Feather and Prayer

I visit an owl roost, past the end of the driveway, down on the edge of the river where the water gurgles around a small cut bank that is crowned by Russian olive and willow.  The roost is a power pole I resented for a time until I deduced an owl was using it.  Then that man made object became dear to me, it became the owl roost, something useful and lovely in its own way — I had a change of heart.  I have never seen the owl that roosts there but I know it is frequented by an owl because I often find her feathers caught up on the sharp prickles of tumbleweeds and the blades of bunchgrass around the base of the power pole.

I collect those feathers of hers and I carry them with me further downriver as I walk with the dogs in the evenings.  I hold them in my hands and absentmindedly stroke them and straighten them as I stroll.  Whatever invisible things I carry with me are carefully pressed into those feathers.  And I walk.  I walk.  Eventually I reach a bend in the river where I clamber across boulders to be above the water and I hold the feather out over the current.  I do the last of my praying and thinking and then I set the feathers on the wind where they drift erratically, as feathers will, moving on invisible strings of time and air.  Eventually they touch the Snake River and slide toward a set of rapids to be folded into the froth and fizz of living waters and I turn and make the long walk home in the gloaming.

Last night, in a rugged wind, I set out walking.  I made my way down to the river, down to the owl roost and I looked for a feather and a prayer and there were many feathers.  There were too many feathers, more feathers than prayers.  I knew immediately what had happened.  My owl had perished.  I believe she was electrocuted while on her perch and was found on the ground, spent and burnt by high voltage, by the coyotes who made a midnight feast of her.

I gathered all the feathers I could see and walked with them pressed against my chest where the wind couldn’t rip them from my grip.  I reached the boulder strand and stood out over the water, felt the mean wind punching at me, spoke my prayer and released the feathers into the gale.  They flew one last time — tugged and pulled by the canyon air until they dropped into the teal blue of the river and disappeared into the madness of the whitewater.

It was a viking burial with wind and water instead of flame.  I’ll miss that owl.  Her feathers led me one by one into contemplation, awareness and prayer.  I like to think that in the end, we set each other free.

To The Dunes

A few weeks ago I found myself in the dark of our bedroom, wildly awake, my head lifted from the pillow with the clear thought, “Someday, I’ll be 65.”  I don’t know why I suddenly woke up or why that was my waking thought or why I chose the number 65, but I found the realization shocking.  I live in a way that makes me unaware of my age.  I’ve lived for a long time now, 36 years.  With the exception of a mostly dead thyroid gland, my body is healthy, agile, sleek.  My legs keep hammering when I run those long, sweeping distances of mine.  I’m small but I can carry a lot of weight over a great distance, my successful elk hunt this year is proof of this.  I don’t look especially weathered though that will come the longer I live in the high desert and I hope to accept those lines with grace and gratitude.  I have no knee pain.  I have some arthritis in my hands when the weather turns bitterly cold but this is a legacy of silversmithing and I do what I can to protect those little, working bones of mine.  I’m in great shape.  The notion that my body is going to age and eventually betray me is unimaginable, yet I know it will.  It’s the way of life to survive small deaths.  And so we go.

Time passes.  Time has passed.  Time is passing.  It seems like only yesterday I was a little sun bleached blond girl in the caragana stand out in the pasture, playing with romantic looking rusted tin cans and glass bottles I found in the treeline, barn cats by my side and the horses in the distance munching grass — but that was thirty years ago.  In most ways, I’m still that little girl.  It’s funny how many things don’t change in this tornado of constant change.

Yesterday was my birthday and we hauled horses out to Bruneau Dunes to ride for the day.  It might be my favorite birthday I’ve ever had.  The sky was bluebird.  The sun was warm.  What little breeze there was created the perfect blend of weather that whips the cheeks red and chaps the lips.  I live for that kind of weather in Idaho.  The sand and the brush and the wind whittled waves lay in light echoes beneath eight hooves.  We found ourselves feeling homesick for New Mexico which is where we usually spend my birthday, down in the sand country where the scaled quail live.

