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Dear Reader –

So you know when you want something very very badly?  And you wait and you wait and then finally…it’s a sunny day, and all the great ideas beckon you out into it saying, “You can do this thing, you can be this person you want to be, you can have the life you want…and P.S…it’s not that hard.  Come.”  And so you do.  And it’s with fear and trepidation. But you do it anyway and you feel good about it.  Really good.  And then something happens and you get stuck in an old way of thinking and the fear sets in and suddenly you find yourself on your ass.  In my case, it might have had something to do with a horse and his jig to my jag.  And the consequent fracture to a few key bones making it very hard to sneeze, cough, laugh, clear my throat, breathe.

Well, it gives you pause.  Time to think.  You know what I’m talking about.  That thing that you want so badly is actually something that really scares you and you wonder why you want it so badly– why you’ve set your life up to always be hard.  Like you’re constantly saying to yourself:  “You can take it.  You’re brave enough.  You’re a bad ass.  DO IT.”

Well that’s what I hear in my mind:  A lot.  Sometimes it serves me.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  It’s helped me get through 25 years in Montana.  And it’s sort of getting me through these days laid up in bed, grateful for rolling over two inches, grateful for being able to reach a glass full of water.  It has me wondering about my relationship with personal power.  Maybe we don’t have to be so bad ass.  Maybe being able to get out of bed is a daily miracle.  Maybe this is a blessing, this time to pause.

And reflect on this woman I’ve been in these Montana years.

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In this period of near-motionlessness, I’m grateful for my laptop.  I’m not much in the mood for writing.  More for reflecting on my relationship with personal power and how I get in my own way– my jags to life’s jigs.  So, I’m looking through old blog posts about Montana in the last decade and trying to learn what it is to let yourself off the hook.  Thought I’d re-post a few of them here this week.  Makes sense, given my current state, to begin with one called “Break Me In, Montana.”  I hope you enjoy.

Here’s something that might help you in your own relationship with your personal power:
My affirmation when I went out on my first book tour was, “I give myself permission to be exactly who I am and have it be easy.”

yrs.

Laura

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Break Me In, Montana

May 11, 2009

I begged for this. This house. This land. This time. This husband and these children. I begged to know a place season for season. To use last summer’s spent perennials as winter mulch. To rake it off when the Lenten roses poke through. To know, finally, which one is the North Star, and use it to find my way home. I begged to feel my heart sink with the leaving V’s of geese. And become buoyant again with their return.

I did not know I was begging. All those years in cities. Chicago, New York, Boston, Florence, London, Seattle. I would catch myself in storefront windows and say yes, I am alive. I see myself here in the crowd. In that great outfit. Those fantastic shoes. And return to the apartment with the cockroaches and the blinking answering machine, ready to make my home in some glittering concert hall, some stark white art opening, some hushed mocha-toned new restaurant. I did not know I was begging for this when I dropped to my knees one night at the side of my bed like my grandmother used to, and said, please, please, bring me home.

Three weeks later my husband walked into our brand new Seattle house and said, “I just got a job in Montana. You would be able to write full time. We could have our kids there, and you wouldn’t have to work outside the home.”

So we left.

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  I watched the Cascades until they were little harmless divots in the horizon,    and I cried all through the dry of Eastern Washington and over the pass that  brought me, for the first time, to the Flathead Valley.
Over a hill, and there it was: Flathead Lake to the south, the ski mountain in  Whitefish to the North, the Jewel Basin in front of us drifting off into the Swan and the Mission ranges. The canyon leading to Glacier National Park off to the east. Twin bald eagles riding a thermal over us.
“It feels like a set up,” I said.

I could not receive this place at first. It felt like it had power over me like one of those guru types posing to know you better than you know yourself. More so, it felt like my enemy. The answer to a prayer I never meant to pray. Like it would break me in half if I slacked off for one second. Grizzly bears. Forest fires. Avalanches. Mountain lions. Angry loggers. Angry environmentalists. People dying for and from what I could only perceive as folly—kayaking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, back country skiing, downhill skiing, horseback riding, ice climbing, river rafting…and on and on.

“Let go of the city,” the lovers of this country would say. “Stay. Sit a spell.” No, I secretly schemed. Letting go would mean a betrayal. Of that girl in the shop window.

