No real cowgirl sings the blues


So plug your ears, or you might just hear me cry.


me and crow

(Picture of me and Flying Crow in the High Country in warmer days.  Photo taken by Kate Seely)

Decisions are not random here. More often than not, they are based on nature. The high country, the rainy season, dropping temperatures, wind, drought, glaring sun, the road closed by snow. Things like that. Pretty simple, except we tend to complicate things with… emotion.
Our attempts at living where no one has before. A balancing act between human needs and nature. Complicated more by our decisions than what the weather does. Why can’t things be simple? As they are for the family of coyotes, loving the late-to-come winter, still out there pouncing voles in the dried brown grasses just out of Gunnar’s radar. Or the four elk still up high on Pole Mountain, grazing at an elevation of 13,000 feet. They say the Big One is rolling in tonight. These guys have not followed the forecast as intently as I have. I can only hope as the snows begin, they will turn to the timber and find their way to lower ground.

Now I’m looking through old photos. Warmer days. Sunshine, green grass, leaves on trees, solid ground to walk on, run on, kick up your heels on.

kicking up their heels at lost trail ranch

As I lay in bed last night, I cried. My husband unable to comfort me. And I am sorry I refused to let him try, for try he did. I know his warm touch would have soothed me, his gentle words a peaceful balm. Instead, I pushed him away, turned my back and cried myself to sleep.
I think you should know this. I don’t know why I share it any more than why I feel it. Sometimes I am tired of feeling and would rather find the perfect pill that washes it all away. Only not really, because I want to feel it all. I don’t want an unnatural solace, a potion that would make living less. I guess you have to take the good with the bad and there is always at least a bit of both if you’re really living.
This is ridiculous. I need to be stronger.

horses on pasture in between storms


What do I really want?

Home. One. Seems pretty simple but it’s a constant theme. Here I have a love/hate relationship with the land. Yes, more love than hate. The best of relationships are that way. So why am I leaving again?
This is the last time I look elsewhere. If I find it there, I will move there. If I don’t, my search ends. That’s it. This place is not perfect, but it is mine, it is home. Complete with horses, chickens, cats and dog, a little family and a big mountain, and a healthy dose of normal problems to keep us all in line.
And there I am, loading the last four of my horses into the trailer to send them down to lower ground. Winter pasture. Before the road is closed. I wait until the last day. The last safe chance. My husband allows this of me. He knows how much it matters. He understands.
The hawk flies above me in the clear blue sky as my tears fall down into the snow. He is mine. There for me now when I am losing so much else. By choice. Damn it, what is wrong with me?

a cold day in the back yard

Winter will hit hard. Stinging against your cheeks like small stones as horizontal snow feels in the sub zero temperatures of early morning.
I won’t have to go out as early now. Tres will not be on back porch pulling down the snowshoes and ski poles to get my attention. I can wait for the sun to scale the mountain to the east and flood this little valley with sun on snow. But I won’t. I have been up early for years caring for those who need me, and really, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I will find something. The Steller’s Jays in the blue spruce, the pair of raven in the naked aspen, maybe even the magpie that shy from the coyote fence as I take the slop bucket down to the chicken coop each morning.
These will remain, a part of my morning ritual.
I frighten myself with my own decisions. Repercussions of creating life. It is not meant to be smooth, but we long for those still moments. They do not last.

april 17 005

And sometimes they die. A sorrow I care not touch on today.
The losses we have shared. Five foals in as many years. The scars are deep within me. I have carried each loss in my arms, bathed him or her with tears as he or she poured forth life that could not be contained.

segundo and gunnar playing ball

No. Now I would rather focus on joy.
It is not always easy. But it is there if we look deep enough.
Horses have become me. A part of me. Chosen. Created. Not given, assumed or taken. I’m no lucky horsey girl grown up. I’m a horse woman, self made. An adult decision I like to say. Painted my own picture. And now I watch the last of them drive away…

Only for a few months. I remind myself and hold onto these words. Only words. But I can close my eyes and picture this. Some time in spring, long before leaves on the trees, streaks of snow patch cleared from pasture, brown waters in the Rio Grande, and tourists considering this a destination, we’ll be driving back with them in tow. And I know the feeling I will have, almost uncontained, bursting, just to have them again out of every window, following us about like bored children as we work about the ranch, the point and purpose to first light of day, ready to allow me at any given whim to wrap my arms about their neck and bury my nose in their warm hair.

