• Aperture: f/5
  • Focal Length: 50mm
  • ISO: 800
  • Shutter: 1/59 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D80

Claremore, Oklahoma

Bridles are good. They keep horses under control, remind them of their tasks, and prevent them from injuring their riders, but eventually even the most docile need to break free of the limits and run wild. I feel like I’m doing that now, and it’s simultaneously frightening and exhilarating. This is my year to test my freedom, and strangely enough, Oklahoma taught me that, though I still don’t understand how.

I do remember when. I was sitting in a parking lot in Stockyards City, Okla., eyes gazing at some distant horizon only I could see, tongue tossing words that thankfully were blown away by the Oklahoma wind. I sprayed gravel in four directions, gritted my teeth, and refused to cry. Growled and cursed, spun into a QuikTrip and bought my first pack of cigarettes — Marlboro Reds. I sat on a fence rail and watched the cattle drive, smoked, spat in the cracked dirt. And by the time the cattle were penned, I realized my tears had dried, and I’d been replaced by a tougher girl. She didn’t stay, she fled the scene after a while, but she kept coming back.

I liked her. She was strong and confident, stubborn and level-headed. She was a survivor. Words run through my head a lot lately and I’ve wondered where they came from. Writing this I realize they originated somewhere in Oklahoma. Don’t know what city, but I remember hissing them through clenched teeth. Nothing, nothing, nothing kicks my fucking ass.

I’ve long forgotten the other words that were spat — they were unimportant and better left to die in the dust, but I’ve remembered those, and they’ve proven useful. Perhaps this is why Oklahoma calls to me when I’m low and in need of strength, not because I was happy there, but because I wasn’t. Not because I lost something there, but because I found something — a wild place no one could tame, a spark I’ve seen only a few times in my life that made me lift my head one more time. Crawl if I had to. Stand, but never run.

A cowgirl was born. A novel was born. A life shift was born. I came back surprisingly grateful and refreshingly unbridled. I came back understanding that the only reins that can ever truly hold are the ones you willingly bow your head to accept.

Truth is, we each possess the ability to run wild, to take every dream we’ve ever had and live it to its fullest. I’m chasing a few of those these days, and it feels good. Right. I’m living the teenage years I never had. Experiencing the twenties I was too depressed to bother with. I stayed out until 3 a.m. this week, drinking tequila sunrises and listening to a band play in a dark, smoky bar. It’s unlike me, yet somehow it IS me — for now anyway. My entire world is different from a year ago, and I suspect today’s world will be vastly different from next year’s.

Unbridled may be the epitome of wild, but it’s also the definition of free, and that’s not a bad way to live. So cowgirl up, kiddo. It’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Music: In a Big Country by Big Country (lyrics)

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