Sree Padmini showed up at Portal Irish Music Week as the companion to her husband Sree Hasha. She was reserved at check-in and seemed very timid. Little did she know that she would have as much or more fun than her husband. Sree Hasha plays mandolin and takes lessons from Marla Fibish so it was natural for him to come to PIMW for a week of intensive lessons. He brought his new wife along hoping she would have fun, too. Sree Padmini wondered what she would do while her husband played music. She thought she’d be lonely in a desert with nothing to see. At the first night’s orientation meeting we told her about the bird walks and the afternoon hikes. I might have seen a twinkle in her eye.
The second morning Sree Padmini showed up for our bird walk with a camera nearly as long as she is tall. We took her to Dave Jasper’s backyard feeding station. She silently sat and clicked. Once in a while she’d ask the name of a bird. We saw 24 species of birds in 45 minutes.It was a jaw dropping morning even for our experienced Portal visitors.
Both Srees are recent immigrants to the United States from India. Their marriage was arranged by their parents. Sree Hasha had not found a love match on his own and his parents offered to help out. After a few lonely years in the U.S. Sree Hasha agreed. So his parents (back in India) started the search. They found a nice young woman from a similar background and negotiations began between the two families. Sree Padmini asked for a nice man that liked music, nature, and animals. I do not know what Sree Hasha asked for in his wife. He does like all the things Sree Padmini wanted her future husband to like. As an added bonus, Sree Padmini wanted to come to the United States because she loves wildlife but especially hummingbirds. There are no hummingbirds in India. It’s hard to remember that hummingbirds are only found in the Americas. They’ve been married a year and it seems like Portal might have played a special role in their new relationship. It was a place of joint discovery and mutual joy. I loved seeing them alone and together fulfilling their dreams.
I found all this out when Sree Padmini asked me to show her the owl during my afternoon break. I showed her the great horned owl perching over downtown Portal and then we sort of fell into a whole afternoon of birding by ourselves. I felt liberated to leave PIMW behind and do something spontaneous. I took her to a couple more yards where she clicked at the birds. That’s what she calls taking pictures. Clicking. She’d say, “I want to get a click here.” Soon all of her previous reserve fell away and I was under her spell. We sat under the trees and she told me how she wound up at PIMW while she applied henna to my hands. Henna temporarily dies the skin and its use is part of traditional Indian culture. I used to dye my hair red with henna in my thirties. As we sat there I felt the warm and calm feeling you get when someone is tending to you with care and love. It was wonderful.
Another chance to make a friend from across the world brought to me by Portal Irish Music Week. Who would of thought?
Our largest and most successful ever Portal Irish Music Week is done and gone. Fifty students and staff converged on tiny Portal, Arizona for five days of music and walks and birds and we had a great time. Every year I feel more and more blessed to be a part of this event. Pete and Will and I had a dream of starting a camp where inclusivity and love were the main themes. Somehow we’ve succeeded. Our staff and students come together and they make a space better than any of us could imagine. Mitch and Lonnie and their Portal Cafe staff are a big part of it, too.
This year we had a man come and learn despite his brain cancer and looming experimental surgery. Tim is living every day like we all should. Fully present and pursuing his dreams. His experimental treatment begins today. Let’s send out some positive vibes for Tim and his family and friends.
We’ve arrived safely in Arizona last week. It was a high strung drive for me with Portal Irish Music Week looming and internet going in and out. Despite the self generating worrying we stopped and explored some new areas. Burt wound the gNash and crew through Capitol Reef National Park. Like Yellowstone Capitol Reef was fully booked and had no space for us. We drove through and enjoyed it from the windshield. The night before we spent out on a high pass in cool air. Elvis again demonstrated his growing senility when he took off after some birds and could not find his way back to us. It was a fraught twenty minutes before Burt spotted him a half mile away on an opposing hillside heading in the wrong direction. Burt was able to catch up to nearly 13 years old Elvis and lead his tired bones back home. More leash time for the old doggo.
Our last night traveling we spent on the Coronado Highway at the edge of the Mogollon rim. We’ve spent many nights up there and really look forward to trips into this wild country. Eight years ago some fugitives were captured near us. Remember that? No? HERE’s the story. Now we can add this bit of discomfort to that story. That night, as usual, Burt fell right to sleep. I tossed and turned and played some Bridge on-line. On-line Bridge puts me right to sleep. Usually. Around 11:00 PM a vehicle pulled up next to out camper with its lights on. I listened for doors. Nothing. Then the vehicle pulled out. No big deal. We were parked in a circular pullout for a view right on the highway. There was cell reception. Three minutes later the same vehicle pulled in with its lights out. Now my spidey-senses were on full alert. I nudged Burt and he was instantly awake. He must have heard the car in his sleep. I said, “Car.” We sat in silence and listened. Burt got partially dressed. He had his machete. I had my stick. We had bear spray. We listened and listened. It was awful. The car rumbled. I kept saying to myself DO NOT LEAVE THE TRAILER. Over and over again. DO NOT LEAVE THE TRAILER. I thought about how I told a single female friend these words as she headed out on a long solo trip. Our only protection is in the trailer. Did you read the story above about the RVers being killed and their rig being stolen? That story was repeating in my head. Burt and I had a few hushed whispers. The dogs were dead quiet. I steadied my breathing. I cursed all the scary TV we watch. I considered how this route was a great place for drug passes.
