Up the Rattlesnake (Montana is ugly).

Here’s the thing:

Montana is really, really, ridiculously good looking. Example A:

44019857590_623312874b_c.jpg

It’s hard to take bad photographs here. It’s hard to not feel the urge to have a camera on you 24/7 (I usually have more than one to be honest). The sunsets, the trees, the mountains in the Western part of the state- it’s all very ‘Gram worthy (and in fact, I have noticed a lot more “influencers” who are based out of Montana- but that’s a story for another day).

It had snowed pretty consistently Sunday morning so Brenna and I postponed a longer hike and chose to head up the Rattlesnake. This is an area of Missoula that is busy with recreationists year-round, and we were passed by bikers (in the snow, mind you) and soon, I am sure ski tracks will be rife up there as well. Most Montanans (me excluded) have adapted to the reality of winters that last a minimum of six months, and have outdoor hobbies. Again, not me.

44019858340_2b9824434b_c

Anyway, we went on a short-ish jaunt in the snow, and it was beautiful. We chatted, looked for animals, admired the quiet of the landscape, and soaked in this manageable amount of snow and cold.

44923444205_f9d012afc8_c45787077012_e390fb4f4d_c44019835360_46850bde1c_c

Here’s Montana in all her ugly, #nofilter. You’re welcome.

44923458635_e53aa00461_c

Advertisements

Preparing to leave, part two (visual).

35140834562_8528fd24ee_c (1)35227780880_328318cfd2_c35140834632_031499c020_c35140835762_3943cb6417_c34975651563_493476d42e_c (1)35895831730_4abb3bea5b_c (1)35566922411_7e3cd49b65_c36248389366_cbf48db76b_c (1)35647264583_20f5265c21_c36015324680_826532cfdb_c (1)37228221081_058f5705ec_c37061263360_b8819dee11_c39905195685_cb8f10a6c2_c39218063095_7f477afe64_c41127975521_acde50311a_c38964703950_1148363553_c42451578155_55b30c4d83_c43453715382_f3845271c3_c (1)43696615494_185767b80a_c43993528762_9fb3e82618_c43993525442_9312a5dab9_c29630507558_237243f2f1_c43323290134_b621bbe512_c44364652912_eec8636083_c42465906141_140f6dc06c_c (1)29105012037_9ea4f075d6_k43988697765_564c8924d7_c30523181977_de13188427_c43739374565_2aedc637ba_c44439746565_caaf17d605_c44850951082_9c9c72275a_c (1)

My time here summed up in visual form.

Photography is a tool, and even the most casual of photographers use this tool in decisive ways. I have used mine to capture the fleeting moments that will last, longer than my anxious thoughts or potentially sad feelings about this place, because if you put me in a corner and asked me, truly, if I was happy here, I would have to tell you that there were moments that were fucking blissful.

Seeing the sunset on our street. The first night we spent in our home. Meeting Logan’s friends from Brazil, bridges between our two worlds that I hadn’t known before. Late nights at the VFW watching a good live show with Nick, Logan, and Ev, feeling like the universe sent good people to be around. Chelsea’s all-too-brief visits that were filled with photos and chats that my soul needed. Quiet mornings at Bernice’s and Butterfly Herbs, nestled at tables and booths with a library book and a note pad. Kettlehouse afternoons, with delicious beer and salty peanuts. Drives out to the Lolo National Forest for fishing, exploring, and renewal. Walking to work in the snow, having the early morning feel like it was all for me as I made the first human footprints on my walk . Watching spring be tenacious and persistent and then take over Missoula with a ferocity I reveled in, photographing blooms and green, chlorophyll-devouring things as eagerly as they emerged from their deep winter slumber.

 

Preparing to leave, part one (text).

24384390978_61867942a5_c

I will be moving out of Missoula in a matter of months, leaving this cozy mountain town with streets I’ve walked hundreds of times, for work, for brews, for the warmth of people I care about. I feel torn between elation at escaping so soon and mourning because I feel like I have half-assed living here. Leaving places half-lived, things partially seen, people not fully explored, makes me feel like a sloppy person. I am not. I am usually meticulous as Hell.

