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Missoula in early autumn is something else.

The park begins to get tinged in yellow and the lightest shades of orange. The students are back and the bars become busy and crowded. But mornings remain quiet, private, and beautiful. Sometimes I get up even earlier than normal so I can go have a cup of coffee and watch the sun touch the world.

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Thankful.

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This year has been tough. It’s been full of thoughts of failure and regret, of frustrations and complications. It’s been rejection, a lot more than I thought, and a lot of patience.

But this year has also been one of thrills, victories, and love. Getting up at 6 am and writing my thesis, slowly punching out the right words in the morning at my favorite coffee shop while saying hello to the crows I passed in the morning. Walking by the sea, my beloved sacred place, and listening to the waves. Having my dad and Ella visit me there in the spring, taking each to my favorite haunts. Going home and looking at homes with Logan, trying to find somewhere that felt like it would work for us. Struggling with my thesis edits and getting everything right while applying for job after job, only to hear nothing made me feel worthless. Making pizzas with Logan in our kitchen, and eating on our front porch, watching the shadows grow as the sun set in the summer. Seeing movies and walking across the Clark Fork river on the bridge, feeling the breeze on my face while holding Logan’s hand. Hugging my mother and sister when I see them and playing with my mother’s dog. Holding a hot mug of coffee in a booth at Butterfly Herbs.

While Thanksgiving as a holiday is a lot of historical erasure, I still took the day to be thankful for it all. For the struggles and the lack of money, which feels constant. For the love and support I give and receive. For the roof over our head and the car that is still running and for the fact that I am healthy and okay and that it will be okay.

I hope that you had a good day of thanks and that you were able to take a moment or two and think about the good things or hold the ones you love.

Fancy pants, one last nice day, and books.

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Montana is a notoriously fickle place. One day you’re basking on the front porch feeling like a queen, the next you’re huddled inside watching snow gather  holding tea in your hands, mentally prepared for the next six cold, unrelenting winter months. But, I did get to linger on our front porch, wearing nothing but a thin wool sweater, these glorious plaid pants, and this Icelandic wool hat that I got back in 2015 in Reykjavik. This hat has seen me through Hell and back, and the wool has always been so warm and comforting. These pants make me feel straight from the 1990’s in the best way, especially paired with the Dr. Marten 1460’s Logan got me last summer.

I’ve been bad at blogging here. My thoughts are chaotic. I feel restless, excited, nervous for the future. This lack of feeling static, of feeling like there are things to accomplish, lists to make and cross out, and chances to feel more alive, is good. I’ve got photographs to send to a lab and see how the prints turn out. I want to photograph more, and I am ravenous for subject matter. Life feels like it’s moving fast, and it’s rather scary but in a good way.

In a month I’ll be in Hawai’i, with a gallon of SPF 75 and a book, with my mom and sister, basking in the warmth like a lizard, soaking it in to save for later. It was a last minute idea, a last minute booking, but that’s often how the best things happen. This morning we made pancakes, with frozen blackberries from the garden this summer, and strong coffee. I’ve devoured two books in the last two weeks. The Round House by Louise Erdlich describes the events that come after an Ojibwe boy’s mother is brutally raped on their reservation in North Dakota. Ada Blackjack by Jennifer Niven describes how Ada Blackjack, an Iñupiat woman, survived on an ill-fated adventure’s trip into the Arctic, and the aftermath of her survival, including fame, fortune, powerful men conspiring around and against her for their own benefit, and how her life was drastically changed.

I loved both books for different reasons. Erdlich herself is Ojibwe and she brings to life the rhythms of life on a reservation and beautifully brings sensitivity and warmth to places that many of us are taught to be scared of. As a white reader, I loved reading about the complex relationship of law, land, and legacy that comes with being a tribal member on a reservation. I loved the realness of it, because I grew up with these grim, 2-D, unreal ideas driven into my head about “the res”. These ideas feel stale, and yet I do not know how to form my own, having not spent much time on a reservation and being thoroughly white. Erdlich gives me a peek into the beautiful, complex, loving, fraught realities.

Niven’s dive into the life of Ada Blackjack is different in that she weaves together a tale of one adventurer’s incompetancies and the ripple effects his bullheaded, optimistic, and cowardly nature have on the lives of men and women around him. Ada’s survival is also her downfall, and the way that she is treated as an object, an exotic “Eskimo” woman from the north, as a temptress and deviant in the press and by people around her, while also being embraced by the families of the men who died while in the Arctic with her, is thoroughly and tenderly documented by Niven.

