sky, with a bit of cottonwood


Two Moon Park on a holiday was not busy. Pairing the words, busy and park, feels wrong and we were glad to see few people there.  Father and young son on bikes. Three teenagers deciding the river was too cold to swim (always a wise decision when it comes to this river water). And a young couple examining a gravel bar, searching for agates. One found agate, we were told, included the possibility of amber.

The possibility of amber.

Every day I hold myself open, ready to receive poetry whenever and however it appears. But does poetry appear or is it always here? This was the question I considered as we followed the narrow path through the grove of cottonwoods, stopping every fifty feet to examine the grove for evidence of diamond willow. Now that our state is eradicating all Russian Olive trees (not native to this area), it’s a little easier to find the diamond willow, which makes for good walking canes. (If one only had the nerve to remove diamond willow from the park.) We could never do that, but still we keep an eye out for growths of diamond willow. It is something, we agreed, to behold.

Stepping off the path, we peer into the shadows of the undergrowth to see where the deer bed down in the evening. The prairie grass is tall, except for the bedded grass. A breeze flips down from the sandstone cliffs and tosses the large cottonwood leaves overhead. Imagine above you the sound of polite golf-course clapping, the doves cooing, the amber waiting through the centuries to be discovered on the banks of the Yellowstone. And this:

“Many indigenous peoples construe awareness, or ‘mind,’ not as a power that resides inside their heads, but rather as a quality that they themselves are inside of along with the other animals and plants, the mountains and the clouds.” – David Abrams


I trust in dirt. This path I’ve followed for decades. Remember? The hill has always been there. Memories of previous treks through the park wash over me. I’ve been over that hill on cross-country skis, I’ve been over that hill with toddlers on my back, I’ve been over that hill with a  puppy on a leash. And now here I am, again. Kids are grown, puppies long gone. And yet, this dirt and that hill. Still here. And now, this time with the possibility of amber.



that same lake, the far shore

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The book of prairie is broad with stories
and platters of bottom land, bald eagles
in the cottonwoods waiting for another day
to fly. This is how we know a winter front
approaches and what we want
is to climb the plateau’s cliffs before the snow
arrives, which we’ll do in four-wheel low,
on a barely discernible path
at mile marker nine, to reach the briar bushes
and game trails, the vista and the fields
combined and tilled impossibly within six feet of the brink.
Up there we’ll almost hear the happy times
of an abandoned homestead a thousand feet below,
music from the femur of a cave bear. We’ll see forever
and yet the town we came from won’t be visible.
It’ll still be a hundred years away.


I’m back.

aqui esta

landscape There’s a difference between everything. It’s easier to notice (pick apart) the differences, but a little harder to spend time noticing the similarities. If I haven’t anything else to dwell on, this is my latest go-to-mull: Time and space are one fabric.

That’s what I think about when i look at this iphone photo I took of my daughter sleeping a few months ago when we were traveling from here to there and back again. This is the area of Montana where people who love the landscapes in western Montana claim with dismay, “But there’s nothing to see in Eastern Montana.” I’ve never learned how to reply to that. There is so much to feel when you push through landscape like this. The landscape pushes right back through you, becoming a molten field of wheat bisected by iron tracks laid down for the railroad in the 1870s.

And if you slow down your processing unit in your head, the telephone pole will appear. And so will the street sign along a country road that says, Aqui Esta. Which happened yesterday when we were driving home from visiting my sister’s sheep farm. My daughter was maybe thinking about leaving her new puppy behind at my sister’s for a week while she travels out of the country. And my mind was dwelling on both my kids soon boarding a plane to another country and what if this was the one time a plane blows up in the sky with them both on board. How will I survive my children? Which is different than the thoughts I’ve been processing for the past many months, fighting for good health, wondering how my (adult) children will survive me if I fail in this fight. What will become?

But remember: Every river has its village. And each smart phone has its weather alerts. Once your life’s circle includes weather alerts, you become aware of more perils. Areas you’ve heretofore not heard of are in danger of flash floods now that snow-melt is meeting with spring rain. Areas you didn’t realize you knew are subject to high wind warnings with quarter-size hail predicted. And in the middle of traveling from here to there, from delivering the pup to the sheep farm and returning, from worrying about dying to realizing you are living, you drive through the Blue Creek flood zone and realize there is no flood, no high water. Just that reassuring green street sign in the rural subdivision: Aqui Esta.

the sawmill


Songs sing through the radio or through the chimes hanging outside my bedroom window, and tell me there will always be things I will never know. It’s not possible to take it all in. Not in one lifetime. Last week, driving my same daily route to my day job, I drove past the elementary school in the old part of town. For how long now has the new addition been being built next to the original one-hundred-year old brick school building? The blue-tarped chain link fence keeps us from watching, but I found if I parked in the Road Closed to Through Traffic portion of the neighborhood I could watch the scaffolded brick mason methodically add a thick layer of brick to the plywood exterior. Since that day when I was late for work because I stopped to watch the mason, I have been moving through my world once again reminded we live in a world of many layers.

This photo was taken near Judith Gap, Montana en route between Montana’s two biggest cities. Both cities were enjoying regular spring weather, nothing that would cause a weather alert to flash across your smart phone. Neither city was aware that there was a weather disturbance halfway between them. But we were aware a front was building as we packed for the return home. Could we get through Judith Gap and its dinosauric wind farm before the front did?

If you were to drive through Judith Gap, you’d wonder just as we do why that town is where it is. And there is (there was) a small lumber mill there. Not a tree in sight beyond the few hardy cottonwoods that homesteaders planted in the early 1900s. Why the town, why the lumber mill in the middle of a high prairie? But on a windless day you can see all four corners of that world. And each corner is pinned down by a set of forest-laden mountains. It’s just that you are never aware of the mountains when you pass through this town. Until you see the sawmill.

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