Deep Roots

books_hawthornI have a new book review in the current issue of the Missoula Independent that hit newsstands last Thursday. It’s a cool bit of nonfiction called Hawthorn: The Tree That Has Nourished, Healed, and Inspired Through the Ages by Bill Vaughn. You may read the review HERE. I enjoyed the book very much; dig this excerpt for some insight as to why:

Still, for all the delight I gleaned from the copious historical details and minutia scattered throughout the rest of Hawthorn, it is in its ninth chapter, “A Tree for All Seasons,” that the book really claimed me. And it has little to do with wit or literary talent. In chapter one, Vaughn describes his home on the Clark Fork near Missoula as “the same sort of redneck backwater where I spent my motherless, feral boyhood.” I naturally assumed it was somewhere upstream, maybe around Turah or possibly even Clinton. I mean, who around here wouldn’t? It didn’t take long, though, for me to deduce that the area he was describing was actually very near where I live, about halfway between Missoula and Frenchtown along Mullan Road. A little exploration up and down some of the side roads in the area and I soon discovered that Vaughn’s Dark Acres is actually, as the crow flies, at most a mile from my own manufactured home in an ugly subdivision, the likes of which he also references in the book.

This is one of those books that probably doesn’t get a lot of attention because it’s kind of quirky. I think it’s fantastic, full of odd bits of history and information, delivered with both intelligence and humor. It’s well worth your time.

Rage Spike

3:00 PM UPDATE: Turns out it was AN INSIDE JOB!

After talking to my mom, who suggested that maybe the willows had been cut intentionally, I called the local FWP office and talked to the manager who handles Council Grove, Mike Hathaway. Turns out they did indeed do the cutting, or at least it was done in their name via an Americorps volunteer, who also performed the initial planting. The tops of the trees were starting to die, and they were being damaged by the wind, so they were cut in hopes of encouraging root growth. Mike and I also discussed the fact that people were still obviously accessing the river via that closed spot, even though there is available access about twenty feet away. He asked my opinion as to what I thought should be done next, etc. So it was a good conversation. I told him I felt a little guilty for feeling the outrage, and he told me I shouldn’t. “Get a group of us managers together,” he said, “and you’ll hear plenty of stories of just the kind of vandalism you suspected here.” So while I briefly thought that maybe people DON’T suck, it turns out they actually still do.


 

Whenever I’m not traveling, every day I take Darla the Adventure Dog for a walk at a river access location nearby called Council Grove. It is actually a primitive state park. During poor weather, or cold weather, we practically have it all to ourselves. As summer rolls in, it sees more and more use. It’s beautiful, with copious wildlife, primarily birds. It is an easy place to love, and sauntering there is often the highlight of my day. I know it is for Little D as well.

A few weeks ago, along about a 40-50 foot stretch of riverbank, where the edge has broken off and collapsed into the flow of the river when it runs higher than normal, the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks people posted several signs that read as follows:

Willows have been planted in this area to restore natural habitat, prevent flooding, and stabilize the river banks. Help keep Council Grove a great place for both wildlife and people by not disturbing the vegetation on the banks, keeping your dogs on leash, and accessing the river at suggested river access points only. Thank you for your cooperation.

I’ve spoken with the game warden a couple times when I’ve encountered him down there, and he’s a nice enough guy. He realizes most people don’t keep their dogs on leashes, and isn’t really a hard-ass about it. But as it gets busier, he needs to enforce it. I understand. Most people take the risk. It isn’t a big deal.

They planted at least 20 or 30 willows along that bank. There is a perfect access spot right adjacent to the closed area, with a sign indicating it as such. I was out there Monday the 15th, and the new growth looked good. The next day I left on a work trip, and wasn’t out there again until the afternoon/evening of my return on the 19th. In the intervening time some fucking asshole had come along and cut off all the willows and absconded with them. They range in size from a bit bigger than my thumb to as small as my little finger. All gone.

click to make bigger

click to make bigger

Who the hell does something like that? Some jerk-off mad at MFWP? And they’re too dumb to realize it’s everyone else they’re hurting too? It is the kind of senseless vandalism I just don’t get. Leaving cigarette butts and beer and soda cans and shit like that pisses me off because it’s lazy. This fills me with rage. What sucks is they will likely never be caught either. What a waste. I’m making tons of effort these days to try and get my head straight and be a better person and all that, but stuff like this (not to mention racism and mass shootings and free trade agreements and oil rigs headed to Alaska and on and on… ) really makes me wish for a freakin’ pandemic or something. Truly.

Well. Rather than close on a bad note, here is a collection of Darla the Adventure Dog in action at Council Grove. She’s always happy so long as some rambunctious puppy isn’t all up in her grill.

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And here are just a couple other shots I’ve taken there recently.

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Dropping By

It’s been awhile, I know. I’ve been thinking and rethinking how I want to use this space, and I still haven’t figured that out yet. I just know I’ve decided I’m not interested in letting it die. Since I gave my notice at work, nothing has changed — I don’t know that they’ve made any progress in finding a replacement for me, which is something I expected. It’s been busy. In fact, I am writing from North Dakota on my 8th work trip in ten weeks. That’s quite a bit. I’ve been to both ends of California, Kansas, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Texas, and now Minnesota/North Dakota. Nonetheless, I hope to start throwing posts up a couple times a week again. I’ve managed to find time between trips to work on a few cool projects and I’m eager to share a little of them. Stay tuned….