Instead, I spent many years letting go of Montana. Taking hits off the city in drug-dose proportions. Looking down from my returning flight into our little valley, seeing the outline of the mountains, the five or six farm lights still on, landing, thinking I can do it this time. I can stay. Three months later, I would be up in the sky again, panting over the grid of lights below and the skyscrapers on the horizon beckoning me back.
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Until I had my first child. And the subway so suddenly went villain. The honking cars and heaving bus exhaust and hissing sewers…like land mines. I clung to my baby. I ended up in parks. Grant Park. The Presidio. The Boston Garden. Central Park. The Arboretum. Leaving the city windows to another girl’s self-fascination. Then I would hover over our little valley with the landing gear descending, see the half-dozen little lights below, the moonlit ranges, and begin to find thanks.

It occurred to me then, that letting go was not a leaving. But a climbing in. A yes. I proclaimed that yes. At first quietly. Ashamed. Then louder. Then so I didn’t know the difference between yes, and living.

Fifteen years. Dog sled racers, endurance riders, snowcat operators, medicine women, stunt pilots. Grizzly trackers, loggers, bowhunters. Helicopter nurses, heart surgeons, brewers and preschool teachers. Electric company cherry pickers, and Flathead cherry growers. Pizza parlor proprietors and organic farmers. Cowboys. Rodeo queens. Horse whisperers. Blacksmiths. Piano tuners. Cross dressers. Quilters. DJ’s, hot dog vendors, mule packers. Vietnam Vets. Ski bums. Fly-fishing guides, bartenders, computer programmers, train conductors. Double Phds that live in their car and grift at the pool hall for food money. Wives who live to hunt. Husbands who live to cook their wives’ kill.

I still have not been mauled by a grizzly bear. Still have not even seen a mountain lion. Have only come upon the aftermath of forest fire…and found a bounty of mushrooms there. Montana never broke me in– like a cowboy who thinks it needs to break the mare’s spirit to gain respect. I was never that mare. It was never that cowboy.

Instead, it was there all that time– in purple Alpine glow and sparkling wide rivers, in the sight of my child’s fingers on a trout belly, the safe back of an old horse lakeside in August, dipping its neck down and drinking slow sips of glacial run-off, in soft rains and misting meadows, anthills and golden Larch, in the little white farm lights and moonlit snowy peaks– it was there, all that long sweet time…welcoming me home.

 

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Ten+ reasons why I live in Whitefish, Montana

Haven Retreats:  find your stories…find your voice…

Haven Writing Retreats: 2015 (full with wait list)

2016 Haven Retreat Calendar:

February 24-29

June 8-12
June 22-25
September 7-11
September 21-25
October 5-9
October 19-23
Booking now.

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(*note:  You’d think it has to do with skiing and golfing…but it doesn’t.)

Because I can go outside to get something out of my car naked.

Because if the UPS guy drove up while I was getting something out of my car naked, he wouldn’t make a big deal out of it.

Because I can go into town in the same outfit I slept in and no one would even notice and if they did notice they’d say, “Good for you.”

Because we have old fashioned streetlights with hanging flower baskets on them, an ice cream parlor, a toy store, a hardware store, and a brewery (and a whole lot of other cool locally owned stores and restaurants).

Because when you go to the Post Office, people ask you about your kids by name.

Because the health food store owners know more about my digestive tract than I do.  And they hold my babies when we load the car.  (I love you Rick and Dawn.)

Because we have a Winter Carnival where grown-ups dress up like Vikings and Yetis and Queens and Kings and ride floats and jump into a frozen lake.  And lots of people come to watch and think it’s fun.

Because it doesn’t matter how much money you have.  And nobody really cares, if they do know.

Because we’re all the same in a snow storm.

Because we’re all the same in a forest fire.247505_10151347732866266_244248466_n

Because we’re all the same when there’s a grizzly bear or a mountain lion on the trail.

Because the Great Northern Railroad comes right through town and I can feel connected to my hometown Chicago, and another favorite old haunt, Seattle.

Because Glacier National Park is on a lot of people’s bucket list and for us, it’s an easy answer to the question, “So what do you want to do today?”

Because we believe in our wandering rights and have 26 miles of non-motorized trail meandering through our greenbelt, with more to come. (The Whitefish Trail)

Because we have lakes and rivers all around us.

Because it serves up things to write about daily.

Because we have a Farmer’s Market that everybody goes to, even if it’s hailing.

Because people care about the Arts here, (not just about skiing and golfing).

Because on school field trips, my kids go snow-shoeing, ice-fishing, and skiing.

