Summer Love, True Love

Pearl Basin 3It 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…

Happy Trails~

Heather

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She Rides

This is an ode to the most beautiful woman I know.  No finer lady will this world have the pleasure of knowing, and at 66, may she know that’s she’s the most beautiful version of herself now more than ever.  May this serve as a reminder that even though she’s a mother, a wife, and a grandmother, that she is still all woman, and most importantly, uniquely amazing with what she offers up to this world with the biggest and kindest of hearts…. Happiest of birthdays, Mama…

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I always picture her here on the back of spry black & white paint horse riding down a mountain trail. Her black hair and dark eyes glitter, and you know she’s at home here, the most in love here, and the most alive here.  She sits tall and true.  She rides.

 But in all actuality, this is how she handles life and all the crazy it throws at her.  She’s seen mountains of heartbreak, admitted guilt, nursed sick children, loved her family and husband fiercely, she’s fallen and risen, and prayed her way through it all. Sure, she’s made mistakes and blamed herself; nobody is more aware of them than her.  But, through it all, she rides, head held high, straighter and truer with every turn of the trail. She rides.

She’s tough. I’ve seen her eat dirt coming off a rank colt, and pull herself up and throw a leg over him one more time, just to prove she’s boss.  She has a way with horses; she sees untapped potential, and she loves the challenge of the ornery ones. And she rides them. She hangs and rattles with the best of ’em because she rides.

Lord, she’s strong; strong- willed and strong-minded, but mostly, strong-hearted.  The only fear I’ve ever seen in her is the possibility of losing a loved one.  And she’s been there. She’s lost love and she cries.  And she loves again, stronger. She extends her open arms and heart to those around her, those in need of it most, stranger or friend.  She rides through this life with grace and love. She rides.

She paints beautiful pictures, she builds a home full of laughter, love, kindness and respect.  She’s music, Sunday morning hymnals, and a little kick-ass country because it’s Monday.  She’s fast horses, Sunday morning church, and a lover and a fighter.  She’s woman, all beautiful woman, refined and lady-like and tough as nails. She’s all of these because she rides.

I’m lucky enough to call her Mama.  There’s nobody I look up to more in this life, and I am forever grateful for all she’s ever been to me. Strength when I needed, a boot in the ass when I deserved it, and unconditional love always. Thank you for all the firsts in this life, like teaching my to drive a stick and pull a horse trailer, how to cook, and how to get tough when the tough get going.  Thank you for your love and support through the years when I doubted my own skills and strengths.  But I’m most thankful for your teaching me to ride. Straight, strong and true, she rides…

Love you, Mama. Happy Birthday!

I Am…

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In a world full of  emerging Kardashians, I choose to be just me.  I am finding it ever-more important to be more than just okay with that. We live in a society brimming with people sharing their opinions and demanding we believe and partake in them.  I am not a jean size. I have fat. My teeth are not white. My hair isn’t long enough. My nails aren’t painted. I don’t diet, and I don’t exercise as often as I should. I also don’t give a shit because it has taken me almost thirty-nine years to like just who I am just as I am.

I write this to express feelings, thoughts, and share a piece of me with the rest of you; not to tell you what to think or how to act.  Being vulnerable is the key to being genuine in self-expression, and so I share that when I write the following.  This isn’t a post about horses or cowgirls or mountains, but more along the lines of empowerment and exposure to reality in hopes that you can be okay with whom you see in the mirror every day.

This is a glimpse of the real me, so take it or leave it. To coin a favored phrase from my beautiful grandmother, “It is what it is, sweetheart.”  I encourage those of you that choose to read this to be uniquely you.  Don’t fall for society’s carbon copy version of someone else…

I am Heather. I am almost 39, and a Caucasian, married woman.  I am a full-of-faith sinner; I believe in God, and I am not religious. I am a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a niece, and a girlfriend.  I am quirky and silly and blunt and broken.  I am strong and insecure.  I overthink, and I crave complexity, but I am painfully simple.

I am loud and confident, and I am shy and reserved. I am unconditionally conditional.  I struggle and I endure.  I am not hateful or boastful, and I am self-effacing. I love and I forgive.  I am not normal, nor do I ever care to be. I crave adventure and love the assurance of a daily home routine. I say no and I say yes all in one shot. I yell, I scream, and I fight and bleed.

