Last week I went on a walk to close some gates in our home pasture and check a couple juneberry patches. Juneberries are a special treat around here. Like wild...
It all starts with the best intentions. Most housekeeping tasks around here do. Unfortunately, they generally also end with me questioning the meaning of life, love and why I don’t just live by myself in a fort by the creek like I planned when I was 10 years old. Because inside the houses we share with the people we promised to have and hold till death do us part, there lies unexpected secrets just waiting to jump out and remind us that marriage is not always the romantic snugglefest those bridal magazines told us it would be. No.
In my other life, I take portraits. I put my eye behind the camera and watch families arrange themselves. I ask them to look. To smile. And then I hit the shutter on my camera and that smile is captured forever, made into an image, one they want to remember. It’s what they’ve asked me to do, and I’m happy doing it. But those are not my favorite photos.
The big brown dog lying beside my bed is snoring a little this morning. The beard around his snout and his dog eyebrows have turned white. When he gets up, he gets up slowly, sort of creaking as he prepares to hit the steps to go outside. These days he’s spending a lot of time cooling off in the stock dam, cutting through the algae and little lily pads like an oversized beaver. Water is the only place where this dog is graceful, and we love him for that. Especially me, because I can relate. The husband, me and Hondo the Lab.
I’m a small-town musician. There is no dictionary definition for this job. And there is no real job description. When little girls sing Taylor Swift songs into hairbrushes in their bedrooms at night, they’re likely dreaming of bigger stages than the flatbed trailer at the county fair. Although I hope that all of them get a chance to start there. Last Sunday, I stood next to my dad and my neighbor in a church in my small town.
She stood on the edge of a stage facing a dimmed room. In the back, the coffee had been poured, the sugar cookies placed neatly on colorful napkins, and now it was show time. So the mothers clutched their cameras, the dads shushed the children and the grandmothers with purses on their laps clapped their hands as their granddaughters dressed in tutus and nervous smiles took their place on the stage. My big sister has always dreamed of opening a dance studio. She’s lived in Grand Forks and Olympia and Seattle. She taught dance in some of these places. She worked in jobs she liked just fine.
We were told not to go swimming in the beaver dam behind the house, the dam tucked down between the steep banks of the tree-littered coulee. The one with the most frogs and water bugs and mystery. The deepest one. The biggest one. The furthest one. My best friend and I were 9 and 10, and we mostly abided by the rules — look both ways before riding your bike across the highway. Take off your muddy boots before coming in the house. Wash your hands before supper. Out on the ranch between the mile or so of open space and empty road between my house and hers, we were given free rein.
Our world is thawing. The snow in the trees is moving and flowing, cutting through banks and muddy ground, making rivets and dents and a big ol’ beautiful mess of things around here. The creek that cuts through the ranch has turned into a river.
I was taking a drive with dad the other day — heading back to the ranch from town after dropping my car off at the shop and in between an exchange about this endless winter — when dad told me George died. “Good ol’ George. Drove bus all those years. He was my bus driver too, you know … what a guy, that George.” “George died?!” I exclaimed because I hadn’t heard and because it surprised me, though it probably shouldn’t have.
So I took a Zumba class the other day. I know, I know. I’m way behind on this fitness phenomenon that gets us all together in a big room to cha-cha, salsa, and drop it like it’s hot in the name of Latin music and exercise. But if you saw me shake my hips, you would understand that my hips, indeed, don’t lie. No.