Snowy morning

You’d think that just a few days before Memorial Day weekend you could count on the weather to be fairly spring-ish. And until this morning, the weather has actually been quite summery here in northwest Montana. So imagine my surprise this morning when I awoke to snow on the ground! It rained all day yesterday (in torrents, at times), and turned to snow overnight.

Snowy morningAll the poor trees and plants in the area were looking pretty droopy and pathetic. One of the first things I did was go outside in the backyard and beat snow off the willow tree, then went to the front yard to dust off the bushes in the bed in front of the porch. There are downed branches, big ones, all over town. Ahhh, spring in Montana.

Of course the forecast is for 70s by Monday.

Frankly we were glad of the snow despite worrying about the plants in our yard and at the community garden. It gave us the excuse to cozy up on the couch this morning while the Peanut napped. Big Country looked at land and houses for sale (no, we’re not in the market for buying our own house yet, as much as I WISH we were… we just apparently like to torture ourselves by looking…  sigh…), and I added a few more rows to the ripple blanket I’m working on (which has been much neglected since the weather has been so nice). It was a nice change from yesterday… I had food poisoning and when my body wasn’t trying to get whatever it was that didn’t agree with me out any way possible, I was sleeping. Yesterday felt like such a waste of a day, but being able to cuddle with my lovely hubby this morning was just what the doctor ordered.

The snow is now melted, which makes me glad. Looking forward to sunshine this weekend!

 

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Go outside

I’ve found one of the best salves for the busy, stressed, or troubled soul is to get outside. Go for a hike. Plant a garden. Push your child on the swing. Read a book on the lawn. Snowshoe. Shovel snow. There are so many ways to get outside that doesn’t cost a penny and can be so soothing and restorative. I know I’ve written a lot lately about being stressed or worried, and it’s been true. There has been a lot of stress and worry in my life recently trying to get a small business operating while maintaining a welcoming home and raising a child the way I think that child should be raised. I certainly am an advocate for extending the hours of every day just so I can get things done! On the other hand, I’ve had to tell myself to pull back a bit lately and to get outside to enjoy life. And to enjoy the beautiful part of the country where I live. I am truly blessed to live in northwest Montana and there’s no point living here unless I get out and enjoy it!

A few weeks ago I went on a great walk with my friend Flannery. We explored an old homestead (now vacation rental), and enjoyed a wonderful walk through big meadows and beside still-white mountains. We watched a herd of elk move across the meadow and into the trees.

Big skyThose peaks never fail to amaze me. What beautiful mountains. Those white peaks in their imposing, monumental, wind-swept, snow-covered splendor. I run out of adjectives every time. I think there are just some things that language cannot describe. Some things are just meant to be gawked at, to be enjoyed on a primal level. To be connected to as a child of this planet connects to the earth.

Charred treesTurning around from the mountains, you can see that this valley has experienced fire. Fire is good for forests. It rejuvenates the land, and did you know for many pine cones to germinate they need to be burned? Fire is part of the ecosystem here. It’s always painful to think about how might those burnt forests must have been, though, when all that remains is charred lodgepole trunks. Someday again, there will be forest.

Wagon mountainsAnd even though this part of the world can be very remote, it is also touched by humanity. This was a homestead, many years ago. A family struggled to make a living here through winters harsh and howling, through summers bright and bountiful. Hard people making a hard way, but in one of the most magnificent places on the planet. That family still owns the property, by the way. The homestead has made way for a vacation rental now, but at least the place is still enjoyed and that view is still appreciated. I will always wish that the land were still worked, but that isn’t this piece of land’s destiny, at least not right now.

Wagon wheelFor now, this wagon will gather moss and make for pretty lawn art. The wheels will sink into ruts and eventually the earth will reclaim the wooden spokes and the iron rims. Everything in this life is eventually reclaimed, you know. The earth is one heck of a great recycler.

After our walk, we retired to Flannery’s rented summer cabin. Like all cabins in this part of the world, there’s no electricity save for generators. Heat comes from the wood stove which comes from the wood you chopped and split. Chopping wood is great fun, great exercise, and I can’t say enough about its virtues. Go chop some wood, people.

Twice warmedWe were also warmed by some strong coffee spiked with whiskey and with excruciatingly rich chocolate cake Flannery baked. Flannery is a world-class baker, after all.

