I put this moment here…

Missions March 31

I adore Springtime storms in the mountains. They are a beautiful reminder of how everything is always in the midst of change. These clouds are moving fast and so is the light. Each time I look out our front window (here looking east) the Mountains never look the same; it is a constant slideshow of weather, light, precipitation, and the mountain’s gnarly mood. Everywhere, everyone, every thing is never exactly the same from one moment to the next let alone being in the same place. Remember that we are racing through space at a speed which is difficult to perceive. (Rather like this storm tonight.)

Ask An Astronomer writes: The average distance from the Earth to the Sun is 149,597,890 km. Therefore in one year the Earth travels a distance of 2*Pi*(149,597,890)km. This means that the velocity is about: velocity=2*Pi*(149,597,890)km/1 year and if we convert that to more meaningful units (knowing there is 365 days in a year, and 24 hours per day) we get: velocity=107,300 km/h (or if you prefer 67,062 miles per hour).

Uh, yeah: Never mind all that, I suddenly feel quite car sick.

Title: Kate Bush in the Jig of Life “I put this moment here. I put this moment here.”

Photograph of the Missions by Matthew 6:30 pm March 31, 2007 “Farewell to March”

[tags] astronomy,earth speed,Missions,mountains[/tags]

It’s not Italian, but Tuscan!

italian heart and flagHuh? Well, garsh I was waiting on pins and needles for the last 8 centuries to see how this was all going to pan out. Italian is the official language of ITALY! But wait, there’s a reason for the differing opinions which caused 75 members of the Italian parliament to vote against this official change to the Italian constitution.
“It was Tuscan dialect — in which Dante wrote the mediaeval epic poem the Inferno in the fourteen century — that emerged as the national language of Italy, but many people still speak local dialects some of which are largely incomprehensible to people from other parts of the country.”

Well, Tuscany DOES have the best of cuisine, I’ve heard. Why not the best language?

Camp school on the Falklands

Because we have home-schooled for the last several years I was interested in this BBC story with pictures about a young boy and his traveling teacher in the Falkland Islands. It is a marvelous glimpse into the life of this unique family who are pretty much isolated from the rest of the world. We’re talking wind-generated lap-tops here. When I think of all the instructional materials we’ve had available to us I’d say these folks win hands down at innovation. (I smiled when the teacher mentioned she didn’t travel without her IPod. ) I’m not sure I would let our son get away with not doing his lessons when the teacher isn’t around, though. Even if you don’t read the text the photos are great. “Seven-year-old Matthew Hansen lives on a farm in such an isolated spot in the Falkland Islands that he can’t attend normal school. He instead receives camp education – “camp” being the Falklands name for any place outside the capital Stanley. Every six weeks, a travelling teacher comes to live with the family for a fortnight, giving him lessons in a little prefab schoolroom on the farm.”

A rambling we will go

Broken into little pieces

Matthew and I took a walk this evening together for the first time in more than 9 weeks. It was a slow walk, granted, and we made it only a few blocks but he was walking! What a joy to be out in the evening air, with the sun going down, doing something which all our married life we have taken for granted — the ability to go for a walk together. We are known around town as the walking ones. We do walk a lot and we try to do so each day – pre broken bones. What a shock the broken foot was to both of us. It was very humbling, enlightening, and frightening experience. Truly, health and mobility are such amazing gifts given to us each day, and we had 9 long weeks to be reminded of it. After about a month Matthew at one point threw up his hands in a funny kind of prayer pose and exclaimed: “Enough already, I get it! Rewind!” Besides the pain and swelling, his inability to go out without great effort was a huge monkey wrench thrown into the fabric of our lives. I missed my walking partner, my skiing partner, my rambling partner very much. However, he is up and moving again without crutches. He has graduated to a sturdy, Hawthorne walking stick and will slowly continue to build his strength back in physical therapy. Speaking of which, those people are positively wonderful. Thank you Bruce and crew! Hopefully by next week the boot will be permanently missing as well. I am so grateful, but not as much as I know Matthew is.

