There is a pleasant snow falling this morning in Missoula. Other than the salt truck doing its loops around Southridge Drive, the morning is ghostly calm, the visibility low. I for some reason still call the large orange plows salt trucks (the typical Eastern US method employed when I was a kid), though in Montana to protect the fisheries the standard spread is a blend of dust, sand and cinders. There are many rock chipped windshields out and about. The wind is evident as the flakes are fluttering down in a uniform slant. The weather has been a bit atypical of late with warmer temps over the last few weeks coupled with rain. The restoration of the standard February aspect this morning is quite welcome. Well, it being a long weekend and my having not written a post in quite a while, I thought I’d take part of the morning to update the ‘ol blog with a brief blurb.
As one might gather from the surrounding photographs, we’ve been up to some of our standard winter activities. This winter, however, we’ve had a welcome guest visiting with the Thayer household. Mariana, from San Fernando, Chile, has been with us since latter January attending classes at Sentinel High School with her ‘sister’ Erin, and attending a few classes with Todd at the University of Montana as well; at the University Mariana and Todd recently sat in on a two hour art lecture. Mariana indicated during an evening meal the same day that in the US it seemed there was more emphasis on grasping art history and attempting to understand art’s often deeper symbolic aspects. One student’s perspective following a US lecture… Mariana’s mother is an artist; perhaps this will be something to discuss when Mariana returns to Chile.
Erin and Mariana have been taking advantage of all that Missoula has to offer, going out frequently with Erin’s senior high school friends to local coffee shops, movies, book stores (there are many in Missoula), and restaurants. We’ve done some trekking with Ajax and Koda in the Rattlesnake and other popular sections in the valley. The Bitterroot, Blackfoot and Clark Fork are each layered with ice at the moment, though as mentioned above we did go through a warm spell for a week or two. This weekend we spent some time north of Missoula, visiting Glacier National Park and staying at the historic Izaak Walton Inn. The Izaak Walton is in Essex, Montana, situated just downstream of the bridge and Running Rabbit Mountain where Todd and I like to put in the Rogue canoe and float the Middle Fork of the Flathead. The Rogue has a whitewater keel and is a blast on the local rivers and streams. We’ve not floated the Flathead in quite a while, however. The last time doing so, we saw numerous bears and caught quite a few Cutthroat Trout in the pristine water.
Glacier’s Lake McDonald was mostly frozen over, though where McDonald Creek drains along the Apgar Village to the south, the water was free flowing and not iced over. We took a few photographs while in the area, but stayed away from the section near the creek. Saturday it rained consistently throughout the day limiting visibility; but people were still out and about, including numerous who were ice skating along the Apgar shore. When we returned on Sunday, much of the overcast had cleared and we managed a few photos where the mountains were evident; Mariana was able to take in more of the Park’s splendor. McDonald Lodge was in hibernation, though people were in the area cross country skiing the Going to the Sun road. One fellow clad in a sable aspect decided to relieve himself almost under our noses. I took a few photographs of the snow covered cabins and of a pesky, almost obscure Raven lingering in the Cedars and Firs overhead. The portentous bird blended in quite well with his environment. I needed a better lens. Do we really need better lenses? Or, are things simply there, as evident as the air we breathe? I thought of Poe’s work as I snapped the photos.
My smartphone (one of the old style with a keyboard) recently quit accepting my password. I would reenter it, but for some reason it stayed stuck on the 3rd of 5 attempts. I relented but decided to downgrade to a flip phone. The kids think it’s pretty cool their dad has a flip phone. It works pretty well, though the pictures are subpar and email is an issue. Yet, it works well as a phone, sends and receives texts; there’s a browser, too. What more does one need? We’ll see how long the flip phone lasts, I reckon.
Life at the Izaak Walton Inn was first class. Izaak Walton was a 17th century English writer who wrote the classic work, ‘The Compleat Angler’. The Inn at Essex, Montana, was built in 1939 to help serve the wants of the Great Northern Railway, about which one can learn through the link to the Historical Society. There were many historical photographs, cartoons and stories on the wooden walls throughout the place. Surrounding the lower tavern room’s pool table were many photos exhibiting the travails of the Great Northern dealing with typical winter conditions along the drainage. Mud slides and avalanches were common as they continue to be today. There are many photographs of trains being led by an engine with a great shovel on its mouth to plow the large drifts off of the tracks. There are other photos exhibiting derailed cars scattered among the mountainside and lying in the Middle Fork.
