The first time Susan set foot on the ranch, she took immediate delight in how the earth felt beneath the soles of her well-heeled Western boots. It was flat, planed with tractors and steamrollers and other exotic farm machinery. It was solid, tamped down by scores of hooves — bulls and cows, mares and stallions, the occasional deer fleeing a mountain lion. And it was supportive, a high table top set above the surrounding canyons. It was as if someone had shorn the top off a mountain and placed her square in the center of the universe. She felt completely at home.
The first time Richard set foot on the ranch, the thick treads of his brand-new hiking boots snagged the gravel of the driveway. He slipped and fell to one knee. The jagged little rocks ripped a hole in the stiff denim of his jeans and abraded a thin layer of pale skin from his leg. Burgundy dots of blood soaked into the raw edges of the bright blue fabric as he scrambled upright. He felt off-balance and out of place.
They bought the ranch that day.
Each had reservations about the other’s reasons for making this snap decision.
Susan suspected Richard of mollifying her, of over-indexing on keeping her stable and making her happy. Since she’d resigned from her high-paying, high-powered position at the Silicon Valley software company where they’d both worked, she alternated between fits of storm and sun. This flash transformation from uber-rational programmer to moody free spirit would, naturally, worry her executive husband. But he seemed to misunderstand: she wasn’t spinning, she was shifting. This wasn’t some temporary state change — this was true metamorphosis. She’d seized her freedom and needed space to run with it. Richard had yet to embrace the personal revolution, and so she doubted his investment in their mutual adventure on the land. Sure, he’d given his money, but his soul remained tethered to their old way of life.
For Richard’s part, he feared his wife was running from something — censure, embarrassment, failure. Her abrupt impulse to quit at the first sign of conflict had shocked him. Her subsequent struggle to ground herself and her emotions activated all of his best Human Resources practices. He asked all the right questions, led her through the thought exercises, listened to her complaints, clarified her wants and needs. In other words, he played the role of the sensitive male perfectly. And still, Susan bridled. She chafed as if there were an outsized bit in her soft mouth. The only solution Richard could see was to let her bolt and break away, to give her a safe place to run until she tired herself out and came back to their old, comfortable ways.