wyoming

Wyoming Pt. II

Back to the Eastman Ranch for another stint of beauty, the cowboy carnival, horses, and a whole new season in the Bighorn Basin. 

(If you happened to miss the first round, check here for an introduction.)

Phil and I find so much clarity of mind when we get the chance to abandon the city for a while, welcoming the stillness of the ground and sweeping majesty of the Wyoming sky. It's a lifestyle I could easily get used to - the feeling of working for results beyond money. Tilling soil, planting fruits and vegetables to harvest in the coming season, and caring for animals who in turn care for us are all rewards that far outweigh monetary value. These are things that reconnect us with life, and remind us of what we are, where we come from, and what we owe our lives to. 

We attended the Cowboy Carnival, a very small yearly town gathering with various contests such as the sharp shooter, best pie, sheepdog herding, and handmade quilts. There were mounds of various meats to try, each butchered by the farmer who raised them, along with rolls and baked beans, both probably from a tin. Oh, and pies. Many, many pies. 

The rest of the week consisted of weed pulling, garden prep, handy work, mucking, dinner making and poetry reading, as well as a surprise visit from my dad. He's the one in the red sweater.

When I was a kid, my dad told me that his favorite animal was a swallow, being charmed by their clear joy in simply being. The unabashed fun they are willing to display is something he admires. I caught him in a moment of wonder, surrounded by a chorus of little black wings, dipping and swimming through the crisp wind.


Welcome to Wyoming

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.