There were many people cross country skiing on the groomed trails. The Inn offered trails with the principal three difficulty levels, black being expert, blue intermediate and green for beginners. My kids have grown up primarily alpine skiing (downhill). Some of us have done a bit of back country skiing (where one skins up the mountain and locks in the heels and skis down), but cross country skiing has generally not been our principal winter choice. That having been written, however, I’ve posted numerous posts of myself XC skiing with Seth and Erin off and on over the years (usually with the dogs). This trip we kenneled Ajax and Koda. Cabins were available in the area and we saw one fellow there on the porch with his dog. The Inn had gear available for rental, but we took along much of our own as well. Todd and Seth rented snow shoes and walked around as the balance of the party XC skied. Though this was her first time, Mariana quickly figured it out and was soon walking along fine and managing well on some of the downhill sections. A large, red snow cat came by at one point grooming the trail. I visited with the driver in an area where he refueled. Nice fellow.
Saturday evening it rained off and on consistently. We managed during a brief dry spell to walk on the trails under the lights. Many of the trails are lighted at night. The kids brought along a small computer which they plugged into a box and used for evening entertainment. Molly and I read books in the opposite room. I’ve recently been reading Dickens’ last book, ‘Our Mutual Friend’. It’s a long tale with a murky cast of characters ‘from all walks’. The Thames looms large in the story. An excellent work. The end notes in the Wordsworth Ed. of the book are well done; but, Marcus Stone’s illustrations are even better. For this little weekend jaunt to Walton, however, I brought along Knut Hamsun’s ‘Pan’. Actually, I’ve picked up a few of Hamsun’s works recently. Some of the psychology in ‘Pan’ is of interest. Glahn, the main character, is a Norwegian outdoorsman who desires the solitary life, spending time with his dog Aesop; but, he winds up in difficult situations governed apparently in some cases outside of his control. At one point Glahn shoots himself intentionally in the foot, but the Doc simply encourages him along. Hamsun, like Dickens, is familiar with the darker aspects of life. ‘Pan’ unfolds during the era of the Crimean War. It was a short, quick read. The artwork on the Penguin cover is of Munch’s ‘Jealousy’. Hamsun, like all writers, is unique; but, he reminds me a bit of London and Hemingway.This afternoon in Missoula the falling snow has turned to a steady stream of rain. Todd’s on the local ski hill with Kevin and Thomas, two of his buds. I’m glad I’m not skiing today. I will walk the dogs. Ajax is barking.
‘What do people do with them’? I asked the store attendant. ‘They put them in their wills,’ she replied. Earlier this afternoon we were in a local pet store and I was quizzing a clerk. I was amazed about how long the lifespan of a Macaw was. The store only had Parakeets, but for some reason the subject had switched to the larger birds. In fairness, when I was a child, we owned a blue and gold Macaw named Clarence; but at some point he was given away as he was fond of the lead pane in the windows in the solarium.
Chopin’s ‘Nocturnes’ play beneath the external distractions. Calm. Another fine 19th Century figure, Chopin. What is the appeal of the 1800s? Emily Dickinson’s poetry has been at the forefront lately as well. Fine writing, music and artwork – 19th Century.
It turns out ‘Brenny Bren’ (my mom) and Mariana share the same birthday. This was pretty nifty. Bren and Tom gave Mariana a nice UM Griz sweatshirt. It is nice that we’ve all been able to spend some time together between the traveling and the kids’ school and work schedules. Mariana likes books so my gift was a book of her choice from a local shop. Among the other b-day gifts from all of us, I gave Mariana a Missoula Sheepheads lid (some readers may recall these from the mountain bike racing days- I still have a few).We recently visited the Elk Foundation and the kind attendant took our picture. As locals know, there are many Not-For-Profits in Missoula. The Elk Foundation raises funds through local banquets and other methods to provide habitat for elk and other animals. The facility’s displays are educational. In the past, the facility has hosted the local youth hunter safety programs. Erin and Mariana hope to visit the Art Museum before Mariana heads back to Chile.The computer is acting squirrelly; therefore, good reader, I believe this will be a wrap for what’s been going on of late. Oh, I’ve been dabbling in painting with ink (calligraphy). What the heck, something different to go with learning a few Kanji characters.