I know my weaknesses and thrive on my strengths. I hurt and I cry and I feel absolutely everything.  I wonder and I know. I believe, but I don’t always understand. I fall down seven times, and I stand up eight.  I listen to listen, not to respond.  I contemplate and ponder and consider all angles.

I love deeply and sky wide, and I don’t worry about the approval of others any longer; yet, I seek their sense of understanding. I am crazy; fully certifiable bat shit insane, and I am the calm in the storm.  I have patience and perseverance and I push to get my way. And I am stubborn, so very stubborn.  I am ashamed at times, but I am proud.  I am best anchored with my feet ten feet off the ground.

I change with the wind, and I shoulder in to keep that change at bay.  I am almost never sure of what I really want, but always clear on what I don’t want.  I make no excuses about who I am, and I damn sure have no regrets. I am classy and sophisticated, and I wear jeans and have horse shit on my boots.  I cuss too much, and I am brutally honest.

I am not a watered down version of anyone else. I dream big, really fucking big.  And I am strong, worthy, and imperfect. I cry, a lot, and I smile even more. I have bad days, and I try every goddamn day to be a better version of myself than I was the day before.

I just am me, and I won’t apologize for that.  I serve a faithful, loving and forgiving God that allows me to be all of this. I am capable, strong-willed and beautiful. And simply, I am enough.

And you are, too. Be your own brand of beautiful, write your own story, and make your mark on this world. Love your flawed and imperfect self stitched together with good intentions. Just be you, just as you are.

Happy Trails~

Kindred Corral Spirits

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We never grew up owning one, single mare in my entire childhood.  Every male on the ranch preached time and time again about what a pain in the hind parts they were to have on the place.  Of course I was always slightly offended by these nonsensical statements.  Mares, in my opinion, were always far superior in the looks department, and yes, that theory was entirely based on the fact that I was in fact a female.  So naturally, it only seemed right to learn to identify with the female animals that were allowed in the family outfitting business, and that just so happened to be some of our mules.  Mules are a hybrid and are also sterile, which means they are slightly less sensitive to the reproductive nature that horses are.

My uncle owns a jenny mule named Helga, and although she was about 4 years old when he bought her, and her historical details are a little blurry to me, I developed a fondness for Helga, and here’s why… {Side note: Now, I will just say right of the bat that it takes a rather brave woman to compare herself to a mule, and I may have just admitted to a whole new level of insanity, so there is that.}

Like me, I believe Helga must be a Gemini.  No, I don’t buy into all that astrological jazz, but I find it entertaining.  Neither Helga nor I care if you don’t like our personalities, because there are usually several more to choose from.  Paranoia comes easy to both of us; i.e. I don’t like to walk in the woods alone and neither does she because every stump takes on the form of a damn grizzly bear. Both of us require friends with tough skin and a good sense of humor, and we lack the ability to sugar coat our current moods or thoughts, and tend to lash out or freely express our emotions at any given moment.  We both like change, and really hate monotony.  If you don’t change the scenery, we will change it for you.

Helga and I both prefer a shorter walk to the feed bunk. Some things just shouldn’t be so much work.  We both have “curves” and lack the desire to change much about that.  But, if you have a stitch of couth, you will not refer to us as “thick” or “husky”.  Dude, you will get kicked.

Generally, we both like attention and you can reel us in with cookies. We like cookies. But, we also generally like to be left alone by the male species; that is of course unless they are of the handsome horse variety.  We go gaga over good looking and smart horses that lead us safely down the trails and over mountain passes.

Helga works hard and rocks an awesome pack going down the trail, and that’s because Helga loves her job.  More people could learn from Helga’s work ethic and her attitude about it.  And like Helga, I believe in earning your pay honestly.  There’s nothing like a good day’s work of physical labor that leaves you satisfied at the end of the day.

So, thank you, Helga, for giving me another female to whole-heartedly identify with in this life.  I admire the heck  outta ya girl, and you’re beautiful to boot!

~Happy Trails~

Heather

Faith

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I don’t often write about religion, or bestow upon you what some may consider my narrow minded views, mostly because I am not adept at quoting scriptures or leading by example. I am not afraid to voice my belief in Christ, nor am I ashamed of it.   I just often prefer quiet mornings sipping coffee, talking to God in my own ways, because when it comes to faith, I am such a work in progress.  I fail time and time again to believe in something bigger than my own will and power.  But I am never without faith in Him; I just simply need to reprioritize.

