A Ranchers Wife

josephDecember 18, 2014
Mescalero, New Mexico

A Ranchers Wife

I had two dreams when I was a teenage girl in upstate New York. I was either going to retreat to the wilderness in company of some grandiose mountain man or I would be a ranchers wife, living in some other remote place and tending to livestock. Both visions saw me far from the domesticity of suburban life. The romantic notion of some strong burly companion remains with me to this day though he has come and gone with the years and several failed partnerships. In the midst of my fifth decade the optimism remains that he may yet appear as a functional person but the very nature of the man I would choose leaves it for fate to decide as he would so rarely come to town! Instead I have done what I could to work towards a similar existence with as many stumbling blocks along the way.

If one holds to the principle of three is a charm then I have perhaps exhausted the possibilities? There have been three such men in my life, one who I married and had two sons with and another with whom I shared many years of my life with, together and at a distance. The third took me to the prairies of Oklahoma where I stayed for two years in spite of our failures. Later I came as close as I have ever been to realizing that dream, though I ventured far into the wilderness by myself. It was there that the close proximity of the sort of man I had dreamed of proved to be almost enough and even now, four years later, I think to return to that place, even if I would go alone. Perhaps the romantic notion has worn thin but the purity of the existence has not and it never will. I found the ‘Big Love’ I had dreamed of in a place and a people rather than as a single individual and the memory remains to be savored at any given moment.

I woke early this morning and fed horses before I went to work. The air was brisk and the frost still clung to the grass even as the sun sought to thaw the frozen mud. The tips of my fingers ached from the cold and my ears burned with the chilled breeze but I donned neither gloves nor hood and instead savored the bite of the cold morning freshness. The horses nickered to me as I drove through the pastures and eagerly waited for their feed, following me a bit too closely as I filled their tubs with grain and scattered their hay. I laughed at their antics and growled when they crowded me while thrilling at my sense of their actions, I can think as they do after all the years of their company. My own horse even met me at the gate and I took a moment to allow him to greet me as he wrapped his head and neck across my own and hugged me tenderly. His friendship seems truer than any human I can consider at the moment and the love is unconditional, he is truly a kind spirit and a loyal friend.

I lingered longer than I had to at my morning chores before I reluctantly departed for work. I paused to watch the ravens sail through the sky and listened closely to the sounds of the waking day, the deep caw and the melodic songs of the birds overhead. I stood still in the dawn as a hawk made his slow turns in the sky in search of his breakfast. I watched the sun as it broke over the mountaintops and marveled at the reflection of its brilliance in the edges of the soft clouds above me. I looked to the higher peaks of the nearby hills where the dusting of snow lay softly on the ground and then studied the still green grass at my feet. For a moment I even considered taking off from work but thought better of that and instead vowed to hold the moment close and to carry it with me through the day.

What I took along was the affirmation of the simple joy of life itself and the exuberance of the creatures whose lives are so much simpler than my own. What would I give to gallop headlong across the pasture for the sheer joy of the effort? How wonderful it would be to sail softly on the thermals of the warming morning air and to dive effortlessly though the sky. I can have all of this and more by the simple proximity of the creatures whose lives revolve around the same. By mingling in their company I can remove myself from all but the pure joy of life itself. In that sense I live the same life I have always dreamed of, I just want so much more of that!

The longer I live the more crucial it becomes that I recognize and honor the beauty which surrounds me. I saw this as a young girl, living on the edge of both city and wilderness. I vowed to keep that promise to myself, to hold close the dream and pursue it at any cost. On occasion I have forgotten how close I am to that goal, until I step back out into the beauty of the day. I am living on the edge of a wilderness and I spend at least part of my time on a ranch, as I did this morning. I have a calm and steady horse who welcomes my company and I ride him when I can. Sometime soon I will wander further and return myself to the life I have sought after since my youth. Perhaps that grandiose man does exist somewhere and I have yet to give up on him, but more importantly I have remained true to myself. In his absence I have also found that ‘Big Love’ that only the wilderness and solitude can offer us, and perhaps he has done the same!

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