norman in the snow

It’s hard enough bringing Gunnar to Patagonia. I cannot bring all of them too.
How redundant to say “I will miss them.” These words are already assumed. You already know.
It’s not just about riding, is it? Maybe it was. Maybe that is how it started. But the deeper you go, the more there is.
They are now partners. We work with them, live with them, depend on them as they on us. Unlike pleasure horses, lawn ornaments, hobby horses, or toys. We are out there together and you hear me reading at night to the boys in our tent, while I hear you shuffling and stomping in the nearby trees. And some days we are both grouchy and other times both tired and short of patience, but you remind me to breathe deep and I do, and I smell you, your sweet musky sweat. And we get over it and get to work, and it’s not so bad, you know and I know so we get through it together. And then sometimes, just for the fun of it, we ride off to who knows where. Just because we can. We did more of that this year. And I thank you for trusting me to go where most wouldn’t dare and some places maybe that no horse has been before. You trust me. I tell you you can. And then I see your confidence grow stronger with each wild ride, like my child evolving into his own person. Maybe with a little bit of my help, but mostly because of you. Or maybe it’s a team. You grow, and I trust you more because of it, and really, it’s a very beautiful relationship changing all the time. It does not stop with what we did yesterday. Tomorrow will bring something new. Maybe subtle, like eye contact, little signals with a flick of my wrist, body language that we humans usually don’t quite get. We can learn to dance together. Not for ribbons or sport, not for some game or to show off. Just for each other.
And in that very moment, you grow and I grow. Perhaps not together. But maybe side by side.




(Here, Norman pulling a big rock and about as proud of himself as I am of him. This photo from “The Ditch Diaries”)

Yes, this is about home. It always is for me. The love of place and space. Balancing my love of home, mountain, horses, dog, husband and son. May be simple. But this is what matters most. To me.
And words. Though more than words. The spirit that words represent. The sharing of it all.
Now, something deeper than the pleasure of company which I will have again. Get over it. Be strong. Look what awaits me!
This is what is meant to be. Call me hokey but I believe that. I believe in the openings that presented themselves. The choices I have made. I will not let her down, let myself down, my husband down, who has believed in me through all the crazy stuff I have got him into.
At the end of the day this is my choice, what I want to do. This is what I wish I’d be the one doing if I heard someone else was doing this. Really, this is beyond a dream come true. I never could have dreamed this one up. This is no vacation. I wouldn’t want that, you know. “Vacation” is not my thing. Because even though I’ve made a living providing vacations, I have no interest in taking one myself. It’s got to have that point and purpose thing. And this does. See?
So, what I will take is this. Life. As full and rich as I can live it. And try to understand it’s just not always easy.
And then again remember this. I never ever would have dreamed up a place like this. Right here, right now. And this wonderful life we built here together.
But can I not want more?
How can something so simple become so complex?
Would I change this sadness and stay safe and warm in yesterday?



(The beautiful life of Bayjura)

What brought it on…

We’re in the kitchen talking about the harder days.  Before running water, hot water heaters, finished walls and trim work.   Long before luxury items like curtains, matching plates and book shelves. Our first year here. The summer of the three of us in a one room cabin. Though we moved to a larger cabin for winter (offering room to initiate a budding new relationship), that season even the septic line froze. We hauled our water downhill on a push sled and were grateful for a nearby outhouse.

I think what scared me most was the cold.  The stories worried me, which I believe they were meant to do.  Funny if you consider that no one else had lived here before us.  So where did the stories come from?  The rumor mill, at work again? Finding factual accounts and figuring out the truth takes time.  I could not get firsthand reports.  There were none.  Only exaggerated stories and distorted memories.  No problem.  Learn to write the book yourself.  And no disappointment from expectations.

Just the same, comfort is not what attracted me then or now.  Financial security and emotional stability don’t appear to be regular parts of my life.  Though maybe by my age they should be.

