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.

Ivory

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.

Badlands Birthday

7I9A1966

I had a lonesome birthday this year.  I dropped Robert off at the Santa Fe airport on the 12th and he flew out to Arkansas for early season work leaving me with a big truck full of dogs, guns and harvested quail (on dry ice) to drive home alone.  I wish I could have lingered longer in the desert, camped, climbed out of the cold bed of the truck for more glowing sunsets, wandered, sketched, photographed and daydreamed…but work commitments had me busting my own butt to get home in time for everything that is coming my way in the month of March and April.

On the 13th, I drove the meager distance between Santa Fe and Durango.  I stopped to wander a lovely patch of badlands with the dogs, feel the wind on my soulbones and move my body a bit while the pups got their poops out.

I met up with friends in Durango and shyly admitted, during the course of the evening, that it was my birthday (probably out of self-pity, most of all) and we had good food and laughed a lot and the company had wonderful warmth to it and I made a nest on the living room floor and slept well and deep before striking out on the highway again, on Valentine’s day.

How I drove that day, crossing Colorado, Utah and then Idaho.  I drove like a wild pack of flying hammers zooming end over end on an unpredictable wind and made it home to the strawbale house on the river at nearly midnight.  I was exhausted and hungry and like any time I’m away for two weeks, everything in the fridge had gone to rot so I drank a glass of water and carried Farley up the ladder to the loft and fell asleep with my arm around him.

New Mexico seems like a far away dream now and I already miss Robert terribly.  What a beautiful winter we had!  I’m just starting to comb through my images from the trip and look forward to telling you all about it.

I wish I had some kind of romantic and whimsical goals for this next year of my life but to be honest, I’m simply hoping to keep hanging on tight to the things I value most and love dearly. The people.  The places.  The honesty of earnest, hard work.  The beauty of creating with my hands and heart.  Appreciation for and full-seeing of the gifts that are continuously raining down on me every moment of every day.

But for the grace of God go I!7I9A1977

 

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I spent my birthday eve and birthday morning barefoot, in a long red dress, on the back of an indian pony, riding the dry escarpments along the Colorado River of Arizona under a magnificent sunset and sunrise.  Anything less magical would have been uncivilized and unnatural.  I watched the last hours of 31 fade away in the raw and refined glory of a sinking sun from the back of a horse and ushered in my first hours of 32 under a beautiful blue sky in the very same horsey manner.  It was dry as a whistle out there in the low desert of Arizona but I felt like I had a million blessings raining down on me, soaking me through to the soul.  It is good to be 32.  I can’t wait to live the heck out of every moment of this year.

On my birthday, on the highway between Quartzsite, Arizona and Blythe, California, I saw desert bighorns — a burly ram chasing two ewes across red rock.  You probably heard my shriek of delight, no matter where you are on this fair planet of ours.  Those bighorns were surely a sign of all the rare and incredible things to come in this next year of my life.

Onward.  Upward.  Fearlessly.  Truthfully.  Courageously.  2014.  My year of 32.

:::Post Scriptus:::

I haven’t told you this, M, but riding Alibi was one of my very best birthday gifts this year.  Thank you.  X

http://www.thenoisyplume.com/blog/2014/03/04/7706/

02.13.13

Good morning to all my Valentines!  You are beloved.  I hope you know so.

Yesterday was my birthday.  I am officially 31.  Let me tell you about it.

We had glorious plans to do a yurting trip again with our wild pack of friends but at the last minute, the trip was cancelled which made for an unplanned day here in town.  I’ve been spoiled rotten with birthday backcountry ski trips the past few years so I was only a little sad about our canceled trip.  I have much travel coming up in the next five weeks and I’ll put on a festive mood when I go to take those journeys.

I woke up early with a delicious cup of pear ginger white tea.  The day was soft, bird belly grey, obtuse and wide open white on sagebrush, soft with the swoop of diffused light.  I put on some clothing (my polka dotted cobalt blue dress with my favorite cropped coral wool cardigan), my favorite vintage cowboy boots and the birthday ring I made for myself the day before and we promptly left for breakfast with all our dear friends — breakfast out with friends is a birthday tradition of mine.  I love breakfast from proper diners.  There’s nothing like it!  My friends were all of good cheer.  There was plenty of laughing and the food and coffee were fine.  Jade made me feather earrings.  Now I’m more bird than girl.

Robert had a date with all his boyfriends on the racquetball court and while he was off playing, I pillaged the local art supply (it is going out of business, which makes me want to cry), found two cute tops at my favorite vintage shop, and picked up some sandpaper at Ace Hardware — I know, a random set of errands, but aren’t all errands rather random?  Then I went home and painted for a couple of hours; I fell right into the slash and bend of color on canvas and it was very good.

