I will be the gladdest thing under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Afternoon on a Hill"

Friday, October 1, 2010

Angel Wing at McDonald Falls


To continue our trip into Glacier National Park I have to say something about the water. This is glacial water and , like all the lakes and rivers in Northwest Montana, there is something very special about the color of the water. I'm sure that when Lewis and Clark came West they didn't see the difference as much as we do now. The look of unpolluted water is different. It's so pristine that you can see further into it... clear, with a sparkle that stuns you when the sun is reflecting on it and the color.... a turquoise that I have never seen anywhere else. Because it's in a National park and protected... because it's close to it's source (the melting snow and glaciers of the mountain peaks) there is this amazing turquoise color that is so beautiful and intense that you might think, if you swam into it, that you would emerge with a turquoise tint on your skin.

We walked down to a bridge that crosses the McDonald River below the falls and, as we took pictures, I saw a movement on the log railing. This little butterfly had come to say hello. This is a Satyr butterfly of the Angel Wing family. They are named for the sharp. angular margins of their wings. The underside resembles dead leaves or bark for camouflage.

"D" took these photos when I reached over and put my hand underneath this little creature. It simply walked onto my fingers and showed off it's pretty wing for us. What a simple act of trust that was for one so small. It posed, walked on my hand for awhile and then flew to the other side of the bridge to meet someone else. I count this as our first, wild welcoming to the park.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bear Cub has a Bad Day... and other Glacial thoughts.

updated 7/27/2010 8:06:22 PM ET
COLUMBUS, Ohio — TV host and zookeeper Jack Hanna says he took his own advice and used pepper spray on a grizzly bear headed toward him.
The Columbus Zoo keeper and frequent David Letterman guest said he was with his wife and other hikers in Montana's Glacier National Park on Saturday when a bear cub, weighing about 125 pounds, charged them. Hanna told The Columbus Dispatch that he held up a canister of pepper spray, which he takes routinely on hikes.
"At about 30 feet, I unload my pepper spray, and the wind takes it," he told the newspaper.
But the bear kept coming. Hanna sprayed toward the animal again, but still it kept coming.
"Then the third time I unload that pepper spray right in his face," Hanna said.
The bear turned around and fled.
Hanna said he's been carrying pepper spray on hikes for 15 years, but Saturday was the first time he's used it.
The group was returning from Grinnell Glacier by way of a narrow trail with a cliff on one side and a steep drop-off on the other. They rounded a corner and saw a mother bear and two large cubs about 30-feet away coming toward them, the newspaper reported Tuesday.
"We thought of letting them go by, but the trail was cut into the rock and was too narrow," Hanna said. "So I said, 'Everybody talk loud and we'll back up until we can get off the trail.'"
They moved slowly back up the trail to a clearing.
"I said, 'Crawl up the hill and put your backs against the wall,'" he said.
Then they stood still while the mother and one cub passed by. The other cub, instead, charged toward them.
Hanna had recently filmed a message for the National Park Service encouraging hikers to carry pepper spray. ~associated press story~

The bear CUB attacked them.... the bear CUB. Not the mom, but the baby.
This was only weeks before we drove into the park and if it could happen to Jack Hanna, it could happen to anyone. Obviously, the bear cub didn't know who this man was. Children have no respect for their elders these days.
So.... we decided that we would NOT be going on any long hikes with or without a guide, with or without other people. We also went into a store in Apgar Village, at the west entrance, and these spray cans of what they call Bear Spray were $50.00 a can and it's recommended that you take two of them with you. That was the clincher.
The problem is that something happens to you when you get into this park. I think it's some kind of hypnosis. All of sudden you see this....










...and this.







You forget everything else that made sense before you drove into the park. This is a magical place. The view sweeps you into another world. Lake McDonald's Rorschach like reflections ink-blot impressions on your emotions that eliminate any reservations you had about not being safe.


You stand on the edge of astounding beauty and the Grizzly bear becomes one small part of the wilderness before you. The Black Bear, Elk, Mountain Goats and the Bighorn Sheep exist only as a part of the whole and therefore seem far less ominous.

This is the first psychological test that greets you as you step onto the edge of this great preserve. It is a deceptive loveliness that takes away your safety net and makes you vulnerable.
Standing on the edge of this lake I think I could hear the earth breathing....
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Post #2- A Very Special Life


I wonder, now that I'm home and have had time to chew and swallow my whole vacation experience, how many folks really make a conscious choice to live their dreams. I think that my friend "D" and her husband do this more than anyone I know and it's not an easy thing.
You make choices in life. The reality is not always what the dream was. There are all the little things that you don't anticipate... the fact that you have to go where the work is and leave your home a lot. There's the constant effort to live simply and maintain a lifestyle that makes you and your partner happy. There are compromises, fears and that unsettling feeling that life will make things change and that, as you get older, it will be harder to make this lifestyle work.
You start holding onto things but also want to let go. What you say you want to do and the pull of "making a living" start to grate on each other. Then you think about the accumulation of material things that make life more comfortable but become logs caught in the roots of boggy, snagging permanence. Freedom is calling..... the elk of the high country are bugling your name and the quaking Aspen are whispering " come to us". It's not an easy thing when you have always been a free spirit but have a longing for "place"

This is a very special "place". This home reminds me of my grandmother's home in the hills of Napa.... only cleaner and with a flair for creativity. Henny, the chicken, knows. She has made her wishes clear. She wants breakfast every morning and to be tucked in at night. It's what all chickens want in life.