Because they broadcast the local high school football game at the grocery store.

Because people read the local paper.  That’s all we’ve got, anyway.

Because at Christmas-time, we string the same vintage bells across the street as they used in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Is that ten reasons?  I need to drive my kid to school in my pajamas now.  Oh, and I need eggs.  But maybe I’ll just get those from the neighbor’s chickens.

See more about Whitefish, Montana  

Downtown Print

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My Garden Grows

borderI learned to garden not as a lady of leisure, but as a writer who needed a source of income and who knew that it had to be in the realm of creative self-expression lest it suck the muse dry.  So I worked at a flower shop in Harvard Sq., and later at a nursery in Seattle, and after that, at a landscaping operation.  I learned a lot along the way, and little by little I began to play with my own garden dreams.  I’d bowed at the altar of my childhood favorite illustrator, Tasha Tudor, in deeply spiritual groans over her lush tangle of flowers and barefoot ruddy-faced children, dogs and cats– a peaceable kingdom that I longed to one day create.  I wanted to be this woman, so self-sufficient and Yankee, walking barefoot in her garden, pausing only for the rigors of afternoon tea and a sensible nap.  I wanted to set up a writing table the way she did an easel, and use it all to inspire worlds from this small postage stamp of my creation in the physical world.

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I planted small perennial gardens wherever I lived, even in rentals.  Suffice it to say that there are a lot of perennial beds across the country, and I hope that they are still alive and well.  Perennials are both good friends and traitors that way.  The second I bought my first home, I planned out the garden, pouring through all the Tasha Tudor books I could find about her garden, and locked in on my vision:  a cottage garden, dripping in structure that would over the years, take care of itself.  patio_2
Honeysuckle would grow over grapevines, clematis would vine through ragosa roses barbed to antique metal trellices.  There would be show after show, each star introducing the next from narcissus, to tulips, to forget-me-nots, to allium, to ladies mantle, to lupine, to poppies, to peonies, to roses, to delphinium, to mallow, to rudbeckia, to monarda, and the final autumn show stoppers– sunflowers, aster, sedum, done.   And so much inbetween.  It would be a fine mess of old friends that would return every year, and I would welcome them as such, praying away hail for the easily bruised poppies, high winds for the hollow-stalked delphinium, and praying for ants for the peonies.IMG_0334

We had little to choose from at our rural Montana nurseries in the way of perennials, and the catalogues were a let down– the bare root stubs that showed up in the mail nothing like what they promised in profusion on their pages that taunted you mid-February.  So whenever I travelled, be it by car, train, or airplane, I would always bring home roots from friends’ gardens, wrapped in wet newspaper, and stored in plastic bags.  To this day, old friends who have passed on, are still alive in my garden, reminding me of the power of roots.  The power of vision.  The power of creating your own postage stamp of perennial friends who for the most part, live, even through the most brutal winter.trio

My garden has been a room in our home, inspiring mudpies, bedside bud vases, Mother’s Day bouquets, teacher appreciation gifts, strawberry jam. No matter what, I try to have something from the garden in the house. Because it helps. In their exquisite and tender elegance, flowers remind us that we are all root, stalk and petal. And that we all bloom, fade, and grow again. Unless it’s time to move on like my honeysuckles decided this winter after a 20 year run, sometimes even growing in winter!070 (2)

There have been years when I was ambitious, building a dry stack wall by  myself, or binding willow trellices to support the sweet peas, or digging up day lillies and soaking them so that I could release them from the grass that bound their roots, divide them and replant.  And years when I didn’t have the time or the back power to add even one bulb in the fall, or pull weeds in the spring, and there was one year when I didn’t have the energy to water them at all.  Still, for 20 years, these friends have grown loyally and religiously.  The garden then, is the outward and visible sign of my inward invisible truth.peon

May your garden grow whatever kind of day you are having!

Take a moment and meet these good old friends of mine:


Honeysuckle: May you rest in peace…
honey
We bedeck you with crystals from my childhood lamp.
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Heart Language

heart_houseHappy Valentines Day to you all from the heart of my home to yours.

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Montana Haven

Montana has been my home, my muse, my inspiration, my teacher, my challenger, my haven for over twenty years this month.  Here is my tribute to this Last Best Place under the Big Sky.

Come with me on an adventure of a lifetime!