Flan 1

Flan 2

Flan 3We followed our chocolate snack with some gypsy stew, bread, and wine for dinner, eaten by candlelight (because there’s no electricity, remember?).

Delightful dinnerWhile I obviously enjoy the perks of electricity, I do love getting away from it too. I think there’s something in all of us that yearns for the simplicity of a life lived close to the earth, and without distractions like television and Internet. Of course that simple life did lack things like coffee, easily procured beautiful yarn, and blogs. And I would greatly miss those things.

It’s about balance people. Do some soul balancing and get outside. There is a big, beautiful world out there for exploring. The Internet will be there when you get back, but the glaciers will be gone if you tarry too long at your computer screen.

Lake hikes

As I think many other folks will agree, when you’re chasing a little kid around all day, trying to get meals on the table, squeezing in a shower somewhere, and oh, yeah, starting a small business, exercise and enjoyment of the beautiful countryside that abounds without can take a back burner. Silliness, I tell you! Silliness!

So, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to do yoga. And I’ve been doing that (it feels great!). But I also want to take care of my body more than I have the past few years. It’s not only about weight loss. It’s about being physically active and cultivating a lifestyle that is a model for my children (I should say child, because no, I’m not pregnant, I’m just thinking in future tense). I want my kiddos to grow up being active. We live in an amazing place with scads of recreational opportunities, and it’s foolish to just sit at home when we could be out there in that beauty getting skinny.

So yesterday I went on a short loop snow hike (took the snowshoes but didn’t need them in the end) near the reservoir. And it was awesome. Though I’m still sore as I write this.

Starting at the beginning, I drove up to the trailhead, and when I came to the parking lot, which had about 6-8 inches of snow covering it, I thought to myself: “Self, you probably shouldn’t try to park in there. You’re going to bury the 2-wheel drive Honda Civic lacking snow tires.” So what did I do? Tried to get into the parking lot anyway! So like I thought, I did bury the front tires and that was that. Got about three feet into the driveway to the parking lot. So my friend, who was just behind me with her dogs and baby in her four-wheel-drive, snow-tire fitted car that actually makes sense in this climate/area, tried to get my car rocking so we could push it out, but no dice.

But why ruin a perfectly good hike worrying about the car? It was mostly off the road. So we flipped the flashers on and loaded up the babies and did our hike. Have I ever mentioned that 30 pounds of baby/backpack combined is sorta heavy? Well it is. My shoulders and my hips ache. But that means I did something, right? Yoga will sort out residual aches anyway.

It was a very pleasant hike through the trees around the lake. The weather was fabulous, warm actually, and we both quickly worked up a sweat and started stripping off scarves and gloves. The Peanut babbled away in the backpack and was quite content, even though I had to crawl under several downed trees with him in the backpack. All part of the adventure as I told him!

View from lion lake hike

When we were nearly back to the cars we called a local mechanic to come tug the car out. Which he did for free because he’s a nice guy.

A great little morning adventure!

Lion lake hikers

Clouds and shadows

Here’s a photo of Heaven’s Peak in Glacier. I like the cloud shadows. It was a very clear day… and very cold! When we started snowshoeing, it was -7 degrees Fahrenheit.

And I’ve got to say that I’m pretty darn proud of this picture. I love the play of tree shadows on the undulating, untouched snow. There wasn’t a whole lot of color in the photo to begin with so I took it to black and white. I think I just might get this one framed. We were snowshoeing along the Apgar Lookout trail (more coming on that in the next day or two!) and one of the other people on the trip remarked at how much he loved the look of the untouched snow. Certainly gorgeous.

Doggie skijoring

Saturday I covered the fifth annual Doggie Skijoring event in West Glacier. Skijoring is when a person skis while being pulled along by a horse and rider through an obstacle. This was the dog version. What a riot! Watching people cross country ski while pulled by their furry friends is a sight to behold (not quite as epic as real skijoring, but pretty close!). It was funny to watch some dogs try to figure out what exactly they were supposed to be doing to varying degrees of success. Some dogs took right to it, while others seemed more intent on trotting alongside their owns or stopping entirely to scratch and sniff.

Hands down my best photo of the day. Little 8-year-old Kendall with labrador Chappy was the youngest competitor. Girl and dog were having a great time!

Even puppy butts get cold in the snow! Ruger the mutt found sitting on his owner’s boot was more comfortable than the chilly white stuff.