Last year when my mother died, "D" was there. She didn't get there in time to be with Mom but sometimes things don't work exactly the way you anticipate and Mom couldn't wait. So it is with life and death. But "D" came and she was present in that great time of need . She helped us so much with so many things. She helped us grieve and wrapped her arms around our sadness. When she was ready to leave I asked her to, please, take something, anything, that she wanted to remember Mom . She took some little bird statues, some glass eggs and a few other small things and then said that if we sold any of the furniture she would like to buy the kitchen table because she remembered so many wonderful times there and that table had always been in that place. It had so many memories for her. We didn't sell it to her. My sister and I gave it to her and helped her load the table into her truck. We gave her the one thing that she really wanted. It seems the most perfect person for it to go to.
She took that oak table home to Montana and during my visit I found the table in the upstairs bedroom, in a quilt making area, close to the bed. Every morning I would wake up and see the table. What a wonderful gift.... to know that this table is in my friend's house. I could hear my mother's voice saying " Yes, this is a good place for this table. It's found a new home. I'm so happy it's here." ...and so it goes. Sometimes we make choices that seem so right. Sometimes happiness is just there in the reflection of an old oak table and life is what it is.

I don't really have a 3rd post now that I condensed the photos into collages. I'm done for the day. Tomorrow "D" and I will be off for Glacier National Park.
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Post #1- My Luxurious Accomodations

This is the view from the upstairs room I was sleeping in at "D"s house. I had the penthouse suite with another king size bed and views as far as the eye could see. This is looking west to Lake Koocanusa and the Percell Mountains in the Kootenai National Forest; home of the Yaak. This is where Rick Bass(one of my favorite writers) writes his wonderful books about his life, his dog Colter and the vanishing wilderness. In the days to come we will drive through the Yaak and experienced the isolated area first hand but at the time I took this picture the only things that I could see to the West was a dark range of mountains with a storm coming in our direction....one of the distant vistas of Big Sky country.
Below is the same window as above. I backed away so I could take a picture of "D"s beautiful window coverings. All her curtains are from beautiful quilts that she makes and uses for her windows and interior doors. They are unique and beautifully transparent with the light coming through them. They also insulate from the cold in winter.


(I'm having trouble with the uploading of my photos so bear with me.)

When the sun shines through these quilted curtains they look like stained glass.
Very lovely.






I made myself at home, throwing my shoes on the floor next to the bed and leaving my bags all over the place. They gave me a place to relax and unwind and that I did.
The first day at "D"s home I met her husband, the mountain man himself, and again they slept in their trailer so I could have the comforts of home upstairs.
The mountain man built this house and all the outbuildings by himself. He mills the logs that he harvested from the forest. He and "D" went to the rivers and brought back all the stones that built the foundation. The windows are recycled from other old homes. This house is a labor of love for both of them and still, when I arrived, they slept in their trailer so I could sleep inside the house. Is that not Montana hospitality?
This home is so beautiful. It's a natural and ecologically fitting home that doesn't make a scar on the environment like some of it's neighbors... who brought the "bigger is better" philosophy with them from some other place and even have gardeners to mow their lawns. Yep!

Honest story here..... when "D" and the mountain man arrived on their property a few years ago with their sheep wagon and all their worldly belonging in a truck, they were confronted by this neighbor( with the manicured lawn) and the first thing he asked them was if they were going to build a house or live like a "typical" Montanan. Wow! how's that for neighborly chit chat? Now I don't know what a typical Montana native is suppose to live like but that's just rude and the mountain man took offense. It was not pretty and they haven't talked to each other since. I would imagine that, now, when this "neighbor" sees this beautiful house that was built and the sheep wagon next to the most amazing barn/workshop ever.... and the lovely chicken house... that he is eating his words. But, we'll never know because the mountain man built a new road into their property and avoids the "neighbor" like the plague.
(Because I'm having trouble with the posting of photos I will do three posts today. I'm back to the old blogger photo upload and until I figure out what is wrong with the new one and why it won't let me upload photos from my files, I will have to limit my photos to three per post. I wish they wouldn't change what doesn't need fixing.)