They Say It’s Her Birthday

Today is my friend Jenny Montgomery’s birthday. It also happens I have a Q&A in this week’s Independent in support of her pop-up poetry/art installation at Radius Gallery called “Hatch.” You can check out the interview HERE. Meanwhile, an excerpt:

Jenny Montgomery’s Radius Gallery pop-up show, titled Hatch, explores the parenting of her son, who was born seven years ago with no signs of life. Nurses at the remote, rural hospital revived him and he was immediately whisked away from Montgomery and her husband, Ryan, to a large urban facility where modern technology enabled his survival. Hatch documents Montgomery’s experience, substituting the medical jargon and technology with images and poetry. It’s an exhibit that touches on ancient ritual traditions surrounding death and the afterlife, the romantic idealization of childhood and the near-fetishization of medical “cures” and pharmaceuticals. We spoke with Jenny—you may also know her as co-owner of Montgomery Distillery—about this intensely personal exhibit and her uncommon son, Heath.

I’ve gotten to know Jenny fairly well over the past couple years. She appeared in the DonkeyGirl fashion extravaganza “Two-Wheel Nation,” she modeled for me at last spring’s fashion shoot for the Indy’s “Spring Fashion” insert, and she also modeled at the Betty’s Divine “Dysfunctional Family” shoot we did a few weeks ago. She plied me with alcohol at the Beargrass Writing thing last month, and just last night hung out with me at Chris Dombrowski’s book release party held at Montgomery Distillery. Jenny is one of my favorites. Everyone should be lucky enough to know her.

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Better, Bigger

In my interview with David Quammen, he said:

Ken Burns did his film series on America’s National Parks, and he did a very fine job; he calls it ‘America’s Best Idea.’ Even on the back of my book it says ‘America’s Best Idea.’ But I quarrel with that phrase. I don’t think it was ‘America’s Best Idea,’ there were some other very, very good ideas that America had like constitutional democracy; like government of the people, by the people, for the people. What Yellowstone is, is a good idea that has gotten much better and a big idea that has gotten much bigger. But it didn’t start as a great idea.

The following are some shots from Quammen’s event at Fact & Fiction last Friday night. The man is an excellent presenter, even with a technical glitch here and there. The discussion was entirely about Yellowstone, and I found it fascinating. If you ever get a chance to attend one of Quammen’s events, I urge you to do so.

Wild at Heart

I had the pleasure last week to interview one of my writing heroes, David Quammen. It may not be a big deal to some, but last May’s issue of National Geographic that focused on Yellowstone National Park was written single-handedly by Quammen. That, when it comes to magazine writing, is a pinnacle achievement. He will be in Missoula Friday for an event, and my interview — a much-abbreviated version of our full conversation — is in this week’s issue of the Independent. I hope you can check it out, because the guy is loquacious and fascinating. Here’s an excerpt:

When you realized you were actually writing an entire issue of National Geographic, did you have any particular “Holy shit!” moments?

David Quammen: It was a “holy shit” moment for me. And there were a few times after I accepted this project that I had a few of those “holy shit” moments at 4 a.m., thinking, “How in the world am I gonna do this?” What I was thinking was, everyone has already read books about Yellowstone, at least in this region and the world that we live in. And across America people think that they know Yellowstone and what it’s about. The first challenge was how to make it new, how to make it fresh, how to make it interesting. So I worked very hard on trying to do that, to make it serious and probing and unexpected.

I’m looking forward to the event Friday. If you are near Missoula, you should check it out.

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A Shocking Experience

Monday night at Beargrass we had just finished dinner and folks were drifting from the dining area to the main room where readings were held. My friend Richard Fifield, author of the excellent debut novel Flood Girls, was to be reading soon. A wind had come up outside, and though the sky visible from the back of the lodge was still only broken with clouds, it was growing darker, and the trees in the yard and down the hill were beginning to sway with some vigor.

I joined a couple friends on the covered porch out back. Rain was just barely starting to fall. There is a ten-foot or so span of grass that separates the main grounds from the hill that slopes away down to the Blackfoot River. I stepped about midway out into it to look up at the sky to see what the clouds were doing.

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I turned just as the tall pine tree to the right in that photo was struck by lightning. It was maybe forty or fifty feet away and down the slight slope. I’ve never experienced anything like it for violence and power. I can close my eyes and see the forks of the strike envelope the tree; bark explodes, light and colors and sounds and heat blow against me. The hairs of my arms stood on end, my mouth and teeth had that kind of weird electric taste to them, and smoke billowed all around the tree.

The other two recoiled; I just sort of stood there, oddly calm, but I think I was stunned a little because I was surprised when the other people from all around the lodge and ranch area came running. Folks clear on the other side of the building were in awe of what they saw, and they weren’t anywhere near the point of impact. Most startling was the utter lack of warning. The storm seemed to come out of nowhere, and I don’t recall hearing any distant thunder or anything at its approach. One minute it was windy, and just starting to rain, and the next, BOOM!

The storm passed quickly, and we went down to look at the tree. Several scars twisted all around it. A single split ran from the base all the way up to the top, spiraling around the tree’s diameter. Pieces of blackened bark were scattered all about, as were strips of scorched inner bark. I almost didn’t believe that that tree, so close, was the one that had actually been struck until we all went and looked at it.

The next morning I took some photos. They probably aren’t as interesting to anyone who wasn’t there, but for the rest of us, it was an unforgettable experience.