blue 8.24.2010

The Field Guide to Getting Lost has been my guide all summer. Rebecca Solnit writes throughout the book about “the blue of distance,” referring to it as a beautiful magical blue that is only achieved by being separated from location. I tried to understand it in the beginning of the summer by climbing to the top of the jungle gym and documenting the distant deep blue hills with the Cannon Rebel but it was just another horizon snapshot. She wrote about gains and losses and their proximity to each other, longing being both about not having something and a way of holding something more closely. I was introduced to Simone Weil who wrote in, To Desire without an Object, “Let us love the distance which is thoroughly woven with friendship since those who do not love each other are not separated.” And now I am separating from the Montana that I love, hoping that she will love me back even in my absence. I think I understand “the blue of distance,” better. It is the dreamy mystery of where you are not, it is the melancholy and longing for what you love and hope to return to. Goodbye Montana.


taking leave 8.20.2010

The owl was in the Vestal Place sheep shed with a companion. They both took their leave when we rounded the corner, one through the hole in the roof and the other over my head and out the barn door. I caught just its wing in a photograph. Richard and his sister Sonja both responded to our last sighting as if the owl was an old friend. “He’s been there forever,” they each said, then both speculating that perhaps this was a descendant of the owl they knew as children. “But owls live a long time,” Sonja added.
I found another owl feather on the shed floor, but the wind took it. Yesterday I found a small owl feather on Daisy Peak and the wind snitched it from my pocket. I must have my quota all ready. The feathers are brown and cream with strips run across the grain…a complicated set of information all coming together to make a barn owl.

The time has come to gather my things and leave the sheep shed. The wind will continue to push in and around this structure without me, occasionally clutching at the now loose corrugated roof. And when it is very hot, the roof will crackle, but only the owls will be there to hear it with their beautiful feathered ears. It is time to leave the Vestal Place all together, not knowing if I will have the chance to return. Maybe never understanding why it draws me or why I could sit on this overturned half barrel on a floor of manure just inside the large barn door for hours listening to a soundtrack of wind, birds, insects, and sometimes cows, no longer sheep. It is time to drive up the old road and out of this valley, across the prairie and through the barbwire gate for the last time this summer. Every thing behind me pulling me back, the silence that is not silent, the emptiness that is not empty.


numbers and magic 8.19.2010

The Two Dot community gathered at the fire hall for Rufus Kimrey’s 70th birthday. There was pulled pork from seven roasts, seven coolers of beer, two macaroni salads and a one-man band. Rufus danced with his number one sweet heart. And I talked with Mildred Ward who is 90 and upright and full of “piss and vinegar” as she described it. Mildred claims two things to be her medicine: working outside and wearing a hat in the sun. I rubbed one of her arms like a genie’s bottle and asked if her good health would rub off. She said, “I’ll give you a hug if that will help,” and promptly wrapped her two strong wrinkled arms around me. I took the magic.


traces 8.18.2010

H Vestal 1905 carved into the sandstone. “All you can leave is thought,” Henry Real Bird’s idea, or at least his quote. H. Vestal left his name...a measure of where he once stood. His trace just here with this line of horizon, its dips and peaks largely unchanged. Is this place different for his standing here? We still call this ranch The Vestal Place in honor of his effort to etch upon these rolling scrabble hills a means of survival. The small house still standing, 4 rooms and a privy, the support of outbuildings. It is nostalgic to me for its trace of a long ago lambing season, me fifteen years old and naive to ranching. I was unaware that I was making a memory still held close in this my 57th year. What will The Vestal Place or anywhere hold of me when I am gone? “All you can leave is thought.” Is it true? Or are there less defined remnants of those whose shoes mark this soil. We spend a lifetime considering it and a lifetime unknowingly laying down traces that will remain.


gaining the night 8.17.2010

I want to dream of Two Dot when I sleep. I want to keep my body here not worrying over classrosters or check out counters or places I need to be. I don’t want to wonder where I am as I gain consciousness, just slip from one state to another under the perfect bowl of Montana sky. And when I open my eyes in the night, I want the piercing starts I see to match the ones that I’ve been dreaming, each needling into my skin throughout the night…a kind of acupuncture. I want to breath with the deer that bed down in the field, to feel the owl’s lament in my chest and sense the river’s dark satin slip past my skin… everyone of these things returning me to my own flesh and the particular impression my head makes on the pillow. And then, when the sun rises, I wont have been away. The sand hill cranes and rabbits will find me here unscathed from the ravages of displacement. I will have gained the night and multiplied the hours.


open spaces

The dinner dishes were cleared and conversation chattered back and forth, but when there was a brief lull my cousin Richard said, “I have to tell you a story about my daughter’s mentor.” He speaks slowly with open spaces between most words as if leaving room for the Montana sky to coexist with what he has to say. He must have been working up to the telling because we had eaten an entire shrimp feed and sour cream lemon pie between his first mentioning the mentor and this announcement. These stories are rare and Richard’s friends and family know to settle down to listen. As it turns out the story was a sentimental one, not unusual, about the uncle of this man who meant so much to Richard’s daughter. It was far removed from its source, but had taken on folkloric even mythic proportions. The uncle had been in Hungry as World War II ended and was part of a detail offering assistance to survivors. The soldiers, including this uncle, were passing out Hersey’s chocolate bars to children. At this point in the story Richard’s eyes begin to collect water. He is a sentimental man. His wife Alicia teases that she can’t take him out in public, as you don’t know when he might tear up, which is not untrue. As the story goes, this uncle of the man who mentored Richard’s daughter went back to Hungry as an old man and by some serendipitous coincidence met up with one of the children he had given the chocolate to. The boy had saved the Hershey’s wrapper…perhaps as a testament to hope or generosity. And this boy, who was now a man, insisted on giving the wrapper back. At this point in the story it is clear Richard can go no further. The rest of us at the table easily fill with sighs and clucking, but it is Rufus’s beautiful South Carolina drawl at just the right pace “that’s a real nice story,” that complements the telling. There are places around the world that inspire slower speaking. Do these places also inspire a trust of “observational powers,” as Annie Proulx calls them. This place, the eastern Montana prairie is a place where time invested in observation inspires quiet and consideration.


what remains

...the places are what remains, are what you can possess, are what is immortal. They become the tangible landscape of memory, the places that made you and in some way you too become them. They are what you can possess and what in the end possesses you. Rebecca Solnit


mail room 8.05.2010

Two Dot Spot Project continues from the school house. When there is enough light to use a date stencil, my time and location are recorded on a postcard with a few lines about the day written on the back. The postcards are mailed to those who request them and posted at twodotmailroom.