Winter Journey – Return to Montana – October-November 2016

Dead Horse State Park, Utah

Thursday October 27th our friends leave and we move to a different site, but are still in Dead Horse State Park. Finally this morning I am able to talk to Mom and we have a good conversation. I tell her I am working on getting a bus ticket so I can come see her and she tells me about her ride to the hospital in an ambulance.  We say our I love you’s and our good-bye’s, hoping that it is not the last time. In the afternoon, one of my daughters calls: at the meeting with Mom’s doctor today, the game-plan was changed from a plan for rehab to comfort care only. I know it is time for me to go and I finally talk to a human being at the bus depot in Missoula to get the information I need. Tomorrow morning Clifford will take me to the nearest bus depot that we know of – Green River, about 60 miles away. I pack a couple of bags with enough clothes for a week, laptop, journal, camera, and snacks for the 22 hour bus trip. In the afternoon, Clifford and I drive out to the Dead Horse Point, which is a very scenic view of the canyon and Colorado River below. I try not to think about the bus trip and what lies ahead, but just stay in the present moment and enjoy the grandeur of the landscape.

Dead Horse Point


Utah as sen from the bus heading north

Friday October 28th to Thursday November 10th: My mom knows I am coming, but sadly, she passes on before I get to the hospital. Her body had been failing since her 90th birthday, but her mind was sharp and her faith strong to the end. She was surrounded by her family whom she loved and who loved her; she was ready to go and left peacefully. But her going creates a void in my life – a huge indescribable void. I wonder how it is for all who were close to her. Are they tempted to explore the void to see if there are treasures there to be discovered; are they tip-toeing around the void, afraid if they fall in they will be swallowed up never to return; or will they turn their back, walk away, pretending the void doesn’t exist?

Photo taken with Mom’s little camera that I had helped her pick out; suits my mood.

I stay at Mom’s house, walking from room to room looking at her stuff, feeling her presence. I help my siblings in regard to planning the funeral, writing the obituary, and am one of several people who speak at the funeral service. I am very grateful to all the family members who contribute their time and effort to make the funeral a special event.

The flower arrangement on the casket made by one of Mom’s nieces

My brother Rollie plays at the Sunnyside Cemetery

In the days that I am here, I begin the process of organizing and preparing for an estate sale. Coming across her Christmas tree and ornaments that she had collected or made, I decorate the tree, recalling how beautifully Mom always decorated our Christmas trees when we were kids..

The Christmas Tree

As my siblings and all of our families come to the house in regard to disposing of Mom’s stuff, a spirit of generosity and helpfulness prevails. There is no fighting over this or that, rather everyone is thoughtful and considerate. Most of my kids are around, at least part of the time, even those who have come from afar. It is a special time of closeness with both my siblings and my kids.

Sunrise from Mom’s front steps – she would have loved seeing it

I stay for a week after the funeral, having done as much as I can to make things easier for my siblings, knowing that the greatest part of the burden is still on them to prepare the house for sale, while missing the regular interaction that they had with our mom. I am torn in that I would like to stay and help them, but Clifford is in southern Utah waiting for my return. We are fortunate that the weather has been moderate for this time of year, but it is time for Clifford and me to head further south for the winter, so with heavy heart, I say good-bye to everyone and board the bus, heading south once again.


A Journey to Visit Modern Mountain Woman

Thanks to the milder than normal January here in northern Idaho and western Montana, I decide to make a trip over Lookout Pass to visit my daughter, Ang, who lives off-grid and blogs as Modern Mountain Woman.  I take it easy going over the pass as it is hard to tell melting snow runoff from black ice in the shady spots.  Once down the other side, the highway is clear and I make good time.

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Clark Fork River

It is tempting to stop and take photos of the Clark Fork River, but I am eager to get on up to the cabin.  Once off the highway, road conditions deteriorate somewhat.  The state highway out of the village is mostly clear, but a little icy in spots; the road up the mountain begins as snowpack and mud, but soon turns into a sheet of ice topped with a layer of water.  Nice and easy does it right to the driveway, which is a steep upward turn.  Ang and friends have not been able to get up to the cabin, even with chains, but I am not crazy about carrying all my stuff – clothes, food and books to share, and a cello – up the icy driveway, so I decide to see if I can make it up to the cabin.  Well, you gotta love a Subaru with good tires!

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From cabin looking down the driveway

The next few mornings are spent enjoying the first light of the day, sharing French press coffee, talking about books we are reading, the writing contests she is planning on entering, sacred geometry, and manifesting.

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Morning sun beams

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Sunlight on the trees

Over the next several days, numerous bonfires are built – no easy task with everything outdoors either still under snow or wet from the humidity and the rain that fell softly one night – and deadfall is burned to begin a clearing process to let light into the forest and to create an opening for terraced gardens, greenhouse, and chickens come summer.

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Getting the bonfire going with damp and green wood

One morning while Ang is working for the neighbor down the road, James and I have a fire making contest.  Each of us had a fire pit and worked to see who could get a good fire going first.  Although I had some flames at one point, James didn’t fare any better, and it was only when Ang returned that we had a really good bonfire.

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Fire building winner is the modern mountain woman

Wood is cut and other chores are attended to.  James and I play cello together, the first time doing a duet for him.

