Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Sunrise in Montana
Hello faithful blog readers...
I will be posting only now and again in the next few days, as I will be at The Ranch in Montana over the New Year weekend. B's cabin doesn't have broadband or even a landline, but it does have this view, which is much more important!
Thank you for your visits and I hope to bring you some more of my homeland in a very few days...
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Brief blue in Alaska
Thinking about light, I'm reminded of the leaden clouds that parted just long enough over the Stikine River to reveal patches of blue highlighting the dark mountain profiles. The Stikine is an impossibly beautiful and remote place.
Monday, December 26, 2005
360 degree sunset
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Lighted greens in a darkened room
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Fuzzy Christmas creatures
Gus the juvenile delinquecat looks deceptively decorous here. I couldn't resist the snowman/kitty combo; a cozy pair.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all celebrants of the season!
Friday, December 23, 2005
Quite a contrast to the balmy summer morning shown below! We're still looking at light. Here are a pair of icicles catching the sun, stabbing fiercely downward against a frozen sky. Breath-stealing, gut-clenching cold this past week.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Morning light: the last of the mist
In contrast to the winter witching hour below, here's some bright summer morning light. The last wisps of mist trail away from the lake as the sun turns the sky a brilliant blue. Taken in the Swan Valley, western Montana.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The witching hour on Lake Michigan
Welcome, Solstice! Bit by imperceptible bit, the light will now change. Here in Wisconsin, it will remain cold for months yet. Though the cold and dark are sometimes oppressive, they are part of a natural cycle that mirrors the soul. But as the sun begins to move up from that southern horizon where it's been lurking, the quality of the afternoon light will take on a different dimension and our spirit will expand in response.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Monday, December 19, 2005
Last light on a Madrid street
Continuing our exploration of light (see yesterday's entry,) here is a final ray touching the front of a building in Madrid. A transitory moment!
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Light and shadow on the Seine
I can certainly see why an annual festival of lights at the time of the winter solstice has been important for thousands of years in so many parts of the world. The darkness that comes earlier and earlier every day has a palpable effect, creating that age-old urge to illuminate and push back the shadows. I've decided to celebrate the winter solstice by looking at light. For the next few days, we'll explore different dimensions of light in honor of the solstice. We'll look at sunrises, sunsets, shadows, and shimmering waters. Here's the Seine River in Paris, glimmering in the lights of mid-winter.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
To dream...the impossible dream...
This skylight in the ceiling of our upstairs loft is presently frozen shut and covered with a thick coating of ice. It seems impossible that it could ever open onto such a balmy breeze and spring-like scene!
Friday, December 16, 2005
A cedar tree stands silhouetted next to a stone bench as the sun sets behind Lake Michigan. Taken in Door County, Wisconsin.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
I have always liked this scene of delicate foliage flourishing in the midst of harsh rocky surroundings. This was taken in Canyonlands National Park in Utah.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Elegy for an elegant mule
I heard from my cousin that Burley died last week. Burley is the elegant mule, standing proudly at attention above, whose passing we mourn here.
Burley Ironsides has been a family institution since 1972. His mother was Peg LaMoose, (above the mount of my cousin GW2, the legendary zoologist cowboy.) Burley’s sire was Montana Jack, a jack donkey.
Burley’s passing gives pause. He has been a part of our family for almost 35 years. In his retirement years on the MCG Ranch, we would always seek out and greet Burley in much the way one visits a respected elder. He was unfailingly gracious and tolerant of such tomfoolery as having to sport a Santa Claus hat over one ear. The photo below of our dignified friend was taken last summer.
GW2 took Burley in his prime years along with daughter T on many an adventure in the wilderness areas of Montana. Below is T on the historic occasion of Burley’s first passenger trip.
T has some wonderful Burley memories: “From the day he was born Dad began gentling him by brushing him, scratching his ears, lifting up his feet, getting him used to the human touch. All proceeded nicely until weaning time. Burley became a little hellion, racing around the corral shaking his head and striking out with both front and hind feet. He climbed up and over the solid post and pole corral several times. Dad put snow fencing up all around the top of the corral, raising it to a height of about 12 feet.
“For several months Burley continued to be mad and there were times dad wondered if a riding mule was such a good idea after all but eventually time and hormones came under control, Burley settled down, and his training began in earnest. I was the first one to ride him as Dad figured I was lighter and would bounce on the hard ground if Burley took a dislike to the proceedings. The day arrived. We saddled up Burley, Dad got up on Mrs. Moose, looped Burley's halter rope snugly around the saddle horn and I climbed aboard Burley. His big ears went back and forth a couple of times as I talked to him and that was it. Burley was a riding mule."
