from my the house across the street

live, love, laugh, and remember to play everyday!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Falling Back

It's been tough the past few weeks, trying to pry myself out of bed when there is so little light. Seems like the day is half gone by the time the sun lights my windows. So, for that reason, I am happy to set the clock back this weekend. On the other hand, night will come so quickly. It's dark much of the time when I get off work, anyway, so it won't make a lot of difference then. I notice the difference late in the day when I am out making a home visit to a new place on a country road, or a poorly lit neighborhood. I take that, though, as one of the challenges of my job, and try to look at it as an adventure rather than an inconvenience.
I enjoy coming home from work at this time of year, in the dark, with a chill in the air. Walking into the warmth and light of my home gives me comfort. I am invited, once the dog has been walked, to cozy up in bed with a book or movie. An Autumn such as this is to be savored, being in the moment, without thoughts of what the next few months might bring.
Drink in the glory of this season!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Misunderstanding(?) Leads to Challenge

My Sister made an erroneous statement in her post on our trip to Glacier that I would like to take the opportunity to clear up. After our traditional trip to Polebridge for wonderful, fresh-from-the-oven, delectable pastries and some of the best coffee in the world, we wandered by narrow, twisting, rutted gravel road to make our acquaintance with Bowman Lake. With the exception of a couple other explorers, the lake and nearby campground were blissfully silent. The campground is smaller than our usual hangout at Apgar, and far more people in tents than in 35-foot RV's. Quiet. A bit more remote. A lot more peaceful.

Kathy said that we stay at Apgar campground because her sister (that would be me!) is spooked by the possibility of bears. Ha! She doesn't know me as well as I thought. Here's the real story: I will admit to being spooked about bears on our first trip there, and did get a bit freaked out at all the rules--especially the one about not going to bed in the tent in clothing that might have been worn during cooking or eating. Damn, that messed things up for me right there, especially when it was very strongly suggested that no food be taken into the tent. Man, one of the things I really like to do while camping is to make a really large mug of herbal tea, take it and a couple of cookies into the tent, and enjoy the snack while cozying up with a good book.

I ended up, that first year, being much more frightened of the campers in the neighboring spot--a busload (ok, minibus, there were only three guys) of drunken foreigners who seemed to want us to be real neighborly with them. Kathy brought her hatchet into the tent, and I found a nice big rock---just in case the neighbors lost their way in the dark and stumbled through our tent.

Interestingly enough, Kathy caught sight of Harry, a black bear, the following day while out kayaking. Harry was known to the rangers and the residents along Lake McDonald, and they routinely chased him away from the Apgar social scene. Another bear was spied by some other explorers in the park later in that week, and they were kind enough to stop and let us know of the bear's presence near our picnic spot!

Because I had safely made it through that first camping trip to Glacier without losing any limbs to hungry wildlife, I didn't even consider getting bear spray for the next trip there. Of course, I wasn't about to break any of the safety rules, and I wasn't going to get careless, but I was more relaxed. The following year found me experiencing very little anxiety about the possibility of an encounter with a bear. Maybe it was because our mom was there with us, and I knew she would sacrifice herself to save me!

Don't get me wrong, please. I have not adopted a totally cavalier attitude about the possibility of running into a variety of dangerous situations while in the mountains and back country. I've also decided that it doesn't make any sense for me to trade the bliss of being in the woods for gut-wrenching, twisted and knotted up inside, off-the-charts anxiety. I'll wait until I actually see the bear---or the cougar or mountain lion or whatever---to let fight or flight take over.

Staying at Apgar has nothing to do with being afraid. It's all about comfort---it's a quick walk to the village and a cafe mocha (four shots of espresso, please!) or huckleberry ice cream cone at Eddie's Store! They don't have that at Bowman Lake, but by golly, I'll forego those comforts and camp at Bowman next time---unless, of course, our mom is with us again!