below snow patches
Last night I noticed the nubs of the first Daffodil shoots emerging in the backyard. Over many years I used to take photos of their progress during this early period, including when they stoutly withstood the blankets of snow that frequented the months of March and April; once the first patch bloomed (there are many patches throughout the yard), I typically posted a photo and something like “and the blooms are on…” or “forth they burst” followed by Wordsworth’s ‘I wandered lonely as a Cloud,’ one of my favorite poems. I had to give it up in the last five years or so though, as only the surrounding neighbors’ Daffodils have bloomed while we’ve had simply the protruding green shoots. The Glacier Lilies always seem to come through, however, spreading their lovely yellow hue throughout the surrounding mountains and river bottoms. This reality, symbolism at its best, gives me hope in nature’s ability to retain some level of relevance in the modern era. In Montana there are countless wildflowers to view in May and June, spring being a special time of year for such activity.
the Third Month-
a ghostly Heron probes icy pools
Robins resting in a Willow
During the unseasonable weather, I’ve made it out to the local streams a few times with the kids and occasionally a rod. Caution has been somewhat exercised with the dog given the cold water this time of year, particularly in the Blackfoot and Rock Creek. The back channels along the Bitterroot have been a warmer option for Ajax (almost five months old now) to slowly begin to acclimate. It seems strange to worry about such things with a dog that has such a heavy coat, but pups get spooked from large bodies of water, particularly if the water is frigid.
late winter grass
fences and light rain
I took a photo with the phone of a resident’s field after pulling out of the Kelly Island area. This was not too long ago. I enjoy watching the wary lambs this time of year, another simple pleasure sometimes taken for granted.
The rivers are slightly up and chalky at the moment, although things have cooled a bit during the evenings again and it’s not been raining quite as much. There’s been no cross country skiing to speak of, though the kids are talking about maybe getting in a little downhill while there’s still the option available. I’ve not had much to write about lately, so it’s been pretty quiet. I’ve spent a little time in the UM gym to attempt to maintain some level of fitness and picked back up writing a book. I’ve compiled four or five chapters thus far, but it’s been touch and go as the enthusiasm has been a little off. I’ll call it the mid-winter doldrums. One’s principal occupation takes priority, though the financial world today is a circus. It’s cabbage and potato soup for dinner tonight. Maybe I’ll throw in some dried cranberries.
pale cold waders
unwilling to ford
Things have been somewhat routine this winter with not much of interest to write about; therefore, I’ve not been posting much to the journal. I’ve taken a significant detox moment from all media of late as well. I recommend this approach occasionally, especially during political seasons. Headlines, photographs, ads, content… adios. I’ve been off of the television for years. Better to read some old books and take a stab at the occasional sketch. I just wrapped up Woolf’s The Voyage Out, an interesting read. I have to admit I liked Woolf’s The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn.At any rate, I thought I’d post a few pictures today of the general goings on… These are according to protocol, which is to say with the phone and not a stand alone camera – se la vie. I think one get used to using the phone for photographs and the truth is they do a pretty decent job. When the photo is not that great, I simply chalk matters up to ‘Well, consider it an abstract,’ and find myself perfectly content. The photograph is really about preserving a memory of some sort. That is the gist of it, really. If one goes through his day wondering, ‘How will the sharpness of that last one be viewed by folks?’ Or, ‘Gee, I really fouled up the exposure on that one!’ he’s bound to be doing himself a great disservice. Just take a picture of the kids and the dog and move on. Having alluded to the dog, I might as well note that Ajax has certainly been front and center. Is this really a surprise, given that he’s a four month old Newfoundland? He has added a little zip to everyone’s step, truly. Seth, Erin and I were getting in a few cross country skiing excursions in the Missoula area until the latest ‘climate change’ which put an abrupt halt to skiing in the low country. Last night we had a nifty little burst of rain. Todd mentioned seeing lightning in the blowing storm. There is something off kilter about lightning storms in the middle of winter. Weather today is what it is.I took the upper pano of Bonner and the old Mill site while traversing some of the hills above the river. One can glean the former dam site and the Clark Fork clean up/restoration in the photograph; below the stacks of logs which are lying in the former Mill’s yard. This is the Blackfoot’s mouth, where it flows into the Clark Fork River and where I used to fish for pike behind the old dam. Like most fishermen, I’m glad the dam was removed. Eventually the river system should settle and perhaps the Superfund Site cleanup will be deemed by most to have been a worthy project. It may take a while for some of the down stream residents to agree, however. As long dormant mining tailings were dredged up, some of the toxic debris inevitably made its way with the silt down to the next obstruction. I still can’t understand why the engineers decided to put an interstate bridge concrete piling smack in the middle of the Blackfoot River just above the confluence? Maybe there was no other option, but it looks pretty hazardous to water rec types in its present location.