Smoke and Horses


 

And so a week came and went.

7I9A1357 7I9A1367 7I9A13797I9A1442 7I9A1458 7I9A1575 7I9A16077I9A1644

A lot can happen in a week.  I said yes to a last minute shoot in Northern Washington two Fridays ago and buzzed all over Idaho, Montana and Washington on the way to and from the job.  I didn’t mind the driving because I was in a mood to see fresh country.  The shoot was beautiful, in a lovely location at a ranch on top of a mountain.  It was horse heaven.  The crew was good company.  It was a great time.  I was modeling on this job, not shooting, which is occasionally an uncomfortable thing for me.  I have to deal with some self-consciousness in front of a camera (which might come as a surprise to you since I use myself as a subject so often).  I think the best models tend to be vain — or aware of their physical beauty.  I just feel awkward, crooked and strange looking most of the time.  That said, my favorite thing about modeling these past two years has been how much I have learned from the photographers I am being photographed by!  There are so many tidbits to absorb.  It’s a great learning experience for me and I put into practice the trade secrets I have learned on a regular basis.  Being around great photographic talent tends to breed new skills in me, if I maintain awareness and ask questions (and I’m never afraid to ask questions).  Anyway, great crew, great location, stunning horses and a great all around time was had on that shoot.  I’m glad I said yes.

After we wrapped, I drove the Columbia to the Spokane to the Coeur d’Alene to the Clark Fork to the Bitterroot to the Lochsa to the Clearwater to the Salmon to the Little Salmon and then I was suddenly home in McCall.  It’s a marvelous thing to follow roads that bend in synchrony to the will of a river.  It’s one of the few times in life I allow myself to joyfully follow the path of least resistance.

I stopped here and there on the trip home: coffee with a girlfriend in Missoula, fishing pocket water here and there on the Lochsa and Clearwater, pausing to watch the salmon spawn (rotting and exhausted from the strain of their endeavor — dead and gone on the banks of the river, eyes in the bellies of birds), breakfast in a shabby diner or two, sleeping fitfully in my tent on the edge of a rapid (rain staccato on the fly of the tent, logging trucks grinding at high speeds through the black of night)…

I like to lallygag.  I like to forget about the destination and slowly make my way through the journey, exploring whenever I can.  My friends and family know to expect I’ll arrive in their homes or at our meeting places anywhere from two hours late to three days late and I’m unapologetic about it.  It’s how I stay in touch with everything around me.  It’s how I stay in touch with my curiosity.  It’s how I ask questions and find answers.  I arrive when I am good and ready and not a moment before.

I’m off to hunt for elderberries here in the beautiful, autumnal Payette region.  Robert comes off a fire this evening and I can’t wait to see him.  I’ll plan a nice dinner for two in the Airstream and maybe even pick up a tiny tub of ice cream and a nice bottle of gin for him.  We’ll probably stay up late dreaming about what do with the farm and ourselves in the next couple of days, months, years.  I love this time of year.   Autumn is for dreamers.

7I9A1656 7I9A1682 7I9A1760 7I9A1769 7I9A1791

The Bob

I had a wild summer.  It’s strange that I’m only starting to share some of these photos with you now, in the waning days of January, but things take as long as they take (and I have the most dependable WIFI I have had in a long while so I can actually get images uploaded for you — hallelujah).

The short of it is this:  I spent a week on the back of a hilariously stubborn, thistle-chomping Haflinger  while riding 80+ miles into the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana (I abated the stubbornness with a little willow switch).  One of my dearest friends was with me and we had a blast choking on the dust kicked up by the full string of mules we were riding behind, freezing to death on the first day which involved 21 miles of rain after un-sleeping in a haunted Forest Service cabin, fishing the pristine waters of the Southfork of the Flathead River, and generally being spoiled rotten by our hosts, guides and friends (you’ll know them as @muledragger and @bigskybandits on the old Instagram machine).  I shot most of the trip from the back of my bumpy and delightful horse with my x100t — it shoots pretty soft so if you notice a difference in the feel of these photos, that’s the reason why.

The entire trip was terrible for my already acute case of horse-fever.  While I’ve always dreamed of having a pack mule for mountain trips and high country hunts, I walked away from this backcountry horseback trip with such a rich respect for the hybrid.  They are truly such wonderful, stout, complex creatures.  A joy to behold and to know.  And boy howdy, when you reach your fingers down into their big, beautiful ears to give them a scritchy scratch and they lean in and drop their enormous heads down on your shoulder and forget their size and weight because they’re too busy feeling mule ecstasy…well, it’s a pretty darn magical thing to experience.  Our libraries need more books about the solid love of good mules.

Without further adieu, I give you the Bob Marshall Wilderness and a smattering of humans, horses and mules in the fat heart of summer.  Enjoy!

DSCF1209 DSCF1210 DSCF1219 DSCF1227 DSCF1232 DSCF1241 DSCF1243 DSCF1248 DSCF1270 DSCF1282 DSCF1301 DSCF1314 DSCF1318 DSCF1330 DSCF1336 DSCF1387 DSCF1399 IMG_3709-2 IMG_3719 IMG_3725 IMG_3726 IMG_3739-2 IMG_3745 IMG_3747-2 IMG_3762-2 IMG_3775-2 IMG_3780 IMG_3799 IMG_3844-2 IMG_3848-2 IMG_3852 IMG_3864-2 IMG_3876 IMG_3884 IMG_3889-2 IMG_3896 IMG_3899 IMG_3921 IMG_3963-2 IMG_3973 IMG_3976 IMG_3977 IMG_3983-2 IMG_3984-2 IMG_3995 IMG_4017-2 IMG_4058 IMG_4079-2 IMG_4099-2 IMG_4125 IMG_4161 IMG_4184 IMG_4196 IMG_4221 IMG_4235 IMG_4243 IMG_4345 IMG_4359 IMG_4383 IMG_4389 IMG_4409 IMG_4414 IMG_4475 IMG_4505 IMG_4556 IMG_4580 IMG_4614 IMG_4622 IMG_4629 IMG_4632 IMG_4669 IMG_4675 IMG_4678 IMG_4704 IMG_4739 IMG_4741

 

Nibbling On The Green Edges of Springtime

IMG_4805IMG_4812 IMG_4815 IMG_4825 IMG_4826 IMG_4833 IMG_4854 IMG_4870 IMG_4884 IMG_4893IMG_4951 IMG_4981IMG_5005

Sunday Night

IMG_7621

[…brushed him for so long but could NOT get those spots off!]IMG_7695 IMG_7691 IMG_7679IMG_7703 IMG_7708IMG_7735IMG_7662I went to the barn with Jade tonight and we rode.  It was a perfect summer night under a beautiful sky, in the splaying arms of a cool night breeze with one of my best friends;  there were barn cats wrapped around my ankles and I had a grin plastered on my face the entire time.  Yup.  It was perfect like that.

Sometimes I don’t realize how badly I need my own horse until I am sitting on one, smelling those sweet old hay farts, neck reining, side passing, sitting a trot and rocking into a canter divine.  I’m ready.  I’m ready for my horse now.  I’ve been ready for ages.

My favorite thing to do horseback is drop the reins, put my arms in the air by my sides (not touching, but not totally relaxed); I close my eyes while allowing my hips to fall into perfect rhythm with the gait of my horse, I move my arms along with, as though I am walking — if you have ever ridden with me, I’ve shown you how to do this.  It feels like what it must feel like to be a centaur.

When I do it, I imagine I am a centaur walking up a mountain slope, step by step, steady and strong, serious and beautiful;  I am going to look at the stars to see what the future may hold.