"Happy Anniversary" flashed the message on my phone as it sat on a kitchen counter smudged with waffle batter and covered with grapes and cups of coffee and orange juice. My body was aching, my back and feet screaming at me from a week of scheduling madness, keeping me and my big belly on the road and in late at night. I had one more thing that evening, one more thing and then next week would be calmer, I promised. My husband was in the living room watching Edie twirl and sing "Twinkle, Twinkle," and I looked over at him, my eyebrows contorted toward the ceiling in surprise.
It rained last weekend. For the first time since spring arrived, the clouds rolled in during the early morning and they hung over the land all day like a sweet, life-giving blanket, sending waves of drenching water, turned to sprinkles, turned to mist turned back to heavy rain, on and off all day. It rained. It really rained last weekend. And it didn't matter if there was an outdoor event planned, or a camping trip, or a parade — we all welcomed it on our skin, remembering what it felt like to be given a promise that the dust will settle.
She was munching on a pea pod I'd plucked from the plant in front of her, her fine blonde hair escaping from the ball cap she insists on wearing backwards, rendering it completely useless for protecting her rosy cheeks from the 80 degree day. Before she finishes her first garden treat, she's reaching out her hands, mouth full, mumbling "more." I pick her two, one for each hand. Pleased, she struts across the garden in her cowboy boots and shorts, trampling over my onions on her way to see if she might get the chance to pull up an entire bean plant before her momma tells her "no!"
Last night, the person in front of me paid for my meal at the drive through. It had been a long Monday, and I got to the end of it only to realize I hadn't really eaten anything all day. So I went to one of the only drive-throughs in town, sacrificing nutritional value and inevitable heartburn to make sure that I didn't pass out on my drive home.
They left me with a plate of Snickerdoodles, a fridge full of half-finished dips, opened bottles of white wine, sheets to be washed and a heart full and lonesome at the same time. A group of eight of my friends made their way to the ranch from Colorado, Minnesota and eastern North Dakota last weekend, fulfilling our promise to get together once a year, no matter what, since we first met 11 years ago during a hot summer spent moving picnic tables and cutting pies at a performing arts school.
I imagine everyone has some familiar scent that hits their lungs and brings them back to a time in childhood when they felt so deeply loved, so overwhelmingly safe, so much themselves. So free. Maybe it's your grandmother's warm cookies from the oven or the smell of a diesel tractor plugging across a field. Maybe it's your parent's home or the fur on the back of your old cat or the salty air blowing across the ocean and onto vast beaches. For me, it's sweetclover.
“Well, I guess this is the life I chose,” he said as he pulled on his boots and headed out the door. “Work all day in 100 degrees so I can come home and work all night in it.” Yup. That’s the story out here on the ranch where we can’t quit our day jobs. And on evenings when the wind settles down and the sun sets just right on cows grazing on green grass in their proper places, it feels pretty dang good.
My husband and I have this ongoing fight in our house. It goes something like this: Him: Have you seen the charger to the phone I had back in 2001 during our first year of college? Me: I think I put it in a bin somewhere in the basement with the rest of the unidentifiable cords from various electronic devices that no one's used for 15 years. Him: Don't touch my stuff.
She used to follow me up the coulee and along the crick, her purple barn jacket zipped up under her chin, the rubber soles of her boots keeping a careful distance between her and her big sister who hadn't discovered her lurking behind the trees yet. I would leave the house unannounced to sing to myself as I inspected my tree fort, the frog count on the crick and the wild raspberry plants growing alongside the beaver dam. And she almost always followed, stopping at the tire swing for a quick ride.
My phone dinged with a message containing a photo of my daughter in her life jacket and sunhat sitting on the banks of the Little Muddy River looking up at her daddy looking down at her in his Superman shirt.