When RW came home, we harnessed up the dogs and headed up the mountain for a ski.  I had Tater Tot and Farley pull me as a double skijor team for the first time ever, it was terribly fast and wild and I thought I would go hoarse from encouraging them to go faster, faster, faster!  What a marvel dog power is!  Those pups gave me a very good birthday present indeed.  We unhitched my double team and each skijored a dog to the top of the mountain where there is a lookout I like to go to and rest for a moment.  We poured a cup of tea from the thermos I had in my pack, and enjoyed the wintry view of rolling mountains and timber lines.

Skiing down was fast and zany, as it always is.  I took a short-cut on a hair pin turn because it was my birthday and I was feeling festive and crazy — I wound up doing a pancake belly flop into a snow bank which made me laugh hysterically for a full five minutes.  It always feels so good to laugh until you are out of air and your entire face hurts and your abdominal muscles feel as though they’ve been doing crunches for ten hours straight.  Robert, too, took his turn being pulled by a two dog team and marveled at the speed and power of sledding German Shorthaired Pointers.  We’re so proud of the way they are able to do diverse work.  We made it back to town and Rob departed for his cabinetry class for a few hours.  I began a batch of whole wheat bread and when it was on its first rise, I popped out to the grocery store, which was utterly berserkers with crowds, to gather provisions for the week.  When I arrived home, I made pizza dough as well as a batch of cherry chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, punched down and rolled out my bread loaves, and began cutting toppings for our pizzas.  The kitchen was warm and bright.  Once all my prep work was finished, I had a glorious one of these with extra hot water and positively delicious bath salts:

Robert came home and the pizza was eventually delicious.  The bread I baked was perfect.  I mean, perfect.  For years I have baked extremely delicious bread but these two loaves are perfection — light and lofty on the interior with a gorgeous golden crusty outer layer that flakes away gently.  I had a slice of it for breakfast this morning with butter and honey and as I bit into it I thought to myself, “This toast is miraculous.  I may never bake bread this perfect ever again.”  I savored every fresh crumb.
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 Last night, when I was falling asleep, I remember thinking my birthday this year was perfectly ordinary in every way.  Allow me to clarify, by ordinary, I mean, not particularly any different than any other day of my life, but I think my life is quite extraordinary and has been especially so lately.  Perhaps it’s merely the optimist in me, shining light onto every matter, seeing the best of the situation on hand — but I really don’t think so.  Something wonderful is happening to me, I don’t exactly know what, I know it has to do with love and the way I recieve the things around me and respond to them.  It also has to do with how I am spending my days.  Every day, for weeks now, I have managed to be outside, create freely from the heart, breathe the air on a mountain peak or two, eat delicious foods, read wonderful books and so on and so forth.  I’ve been wild with joy in the studio again, at long last.  I tell my friends all the time, but it bears repeating, this has been a really wonderful year for me.  So, perhaps it is better to say that it was yet another extraordinary day in my life.  Because it was.  And I am blessed.
Last year, when I turned 30 years old, it was a milestone for me and I spent much time thinking about what it meant to be 30 and to be starting a new decade.  There was trepedation in my heart.  I felt old.  My year of being 30 turned into such a gracious and spacious year for me, a year of quietude and deep rest.  I changed so much, learned so much, lived so much.  It felt like a holy little year, set aside, meant for me to become comfortable and ready for the rest of this decade.  Now that 31 is here, life feels replete with motion, impetus, momentum.  Sometimes all I can do is focus on the point directly at my feet as everything around me blends with speed into a glorious impressionistic blur.
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Thank you to everyone who has remembered my birthday this week, yesterday, today…your emails, Flickr comments, snail mail and packages filled my heart with joy and continue to do so.
I love to have you here, in my world.
I hold you in my heart.
Love,
Jillian
:::Post Scriptus:::
I failed to mention the gift Robert gave me for my birthday!  He bought a pair of tickets to the Don Williams show at the performing arts center here in Pocatello in April!  I am so excited!  We love Don Williams!  He’s a country music icon! Hearing him sing reminds us of when I was 19 and Rob was 21.  We were living in New Zealand and used to drive the highways there while listening to Don Williams’ greatest hits (and Dido and Sublime and classic Michael Jackson).  The windows were always rolled down in the car, the wind was always wild in our hair, we spent so much time in the ocean and in the backcountry hiking and fishing and camping and looking at glow worms under the Southern Cross…and I already loved that fellow of mine.  Indeed.  I did.