Old Hearts, New Companions

It was a long time before I could go back to the river after we lost Darla back in early June, and I still get a lump in my throat when I think about her. But we have two new friends in the home disrupting our efforts to do much of anything, and they are rapidly proving that broken hearts find new ways to love, and love hard, if we allow them to.

Cheeto, aka Huerequeque, is a Chihuahua who came from a small dog rescue center in Polson, MT, via a high kill shelter in Los Angeles that they had rescued him from. He was in lockdown an entire year. He’s adjusting very well.

Bucky is a Jack Russell from Colorado we just got last week. She’s proving to be a toothy handful. Odds are she’ll outlive me, at this rate.

Finding My Way Home

The new issue of Montana Quarterly is out, and includes my feature story, “Finding My Way Home.” It is about blood quantum, and includes the subtitle, “In Indian Country, ‘Blood Quantum’ complicates families and roils communities.” I worked hard on it and I’m happy with how it turned out. I know there are copies at Fact & Fiction downtown in Missoula, but for folks outside of Montana who want it, you may order it online HERE.

Not to spoil anything, but the piece concludes with, “at the time of this writing…. ” I am happy to report that since then, my application for enrollment with the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians — filed after much research into where my father’s side of my family truly came from — has been accepted. This is only the beginning of a larger project I am working on.

 

The Mind Does Not Like To Be Alone With Itself

Writer Brooke Williams visited Fact & Fiction last week as part of the tour in support of his new book, Open Midnight: Where Ancestors and Wilderness Meet. It was an interesting discussion and I enjoyed it immensely. One particular topic piqued my attention the most: hermits. I wish I could remember the specifics, but Brooke mentioned something about reclusive Chinese poets (part of his talk was about his recent trip to China, which is another discussion entirely) and how someone had mentioned that one of the interesting things about America is we really don’t have a tradition of hermits who are important contributors to our culture. That’s kind of a hamfisted way to put it — fault for that being entirely my own — but that was the gist of it.

That discussion led me to finally reading The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Bozeman author Michael Finkel. Here’s a short synopsis of what it’s about:

“This is the fascinating true story of Christopher Knight, who lived in the Maine woods for 27 years and survived by stealing supplies from vacation cabins while living in extreme conditions to avoid detection. After more than 1,000 burglaries, he was finally caught and partially reintegrated into society. His story is told together with the history of hermits and those who have sought solitude in order to have insight. Chris defies psychological profiling, and it’s amazing Finkel was even able to interview him to write this book. This level of solitude would drive most people insane, but for Chris, it seems like an almost pure contemplative state. An excellent read.”

— Todd Miller, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, WI

I found this book fascinating. I was also mildly surprised, though I shouldn’t have been, with the number of personality traits I share with its subject, Christopher Knight. In particular, this passage struck me:

A large majority of men, and twenty-five percent of women, a University of Virginia study found, would rather subject themselves to mild electric shocks than do nothing but sit quietly with their thoughts for fifteen minutes. Unless you are a trained meditator, the study’s authors concluded, the “mind does not like to be alone with itself.”

That boggles my mind. I’m no “trained” meditator, though my morning practice is one of my favorite parts of the day. Beyond that, though, I bet I sit with my own thoughts for spans of fifteen minutes or more multiple times a day. I find as I’ve gotten older, silence is my preferred state. I rarely listen to music anymore. The list goes on. I’ve never considered myself particularly unusual for that, but perhaps I am. Particularly among men, it would seem.

I love quiet. I love the ambient sounds of the world uninterrupted by human-introduced noise. I love solitude. I’m convinced I could live perhaps not entirely secluded, but far more than I am now. I think I would thrive in that environment.

Brooke Williams said he too was fascinated with the idea of hermits, and that might be the subject of his next book. If that is the case, I await it with enthusiasm.

On Challenges

My sweaty triangle, as of May 12th, when the instructor asked if she could photograph me after class so I could see how my form has improved….

Folks who have been around here very long know I started practicing Bikram Yoga a couple years ago. That practice is still stuttering along, though lately it’s been going stronger than ever. I felt I was slipping earlier this spring, falling back to only a class or two a week, so I decided that, in order to kick my ass back into line, I’d try, again, to commit to a practice-every-day, 30-day challenge. I’d made the attempt in the past, but never managed to go thirty days in a row. This time I pulled it off; from April 27th to May 26th, I muscled through a class in the hot room — mostly 60-minute classes, a few 90-minuters, and even two or three hot Pilates classes — every day. It was exhausting; not so much the classes themselves, but I fell behind on getting enough sleep, so my ass was dragging by the end. It was worth every sweaty minute. It was also nice to sleep in a little that Saturday the 27th. I didn’t get up until almost 8:00 AM!

I was out of town for a few days after it wrapped up, but now I’m back at it. The new challenge on the yoga front is something that happens every summer in the studio where I practice. Everyone who wants to participate signs up and must attend at least three classes per week (we get one throwaway week). At the end — the first of October — anybody left standing gets entered into a drawing for a free year of yoga. So I signed up; in the first week I went four times. So far, so good.

I also agreed to do a food challenge with my mom. She’s doing a paleo thing, I’m doing Whole30. That started on June 3rd, so we’re a little over a week in. I’ve tried this sort of thing in the past as well, but so far it’s going better than it typically has. I’m eating quite a bit of bison, potatoes, lots of spinach, peppers, tuna, cashews, a little chicken, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, etc. Hell, I even ate eggs and avocados this morning, unprecedented in my history. And no soda so far! At least once a day I’m taking a picture of a meal — usually dinner — and sending it to my mom. I think the accountability helps. It’s even kind of fun.

Why am I doing all this? Just to clean up my act, people. Everything I love to do most requires a certain level of health and fitness. I need to regain some ground, and I’m not getting any younger.

Answering the Age-Old Travel Question

Having spent a couple nights aboard, could I live here?

“The Meadowlark”

Yes. Yes, I could.

Highlights included the outdoor shower (particularly in the rain), all the mist of the Olympic Peninsula, and the visiting barred owl.

 

She’s a 1938 ‘classic’ and curvaceous 40′ wooden cruiser. Charming bathroom, kitchen and sleeping quarters. Experience the ultimate in comfortable cruising. She sits high and dry in her own meadow surrounded by dark green forest. Bon voyage.

Rich warm solid mahogany. Relive the yachting world of the 40’s in this spacious wooden bridge deck cruiser of Lake Union heritage, designed in the spirit of famous Seattle marine architect, Ed Monk. Enjoy cocktails on the dock overlooking your own private meadow. Quiet and secluded, for a good nights sleep.

She is a classic ‘antique’ boat, not actually built for optimum overnight accommodations. She has such features as areas of low head room, several steps up and down to various levels, and an attendant salty boat ambiance. Boat people and adventurers love her, but she may not be appropriate for everyone.