Summer’s last sigh

We went on a little walk this morning after breakfast on the edge of the Flathead River. It’s a place we walk every now and then. Not really a hike, though we do pick our way over rocks and across sand. It’s more of a place for a stroll, then for standing beside the river to reflect. To think about whatever issues are consuming one’s life right now, or to shove those issues into a compartment in the mind and simply be instead. I always try to think only the big thoughts beside that big river. To listen to the water tumbling over rocks and refuse to allow the petty thoughts do their own tumbling about.

River bendDidn’t succeed in thinking big thoughts today, though. Instead Big Country and I talked over what we are always talking over, our business. Turning over what we’re doing in our heads, trying to do better. Sometimes it all feels like we’re trying to squeeze water out of a stone, blood from a turnip. But we talk about it still, because it’s our livelihood and we’ve got to keep striving, trying, working and working and working to make our business succeed.

But walking by the river helps. It’s where I can let the stress that seems all-consuming lately fall off my shoulder for a few minutes. Where I can listen to the sound of the water on the rocks, watch the play of the sun on the ripples, notice that the tired green leaves on the aspens are fading golden. Autumn. It’s almost here. It’s the last day of August, hurray!

River skyTomorrow we’re headed up the North Fork for huckleberry turnovers and a hike by our most favorite lake, Bowman. I’m going to try again with thinking those big thoughts, which to me really just means opening my brain to all that is happening around me, mapping it with the flashing of my neurons. Listen to the water. Feel the wind. Watch my son marvel at all these new sights and experiences. Forget about the stress and longing and fear waiting for me at home.

BridgeI’m ready for August to be over. I’m ready for summer to end. It’s been a long summer, full of telling other people where the best hikes are instead of hiking them myself. It’s been a summer of hard, hard work. I am not writing this for sympathy. I am merely observing that I feel like those aspen leaves look: tired, faded. But on the other hand, perhaps I’m turning golden too. My favorite season of the year is just around the corner. I’ve got to believe that good things and easier times are coming with it.

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One big year

This was an important weekend for my husband and I. Sunday, we celebrated our first anniversary! It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since we were married, and on the other hand, with all that’s happened in that year, it feels like a lot longer than 365 days!

It’s been a journey, there’s no doubt of that. Here’s just a few things that have happened in the past year:

  • We spent an incredible weekend at the Great Northern Resort in West Glacier. We had a great time getting snowed in and snowshoeing in Glacier National Park.
  • We snowmobiled to the top of Desert Mountain outside Martin City. Incredible view!
  • Great spring break trip to Nebraska (I miss you, you lovely state full of lovely people!)
  • I quit my job at the newspaper and moved so Shawn and I could live together. I also decided to go back to school!
  • I went to England with my dad and sister. Shawn went to a geological engineering conference in Utah.
  • We found out we’re one hit wonders! And not in the singing department. In May we learned I was pregnant. Baby numero uno is due January 23, 2012!
  • We visited friends Kristin and Nate in San Francisco. We also spent time in Monterey and Big Sur.
  • We had a nice visit with Kat and Brandon in Glacier. Yay hiking! Yay Polebridge! Yay friends who actually visit!
  • We had visits from my mom and from Shawn’s parents. Great fun on both counts!
  • We moved… again! That’s something like 13 times in three years. We’re never moving again. (OK, it’s very likely that we will, but not for at least a year and hopefully longer than that!)
  • I went back to college. I’m studying sustainable crop production.
  • We had a fantastic float on the Yellowstone with friends Katie and Martin.

We’re looking forward to Thanksgiving in Denver with my family (including a few family members I haven’t seen in something like five years!) and loads of friends, as well as a baby shower then too (so, so excited!). After that, Shawn and I will spend our first and only Christmas alone together. I don’t care if they’re needless and expensive, we’re getting a Christmas tree! I’ve already started making some ornaments. Sadly, we lack a fireplace/hearth for the gorgeous stockings Shawn’s mother made us, so if anyone has any ideas about where to hang those, I’m all ears! I also need to find a good specialty meats market here where I can buy potato sausage. Swedish Christmas dinner tradition!

