Friday, August 6, 2010

Change of Home, Change of Heart

Changed? You bet I've changed.

Twenty years ago, I lived on a farm in Pennsylvania. My roots ran so deep I couldn't imagine ever leaving. Then I moved to Wyoming.

This week, I went back and visited my family and my old stomping grounds. It was a great visit, but today, on the last leg of the long trek back to my adopted state, I realized how much Wyoming has become my home.

The East is beautiful, with its rolling hills and leafy forests. While I was there, I noticed a lot of things we don't have in Wyoming - old stone farmhouses, black and white dairy cows, fountains of flowers growing in naturally rich, dark soil. We don't have a big selection of fancy restaurants, either, and we definitely don't have anything like Wegman's gourmet grocery stores.

But Wyoming has so many things I missed, even after a week. We have mountains - mountains with snow on top, even in August. We have sagebrush and antelope, and even buffalo dotting the hills along the interstate. (Yeah, they're at a buffalo farm, but they used to live wild in Wyoming by the thousands!) As I drove, the sky darkened with a storm but the late afternoon sun kept shining, highlighting the golden summer grass and the rock outcroppings, casting deep purple shadows that made everything stand out sharp and clear.

Just as I passed the buffalo farm, a rainbow shimmered into view, arching over the scattered houses on the outskirts of Cheyenne, and I know it's corny, but I got a lump in my throat and my eyes stung a little.

I love it here. This is home now, and I've become a devoted Westerner.

A lot of people picture scenic Yellowstone when they think of Wyoming, but that' only a small part of the state. The landscape around Cheyenne is rocky and dry, with fewer trees and more cattle. The wind blows hard and the living's not easy, but you have to respect the ranchers and cowboys (and cowgirls) who manage to tame it. That's the landscape I write about in Cowboy Trouble, and in One Fine Cowboy, my new book that comes out in September.

Nate, the hero of the new book, is struggling to make his grandfather's ramshackle ranch into a horse operation. He's quiet and determined, and to me, he represents the best qualities of Wyoming's cowboys. His collision with Jersey girl Charlie Banks - and her discovery that Wyoming just might be the home she's been looking for - make up the heart of the book.

Like me, Charlie is changed by Wyoming - and Nate is changed by Charlie. The book will be out in just one month - and that will be a change for me, too. Instead of being a debut author, I'm now officially multi-published!

Are you a native who's stayed in one place all your life, or a transplant like me? And if you've adopted a new home, how has it changed you?


  1. I love your post, Joanne, and your rainbow. Your sentiments were really touching. I've lived so many places, that staying five years was a big deal. Then I settled in the mountains of Oklahoma. Yes, they have mountains on the eastern border. And I felt at home. The people were the friendliest and it reminded me of California, my original home. But then I had to move again and now I've lived longer in Texas than anywhere. I've enjoyed living all over. It's given me a different perspective of different states that I THOUGHT were certain ways until I lived there. Florida, for instance, was filled with pine trees. Pine trees! I thought palm trees would fill the horizon. I thought Oklahoma was all dust bowl. I thought Texas was too. :) So living in these states gave me a new way of seeing the beauty. NJ, Maryland, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oregon had their own special beauty--from the beautiful autumns (which we don't get here) to snow (which we rarely get here). Plus I've trained or worked or visited so many other states, and I always find something about an area so appealing, I'd love to live there too!!! I'm afraid I'm hopelessly rootless! :) AT least in my dreams!

  2. I agree, Terry - we tend to have misconceptions about certain areas until we spend some time there and dig a little deeper than the superficial tourist stuff. That's why travel is important - it opens our minds. Glad you liked the post:)

  3. Very inspiring and thoughtful post, Joanne. I once followed the Yellowstore River and saw a lot of your new home. And I'd say the sky is just as big in Wyoming as it is in Montana. And I love that feeling of looking down a highway and feeling like you are looking into forever.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks, Amelia. I did live in Montana for a while, and I loved that, too. I still have friends and family in Billings and Missoula, which is a good excuse to visit!

  5. I'm as rootless as they come, Joanne. I have never lived in one place more than five years. My father was a career soldier so we moved a lot and I kind of continued that tradition into adulthood for no apparent reason. I stayed the night in Cheyenne on my way to Yellowstone, Salt Lake City (for a Tool concert-yes, I'm hopeless when it comes to live music. We designed our entire trip around that concert), and the Colorado Rockies. The people of Cheyenne were very friendly. We drove south out of town to some mountain--the name escapes me now-- but it was an incredibly scenic drive. It literally took my breath away. And when I got out of the car to take pictures, the mosquitoes tried to suck my bloodstream dry. The anemia was worth the picture though.

    Today, upon returning "home" to Nebraska after two weeks in Orlando and massive quantities of driving, I have to say I missed the big open sky and the reduced humidity of this flat, rural state. I never thought I'd say I missed Nebraska, but Florida's humidity tried to kill me. :-)

    Loved your rainbow picture!

  6. I moved from Louisville to south-central Indiana, which doesn't seem like much, but I went from the city to the boonies! I miss having things closer to my house, but I love my farm, too!

  7. Hi Joanne! It was great meeting you at the conference! I'm glad you made it back home - what a beautiful picture (rainbows can make me misty too!). I grew up in the Northwest then went to Southern California for grad school. I was there for five years and most of my friends stayed in L.A., but I went back to the Northwest as soon as I could. I guess this is my natural habitat!

  8. Wyoming is a stunning state. My husband was in awe of the wildlife roaming freely and the vast open plains. I was amazed at the lack of cell service through most of the state. LOL!

    Seriously, Wyoming and Montana are simply gorgeous. I love desert and prairie terrains. The wide open spaces with nothing inhibiting the view for miles and miles, where the sky and stars are so clear you are sure you can reach out and touch them. *sigh" I feel the need for another visit. Can I come stay with you for awhile, Joanne? :-)

  9. Joanne, we took pictures just like this one three weeks ago when we were in your "neck of the woods." Or lack thereof.

    Wyoming is startling, with its vast plains. I'd love the winters, I think, but I need more people around me. We did move away - about 3 hours away - but moved home when we were thinking of starting a family. Now that that family is growing and the time's getting near for them to strike out on their own, we're talking about moving away. Maybe Colorado. Dunno. We'll have to see what happens.