Haven Retreats in Montana: email me:  laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

August 7th-11th (full)

September 4th-8th (full with a wait list)

September 18th-22nd (full with wait list) 

 

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Garden Haven

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Come with me on an adventure of a lifetime!

Haven Retreats in Montana: email me:  laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

August 7th-11th (just a few spots left)

September 4th-8th (now booking)

September 18th-22nd (full with wait list)

This year, a miracle occurred in my garden.  It wasn’t a great year.  Let’s just leave it at that.  And I decided that my home was my safe haven.  So I took crystals from a light fixture that belonged to my childhood room and wired them to the old honeysuckle wood that surrounds the archway beginning my garden path.  And I decided that they were protection.  That in passing under that crystal be-decked archway, I would be protected, whether I was entering my home, or exiting it.  Every time I passed under, I took a deep breath and imagined myself surrounded in a white light that nothing or no one could permeate.

Fall came, and with it, the usual garden death and dormancy.  One by one, the last asters and sedum and black-eyed Susans gave way to frost. Then rain, matted it all down, their winter cover.  I chose not to put the garden to bed as I usually do, cutting back the stems so that in the spring, the tulips and jonquils have space to send their shoots.  I just let the garden blanket itself, knowing that snow would soon come, holding that blanket firm.  I’d pull off the plant blanket in the early spring when the snow melted to make way for the bulbs.  But each day, as I passed under that arch, the crystals hanging from stark, leafless, bloomless honeysuckle wood…I noticed that there were a few small branches that weren’t yet dormant. Paler green leaves, yes, and limp less-orange blooms…but still thriving.  November, December, January, February…they held on in the driving ice and snow of a Montana winter.  I couldn’t believe it.

It was as much hopeful as it was stubborn as it was a little scary and sad.  I worried about the whole vine, not taking its winter rest.  I rely on that archway to be full of lush orange and green welcome all summer long, and I feared that the honeysuckle was somehow trying to martyr itself for me.  But there was nothing I could do but just receive this feat of nature as what it needed to be.  I wasn’t sure what that was.   But I had to let go.  I finally resolved that it was a gift.  It was promising protection, year long, and it was getting its power from the crystals of my childhood ceiling light– one which I gazed into all my foundational years for comfort.  I thanked it every time I passed through.  Which meant that I not only felt protection.  But I felt gratitude too.  Gift after gift.  Day after day.

And this summer, in its twenty year long life, I have never seen my garden in such profusion.  I let it go.  And it took care of itself.   And even thrived when it wasn’t supposed to.  The lesson in this runs as deep as those honeysuckle roots.  Sometimes when we let go, the world holds us just a little closer, a little more bravely, a little more tenderly.  And hope abounds.

Please enjoy this slideshow of my garden haven, 2013 by clicking the right arrow after each slide:

 

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Long Ago: Community Entry #23

From this nook in this little cabin in remote Montana...two characters lie on a beach in Mexico. That's what happens when you write a novel in winter...

As you may know, I am spending a few months in the dormancy of winter, working on a book. And, like last year at this time, I am offering my blog to you. Last year we looked into our Breaking Points and found community and grace in grief and vulnerability. This year we are looking into our past, and finding the weaving of community that stitches us to our present. I will be posting these pieces at These Here Hills. Their authors will be happy to receive and respond to your comments.  Here is the blog post I wrote about this subject.

Contest submissions closed. Winner will receive a scholarship to one of my upcoming Haven writing retreats in Montana, announced mid-February…

Now I am further stepping into the wilderness of Montana and the wilderness of writing. If you’d like to create haven for your creativity…come to a Haven Writing Retreat here in Montana. June, August, and September retreats are now booking and filling fast.  Email me for more info:  Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

This gem reminds us that home truly is wherever you are.  And family is a community that only you define.  Please enjoy! 

yrs.  Laura 

p.s.  June Haven writing retreat is now booking and filling fast…  Click here for more info.

Long Ago: Community by Pamela Hammonds

If people ask where I was born, I naturally say “Indiana.” But if the question is worded differently, if someone asks, “Where did you grow up?” I’m much more likely to say “Alabama.” This is the story of how I got there.

When I was 20 and a college junior, I said, “I do” to a grad student with more ambition than heart who convinced me that he was the best thing that ever happened to me. Over the next five years, we would move four times and land in a small town in Alabama. When he returned home from work one day and announced yet another job opportunity awaited him in a neighboring state, I had to make a decision. Should I continue to follow someone who doesn’t respect me any more than I do myself? Or stay. For me.

