Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Its All About the Weather!

Hiker enjoying a walk on Sun Point Trail - St Mary's Lake
"Sweet days of summer the jasmines in bloom, July is dressed up and playing her tune.....Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind."  Seals and Crofts

SNOW in May - traveling to Kalispell, MT
It's almost July and I am still wearing fleece and wool slippers.  Last week I finally gave up, I got so cold, that I turned on the electric heater in my basement grotto.  My housemates long for summer.  They wish for the bone-warming sun of the Midwest and South..places most of us hale from.  They yearn with every fiber of their being for the heat-filled days and the rivulets of sweat running from their forehead, dripping off their noses that typify July and August.  At this point in our Montana summer, they sit engulfed in blankets on the porch staring into space imagining the oppressive humidity, roiling clouds and tornado warnings, rain and rainbows of typical summers in the center of the country.  All of us throw on short pants when the temps rise above 65 degrees and also, out come the flip flops.  We stand in the sun wishing for tans when the clouds finally part.

Logan's Pass - June 25, 2013
I consider that a summer like that will never arrive here in the north country.  This land will not see those things except for during a small window of the year and even then it will not be the same.  I no longer worry about the lack of tornado sirens in the hinterlands where I live.  Yes we've had thunder, thunder snow, rainbows, rain and lightening, even had some wind but not humidity or heat.  Those 2 things together for me hallmark summer along with LONG days of sunshine, light and heat.  Now, there are some crazy long days here.  The sky starts getting light around about 4:30 AM and gets dark again about 10:30 PM give or take a few minutes each day.  

View of St Mary's Lake as sun sets on cloudy night about 8 PM
Summer here in Montana will be moments of heat and sun and big sky clouds.  I've heard that someday soon the rain will stop and we'll have some endlessly beautiful, sunny, warm days.  But they'll be followed by cool nights full of fleece and wool socks.  That I do not mind.  It'll be a summer like I've never seen before; nights of 37-ish degrees followed by 70's or maybe 80's without humidity so we'll dry up during the day like mummies without sunscreen.  Lord the wrinkles but I've got all my favorite hats.  These warm days will continue to be filled with wildflowers covering rocky outcroppings in a proliferation of color.  Life holding on by the roots, showing us that beauty is constant and tenacious. 

Life clings and thrives on a rocky outcropping
These wildflowers are hardy.  They are able to handle the cold nights, the snow within days of blooming, the heat, the short season, the high alpine meadow winds and storms.  They release clouds of seeds and fuzzy things my friend calls, puhk, I think, which makes you sneeze and your eyes water.  All so that they can assure the new will arrive next year and the year after in an endless cycle of enduring beauty.  They are ache-ingly stunning, cascading over the rock faces towards the open air, open water, open sky....all of them last many weeks until they start to fade with the approaching winter.  Two to three short months is all these tough plants have to complete this process.  It seems to me that the mountains laugh as all this life bursts forth from every crevice that can hold dirt. They exalt at the eagles who raise their young from perches on their heights and the sky stretches above is all like a canopy that fills with sunshine and pollen.  What a summer display.

Sometimes death
But my housemates wish in vain for what they have known.  I, instead, am trying to embrace the fullness of what is and in this hug, find all the joy that is reflected around me as this place fulfills the natural cycle we are all part of...nature renewing itself as best it can.  

Blanket Flowers beginning to bloom
Thus, standing on the edge of a high mountain lake, eyes drinking in the greens, blues, purples, whites and yellows of a Monet canvas on a beautiful day, wind blowing briskly through my hair, I laugh into the wind and think....dang do I love this country.

St Mary's Lake - View of Citadel Mountain?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


View of the Izaak Walton Inn from the trestle bridge over tracks
I have been in Montana now for several weeks and have yet to set pen to paper to write about my journey west or what it is like here.  Life has been a whirlwind of learning, lack of sleep, excitement and wonder over the beauty that now surrounds me.  Aside from the fact my internal compass no longer works due to crossing the Great Divide; there should really be no reason for my lack of creativity.  There are abundant sources of inspiration from the continuous serenade of the birds which sing from the tall, tall pine-y tree tops to the mist which rises from the feet of the mountains each morning as the cold air turns warmer. 

Misty, mountain morning greets eastbound AmTrak train
I have decided that it is this sensory overload which is the cause of my fumble fingered photography these last weeks and my lack of words.  At first almost every picture I took was awful, words came to my head yet would not cross the great divide from mind to paper.  Ideas would start then wander away down some greening trail and then up the hillside to stand at the crest breathless and unable to come fully formed to the pad.  I found myself open-mouthed and crying more often then not stupefied by how long it had taken me to find this place.  For now this feels like an end to a long journey, like home almost and overwhelms me often.

The view as you walk on Essex Rd.  Rt 2 and the Middle fork of the Flathead River are below
The difference between east of the Divide and west are numerous.  Snow in May, Grizzly Bears up on the mountain about 3 miles away, Mule deer much less eating plants outside my front door, no need for air conditioning or TV and it's OK to wear fleece year round.

First May snow (yes there was another one mostly up on the mountains)

Supposedly, the Mulies will go up the mountain when the Grizzlies decide to come down the mountain and wander around in the parking lot.  We know there is at least one up near Almeda Lake but now scat has been sighted up on Dickey Creek Road.  Again not much more than 4 miles away.  At this time the Mulies are gone but no bears have decided to visit...I carry bear spray with me on the 100 foot walk to the Inn each day. 

Mule Deer - Can you count them?
I want to bring everyone see this wondrous place before it is gone, melted, fracked, greeded into oblivion and I feel so lucky to have come here to see it even as it stands in the balance.  Pictures do not do this land justice. I have come to believe that there are those who do and those who don't and those who don't never know what they have missed but those that do will always understand the value of wilderness.  It is our job to try to translate what a thrill it is to live in this place.  I will paraphrase a friend who said that essentially for some there is a primal need to be somewhere where you are challenged in ways you never dreamed you would be and the fact that you are not at the top of the food chain is one of the thrills.  

Man-eating Snowshoe that looks tasty
  So, I will continue to attempt to share with you all my thoughts about my life here and to do my very best to encourage you to challenge yourself no matter where you are. It is, after all, the adrenaline flowing through your veins which reminds that you are alive. 

Sunset over the train yard