Yesterday we felt we had found a little pocket of New Mexico here in Idaho and we rejoiced in it.  The dune towered over us, its shadow slowly reaching for evening.  I marveled at the sand polished stones laying like dollars on the ocean edge.  All the gold on gold pinned down by vast blue, the buff of the rabbit brush, Robert on his yellow horse and the white sands shifting and roiling in every direction.  What beauty to behold.  Such beauty was ours.  We rode the dunes alone and in perfect harmony.

We circled back to the truck and trailer and cooked up franks with kraut for late lunch.  The dogs begged, the horses slurped water, the coyotes sang, we laughed when the smoke stung our eyes.  Our drive home was merry, I felt so full of joy and contentment.  Once, I felt such deep envy for people on horses on trails.  It made me want to cry.  I wanted that life so terribly.  I saw those nice folks with their trailers, hauling their stock to beautiful places so they could explore and camp and hunt with their steeds.  Oh, my heart yearned to have that same thing in my life.  To have this horse of mine is the greatest gift.  To haul Resero beyond our usual haunts, to have him in hunting camp this past fall, to be able to take him wherever I go is not just a luxury, it is a magical luxury.  This I know.

When I didn’t think my birthday could be more beautiful, Robert gave me my final gift — a bow.  I have talked for two years about wanting to make the shift from rifle hunting to bow hunting and last night he launched me in the direction of fulfilling another dream of mine.  It’s a gorgeous bow.  He was too good to me.  Now I must learn and master a new skill.

 It’s a good thing I’m only 36.  I have so much to do.

Note:  The palomino in these photos is not our horse, he belongs to our neighbors who have become some of our best friends — we are so lucky to have them living across our hay field from us.  They are too kind to let Robert ride their horses.  Every day I whisper a little prayer of thanks for them.


My birthday is next week!  Something I always do on my birthday, without fail, is wake up early and go out alone to catch the sunrise from a beautiful place with a thermos of tea and my journal.  I watch the day begin and I think about the new year of my life as it literally dawns on me.  My reason for beginning my birthday with the sunrise is simple — if everyone forgets my birthday and Robert doesn’t dream up anything special to do for me, and the day is mundane and we eat leftovers for dinner…at least I had that beautiful moment at the break of day and I have a sacred memory attached to that specific birthday of my life.

The other thing I do for my birthday every year (for the past decade) is I sit down and take the time to make myself a piece of birthday jewelry.  Today I made these outrageous post earrings for myself.  They have all the magical stuff — wapiti, crosses, fringe, nuggets of Castle Dome Turquoise and most sacred of all, the elk ivory I pulled from the elk I harvested this year.  This is magnificent, hallowed material that I hold in high esteem and I always said when I harvested my first wapiti, I would honor that animal by making myself an adornment with its ivories.

There are only two animals in North America that have ivory — walruses and elk.  Walrus ivory appears in actual tusk form while elk ivory is a tooth that is set in the upper jaw of the animal, a remnant of tusks.  What I like about elk ivory is its smoothness, the swirl of caramel coloring that can occur in the chewing surface of the tooth and also, the actually energy the material holds.  Elk are beautiful, yes, but they’re so much more than that.  They live in utterly insane country yet they move through it and over it like it’s a city sidewalk.  They are a phenomenon of the high country.  On my elk hunt this year, Robert and I watched a herd take fifteen minutes to cross a section of mountain slope.  When we followed them, it took us over an hour to cross the same terrain!  For those of you who have watched them in National Parks or on public lands, I’m sure you’ll agree that they are awesome animals, but to hunt this animal for sustenance brings on an entirely new appreciation for the species and plants the seeds of obsession in a person.

This is all to say, I’m so happy I took the time to make these eccentric little earrings today.  A friend of mine once said, “If it’s in my heart to celebrate, I’m going to celebrate.”  Those words stayed with me and I practice them as often as possible.

Catching Up

When I filled the final page, I flipped back to the beginning of my journal, which is also my sketchbook, and the first page was dated April 22, 2016.  Why did it take me so much longer than usual to fill this book?  I used to run out of pages in six or eight months and I’ve been using this exact book for years.  In that moment, I realized 2016 was when a prolonged life transition began for me and for whatever reason, to the detriment of my creative health, my writing was set on the backburner until now.  It was with great joy that I found myself returning to pen and paper at the start of this year; sitting down almost every morning with strong intentions, a clear mind full of wide open thoughts and a general sense of ease regarding time.  It’s that last part that’s the most difficult thing to achieve.  Every morning I have that niggling feeling that I must hurry up and get the day started lest I squander my daylight hours and wind up a pauper in the achievement department.  I push that thought away these days.  I brew a cup of green tea.  I sit down with my favorite pen.  I write.  I sketch.  I glue in imagery from magazines and periodicals that caught my eye — photos, textures, fonts, color combinations…I build my inspiration bank, purge my heart and soul and concoct my dreams for the hours, the days, the years.  It’s good to be back at it.