I made one trip out of state to house hunt and became physically ill on my drive home alone. As the house in Alabama went on the market, I summoned the courage to tell him I didn’t want to move again. Although I’ve put much of our short life together behind me, this I remember distinctly. He said: “I made a commitment to my career long before I made a commitment to you and will go with or without you.” Wisely, I said, “Then go.”

As the moving company labeled boxes with “his” and “hers,” I watched a brown cardboard barricade go up between us. With my golden retriever’s heavy head in my lap, I sat on the kitchen floor and wept—too proud to return to Indiana, too scared to stay, too unsure I would survive anywhere.

But I did stay. I found an apartment and a job in the office of the local shopping mall and settled into a life with my pup and uncharted independence. My new boss and his dog, who lived in the same complex, made sure my dog and I walked safely each evening and sometimes invited us over for pizza and a movie. Or just checked in to make sure we were all right.

He wasn’t the only one concerned about my welfare. Many of the mall tenants became dear friends as we worked closely together, preparing for holiday events, summer sales and fashion shows. A couple years later, I would purchase a new white dress and gold bands at that mall and marry that kind man—who happened to be my boss.

When we made the move from two apartments to one house, packing up all our worldly goods—and two dogs—those same friends who worked with us welcomed us into our new home with gifts and good wishes. The bank manager had become my substitute mother and taught me that when life gets hard, bear in mind that “this too shall pass.” Our two sons would call her Mimi, as did all her grandchildren.

We no longer live in small town Alabama. The two babies we had when we lived there are now in college. But my twenty-fifth through thirty-fifth years were spent there. I made a lot of mistakes and missteps, but when it mattered most, I made the right choices. I chose the father of my children in that town. I chose to surround myself with good people like Mimi and Granddaddy, Steve and Claudia, Joel and Elizabeth, Vicki and Tommy and many more people who became family. Who took a scarred and scared 25-year-old into their flock and made her life better.

I haven’t lived in Indiana for nearly thirty years, never returned to live close to my ‘real family.’ But I find that wherever I live—California, Illinois, Texas, Alabama—I’m surrounded by family. People who love me whom I love in return. People who love my children like their own. My people. My family.

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Long Ago: Community Entry #19

 

Purple mountain majesty. Night walks. Many pages now.

 

As you may know, I am spending a few months in the dormancy of winter, working on a book. And, like last year at this time, I am offering my blog to you. Last year we looked into our Breaking Points and found community and grace in grief and vulnerability. This year we are looking into our past, and finding the weaving of community that stitches us to our present. I will be posting these pieces at These Here Hills. Their authors will be happy to receive and respond to your comments.  Here is the blog post I wrote about this subject.

Contest submissions closed. Winner will receive a scholarship to one of my upcoming Haven writing retreats in Montana, announced mid-February…

Now I am further stepping into the wilderness of Montana and the wilderness of writing. If you’d like to create haven for your creativity…come to a Haven Writing Retreat here in Montana. June, August, and September retreats are now booking and filling fast.  Email me for more info:  Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

Loving the mountains as I do, and being a transplant as well, this piece spoke majesty to me.  Thank you, Elsbeth Chambers and fellow Montanan!  yrs. Laura

The Mountains, by Elspeth Chambers

“The mountains! The mountains! We greet them with a song!” So goes an old college song, the college that my husband attended in fact. But it wasn’t until I wrote my first attempt at this essay that I came to realize how mountains run through my life like the proverbial silken thread.

In the summer of 1930, shortly before his 17th birthday, my father arrived in Alberta and began a love affair with the Rocky Mountains. He had been born in a country vicarage in England, the fifth of six children, and arrived in Canada with a group of boys all eager to experience the openness and opportunity of life on the Canadian prairie. Maybe an older brother’s departure less than a year earlier to work on a rubber plantation in Malaya had inspired him to travel west, I do not know. My father wanted to farm – in one of his early diaries he had written “I think I shall be a farmer when I grow up” – and went to work for a farmer in southern Alberta. But life took one of those unexpected turns, and after realizing that the life of a farmer was, after all, not for him, he crossed the Rockies to attend university in Vancouver, and later became ordained, like his father, grandfather, and many great grandfathers before him. For the next decade he crisscrossed the Rockies as he ministered to parishioners in Alberta and British Columbia during the difficult times of the Depression and World War II.

