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.


  1. Beautiful…as always! The herd of elk…LOVED your description of that in the podcast…btw. My heart would’ve been RACING! Love it. HaPpY (early) BiRtHdAy…and…CELEBRATE AWAY! ❤️

    • Oh my gosh…if I could have had my camera with me or if I could travel back through time to share that experience with you…it was absolutely magical and terrifying and I’ll never forget it.

  2. Katherine O'Brien says:

    Happy Birthday Jillian! You made yourself the perfect gifts!

  3. Elk have ivory remnants! That fact and your beautiful celebration of them has made my antipodean eve. Enjoy the dawning and growing of your birth day X 🙂

  4. Happiest of birthdays to you. I agree about the magical quality of elk teeth. My dad gave some to my children, and then we moved. They were misplaced somehow, and my daughter was grieving the loss. I miss seeing the elk come down to the flats, some days we would be scouting places to hunt, and other days we would just go out to watch them, and hear their calls. Nothing quite so beautiful. I am living in the East now, and I miss the West as I would miss a person, the West had a hand in raising me, and I am grateful for her wild kindness. Thank you for your blog and your photos, in a land where they put out bait and fish for deer, no one can quite understand what it would require, to hike and get one.

  5. the onlyhurricanegirl says:

    I really love the way you look at life and take nothing for granted, you make me more aware everyday of the meaning of this life we are all living, so much more to it than we know. Thank You for sharing all the amazing stories of the animals that live in your world, we only have whitetail in my area and the Elk seem almost mystical to me. I really think you should consider writing a book, your words are more powerful than you will ever know. Enjoy that birthday, and keep on keeping on!!!

    • Elk are completely mystical. That word is the perfect word to describe them.

      And I wish we had a few whitetails around the farm. They’re so much fun to watch. But I do dearly love the mule deer — there’s something so tough and scruffy about them that I find completely relatable. 🙂


  6. Chris Moore says:


  7. lovely adornments fit for the queen of the snake river canyon!!

    celebrate on, dear friend!!

  8. Pearl Cherrington says:

    My, you are one inspiring lady! Your writings, musings, your jewelry, especially, and your photography. A magical life, but I know it’s not always roses. And that can be a good thing. I’ve started journaling again and doing sketches of art ideas thanks to you. I’m a photographer in the Methow Valley and I love seeing your work. Will continue to check in. Thanks and Happy Birthday!

    • I’m thankful it’s not only roses. I like a little struggle. It makes the calm and easy parts of life so much more beautiful.

      Good for you for picking up your creative efforts again.

      I MISS THE METHOW!!!!!!!


  9. Jillian, I have listened to your podcast with Ed a few times now. I loved it so much and shared it with my family– I was especially excited to share it with the women. I grew up hunting and have never been able to diffuse criticism without also being reactive and defensive. I appreciate hearing about how you seek to “control your space,” and choose to distance yourself from today’s demanding venues of technology and social media. I also cannot wait to join the book club and read the books you suggested. Finally, listening to your interview also inspired me to accept a spontaneous offer to write a contributing piece for my local paper in Sheridan, Wyoming. It was only 600 words or so, but I found I really enjoyed it, and I’m really proud.

    Thanks for sharing a bit about your life. I saw myself in it. Be well, Polly

    • Polly!

      Gosh. Thanks for listing to the podcast. I hope you listen to Robbie’s, too, he is infinitely more interesting than I.

      I’m proud of you for sitting down to write for the local paper in Sheridan. That kind of stuff takes guts. Keep on putting your words out there! I will, too.


  10. Happy birthday babe! I’m not a horoscope gal- but golly! I know so many uber-creatives that were born in February…must be something about coming into a cold white world…a blank canvas…. I harvested my first elk this year too! After many miles put on with my partner, I ended up pulling the trigger while out alone. No ivories for me- calf- but that made the pack out 100+ lbs. easier!

    • There’s something about the Aquarians that is little….”other”. !!!

      “must be something about coming into a cold white world…a blank canvas…”
      I love this.

      You holler at me when you finally get some ivories. 🙂

  11. Heidi Mireles says:

    Happy birthday, first! These earrings you made for yourself are beautiful, but the elk ivory made them stunning. The ivory was what caught my eye immediately. I thank you for teaching me about the elk ivory, I had no idea. I hope your birthday turns out to be extra special.

    • Ivory is incredible, there’s such a curious energy to that material…like it’s still ALIVE and thrumming.

      Birthday was extra EXTRA special here. A truly magnificent day and maybe the best birthday of my life.


  12. ‘Got caught up on your blog…Happy Birthday! I, too, am February-born…and a creative…although of a different style and I’m a bit older than you : ). I look forward to hear your podcast interview…just listened to your husband’s which was fascinating…to get his perspective as I’ve been reading your blog for a long while…keep on a keepin’on…

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