On The Road (and looking to fill a hole)




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I was so terribly lonesome.  Robert was on week six of his deployment in the southeast and I woke up one morning feeling trapped, stuck inside the old walls of our farmhouse, stuck on the sidewalk between the house and the studio, stuck in the studio, stuck in my head, stuck in my heart, stuck like two feet goopy with tar.  It felt bad.  And I was lonesome, as I mentioned, lonesome for Robert specifically, but also for my sisters and my parents. On impulse, I ran away.  I tucked a few things away in the truck, gave two of our three dogs to pals here in town and hit the road in our little red Tacoma.

I didn’t know where I was going when I started driving.  I was thinking about Moab, Jackson and numerous other places.  When I pulled the truck onto the highway I found myself merging towards Boise and suddenly I knew I was going shed hunting in one of my favorite wintering grounds out in the rim rock of the Snake River Plain.  I drove.  I sang along to the radio.  I chewed at a  hangnail on my left thumb.  I drove some more.

Eventually I pulled off onto the back roads of Idaho, wove my way into some open country, locked the hubs and flipped the truck in 4×4, crept my way across BLM land on a deeply muddy two track and threw the whole circus in park (with e-brake) somewhere in the middle of nowhere — the perfect place to simply go walking and stone kicking and bone collecting.  I had Tater Tot with me and he started quartering the field immediately looking for Hungarian partridge and chukar, zig zagging in front of me like a confused freight train, wagging his nubbin of a tail like he didn’t mind if it fell right off.  His method, the method of bird dogs, is a miracle to watch — there is so much grace in the madness of their energy.  I broke his heart a few times, flushing his points and telling him “no bird“.  Dogs don’t understand hunting seasons, permits, laws…heck, I don’t understand that stuff either, really (Actually, I do.  Wildlife management is a science and an art.  I respect it.).  I still, to this very moment, wish I could have rewarded his hard work with a bird.

We scaled the basalt cliffs, felt the wind slam against us, breathed the sage, closed our eyes and exhaled, and then we hunted for bones and antlers — with mediocre success (I only say mediocre because I usually walk away from this place with multiple skulls, the occasional sacrum or intact spine and usually at least three antlers).  It would be a lie to tell you I was happy, alone and fulfilled out there.  I was missing Robert something terrible.  And when I say MISSING I mean it felt like the marrow of my bones had turned to thin water, dilute and pathetic, and was making its way out of me, out of my millions of pores, a weeping of the body and spirit under the heavy cape of lonesomeness.  I could have cried.  But I didn’t.  Instead, I just walked, watched the world under the sunset, and keep my eyes peeled for the stark white of antlers poking up from the bunch grass.

I found myself thinking, over and over again, “I usually love to be alone.  What is wrong with me?”  When I am alone, which is often, it is by choice and there is a fullness to the aloneness that feels natural and good.  Lately, I have wondered if my nature is changing?  If I am sliding slowly out of introversion and into the deep, warm pocket of extroversion?  Or maybe I’m an extroverted introvert?  I don’t know.  Two of our very best friends bought the house exactly next to ours, here in Idaho.  I see them every single day and I love it.  I have coffee or tea with them most mornings and eat dinner with them, at their house or mine, about four times a week and we are constantly talking over the fence between their house and ours.  It is so special.  I know this is a once in a lifetime experience, living right next door to best friends.  I cherish it, already.   I see so much of my people here, my little tribe built of wild land firefighters and their wives — there are about fourteen of us, you know, mostly married couples with a few spare men and women thrown in for good measure.  It’s a nice chunk of friends who are like family, jingling around in the pocket of my heart like precious coins.  I relish their company so awfully much lately that it truly has me wondering about my self-proclaimed hermit-ness.  Maybe the fact of the matter is simple, perhaps I love our friends here deeply enough, and feel understood well enough by them, that I am willing to forsake my nature to be with them almost every day of the week, to laugh with them, to cook and eat with them often, to have them constantly spiraling in and out of my life like loving cyclones.  They care for me in ways I cannot care for myself.  They are important to me and important to my life, I realize this more and more as the days pass.  Maybe my nature is not exactly what I have deemed it to be these past few years.  What do you think?

Something in me is changing and I believe it has to do with the good and gentle hands of the people I love.  They pour their grace into my very roots, I drink deep and grow up out of myself in their presence.