I moved here in May 2017 because Logan got a good job and that’s what you do when one of you gets something promising. We were excited to spend a year together, finally. Montana in the summer is like nowhere else, and we couldn’t wait to find a home, move in, buy some tubes, float the river, and just exist in the ways you get to when you are around your person for more than a few months at a time.

I quickly realized that while I vaguely knew people here, it was hard to pin them down and also terrifying to do so. Mostly non-profit acquaintances, people who had done lobbying at the Legislature, or people I knew from college. I felt ashamed to reach out and make friends because I was unemployed, broke, and still finishing my thesis. I was a messy trifecta of half-done, in-progress things that really mattered to me. I was not sure what was going to happen, if we were always going to be this broke, if I was always going to get interviews and still never land a job, if my thesis edits would ever really, truly be done.

Despite the struggles, Missoula felt so full of promise, and people here seemed happy, settled, or had at least found something that made them feel content enough to stay, and I eagerly looked for those feelings or motivations. I looked in bars, on the shores of rivers, in bakeries with black coffee, in art galleries, at live music shows, on long walks as dusk tinged everything in blues and purples. I caught glimpses of them as I listlessly meandered around town, jobless and ashamed, lonely but too proud to reach out to people I kind-of-knew, wanting needing somebody to tell me, as they looked me in the eye, You are going to be just fine. Missoula is a shit-show for the unemployed. Most of us are working two jobs. The wages are notoriously terrible. You are going through something we all have.

The problem is that if you don’t reach out to those kind-of-knew people, you don’t ever give the opportunity for anything to arise. In my introverted-ness, compounded by personal challenges, I hid. Everybody I sort-of-knew here seemed content enough that it felt horrible to ask them to leave that space and come, however temporarily, to my little plot of guilt and fear.

After that, once fall and winter came on, I felt okay, and my awkwardness and lack of friends were quieted because in the span of three months I had defended a thesis I was proud of, said goodbye to British Columbia and grieved a bit, and landed a job that seemed like it would fill in a lot of holes that had been present mentally. That proved to be wrong, but the point is that I felt okay with having this other gaping hole of relationships persist, because you can’t have it all, and I had more than I had in a long, long time. A wonderful partner, a job, a house, a Master’s degree. Why get greedy?

I still felt like I needed to seek that feeling, though. That seeking, to this day, has given me lots of beginnings, almost no middles, and one ending that will occur soon.

I have pondered and turned these ideas of place, of settling, of bonds that make you want to stay, until they went from a rock with bits of dirt and detritus clinging, to a smooth stone that I can put in my pocket, rubbed down and worried to no end. There was never enough time here. By the time spring rolled around, I was mentally preparing for Logan to depart as his visa was expiring soon. A big change that would have us both not having much figured out, just a fierce hope, sheer determination and one Canadian work visa between the two of us, because neither of our countries could house us both. I mourned after he left- it was a shock to have our house emptied of him, our happy yellow house with apple trees, where we valiantly battled wasp nests, drank wine on the porch, read books in bed, were broke and happy and curious together. So, once again, I folded inward, adjusting to this awful newness.

Anyway, I guess this is an admission in some ways. I am bad at putting down roots. I have moved every two years since I was eighteen, just in time to find the people I imagine could be worthwhile and leaving just before the layers of friendship set like so many layers of stain on bare wood, protecting and illuminating the right qualities. I feel so torn departing, relief flowing through me because this challenging period of my life will be ending, but also feeling like a jerk because I feel like I didn’t make enough happen. Missoula is a beautiful place, with soul and meaning. I will reflect on more of that in further posts, but I feel strongly that what I discuss here contains some of my biggest regrets, so I need to abandon them here.

44180913524_96304404a9_c31027731368_59633b74d1_c31027740988_f3cb499e12_c44850951082_9c9c72275a_c29964744567_a09571e308_c

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.

