THE WYOMING GLOW I brought home with me after this year’s 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.

Life HAPPENS on a ranch—life, and birth, and death, and renewal. The warmth and generosity of families like Kari and Brent Kilmer (co-owners and managers of the 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.

Laura Bell’s new book, 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.”

How can we NOT yearn for a deeper connection with the things we love? How can we NOT fall back in love with life when we slow down long enough to actually live it, moment by moment?  Watch the horses. They show us how. They lift their heads and flare their nostrils at the morning breeze. They pivot their ears at the sound of our voices. They lower their necks at the pleasing strokes of our curry brushes. They let us ride on their backs and carry us on the wind. And then, when day is done, they reclaim their wild roots, kick up their heels and gallop across the tundra and into the sunset.

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


Alice Liles said…
Enjoyed the video of our retreat. And I realized there was one picture I failed to take-of my boots, as you did yours. I took pictures of my hiking boots at the end of my trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, and it is one of my favorite shots. I can't believe I didn't think to do the same for the retreat. Just another reason to go again next year, to correct my oversight!
Glad you liked the boot photo, Alice! Yes, you'll have to come back again next year so you can take that favorite shot. Do a before and after - one with manure, one without! You could take a before and after shot of your journal too - one before the writing, and one after!
Bobette said…
Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your newsletter and blog. We met briefly at the NCW conference and perhaps we've seen each other at RMPPG events too.

Here's my question for you: I haven't had, and probably won't have, the chance to attend one of your sessions on "Animals as characters in your writing," but I would love to know more about your approach to this subject because animals (particularly my dogs, but also one of my horses) play an important role in my writing. Indeed I'm currently writing a kind of personal essay/tribute to my big sweet German Shepherd boy who died last year.

Have you written anything that shares your perspective on this subject that might be available to those of us who don't get to attend your workshops?

Page Lambert said…

Please excuse my extreme delay in answering your note. My apologies! Truly! The last month has whizzed by!

I am planning on hosting a Saturday “Animals As Characters” workshop here at Mt. Vernon (above Golden) this fall. I will be sending out an announcement on it, so hopefully you’ll be able to make it.

You might also find my memoir In Search of Kinship helpful. The chapter “Hondo” (which appears also in Chicken Soup for the Cat and Dog Lover’s Soul) was also purchased by Reader’s Digest in an expanded form.

I also write about my mare Romie in the memoir, as well as our domesticated sheep and cattle, and the wildlife on the ranch. Oh, yes, stories about cats, too. And even squirrels.

I’ve attached a handout for you, which may or may not be helpful without reading the excerpts to which I am referring. But the idea, of the different facets of animal characterization, might be helpful.

Click on "Books" on my website for more info:

Hope you are enjoying July!

All the best,

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