I thought a lot about this last night.  I couldn’t sleep. An itching that wouldn’t let me be, trying to figure out where my life was taking me.  I guess a self induced session of self reflection brought on by another birthday.  Forty-six.  Middle aged.  Time to grow up?  I think not.

What then?

At this stage in my life, I should have some labels.  There’s comfort in that.  I lost the one of Mother when my son went off to college.  OK, then.  How about my career?  Outfitter.  No more.  Guest Ranch owner/operator.  Barely.  Ditch Digger.  Yes, but… It is somehow lacking in, well, finesse for a middle aged woman. Writer?  I’ll take it. Writer.   I use that term daringly with great expectation and demands placed upon myself.  Too often I have trouble believing that what I give is worthy.  Who doesn’t?  Anyone who contemplates the meaning of life, their point and purpose, will question their self worth.  Won’t they?  And yet, many days I feel I have nothing to give… but words.

Pardon me if that sounds too plumped with self pity. I don’t really need the violins brought in for this.  What am I trying to say then?

Something about confidence.  Or lack thereof.  I read the words of others who have found success with their writing (and yes, success is a relative term, so here I mean that which brings one a sense of purpose and by which one feels defined), and compare them those of us (yes, that would be me…) who still do not believe in ourselves, or believe we have something worthy of giving.

This does is not make me feel worse about my state of being as not-yet-successful-writer, but rather, challenges me to grow up. Oh no!  Become that person. Start being today the person you wish to be tomorrow.  For what is the difference between she and me?  It is not in the number of books she has published and I have not, though I have used that as an excuse for the past few years.  It is in the voice that speaks back when I look in the mirror.  How easy it is to forget we are in charge of that voice. I need not look ahead with down cast eyes and hushed words and whisper, “Yes, I write…”  Perhaps it is time to look straight ahead, boldly make contact with the grey eyes staring back at mine, and speak in a loud and joyous voice, “Yes!  I am a writer!  And I am honored to share my words!”

Man, that sounds good at least.

An ugly picture in a beautiful world

I think when you come down to it, truth is, everyone wants to be loved.

Though at some time, with some people, we must face the facts that attempts for being loved, let alone being accepted, are futile.

Oh sure, I’d love to be like those that claim they do not care.  Seemingly untroubled by who calls them what, the stories that have been told, or the judgments made.  Maybe such people really do exist.  I am not one of them.

So it was with that hope in mind, that of simply being loved, and then reduced to liked, and then reduced to accepted… by my in-laws, that I write today.

Oh, not all of them.  In fact, only a few.  There are a lot of them around here in the summer.  Some have been fine.  Some have been great. But that very unpleasant, difficult few have made a big impression.  Not a pretty one, either.

Why?  Go figure.  We’ve learned we’ll never really know. I’ve heard all kinds of theories.  The typical, “She must be a hussy.”  Or thinking I was no more than the hired help.  Or that I married Bob for his money (no offense, sweetheart, but I can hear the chuckles).  Or fear.  Fear of me taking their little boy away.  Fear of losing control.  Fear of change.

For their world was perfect before I came.  Right.  Wrong.  Frighteningly so.  But I don’t know if anyone every spoke about it, you know, as in “admitted it” before I was here to open up the closet and let the skeletons spill out.  Hush-hush, brush it under the carpet, don’t tell a sole, and just pretend we get along.  Good lord, but you HATE each other!  Who are you fooling?

An ugly picture in a beautiful world.

When you put the pieces of the puzzle together, there before you is one ugly picture.  But it’s just one, spread out on my kitchen table, a twisted mix of facts and lies, and I know I have the ability to brush it off, toss it away, clean the slate and begin my day, my life, in a beautiful way. Even here.

Pieces of the puzzle.  It’s a long story.  I’ll probably only get to a part of it today.  Bear with me as this might not be the lovely lighter side of life you like to listen to.  But it’s real and raw and revealing.  And I suppose there is something to be said for that.  Like letting it all hang out so you can lighten your load and learn to laugh again.

And I’m gonna have the last laugh after all.  Because although legend has it when we were married my husband’s brother and mother vowed to chase me off in five years, I’ve spent the last four chuckling, just knowing my presence alone causes them misery.  And now, with our return, with our commitment to the land, it’s easy to see how  we’ll still be here, enjoying a new group of neighbors, long after they leave.  And yes, I confess, I do I take pleasure in that.

