A Sabbatical of Sorts

Six months. I didn’t meant to let this blog die, but it did. I built a photography website, had a few shows, started working at a brewery, camped alone and with friends a few times this summer, and spent a lot of time reading and brooding.

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Brenna and I went to PonyFest in Pony, Montana and watched live music and camped out in a local park. It was peak Montana hip summer.

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I camped alone for the first time ever and had a blast making the fire, pitching the tent, and while I didn’t sleep a wink it was liberating to sleep alone and wake up in the pitch dark, pack up camp, and have Yellowstone to myself for a few hours.

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My mom and I kayaked on the Lolo National Forest and had a blast watching herons, camping on Seeley Lake, and roasting potatoes in tin foil in the campfire with butter and onions. (It takes a while but if they sit for a while in the embers the skins will get perfectly crisp and the inside will be buttery and hot.)

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Ella and I escaped from the world at Boulder Hot Springs, a century-old resort with beautiful rooms, and chatted, ate nice cheese, and heard the rain fall through the window at night.

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In spring I hiked alone quite a bit, watching the flowers that are slow to bloom in Montana reveal themselves, week by week. Things are slow to come alive here but when they do you must revel in their presence.

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A few trips to Missoula, which will always be tinged with a bit of painful nostalgia for me. I miss the life Logan and I built here, even if it was for such a short time. It’s hard to go back and go to places that were special to us and know that such a beautiful, exciting chapter of our lives is over (although we have more adventures up our sleeves!)

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My favorite creative wonder has been making semi-regular trips up to Montana from Colorado and we always make time to catch up at The No Sweat, a 1970s no frills breakfast and lunch joint that goes overboard with coffee and charm.

I know nobody really blogs anymore but I am somewhat firmly attached to this old beast. I’ve written as The Photographist since I was an undergraduate and my life has gone in such different directions than the young, naive Swiss-living Montana girl I was back then that abandoning this blog permanently just doesn’t feel right. Does anybody else have nostalgia and loyalty to mediums like this, even though they aren’t so popular anymore?

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Stony Creek Cabin

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Late spring at a Forest Service cabin nestled in the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest. A moose had been bedding in the front lawn of the hundred year old cabin, a creek rushed loudly and busily across the road, farmers drove by in trucks kicking up dust clouds, and we made a fire that we sat by, quietly chatting, for hours.

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3 am and we could see stars and planets and satellites. I felt alive and happy, connected to new friends and old ones by the fire and the woods and the sounds of outside. The cabin was one hundred years old, and as I slept a little resident mouse ran back and forth along a beam near my head.

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In the morning I found moose tracks, wild strawberry plants, shooting star wildflowers, and lots of other evidence of living fauna. We had to drive over a water-logged road because Rock Creek was overflowing with runoff, muddy and fast. We were tired and happy together, breathing clean air.

 

A brief interlude into a form of nature.

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Immediately after work we packed the Subaru. The meals were already prepared, the sleeping bags and sleeping pads rolled up, the tent rented and ready to be set up. My dear Mum had brought some firewood and a handy hatchet into my workplace for me to take later (“Is it okay for you have a hatchet here?”).

We hadn’t been camping in some time, and it was only our second time this summer. I wish I didn’t type that sentence, but it is true!

We drove down to Yellowstone, through the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, past a river running very low and lots of houses tucked away into hillsides that we mused would be quite nice to occupy. The sun was going down, fast. We have been lulled into the idea that it would stay up with us and allow us time to make it to our campsite before it departs, but no. Summer is almost over, and those long, almost endless Montana summer days shorten with it.

We make it into bustling West Yellowstone by sundown. Tourists and visitors who don’t use crosswalks in a timely manner (“Get the fuck off your phone while you’re crossing the street!” I remember hissing as Logan sat there calmly as ever) make their way to “rustic” bars and shops. We pull into a gas station and buy a bottle of beer, a lighter (we forgot matches), and a can of bear spray. I have never forgotten my bear spray before and cursed the nearly $40 price tag for a new canister but relinquished because bears, man. Bears. Before we leave the older cashier calls Logan a “tall drink of water”.

We finally make our way into the park. Logan flashes our park pass, replete with regal polar bear, and we zoom into Yellowstone which has somehow become Mordor. The fires in West Yellowstone are visible from the road- red, orange, and pink glow from active fires, and we gape, our mouths open. The smoke gets bad, and we surmise that this trip may be very uncomfortable for our respiratory systems. We drive slow- the dark is heavy, like a wool blanket, and we don’t want to hit any critters. We drive by rivers and they look like they are made of mercury, the metallic sheen of them illuminated by what little light remains.

