Tag Archives: mountains

My Perfect June Day in Whitefish, Montana

The field of possibility...

The field of possibility…

As seen on Explore Whitefish!

June is heavenly here in Whitefish, Montana with all the birds nesting and singing their territorial symphony, the snow melting off the mountains, the rivers in full rush, the days warm, and the nights still cool.  I’ve lived here for 25 years, and I know this season for the embarrassment of riches that it is!  June also begins my summer Haven Writing Retreat season, so my idea of a perfect day is to ground myself in Montana’s splendor, as I prepare to welcome the 20 brave seekers who come from around the globe to be inspired, write, and find their voice through the written word, whether or not they consider themselves writers. Many of them stay and enjoy the area, including, of course, Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, using Whitefish as their home away from home.  I’ve seen Montana, and Haven, change their lives over and over again, and I love sharing the container for my muse with them!  But first…a personal retreat day in paradise.  Where to begin…

  • An early morning ride on my old Morgan with my horse guru, Bobbi Hall of Stillwater Horse Whispers Ranch (who leads the Equine Assisted Learning at my Haven Writing Retreats), to meet our dear friend, Ky, from Great Northern Powder Guides, in the woods. Ride to Murray Lake on The Whitefish Trail, catch up as busy kindred sisters must, and listen for nesting loons. Maybe a morning dip in the lake while the horses graze.
  • Go home, unsaddle, grab the kids, and forage for morels near riverbeds and in forest fire burns.  (Exact location…up over Never Tell ‘Em Ridge…  Same with huckleberries in August…)
  • Be captivated by the little magenta heads of the Calypso orchids (Fairy Slippers) popping up through the woodland forest bottom while we picnic.Image-1
  • Pick arnica blossoms to make into salve for aches and bruises from a hearty Montana lifestyle!  (Combine with local Montana beeswax from Third Street Market, and give as gifts all year!)
  • Drive home past the golden fields of canola in bloom.
  • Hop in a kayak on Whitefish Lake and paddle, or if I want wind in my hair, rent a ski boat or pontoon boat at the marina at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.  Celebrate the fact that The Whitefish Trail is now almost a full loop around the lake—a dream that came true!  Nice job, Whitefish Legacy Partners!  (Click here to help close the loop!)
  • Stop by the Farmer’s Market and see the spirit of the town in full bloom, with fabulous food trucks, like INDAH Sushi (restaurant opening in Whitefish soon!!!  One of the owners, Stacey, is a Haven Writing Retreat alum!)  Listen to live local musicians, and pick up veggies and herbs from local farms, like Purple Frog Gardens, and Terrapin Farms.  Pick up some Morning Buns from the Finn Biscuit!  Wander through all the great vending booths.  Remember why I love this town and its people so much.
  • Stop by Tupelo Grill for a craft cocktail (the Sazerac and Now or Never are my favs), and their sinful bacon-wrapped chevre dates.
  • Be overwhelmed by all of the amazing restaurant choices there are in Whitefish, realize I’m filthy from the day’s activities, and instead…
  • Go home to grill Montana steaks and (hopefully) sautéed morels for dinner on the patio with old friends and family.  Sip on Domaine Tempier rose, inspired by years of reading my favorite, and longtime Montanan, writer, Jim Harrison.  (I hope there’s DT wherever you are, Jim!)
  • Relax at dusk and listen to the birds singing their nighttime Taps, with members of the Flathead Audubon society on my screened porch, telling me who’s who in this magnificent symphony.IMG_3786
  • End the day journaling about this incredible place on earth in preparation to welcome the next group of brave seekers who are giving themselves the gift of a Haven Writing Retreat at the beautiful Walking Lightly Ranch!
  • Drift off to sleep, watching an endless sky of meteor showers from my bedroom window.
  • Dream of tomorrow:  a hike in Glacier National Park, ending at the Northern Lights Saloon up in Polebridge for dinner and chats with fellow wanderers, proud to call myself a Montanan!

Montana= Heaven’s Haven on Earth.  Enjoy!

For more information about my writing and Haven Writing Retreats, or to sign up for my blog and newsletter, click here!  

Now booking our September and October Haven Writing Retreats in Whitefish, Montana:

June 7-11 (FULL)

June 21-25 (1 spot left)

September 6-10

September 20-24

October 18-22

WF

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Throwback Tuesday

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Now booking 2017 Haven Retreats!

