Bird of prey


Wind strips away the last of the leaves and sucks the heat of the woodstove out from between cracks in the log walls before warming the room.  The wind chimes rattle ceaselessly on the back porch.  Bare branches wave wildly as if saying their final farewell.

I sit in the cabin and stare outside at the browning hillside.  Flocks of geese on the Reservoir flats joining up to prepare their journey southward as the tourists already have done.  Those of us that remain prepare for departure or hibernation.  I will do the latter.

“The feast before the famine…” Or so the saying goes. But this feast is bittersweet.

Now is the season of birds of prey.

In the sharp shadows of early morning, from the kitchen window I watch a falcon fly through the flock of mourning doves. They are slow.  He is agile.  A fascinating combination, confrontation, obvious he will be victorious, and of little surprise when after I count one less dove scratching at the seed by the hay shed.

Late afternoon looking out the same window.  High above the field the Red Tail hawk dances in the middle of a whirlwind of what appears to be golden birds, whirling, swirling, fluttering, flickering in the lowering light.  At first I think he flies among tiny birds, a flock larger than I’ve ever seen here and strain my eyes to identify.  But it is only freshly fallen leaves caught up in the twisting air, a wild dance of nature, the bird of prey participates in what seems like a joyous display of fervor and wind.

So the season blows away, leaving the last of the orange leaves to glow like rare pale sentinels in the high hills, while the rest of the mountain fades to grey, silent and peaceful as a monk under a heavy hood. At once comforted and burdened by the weight.

It is time for me to withdraw. To give in to the brown and grey and barren wind.  To write.  I begin with letters I have put off for months.

From a letter written earlier this week to a friend who probably wished he never asked:


This will more than likely be way too long and rambling, or way too short and say only a fraction of what I want to say.

I’ve been going through an odd adjustment with Bob working in town a few days a week, Forrest off to college and trying to figure what his future holds, and myself trying to find more of my own self through work and business or lack there of. Not a big deal, just little life changes. And too much time to think. At this stage in the game, I should be doing more than thinking. Giving more than taking. I’ll figure it out. Just an adjustment period.

Where to begin?

I’d like to begin with the financial matters we first discussed back in August, I believe it was. Crazy the power money holds over us, even when we try to live so simply. I appreciate you sharing a bit of your story. Your honesty and openness have always been refreshing, though a harsh reality at times. You are right about the burden debt holds over us. Walking away (though of course I know, walking away still brings a tangled thread dragging behind) for us is not an option at this point. We are oddly in a state of having to wait it out. Let me explain.

Our debt is created by having to fight for ownership of part of this land, the part with the cabins and business my husband built, separating him from the “Evil In-Laws,” the part of the family that fought all the rest of us for no better reason than because they could, to stir the waters, or because conflict and confrontation are a way of life for them. Fighting to own what we have worked for was worth it on principle alone, though a hard fight, and a personal struggle, as family matters, you know, often are.

Fighting for ones land does one of two things.  It can turn you off and chase you away, or draw you closer like a mother and child.  For us, it has been the latter.  Only at times I know not if I am the mother to or child of this beautiful land.  I have only learned it does not matter.  We are connected now by blood, the blood I have shed upon this land, as sweet and rich, wet and warm as my tears.

But alas, “moving on” is this odd carrot before my nose. I grab but can never reach. I know it will happen. At least, most days, I know. Other days, I wonder.

And what does “moving on” entail?  For moving on does not always mean a physical move.  What it can mean is staying right where you are… only you are changed.

Here is everything my husband ever worked for, and what I have helped build and gave all I could for the past eleven years. It is not a miserable place to be, just rather “status quo.”  I prefer change, growth, adventure. My insatiable curiosity for what lies over the next peak of the mountain drives me. I just want to live life as full as I can, in my own quiet way.

But what can I do? What skills do I have now besides running a little business, raising animals (and a child), cooking, cleaning, riding, training, gardening… nothing of value in today’s world. I am lost.

We’re not operating the guest ranch in the same capacity we were, and we’re not outfitting any more.  This is hard because I so love horses and riding and even sharing the knowledge and experiences.  And both Bob and I have considered working with horses as such an integral part of our identity. We are still relying on our horses for work at the ditch, which involves riding and packing into Wilderness, back and forth, for 20 – 30 days per summer; and using the horse for dirt work. But it’s not the same, and not quite enough for me. So I’ve been compensating by doing these big, extreme, crazy rides trying to fulfill my horse time, miles, and unsaturated soul. It’s almost addictive. How hard/far/long/challenging a ride can I do today? And then return home grateful to have survived.

Horse time is almost over here. As soon as the snow begins to fly, and the north sides of the slopes and in the trees begin to ice up, it’s over. It will be soon.

And still, fun as it is, it is not enough. One can only “play” so much, enjoy ones down time so much. That point and purpose, direction, meaning I’m longing for is still so far away.  I am no closer today than I was yesterday.  Or is this a path I cannot see, and shall I wake one day and find myself… there?

Once again, you see I have foregone short and sweet and tended towards long and drawn out.  Stay with me if you’d like.  I will be here, and I will share. Though the season of withdrawing and crawling deep inside the cave is coming.  And I intend to use that time well and wisely…