I come from a blended family, and my {step}father, Ralph, prior to my knowing him, was a Pentecostal preacher, and this is really where faith started to take hold.  Little did I know that God had placed this man in my life for reasons I was not privy to, but he was the vessel through which faith reached me.  Even though he was no longer a preacher, he walked the walk to the best of any man’s ability showing all of us the importance of a relationship with Christ.

Every Sunday, mama would roll us out bright and early, tell us to get dressed, and join them at the breakfast table for a family meal of hotcakes, bacon, and eggs prior to church.  As a 4th grader, this was not my favorite thing to do on a sunny, summer Sunday morning.  I had horses to ride and country to explore.  {Little did I know that my Sunday morning sermon attendance and my incessant need for equine therapy would later coincide in my life}.

Sunday sermons were attended at a few different denominations over the years, Baptist, Pentecostal, Non-denominational, and Presbyterian mainly.  But never the pagan Catholic church… Haha… {This is just tongue-in-cheek humor! Please don’t get offended yet!}  We were not the front row family. We were not the back row family.  We were somewhere in the middle with a quick exit seat near the aisle where my mom could escape with my wily, younger brothers family. And per usual, we were the late family, but never late enough for my taste.

Now, there are two, yes, only two, particular sermons that stand out in my pea-sized brain from over the years. One was from the 4th row pew of the Baptist church on a hot, summer Sunday.  Pastor Joe was at the pulpit with his screechy, boisterous, and ear-piercing voice preaching at us about gluttony, which he related to eating pecan pie. “Lord, I just wanted to eat that whole PECAN PIE!”  Ok, so maybe I don’t remember the whole sermon, but that man soured my breakfast that morning, and if I could have, I would have turned a deaf ear to him.  As it was, I sat there for what seemed ages listening to him drone on about that stupid pie; I didn’t even like pecan pie, and still don’t to this day.  I rode home in the car that Sunday not knowing a thing more about Jesus, not wanting to be Baptist, remembering Pastor Joe’s sweaty armpits and wondering if anyone had taught him that cleanliness was next to Godliness, and hoping we weren’t eating pecan pie anytime soon.

The other church experience that stands out to me, comes from the first time I really attended a Pentecostal sermon. I was about 9 or 10 years old at the time, and I didn’t know the difference between all of these religions, and really still don’t.  But, this particular sermon started out what seemed really nice, with some music I even knew the words to.  After a few praise and worship songs, we sat down and listened to the pastor deliver his message.  I don’t really remember this message either, but I vividly remember what happened after.  The ‘freak show’ started.  The congregation rose to what I assumed would be to sing the closing hymnal.  Nope. All these people started lifting their hands in the air singing songs with their eyes shut, swaying back and forth.  Not me;  I stood there dumbfounded staring at these nut jobs around me, and then the pastor started speaking in Tongues.  What on earth had my mother brought me to?  I had seen something like this in a movie once, and I was fairly certain that snakes would be let out of a bag soon.  This particular day, I learned the importance of prayer.  Never had I prayed harder that God would get me out of this room, and to the sanctuary of somewhere normal! I would have settled for being delivered to the Presbyterian sermon just down the road!

As it turns out, thankfully, these moments would not discourage me from the importance of finding and having faith in my life.  Because, I found it my freshman year of high school, when I hit an emotional low and thought that leaving this world would be better.  I felt it during times of death and disappointment. I discovered it when I found out I was pregnant for the first time, and out of wedlock.  I knew that I could not prepare for what lie ahead without knowing God.  I found it again when I was told I had cancer, which later was misdiagnosed.  I found it when my brother was healed from his cancer.  I found it in the peace and love of my husband’s arms and the smile and laughter of my children.  I found it on the back of my horse riding a high mountain pass, and watching a red-tail hook a strong breeze.  I found it in my relationships with my siblings, and watching my parents reunite their love and marriage.  And yes, I found it in a small, country church pew filled with selfless souls, worn hymnals, and the  highlighted verses of my bible. I found my faith.

