My friend has the biggest smile I have ever seen. It reviles Julia's. It's beautiful. And welcoming. And kind. As is she. She is one of those people who says things like 'yeah, it was a really good challenge' when most normal people say 'that was the hardest worst thing I've ever done in my life' She gives up her free time to watch peoples kids so they can go on a date for FREE.
She is a magnet for people. They are drawn to her smile, her kindness, her generosity, her love.
ALL people are drawn to her. Even kids.
My kids adore her. When they hear she is coming they get very excited. When they hear they are going to 'her' ranch they get even more excited.
It's not actually her ranch, but Brooklyn doesn't understand the term 'housesitter'. So we just call it her ranch.
The ranch that my friend occasionally housesits for is amazing. It's on the southwest side of town. Down a gravel road less than a mile. There are lots of houses, but it doesn't feel like a lot because there are acres and acres that separate them from each other. The view to the east and the south are of mountains and mountains and mountains. Pulling up to the house, it's unassuming enough. A small log cabin with a horse corral on the other side of the drive. But little by little the house and its land reveal their wonder. The house has a front porch that faces east so the sun rising over the mountains is the view that reveals itself every morning. An old golden retriever named Jackson runs with his heart but limps with his body and happily greets all who come to visit.
Jackson, the boy, loves Jackson, the dog. He loves all dogs really. But this one carries his name! So he shouts excitedly as soon as Jackson, the dog, is in sight 'GOG! GOG! GOG! GOG!' Brooklyn, who has learned to affirm her brother says 'Bubba look! It's a dog! Oh, he's so happy to see us!' They are barely out of their car seats, not even on the ground and Jackson, the dog, is licking their toes Bubs continues to yell 'GOG! GOG! GOG! GOG!' While Brooklyn says 'He lick my toes momma! Hee Hee that silly. Silly dog. You lick my toes!' My friend, who is housesitting, greets us with a puppy. Bubs continues 'GOG! GOG! GOG!GOG!' pointing at the puppy and Jackson the dog. Brooklyn is not sure of the super squirmy furry little nibbler. Although the reassurance that the puppy is just 'really happy to see us!' does seem to qualm some of her anxiety over the new pup.
It doesn't take her long to realize why we are actually here and she starts asking to 'feed the horses?!' Carrots are grabbed from the fridge and we walk into the bright afternoon sunshine toward the pasture that is home to four horses. Four beautiful horses. Neither the kids nor the horses know what to think of each other. One makes loud, screeching, yelling, unpredictable sounds. The other is huge and up close and snorts. But carrot offerings of friendship are made and accepted. Bubs yells 'NEIGH! NEIGH! NEIGH! NEIGH!' Brooklyn says 'It's my girl! it's my girl! I feed my girl! Bubs you feed your boy, ok!' Bubs yells 'NEIGH! NEIGH! NEIGH!' and then, 'WALK! WALK! WALK!' When he has found the courage to brave the horses on his own, outside his momma's arms. A tentative bond has been made. The pasture is filled with things that a pasture with horses in it would be filled with. It gets stepped on, and picked up, and almost, but thankfully not, eaten. The horses have eaten their 'carrot candy!!' (because carrots are like candy to horses) and now it's time for 'hay, that's what horses eat momma. They eat hay. But I eat food. And bubs eats food. And daddy eats food. I like peanut butter and jelly.' Inside the barn is stray farm cat. Jackson, the dog, barks like he owns the place. He probably does. Brooklyn helps untie the bale of hay and only freaks out a little about the cat. Bubba is hanging onto Momma for dear life. Jackson, the dog, chases the cat away as a sled filled with hay is drug out by the bulging muscles of a two and a half year old. She is something special now! The hay is laid out in four-ish piles. One for each of the horses. The horses are led into the corral from the pasture and they eat.
We watch them eat. We watch with wonder and excitement and amazement. The sun's warmth, the sky's clear blueness, the wind's steady breeze, the mountains view behind the horses, the log cabin all infiltrate our senses until we are enchanted. We never want to leave ever. Yes. This is it. This farm, this cabin should be our home! And these horses ours to ride! With neighbors so near but yet so far. With a daily, first thing you see in the morning, reminder of smallness. With a sky so big that you can breathe and breathe and breathe. Lungs filled with fresh air and sunshine and sanity.
But alas, too soon it is time to return to what actually is our home and make something for ourselves to eat. Protests are made. Fits are thrown, but hunger and authority win out, although even the authority does not want to leave. This place is good for the soul. This is the kind of place we want to end up.
And this is the kind of friend I have made. A friend who is willing to take time out of her day to let some kids experience this. And I am thankful.