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Ang cuts wood for the cabin’s wood stove

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James gets a haircut

We visit with friends and family.   Sometimes we drive out in my car and sometimes brave folks drive up to the property, walking through the woods to join us at a bonfire.

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Friends come for a visit

Most evenings we go down to the next door neighbor’s place, as he is not quite so off-grid and has internet, electricity, and running water.  We take care of business involving the internet, take showers, and share a meal while we watch Stargate. Back at the cabin, peaceful evenings lead into quiet nights except for the puppy and the cat when they get restless.

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Ang with Boots and Thor (naughty but oh-so-cute puppy)

The cabin is cozy; I sleep on the bench/bed that will one day be part of the rocket stove, which will be built before next fall.   I can look out the window and see stars on the clear nights, little solar lights, and the embers of a recent bonfire.  I am delighted to be surrounded by great tall trees in the daytime and complete darkness at night except for these small gentle sources of light .

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Evening bonfire that will soon die to embers

Although I probably could not live totally off-grid by myself, I enjoy the opportunity to share a few days in the life of a modern mountain woman.  Tomorrow I will head for home; the next day Clifford will return from his business trip to California, and soon we will be able to take the Pony (our pop-up tent trailer) on a camping trip, our own version of living off-grid.

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With errands to run, Ang trucks on down the icy road to town

Bass Creek Camping – October 2014 – Part 5

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Morning color

Friday October 17, 2014 – Partly sunny and 32 degrees when I get up.  No campfire this morning; I just find sunny spots and move my chair and table to keep pace with the warmer oasis of light. Make a cup of coffee and read “A New Earth” – thoughts on how thoughts/emotions come from the ego trying to strengthen itself, which is always at the expense of the “other.”   Edit “Against All Odds,” play cello while the sun shines,

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Wood, dense and mysterious

and explore the woods, gathering more branches and twigs.  I love the woods, so dense and mysterious.  Haven’t explored them nearly as much as I’d like.

When the campsite is in shade, I build a campfire and continue editing until it is too dark to see outside.

Saturday October 18, 2014 – Today is a town day and so off to Missoula first t hing.  Run errands, visit my mom – a very bright 88 years young, and go to Barnes & Nobles for the bookstore fix.  Home after dark and head to bed soon after unloading and putting away our purchases.

Sunday October 19. 2014 – Nice day, no need for a campfire this morning, and I’m saving wood for the cooler days that are forecast.  Katie, Jeremy and the boys come out in the afternoon and we do a walkabout in the woods to the creek and to the little A-frame “fort” that some industrious kids built sometime this summer.  The boys (my grandsons ages 2 and 4) have a great time playing in the water and exploring the fort.

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Finley throwing rocks in the creek

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Jude at the fort by the creek

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Katie and Finley in the fort

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Finley peeking out of the fort

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Katie and Finley headed back to camp

Back at the camp Katie gets the campfire going and starts dinner while the Clifford, Jeremy, and I gathered more wood.  After dinner we sit around the fire enjoying the time to relax and chat.  I’m really glad that they were able to come out again,

Later, more editing.  Hard to put it down.  The Novels of Shannon series which I am editing takes the reader to another world where the characters become real while their adventuresome journey, fraught with peril, draws the reader in.  Our lives may seem tame compared to theirs and yet we all face common questions about the intricacies of life: how to live with our weaknesses and our strengths, how to survive pain and loss, how to become fully alive.

Trout Creek in August – Part 4

Sunday August 17th: I begin my day by saying good morning to the river, taking photos, trying to keep my feet dry as I step from rock to rock to get the right vantage point, but after awhile I just slosh around in the shallows, enjoying the coolness of the water on my feet and admiring the colors of the pebbles that surround me.

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Soon it is time to get ready to head to the Melaleuca class that I am going to attend in nearby Superior. I’ve been using the Melaleuca products, but want to learn more. The class proves to be interesting and informative. Anyone interested in learning more, let me know.

Back at camp, I’m missing having my cello here, but cellos are hard to take camping: too big, too delicate, too hard to hide when we are out and about. What to do? What about a smaller instrument? A violin or a viola? Perhaps I will look into a flute: they can be had quite reasonably at pawn shops. Many years ago I enjoyed playing the flute, so maybe it can come back into my life.

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Monday August 18th: I get ready for the day while Clifford drives to Superior to use the internet. When he returns, I am ready to head to Missoula. We run a couple errands including a bookstore quick-fix for Clifford at Barnes and Nobles, then on to join the Wattersons for a baseball game. I am not a baseball fan particularly, but everyone else, even the grandsons, ages 2 and 4, are great fans of the game.

My grandsons, ages 2 and 4, get an autograph from a  favorite baseball player.

For me, it is fun to have time to hang out with Katie and her family. I ask Jeremy about flutes at the pawn shop where he works, and yes, indeed, there are several there. I do think I will look into this a bit more.

As we drive the 60 miles back to the campsite, Clifford and I talk about the ills of society. From a local tribal level, like women gathering to put a yurt for one of them,  (check this link for photos of women at work: ), to affordable non-toxic infrastructure, there are so many good and constructive things that could be done in so many ways on so many levels. Why, with so many brilliant minds and a planet of resources, why is this not being done in ways that maximize opportunities and freedom for individuals without forcing conformity to political and corporate agendas? Although we can’t solve the problems, it is worth thinking about what this means for us and what part we can play in making the world a better place. We arrive at our campsite at midnight and go directly to bed.