February 22-26
June 7-11
June 21-25
September 6-10
September 20-24
October 4-8
October 18-22

To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreat,

go to the Contact Us button here.

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

grizzly2

 

 

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.

bear1

  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.
mtlion
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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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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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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Winter Mind

Here is one of my favorite poems on this austere day.  Love to all…

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,

The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing
in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds

Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

–Wallace Stevens

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Forget a Pulitzer– I’m a Cartoon Character!

Wow– I think my ego just exploded! Thanks to Jen Sorenson from Portland for coming out to our neck of the woods and composing such an interesting study of our town for The Oregonian. Snowghosts and all! Here’s the permalink.

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Seasonal Depression No More


This time of year people go a little bit crazy around here. It’s been grey. REALLY grey. For a long time. And we live in a place where just about everyone knows their way around horses or skis or both.
And everyone knows their way around snow.
Some lovely lunatic decided to put them all together. It’s called ski joring. The history of ski joring dates back several hundred years to Scandinavia as a way for people to travel during the harsh and snowy winter months. Towed behind reindeer on long wooden skis, these early travelers found ski joring or “ski driving” a useful and practical mode of
transport and communication.

On February 12, 1928 at the 2nd Olympic Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland competitors held a ski joring demonstration. This style was performed riderless with the skier driving the horse from
behind and racing head to head with the other competitors.

Apparently, that lovely lunatic’s ancestor lives in our town because every year our town dumps itself alongside the Burlington Northern railroad tracks at the base of our ski mountain and watches as the bravest of us jump on horse or skis and motor around an icy gnarly track, skier holding a rope attached to a saddle.

Horses fall, skiers fall, riders fall, and the fans go wild. Half the time I can barely watch.
The train engineer toots his horn, the children drink hot cocoa and cheer from plastic sleds, the parents have a Bloody Mary or a pulled pork sandwich, and we all wake up a bit against the mid-winter sky, dripping in grey.

This is our idea of good clean mid-winter fun. And I have to say, it is one of my favorite days in our small mountain town in Montana (as long as nobody gets hurt!).

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Mother’s Nature.


Two people died on our ski mountain last week in tree wells. One was 16, the other was 29. If you’re not familiar with the definition of a tree well, here’s a visual:

The long and short of it is this: evergreens, especially those with low hanging branches, can prohibit snow from filling in and consolidating at the base of the tree. Skiers and snowboarders can catch an edge, not seeing the hole, and catapult head first into these wells, being swallowed in the snow and then buried by snow from the overhead branches. There is little hope for survival, even if you have been responsible enough to partner up and watch as each of you takes the run. It’s a fast and furious death; like drowning.

Your best hope is to ski without your pole straps so that you can potentially have free hands to dig breathing space around your mouth and nose. And then you’re supposed to gently rock, creating more space. And you’re not supposed to panic or struggle, a lot like being caught in a rip tide. Except you’re stuck. Nothing is flowing but hope that your partner is not down at the lift line wondering where you are and remembering, oh yeah, he/she was supposed to be watching you, and oh yeah, skiing and snowboarding, as fun as they are, are sports that can kill.

I wonder about this, after seventeen years of living in a ski town. I wonder about this as a mother of two kids who live to ski and their friends do too. I wonder about this as someone who loves adventure and risk-taking and the abandon found in that adrenaline high. And I also I wonder about this in the field of fear and then in the field of education and then ultimately in the loveliest field I know: surrender.

This morning at the breakfast table, I asked my children how they felt about these recent deaths which have shaken our community in not just grief, but the fresh Bandaid-ripped sting of “this could happen to you.” For these are the sorts of tragedies which happen in my children’s back yard. Not that they should get used to them—as if it would even be possible. But they need to both know how to process them and to know how to prevent them.

Most everybody skis trees here.

It’s part of the our local vernacular. That kind of heart throbbing, lung burning, stomach-butterflied rush is what keeps many of us living here, whether we’re sliding down the mountain, or hiking up a ridge, or galloping through a field on a horse. We are “getting after it,” as the local saying goes. But as a mother, I needed to check in, even if it made me unpopular. They don’t need to know about city streets for now as much as the power of snow. The snow they’ve known best makes snowmen and snow cones and sledding hills.

