Wyoming or Bust!


Today is my birthday. I’m 44. As a gift, I asked for a trip to Wyoming to attend a week-long retreat that centers around wilderness, horses and discovering one’s essence. I have traveled by myself exactly twice in my life. The first time was in 1992. I was in college, and completing my student teaching in The Netherlands. The second time was three years ago when Andrea made me go to Ohio alone, but that is a story for a different day. At the time, both trips felt big and scary. Both were life-changing at a core level. This time, I will be gone for nine (9!) days, traveling by myself from one tiny town in the Appalachian mountains to another tiny town in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve honestly wanted to back out several times already, telling myself that staying home and reading about horses would be about as good.


My decision to make the leap and register for the retreat happened the same day I received the invitation. Tom and the boys were camping, and I had the whole house to myself. Needless to say, this doesn’t happen very often, and when it does I almost always fill the kitchen table with some kind of collage project. That night, I knew exactly what I wanted to make: an art horse. I pulled out an old atlas I keep for collage and found a map of Wyoming. I tried to find Jackson Hole (which is the airport I fly into) to see where in this big square state I was potentially headed. I couldn’t find Jackson Hole, never mind Dubois (pronounced DEW-boyz; 2.6 square miles; current population 1,002) my ultimate destination. Excited to just make something, I laid the horse pattern on the map and began tracing. As I was putting the pieces together, I had one of those experiences that defies explanation, logic and the rules of chance. The tiny, tiny, tiny town of Dubois sat squarely on the front leg of my horse. I double and triple checked. There is only one Dubois, Wyoming. It sits on the Wind River. And here it was, on my horse’s leg. I sat with this revelation for all of about 10 seconds, and then did what I always do when big profound messages seem to come to me from beyond: I went to bed.


Andrea is always telling me, “Go big or go home.” I always tell her, “Think small and stay home.” This year, however, I’m taking her advice: for my trip in September and for a few other projects that have been waiting for me to muster up the cojones to act on them. What I am learning here in my mid-forties is that courage begets courage. Exploring the outer edges of who I think I am and pushing the limits that currently define my experience and my understanding is an act of bravery. Somehow, my trip to Wyoming encapsulates all this and more.

Am I scared? Hell yes. A list of my fears would fill pages and expose more than a few neuroses. However, that is exactly what I want to step into this year. I want to see what is on the other side of the quivering trepidation that feels thicker than a brick wall. My guess is there is a lightness and a freedom and a lot of other things I don’t even expect. There is comfort on this side of the wall. I trust there will be comfort on the other side as well. However, the journey from one side to the other . . . ? Not much feels comfortable here in the transition. Taking a deep breath, I am booking the flight. Sitting quietly, I am creating more art horses. Slowly but surely the days will pass until I am putting one foot in front of the other and making that journey from one tiny town to another tiny town. It’s a gift I’m giving myself.

* PS. Did you know 2014 was the Year of the Horse?? And that it is an auspicious time for travel, especially to destinations off the beaten trail?? I don’t usually look to the Chinese zodiac calendar for counsel, but this year, I’m taking all the help I can get.

**PPS. I will be posting my art horses here. Right now I have bunch of them cut out and assembled. I plan to add layers and details the more and more nervous I get as time goes on.

42 thoughts on “Wyoming or Bust!

  1. Happy Birthday, Sheila ! You go girl ! Had my own awakening in my early forties and felt scared and unsure if I was making the right decisions.( no horses involved ! ) I’d like to think it defines who I am today. If I could get up on a horse I’d meet you in Wyoming ! Love, Nana

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Happy birthday!! Good for you for following your passion like this. I can’t wait to hear all about it and how it changes you.

    For now, I hope you feel pampered and special today! Enjoy!

  3. happy birthday, dear stella, happy birthday to you! so glad to hear you are going to have your very own adventure! the biggest step – deciding that you are worth an adventure and reserving a spot is done. now, you just get to pinch yourself as time winds along until you find yourself stepping off a plane in another time zone! so, cake to you! celebrating you today in my little felt house! xoxo, alisha

    • You have been on my mind so much lately!
      And you are spot on about the worthiness. I have never, ever spent this much money and/or time on myself. It was hard to claim it and then not feel beholden to it. (As in, I can’t do or buy anything else this whole year bc I am going to WY!) Crazy but true.

      Hope the felted house is keeping you warm up there!!

  4. I am so proud of you, Sheila. This will be a wonderful year for you. Happiest of birthdays, dear friend. Wyoming just represents so much about being wide open, doesn’t it? Can’t wait to read about your adventures.