 

Making Changes

Yesterday I finally said enough was enough and gave my notice at my day job. It isn’t some “two-weeks-and-I’m-outta-there” thing, I just told them that I wanted to leave and that they had as long as they need to replace me. Could be six months, a year, maybe even shorter than that (which is what I’m hoping for, now that it’s on the table). I figured it was the fair thing to do, given that they’ve always been fair to me.

I had planned to wait until 2017. We even have a whiteboard up on the wall called “Freedom 17″ that has all the things we want squared away by then. I turn 48 tomorrow, and my goal was to give notice on my 50th, with a plan to be gone by June. Late last year, early this, though, it became more and more apparent that I would be hard-pressed to make it that far. Little problems that used to roll off my shoulders with a shrug were becoming borderline meltdowns, which isn’t like me at all. Julia even had what she called an intervention to get me to consider that maybe I should try and bail sooner. Once I decided I would do that, the last couple weeks have been better, knowing that I’d retreat if necessary. Then a couple mild dust-ups that left me quivering with rage made me realize it was all getting to me more than it should, so I made the decision.

It is still stressful, but I also expect the steady paycheck has become a crutch that has allowed me to be less than gonzo in pursuit of doing other things. It’s something like put up or shut up time when it comes to increasing the freelance writing and photography stuff I’ve been doing, and I welcome the challenge. It will be interesting to see how things play out.

 

I Believe for National Poetry Month

I’ve seen mentioned several places that April is National Poetry Month. I’ve been cultivating an appreciation for poetry over the last couple years, so I thought I would post one of the ones I’ve noted as being interesting to me. Then I thought I’d try my hand at one of my own instead, as I’ve been dabbling at that a bit as well. So here is one I just wrote that is pretty much a total rip-off of Jim Harrison’s poem, “I Believe,” that I’ve mentioned previously. I’m going to be so bold as to even swipe the damn title.

I Believe

I believe in the leveling off after a

steep climb, blasts of rain on my

face, the sound of cricks and rivers

and lakes and oceans stroking the

sand and dirt, wind in the trees

and thunder. Christmas lights downtown,

food carts, ice cream trucks, and beat-up

old pick-ups, women with noses and

asses and personalities bigger than

what’s considered appropriate,

and dogs like that too.

The smell of clean sweat and

dirty sex and breakfast,

Men and women and children and

weeds and flowers and grass

poking their way through the cracks

between those spaces where the world

says they ain’t supposed to be.

 

Recombobulating

recombIt’s Sunday night as I prep this post for Monday morning, and I can’t tell you how elated I am not to have to travel this coming week. In fact I don’t have to travel again until Wednesday the 8th, when I take a short trip to Wichita returning that same Friday. After that, I think I am home for another two weeks back to back before heading out again at the end of the month. This should be a refreshing stretch, as I have been on the run what feels like non-stop since February or so. Being gone so much really gets one to feeling all discombobulated, so I’ll finally be getting myself back together in the comfort of my own surroundings (not in this area just through security at Milwaukee’s  Mitchell Field airport, where that image was taken on my iPhone). Things are really turning green in a hurry, and I can’t wait to get some miles under my shoes out in the fresh air.

This week I hope to catch up on editing some photos from this batch of road work that I intend to share here with a few of the stories behind them. That’s the plan anyway. Despite all this running about, though, I feel pretty good about where I am creatively these days, better than I have for some time. I have a couple queries out, and even a submission. I’ve been doing quite a bit of work for the Indy that I enjoy, and am looking into pitching a couple other ideas. Plus Julia and I are working on the Spring edition of the Missoulian‘s fashion insert, which is always fun. So even though both humans in our household age another year this month, April isn’t looking too shabby at this point.

Lost Champ

Books_WarriorOne of the things I enjoyed during my week in Mexico a couple weeks ago was that every evening when I was sitting down to dinner, both places I divided my meals between had large televisions viewable from just about anywhere. I normally avoid being in line of sight with these things, but in this case, perhaps by mere coincidence, I was arriving in time for extensive coverage of both soccer and boxing. Both sports are huge in Mexico, and I am a fan of both. I enjoyed getting to see the coverage, even though I could understand little of it.

I’m a week behind, but the Independent published my review of the new book by Brian D’Ambrosio called Warrior in the Ring: The Life of Marvin Camel, Native American World Champion Boxer. This was a guy whose heyday coincided with my teenage years, and I was well aware of him then. Here is an excerpt:

Sadly, as Brian D’Ambrosio points out in his new biography, Warrior in the Ring, few people remember Camel’s name and what he accomplished. The cruiserweight division—slotted between the light-heavyweight and heavyweight divisions—has never had much respect as a weight class. Its most famous champion was Evander Holyfield, who won the title on his way up in weight before ultimately claiming a champion’s belt (and losing part of an ear to Mike Tyson) as a heavyweight. The division’s anonymity is only compounded by the utter disinterest in boxing over the last couple decades. Once one of the biggest sports in the country, today, as D’Ambrosio writes, “no current sports magazine has a full-time boxing writer.”

It’s an interesting book. It made me miss the days when boxing was big enough that fights were held at places like The Carousel Lounge (which used to be a bar and is now a TV station about a block from where my band rehearses; my high school band played a Battle of the Bands there once, and recorded a demo in its basement) or even the Field House (as in the Adams Field House, which I think is called Dahlberg Arena now, or maybe both, I don’t know — it is where the University of Montana plays basketball). Yes, boxing is a brutal sport, and maybe deserves its death, but it still makes me wistful.

This is a small press book, so if it sounds interesting, please consider buying it.