I woke this morning to heavy dew filled air and the ever-present mountain backdrop gone. Vanished into the foggy sky. I grabbed my coffee and watched from the window as freshly weaned calves milled around just beyond our front yard. Like opportunistic predators, they check every morning to see if somebody forgot to shut the gate. They seem to sense that newly planted apple trees and other delights await them on the other side of the fence. I smiled to myself and shook my head “not today kids”. This is my fourth fall here and there has been more than one morning spent chasing calves around our house in my robe and slippers. Many things have changed in my life the past few years, but this seems to remain a constant. Like many of us humans, every calf crop feels that the grass must be oh so much greener on the other side. They want in.
It has been a little over a year since this naïve California city girl married the Montana cowboy of her dreams, and the first year of married country life has been everything and nothing like what I thought it would be. I have a lot to be grateful for. I am fortunate enough to be able to work alongside my husband almost everyday. We are not just lovers; we are partners. I am able to ride to my heart’s content (something that is a real joy for a horse lover like myself). I continue to learn more about cattle than I ever thought possible, and to my surprise, find it all fascinating. I am learning to rope. And I have begun to form real bonds and friendships with people in the community. This is a tremendously rewarding life for someone like me. Yet it comes with its own significant set of challenges.
Some days I struggle to distinguish my role on the ranch, and more importantly, my own identity. My husband and I work as partners and equals, but let’s be frank; I stepped into his world. I long to create something all my own yet I find myself unsure of what that something is or how to obtain it in this unique and remote environment.
I am unsettled by the tensions that have arisen between my in-laws and my husband and me since our wedding. It’s amazing the questions and concerns about control, power, and fairness that come to light after a significant life event. It forces everyone to take a long hard look at their own mortality and the future. It’s a fascinating dance of love, loyalty, passive aggression and open defiance. It is also exhausting. Ranch family dynamics are sooo complex. Somebody should write a book. Maybe that can by my niche 😉
The isolation can be hard, even for a self-proclaimed loner like me. Some days I really long for those everyday interactions with strangers that people in cities take for granted. I know because I used to take them for granted. I long to encounter the “new” or the “weird”. I long for the fresh exchange of ideas that leaves my mind energized for days. I long for the anonymity that only a city can bring which paradoxically leaves me feeling connected and relevant. Out in the country it is easy to get lost. It takes a real effort to stay engaged and not let oneself slip into passivity.
I think about these challenges that confront me presently and then I amusingly reflect back on a few short years ago when I faced the opposite affliction. When I longed to leave the city and break the mold. When I desired something physical, something tangible, something REAL. With all the superficial bullshit that permeates a city, I yearned for something to reach out and shake me to my core and fill my heart with truth. And that is exactly what I found on a little ranch in Montana.
So watching the calves in the morning I remind myself of this. Like them, I suffer from the “grass is always greener” syndrome. Ultimately though, I try to think of what feels right in my heart. Where do I find the most happiness? If the calves did manage a yard break-in this morning they would no doubt have a ball. Like kids in a candy store, they’d rub and eat on our trees, trample my garden and shit everywhere. Eventually though, they’d realize that our yard is tiny; a fraction the size of their pasture, and they’d desperately want out. I can relate to this. Yep, I’m comparing myself to a cow. When it’s all said and done, I need room to roam.
In the present day of Facebook where everybody has a forum to advertise their wonderful perfect lives, it is a struggle to remain grateful for what you have. The truth is, nobody’s life is perfect and everybody has their battles to overcome. These are some of mine. Truth is, at the end of the day, I’m a pretty lucky girl. I think I’ll go kiss my husband and ride my horse now J