“My beer hand is cold!”

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With daylight savings going, it’s finally dark out past 5 pm. Katie and I took advantage of this, stashing a few beers in our packs, extra clothes, and sturdy winter hiking boots. Katie brought Yak-Traks, which are really an essential Montana tool, but I just trusted that my heavy, large hardy boots (they’re good to -20F with the right liners, and are 15 years old) would do the job (they did).

We got to the top of Mount Helena on the 1906 trail within an hour! In some places, the snow had drifted, and with the warming temperatures it had become heavy, slippery, and easy to sink deep into. We kept on trekking and even saw a nutter trial running in shorts! (This is actually not that abnormal but I’ve become more and more cold-sensitive and now that just seems insane to me.)

The top of Mount Helena is always windy, but it was amazing to be out and active. Katie and I kept marveling at the feeling of fresh air, of moving, of hearing the wind blow through the trees and seeing the sun glint off the snow. Sometimes winters here can feel never-ending, and cabin fever sets in, even if your car starts and you can get around town fairly easily.

I can’t wait to hike some more- it really does feel like the earliest of early signs of spring, just the fact that it’s finally above freezing some days brings me hope!

Americana: The Lewis & Clark County Fair

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I insisted that Logan come to the fair with me. The fair is a microcosm of American culture: It’s big, colorful, gluttonous, loud, and silly. Children can shoot fake enormous guns that look scarily real from rough looking carnival employees. One can buy deep fried Oreos in large quantities and people watch. Rodeo visitors dress up in their best cowboy boots, hats, and belts. Men with large stomachs wear their largest belt buckles. The exhibition hall houses goats, rabbits, chickens, cows, and sheep, all for purchase or viewing.

Old people walk past children’s carnival rides decorated with busty women, hyper sexualized characters in skimpy outfits. Everywhere there is inescapable mud and dirt, in sharp contrast to the shiny neon and the lights. Food trucks line the parking lot, and one can devour anything from pork chop sandwiches to roasted corn to funnel cakes.

And I found a roll of 35mm film in a film shop in Bozeman that I hadn’t picked up, scanned in the negatives, and found all of this waiting for me. What an odd, marvelous late gift to myself.

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The Parrot Confectionery

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The Parrot has been a refuge of sorts for me for years. I’ve written diary entries, finished and ended books, held hands, had serious conversations and said goodbyes here. I’ve consumed way too much coffee in the booths, I’ve even cried in them. I lost my wallet once and found it there, in the hands of the staff, who kindly kept it for me behind the counter.

The Parrot in Helena, Montana, has been a place for me to love going to since we moved to Montana in 1998. It’s always felt familiar. Some new owners just bought it and I quietly fear that it will change, though they have vowed not to change a thing. Helena’s had this marvelous staple around for over 90 years, and I hope that when I am old and brittle I can still slowly make my way through the screen door and hear that bell ring and settle into my booth, with a piece of honeycomb chocolate and a cup of cheap coffee.

 

My town

Two weeks ago I drove home on a Thursday evening, watching the sunset at 70 mph (alright, I might have been speeding a bit, we’ll say 75-ish) on the highway. I spent the evening with loved ones and retired in a new, and yet old, location, and woke up feeling excited where I was for once.

In a way, I’ve finally begun to appreciate Helena. When you grow up in a town where you see at least one person you know in the grocery store, Target, and everywhere else, it can feel like a cage, a terrible backwash of memories and growing up that you don’t want to relive. It was in this town that I went through my awkward adolescence, where death happened a mile from my house, where too many nights with nothing to do rested on my mind. It saw me at my worst, and sometimes I feel like it hasn’t seen me at my best.

My best is when I’m on a night train or when I’m wandering in a new city. My best is when I’m trying something I can’t pronounce in a new restaurant, or when I’m being challenged by a new experience. Helena isn’t exactly a hotbed of such challenges, and thusly I often feel slightly lobotomized when I am in the midst of this town. This last year, though, Helena has become a bit brighter. I’ve discovered new little things about it, new haunts and places to wander. It now feels more comfortable than hostile, more easy than reluctant.

I don’t open wine bottles and other weekend things.

I got my roll of film developed and felt quite…disappointed. I stupidly carried around the Minolta instead of lugging the much better Olympus, and the pictures obviously suffer because of it. Next time, Olympus, I shall haul thy heavy body around!

Note to self: Ease of photographing doesn’t always translate into photographs that you like.

My parents are living in a new apartment since our house sold, and it’s tiny and quite beautiful. Also very centrally located to downtown, which I greatly enjoy! Being only a few blocks from a creperie, taco place, Thai food, a confectionery, and a half dozen or so drinking establishments, as well as all of the town’s hiking and walking trails, is pretty glorious!  Helena’s food scene is rather sad but at least we can get to the better parts of it. I walked a lot as a result of the new geography, and even tried running- which went horribly and ended with me having the sorest quads I have had in months. Since June, probably. To be fair the first 2.5 miles were fine but after that it just spiraled into horrendous form and breathing that sounded more akin to an emphysemic individual.

Now I am back in Bozeman. Today wasn’t nearly as monotonous as I expected- I won a photography contest with an antiquated shot from Glacier back in 2010, and so got $50, and then went to get delicious food with my sister after nearly napping in Baroque. Oops!

I have no excuse: A marathon blog post mixed with an apology, but sort of not really.