So where do I begin?

An ugly picture.

Most of the details I chose to forget.  There were many.  Ugly, ugly images.  Memories more like nightmares.  I learned to say this family is not mine.  No family is perfect, I know, but this was a bit much.

So why am I rehashing all this crap?  Because I can, the brother used to say.  He never gave us a better reason for treating us as he did. So maybe just this time, I’ll say the same.  Because I can.  And because part of healing is forgiving.  Letting go. And I’m still holding on.  I’m still hurt.  Having people hate you, hate everything you do or did or built or made, finding fault in you and your life and your dreams and your hard work hurts.  Period.  The scars are deep.  But they are healing.

This story will help clarify the picture for me, ugly as it may be.  Only then can I brush it aside… and laugh.

I might add that this post is not endorsed by my husband, and may be the first one which he will read and won’t say, “It’s nice.”  I guarantee.  This will make him cringe.  Why stir the waters, he will ask me?  I will tell him that the mud is thick and deep, and taints the clear waters that calmly lies on top.  It doesn’t go away on its own.  At some point we must drain the pond and begin anew. Let sleeping dogs lie, he’ll tell me.  But my dog sleeps restlessly, and wakes up barking.

Life isn’t always peaches and cream.   Maybe it’s because of the bitter apple and sour milk that fine wine seems so sweet.  It’s a package deal.  The good and bad.  An ugly picture in a beautiful world.  So, I’ll tell my story finally.  Forget the silence of the lambs.  It due time I climb to the top of the mountain and let loose my feral wail.

It isn’t going to make me any friends.  But truth is, it’s already cost me plenty.  That was their intention. Stories from my mother- and brother-in-law. I’m better off not knowing the half of them.

I would like to claim innocence but that would not be fair.  I could have/should have seen the signs, and probably did, but love is blind.  The sweet little old lady who had already had about twenty five years perfecting the act.   Oh, she could tell a story so well!  A historian, she called herself.  Though I cringe to think of how many stories were told for the sheer impact and effect on intrigued tourists.  I too was enamored by her once, and so looked forward to having her… love me.

Silly me.

Why she couldn’t run me off like she succeeded in doing for others before me, I do not know.  But for that I am grateful.  Though the battle to win and keep her son left deep scars within me.  They are worth it.  He is worth it.

An ugly picture.  You built your own hell.  Alas, it’s fading.  It’s lost its control.  The rein of critiques and criticism from the plastic throne is withering away.  The powers she appointed to replace her are not even worthy of mention.

There is more, so much more.  I need not remember it all.  I need to learn to let go.  For myself, my son, my husband.  For them, I push open the shutters and pull up the shade and let go of the past and let new light flood into the room.

As one friend writes, “The old me would have…”  But the new one won’t put up with crap.  OK, well, so maybe I never did.

So what is the solution?  Learning to let go.  Learning not to care.  Learning not to be affected by the words and actions and stories spread by others.  Well, one thing is for sure. I’ll never run for public office.  I’ll never be a politician.  For I never will care enough about what others think of me to act falsely or to put up with injustice and sit around silently. And still, I find I care too much.

So, where does that leave me?  I guess exactly where I am.

We have not spoken in years.  A big fence divides us, and I have learned no fence is big enough to hold back hatred.  I’ve stopped listening to them, to their stories, though I still hear them from time to time.  I think only a few still listen, though only a few ever did. They still spend their idle time here, coming and going in the summer.  Just more fair weather tourists who like to think about how many years they have been coming here, as if that enables one a greater hierarchical ranking.

And I will watch them leave, and breathe again.

And in the meanwhile, I will learn to accept that not everyone is going to love you. Some, in fact, will hate you.  Not because of who you are or what you’ve done, but because of themselves.  Let them keep their misery.  They build it well.  Some people choose to paint their own ugly pictures, then spend a lifetime looking at that, rather than the beautiful view before them.

I don’t want to be that person.  I want to see that beautiful view, be out in it, be a part of it, and should I lift my paintbrush to add to the picture before me, may I only craft it to be a more beautiful one.

If ever that were possible in such a picture perfect world.