January 20, 2011


It's winter and I'm dreaming.

I'm in another place, another time.  Not my garden.

I'm far away and high up.

I'm five thousand feet above sea level, and that's before we get on the horses and haul ourselves up to the high sandstone ridges and look down at the ranch.  See it there in the green flat meadow and dark strip of cottonwoods hugging the creek?

In my dream it's August.  Not winter.  Not my garden.

It couldn't look more different than my garden, but it is so familiar to me after years of visiting this place, summer after summer, and in my dreams in winter. 

It's home, but it's not where I live.

I had never been to the high plains; I'm an easterner.  I had traveled and seen a lot of the US, and had even been to other countries, exotic ones too.  I had visited places unfamiliar to me and foreign.  But I had never been "out West".

The day I arrived in Wyoming and drove south to the ranch, I had an overwhelming sense of having been there before, of belonging, of coming home.  I have no idea why.  I can't exaggerate how compelling the feeling was.  A billboard outside Sheridan urged voters to consider a candidate for school board, and her name was both my maiden name and a variation of my first name.  Had I been here?

The landscape was so completely different than woodland New England, and the ranch itself was so unlike the suburban yards and gardens I love back east.

But there was no shaking it off.  This landscape was my place.

It became my sons' place too, as we headed out there every summer when they were little, and they grew up with the horses and dogs and all the other dudes at the ranch.  They had no living grandparents on either side, so for them summers at the ranch were like going to visit the old folks, in a time warped ritual of horse wrangling and playing cowboy in an antique time.

There were no TVs, no faxes, no phones there, which added to the sense of time dislocation.  The stars were so blazing and they hung so bright in the wide bowl of sky, that I ducked the first time I walked outside at night.  It was just a momentary flinch, but I ducked, afraid I'd bump my noggin on low stars that seemed just inches away.

Part of my dreaming is revisiting this place, but part of it is going back to my childrens' youth, when they were little and excited to ride horses, and thrilled to toast marshmallows over a campfire and stay up late in the chill mountain nights to play endless card games of "spoons" in the cabin.

It was long ago and they grew up, no longer quite so entertained by playing cowboys.

But they have been back.  Once to help me scatter their father's ashes from the top of Castle Rock onto the rocky scree below.

And later, as grown men, when they came back to the ranch to help me celebrate my birthday, and gave me the best birthday gift of all: new memories.

I'm dreaming.  Outside it's cold, it's winter in New England, but in my dream it's summer in the Big Horn mountains.


  1. What a beautiful place to create those loving memories. I am glad you took us there. It looks like a place I could go and feel right at home.

  2. What a beautiful place to dream about. Like the setting for Mary O'Hara's books. Going back must have been the best birthday present.

  3. Laurrie, What an evocative piece of writing - you make me want to share the dream, even though horses scare me silly! It's wonderful you're still making memories there after the boys are grown.

  4. Lisa, thanks, I do think you could go there and be at home.

    Sweetbay, it was Mary O'Hara who made me want to go to Wyoming to begin with. I read the Flicka series over and over when I was young, and a vision of a ranch like the one in the books was always in my mind.

    Cyndy, thank you. I'm glad you want to share my dream, but you don't have to ride horses in your version!

  5. Laurrie it is an interesting sensation to feel you have been somewhere before and even more surreal to feel you belong there. Wyoming is truly one of the most beautiful places I've ever been and really hope to be blessed to be able to return. Happy dreaming! Thanks for bringing us along.

  6. Cat, from one Wyoming lover to another, thanks for joining me at the ranch in our dreams!

  7. I have never been much of a horse person but this post might just change my mind. I love the valleys and mountains in these shots.

  8. Layanee, I am such a dude, no kind of horsewoman at all, but it turns out the horse does all the work. Thanks for coming by to see a little of Wyoming.

  9. Absolutely beautiful, Laurrie. Winter does a good job of forcing us to reflect. You've written a wonderful piece on your reflections. As a mom of grown boys you've touched my heart.

  10. Joene, thank you so much! This is the season to reflect, and I'm glad my little reverie touched you.

  11. Hi Laurrie - thanks so much for stopping by and leaving me the lovely comment. I wish I was riding them horses right about now - looks good to me! By the way, I'm a Guilford girl, born and bred!

  12. What incredible memories!!! We used to live in South Dakota and the pictures above are so similar. It's life in the vast lane. I loved reading your post. Your boys will always remember the time they spent with you and will hopefully carry on the tradition with children of their own.

  13. Tracey, Welcome, and it's nice to know you're originally from CT!

    TS, I like that expression "life in the vast lane". The West really is so immense and vast.


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