After the War my father traveled back to England to visit his family, who had miraculously all survived, including the brother in Malaya who had spent the war incarcerated by the Japanese. In those post-war days of shortages and rationing my father had to wait several months for a passage back to Canada, and took the offer of temporary assistant to a clergyman friend in southwest London. On one of his first Sundays there a beautiful young woman caught his eye, and once again life took one of those unexpected turns. Within a year they were married, and my grandparents begged them to stay in England a while longer. This was before the days of mass air travel, when crossing the Atlantic was done by sea, and the thought of their daughter living and raising their grandchildren half way round the world was more than they could bear.

So my father took a parish in England, and I too was born in a country vicarage. A quarter of a century would elapse before my father took my mother to see his beloved Rocky Mountains, but he returned to them often in his dreams, and my brother and I were raised on romantic stories of his life there. His stories, visits from my uncle, now coffee farming in Kenya, and pen-pal correspondence with a cousin whose mother had followed my father to Canada, inspired in me a wanderlust, and I knew that when I grew up I wanted to travel and see the world. I found a career that would take me to far-away places, and I can still remember, as I traveled to my first post, flying by the Himalayas at dawn, and looking carefully at all the rosy peaks so I knew I would have seen Mt Everest, even if I wasn’t sure which peak it was! A year or two later I found myself based in the foothills of the Himalayas. Each summer groups of climbers would appear and set off to conquer some of the world’s tallest mountains. I met and got to know men who had climbed Mt. Everest, and listened to their tales.

Eventually my career brought me to the United States, and here life began to repeat itself, for a few months after I started attending a church in Washington, D.C., a good-looking man caught my eye. A few months later he took me to his college town, and, standing on a New England mountaintop, asked me to marry him. (My brother also proposed to his wife on top of a mountain, though that was in Switzerland.) Unlike my grandparents so many years before, my parents were accustomed to transatlantic air travel and were more than happy to take advantage of having a reason to fly across the “pond”. Visits to Washington D.C. were invariably combined with tours of the western United States and, of course, the Canadian Rockies.

With the new millennium came our family’s decision to leave Washington D.C. We considered several places in different parts of the country, but Montana tugged at us. My husband had spent summers at a summer camp in the Bitterroots, a Rocky Mountain range in southwest Montana. Like so many before us, we liked the idea of the openness and opportunity provided by Big Sky country; we sold our house, bundled the children into that modern day version of the covered wagon, the minivan, and headed west. We made a ceremonial visit to the Gateway Arch in St Louis, and followed routes taken by the early pioneers. We built a house in a valley in northwestern Montana, 300 feet above the valley floor. From our deck, on a clear day, we can see mountains for a hundred miles.

Sadly, by the time we moved here, my father was too frail to travel to visit us (my mother had died a few years earlier) although he still returned to the Rockies in his dreams. But he was happy to know that his daughter was living and raising his grandchildren in his beloved Rocky Mountains, and he loved to see my photographs and hear me describe the mountains to him in our Sunday telephone conversations. I think we both felt that in some way I had completed the circle and, half a century after he left Canada, I had come home for him.

“The mountains! The mountains! We greet them with a song”

 

 

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Long Ago: Community Entry #9

Taking a break from the writing. Reading an old time favorite. "Live the questions." --Rilke

For those of you who have been submitting to and following this “Long Ago:  Community” writing series/contest…I want to thank you.  Your supportive comments and vulnerable stories represent the staples of true community:  support, bravery, creativity, generosity, and the willingness to share. 

As I enter into the next part of my solo writing retreat to work on my novel, it brings me great joy to know that you all are here, holding These Here Hills in my absence.  My Haven Writing Retreat season will soon begin, and I have learned that if we are going to nurture and inspire other people in their self-expression, we have to begin by doing just that for ourselves.  If you are interested in joining me for a retreat, email me at Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com.  June is fast filling.  And August, and September are now booking.  Contest winner for Haven scholarship will be announced soon…  Submissions are closed…  For more info click here.

Please enjoy this nostalgic piece about neighborhood magic by Betsy Nelson!

yrs.

Laura

The House at the End of Belvedere Road, by Betsy Nelson

 

When I was a girl growing up in the 1970’s living in a Texas town near the Louisiana border, I often visited my friend Molly’s house at the end of Belvedere Road.  Most houses on Belvedere were roomy, two-story brick traditional, enveloped by the deep green leaves of sprawling Live Oak trees and angular pine trees. But the very last house on this small-town street was not like the rest.

