Wheatfield Near Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Photograph by Robert Clements

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Archer

The mare and her foal and me near Irene's Tree. 

We've moved into the last portion of autumn and are heading into winter here in the place that time and Democrats forgot.  Belle has some snow, some ice, and confusing signals with bright sun and bitchy wind.  Hat or no hat?  Most of the women here, I notice, do not wear hats, at least not outside.  Also, most folks do not appear to walk their dogs.  Bob and I went to an open house up the street, and someone mentioned that they had seen me walking my dog.  "So, you just get bundled up and take her on a long walk?" she said.  She seemed surprised.  Yes, I do.  And my blue felt hat sits halfway down my face.  I look goofy, but getting outside during the day is one of the pleasures of my life.  Throwing a dirty tennis ball to a happy dog cheers me up.  At least once a day, it's important to bring someone else a bit of joy. 

I am committed to this place now, in that I have a part-time job at the Tri-State Museum here in town.  It has been built around the notion that people in town and in the surrounding areas (note Tri-State - includes Wyoming and Montana, along with South Dakota) have a history that needs to be preserved.  I can't agree with that, more.  I am working with Rochelle, a wonderful woman who comes to South Dakota via Denver.  I'm working as an Aide, which denotes I do a variety of things.  I'm looking forward to it because I think that much of the work will be interesting, and I will immerse myself in at least some of the goings-on of the town and its people.

But this is a hard time of year.  Sagittarius the Archer, half man, half horse, sits in the sky and shoots an arrow straight through my heart before heading East.  I am having dreams where I've lost control and am faced with overwhelming tasks.  Little things make me cry.  I broke into a spasm of an illogical tears the other day traveling back from Wyoming, where Bob and I spent a nice Thanksgiving Day with his brother and family.  I spent a lot of time walking Rua around Buffalo, Wyoming, a tiny Western town famous for a battle between sheep and cattle ranchers.  I didn't see a lot of sheep, cattle, or ranchers while I was there.  Anyway, on the way home, there is rough landscape between Buffalo and Gillette, a clumsy sprawl of trailers and homes that serve the mines surrounding them; Western cowboy movie chasing the bad guys landscape, where folks better have enough water and a sure-footed horse or hiking books.  It suddenly brought me to tears, thinking about my family, and trees, and the ocean, and the predictability of their love for me in all of Maine's four seasons.  Poor Bob - nothing he could do, but he asked, sweet boy, he asked.  And I've been off and on, ever since.  I hope that this passes.  I surely do, because I can't see myself living in this funk forever.  I'd better cowgirl up.

We went to 'shoot' the tree last Sunday.  Irene's tree (named after Bob's Aunt Irene), near Philip.  Bob's been photographing her in all of her seasons and in all kinds of weather for several years, now.  She's held up well, considering that she is the only one of her kind in a vast field surrounded by cattle, and now, three horses.  We don't know what kind of horses they are.  They are small, about Welsh pony size, but sturdier.  Dun colored, and buckskin, and the foal is strawberry roan.  And they are sweet, sweet, sweet, and friendly.  They came over to the fence while Bob was taking photos, and I kissed their soft noses and buried my face in the mare's mane.  And for a minute, I forgot about the Archer and the oncoming winter and whatever it holds and missing my family and friends.  I sucked in horse dander and sweat, and felt the coarse hair of the mare's mane scratch my cheek.  I reached out and scratched the foal's ears, and it leaned its little exquisite head into my fingers, as if it was the only thing that mattered for that little while.  They brought me joy and I brought them apples.  Square deal, I think.  All kinds of bliss in the most ordinary and extraordinary places, East and West.