Tater Tot and I spent the night out there on the wind swept openness of the rim rock.  I ate weird soup for dinner, shivered in my sleep and we continued our explorations in the morning.  At some point, before noon, I acquiesced to the fact that I didn’t feel like being on the road.  I took the scenic route home, climbing and sinking up and down mountain passes, snow blind and weary.  I saw magnificent springtime squalls riding white across the horizon.  I saw the steelhead running, feral and sterling, and wished I had a whopper fly rod with a fuzzy streamer to taunt a big fish into aggression.  I saw antelope.  I saw elk.  I saw the Sawtooths in all their exquisite glory.  I saw wide open spaces, void of cattle, void of humans, void of cities and towns, filled with light and sagebrush and mountain peaks biting at the spring gales.  I saw magnificent things, but no matter how wonderful the landscape I passed through, I still just really wanted someone with me, Robert or Jade or Toby or whoever I love and trust in this world.

I wanted someone I loved with me, riding by my side, singing along with the country music on the radio and exclaiming at the same beautiful sights.

Somedays, I guess it’s good to be alone.  Other days it’s a good time to lock yourself to the ones you love and share an experience unless the world and all its beauty should fall to rust in your mouth; other days are good to share.

Eventually I made it home to my little farmhouse — I liked the feel of being in my space again, peacefully submitting to this season of life where I find myself without Robert, my one and only.


I am learning so much lately, about life, about myself, about the land.  On occasion, the lessons are uncomfortable, but I don’t mind, as long as I keep expanding like a morning sky.


  1. Oh Jillian, how I love to come and trespass ever so lightly onto your shared thoughts and your introspection, your unparalleled photography. Sometimes we are not as we think we are. Or perhaps sometimes we find the right soul mates (or friend mates) that encourage different aspects of our personality.

    Thank you for your words today.


    • It’s no trespass. I love to have you here. And what a beautiful point to make — the idea that the right person can unlock different aspects of our personality. Pure gold.


  2. …from my little seat in Vermont, I shall wholeheartedly agree with Cathy!….I believe life is filled with opportunities that arise, often in the guise of other humans ( or animals, or plant life for that matter!) that teach us more about who we are, by how they lovingly reflect us back to ourselves, how they ‘hold’ us. We get to see what’s in their eyes ( and hearts)…its a gorgeous thing!

  3. werekitty says:

    The trip, and the places – achingly beautiful.
    I would have loved to drive and sing and share 🙂
    ….Ebbs and flow my dear, things change, constantly.

  4. Hullo, wee lonesome dove!

    How does the saying go…change is our only constant…?

    I think Cathy is exactly right…how different people draw forth different aspects of ourselves. I’ve been thinking about that very thing as I’ve been quietly hunched over my workbench this past week, creating wee angels for a friend diagnosed with breast cancer, needing to touch her with my heart over the many miles. And again when I think that in just two short months I will see my baby sister for the first time in seven years (!)…being able to soak up the accent of home and her exuberant energy that brings forth my own inner goofball that often forgets to play off the page. When I experience moments of discomfort I’m always reminded that that part of myself has remained hidden too long…so thank God for these loving souls who can embrace the different aspects that make us who we are.

    Sending hugs from sunny Spoko!

  5. Brandi says:

    I’ve remarked for some time now that you need to remove the “hermit” part from “gregarious hermit.”
    Be who you wish, be who you want, be who you are. Don’t constrain yourself to the self described space of introvert if you’ve moved out of it. It’s okay to grow, from introvert from extrovert, from extrovert to introvert, whatever, stand fully in your being and know you are supported and loved in your growth.

  6. If we do not change, we do not grow. Embrace the change in yourself, contemplate it, try it on–like wings. Know that, like a butterfly, an even more beautiful being will emerge from the changes. xx

  7. Kelsie says:

    I’ve only recently discovered your blog and your work. It was a good discovery. Your photography inspires me greatly and your words invite introspection. Thank you!

  8. Elizabeth (liz) Waggoner says:

    It’s been my experience that we tend to define ourselves (and others) and then think “that’s it”. At any given span of time in life we might realize that we are a certain way: I’m a quiet person – I’m a hermit – I’m a people person – I’m an artist – I’m a business man – whatever seems to feel like the “most” at that point. But of course none of us are just one thing or just one way of being. I think people are like the Northern Lights – always undulating. Bright here at one moment, then fading back while another part gains light and strength for a while – until THAT part fades back and gives way to the former or yet another part. I know you’ve watched those streaks of light and their constant, but quiet movement. I’m not so sure that people change in terms of becoming something or someone different. I think that we just go through seasons where parts of us are more pronounced than others. You’ve been a long time on this journey with Robert and I can’t imagine that your spirit might not be shifting towards a little less alone. And why not? Look how nice it is to have your friends right next door, to have community with your group of like-minded firefighting people. I think God has blessed you with the wonderful sense to realize that the light might be shifting the way it does in the fall – you know – when one day you look out and everything has gone golden. Bask in the glow!