To begin with, it didn’t look like any of the other houses. The exterior was rough stucco, the color of French Vanilla ice cream.  It was topped off with an aged slate roof that looked like small, uniform waves, or like the curly, hard Christmas candy I found in my stocking each year.

The house was U-shaped, built around a central courtyard, shadowed by the iron balconies that lunged overhead, from the second-story bedrooms.  In the middle of the pebbled courtyard was a trickling fountain with a quirky bronze statue of an owl perched above it.  The image of this mysterious owl at his post, haunted and sometimes comforted me, as I caught glimpses of him on restless nights when I would sleep over.

Upon entering the house through the side door, into the kitchen, I would glance at the simple chalkboard hung on the wall next to the telephone, which was usually ringing or occupied.  Scribbled on the board were chalky messages or funny hand-drawn pictures, chronicling the various comings and goings of a lively family of seven children and their Mom and Dad.  If I was lucky and it was close to dinner when I visited, the kitchen would be filled with the pungent aroma of garlic and onions sautéing in preparation for some fabulous, exotic Southern dish.

Walking through the house on my way to the backyard, I would feel the warm sunlight streaming in through a wall of tall windows, as I passed the pine dining table, where twelve whitewashed, ladder back chairs stood neatly aligned, until the family would arrive and disrupt all order bringing vibrant life to the abandoned scene.

Sliding open the heavy glass doors that led to the expanse of sweet-smelling, green grass and billowy clover with bees hovering above their fragile stalks, I was met by a familiar chorus of gleeful, Southern voices and raucous laughter.  There, a throng of athletic-looking, tow-headed children of various sizes, ages and abilities, encircled a mammoth, jet-black canvas trampoline.  Calling, “Hi!” and “Come On!”, the family and a mélange of neighborhood children, jostled to make room for me there beside them.

Spindly, suntanned arms stretched out to rest on the cushioned rim careful not to get fingers caught in the coiled springs. All heads looked up at the glorified kid of the moment, the one taking his turn jumping on the trampoline.  Some could bounce high and touch their outstretched toes while suspended for a moment in the air.  Some could do flips, bounce up, land cross-legged on the canvas and bounce up again.  Others could do little more than jump shyly and roll onto the ground, holding their sides, aching from too much laughter.  Oblivious to all this, were Queenie and Greta, two silky, steel-gray and snow white, German Shepherd dogs, stretched out grandly on the cool ground in the sphere of shade beneath the mighty trampoline.

When we finished, a few of us might sneak off and clamber up the bare wooden stairs to the steaming, windowless attic of the house, to dig through the Magic Box, a deep, Chinese-red trunk, filled to overflowing with velvety and satin costumes, smelling of old perfume.  Or perhaps, with the late-evening sun beating down, we would climb onto our bikes and take off for the dusty “hills”, a bank of hard-packed dirt, nothing more than the result of a bayou that had been dug alongside the house.  Wheels whirring, our bikes glided up one side and coasted down the other until sunset streaked the sky coral pink and mustard yellow.  Then, reluctantly, we would all say bye to each other, as we would leave to return to our own homes, and anticipate the next time we would be lucky enough to visit this enchanted place on Belvedere Road.

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Filed under Blog series-- Long Ago: Community, My Posts

Until 2011

Hi friends. I am taking a bit of a hiatus for a few weeks to play in the snow with my family here in Montana. Normally, I respond to each of you because I consider you gifts and because I learn from you and because when we share back and forth, something always happens in the way of abundance. I wish you all a joyous New Years and I’ll see you back here at THESE HERE HILLS soon. I will be reading your lovely comments and taking each one to heart.

In the meantime, I’m still offering ad space to my blog readers for a special rate, so if you have a business you would like to promote here, I promise to champion you and to feature you here, as well as in my cyber presence. I know what it is to feel like you have something you care about so much and not necessarily the platform to give it wings. I’m happy to use whatever platform I have to help. Let me know here and we can email about it.

Stay tuned for my January HAVEN newsletter which will feature the writer Susan Pohlman, author of the memoir HALFWAY TO EACH OTHER. We will be writing about the subject of endings bringing beginnings. Sign up on the home page of THESE HERE HILLS, or on my website: http://www.lauramunsonauthor.com in the left column of every page but HOME to get HAVEN, and come here to comment and share with Susan and me.

yrs.
Laura

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