Jessie Veeder, Published February 16 2013
Coming Home: Remembering our year in the mountains
It lasted about a year, and it was one of our chosen adventures after our first year of marriage found me on the road singing and my new husband working on the tops of oil derricks for days on end.
Before the mountains we were living at the ranch then. It was where we were married, under an old oak tree surrounded by friends and family, the wind whipping through our hair and cooling us on a hot August afternoon while our ushers chased the cattle away from the ceremony taking place at their apparent 4 p.m. gathering space.
After the festivities were over my husband swept me across the threshold of the old ranch house, and we proceeded to carry on the way we thought we were meant to carry on.
I sang and helped at a local restaurant when I wasn’t on the road. He tripped pipe, preparing the earth to produce the precious oil we would hear so much about in the coming years.
When I was away I would call him from the cheapest hotel I could find in some small town in Wyoming or Nebraska and listen to his voice on the other end of the line tell me things are fine, that he had supper cooking and that he was exhausted. I would imagine him with his work shirt unbuttoned, the sleeves rolled up as he stirred noodles on our tiny stove in that tiny house as the sun went down on a place I loved but was so far away from, and I would find another reason to keep my man-of-few-words on the phone with me.
We were unsure if this sort of separate adventure was what happily ever after meant. We were frustrated, but didn’t think we deserved to be – we were home and working after all.
We were every bit as in love as we were lonesome.
So we moved to the mountains, because to these prairie kids the mountains meant adventure, freedom and mysterious things tucked into all those rocks and trees and a chance to be together in the unfamiliar. The mountains meant giving up on the miles apart, the long hours and my husband’s big paycheck and looking for a different way to get by.
So we loaded up our car and headed west to Missoula, two wind-swept newlyweds and a big brown dog off to find out what the air was like up there.
I look back on that year now and I know it was never our intention to stay near that mountain. We didn’t know it then, but our roots were planted as deep as the roots of the oak tree where we said our vows. But I think knowing this adventure was temporary sent us climbing a little higher on those trails, splashing our bare feet in the freezing rivers, declaring mountain biking a sport for crazy people and staying too long at the bars and drinking our fill.
If you ask me today why we left that place I will tell you it was because, no matter how beautiful, it wasn’t our home, a truth we came to realize in that short year away.
But the decision our younger selves made to climb mountains together was one that has resonated throughout our marriage. It became a promise to always find a way to fix things and to remember that life is fun for crying out loud.
We visited the mountains last weekend on our yearly ski trip. We loaded up our pickup and headed off into an adventure the same way we did when we were 23 and searching for a new life to live. We flung our bodies down the slopes, laughed, danced, drank whiskey and stayed out entirely too late.
And then we came home, not knowing what tomorrow will bring us, but knowing that we love each other, we love this place, and that no matter the weather, the work or the worry, the mountains will be waiting and ready for us when we need them.
This column was written exclusively for The Forum.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at email@example.com.