Anyway, we’re making a Portuguese pizza (it involves boiled eggs!) and drinking a syrah we got last week, after we cleaned the house today and got rid of some stuff. Tomorrow is back to the scheduled monotony of working life, but the added bonus of a paycheck and something to do cannot be overly stressed.

Before all the leaves left the trees.

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Outside our window I can see the almost-naked trees sway in the wind. It’s cold and foreboding outside, and it’s the first snow of the year. I feel glad to be nestled in our house, warm and comfortable. I’ve had some health scares lately and am tired of calling doctors and making appointments and dealing with the what if’s of having a corporeal form.

But, having a job makes a lot of the worries feel less serious. I’ve been getting up early, getting dressed, brushing my teeth, and walking to work. The normalcy of doing so is healing, in my opinion, and while I don’t relish the realities of having a lunch hour or watching the clock a lot, it’s refreshing to know that my time means something to somebody, that as I work I get money. Having not necessarily worked with that exchange full time in a couple of years (hey grad school!) it feels so good.

I’ve had some film developed lately and I’m so excited to share it! Here are some frames from when it was still light out in the morning and the foliage hadn’t fallen off the branches yet. I already miss those times even though they still seem like yesterday.

 

One step at a time.

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I’ve been struggling a lot these last two weeks to keep my chin up. I see systems of hate, sexism, and violence that have stood the test of time continue. This week, after the #MeToo flurry, I wrote an emotional piece on not being able to trust men to believe and understand what women go through. I re-lived my traumas inflicted on me by countless men this week. I read horrific stories by friends and acquaintances, and I saw so few men acknowledge their place in all of this: complicit as Hell.

It’s been one of those weeks where you have a painful doctor’s appointment and a job interview, peppered with a couple of job rejections. Real-life shit, the stuff that’s no fun to read on a blog. This last weekend, though, we went on a long walk into the park and looked at all the fall leaves and heard that satisfying crunch beneath our feet. We drank hot coffee and picked out peppers hot and mild at the farmer’s market. I cried a lot and the house smelled like garlic at night as Logan made dinner. I helped him assemble a zucchini lasagna. We got some stuff stolen off of our porch and that was pretty shit, but our front yard currently harbors thousands of brightly colored leaves that came down in the last day or two of wind. I’ve been trying to do my best and know that if I keep working hard and applying a job somewhere will come up, because I have no other options.

Autumnal vibes and keeping my chin up.

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Autumn here reminds me of Victoria in that the humidity makes my hair crazy and my urge to explore rise again. I miss the ocean but the river will do, as long as a body of water is nearby.

Missoula is beautiful, friendly, welcoming. It’s also a really hard place to get work, and everybody knows it and laughs. They feel bad but hey, you chose to be here, so adapt. And I can’t. I’m stubborn and hard working and I refuse to work for less than I am worth. I refuse to apply for jobs that pay $10 an hour but ask for a BA and 3+ years of experience. Just because the work environment allows places to do that doesn’t mean I will comply. So, I’ve had fewer interviews and fewer chances to apply for things. At the same time, holding out because I know what I am worth feels right. I have taken underpaid jobs where you’re over-worked and under-appreciated and expected to do so much, just because your employers know how badly you need this. It feels wrong and it is.

So, in the meantime, I’ve been going on long walks, making photographs, eating good food with Logan, and seeing movies. We went to see the 1937 French film La Grande Illusion at the Roxy last night, and it was spectacular, sad, and poignant. It made me think about war and family and the common humanities we share with each other. This weekend I got to have my favorite Single Malt IPA at the Blackfoot brewery in Helena with some old friends, people who I love dearly and hold close to my heart. We drove home through a freak snow storm, crawling over a steep mountain pass, hoping nobody would be driving like a nutcase and slide and hit us. We saw aspen groves and cottonwoods and beautiful clouds hugging the mountains. Snow-capped peaks and low-slung clouds and all the colors of fall everywhere. Montana, you rascal, you always charm me even when you might be trying to kill me or break my heart simultaneously.

L’Autunno e qui!!!

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Hello, fellow internet dwellers! I’ve been off the grid a bit (I’m always more active on Instagram honestly) but I hope autumn or spring has been treating you all well wherever on the globe you reside!

What I’ve been doing:

Spending lots of time drinking coffee, editing cover letters, and people watching at Butterfly Herbs.

Hosting humans in our home, most notably having two Australians in our home!

Drinking some good local beer (here’s looking at you, Fresh Bongwater Hemp Ale!)

Starting multiple books and re-reading others, like Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk, which always makes me cry. Her way with words is unspeakably poignant and she digs under layers of emotions that you didn’t know you were feeling at the moment. The way that she writes makes you grieve as she does, and it was a bestseller for a good reason.