It’s also been a difficult year for us. We’re both in school, so finances are tight to say the least. We weren’t planning on having a baby for the next, oh, five years. Shawn spends a total of three hours commuting everyday. My back friggin’ hurts. But you know what? That’s life. And we married each other for better or for worse and we’re getting through it. This is just a phase, a step on the journey. This too shall pass.

In the meantime, we’re getting more excited and prepared for our son everyday. This is what 27 weeks pregnant looks like. At least on me. Some women I’ve talked to say I look tiny. Compared to a friend who is about three weeks ahead of me in her pregnancy, I look huge. The baby inside me is very active. I’m convinced he’s going to play soccer (or rock at yoga).

For our anniversary, we had breakfast at a joint in town we’d never tried before and it was fantastic. Shawn was in heaven with his corned beef breakfast (he has to eat it when he can; he loves corned beef and I think it’s just plain nasty), while I enjoyed chicken-fried steak with eggs and buttermilk biscuits. Don’t judge! It’s the first time I’ve had chicken-fried steak in, oh, years, and well, the doctor did tell me to load up on protein. So delicious. We spent some time doing homework (well, anniversary or not, we’ve got tests to study for), but not too much time. In the afternoon, we took a drive to look at the beautiful fall foliage here in southwestern Montana. These photos were taken near the headwaters of the Missouri. Sunday evening we made a steak dinner at home (Shawn’s folks have a similar tradition) and burned the pillar candle that was on the altar at our wedding. Shawn’s grandparents burned their altar pillar candle every anniversary and when Dixie passed away it (after nearly 50 years of marriage) was just a tiny pool of wax. It’s our plan to get down to a tiny pool of wax ourselves!

What a year! Here’s to many, many more!

Winter journeys

Had a wonderful drive up the North Fork yesterday to do some interviews. Though there was some slush for much of the way, which grabbed the tires of my vehicle and made driving occasionally dicey (especially in my low-clearance Honda Civic), the views were spectacular as clouds rolled in and out, revealed snow-covered trees and the beautiful North Fork of the Flathead, which this time of year seems still and placid. I am beginning to know the bends and curves of the road so well I can let my mind wander through the landscape. And since the drive is an hour and a half one way (and only 40 miles), that’s a lot of pondering!

It’s hard to tell in photographs how really colorful winter can be under its snowy mantle. The wet bark on the trees is a deep mahogany color. The green of new growth pine stands out brightly against the drifts. And the occasional critter you might see is a flash of life and color in the landscape.

After a thoroughly enjoyable day (I am always more relaxed up the North Fork — I think it’s because the pace of life up there is what life used to be like; in the summer, people are busy tending their gardens and working on their homes. But in the winter, everyone slows down and enjoys quiet chats with a plate of cookies in front of the fire while watching big, fat snowflakes drift lazily through the lodgepoles. Every home’s host(ess) you go to offers you at the very least some tea or coffee and frequently you find yourself sitting down for lunch (and second lunch and third lunch… I feel like a hobbit!).

Below is my best photo (which is still blurry – grumble grumble) of some elk I saw on my drive home. I saw two elk cows, a calf and I think a bull elk. Also saw a number of deer.

To every season, turn, turn, turn

We’re having a gorgeous autumn in Montana. These photos are from nearby Butte. Shawn and I went on a picnic last weekend to a small state park on the Jefferson River. We had a lovely time and enjoyed driving through canyons bursting with color.

Here’s the river, winding its way through the canyon, the railroad tracks at its side.

We’re supposed to have a rough, cold La Nina winter full of snow. I hope autumn decides to stick around a long, long time. It’s just so beautiful! Just about everyone I know claims autumn as their favorite season, and I’m no different. The way the air smells — full of calm, crisp air and burning leaves — and the scads of baked goods involving pumpkin are my favorite parts. Oh! And it’s soup season again. I love soup.

Shawn and I had such a lovely weekend. Living apart is very difficult, especially after living together for nine months. I’m dreading the separation that comes after we get married. We don’t even get a honeymoon until next year, which positively stinks in my book. One thing can be said of our separation: we cherish each other and we don’t take each other for granted! Our picnic was such fun. We also went to a neat specialty foods store near his apartment that is beyond amazing. The wine selection alone is enough to make your had spin. I couldn’t resist and picked up two soup mixes, two bottles of wine, a jar of jam, some natural cleaning solution and some cheese. All will be mightily enjoyed in the weeks to come.