The Sagebrush Sea

Ramblings from a Cowboy-Girl.

Mongolia 2018- Day 1

I’ve wanted to travel to Mongolia, since I was a child perusing the photographs of the National Geographic magazine. Images of riders in brightly covered del, the traditional coat, traveling across broad swaths of green steppe haunted my imagination. I could easily imagine myself riding across the world’s largest unfenced rangeland. So, when pictures of an elderly Mongolian horsewoman galloping across the countryside, appeared in my Facebook feed, I was compelled to click and follow.

Tammy Pate, horsewoman and clinician, shared these images and became the driving force behind this trip of a lifetime. Tammy is a tiny woman, who lives large. She is a vibrant force of kindness and adventure. So of course she was able to gather a group of like-minded women (and two grumpy, old men) to join her on this trip.

Day 1

August 4, 2018:

I am in high energy mode this morning, despite the fourteen hour time difference, between Mongolia and Idaho, and the more than 24-hours of travel required to reach my destination. I can’t sit still. Ulaanbataar (UB), is a chaotic city of contrasts. On my hotel balcony, above a bustling street corner surrounded by modern high rises, I can see the sprawling gerdistrict. On the edge of a modern city with a population exceeding one million, many families still live in traditional Mongolian tents, without running water.

At breakfast, I recognize two of my fellow travelers and Daniel Miller, who has taken the day to share his local knowledge with us. We will spend the day walking around the city, the movement is welcome after yesterday’s twelve hour flight across the Pacific.

A short walk from the hotel and we arrive at Beatles Square, near the State Department Store. Where a surprising monument to the Fab Four, recalls the 1970s. Mongolia was under Soviet control and teenagers gathered to play Beatles music learned from contraband records from Eastern Europe.

Beatles Square, Ulaanbaatar
Beatles Monument, Ulaanbaatar

Across the square is the State Department Store. The store is home to six floors of every modern convenience imaginable. Including a money exchange surrounded by high-end makeup counters. One American dollar is worth approximately 2,500 Togrog(pronounced tugrik). The store is a fitting introduction to the contrasts we will see throughout our travels. Popular European and American clothing brands slide by, as the escalator climbs to the traditional Mongolian handicrafts on the sixth floor.

Ulaanbaatar is bustling with activity.  Korean models of Japanese cars pack the streets.  What we as American’s consider hard-and-fast traffic rules are merely loose guidelines in this city. With one eye on the traffic and another on the sights, I follow our group.  There is so much to take in as we walk. There does not seem to be a distinctly Mongolian architectural dialect, the bare functionality of cinder blocks contrasts with drab shaped, but brightly colored Soviet era buildings, juxtaposed against a handful of very modern skyscrapers. Odd contrasts seem to define the city.

Mongolian Parliament Building, Chinggis Khaan Square, Ulaanbaatar

Chinggiss Khan, Parliament Building, Ulaanbaatar

I’m surprised by the amount of public art we see, there is a sculpture at almost every street corner. Chinggis Khaan Square is home to the Parliament House, where the imposing figure of Chinggis (Ghengis) Khaan himself is seated. Chinggis Khaan founded the Mongol empire in 1206, he brought peace and prosperity through harsh and merciless action. He is flanked by two mounted warriors. To their South, is Sukhbataatar the military leader who drove the Chinese out of Mongolia in 1921. A short walk from these heroes of the nation, there is sculpture of a bronc rider that can compete with Frederic Remington and Charlie Russell, in terms of authentic familiarity with horses.

Bucking Horse Sculpture, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

The Horse Breaker, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Having seen the financial heart of the city, we opt to follow Daniel’s directions to one of several large markets. On our long walk, we peek hints of Mongolia’s nomadic culture, like bucking horse sculptures and ger-shaped buildings, incongruously scattered throughout the modern city. Dodging ubiquitous Toyota Prius’. We also observe stark economic disparities, the further we march from the center of the city. At the Black Market, the brightly painted entrance graced with cyrillic signage, betrays the open air market’s monochrome title. Our day in the city has been brimful of new sights and sounds, but nothing compares to the market. The booths are densely packed with every type of good imaginable, eat your heart out State Department Store.

Market Entrance, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Naraan Tuul Market, Black Market, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Traditional saddles, hair ropes, and hand-crafted items we have come to see are located on the far side of the market from the main enterance.  There isn’t a direct route to the nomadic goods. We’re jostled by locals, who know where they’re going as we ogle our way around the outer edge of the market.  I’m approaching complete sensory overload, as we walk by row-upon-row of brand-name athletic shoes, hand-made leather boots, camel hair socks, vinyl flooring, brightly painted orange furniture, and solar panels. Anything you can possibly imagine is located somewhere in the vast marketplace.

