Tag Archives: summer

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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Retreat Season: A Time to be Mindful

As featured on the front page of Huffington Post 50
dock_2Mindfulness is on the map.  Time Magazine ran it on its cover last January:  “The Mindful Revolution.”  The Chicago Tribune headlined it:  Use mindfulness to pull yourself out of a funk.  An article in The New York Times urges us to use mindfulness and meditation as a powerful resource in healthy living.  The Washington Post challenges us to be mindful at work.  The Huffington Post offers 5 mindful things to do every day.  And Forbes touts mindfulness as a tool for Success.  (And we all know what Forbes means when they talk about $success$.)  It’s like a miracle or something.  Mindfulness has been my dearest pursuit for as long as I can remember.  I just didn’t know what word to attach to it.  And maybe that was because I was fairly positive that mainstream society wouldn’t support it.  I’ve never been very good at being called names.  So in an effort to lessen the offense, I decided to call myself a Writer.  And I moved to Montana where nobody seemed to care one way or another.

I have spent the last 25 years living in Montana, writing with all my mindful might.  The natural world is the perfect stage to develop this practice, this prayer, this meditation, this way of life, and sometimes this way to life.  I fiercely believe that creative self-expression on the page should be up there with diet and exercise as a therapeutic tool in the realm of preventative wellness…whether or not it adds up to a published work.  Writing is the best way I know to process this beautiful and heartbreaking thing called life.  And nature has been my best writing (mindfulness) teacher, calling me to retreat into my most sacred, quiet, deliberate place and find the wilderness of my words.

This time of year is a loyal reminder of the power of retreating into that still place.   As summer winds down, my muse steps out of the huckleberry bushes and mountain lakes, stretches and notices the trajectory of things.  Like dragonflies on screens.  And Monarchs on Echinacea.  And bats hanging in eaves.  This is the time of year when I stop the flurry of my summer check list, and start to imagine the world white again.  Dormant.  Where I get still, the world sleeps, the woodstove teases ideas into words which turn into stories, and most important, morph into understanding.

Late summer’s corner into autumn is the perfect time to abide with the rhythms of the natural world.  To pay attention to how it prepares slowly, methodically, mindfully, for that dormancy.  Nothing is an accident.  Every winged thing knows that everything counts, especially the ones who stay.  Every hibernating creature is taking stock, making sure it has just the right kind of burrow with the right kind of egress.  I follow their lead, preparing for a winter of words.

It’s the same every year.  After months of ignoring the stacks in my house, the clutter in my closets, the flung grenades in my garage, I find myself hungry to clean it all out.  I go through my pantry, making sure I have the basics:  flour, sugar, clean Mason jars for the jam and canned tomatoes I’ll put up in a few weeks.  I gather the gardening tools which have been too long leaning against fences, hose them down, return them to their home in the shed.  And my office—I divide the things that I thought would matter from the things that do matter—trash the former, file the latter.  In other words, I throw away a lot.

All of this is in anticipation of autumnal work which I have learned is essential to my winter work.  Autumn is the time to prime the pump of my creative flow.  Prime it so that it will flow through deep freeze.  Autumn is the time for mindfulness at its best:  It’s the time for retreat.

With the first hint of chill, I know that it’s time to retreat into that free zone which summer has procured.  I sleep with my windows wide open to let the night air roll over me, hoping that it will filter into my dreams and fuel my muse.  I keep my journal close to my bed, and I wake up early and open it, feeling my words sift through my mind’s fingers like the larch needles that will fall in early October.  I let them come.  I don’t think about how they might stack up.  I don’t need them to add up to anything other than freedom.  Permission.  Hunger.  Need.  The work will come in winter.  For now it’s time to stretch my mind, loosen what has lodged there in the summer months, let it flow.

Where do we get this free zone in life?  Where is pure expression without scrutiny ever exercised in our lives?  When I am in this corner season, I am less interested in the words, and more interested in where they come from.  It’s like a portal place.  An opening deep in the forest where I used to imagine the animals and fairies and teddy bears went in the nighttime to dance around bonfires.  I believed in that place as a little girl.  When I am finding and releasing words in this way, I am that little girl again.  We all need to be that child.  Children know that freedom is more than a high concept or a goal or that it comes with a cost.  They know that it is a place inside us and they know they have to access it in order to do everything else that constitutes living.

