This is my sixth year visiting my wife’s family ranch. It doesn’t seem like that many- every time I come out here I am still reminded how different this world is than the one I grew up and have lived my life in. The contrasts between living on the water (salt water, thank you very much!) and living on the ranch are seemingly endless. The constant change of the tides vs. the still shapes of the rolling hills of Eastern Montana. The framing of the sky at home (tall trees, mountains, or buildings on every horizon) vs. an open expanse of sky stretching into impossible distances. Not to mention the social differences- culturally liberal in the Western part of the state where I live vs. conservative where my wife grew up, and the the fear and loathing of firearms vs. the familiarity and practicality of owning and using guns are obvious ones.
And the presence of venomous snakes in Montana. There is always that. I am not a fan.
Anyways, rattle snakes aside this place is lovely. And for all of its apparent timelessness many changes have occurred since I first met my in-laws at their home a handful of years ago.
There are of course still about 1,000 ranch cats, but Nicker the horse (with the softest nose ever) died this past year and there are presently no more dogs around the ranch. The corral leans a bit further to the left, the barn a bit further to the right. There is always something different to help with- last year it was pulling the pump from the well for cleaning, this year it is re-sealing the chimney masonry against the rain. Rowan is learning to drive in one of the pastures and is getting shooting lessons from his uncle. Murphy is riding his bike on the rutted dirt driveway and following his brother everywhere (except around the guns, c’mon, all about safety around here!)
The chance to guiltlessly set my phone to airplane mode and ignore FBook and texts is wonderful. Aside from this post, some down time near the wifi in the house, and some grad school work it is a mostly connection-free week. After some initial withdrawals it feels quite lovely. Putting my attention on the unfolding of conversations around me rather than the minuscule endorphins jolts of online connections is sadly refreshing and novel feeling. It also makes me realize that other than work (I am on vacation anyways) and a mother who gets tense if texts aren’t returned in a timely manner, nobody depends on my ability to immediately read and respond to email or text. Absolutely nobody’s day revolves around whether or not I have liked their post. And nobody’s day is effected at all by my not reading emails and posts from the variety of sites or groups I follow.
Nobody cares if I am online or not.
And that feeling is both slightly humbling and hugely liberating. Because if nobody really cares all that much, then I don’t have to care at all. I can save that bandwidth for ranch time. Finding where the cows are grazing in the pasture, helping my taller son figure out the difference between the accelerator and the brake, telling my shorter son that he is okay after he bites it in the dirt all seem like better uses of those extra moments of liberated time.
*Full Disclosure* Upon returning to our home I have found myself addicted as ever to my phone, just so you know. So a short break didn’t carry over into a lifestyle change. That will take a bit more effort on my part.