Ruby’s Cafe

41127975371_7cd54bbb22_c41127976261_b93bf61aa4_c41127976081_504b38da58_c41127975731_1b753bb731_c

I love hole-in-the-wall diners. The coffee is generally weak, the food semi-average, but the decor, the patrons, the chats, and the traditions that diners invite beckon me.

Logan and I tried to go to Paul’s Pancake Parlor, which apparently is amazing, but it was packed beyond belief. We drove a block and found Ruby’s Cafe, which hasn’t altered its interior decor since the 1970s, or so it seemed.

I love places that don’t budge. The Uptown Diner in downtown Missoula recently closed, and that was a big blow to the budget diner scene here. I love going places where a good chunk of the patrons are regulars, where the goal  isn’t to be hip or new. Diners are a part of Americana that don’t respond quickly to changes, and there is comfort in that. You walk in, sit in a booth, and know that the menu will have the usual options (pancakes, sausages, hashbrowns), and that the coffee, as mediocre as it may be, will be hot and full of caffeine.

Uptown/Downtown

27973883779_8b763a210e_c27973885259_e5e82df59c_c27973885679_a197b6d0b0_c27973887349_f89dfe4692_c27973887169_ab1bac9a13_c

I love places that are falling apart a bit. This diner is one of those places- there was literally a piece of duct tape on the windowsill, clearly serving some purpose. Nestled on bustling Higgins Avenue in downtown Missoula, I feel like this diner is under-loved. If you’re just looking for eggs and hash browns and coffee, come here. If you’re looking for kielbasa and eggs benedict and fancy baked things, there’s a great place across the street called The Catalyst that’s amazing!

Today, we just wanted eggs, hash brows, and coffee. Breakfast for lunch in a zany, hyper-bright diner that refuses to be anything but over the top felt like the perfect way to pretend that after, we wouldn’t just go back to our work and be cogs in many systems. I’ll take a place with duct tape in the window, because it’s not trying to bullshit anybody. It says yeah, I need a facelift, but the stuff in the kitchen works and your coffee is hot, and I can’t ask for anything more.

 

Tulips, coffee, and snow.

39697839471_e4f14aaa4a_c38988917114_7aca463a80_c

I got asked what I wanted to do this weekend. “Nothing” was my reply. Proud to say I did very little, and thought a whole lot. Went on walks by the Clark Fork river to see little bird footprints on the ice that remains. Stopped by a boutique that usually has clothes I swoon over- but lately, money has been something I’ve been trying to save, and new clothes are not environment or budget friendly, and so I think I’ll save my cash for some thrifted things from Goodwill the next time I feel like I need a new physical object in my life. 39697840161_d1bfd3b833_c39697844731_71afa22233_c

Logan and I went to the movies, to see “The Shape of Water”, and I cried so hard during that I had to re-apply my eyeliner after. We ate popcorn and marveled at the amazing soundtrack and how Guillermo del Toro created a movie that is so beautiful and strange. We drink gin in a dark, crowded bar with friends. I scared away a man who was attempting to gain my and a female friend’s affections after finding my coat on the floor, because I was looking at a beautiful painting of a woman’s spread legs called L’Origen du Monde, by Gustave Courbet, on my phone. This late-19th century painting is so gorgeous, with rich tones and loving details. The man walked away clearly thinking I was a pervert, and I stated, “you came from one” as he left. Nothing draws in men and scares them away quite like vaginas.

We made breakfast one morning, scrambled eggs and cottage bacon, with strong coffee and watching the snow slide off in heavy chunks from our neighbor’s metal roof. Part of our fence came off due to the weight of the wet, wet snow. I found cat tracks in our yard- we have two cats, one very beautiful and black and smart, one orange tabby that is very stupid, and they seem to like meandering through our yard. We watched a lot of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” on Netflix, and my lust for vintage cars and their curves and impracticalities has arisen again, as it does periodically.

38988918344_bf59ddb54c_c38988918674_8712dea051_c

 

One afternoon, I wracked my brain trying to think of somewhere to have a glass of wine and read- and came up with nothing. Nowhere in my town has a space that is cozy, private-ish, and serves alcohol. Everywhere is sleek, open, trendy, or too dark for reading. I found myself with a shortbread baked good and a latte instead.