Miss USA, 2007

This post is totally out of character, isn’t it? Or is it? I do have a good reason for giving this event a mention. Last Friday evening one of our hometown girls and her family were in Los Angeles attending the Miss USA pageant. Miss Montana, Stephanie Trudeau, ended up winning Miss Congeniality in the Miss USA contest, being voted this honor by the other young women in the show. She more than deserved it and I am not surprised the other women found her engaging and friendly. Many Congratulations! As far as I’m concerned that was the most meaningful and fairest prize in the event – and Stephanie even won a little money out of it. All the young women had been in L. A. for many, many days preparing for this show. There was an enormous amount of time, money, and energy put into the production as is nearly always the case with anything remotely L. A.

Matthew and I caught the show in our motel room during the swimsuit competition. At this point they had made the cut to 15 contestants already so we missed seeing Stephanie. I felt sorry about missing her. It had been maybe 25 years since I had even glanced at a Miss USA contest. As our boys say: OMG. I will only comment on one aspect, disregarding all the other stuff…. I was mostly astounded at the cookie-cutter look-a-likes of the top 15 contestants. They all, (save one who had shorter hair) had the same hair length, the same hair style with the notable slight curl to the ends, and the same legs. The girls were the same height, they wore the same make-up, the same fake boobs…. (eye-witness account regarding the bosoms.) However, I am sticking to just one thing, right? Where was the diversity in this contest? Where were the vast representations of culture which this country so richly contains in its population? And why do they have to appear so air-brushed as they walk on stage in front of the judges. Can the judges not handle real-life encounters? Are we all so used to looking at magazines with altered images? Just like we are totally used to living with Auto-tune on the radio? Just a thought.

The whole point of being a parent

It is the day to register for next semester’s classes where our oldest son is going to college. It’s hard to imagine that our 18 year old has nearly completed his freshman year. We have had long discussions with him on the phone this week about declaring a major and what he wants to do with his life. It all seems huge and much too soon for him to be forced into deciding these quantum particulars. I don’t feel equipped to guide him much beyond the suggestion that he can take organic chemistry later if he wants to switch fields. I operate primarily on: Keep your options open; creatively consider as you go. Today is also our youngest son’s birthday. We did find him a 20 inch ride cymbal which he is awaiting with much anticipation, but now I need to find myself some serious ear plugs. I don’t suppose that the universe would sort of put things on pause for a bit while I catch up with reality? I mean how can my own baby suddenly take up twice the space that I do? Or eat three times as much? Or play such astonishingly wild music? Well, as always, I will simply deal with these changes creatively –I’ll wing it; I’ll improvise After all, the whole point of being a parent is to watch them launch into their own lives without you. What a feeling to see them learning to fly, discovering their own wonderful possibilities. Being a parent is definitely not about me.

snowgeese2.jpg

I don’t normally eat when I feel bewildered, but I think maybe I might need a bag of chips or possibly a bag of carrots.

“On the caloric energy provided by just one 12-ounce bag of potato chips, you can think 550 thoughts, at least 10 percent of them good ones. That’s why I urge you to devour one such bag every day this week. The omens suggest that your brain is aching to churn out an explosion of big, fat thoughts. APRIL FOOL! Your brain will generate a multitude of ideas (at least 40 percent of them good ones) even if you dine on nothing but carrot juice and salad. You’re in the phase of your astrological cycle when your mind is magically hyperactive. You don’t need potato chips to be smart.” Rob Brezsny

The prayer of the wind

As I sit here watching the rain fall off of the newly budding trees, smiling at the finches perched on the corner of the feeder as they try to avoid the drip off the edges, I am grateful. Grateful for the rain first, for in the mountains it is snowing and snowfall in the mountains is always a good thing. Snow keeps drought at bay and fires from becoming too threatening in the summer. I don’t doubt we will see fire this summer; it’s been a pattern lately and a tad overdue, according to Forest Service biologists, who remind us fire is in keeping with Mother Nature’s own unique methods of landscaping. Of course, landscaping varies depending upon whether or not you dwell in the rain shadow or not.

