I envision a nicely set table, crystal water pitcher, candlelight, salt wells, and an after dinner cognac. The ritual of dining adding to the magic of an evening with friends. Spending hours perusing cookbooks seeking perfect platemates. I roast asparagus with a hint of lemon blanketed in parmesan, coupled with grilled salmon crusted in pesto. Then I serve a creme brulee paired with raspberries and a dollop of freshly whipped cream to bring a perfect evening to a perfect close.
This image, from a life long gone, resides in memories that once defined me and now haunts me when out at 2 am in howling wind and 20 below zero checking for newborn calves on my ATV or horse. Usually, I haven’t seen a human in days.
My new reality is a desperately in-need-of-repair log cabin, an old oak table, dogs strewn across the floor, a blazing fire in a decades-old wood stove to keep me warm, leather chaps hang haphazardly on a nail patiently awaiting their next ride. On a busy January night, you might find a just born, half-frozen calf defrosting by the stove as I massage it to keep it alive. The old oak table covered with cameras, cattle tags, tools, battery chargers, lenses, mail, and hot sauce for a dab of color. It’s not the life I imagined but it’s the life I live.
Did I mention the hundreds of acres surrounding me with no soul in sight? Idaho’s highest peaks looming large outside my door. The moose returning in spring to birth babies and raise their yearlings. The howl of coyotes waking me at dawn. The wild turkeys that know I’ve no intention of eating them for dinner. The lessons learned from locals standing by my side. Their mastered intimacy with this land, handed down through generations, is the best gift. That’s only the beginning of a life I never imagined. The challenges of living interdependently with the land came unexpectedly, and turned my belief systems upside down. I thought I knew it all in New York City – but it took no time at all to learn I didn’t know a thing.