Growing a Forest

I remember being in Mrs. Dewell's fourth grade class at Dewey School. One of our projects that year was to write letters to Smokey the Bear; in return, we each received a packet filled with treasures (stickers, junior forest ranger badges, coloring books). At about the same time, my Girl Scout troup learned about building, and safely extinguishing, campfires. After all, according to Smokey, "Only YOU can prevent forest fires!"

Over the years, I imagined careless smokers tossing out their butts, which would land squarely atop a pile of dried leaves and twigs. There would be just enough breeze to gently fan the flames, that would then completely wipe out a forest and every living thing in it. I imagined someone walking away from a smoldering pile of leaves in the Fall just as the breeze picked up and carried burning embers to do their damage as far as the eye could see. Paranoia took over each time I stood, warming myself, at a bonfire. Anxiety brought on heart-pounding shortness of breath as I imagined these relatively small fires raging out of control.

You see, I believed Smokey the Bear. I believed his words of warning and fought back the desire to pile kindling and strike a match. But I know there is now another truth, as well. Not all fires are caused by humans and their carelessness.

My sister and I were traveling cross-country in 1994. In a Wyoming storm, as we drove down the Interstate, we watched a bolt of lightening make its way from the heavy clouds to the field at the side of the highway. Our jaws dropped as we watched a huge patch of dried grass and brush became a ball of flames. A fellow traveler stopped along the road, and appeared to be making a call (back in the day, neither of us had a cell phone yet, nor knew anyone who did have one!) for help.

Long before humans ran around being careless of their surroundings, giving little thought to their impact on this Earth, there were forest fires and brush fires, started by none other than Mother Nature herself. Granted, people can take action to extinguish fires, or at least attempt to contain them. But human intervention makes little impact sometimes...............the fire spreads too far or too rapidly before anyone can take action.........the wind pushes the fire along faster than water can be brought in to halt or slow its progress.

The first photo above is Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. You can clearly see the scarred hillsides from the fire that claimed the mountainside several years ago. The second photo (stolen from my sister's blog, and taken from an entirely different location--sorry, Kathy!) shows the miraculous beginnings of the forest as it regrows itself.

My recent trip to Montana and Glacier with my sister was not the first time I had seen the ravages of a forest fire. On that same cross-country drive in 1994, before witnessing the lightening strike, we drove through Yellowstone. A major fire in the late 1980's left a good deal of the mountainsides scarred, with the damage still appearing fairly fresh. It was during my recent trip to Glacier, however, that the miracles taking place in the wild, truly hit home. Free of human "intervention", interference, or invasion, this Earth has the ability to be self-sustaining!

Kathy and I drove one morning through the burned out area that is visible in the top photo, climbing high enough on the unpaved road to get a panoramic view down the mountainside. Tall, and still appearing strong and solid, the bare, blackened trees stand. The floor of this burnt forest, in sharp contrast, was a lush green carpet that looked like a thick velvet carpet. The ground was a solid mass of young pine trees, looking to be between 12 and 18 inches in height. In many places the roadside was filled with color: yellow, pink, purple, deep red, white, perriwinkle, and fresh Spring-green. Even at the end of the first week of September, in that Northern location, and at higher altitudes, the wild flowers still turned their faces to the heavens.

I have read that, during a fire, trees react in a way that is designed to protect their innermost layers: beneath bark and outer layers, the tree twists, as if trying to make itself as small as possible in hopes of surviving. I believe this. And I believe this gift of creation is the trees' intelligence. I keep a twisted, gnarled piece of tree branch helps me remember my own resiliency.

The little hairs on the back of my neck stand up as I think about how many years, decades, even a half-century or more, those pinecones lay dormant on the forest floor---or underneath it---waiting, waiting, waiting.............

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Another Piece of Heaven

Although I've stood in this place many times over the past 10 years, my heart skips a beat as my breath catches slightly in my throat, and my eyes tear just a bit, as I catch sight of Lake McDonald. There is peace and stillness in this place that feels as old as Time itself.

At the Top of the World

My sister, Kathy. In this place, called the "backbone of the earth" by the Native Americans who once roamed through these heights, we were close to Heaven. The time spent here was sacred and nourishing, with everyday miracles unfolding and surrounding us.

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