Writing almost every day in my diary. This is something I’ve been trying to do for a long time and I’ve been fairly good at it recently.

Sleeping at least eight hours a night (or at least trying).

Re-watching Mad Men and having all the thoughts. What a damn fine multi-layered, complex, revealing, and sad work of art.

Scanning in film I’ve taken over the last few weeks.

Baking corn bread muffins, making puttanesca, and drinking tea.

Going home, seeing my mother, going to the dentist, doing important life things.

 

 

 

Home for a brief moment

Flying into Montana at its ugliest reminds me how much I love it despite how dry and brown it is at this time of year. Hunting season is out and about, with men and women decked out in camouflage in the grocery stores and gas stations, likely just returning from a day in the mountains or fields, meandering buying milk and other things. I had forgotten about this simple aspect of life home.

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I missed driving, the 12oz glasses of Blackfoot IPA, the inevitable seeing of people I knew, because it was all familiar. Ultra-crunch leaves were everywhere, bare trees ready to embrace coats of snow. Bob Ross, the tree in Logan’s backyard, looked eerie and naked without his beautiful leaves. We had a fire on my last day, which Ella stoked to perfection. The wind made it a mercurial joy to have around, switching directions quickly, threatening to singe one or more of us. I was able to hold warm cups of coffee with loved ones close by. I hugged my sister, surprised my parents with my visit, and slept in. It was beautiful, and like all lovely things, quick, far too quick for my liking.

Where I go to wander

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Ross Bay Cemetery.

I do spend a lot of time, perhaps too much, in this cemetery. It’s enormous, full of paths, and the most magnificent trees! There is so much history here, and every time I walk through I find a new headstone I admire or a new detail to enjoy. Somebody, for example, put the most perfect pine cone on the top of a tombstone, and it looked very fitting with the darkening stone.

The trees in here are regal but not overbearing. They have different personalities and the leaves they all have are different. This time of year a lot of yellow and orange leaves- the trees that have red leaves have not yet let gravity inevitably take them yet.

If you’re in Victoria and want to escape downtown head to Ross Bay and spend some time here. I like reading on one of the benches or quietly learning about all the people who came here from every corner of the earth- Croatia, Poland, all parts of England, Japan, Russia, etc., because it makes Victoria, which feels very settled and sometimes overly cultivated, feel more real.

All Hallows Eve

I love October. The darker mornings and quieter evenings, the way that dawn comes later and the foliage looks so vibrant when it’s cloudy.

I shot these earlier this week while I graded papers and drank hot soup from a thermos, bundled in my enormous Icelandic wool scarf. I found mushrooms of all kinds- some looking like lace, others slimy and grotesque, some while and delicate. Leaves as small as a dime and as large as a serving dish of all colors, shapes, sizes. Montana is breathtaking but I cannot state enough how wonderful it is to have a full autumn to revel, ruminate, and appreciate. Weeks and weeks of crunching leaves, smelling the crisp mornings.

New haunts

Homesickness has me in it’s inevitable grip. Yesterday I ended up talking with a professor for over two hours and she asked me how I feel here and it took a lot for me to not just begin crying. You don’t break into tears in front of Oxford educated professors. I’m pretty sure that’s a rule. I did try to wear heels to class, for some reason that seemed like a good idea- my horrible ankles, ruined after so many injuries and falls, failed me shortly after I hobbled into the library, and thankfully the cynical side of me tucked some flats into my purse. It was fun being 3 inches taller for a while, though, and you never know until you try. They had free food yesterday on campus so I obviously took advantage of that. Finding optimism in the little things, like the cold air coming in from the open windows on the bus, or feeling how warm your sweater is against the chill of the rain, or the snug comfort of well-fitting rain boots- these are things to focus on and draw power from. How satisfying it is holding a warm mug of tea in my hands, seeing my little plants slowly grow, these are all beautifully worthwhile things to concentrate on instead of wanting to be elsewhere.

One autumn

Can a person be an adventure?

I think so. I had a lovely, if short, adventure with a creature that was unlike any I’d ever met. I had quite a blast. I made some really good photographs that season, I think because finding out things about somebody else and being with them can be a really incredible experience and tinge other parts of your life. It was odd and sometimes sad and others completely euphoric.

I took a lot of my photographs on weekends when I wasn’t with the adventure, and others walking to go see the adventure. I would take my time and find weird ways to get to his house because to get there I had to pass by some really beautiful architecture and the lighting was always different. Montana in the fall can be the most beautiful place in the world.