Last month, I joined Phil in the Bighorn Basin to spend time on his dad's ranch. To "spend time" in a place like this means enjoying the natural surroundings, breathing in the crisp dusted air, and pitching in on basic survival. While in LA I would be just sitting down to brunch, in Wyoming we'd already have been up for at least 3 hours, feeding cows, shoveling horse manure, digging potatoes or finding one of the dogs, up to who knows what.
Phil and his dad are similar in ways they may not even be aware of. As an outsider, I noticed nuances that I would casually point out, and some I would keep to myself as a secret hidden beneath a tiny smile. Skip, Phil's dad, lives with his wife Maria who tends to her nine horses: Irish, Brego, Coco, Elle, Rosie, Finn, Manolito, Emmie, and Daylight. She is the founder of Rainhorse, an equine therapy program for at-risk youth and veterans suffering from PTSD. The horses themselves have been rescued from challenging, and often times abusive situations which allows them to feel understood by Maria's guests, and vice versa. Horses are tremendously kind natured, and can see into people. The horses on the Eastman ranch are there to heal because they want to heal, and be healed.
We stayed in a small unattached trailer next to the single-wide that Skip and Maria live in while their house (constructed with proper feng shui) is built. The construction made up a lot of Phil's day with his dad, along with a handful of other workers during weekdays. Skip is a tireless man. It became exceedingly clear why he and Maria got along so well as a married couple who also work together. Having a goal relating to an overall quality of life makes life worth living. It's a very special thing to share with someone.
Our days were long, and typically ended with a candle-lit table, a few books of poetry, red and white wine and a home cooked meal; partially from their own garden stock, partially from responsibly raised Wyoming cattle and chicken, and partially from the grocery store. We read Rainer Maria Rilke, Rumi, Jim Harrison and other poets aloud to one another. I joked that it was the most civilized environment I'd been invited to be a part of for as long as I could remember, though the joke only existed in the laugh across the table. The statement itself was entirely true.
We spent time exploring Cody, as well as Yellowstone and some small surrounding towns, all beautiful in the varying temperatures and climates throughout our trip. I wasn't expecting to respond so strongly to my time there. It strengthened me, as well as my bond with Phil, and I felt simultaneously heartbroken and overjoyed to leave. The thought of having this place to return to made the trip back to the city worth the effort. I'm more encouraged than ever to shape my life, inspired by the sincere labor of love I witnessed and experienced.