This photograph was taken by my dear friend, Anita Crane, in our barnyard the day before Maria's wedding. We are all here except my son, Luke, and my son, Charles and our daughter-in-law, Erica.
Summer seems to be making a quick exit this year and even as far away as Prescott, Arizona and Lewistown, Montana, the locals are all affirming the same. The down comforter is back on our bed and the children slip on hoodies before heading for school. We are all feeling slightly resentful that school is starting even before the Sanpete county fair. The tomato vines are heavy with home-grown goodness but just need a few hot days to finish them off to red perfection. I just placed an ad on local radio to find homes for our latest litter of barn kittens. We will miss their antics and wish barn cats had a 4-H category for we feel certain we would bring home some blue ribbons. Clark is making calls to find hay for his gelding, wishing he had enough money to stack the bales to the rafters but knowing he will just have to get what he can.
In more ways than I would care to admit, this Summer was hard on me. It wasn't the concert trips. There were some really dandy trips to places like Dave Thompson Resort up in Canada where the Rocky Mountains go from majestic to suddenly epic. The highlight of singing for the Cody Stampede in Wyoming was spending time with good friends at Robins Nest Bed and Breakfast. We stayed with friends at Island Park, Idaho who took us out on their boat. I screamed for the joy of it and the speed and wasn't embarrassed at all because I was surrounded by friends just as thrilled with life as I am. Up in the sagebrush hills of Oregon I sang at the Oregon Trail Center and really poured out my heart in each performance. It felt good and somehow important. I found myself singing one of my new songs at sunset at the rodeo grounds in Monticello, Utah and realizing just how special of a song it is. In Prescott, Arizona I took time to listen to as many of the poets and musicians as I could and found my respect growing for this group of ranch folks who are my artistic family. That respect continued to grow as I headed up toward our Northern border across the vast grasslands of Central Montana to the Montana Cowboy Gathering. I swapped stories with Bob Petermann and Owen Badgett...well, actually I mostly just listened to these two old Montana hands. I am not only seeing the West, I am learning it's language and it's stories and it humbles me.
No, it wasn't the trips that made this Summer hard for me. It was me that made this Summer hard for me.
I have had what one friend calls, a "divine discontent" in which I have tried to figure myself out as an artist while at the same time try to hold my heart together as I watch my children grow up, marry and move away. Just as I feel the bite of Fall in the air, I also feel a shift of seasons in my life. Most of June was in the pursuit of planning a lovely wedding for our daughter, Maria and her new husband, Brenton. Friends and family rallied around and it was a precious event. The fact that our Maria was married and gone did not hit me until the morning after her wedding when I knocked on her door to wake her up for church and realized she was not there. I found myself mourning my days as a young mother when I was still foolish enough to think I was in charge. I am learning that love is not proximity. It's more like the wire strung tight on a well-built range fence. It can stretch and go on for miles and yet still hold everything together.
As for my discontent with myself as an artist, I think of a quote I once heard, "It takes a village to raise a singer." When confidence lagged in myself, my husband, Brad, has been there to tell me to snap out of it, which was advice balanced out by my friends and children who took a more gentle approach to my whining. Life has taught me that discontent is good. Pain always has something to teach us so we can make corrections and get back to the business of being joyful. I wanted a 20-step to-do list of what I needed to do to keep moving forward as an artist, but ended up with only 2 things God has for me to do. I'm sharing these two special things with you, because I think they just might help someone out there in a similar state of frenzy.
1. Be a quality person.
2. Write quality music. (Sub in whatever you do...teach, train horses, drive truck, ect.)
There it is. If you can smell the change of seasons in your life, I hope this simple to-do list helps you as it continues to help me. Most of all I hope that my adventures in the West will bring me to a concert venue near you whether that be on a big fancy stage or out around a campfire, I have some quality western music I would like to share with you.