Thursday, September 23, 2010

Riding the White Horse Home

I’ve always loved books. And so, there are some of you who’ve requested that I list some of my favorite books. I’ll honor this request from time to time, but with this caveat: just because I love a book, doesn’t mean that you will. I like most books. I find something interesting and enlightening in almost everything I read. I seldom hate a book. But to love one, that is a trickier thing.

So here goes:

A book I LOVE:

“Riding the White Horse Home” by Teresa Jordan

I adore a good memoir. For me, there is none more haunting and beautiful than Teresa Jordan’s, “Riding the White Horse Home.” I can honestly say that this book changed everything for me. I read it in college as a part of a Western American Literature class. To this day, I can’t pick it up without a lump rising in my throat. I’m not sure why. It might not appeal to everyone. It hasn’t sold millions of copies or even, for that matter, received much recognition (which I believe it deserves), but I found it life-changing. If I were only allowed one book to read over and over again for the rest of my life, this would be it.

Teresa Jordan was raised on a ranch in Southeast Wyoming. I grew up on a dairy farm in Southeast Idaho. I knew some of the same things she did: “that it’s easier to be a rancher’s daughter than a rancher’s son (pg 36), that “I feared my grandfather, but I also loved him” (pg 22) and that “I had some direct connection to both the land and the events that transpired upon it” (pg 12). What I was still navigating was the way that our family’s way of life and the land I’d grown up on had shaped me and where I was going now that I was away from it, on my own. In the book, Jordan says that “less than 2 percent of Americans live on farms and ranches.” I was startled in college as I talked to my friends: their fathers were bankers and doctors and lawyers and salesman and computer programmers. I never met another farmer’s daughter. Most of my friends viewed my way of life as charming and quaint. Teresa Jordan knows it and tells it for what it is and was. I loved her honesty of it, her perspective:

Another excerpt:

My family left the land because for four generations we had yearned to leave. We had lived in a culture that taught us that a professional life is more respectable than one tied to the land. This attitude shaped the decisions my family made, and it continues to shape the larger political and economic decisions, made by educators and policymakers far removed from the land, that affect the few who still hold on.

My sadness over the loss of the homeplace is my dark side, my grief, but it is also the source of my deepest knowledge. Perhaps it is only through this experience of loss that I can value a sense of place, that I can question how thoughtlessly—even contemptuously—we are taught to cast it aside. (pg. 88)

At this time in my life (when I first read this book), I was at a crossroads. I was ready to divorce myself from the place and land and way of life that I’d loved, mostly because I did not believe that I could be the person I wanted to be if I held on to it too tightly. “Riding the White Horse Home” allowed me to both hold on and let go. It was more than that, though. It is so beautifully written, so rich in emotion. I loved everything about this book. Secretly, I wanted to be a writer. Up to this point I’d only read books by people so different than me: people with money, from cities, who’d traveled the world. Here was a book, printed, published, and in my hands by someone I could relate to: someone who wrote of the smell of her mother’s bread baking and of the steam that rises from afterbirth when a new calf is born. It gave me hope and a sense that maybe I, too, could write something that someone else would want to read. It was a great, great gift. But aside from that, it’s a beautiful book. A must read.

At least I think so.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Bucket List on You Tube

So after missing the below mentioned dramatic eruption of Old Faithful, I did went any modern American with Internet access would do: I went to You Tube and watched a closer and more impressive version of the geyser's explosion than the one I'd witnessed. And then it got me thinking. I could probably experience almost everything via You Tube. I don't like the term "bucket list" but that's what everybody calls it. So I thought about mine and what I haven't done that I still want to do.

Hmmm. I've never seen a firefly.
It is definitely high on my bucket list. Has been for ages. So I looked up "catching fireflies" on You Tube. Here's what I found:

Pretty cool, eh? Then it occurred to me: I could probably experience everything this way--except for someday having a pedicure and eating lobster. But other than that, I probably don't even need to leave my house. And you all know how much I really like to just stay home.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Still Old Faithful

It was a dark and stormy night

It was a frantic and crazy summer.

It really was.

One thing we did this summer was go to Yellowstone. We didn’t go to Yellowstone to go to Yellowstone. We went because it was the shortest way between where we live in Wyoming and where our kids had a track meet—in Bozeman, Montana. But we did decide that if we were there, we might as well see the sights.

I went to Yellowstone exactly once as kid. I was ten or eleven and it was one of only 2 vacations we ever took. Since my Dad was a dairy farmer, we had to be back home in time to milk the cows that night. Old Faithful was our last planned stop. We couldn’t wait for the next eruption, so when we pulled into the parking lot my Dad said, “Everybody run!” The famous geyser was already erupting over the heads of spectators huddled around it. We were still what seemed like miles away in the parking lot. We ran, but by the time we got there Old Faithful was drizzling. It was only slightly more impressive than an exploding can of Sprite.

These days Old Faithful is less faithful. They no longer post schedules of its eruption times and I hear that the geyser is smaller. Still. It’s Old Faithful. The one on people’s bucket list. So we stopped. We were walking towards the geyser when sure enough, I told my kids and my husband, “Run!” There was the familiar spray of water obstructed by the backs of people’s heads.

After it was over I heard a man tell his friend, “Seeing that--that's a once-in-a-life-time thing, man.”

Or in my case, two.