That’s what writing is for me.  That free zone.  That place behind the words and stories.  And that’s what I want other people to know.  It’s not unlike the birds and chipmunks preparing for winter.  It’s taking stock.  It’s finding the basics.  It’s procuring survival.  It is a retreat into self.  I believe in retreats as a vital way to tap into that creative self-expression on the page.  I know I need them and I believe other people do too.  So in the spirit of what I have been practicing for many years, mindful writing, I started Haven Retreats.

This fall, forty brave “grown-ups” will come to Montana to dig deeply into that wilderness that lives in them.  Some will call themselves “writers.”  Some will not.  Some will have stories they want to write.  Some will simply hope for words to come and to meet them on the page like new friends.  It’s my job to lead them to their words by inspiring them to go places they would not likely go on their own.  To facilitate an experience for them that they can walk away with and weave into their daily lives.  When people do this sort of work, they become aware of who they are; that portal place in the woods where they dance around bon-fires, unabashed.

The act of going on a retreat is not woo woo.  Leaving our daily lives behind and retreating into our primal rhythms, our purest flow, has been done since the beginning of time.  The Native Americans went on Vision Quests.  Jesus went to the desert.  Buddha went to the Bo tree.   Muhamad went to a cave.  From those retreats came stories and words.  Wise words that have lasted ages and profoundly informed how our civilization endures.  Mindfulness, especially on a retreat, is ancient practice.  It’s no small surprise then, that our country’s major publications consider this important “news.”  With the stresses of our current world, people are understanding the value of what we have lost and what nature does intuitively.   Mindfully.  Deliberately.  Creating ourselves over and over again.  And that, indeed, is miraculous.

 

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Road-tripping it this Summer?

Country Living magazine has a great article about insider things to do across the United States.  They asked their favorite bloggers in each state to give them a local pick.  I chose Chico Hot Springs in Pray, MT– in the Paradise Valley south of Bozeman.  I go down there twice a year, usually in Fall and Spring.  I love the drive.  I love the vibe.  I love the scene.  I love the pools.  I love the restaurant, especially the orange flambe…  And I love that I can bring my dog.  Here’s the article.  I just spent my morning devouring it.  Now I’m hankering for a road trip!  Enjoy!  yrs. Laura

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Montana Summer Moments

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End of Summer

Last trail ride, last bouquet, last carrots.



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Summer Lost (or Summer Gained): It's how you slice it.


I didn’t have a summer this year, and I feel sorry for myself. Maybe you can relate. Here’s what I didn’t do that I usually do:
Visit family
Go anywhere beachy
Garden
Ride my horse in the woods (cardinal sin)
Go to the County Fair
Camp
Go to the gym
Hike in Glacier National Park (a .6 mile walk to a waterfall and back does not count)
Spend more than a half an hour picking huckleberries
Finish the Bear puzzle on the dining room table with the kids
Read a novel or two ot ten
Watch the meteor shower
Take a night walk with the dogs, or any substantial walk with the dogs for that matter
Go to Canada, which is 60 miles north
Make homemade ice cream
Have long leisurely dinners outside on the patio
Eat lobster

Here’s what I DID do on my summer vacation:
I compiled this list yesterday because I was sick of beating myself up for all the things I DIDN’T do, and it reminded me that when you are launching your life’s dream and starting a business, you might suffer in the “Life in Balance” category. And so what? Sometimes that’s just the way things fly. So yesterday, I took my mind off my NO list and set it on my YES list, and I went to bed by the full moon last night feeling sated.

The below is not shameless self-promotion, it’s just a good exercise. If you feel that you too didn’t have a summer, you might want to write down what you DID do. And that includes just sitting in a room breathing and gazing out the window, if you didn’t have a high performance last few months. Let’s live in YES instead of NO. Let’s live in the SOLUTION, not the PROBLEM. For what it’s worth, feel free to skim the below:

Played tennis with my kids
Started a puzzle with my kids
Took a romantic getaway with my husband to see Michael Franti and Spearhead in Missoula, MT and had a total blast
Went to a three day horse clinic about centered riding and learned so much about how tight I am on a horse when I’m scared
Swam in the lake a lot

…and the following:
Social Media:
Took a hard core stab at understanding Facebook, Twitter, Good Reads, Shewrites, and Blogher which is all mildly terrifying for this techno peasant.