Lately, I’ve forgotten the importance of living by it, and remembering that without it, I really have nothing.  No fall back plan, no forward push or purpose. This is the very definition of faith. Reminders, whether small and minute, or magnanimous and difficult, are there for all of us to seek something bigger than ourselves.  Don’t rest on just your own laurels.  Find your faith somehow. Remember you’re meant to be tested and strengthened by God in ways  you don’t understand.  We may not always see the clear, correct path, or get our prayers answered in the form we think necessary, or get answers to our eternal question of why, but that’s faith; Faith that you are just where God wants you in this old life, and it us up to you how you will come out of your walk on this earth.

So, here’s to finding favor in your Sunday.  Here’s to Sunday sermons gone wrong, but oh so right. I’m wishing you a week full of peaceful Sundays, full of faith and love.

Happy Trails~

Heather

Good Horses To Ride

 

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Well my friends, it’s another day, another dollar

Another milestone crossed in this life

I may not be just where I want to be

But, at least I have a good horse to ride.

 

Life was trying at times this past year,

Sometimes it felt like I was trekking the Great Divide

But, you see these were just lessons learned

And I always had a good horse to ride.

 

Tears came and went on the back of my trusty steed,

As I pondered all of life’s crazy strife.

And as we slow-loped through the worries & cares

I was never more thankful for my good horse to ride.

 

The time in the saddle was always well spent

It signified a peaceful state of mind.

Whether climbing mountain trails or pushing cows home

I always had a good horse to ride.

 

I spent time with friends, old & new,

Exploring the wilderness and new countryside

Miles upon miles of trails we trekked,

And all of ‘em on good horses to ride.

 

As this year draws to an end

And I reflect back on it all in stride

I realize I have so much to be grateful for

But I’m most grateful for the good horse I ride.

 

So, may your new trails ahead lead you safely home

May you give it your all in this crazy life.

But above all else, my new year’s wish for you

Is that you always have good horses to ride.

 

Happy Trails~

 

Heather

Cowgirl

I was recently asked if I’m a real cowgirl on a social media sight I partake in.  The exact question posed to me was “If you don’t have cows, how can you be a cowgirl?”  I pondered that thought, let my hurt feelings stroll over the words, and then I questioned myself.  Maybe I’m really not a tried and true cowgirl?  But I had  the boots, the hat, the horse, spurs, a saddle, and even a pick-up truck?    Accordin’ to good ol’ Webster, the true definition of the word is: noun. a woman who herds and tends cattle on a ranch, especially in the western U.S., and who traditionally goes about most of her work on horseback.

Well, there was the answer…I am technically NOT a cowgirl.  I don’t spend all day in the saddle trailing cows. Hell, I wasn’t even raised with cattle.  I grew up tending to horses and mules, ornery men, and dudes, riding mountain trails and passes, and cooking in dutch ovens, but not a stitch of my time was spent with cattle.

So, I chewed on that thought a while longer, and thought “the he** I’m not a cowgirl!” Being a cowgirl ain’t just about swinging ropes, doctoring cows, calving, and riding horses.  Because, to be a cowgirl means you’ve got the grit in your gut and the attitude to accomplish anything.  You have the ability to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and take life right by the horns.

Deep down, each woman I know has just a touch of cowgirl in her.  She may be hailing a cab on city street headed to a high-rise lawyer’s office.  She’s a doctor or a nurse saving lives.  She’s a teacher expanding horizons and sculpting young minds.    She pours herself into the books and balances the budget.  She’s the mother that just lost a child, and still wakes to face the day.

She’s lipstick, leather, and lace.  She’s weathered hands that slings ropes, trains colts, and pets dogs, and is the lady dressed to the nines to hit the town with her favorite guy.  She fights fires, clears trails, packs mules, and yes, works cows. She’s gypsy- souled and beautiful music and guitar chords.  She’s fighting cancer with all she’s got because she’s a survivor and a winner.

But mostly, she’s you and she’s me.  She’s the fight to win and the calm in the storm.  She’s modern and old-fashioned.  She sips fine wine and chugs a beer with the guys.  She kneels and prays at the end of the day to praise God for all she has and is.

You see, it doesn’t matter what you are. Your job does not define you.  It is your attitude, your heart, and your beautiful mind and soul.  Cowgirl is a title well earned, and I am darn proud to be just that til I draw my last breath.  And don’t ever doubt that you are one, too.

~Happy Trails~

 

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