Alright, so I have no real excuse for not blogging, other than I haven’t felt like blogging.

I think anybody who has blogged for any amount of time has felt this weird plateau of uncaring. It’s not like I don’t want to blog- I DO! I try, I make these posts, and then they just sort of wilt…and then I abandon them for another, skeletal blog post that I’m creating which then also fades into nothing.

Okay, end of that. Basically, I’m alive, I’m still taking photographs, and I’m not in some weird cryogenic state.

Life has been a mix of swimming, running, work, photographs, drawing class, friends, oddities, enigmas, and sporadic moments of joy and delight. Life has been worth living lately, and that might explain my lack of presence online.

 

Summer: Beginning

 

 

Summer is officially here. After winning a 3.86 GPA this semester, and beginning work full time next week, summer seems to hardly be staying with me at all, though!

I’ve been reading Nabokov, Heller, and taking lots of photographs downtown. Meghan left for D.C. yesterday, and Wednesday she and Jackson had a barbecue, complete with potato salad, chips, brownies, cookies, burgers and hot dogs.  I drove down for the day to pick up parking permits and do nothing at all. We drank mimosas, lounged on chairs outdoors, fended off wasps and played various backyard games. The day was almost as perfect as one could hope for.

Bower, the skittish cat, made a few cameos. Mark performed card tricks that left everybody mind boggled. Shelby and Jake didn’t stay long, just long enough to eat food and lament their early departures. We all discussed nothing and everything, and when the sun started dipping low, I hopped back into the car and departed. The 1.5 hour drive yielded some of the most gorgeous clouds I have ever witnessed.

Lately I’ve been running in the evening with Kristin, which has been beyond magnificent. I missed running, and my body is getting back into the rhythm beautifully. It’s like it was just hibernating. I find running to be a total release from everything stressful or confusing, and it smooths out the wrinkles in my life better than most things.

Anyway, enjoy some photographs from my life recently!

Wh-wh-what is a “weekend”?

This weekend I drove the 90 miles back to my town, and spent the weekend eating good food, spending time with family and friends, rummaging through estate sales, and enjoying life. Being so close to home this year is so strange, but in a good way, I believe.

Helena is boring. Let’s be honest. However, there is a certain regularity to it’s dullness that I find comforting- if not dangerous in that many become trapped in it’s lull. However, when Monday came, my long weekend was over, and I drove home in a haze of sickness, ready to come back to my small room.

Also, if you haven’t yet started to watch Downton Abbey, begin so soon. It is hilarious, really well done, and Maggie Smith rules. Yes. Not enough reasons? The costuming is superb, and the scenery itself is breathtaking!

Winter Antics

My cousins came up from Colorado for a short visit, and we had a lovely time bumming around town. I also spent some quality time in coffee shops and being with pets. One night was spent in a garage being creative and painting canvasses with friends. It was a good, relaxing week. Monday I start work again, so this respite is being much cherished!

I wish you all a wonderful New Year! I hope you have fun plans, be it watching movies, going to parties, being alone and sleeping through it (I know I’ve done that), or wherever you end up, may 2012 be fantastic!

Hello, Helena!

I am back in a town that hasn’t changed much since the 1950’s. Checking out the Helena history website (here) has truly showed me how little this town has changed. In many ways this is nice. It’s quite wonderful to be back home, sitting at the counter drinking some Swiss tea I brought back with me last summer. Life in small towns seems to rarely shift pace, it always just keeps going. From a small town, I bid you adieu!

Helena Cathedral

I’m not religious, but I love Gothic cathedrals and structures of all kinds. This is the grandest building in town, bar none. A wealthy Irish Catholic, Thomas Cruise (not the movie star) came in the 1860’s, during the Irish potato famine to Montana to find gold- and struck it rich. He became incredibly wealthy, and being a devout Catholic, gave money so that our town could have a fantastic Gothic cathedral built. His mausoleum is about two miles away from my house.

Random sidetrack: He actually had kind of a celebrity life. After becoming wealthy he married. His wife died giving birth to their daughter. He was so scared he was going to lose her that he had her followed by body guards, to prevent her from getting into trouble or being kidnapped. She died of a drug overdose.

Small town tragedy. Beautiful structure.

There are so many stories behind every building.

Nostalgia for a place I love & hate

Best bagels around. No matter how small-minded or small my town really is, I can always go and get a cinnamon sugar bagel toasted with vanilla cream cheese and sit in the well-lit space and read the newspaper or eat messily with family and friends.

Golden Girls has two shelves of over-priced but under-appreciated bottles from various centuries and decades. They are covered in dust and arranged perfectly.

Various bottles and glass jars.

I want a collection like this, except I would have them up against windows, making stained glass.

Yet another establishment that sells things that people had to leave behind or wanted to get rid of. This is the best smelling place in town, other than the library. I also know all the sections by heart. There are these lace curtains in the way back that are hit perfectly by the light and…okay, enough romanticizing about curtains.

Here are the aforementioned curtains.

Taking pictures of inanimate objects is easier because I know that the curtain is going to be there (unless the cat pulls it down) and that the Bagel Company isn’t going to just leave. I can photograph it, take my time, and come back later. With people, it’s harder, because they become conscious or difficult, or they immediately lose whatever quality you saw before you made contact or tried to photograph them. Like mirages, almost. I love people, and I love photographing them, but honestly, give me a 90 degree angle or a turn of the century building and I can also bring emotion and expression and individuality to it.