Started “Daily Tips for Writers” on Twitter which I hope to make into a book one day, or use in a memoir about writing.

Regular Blog Contributor:
Became a regular contributer to:
Huffington Post
Parelli Natural Horesmanship Blog

Live Chats:

Awesome Women’s Hub.com on Facebook with Robin Rice

Penguin Watercooler

http://us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/publishersoffice/subcontent/watercoolerarchive/lauramunson.html

My Haven Newsletter live blog chat with Life Coach, Rossell Weinstein

http://lauramunson.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/haven-newsletter-2/

Contest:“Think Outside the Barn”– did a photo essay of barns, and their “real life” personae– followed by the “Name This Barn” contest and book giveaway. Winner to be announced Sept 12. People are having a lot of fun with this and so am I.

Interviews:
The Kathleen Show (radio and blog)

http://www.thekathleenshow.com/2010/07/31/laura-munson/

SHE Magazine– UK (glossy mag, December publication)

Inspiremetoday.com with Gail Goodwin (pending publication)

NPR interview with Sally Mauk

http://www.mtpr.net/program_info/2010-06-10-132

406 Magazine (Montana)

Q&A: Montana Quarterly Magazine

Guest blogger on:

The Traveling Writer

http://alexisgrant.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/qa-with-laura-munson-a-modern-love-success-story/#comment-3336

Drinking Diaries

http://www.drinkingdiaries.com/2010/08/18/an-interview-with-laura-munson-author-of-the-memoir-this-is-not-the-story-you-think-it-is/

Adhocmom.com

http://www.adhocmom.com/2010/08/taps-by-laura-munson-2/

Huffington Post– Arielle Ford’s Blog

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arielle-ford/write-it-and-they-will-co_b_660034.html

Published Essays:

“Dog Fog”– Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-munson/post_670_b_653067.html

“Rain Song”– Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-munson/rain-song_b_653071.html

New York Times Magazine “Lives” essay:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/magazine/25lives-t.html

Author Magazine

http://www.authormagazine.org/articles/munson_laura_2010_06_14.htm

Woman’s Day (August issue)

Pending Publication:

Shewrites essay
Parelli Horsemanship blog post (will be a montly deal)
O. Magazine South Africa essay
Life By Me essay http://www.lifebyme.com/ ebook by Sophie Cliche (includes Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Maya Angelou etc.)

Submissions: (waiting to hear)
The New Yorker (fingers, toes, eyes, and nostrils crossed)
Ladies Home Journal
The Sun
NPR essay to read on air

Summer Events:Read at the Whitefish Lake Lodge
Read at three private parties: Ridgewood NY, Millbrook, NY, Short Hills, NJ
Read at the Kent Place School, Summit, NJ
Read at a book group on Flathead Lake

FALL EVENTS:
Sept:
Co-hosting (or just plain being feted at) three private parties/readings: NYC, Hartford, Chicago
Reading at two libraries: Fairfield and Simsbury, CT
Speaking at a major Chicago hospital benefit
Speaking at the kick-off to the reading series at my high school in CT
Speaking at the Winnetka Bookstall– luncheon at a great Chicago restaurant

Oct:
Fundraiser for a San Francisco school– Burke School
Festival of the Book in Missoula, where I’ll serve on a panel of memoirists and speak seperately
Nov:
Miami Book Fair

Oh, and I got a book deal in the UK, (Little Brown) which I’m so excited about. Book to be published in April.

So why is it that I feel so guilty that I haven’t been to the gym, taken night walks with my dogs, ridden my horse in the woods, etc? I think we all could learn a lot by looking at our pro list and not our con list. I’m going to work on this. I know it’s not about doing. It’s about being. But sometimes we need to give ourselves a pat on the back for what we’ve done. And who we were doing it.

