Literature & Landscape of the Horse Retreat at the Vee Bar Ranch lasted for days. I literally beamed. Not surprising after a week immersed in some of the things I love the most—horses, stories about horses, other writers and artists, and the wide-open western landscape.
“I missed you all so much the minute I got on the plane, it nearly broke my heart,” wrote Cat, a guest from Massachusetts. “I'll never forget my week at the ranch, and your kind heart that made it possible for all of us to know each other.” Cat fell in love with landscape, the people, the horses, and most importantly, back in love with life.
Vee Bar) does not happen by mistake. It rises up from life on the land as organically as do the wild spring irises. Kari’s grandpa ranches only a few miles up the road, at the base of the Snowy Range Mountains. This landscape is Kari’s homeland, the place where she was born and reared. Her husband Brent was raised in Wyoming, too—on a ranch near Lusk. His family has been living on that same piece of ground for over a hundred years.
CLAIMING GROUND, (which I haven’t yet read) is intriguing for all the same reasons. “Her story is a heart-wrenching ode to the rough, enormous beauty of the western landscape,” writes the publisher, Random House/Knopf, “and to the peculiar sweetness of hard labor, to finding oneself even in isolation, to a life formed by nature, and to the redemption of love, whether given or received.”
I’m not just drawn to Laura’s story because she herded sheep in Wyoming's Big Horn Basin, or because she was, for a time, a cattle rancher, forest ranger, outfitter, and masseuse. But because she yearned to create a home and to find solid earth in which to put down her familial roots.
In the opening few pages of my memoir IN SEARCH OF KINSHIP, I write, “These stories are linked to the land—stories of our children, of aborted foals and orphaned calves, of summer fawns in the meadow, and of their fathers, the bucks, in the fall.”
Yes, it’s true. It’s not just a cliché. It’s why we love them. Because they remind us that life is meant to be lived. With gusto. With a snort and a buck. With heads high and few regrets.
Scroll up to watch the 2010 Literature & Landscape of the Horse slideshow. Hats off to Alice Liles and Jenny Wehinger for providing some of the slideshow photos. To read Alice's blog about the retreat, please go to The Bright Lights of Muleshoe.