We who live on the west side are pansies. We are total wimpoids. Our Spring arrives weeks earlier, it is greener here, we can raise peaches, walnut trees if you are gifted, and grow cherries. We don’t usually get strong winds or terrible sub-zero blizzards, 15 feet high snowdrifts, or cloudbursts, flash floods, golf ball sized hail, weeks of 90 -100 degrees ~~ (swarms of locusts, pestilence, giant frogs raining down.) Still, both of my parents were raised in Eastern Montana, I’ve heard the stories. There is one about how my Grandpa hauled two girls, who lived on a neighboring homestead, out of a ravine during a whiteout blizzard. “He just had an uncanny feeling that he should drive back and check that ravine. And there those two girls were huddled together, half-frozen, covered in snow. It’s a wonder he saw them.” Or the time my Dad was a kid and a cloudburst came up without warning. He was down at the creek when the sky opened up in torrents of rain. ” I looked up and there was a wall of water coming down the gully taller than I was.” And those are the true stories my family relates. The story I do hear from my Aunts a lot, stop me if you’ve heard this one, about how they had to walk to school two miles each day — uphill…. both ways.

As we wandered around Freezeout Lake last weekend, on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, I kept thinking how remote the mountains feel on the prairie. (Actually, that area is considered the foothills to the mountains.) Here at home the mountains are on our doorstep, a mile or so up the road. The east side mountains are distant enough from most towns that in the summer they shimmer in the sun’s glare during the intense heat of August. Are they truly there or just majestic aberrations? As the whitecaps of snow on the peaks recede during the summer so do their contrasting outlines. Perhaps it is the wind on the east side blowing everyone and everything around so that a person can never get a clear focal fix on any one object? As we walked down the service road at the bird refuge leaning into the wind I felt nearly absorbed by the strength of it. All my senses were surrounded by wind. It was not a cold wind but it still seemed powerfully unpredictable, ready at any moment to snatch the breath right out of me. Ready to shift out of the north without a warning and bring a storm. And no exaggeration, most of the trees which do manage to survive this harsh place have a definite lean to their growth. The cottonwoods and the scrub pines: they grow with the push of wind. Perhaps the residents here acquire that tell-tale lean as well? I admire the Indian tribes who survived in this climate, especially the Blackfoot. I would conjecture that they would find any excuse to slip over the passes and raid other tribes – just to get away from the omnipresent wind which howled at their footsteps everywhere they went. I envision the warriors hunkered down atop a ridge, inexplicably uneasy in the calm of the other side; adjusting slowly to the idea of an existence without a blowing gale. I’m sure they were sorely tempted to stay put. But they are people of the rock, wind and mountains; some Blackfoot still remain today near their ancestors.

One cannot ignore the beauty, raw and powerful. There is no denying the wide contrast in climate. You have to love this place to live here. Our oldest son was born not far away and I remember the years we spent here when he was a baby. I recognize a familiar voice in the wind. This is the same wind which sung to me as a child in my Grandmother’s wheat fields near Hysham. While my family checked on crops, I often spent the time hunting agates in the dry-land furrows. It is the same voice which speaks here at Freezeout near the Front. If you allow it for a moment, the wind will cover you in a restless blanket. If you stand very still, allowing the song to drift towards you of a thousand calling geese, amplified or dispersed by the ebb and rise of the wind; if you let yourself be captured by the famous blue, big sky overhead or humbled by the vast, open space, then I guarantee you will be transported into awe. Awe is simply the prerequisite for joy. A joy of standing within inspiration – a place where your eyes can see no definite end to the horizon. The land calls wild, the geese call wild, the strong mountains in the distance call wild. This is the prayer of the wind.

Our regional volcano St. Helens

Mt St. Helens on Ash Wednesday
Geologists are concluding that Mount St. Helens is getting a fresh supply of lava all the time now, very much akin to the Hawaiian volcano Kilauea. It is refreshing these days with about 9 truckloads of lava every two minutes. Scientists at the Johnston Ridge Observatory believe there is an open reservoir replenishing the lava and they don’t think this open system is going to change anytime soon. The eruptive status could continue possibly for many decades.  That is a lot of hot sauce.

St. Helens appears to have become an “open system” as its domebuilding eruption that began in the fall of 2004 continues at a pace that has been unchanged for the past year… Analyzing of digital elevation models made from high-resolution aerial photographs, scientists have kept close tabs on the rate at which lava has been pushing into the crater. At first it was about a dumptruck load, roughly 8 cubic yards, per second.