I bought tulips on a whim because we’ve got a minimum of four months of winter to go, and damn the lack of flora here. Perhaps it’s the Dutch in me, but I find tulips to be the best flowers, even if they don’t smell (fun fact thought: the Dutch brought their tulips from Turkey). Even as these red and yellow little things have been in our house today they’ve opened up a tiny bit, drinking in the light that flows in through our big windows.

In short, this weekend was quiet, slow, and not planned in any way. I spent a lot of time thinking about details, observing things, having cold hands, and not feeling the need to get anything done.

Books, mornings, and priorities.

24756821327_5ba78e083a_c

The other night, as my film scanner hummed, showing me what the chemical baths had done while they danced with my film, a good friend was over and we were chatting about what mattered. Books, travel, good friends, good wine, being kind, and loving, loving, loving. She left here with two books to borrow, and I will borrow a few from her. I’ve been loaning books out more, because they do no good just sitting on our shelves.

I loaned her The City of Fallen Angels, a book by John Berendt, about a mysterious fire in a famous opera house in Venice. In one or more ways, there are characters who are connected, be they corrupt Italian businessmen, old Venetian glass-making families, writers who had boxes there, etc. and he weaves together a tale of an old, eccentric, rapidly-changing but still very traditional city. It was one book that I bought this year and have re-read twice.

I loaned my mother the new book The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore. Kate, who is not a historian, nonetheless went headfirst into doing amazing research to reveal the true stories of the thousands of women who were employed in radium dial painting factories in the first half of the 20th century, and who often got sick and/or died due to ingesting and working with the radioactive substance. Government ignorance, corporate greed, a poorly-working legal system, and the fact that these women were often working class meant that many died before their stories could be properly heard, and many didn’t even know what was causing them to have brittle, broken bones or cancers that suddenly appeared on their youthful bodies. It made me send out many thankful, grateful thoughts to those brave women, and our worker safety systems and legal system are now much more comprehensive because of what these women did. It was one of the books i devoured in Hawai’i, as pictured above.

It’s been snowing relentlessly here, and I’ve been in a more combative mood being inside and working as much as I have been, with little to no sunlight for me to enjoy. However, one of the best parts of my days have been waking up early, getting dressed, packing a book (right now I’m reading Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll by Peter Bebergal) and walking in the snow, which camouflages my footsteps, and making my way in the quiet morning before most people are up, and walking the mile or so to a coffee house to read and hold a hot cup of caffeine in my hands for a few minutes before going to work. Mornings are sacred to me, in that they are quiet, private, and much more likely to be not interrupted by the same going-ons that happen at night. Drunken men unaware of personal space, loud trucks zooming about, groups of people huddled like penguins slowly making their way to a bar or a restaurant. None of that is there in the mornings, and I love the purposefulness of them. Nobody tries to make the world too aware of themselves before the sun is up, and I dearly love it.

Something else I love and miss is traveling. The friend that stayed with us talked about going to France with her fiance this summer, because they both have kept their heads down and have been working so hard for so long, they feel they need to look up, look around, and go do something. I told her she needs to not question it, find a flight, and book it before she can say no to herself. Americans love to suffer, to struggle, and to glorify the two. We take pride being the last sucker at work or the first one in the office. She knows this, and both of us feel shame at wanting to go and spend money on trips and on good food, but I feel that my quality of life is so much better when there is something planned, something to look forward to. Keeping ones head down and just working with your eyes forward means you never get to see as much, and I think that even though we have horrible wage stagnation, most of us have lots of student debt, and most of us will never dream of owning real estate or new cars, that we can still do and live and breathe and thrive. We can thriftily plan a trip across the sea so we can give hugs to loved ones not seen in ages, or buy a nice block of expensive cheese here are there. Denying oneself constantly is foolish, and while last year was a huge exercise in no to such Epicurean joys due to my unemployment, now that I am gainfully employed I feel so much better about going to a nice dinner with my boyfriend, about dressing up or spending a little money on something that matters to me, like saving for my trip to Brazil to see Logan at the end of the year or booking a cabin somewhere quiet.

