hospital bill?

I must be out of the loop these days, because I keep seeing pictures and videos accompanying these ads that show the person standing on their horse, or bouncing big beach balls, or wearing t-rex costumes while riding. I mean, there really ain’t nothing handier than being able to wear a real nice t-rex costume while riding down the wilderness trails enjoying nature.  It’s also extremely useful keeping a pissed off mama cow at bay while roping her wylie little calf for doctoring.

Bottom line, you can think you are showcasing your horse’s mad skillz, but really, you’re just showing me your horse is the smart one. So kudos… Heck, maybe he really is worth that $10,000 price tag.  After all, he’s survived you.

Give me a horse with heart; a horse of no particular color or background, but full of try and grit and good; one that will give me an honest day’s work, keep me humble, and teach me.  I’ll pass on that fancy bred, chubby halter horse for $10,000 this time. Thanks just the same.

Happy Trails & I hope you’re a little more successful in your horse trading ventures than we’ve been…

{Love Song}

She knew she loved him when home went from being a place to being a person. ~E. Leventhal

The sunset glowed through the windshield while we maneuvered down the long, bumpy road in your old truck. But it wasn’t the warmth from the sun I felt. It was happiness. It was your love. I looked at you and just smiled as you held my hand. I didn’t want the moment to end. I want to take the long way around every night, if it means more moments like this with you. Moments when it feels like every song that plays on the radio is timely and beautiful, and every song you hear feels like it was meant for the one holding your hand… like all the love songs become our love song.

Next To You, Next To Me driving down the road in that old pick up truck, there just ain’t no place I’d rather be. So, Take Me the Long Way Home, because those moments When You Say Nothing At All speak right right to my heart. The smile on your face lets me know that you need me. You really did Have Me From Hello. And if I had only One Friend left, I’d want it to be you. Because you’re Unforgettable, that’s what you are.

And Now That I Found You, I don’t want to be without you. You see the real me, no in between. These moments are made for Making Memories of Us, and I will always be here for you. I Love the Way You Love Me, and the way your eyes dance when you laugh. It makes me want More of You, again and again. I fall more in love with you than I’ve ever been.

I want the world to know, The Story of My Life, and that Only You Can Love Me This Way. I Need More of You changing my rain into sun. I know we have The Start of Something Good because your love makes me feel like a Millionaire.

You’re a like sweet music made when the bow hits the fiddle, like Right on the Money. You’re my Soft Place to Fall, and I want to be yours, too. Because if I have my way, I’m going to love you ‘Til All the Rivers Run Dry. I promise that Forever is As Far As I’ll Go.

I’m Makin’ Plans that include you. I want you to Name all of the Dogs, and watch every sunrise and sunset with you underneath these Western Skies. We really are Two in Million, and it’s the Greatest Love Story I’ve ever read, like one for the history books.

So, Could I Have This Dance for the rest of my life? Because I really Could Not Ask for More than to love you Forever and Ever, Amen.

I Will Always Love You…