As I write this I’m sitting at the desk we set up in our bedroom recently. My mom brought me all of my childhood furniture (which was her childhood furniture), and since it is much better quality than what Big Country and I had, we’ve switched out all of our clothes and we’re using the dresser (yes, we’re sharing a dresser… is that weird?) instead of the two smaller dressers we had before. We went through our clothes again last week and yet again we’ve got four trash bags full of clothes to donate. We’re really on a live simply and with less stuff kick. We’ve gone through our bedroom and the guest bedroom closet (which was full to bursting with stuff), and I am greatly enjoying being this pared down in those spaces.

We would have gotten further with the paring down except we’ve all three been absolutely slain by a stomach virus this past week. Peanut picked it up at daycare (his first time throwing up ever, which apparently is a very traumatizing experience, poor kid), I followed suit, and now poor husband has it. I haven’t felt that sick in years and I’m glad it’s over. I was completely useless yesterday, sleeping for most of it and barely moving from the bed/couch. We’ve all been so sick we didn’t even open the brewery today because it just wasn’t worth it. But enough about being horribly ill.

It’s a little strange being surrounded by my childhood furniture again, like going back in time in a way, but comforting too. I’m planning to sand it down and re-stain it at some point in the future because I don’t like the color of the stain and never really have, and I’ll update the pulls. They’re very old-fashioned and show their age. But I’ll probably hang on to them because who knows, they might come back in vogue before we know it. I’ll take pictures of the furniture soon and post the “before” photos. I am going to stain the furniture, not paint it, because I think some furniture just shouldn’t be painted, and because this furniture will in a few years become Peanut’s, once he’s big enough to need a dresser, desk, and twin bed. I suppose Big Country and I will need to get an actual nice dresser for ourselves at that point.

It’s nice to have the desk because it’s going to be my special writing space. If I’m going to be a writer, I need to actually write every now and then, wouldn’t you say? The only way those novels in progress are going to get finished is if I set aside time nearly every day to just write! How did Ernest Hemingway put it? Writing isn’t very hard, one just has to sit down at the typewriter and bleed… or something like that.

Here’s a picture of the view from my writing desk (houses below the trees edited out):

TeakettleNot a bad view at all! It’s especially beautiful with the sunset light like in this photo.

CottonwoodsThe past week we’ve been having a cotton snow storm every day, with little cotton snowdrifts gathering on the edges of the lawn, caused by the large old cottonwoods surrounding our house. It’s actually been a comfort, staring out the window at the trees and watching the cotton drift lazily by, as I’ve drifted in and out of sickness stupor.

HoneysuckleI’ll leave you with a picture of a honeysuckle bloom that’s coming along quite nicely in the front yard. Look for a couple more posts this week about garden progress and hops!





Going to the Sun (and some waterfalls)

Over Labor Day weekend, we took a little trip over to the east side of Glacier National Park. We don’t get over there too often because it’s about four hours round trip. We made the impromptu decision to get over to the east side, though, and it was a great boondoggle. The east side sure is lovely! We hiked to St. Mary Falls, a glacier-fed waterfall (you can tell it’s glacier-fed because of the turquoise water, which looks like something you’d see in the Caribbean). And then we drove over the Going-to-the-Sun Road close to sundown. The long shadows thrown up by the arched backs of the mountains painted the park in a beautiful light.

Here’s my boys at St. Mary Falls. Jonathan was pretty into watching the waterfall. This was a good hike for us. It ended up being about three miles round-trip, which is about six miles too short for Shawn and I, but a good length for our little Peanut. Next summer we’re planning to do some longer hikes with him.

St. Mary Falls sure is beautiful. For a waaaaay better photo, check this out.

We didn’t quite make it to Virginia Falls, but we did spend a nice fifteen minutes hanging out on the rocks on an unnamed cascade along Virginia Creek.

After the hike, we drove home over the Going-to-the-Sun Road (we’d taken Marias Pass on the way to the east side). Here’s the view from almost on top of Logan Pass, looking east.