T goes on to recall: “For many years Dad and I went together on pack trips into the Bob Marshall wilderness with Burley, Mrs. Moose, and Dolly Davis, who was Burley's half sister. Dad usually rode Burley but occasionally allowed me to ride him. It is true, mules are much better to ride than horses in the mountains. They have a smoother gait, are more sure footed over rough ground, and don't panic in difficult situations like fording wild rivers and plunging through belly deep mud bogs. In later years we went on pack trips with Smoke Elser, a wilderness outfitter. Many of Smoke's pack animals were Burley's half brothers and sisters. Burley always became the favorite of the wranglers and the paying dudes on these trips.
“At home Burley's favorite place to hang out on hot summer days was the brick sidewalk directly in front of the front door. Anyone coming or going from the house was given the option of ducking under Burley's neck or sidling around his backside. We figured it was a good way to screen visitors.
“Whenever Burley was far out in the pasture, all Dad had to do was holler
"C'mon Burley!". Burley's head would come up, his long ears would point
forward and he would come to Dad.”
When Burley was born in 1972 (see above for Burley’s first hours), the world did not stop to take note. Nor did we “kids” understand that Burley would come to represent a world that our parents showed us and that we now value in a way that is impossible to describe. My cousins, my brother and I all grew up in Montana with parents who saw the last of the Montana frontier. These were magnificent people who fought in WWII, miraculously survived, and came back to Montana to forge lives in business and academia that were still rooted in their pioneer heritage. In their “spare time,” they built log cabins, preserved open space, wrote books, and told the stories of their grandparents who had come to the west with nothing but hope. And they took us, many times, to the wild places we would otherwise never have known.
Burley, the seemingly immortal pack mule, always seemed to represent those remote, pristine places of our youth. Even those of us who never took a pack trip with Burley (God help me, I was living in Chicago when Burley was born,) came to understand that Burley represented a wilderness ethos that we would have to try to keep alive for the next generation.
Now our gentle friend is gone. The fuzzy colt has lived a lifetime and so, it seems, have we. The legacy we can pass on is the experience of pristine places. Part of our job here on earth is to protect these places so they can remain forever.
T sent a quote from "The Outermost House" by Henry Beston:
“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having takenform so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.”
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Memories of summer
Monday, December 12, 2005
A final beam of afternoon light highlights the clarity of Rattlesnake Creek, flowing into Missoula, Montana.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Darkness in the valley
In the valleys, the shadows fall darkly in mid-afternoon when the mountaintops are still shining in brilliant sunlight. Taken at Snow Bowl outside of Missoula, Montana.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Sagebrush and a blue, blue Montana sky
Just look at those wonderful rough nubbly fronds and imagine the sweet pungent scent that emerges when you crush the seeds in your fingers. I like to carry a sprig of sage with me in my pocket and when I inhale the scent, I am transported back home.
Friday, December 09, 2005
The Swans ~ another angle
My fascination with this mountain range is unending, and I try to capture as many different moods or perspectives as possible. Taken in western Montana.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
The long and winding road
You can probably tell by now that I like glimpses of things. Woodland glades, unexpected openings, hidden valleys have always seemed magical to me. This is a fairly mundane scene, the drive into our house in Wisconsin, but the glimpse of the winding road through the branches seemed a gift on this fall day. It could be the road to Anywhere.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Lonely evening sky
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
A sweet stream
This is the sweet stream that runs below our house in Wisconsin. It seems to have a soul of its own and bubbles along happily except when dammed up by the industrious beaver colony that lives downstream.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Why I love four seasons
Just take a look at these two photos taken just weeks apart: same tree, same hillside, same spot on the road, two different worlds.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Saturday, December 03, 2005
This was taken on a frigid morning from the front porch of our house in Wisconsin. The rising sun was just touching the trees and hills across the valley and lighting up the trunks of the birch trees in the bottomland. The skein of branches in front of the house creates a delicate lacework at this time of year, opening up in unexpected places to provide glimpses of the valley beyond. In summer this is a wall of green -- there's much to be said for the layered texture of a winter view!
Friday, December 02, 2005
Frozen in time and space
Picking their way across a field, two cranes are frozen in time against a melting patch of snow. Taken in Door County, Wisconsin.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Rough bark, blue sky
Still looking at texture...ponderosa pine bark is about as rough and ready as you can get. Taken in the Blackfoot Valley, western Montana.