The upland season closed and as always, it’s bittersweet to see and feel the season pass.  The dogs are unruly in the stillness.  We’re finding new things to do with ourselves.  Thankfully, the amount of work that needs to be done around the farm before the fire season begins develops exponentially, by the day!  We’re ordering seeds, I’m working on landscape design for all THREE of my gardens (I still don’t have enough gardening space!!!), fencing the rest of the horse paddocks, building nesting boxes for the turkeys and ducks, designing an outdoor dog run for the pups, lining up a new farm boy to help me with the irrigation this summer (looks like it’s going to be the sweet Mennonite kids from the next farm over), researching trees for the continuation of the orchard overhaul…

In the midst of all of that, we had a sense of being on top of everything so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when Hubba Hubba, our exquisite phoenix rooster, perished of inexplicable and unascertainable reasons at nightfall yesterday.  We’re both grieving that little dandy.  He was a great rooster — gentle with the hens and protective of his flock.  He’ll be missed and probably irreplaceable.  But that’s life, isn’t it?  Just when you’ve figured out the rhythm and everything feels like its running smoothly, you experience a setback — diminutive or monumental — so that the fabric of our lives is seismic in nature and constantly folding, unfolding, and fluttering about.  We’ll have to hunt up a new rooster.  I was looking forward to not caring for a bevy of little critters this spring but we might have to do another batch of chicks.  Chicks are a lot of work, my friends.  Last year I had baby ducks, turkeys, chickens and kittens and I could barely leave the property for a few months.  I sigh aloud as I write this though, because chicks are such a delight.  If I must chick, then I must chick and I will chick with joy!

I could not have chosen a better year to add a horse to my life.  Since winter never really arrived at the farm this year we have been able to work with Resero or ride him almost every single day since October.  What a miracle!  He continues to settle in, his trust in us deepens and our bonds with him grow tighter with time and groundwork.  He’s thriving here, we’re glad to say.  Exploring the public lands that surround the farm while sitting on his back is one of the best parts of my days.  Now that he’s here, we can’t imagine life without him.  We thought having him would take the edge off my horse fever but the truth is I infected Robert and he’s just as horse crazy as I am now.  To boot, it’s been my delight to watch Robert learn how to interact with horses.  His riding improves each time he sits on Resero.  We’ll make a horseman out of him yet!

Here’s my current reading list for you to consider:

Lastly, in case you missed it, I did a podcast with Ed at Mountain & Prairie a couple of weeks ago.  You can listen to it HERE.  Ed also chatted with Robert over the weekend so if you’ve ever wanted to hear more from and about that man of mine, you can listen to Robert’s podcast interview HERE.  I also highly recommend Ed’s new bookclub which is rooted in books about the West — Ed reads a lot and his recommendations are always great.  This bookclub just makes sense!

I hope you’re all well.


:::Post Scriptus:::

I’m working on printing some 8×10 photos for the shop this week…do any of you have requests?  I can’t guarantee I’ll print your requests because I’m batch printing but I’ll consider them.  Email me a screen shot of your faves if you have a moment and are interested in art for your walls!


What really caught my heart is his brio — his pride, his willingness to work, the way he digs deeper when he’s tired, his fire, the way I feel his very cells twanging with electricity when we pass through the sage along the canyon rim.  Resero is a fine, fine horse, powerful and elegant, sweet and shy.  I still pinch myself each day, I can hardly believe he’s mine.

Here is that wonderful horse of mine in deeply layered sterling silver, 22k gold and American turquoises.  This is the Brio series, for any gal who ever loved the beautiful things with four fast hooves.


I’m releasing this eccentric herd of bantam horses into my Etsy shop today at 4PM (mountain time zone).  I hope to see you there!