Standing in the barn, looking out at the field, my arm pulled straight by my hand hooked under the pommel of my roping saddle. Geese fly, strung long against the grey blue clouds hanging heavy in the north. The sun sneaks out and warms my arm. The ground shakes beneath my feet as grain trucks rush by, fighting back the rain with their urgency.
It is all clarity.
I am in my bliss
Here I am. I am here. My heart and body belong here. I belong. These are the places that speak to me. I feel large here. I feel my lungs inhale grain dust air, stretch against my ribs, my muscles are sore and I feel as though shrinking is not possible or necessary, that I can stand here, head up, looking out. I feel as though I can gather my children under my wings, work side by side, teaching them how to get back up when you fall. How to move in when you’ve stepped back.
News arrives. Nothing earthshaking but still a jolt. I feel disappointment and then a cleansing wash of relief. As though a hand holding and cupped over me, hesitated, relaxed and let go. This is clarity.
The future feels wide open and staying here in the house will no longer do. Sitting at my table focused on lines and colours are not tolerable right now. I head straight to the closet. My hands reach under my hanging shirts for the jeans I know lie beneath on a pine shelf. Boots on. Out to the barn, halter and the lead rope soft in my hands, swinging back and forth. Up and over the gate. One rung, two rungs. Pat the red sow on her back, she always ready for conversations of ear scratches and new weeds in the garden. Pull one pin, two pins. Swing the panel open and walk across tired pasture that needs to be torn up and reseeded. His long, gentleman face slips into the halter. My body feels as though it is moving more than it should. Hands fluttering, birds flying from one fence line and flitting up on to the next . My arms swing quickly. I slow my breath. Moving my limbs slowly, willing my tight torso to uncurl from its stiff, dry stance to fluidity, to lengthen my limbs, take steps with a preordinance, for slowness and surety across shit-pebbled, uneven, rocky ground. Being with him tense and giving way to that day’s heavy disappointment like sandstone does to a hard-driving summer rain will not do. I focus on wind, dry grass, blue sky swung over head like a pendulum, the calm sway on the other end of the lead rope. This too is clarity.
These past months I’ve allowed myself to become immersed in the seasons, playing with photography in places where I’m simultaneously outsider and participant, giving myself the time to craft pieces without the pressure of high volume production and the constant piston pound of social media. The way I’ve been led to prioritize during these past two seasons means places like Instagram have been foregone. Immersion in the tactile took precedence and seemed everything I should pursue. It has cost me. Applications to shows have been denied. But yet, the costs are outweighed by the clarity and contentment provided me, and to my family.
My life changes here on the land. I will let the land dictate what I do, how I do, what season I am in. It will direct my fates, the fortunes I will be able to partake in. The coyote, the goose, the cows, the wind, the deer, the aspen, the meadows, the stones I lift out of the ground, all of them make my destiny. And I release my doubts with the ache of my body, huddled over my table, or moving over hilly ground, in settling my hand on the back of a horse, or bracing myself against the weight of hay squares. All of the seeking to be something small, contained and not what I am, just to belong, I free, let loose, spread to the wind, watch it blow away like the thistle down floating eastward in late summer winds.
But clarity does not promise perfection. It never does. It only promises the truth of process. Instead, the call comes out clear to embrace what life is, to not grit our teeth and hold disappointment tense in our bellies, pressed against our spines. We must become comfortable with all of the rough edges and snaggy points we drag ourselves over. The day to day happens too fast, there are too many moments to have and hold in that ever elusive pursuit of perfection. The moment perfection lays itself out before us, is the moment it also slips out of our supine palms. And if we consign ourselves solely to perfection, we will miss the point. If we confine ourselves to where we think we ought to head, where we don’t find resonance, to try to grab hold of that perfection ideal, we’ll lose ourselves. We will float away with that thistle down, tumbling over stubble, catching in the willows, waiting for whatever impersonal fate destiny deigns to visit upon us.
But, as one of my dearest friends urges, blessed with wisdom, joy and a big, wide open heart, always follow your bliss. Clarity will arrive with you. The tussle between perfection and process will figure itself out. Let those two dogs fight. All you need to do is show up for whatever you’ve made your priority. Make a bliss list. For me, it’s paint and brush, hanging out with my camera behind bucking chutes at the rodeos I can sneak in, chasing cows, breathing in the grass dust smell tucked under a horse’s mane, following my kids out to the garden to dig carrots, hiking through hazelnuts along the river and making stories. The clarity of where I belong is making things that take time. These things that are better not rushed.
And with it, knowing where we stand, at ease with the person inside, the things that are taken from us become less burden to bear. We can travel faster because we are going where we were made ready to go. The process guided us and continues to guide us. What is required of us is to keep in touch with where we are called, to shrug off what was never intended for us at this point, this time, this place. Shake off that person they want to cloak you in. Remember to breathe out, to not hold it in, to rest in the bliss. And be able to recall your clarity.