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Love the idea of being wide open. I got chills just now because that was the image I used to begin my unraveling journal this year. “Wide Open” I’m going to have to look back at that.

      Snow here today cancelled my plans, but enjoying the day just the same. Snow there yet?

  5. Congratulations.. Jumping over edges. I have found at 51 that reaching out of my comfort zone is a constant reminder what is possible . Also it is tending to my soil/soul nourishment.
    Happy birthday!

  6. I am so very proud of you and know that this year is going to be a great one in so many ways. Happiest of birthdays, dear friend. We all await the next chapter in your big adventure. Wyoming just speaks of openness doesn’t it?

  7. Happy Birthday! Did you know I’m from Montana? I used to drive through Wyoming quite often. Whenever I saw the sign for Dubois I wondered how to pronounce it. Scott always tells me that if you’re going to go, go big. Have a great trip.

  8. Happy Birthday dear Sheila!
    My dad was born in a small mining town in Wyoming that doesn’t even exist anymore. We traveled there once and I marveled at the wide open spaces and enormous sky…(I think you might love it there)
    As always I admire your courage and dedication to your inner work. You always inspire me.
    Much love and aloha today and for the rest of your “horse” year–you are right, this IS your year!

    • Even when we go to the beach here, I am always struck by the “side sky” – yes the enormity is very appealing even if slightly unsettling. The mountains always make me feel contained and rooted.
      Thank you as always for your kind words. Need to email you about a few things (blog-wise). Will be in touch.

  9. I am feeling a little envious of your trip. It sounds wonderful! I started traveling alone for my business a few years ago and I know what you mean. It is “odd” at first. Now, I can’t wait ;) You go girl and HAPPY BIRTHDAY! welcome to 44..the water is fine come on in.

      • Just another thought. At 47 I decided to honor my love and longing for horses. I worked at a local ranch catering in exchange for riding. Next I was buying a horse and then riding with groups that were visiting. Once I was the person helping a rider off of a hill on horseback . I even moved cattle. So anything is possible.
        My love and healing with horses began when I was eleven I got my first horse, Ginger. She was bought from my art teacher for $100. Mrs. Rupert was my teacher’s name. I credit her to noticing me on a very ; I guess Steiner would say soul level. I still think of her when I am struggling to be seen or understood. Anyway horses are incredible sensitive beings. I. Can only imagine that their energy is calling you for a sweet connection that will hold and grow you.
        now I have two horses; Greta and Montana. I don’t ride them much , hopefully in the spring. What they do is fill me ;their presence, their smell, their movement. Anyway even if you don’t ride they are great healers.

  10. Happy Birthday, dear friend! One of my favorite reminders of difficult inner work is that sometimes “the only way around is through.” I love your story – when the name of the teeny, tiny town shows up on the horses FRONT leg??? Here’s to courage, and growth, and the big unknown. Hugs, Hugs, Hugs.

      • I think you definitely need some new boots! Loved this! The mid to late forties have been the best for me – you are off to a great start.:) My trip to Bimini was a similar scary plunge for me, and I really have no words to describe the impact it had. But not to get too serious – of course, it was a whole lot of fun too! Happy Birthday my dear cowgirl poet – you are the PERFECT blend of seriousness and fun!!!!

  11. Happy Birthday dear Sheila! I hope you have a wonderful day.

    I love horses. I love the smell of them, the solidness. When you feel scared, just lean into that big horse and breathe deeply. Everything will be okay. Trust it.


  12. You know I love the story of Dubois showing up. And you know the old superstition –Always start on the Right Foot for good luck….

    I wish you a year of love — growing in your love of your friends, your family, your self and your Lord — knowing deeper the love of your friends, your family, and your Lord xoxo Happiest Birthday and new year.

  13. Happy Belated Birthday, Sheila!

    My articulate and eloquent message never posted yesterday….:( I don’t think I could even try to resurrect all the words I painstakingly put together, but here goes my attempt…

    Happy Birthday to someone we all admire so much. Your gifts are so many, and you freely share them, as well as inspire so many of us… to take time, be thoughtful, contemplate, create art, be mindful, go slow, laugh, commiserate when necessary, but most importantly, try… Try everything that seems appealing, or important, or because our heart tells us so.

    This next year is your year in so many ways. I say “Seize the year and NEIGH!”

    Love and best wishes and much gratitude,

    PS-This message is nothing like the first one… Still full of love and best wishes though!

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