  9. You are in your thirties now, and I believe you don’t fully know yourself until then. I started off in life an introvert, morphed into a slightly uncomfortable extrovert in my late 20s and early thirties, and then found myself sliding halfway back, where I now reside. You are changing, and that’s ok. You won’t become completely different, just a bit.

    I had a time in my life when I lived with my best friend for 3 years – it was grand. You are blessed to have that Ethel/Lucy thing going on now!

    I hope Robert returns soon. You and I have opposite lives there. My dearest darling lives/works/breathes down my neck every single blessed day! Lol! He is my best friend, though, and I would miss him terribly if he was gone long stretches at a time.

    You are becoming….

  10. Nature, our own, the magnificent soup we live in, is all change. The antler lives on our skull and then it lives on the ground. The bones we hug with all our bits are someday laid dry in wind. The things we name ourselves are important, they are a way of understanding ourselves, but there are things we shed and there are things inside us that we can’t ever really take a good enough look at to name while they are a part of us. And they are all beautiful and worth looking for all the same. XO Your words and images and life is beautiful. Thank you, as always, for sharing. Good luck on all your adventures, in your own home and far away.
    (Missing is hard. Especially when you love being on your own. Reconciling the two is a challenge. I like to think those two things live simultaneously in different sections of me.)

  11. You describe it so well, this alchemy of deep longing that is sometimes the companion of deep love . Yes, they root themselves in our very bones. Thank you for sharing the whole picture with us. I hope the describing and sharing alleviated the missing somewhat.

    Also, I believe that as we evolve and grow more confidently into our true selves, we tend to attract into our lives the kind of people with whom we can be totally ourselves, and who actually help us grow, whether we see them every day or once a year.

    And this feeling goes deep, too :o)

  12. This is the first time that I visit your blog and I’m blown away. By your photographs but also by your story about feeling stuck and wanting to learn something, even when it feels uncomfortable. Beautiful written.

  13. so incredibly beautiful, my dear friend.
    the words, the photos, the images invoked by your poetry.
    it’s all like going to church, you know??
    i love landing here with you, filling my soul.


  14. I came across this this morning, and was reminded once again of the exquisite simplicity and beauty of Rumi’s words: https://www.etsy.com/listing/187408945/made-to-order-5-dish-rumi-quote

    And can I just say, the words of the women who come visit your beautiful pages…they’re like an extra serving of soul food!

    Time to crank up Nell’s Ocean of Light and go put some halos on some angels! (Mine, funnily enough, seems to be missing.)

    Big hugs!

  15. That’s exactly what you’re doing – continuously expanding like the morning sky! XO

  16. I have too many words too many things I’d like to say, too many feelings evoked by this post. I decide to write but I can’t find the words.
    You touched a hearts string with this one.
    Truly nailed it.
    I’m in bits and pieces grieving for a lost love, good byes said today. After reading this I feel a bit more serene, I can see tiny droplets of hope, and courage to grow.
    Thank you for being here and sharing your thoughts so openly, so honestly.

  17. nathalie carles says:

    I read this a little late and everybody is more or less saying what I wanted to say: humans change, all the time, we think we don’t but we do, and that is what is very positive about humans. If we were to stay the same all our lives!!!!!!!!!!!!! Change is good, change is inevitable, change closes and opens doors, change is life, never be scared of change because it will happen anyway. You are mutating into a more open person and how wonderful that is!!!!
    There is a time for everything, for being a hermit, for being more “social” etc….just hope we can still read your blog and look at your photographs for a very very long time…thank you for sharing this with us!

  18. Sometimes, Jillian, I think that you know my own heart so well. You write what I feel and it’s comforting to know that I am not alone.

    Thank you for that.

  19. Thank you for another beautiful post, I enjoyed this road trip “with you” very much. Learning and changing, I think that’s life.

    “They pour their grace into my very roots, I drink deep and grow up out of myself in their presence.” Love that!

  20. I just want to tell you all thank you, with all my heart, for sharing your thoughts and wisdom here. 🙂 I love hearing what you think, your opinions, your emotions, your explanations…perhaps more than anything because it helps me know I’m not alone in the things I feel and struggle my way through.

    Love having you here, as always, so much.
    And forgive me for not being able to find the time to respond to each and every comment here…each so precious.


  21. Oh Jillian, I have been away too long! Away from your beauty and your words that fill me with such gratitude and love for your spirit and the wild of this world. I have been away from the internet. Needing to simply walk with myself and my coyote and my restlessness which keeps growing stronger; It is difficult to be at the computer. I keep thinking I will settle in the studio…create…make something of myself…balance it ALL like I imagine YOU do. Then I see the restless tendency that wild beings have; we need to move. A Lot. Wander. Explore. And then… I just feel better knowing you are in this world. xoxo

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