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A Boy and a Dog

Possibility:

Action:

Result:

Glee:

Surrender:

Gratitude:

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Summer Rules

I did it. I made a NO TV rule today. One week into summer and I was actively watching my children’s brains melt as they stared at what my grandmother referred to as “the idiot box.” I’m not proud of it. But maybe like you, I have work to do. I can’t be on full mom mode, or chauffeur mode, or camp councelor mode. I can’t be at the beck and call of the whim’s of teenaged texted plans: Can you take me to the beach, no to the bowling alley, no to the tennis courts, no to the mall? And I feel guilty and even a little scared of the next two months because my work place during the day, is suddenly a house full of kids with needs. Who can get pretty ornery when they’re not met. Even though I know that they’re great kids. Everyone says so. I’ve actually caught myself saying, “Would you speak to your teacher that way,” like a broken record. But it’s not their fault that they live here and that they need to eat and that it’s rained all week and that they don’t yet drive. So yes…I’ve been letting them watch a LOT of TV. Hours of Disney dizziness and tacky reality shows that make me shudder with shame. I’m what’s wrong with the world. So today, when in between conference calls I heard screaming and a loud thwack and crying and I ran into the living room watching remote controls flying through the air, I laid down the law. With fear and trepidation, I said it: “NO MORE TV!” And “NO, I can’t drive you anywhere. I have to work. This is what I do all day while you’re at school. And you’re going to have to figure out something to do…” (and then I chose my fate)… “TOGETHER!” And I confiscated the remote controls and stomped back to my office, shaking a little. These kids are old enough to really know how to push my buttons– that’s what their generation knows how to do best, after all. Rapid fire communication through little spring-loaded launch pads, and with the total system overload of what just a week ago was a well-oiled schedule from work to motherhood…I am a faulty launch pad and they know it. So I took in a deep breath and waited.

And lo…what I heard was silence. And then discussion. And then more silence. And then laughing. For an entire hour. And finally, I crept into the living room to see what could possibly be going on– had they deliberately disobeyed me and turned on the TV? Has my sovereign reign as their mother weakened in the knees? Did I need to adjust my crown and raise my sceptor and banish them to their bedrooms with books for eternity? I readied myself:

Here is what befell my eyes…

There is hope in Park Place.