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.

Caboose and views

Journeyed to Essex yesterday for a story. Here are two photos snapped on the way back:

The snow in Essex is DEEP. And I thought we were having winter where I live!

And a little political action in Coram. Quite the opposite from the usual views around these here parts!

This weekend is Cabin Fever Days up the ‘Line. Get ready for awesome photos and no doubt hilarious tales next week!

“…And clouds their storms discharge/Upon the airy towers”

Drove up the North Fork with a local last week and enjoyed not only breath-taking views of snow-capped peaks in the Livingston Range, but also North Forker hospitality. Every house we stopped by had hosts falling over themselves to offer us tea, coffee and holiday goodies. Let’s just say I had to use the bathroom a lot after drinking many, many cups of tea. By the last house, Bonnie, our hostess, who knows a little something about North Forker hospitality, asked, “Can I offer you coffee or tea or are you coffee and tea-ed out?” We shared a good laugh over that.

The photo above was shot at Trail Creek.

Livingston Range covered in snow.

Here’s a snowy riddle by John Parton:

From Heaven I fall, though from earth I begin.
No lady alive can show such a skin.
I’m bright as an angel, and light as a feather,
But heavy and dark, when you squeeze me together.
Though candor and truth in my aspect I bear,
Yet many poor creatures I help to insnare.
Though so much of Heaven appears in my make,
The foulest impressions I easily take.
My parent and I produce one another,
The mother the daughter, the daughter the mother.

And here’s an excerpt from a poem, because this is just amusing: From “A Severe Lack of Holiday Spirit” by Amy Gerstler.

… People hit
the sauce in a big way all winter.
Amidst blizzards they wrestle
unsuccessfully with the dark comedy
of their lives, laughter trapped
in their frigid gizzards. Meanwhile,
the mercury just plummets,
like a migrating duck blasted
out of the sky by some hunter
in a cap with fur earflaps.

It would appear I’ve got snow on the brain, wouldn’t it?

*Blog title quote from “Now winter nights enlarge” by Thomas Campion.

Snowshoeing to mountain ranges

The Hubs and I went snowshoeing north of Butte on national forest land this weekend and had a gay ol’ time.

The names of the trails, which are designated for skiers, snowshoe-ers and snowmobilers, are quite amusing and very typical of Butte. We took Neversweat, but we got sort of lost and had to blaze our own trail for a while through pretty deep snow. The altitude where we were snowshoeing is about 7,000 feet.

The trail went through the woods and up over a ridge to great mountain views.

Rabbit tracks in the snow. Saw a fair amount of squirrel tracks, too. Later, back in town, we saw lots of pigeon prints.

Blazing that trail as we came to the top of the ridge.

Anaconda Range west of Butte. Pretty spectacular!

There’s my handsome man.

Highland Mountains east of Butte.

Yours truly. In my winter coat and coveralls, evidently I look like a pear. So says my husband. Jerk.

Brush pushing through the snow. Also known as ART!

More ART!

A very fun weekend! Hubs and I are looking forward to snowshoeing more in my neck of the woods. Heard about some great trails up the North Fork a ways we plan to try out this coming weekend. Who wants to join us?

Snow falling on lodgepoles (and writing confessions)

So I have a confession to make. Well, two. First of all, I failed at NaNoWriMo. I got behind after spending a weekend sleeping off a nasty cold and well, it snowballed from there. But I do have 7,000 words that I think are a great start to my novel, which I am still excited about. Perhaps I will go home tonight and write some more!

Second confession: I’m feeling rather down right now about my writing (maybe that’s part of the reason I didn’t finish NaNo?). I write for a living, so all day, every day, I am expected to be creative and coherent. This makes going home to write creatively a challenge sometimes. I also feel lazy sometimes when it comes to this blog. I want to write beautifully about even the most mundane events in my life, but I feel like I don’t have the energy. This isn’t all the time of course, but do you ever have the feeling you’re doing everything in your life half ass? That’s how I feel right now and it’s upsetting. I also read a lot of news articles, blogs and literature and I can’t help but wonder every now and then what’s the point. I can write well, yes, but not spectacularly. Guess I just need more practice.

I think I need to go stare at snow falling on lodgepoles for a while for perspective. There’s something to be said for standing still in the middle of a frozen road listening to the snow fall. I enjoyed that yesterday and shot the above photo.