This post has been longer than I planned, but once I am inside my mind darts back and forth like an excited bird in a cage. I have written about how one has much time to think during the long, dark winters here in Montana, and mine is not immune to that. I’ve been quietly trying to write more and be more generous with my writing, especially here.

Montana in reality.

38689251765_2b39a27fca_c

39555871392_62f6eab42f_c24717623767_97060edd7d_c27808798589_058f140e58_cMontana is a myth. It’s a myth of fly-fishing paradise, quiet valleys all to yourself, the biggest, starriest sky, the friendliest folks, and the Last Best Place. It’s where people like Justin Timberlake and John Mayer come to “find themselves”- which really means, they’ll go to Big Sky or the Gallatin Valley to be around other ridiculously rich people, just in a more rural setting, to play pretend when they drop into a dive bar. A year or so after they come, they’ll produce albums with ridiculous titles, where they’re draped in blankets or something rugged and look like they’ve been busy doing things outdoorsy.

I prickle at all of that. It’s all fluff and disconnected from the reality of a lot of us who dig our cars out of the drifts made by the plows- if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere the plows actually come. It’s de-frosting your car with a hairdryer because freezing rain made it impossible to open your doors. It’s waking up on Christmas Eve to -25F and drinking hot tea like it’s your lifeblood because it’s so fucking cold out. Everybody looks uglier with 4-5 layers on, and hypothermia ain’t cute either. It’s breathing in the forest fire smoke in the summer and accidentally finding yourself hot-springing with people who will later have sex, actual sex, in the hot spring while you’re turned around (which is very rude, and also not sanitary). It’s waking up to the opening of rifle season and having it sound like World War I outside, but it’s really just the first day of hunting. It’s carrying bear spray when you hike because they’re real and out there, and you’re so glad they are. Montana is realizing the sleeping bag you brought is not nearly warm enough in May, because May in Montana is a camping crapshoot.

I say all of this knowing that I have fully fallen under the spell of Montana’s charms. I’m lucky enough to have been raised here. I’ve stared at the sky, come across fresh bear tracks, heard elk bugle, and I’ve seen otters play in the river. But those are precious moments, not normal at all. Something about seeing Montana so totally glossed over, made into something poetic and so #hashtag worthy, just fools you into thinking it’s all craft breweries, perfect campfires, tying flies, star gazing, and downhill skiing with a side of rugged, outdoorsy Hemingway-esque masculinity. In reality, the reason that there is so much literature about this place that inspires others is because you can do a lot of thinking when you’re stuck inside for months at a time. Having such a long, cold, dark winter makes us go crazy in the summer. We relish spring because Primavera is a flighty wench here, gracing us for only a few weeks. Autumn is even more fickle, coming only if she decides to, while Winter may stay into June or come as early as September.

As such, here are some recent photographs from my cheap new phone, of that long, dark Winter. Of us really having to blowdry our car doors open, with two extension cords to get the damn thing all the way out to the car.

I’m not dead! I’ve been in Hawai’i!

24863287868_50cbe1fa0d_c37848756805_375b490b0d_c38736219361_598425557c_c38736219471_8b48349aa5_c38736219151_be1bf7aaac_c24863287988_736190e90b_c

…And no, this isn’t Hawai’i. This is cloudy, gloomy, beautiful early morning Missoula, taken on my way to and around work.

I’m scanning in film. Lots of it. We were on the big island of Hawai’i, spending time hiking, going to botanical gardens, eating good food, and exploring everything we could. We stopped at farmer’s markets and devoured fruit and nuts that we can’t get at home, and spent our evenings watching Star Wars and planning the next day’s adventures.

Before that though, I was still here, still plugging along, doing my thing. We’ve been watching good movies and making excellent pizzas and life has settled into the winter Montana rhythm, where you expect nothing of the weather because it could change in ten minutes. It’s not the worst sort of thing, but it does make me miss sipping a Mai Tai by the sea.

Thankful.