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Taps

Montana_road2
Taps
by Laura A. Munson

It is summer in Montana and it is past our collective bedtime, but we are driving into a sky glowing burnt orange, steel green mountains not yet silhouettes. The days are full here, too full, maybe. There is a three month panic to be scantily clothed and to wave the limbs around in hot air, in water, on a sweaty horse’s back. Suddenly there is so much sun after so much snow and grey matte sky and it’s a drug we agree to take in overdose. I don’t wear sunblock. Neither does my husband. We slather our baby in it, but let the undersides of our arms rest on the hot black paint of the car door while the tops– all the way to our fingers– in-between our fingers, bake in high-noon sun; then on our foreheads and backs at the lake in sparkling water, on hot rose rocks, on alpine trails, in meadows of lupine, Indian paintbrush, yarrow, huckleberries. With red and purple-stained skin pulsing sweet dried sweat over the throb of cooling highway, we cover our tracks back, turning off fourteen dead, fifty injured in a bombing today in an Israeli market; hold hands, try to find the moon.
Look. A star, I say, letting go of his hand, pointing. Yeah, he says. Two of them. That one’s bright. I wonder if it’s a planet. Wondering, I reach back for my baby’s hand without looking, craving a little loose bundle of fingers. There is a soft sigh from the back seat and I get my offering. Everything to her is this kind of sky. A chirping squirrel is still as full of wonder for her as the stars popping out over the blue Jewel Basin one way, the pale orange still hanging over the Canadian Rockies, the other. I close my eyes a moment; a small prayer in honor of squirrels. I want wonder.
There is heartbreak in all this. I fight to be there, under the gaining stars, not to consider the end of this day’s light a misfortune. It doesn’t have to be a death. It doesn’t have to make me think about tomorrow. I flirt with the story of the market bombing– picture a mother handling tomatoes, her son slipping an orange into his pants– fight the image of their bleeding bodies lying splayed and still in the dirt, covered in blown-up tomato pulp. No. I hold my baby’s hand tighter and weave a few of her fingers into mine. They’re sticky with huckleberry juice. I feel the stinging of sunburn on my back, minus an X. I mouth, I am here…I am here. The wonder does not have to be scary. She’s not scared. She is singing. I peek back to see what she is doing with this closing darkness. She is fingering the window. Counting stars. Feeling glass. Drawing pictures with her saliva. She is where I want to be.
I look at my husband’s face. It is the color of the Whitefish range: the last coal. He likes the window down halfway. He likes total silence. He is driving. He is where I want to be. Earlier, in the hardware store parking lot, I wait in the car with my daughter asleep in her car-seat, checking to see that the seatbelt is not cutting off her breathing. How can she breathe slumped over like that, her head to her belly? But she does– I can see her shoulders rising and falling. In-between checks, I stare at puddle mirages in the hot pavement, at women in passenger seats on the diagonal, all lined up; babies sleeping behind them. They are checking too, staring at mirages. One by one they click into ready position, their husbands walking proud and purposeful with a new hammer, a bag of fertilizer, dandelion killer. I am waiting for bear mace– red pepper spray, as if that would do anything, a grizzly bear bounding at us, our baby in the backpack singing to the bear, a cliff behind us, my husband reaching to his belt for his pathetic weapon. Play dead…play dead…play that woman and her son with tomatoes all over them in Israel, frozen, watching paw over paw hurl toward me over lupine and Indian paintbrush and yarrow, huckleberries. But I don’t know about the market bombing yet. And there is no bear. But I don’t know that yet either, sitting in the car in the hardware store parking lot.
The day is done. Pepper spray– check. Pants and a sweater for later– check. Teva’s for the beach– check. Sunblock for the baby, three extra diapers, wipes, baby food, sun hat, a change of clothes for her, life vest– check check check check check check check. Back pack, fanny pack, water bottles, trail mix, sunglasses, camera– all checks. Bathing suits, towels, beach-blanket, rafts– yep. A cooler full of cold beer, sandwiches and whole milk in baby bottles– done. Gas– we’ll get some. Where are my sunglasses? Have you seen my sunglasses? Oops, forgot the keys. Where the hell are my sunglasses? On top of your head. Oh. We need bear mace. That stuff costs forty bucks…you have a better chance being killed in a car wreck than by a griz, anyway. Put your seatbelt on…we’re getting bear mace– we have a kid now. All right all right all right. The day is done. We used everything but the pepper spray. I look at my husband, still losing light at the same rate as the Whitefish range, and feel safe and in love with him for carrying the baby in the backpack, the mace on his belt, pumping the gas– little things he wouldn’t want to know I loved him for. Little things that free me up to think about breathing and seat belts and bleeding bodies covered in tomatoes, and grizzly bears. I let go of my baby’s hand and reach for his again. He is where I want to be.
It’s all stars now. They call it big sky and they’re right. What are you thinking about? I whisper. Nothing, he says. I sit there and try to think of nothing, watching headlights come at us at seventy miles per hour on my baby’s side, pull at my seatbelt quietly to see if it would really stop me, nothing…nothing… I look back to see if she’s asleep. She is. I reach my hand back and rest it on her chest. She is breathing. Nothing…nothing… I put the same hand on my shoulder and feel the hot from the sunburn. My mother has had five melanomas removed from not wearing sunblock. Nothing…
I am left with my breathing. Check. My heart beat. Check. A raven sky. Countless lights twinkling…God, they really do twinkle. Twinkle twinkle little star– I figure out that it’s the same tune as the alphabet song. And then I am left without songs, because one of the stars loses itself in dust and falls right in front of us, right on the highway. We pass where I think it has fallen and look for stardust and leftover glow, but there is just an old cracked double yellow line. Did you see that? I say. The star? he says. And I look for another; pick one and stare at it, ready to see it go down. But the longer I stare at one, the more I see all around it, and none fall, and it doesn’t matter, because I’m going deeper and deeper into the biggest sky I have ever seen, and I have lived here for years now, and I’m not thinking about that either. I am lost, in star after star after star after star…after star. After star. And I am there, wherever that is.

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