From Where I Stand

Editor’s Note: I wrote this in the spring of 2020 while at Three Peaks. The writing prompt was a 360º write up of the landscape. Not quite the same, both people, tasks, and time have changed, but the feel is still there, the landscape still feels timeless.

sunrise:  I walk east every morning, through gravel and frost draped sage.  My back to the wind, face to the rising sun to the horses standing in a wired off lot.   Thirty-eight sundials stand sideways to the sun, steam rising off their bodies while the frost clings tight to the shadows.  Now and then they move.  I stand and gaze, present yet a million miles away.  Marty does too.  Always alone, the mustang gelding stares south, to Fremont Butte, across the river, looking home toward the desert.  On his haunches frost caked mud twinkles tauntingly with the rising sun at the dark, cloud shrouded western sky.  The ground feels fertile and damp from the evening rain; the sky promises more.  The walk is short but the time covered is long: five years and I am still learning the names, at least it is getting easier. I fill troughs, look at bodies, and feel the happiest when Jeremiah comes up to me, shoving his long, whiskered face into my periphery.  My arms wrap his neck and I feel love.

midday:  We burn the ditches that bring life to the pasture.  We walk south, through the gates and over the fences, my right hand pushing down on the rusty wire, my left grabbing the loose crotch of too large Carhart overalls.  I swing a leg over and do the tippy toe dance until both are together on the same side, free of the barbs that catch, tear.   On the high ground last year’s growth lay brown and crunchy underfoot and swampier mucks tell of winter snow and spring rain.  The occasional pasqueflower and marigold poke through, bringing new life to old death.  Small soft, fresh, fibrous pellets of moose shit mix with that of horses from years past.  These lumpy pastures of flaxen grass and dry ditches stretch to the willow lined East Fork from the banks of which rise the arid slopes of Fremont Butte.  Beyond, just out of reach, lies the Red Desert and Great Divide Basin, an endoheric landscape of alkali flats, bunch grasses, and sage, that felt the first tentative steps from many of our mustangs.

sunset: to the west stretches the Jonah, rolling sage brush steppe crisscrossed with roads, amassed with pronghorn, mule deer, and pumping rigs.  When the sun sets on the Jonah, its shadow stretches long and far; jobs, energy independence, better habitat, better air, better water, and economic impact.  Cross the cattle guard then seven miles of the paved 353 take you to Highway 191 and the gas station/bar that is Boulder and the eastern edge of the natural gas field. Paralleling WY-353, The East Fork snakes its way toward the sunset, to The New Fork, and then The Green, all liquid destined for use before the Pacific, before the border.  High on the water chain, Three Peaks takes what it needs and leaves the rest.  Out to the west, on the Jonah, EnCana does the same.

night:  To the north we ride.  We call it the BLM; to some it is just more sage and rabbitbrush.  Others see a grazing lease or the minerals below.  To us it is where we ride horses; beaten two tracks lead northward into foothill shrub lands and aspen groves.  Further, sprawl the vast, ancient granite of the Wind Rivers. The snowcapped domes peaking (pun intended) over miles of lodgepole and limber pine.  Astride Ernie, low in the pastures, sprawling granite summits reach up the northern horizon. Alternating-ly dark and bright, flat and jagged, they ride an emotional roller coaster: inviting then foreboding, sulking now ecstatic.  If I walk long enough north by east I will return to Lander.  Twenty minutes of dirt road driving, the kind of driving where a beer between the legs, the window rolled down, and 101.1 KPIN on the radio is preferred, leads to a carpark.  Then a long ascent through the foothills into the range and across the divide.  Fifty miles by trail and not-so-trail would have me at the top of Sinks Canyon’s limestone escarpments.  A ten minute drive down through pastures and town would put me back on the cottonwood lined street I call home.  A map would be extraneous.

From where I now stand the sky to the west and south spreads endlessly, its moods varying by the degree. Raining over here, clear over there, cotton balls yonder and cumulus congestus rearing its tall thunder heads above. The open space  allows me to see it all: to know what’s coming, to not be trapped in the valley of doubt. I look around, and once again, my breath is stripped away by each space, by each differing angle of sun.  This space, this intersection of time and place, animals and humans, emotions and actions, this land, it tears at my soul, makes me want, makes me think and makes me love. No where is freedom more felt. Now where can potential be so grandiose. No where do ideas flow so smoothly, come so vividly and feel so possible.

I can think of no better place to weather this storm, to write this moment.

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A little bit less of a nomad now, Jared still likes to refer to himself in the third person.

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