So this morning I asked my children what the “it” was in “getting after it.” They both said, “What you love.” I could see the snowflakes dancing in their eyes. Every winter morning they run to the computer to check the ski report. Oh for the love of fresh powder. You’d think they’d been given free lifetime passes to Disneyland on those days.

My question begat a sudden discussion about how much “vertical” each of them had gotten this winter, bemoaning the insult that it was raining in mid-January on a Saturday.

Sticking to my mother guns, I gingerly asked them if they were upset about the recent tree well deaths. They both nodded. “Everyone’s talking about it at school.” Then I asked them if they understood just what happens in a tree well and how to avoid it and what to do if they were ever, God forbid, in that brutal situation.

I assumed they knew it by rote; that with all the ski lessons they’ve had and all the lectures my husband and I have given them, they’d recite it like they did the National Anthem. But it turned out: they kind of knew. But they didn’t really know. They had been seeing snowflakes during the “scary” conversations and warnings, turns out. I was horrified.

My kids ski in the trees every weekend from Thanksgiving to Easter. And here is the crux of what every mother knows well– that daring walk on the tightrope between scaring your children out of their gourd, and empowering them with knowledge. And what every child knows better: the line between being cocky pre-teen/teens, and notably shaken. Upside down suffocation? That hadn’t landed on their snowflaky radar.

I felt a rant coming. I tried to take pause. To no avail. I began with: “There’s an expression: All the avalanche experts are dead.” I paused for them to chew on it. Suddenly they weren’t so keen on chewing on their eggs and toast.

I wanted to full-on lecture them then, out of motherly fear. How was it possible that they hadn’t learned all about the full array of dangers on our ski mountain…maybe I had left something out in the long list of things to teach my children…had I remembered Hospital Corners, and not tree wells??? But I tried not to get dramatic—tried to keep it direct.

In so many words I explained that when you make decisions in the back country based on ego, you get into trouble. And then I wanted to twist the knife a bit in their hearts. Because maybe it’s the hurt that makes the mind listen and remember and maybe two deaths are not enough in the minds of children.

“Being in nature is a privilege and one that should never be taken lightly.” I explained that sometimes we forget that privilege when a machine like a chair lift zooms us up to a place that normally would take all day to ascend, and that for people who hike up the mountain rather than take the lift…for just that one…run…down, there is the grace of gratitude. We need to remember gratitude.

They looked unimpressed. Hiking up? All that work and only one run?

So I started twisting that knife harder and I knew not to but I couldn’t stop. Call it fear. Call it shock value. This was my motherhood talking now. “You need to respect the mountain. It’s not a ride at Six Flags. People who hike up the mountain for that one glide down…they know all about gratitude, but they also know about respect. They leave their egos down in the parking lot, along with their credit cards and the heat button. Their power is in paying attention, and knowing the real power, and that’s Mother Nature. They are as vulnerable as can be, save for their fiberglass skies and their Gortex. And that’s the way they want it. They have checked the avalanche report, the snow conditions. They have their partners and their plan.”

Now my kids looked like they wanted to cry. But I couldn‘t stop. Maybe you know this feeling. It’s called Running Scared.

“But when technology makes it so that you can cram in 15 of those runs in a day, tuning out the ascent with your iPod-bedecked helmet, telling jokes about the skiers below…then I just wonder about that descent and where the ego is.”

I had them with iPod.

“I’m not saying that it’s ego that had those people end up in tree wells. It happens to back country skiers too. I just wonder about intention and humility and lessons learned in a second flat, and then lost to suffocation.”

And then I lost them. Too many big words. It was probably better that way. They went back to breakfast. “So what time are we leaving for the mountain,” one of them asked their father, who had been staying out of this. Probably wisely so. Probably because he could have covered this ground in a four minute speech in the car on the way up the ski hill. Mothers.

The local papers haven’t reported whether or not those snow boarders were riding alone when they fell into those tree wells, and frankly it’s none of my business. I just think that for all the young people who go up to “shred” in the fresh “pow pow” after a few days of “dumpage and puking and pissing” snow…who smoke a few bowls and blare agro head banging hard driving music in their helmets, getting after “it”…or even the blithe skiers and snowboarders who are just in it for the innocent fun it is and the french fry breaks and the chance to play in the snow with friends and family and slide down a hill and gain some speed and take in some views…maybe there can be a moment of pause this January in Montana in our little town. Maybe those deaths can be a reminder that Mother Nature is more powerful than human nature will ever be.