38223911822_a4fdda917e_c38223907072_2a1fe05261_c24384386918_e5b75f300e_c38200910946_ee0c57d63b_c38223910182_178c9a5ec7_c24384390978_61867942a5_c

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.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

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.

Autumnal vibes and keeping my chin up.

23748260678_999e0a87f5_c37568959362_f3cee9a8c7_c36890582514_a4bd4f27f6_c23748258078_3980570b26_c23748255278_4ce3dbbc99_c37552105926_216a2db565_c23748255708_158c718e7a_c37552109516_893ccd0c55_c37568961472_8e85bcfd1c_c37552106756_d5bf5b31ac_c23748253868_eca6070ea5_c

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.

An ode to pizza and love.

37146520111_d54e623100_c36474973093_ba7b601f20_c37146520591_81e9e85766_c36474973443_ee0c744222_c37146519671_aa9eae54bb_c

At least once a week, we make pizza. We use leftover veggies, meats, and whatever else we have in the fridge, and whip up pizza in our oven. We tear it apart and often eat too much. Now, pizza is old. It was imported to Italy from Greece way back in the day (i.e. thousands of years ago), and the epic combination of dough + sauce + toppings has reveled in our mouths ever since.

For me, pizza brings back so many memories. Ordering a pizza from Domino’s for a sleepover or those rare evenings when my parents just gave up, which was a treat in my childhood, brings back memories of having the warm box heat up my lap in the car, and opening it in the kitchen to waft in the rich smells. I would play with the plastic stands that came in the boxes and make them into tables for my little animals and toys. Later, pizza became a menace- a fattening monster that was delicious and ominous, full of grease and guilt, something my more-and-more aware teenage girl self was terrified of. Fat, grease, oil, calories. I watched my mother soak up the grease on napkins, and I knew that if I wanted to be attractive, pizza would fuck me over. Self-loathing made me loath pizza, and whenever it was at a party or a celebration of some sort, I remember skirting around it nearby, fearing what it would do to me. I hate thinking about those times, when my relationship with my body was so negative and full of awareness of being watched and policed.

Then, when I moved to Switzerland, I realized I never knew what real pizza was. I knew doughy, overly cheesy creations laced with slightly artificial smells. I knew of chains in the mall, slices simmering from hot surfaces next to the Dillards department store. Now, my friends and I would walk to the Spaghetti Store in downtown Lugano, where we could literally see the lights from an Italian town across the lake. We ordered pizza con mascarpone, prosciutto, e rocket, and un litro di vino tavolo, sharing chewy slices of pizza and sipping cheap wine, and letting the prosciutto and mascarpone do a dance with my taste buds. I remember fondly feeling warm, loved, and so so happy.

Now, in Montana, I watch Logan make dough, twisting and stretching and rolling it, flour on his sleeves. We chop garlic, lots and lots of garlic, and get out semolina flour to coat the pizza stone. Tomato sauce and a fresh ball of mozzarella lie nearby, and I occasionally tear off a small bit of the cheese to taste while Logan preps. We have cheap wine in odd glasses now, as our wine glasses have been broken by a clumsy gesture or two. We usually make two pizzas, thin-crusted and beautifully covered with onions, mushrooms, arugula, sardines, olives, and whatever else we want.

Ultimately, after having made dozens of pizzas with friends and family, I would narrow what makes good pizza down to a few things:

-Good dough, preferably made fresh.

-Good tomato sauce (Cento and Pomi both make good canned/boxed tomato sauces) that you can salt/pepper/flavor yoursef.

-Garlic, lots of garlic.

-Somebody you care about a lot nearby, and more people you love waiting to feast also nearby. You can also make pizza alone but you are not allowed to feel sad about it. It will ruin the taste of the pizza.

-A hot oven.

-Love and respect for yourself and the food you’re making with your two capable hands.

There you go. Now go make some pizza!

L’Autunno e qui!!!

IMG_482137102769771_5752d9ab8f_c36451581554_fa35232dec_cProcessed with VSCO with m5 preset37102770331_a11359d6fb_cProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetIMG_4919Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset37102770841_af5ca690a0_cIMG_4941

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.