Veeder: From the top of it all
"Coming Home" columnist Jessie Veeder ....
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — I have a good life. Not much to complain about when it comes down to it really, except for the weird cat that keeps pooping on the rug right outside the door, my daughters’ occasional meltdowns about waffles not tasting waffle-y enough, impending deadlines, unending laundry, unfinished projects and cold toes.
Nothing out of the usual. Nothing unrelatable. So I’m sitting pretty lucky these days.
But some days, during a break in the morning news, I cry at the Walgreens commercial. And the commercial for a web browser that tells the story about a dad sending his daughter off to college. And then they video chat. And anything with a cute baby or a puppy or a grandpa or a soldier coming home. And lately, I cry at the weather report.
Now, don’t get all worried about me, I’ve got the serious stuff addressed. This is just me being hyper-emotional, the way I’ve always been. And I spend quite a bit of my life laughing, so I figure I’m balanced.
But some days are worse than others, and like so many things, it goes in waves and I find myself running for the hills. Because I’ve learned over the course of my pushing-40 years (gasp!) in this breathtaking and heartbreaking place it’s the only thing to do to recover my senses and gain my balance and center myself once more.
I remove my body from the television screen, the radio, the podcasts, the music, the computer and all of those heartbreaking, heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories and just try to live in my own for a moment.
It hasn’t been easy to do this lately, between the life-threatening cold temperatures, traveling each week to promote the book, darkness that falls too early in the winter, school drop-off and pickup and gymnastics and piano lessons and getting everyone to bed on time, I’ve had to make a special space in my day for clarity.
It’s why I keep an extra pair of snow boots and a furry hat in my car. Just in case. You never know when you might have a chance to escape.
I found my chance one recent afternoon. I had a few of those teary moments over coffee and the news while I moved through my morning trying to pull it together, get to the computer, make it to the meeting, keep up on emails, plan for an event, meet a deadline and keep my head above water in pretty work sweaters between four walls.
4:30 came around and I had a meeting at 6. I figured an hour and a half would do it.
So I got in my car and pointed it toward a favorite refuge, the only other place in the world besides the ranch where I can look winter in the face and call it truly beautiful.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
I’ve written about it here before, on similar weepy days in the fall when I’m overwhelmed and worried, on summer days when I’m tan and moving to the next adventure, and winter. I really love it in the winter. And it never lets me down.
So in 15 minutes I was there, turning off the highway and following the snow-coated road toward the river and the buttes, stopping to capture how the sun looks above the frozen water and if I might catch the bison grazing somewhere in the snow.
I drove slowly to admire the lighting. I rolled down my window a bit to feel the fresh, 20-degree air and pulled over where the road ends, next to a trail that can take you to the top of it all.
I checked my watch. I had 20 minutes before I needed to turn my car around and head back to my other world. I was in my town coat and dangly earrings.
I switched out my fancy boots for snow boots, covered my hair with a beanie and trudged on up there, slipping and sliding and panting because, well, I just felt like it.
I felt like climbing. Because winter looks like peace from the top of it all. All 360 degrees of it, surrounding me and telling me it’s OK to cry.
Especially for the beautiful things.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com . Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.