For an expansive education about skiing and snowboarding near tree wells, go to this site which was created by a collaboration of the NW Avalanche Institute, Mt. Baker Ski Area, Crystal Mountain and Dr. Robert Cadman.

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I Like Skiing


One of the things I love about blogging is that you put yourself out to a global community, and you find kindred spirits. It’s so powerful to admit my weaknesses and observations and little vanities here, and have them meet with people from all sorts of different countries and cultures and social groups. I especially love how people are so willing to share with integrity and vulnerability. I know I say this over and over, but I’m so grateful for that. To that end…I will share with you about a little issue I have…and one which yesterday, I put to rest.

I have lived in a ski town for seventeen years. This would be the answer to many people’s prayers. There are hundreds of people who live in my town who work whatever job(s) they can find just so they can soar down that ski hill. I am not one of them. I have never felt comfortable on skis. I can’t really deal with the whole scene, plummeting down the mountain in total white out so that you can’t see whether you’re on ice or a foot of carved up snow until you are upon it, in temps so cold your nose hurts, people careening down all around you, cutting you off. I say over and over, “I like skiing, I like skiing” the whole way down. Until I get to the chair lift and fanataszie about the hot cocoa I’m going to have at the lodge, but then think about how much money it costs for a lift ticket and force/guilt myself to go up again. To be apart of what my children and husband adores and my town’s culture. In the lift line, it’s all about the fresh pow pow and the gnarly moguls and the forecasted snow which is described by words like puking, dumping, croaking and vommiting. And then there’s the ride up on the chairlift which contains the possibility of dangling fifty feet in the air for a long long time, due to mechanical issues– a lot of fun for a person who likes to ask the question, “How do I get out of here,” and have a logical answer. I’m the one who knows where the exit row is on an airplane, for instance. The one in front, and the one behind. In other words, I’m a real treat to ski with. Usually I get left behind by my family. Usually I ski alone. So in the last years, usually I don’t go up at all. I am what you might refer to as a ski-widow. Luckily, wintertime makes me want to write books so I’m home all weekend by the fire, writing, and cooking something yummy for my family to enjoy upon their return.

But yesterday I had a come-to-Jesus conversation with myself. My family was going up skiing and the kids complained that I never join them. It was a stunning day– not too cold, not a cloud in the sky, views of Glacier National Park all the way down through the valley to Flathead Lake. The snow conditions were stable the way I like them, and so really…I had no excuse. So I went. Both of my kids ran into friends in the parking lot and off they went. “See you at the lodge at the end of the day,” they chimed. I wasn’t about to MAKE them ski with me. And my husband got called in to work before the first run. So I spent the day skiing, alone. BUT I refused to feel sorry for myself.

I decided I’d do an experiment. I’d go slowly and pay attention. I’d pretend like I’d never skiied before in my life. Like I’d never seen a mountain peak or even snow. Like everthing was new to me– the pines laden with snow like ghosts, the chairlift, a miracle invention, allowing me to have those views, those fiberglass skiis a genius appendage I could strap on and slide on like a kid in a candy store. I took away all the pressure of being any good at this thing I’ve battled with for seventeen years. This thing you can’t buy a cup of coffee around here without hearing about. This “club” that I’m not really apart of. I would just be with the moment of snow underfoot. And I would go as slowly as possible. I would stop. I would take a half an hour to get down the mountain. I would carve my turns instead of formlessly speeding down the mountain to get it over with. I would lie on my back in the sun and be thankful for vitamin D in all this season of grey and fog. And you know what? I had a great day. It’s amazing what can happen when we go easy on ourselves, remove our head noise– all the shoulds and musts and what ifs…and just be with the moment.

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On This Winter's Night With You

I love this song. This time of year, I hear it in my mind when I take my evening walks. In the spirit of my last post, I thought I’d include this video I found on youtube which shows a lovely slide show of a wintery Switzerland, and gives some familiar Montana-esque images to this gorgeous song. Take a moment, pour yourself something warm to drink, and enjoy. From my snowy home to yours. (you have to click the Watch This Video on Youtube” option to view it…)

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Filed under Little Hymns to Montana, My Posts