The shoppers among us began accumulating booty somewhere around the cashmere and camel wool socks near the entrance.   Not much of a shopper and very aware of the limited amount of space in my suitcase, I resist the urge to add to the burden of my backpack.  I enjoy “window shopping,” as much or more than actually making purchases.  I notice a large amount of brightly colored children’s motocross gear and brightly colored racing saddles, tomorrow their purpose will be clear.


As I get older, I am less concerned with the “shoulds” and arbitrary societal expectations, that ruled my 20s.    Part of this process in change, involves making careful, intentional choices, that either enrich or simplify our life. Careful, intentional choices or wildly leaping into opportunities, because they spark joy in my heart.  Either way, my life has improved as I make the effort to deliberately chose joy.

So on Thursday, I leave for Mongolia.  Leaping into an adventure with both feet, I look forward to sharing it all with you here.


This Day

I am a worrier. If I am not mindful of my internal state, I am easily consumed by anxiety.

I worry about the food I eat.  Is it healthy?  Is it produced in a sustainable manner?  Does it taste good?

I worry about the clothes I wear.  Is it  comfortable?  Does it cost too much?  Was this t-shirt produced with slave labor?

I worry about the situation in North Dakota.  I know people on both sides of the argument and I see validity in both sides, where is the civil dialogue? Why must we resort to violence?  Will this support or damage the Native peoples platform?  Is oil essential to our economy?

I worry about cancer.  Am I doing enough to reduce my risk?  Could I have done more to help my mother?  Are pesticides truly safe?

These are just a few of the things that trigger my anxiety.  I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life. I worry so much, I worry about what my worry says about me.  Until now, it wasn’t something I shared with many people.  Only those closest to me know just how much I worry.   My worry is a side effect of sensitivity.  Over the years, I’ve developed tools to handle my anxiety, it seldom spirals out of control or drives my decision making.  When it does, I am able to step away from the stress, examine it objectively, and strip it down to the root cause.  Being an empath in today’s world is difficult.

Lately,  my stress revolves around today’s election.  I don’t care for either presidential candidate.  They set my teeth on edge and my ethical center (my gut) flips with distaste at the thought of either of them in office.  I will go to the polls and I will vote anyway, because doing so will, at the very least give me the illusion of control.  Whatever the outcome, I will settle into the choice and the changing environment of our country the best I can.

I will invest in things I know I can influence in a powerful way and I will breathe into and release the idea that I have control.

I will invest my consumer dollars in businesses that reflect my values.  I will exercise kindness everyday, regardless of the election outcome we are all still Americans.  We can all choose to engage in one simple, random act of human kindness.   I strive to create space for listening with respect, whether I agree with someone or not.  My opinions are my own, grown out of my experiences and rooted in my conscience.  Whether your feelings align with my own or we meet across a partisan lines and political divisions,  I chose to give your opinion the same understanding.



To My Cousins. . .


We are the red scoria roads and ponderosa covered hillsides of the Tongue River Valley.   We are every flavor of Shasta, slurped down in the midday sun, outside of the dusty branding corral.   We are tree forts, baling twine, and lost matches with green beans out of a can.   We are the Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and Montana of 1882.

We are all of these things.  The accumulation of childhood memory and generations of American experience.  We are all of these things and so much more.  Our lives have blossomed and spread beyond the soil of our youth.  We have grown far and we have grown apart, yet we are still the sum of the years that proceeded us and the years we shared on the Quarter Circle U.

Regardless, of how far we go and how far we grow, we will always be rooted in those experiences.  We gather around the familiar green cookhouse table and share particular versions of our childhood, each with our personal biases and understandings.  All together for the first time in however many years,  we are comfortable with the people we have become.  Comfortable enough to let down our guard and layout our individual fears and insecurities, too build a more complete picture the childhood we shared in this place.

I sit and listen, as our stories begin to overlap.  Each story rises in the air above us,  melting into the those that came before.  Each story, enough to stand on it’s own, creates something greater as it  joins the others around this table.  I sit and watch, as these stories grown out of childhood, create the scaffold of irrefutable strength that frames our adult lives.

Like the stories we tell, we are enough to stand alone.  We have gathered friends, spouses, and children around us.  We created lives of purpose and love, I am proud of the people we have grown into, but together we become something greater than our wholes.  Thank you for this evening around the cook house table, thank you for a childhood filled with magic and dirt, thank you for being outstanding human beings.

I love you,



« Older posts

© 2019 The Sagebrush Sea

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