We finally make it to our campsite. It is dark. We have one headlamp and one flashlight between us, and our campsite is right across from the washrooms, but at the end of the campsite complex, so we are at least somewhat close to something natural. We begin to set up the Marmot 4 person tent I rented, and are pleasantly surprised to see how roomy it is. Logan figures out how to set it up faster than me, which quietly makes my Montana cred fall a bit. I mentally blame my parents who had such complex, old tents that when I go to set up a tent I form a battle plan rather than just roll with the quick, well-planned contraptions now available (sorry Mum and Dad). Logan uses the hatchet to tamp down the stakes, and we high five- we have a tent!

Logan gets ready to start the fire and I go up and say, “Uh, so I know I’m about gender parity and division of labor and things, but I’m going to go be domestic and set up the sleeping bags and things” to which he laughs and responds he’ll do the manly thing and make fire. We do both of these things- I blow up the sleeping pads, unroll our sleeping bags, put the bottle of water somewhere we can both find it. I come out of the tent and find happy flames licking the dry pieces of wood. The satisfying crackle feeds something deep in my soul or maybe my genetics. Fire means warmth, safety, security. A warm, happy, well-fed fire cares for you, and makes you content in a way few things truly do.

We open the bottle of pub-style ale we bought in West Yellowstone and cheers to a successfully set up campsite in the dark. The stars twinkle overhead. Logan makes soup with antelope burger and we drink it out of mugs. We brush our teeth in overly bright washrooms with running water and discuss anything and everything, and go to sleep in our ultra-roomy tent. I wake up in the middle of the night to the eeriest noises, which I swear are wolves calling somewhere nearby. I relish these natural sounds, the unfamiliarity of it. I am so cushioned, shielded in my everyday life and here I am in the semi-woods semi-camping and I get to hear animals make noises in the woods where they live. I am a guest on this magnificent Earth and it feels so right to be humbled by these few seconds of noise.

We wake up to the sun. It is about 7:30, and we have no cell service, and this is not a bad thing. Logan makes breakfast, a delicious scramble of potatoes, eggs, and tomatoes. We wash the dishes, pack up the tent, and drive a little ways to the river to swim. We apply sunscreen diligently and wade in. It is cold- very cold. The river is higher than I remember and I am loathe to fully immerse myself. We swim up the river a bit into the canyon and I start to get nervous. We are both strong swimmers but the canyon is thin and the rock walls are sharp- I’ve skinned my toes and banged knees many times before. We swim up a bit and float down and then get out. It is too cold and fast for us to enjoy ourselves, but it is amazing to see the canyon walls and feel our fingertips grip the rocks. We revel in what nature does, but decide to let her do her thing.

We drove through the park and saw no animals. Road construction and fires likely scared them into more remote parts of the park. This was the first time I had never seen a bison in the park. Usually a cocktail of critters emerge or are spotted, but this time- nothing. It was odd to be in a park where there was no animal life to be seen, but I knew they were just doing their thing out of sight.

The Boiling River was too full to stop by, and we drove into Gardiner for ice cream. The drive back was long but we made it. What a good little weekend foray.

I haven’t died!

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I’m here. STILL! I built a website, but am having a horrid time buying the domain name I want and NEED so…I’ve been doing that.

I finished finals, I’ve been with friends and family. I got 2 rolls of film developed from MONTHS ago, it was very neat to see some of the frames I’d shot that I’d forgotten about!

There’s a few from Chico when I went with Chris and we took a backwoods drive, a few from car camping and eating chili on cold mornings around a fire he built, a few from my sister and I on Thanksgiving, and pie, and dogs. I haven’t been photographing as much but this is changing! I swear!

I hope your holidays were magnificent! I got asked quite a bit yesterday at the bank and at the photo center if I got a good amount of stuff- which felt so odd. I’m not going to pretend I’m the most selfless person ever, but it would be nice to talk about family and the moments, not the stuff! What was your favorite moment over the holiday season? Do you have any glorious plans for New Years?

ALSO: Even though I haven’t been able to get my domain name, here is the link to my current website: http://krop.com/somethingdutch

Please visit- all feedback is welcome! Thank you, lovely readers! I’ve reached over 500 followers with this blog, which means SO MUCH. That number may not seem very large but to me it’s awesome to think that 500 people out there thought enough to follow.