It finally stopped raining…

…though it’s supposed to resume tomorrow. Sigh. I have so many veggie starts sitting on my porch waiting to be transplanted. We think today is the day! Here’s a shot from my back porch last night about 9:15 p.m. You can see the storm clouds over the mountain range.

The mountains had been hidden all day by low clouds. The clouds here tend to get stuck on the mountains, prolonging storms and keeping the valley cloudy. A few winters ago, we had 11 days of sunshine between Halloween and the end of March.

Hopefully the weather stays drier today so we can get the veggies planted. And hopefully it gets warmer  (it was 40 degrees Thursday for the high) so those veggies can grow! I’ll be back with another post later today about using the long arm quilting machine at a local quilt shop.

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!

House made of sky

Yesterday, I hiked with a friend and sportswriter at a sister newspaper in the valley. We hiked the Huckleberry Lookout trail. The first mile is flat and wooded. We crossed a foot bridge suspended over a brook filled with glistening river stones. If there’s something I love about temporal presence, it’s the color of river stones. In water, they’re beautiful: rusty red, chocolate brown, aqua blue. Once dry, the stones are dull, boring. Sometimes it’s better to leave things be. Especially river stones.

After the first mile, the trail begins its ascent. It’s a solid climb until the crest of the Apgar range. More than once Dixie and I found ourselves panting for breath, paused in the shade of hospitable pine trees. A great workout, that hike. It’s 12 miles round-trip.

We met one other person on the hike, a man from east Texas. And boy, y’all, did he sound like he hailed from east Texas. I admire his bravery, though. I dare not hike alone in Glacier National Park for fear of the bears. Dixie and I saw bear scat, but no bears (we like it that way). We might of heard one, but whether it was footfalls in the bushes or just the wind, we’ll never know.

Before climbers can reach the lookout building, they must walk along the ridge of the mountain. Along the spine, the trees bend east, as is knelt in supplication toward the sunrise. It’s windy atop the peak. Downed logs are gnarled with the abuse from weather. Yet even in such precarious places, life remains. Moss grows on the old wood and wildflowers find refuge in the shadows of trees.

A recent college grad named Luke is this year’s fire lookout. He lives in the one-room building. His walls are windows. Gives new meaning to the phrase “a room with a view.” There was not a cloud in the sky Wednesday for as far as the eye could see. Just the blue dome, unreachable and so close.

While I’d part with my right arm for a view like Luke’s, unless I had Shawn to keep me company I’d probably go mad as a lookout. A person can stare all day into the landscape, surrounded by it and totally separate. The wind rustles in the walls of the lookout building. The silence without wind might be overwhelming. Luke said he doesn’t get lonely because 15 people or so come to the lookout every day. He’s got cell phone reception and Internet access. Friends and family visit. A train of pack mules comes to visit every few weeks bearing food. Still, in between the people, I think he has a lot of time alone with his thoughts. Sounded as though he likes it that way. Said he’s writing. Wouldn’t get specific, but he won’t be the first lookout to write a book.

“It’s amazing how much the same view can change every five minutes,” Luke said. “This place is very alive. It’s very dynamic.”

After spending 45 minutes or so on the summit, interviewing Luke and scarfing down our sandwiches, Dixie and I made the descent. The above is a shot from the lookout of the trail down the spine. On the right side of the frame, the North Fork of the Flathead River and the North Fork Road are visible.

The expansive view from the top of Huckleberry Mountain afforded a panorama of the Livingston Range, pictured above, which follows the North Fork river valley up to Canada, about 30 miles distant. Dixie and I could also see Flathead Lake, 50 miles south. So many acres of forest between us and everywhere else. Filled with birds, moose, elk, deer, bears and marmots.

I tell you this: if you need some perspective, climb a mountain. Sit on top for a while and just be. Then walk back down. You’ll feel better, I promise.

Going down was much easier. We munched on huckleberries (ssh! don’t tell!) and stretched out our strides. Cold beer awaited us at the end, which makes every hike even more worth it.