After 20 minutes or so the car pulled away. Nothing happened. They probably were on a phone call. Burt and I finished dressing and waited another ten minutes and got the hell out of there. Burt drove us to the bright lights of the Morenci mine and we finished out rest there.
My friend and former colleague, Betsy, invited me out to fish the newly rehabilitated stretch of Prickly Pear Creek as it passes through the former Asarco lead smelter in East Helena. Last year Betsy took me on a tour and showed my the stream work in progress. This year it’s already coming back to life. Fish! Birds! Vegetation!
This was a weepy moment for me. Way back in 1997 Asarco entered into a consent decree with the U.S. EPA that was the result of a multi-year and multi-state investigation requiring the cleanup of this plant and many other things including cold, hard cash. That investigation was successful because EPA and the Department of Justice had a team of young, driven, and excellent investigators and lawyers. I just happened to be the investigator that discovered the original violations that got the whole ball rolling. It was not an easy push. I had to convince many people that our long culture of giving the mineral processing industry a pass on waste management was a misinterpretation of our laws. Unbelievable to me today was that I succeeded. I’ll spare you the details but suffice it to say neither the State or the Feds were in the habit of asking lead smelters to do anything to manage their hazardous wastes. It was because they were misinterpreting something called the Bevill Amendment in our Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Or at least, that’s what I thought. From my remote outpost in the Montana Office of the 1990s I was able to convince or cajole management to let me try. Through the course of the work I found other like minded people and together we changed the face of the mineral processing industry.
Many further developments have happened. That first Consent Decree started a cleanup process that twenty years later is showing real results both above and under ground. Teams of contractors and EPA staff (Looking at you Chuck and Betsy) have wrangled the site into a pocket of beautiful habitat. All of us feel lucky to have seen this from start to success. Soon the general public will be able to access the area and catch their own fishes. This is the good that government does.
My friend Kristi Ann Larson took me on a bunch of walks this summer and I was a good girl. I did not roll in poop once. The same cannot be said of our other companions. KaL and I started running the surrounding trails with our friend Linda when we were in our mid-thirties. Now we walk and Linda is dead. A lot has happened in the last 20+ years. We miss Linda. She was the most steady, kind, and thoughtful of us. I mean we can be those things but she could do it all at once and make it look easy. I feel like it’s a juggling act for me. She was kinda normal in the best normal way. Kris and I are outliers on the bell curve of life. I’m so glad I still have kAL around to just be with in the woods, walking. I hope to be able to keep up next year and do a bigger walking adventure with her. Call me crazy. She’s an important person for me even though we hardly see each other anymore. It’s the way it is with some people. Drop in and out, get along or not, but they are still true. Other people not so much.
The painting above is by a Helena artist, Dale Livezey. Kris and I took a landscape painting course with him a long time ago. Kris gave me the course as a present. She likes to spread art and nurture other people’s inner artists. Every time we paint with the kids in Mexico I think about that class and those evenings sitting on a hillside in Montana watching the sun go down and the sky colors change from horizon to moon. See them HERE.
Thanks, Kris. Reconnecting with you was the bestest part of this pretty good summer. I’ll spare you the tears.
Salmon snagging season opened up today. In the fall mature landlocked kokanee salmon swim out of their lakes upstream into small gravelly streams to spawn and die. For a short window we humans are allowed to snag them from the shallow water. By snag, they mean literally. The snagger drgas a heavy treble hook through the water and attempts to hook the flank of a fish. Sounds crazy. I’m gonna give it a go with some people I know soon. We’ll see what happens.
If you’ve been following this page since its inception you might recall our first holiday season was spent on the west coast. We had our first urban bloat fest while visiting Portland, OR. We had just left the limited culinary landscape of Helena and landed smack into an eaters dream world. During that sojourn we went to a holiday party. The party was hosted by the cousin of Dan Roberts (the maker of Burt’s Minstrel guitar), Suzanne Lauber. Dan and Suzanne wanted us to come by and show off the first Roberts guitar. I have not seen Suzanne since but with the wonders of the internet we’ve stayed in touch. You can read that post about our meeting HERE. Suzanne has had many a kind and encouraging word for us over these past 9 years. There’s a lot to dislike about social media but I feel like it has given us penpals all over the world. These penpals have opened doors and offered us a real community as we move from place to place. Last week we received about a hundred pounds of school supplies from Suzanne for us to take to our kids in Mexico. Pencils, crayons, erasers, easy readers, notebooks, pencil sharpeners. All brand new. I am thrilled and the kids will be delighted. Thanks you, Suzanne. Thanks also to my cousin Cara for sending a pile of fun stuff as well.
Burt likes to complain about the weight of all these things we accumulate. I told him to look on the bright side. We aren’t toting cat litter, cat food, or feminine hygiene products anymore.
The title refers to the fact that this sight is constantly barraged by Russian spam. They don’t even try to hide it. They write in Russian. The top categories this month are cash for clunkers, sex on-line, and Russians. Only the cash for clunkers has a chance of a response.
When Burt called Mary Louise and asked for permission to hunt her block management area she asked him not to knock on the door too early. She didn’t want to have to get dressed before 8 AM. To avoid an awkward pajama party Mary Louise suggested we hunt first and then come by her house later to fill out the permission slips. So that’s what we did. We’d met our hostess two years ago and had landed several turkeys that trip. This year the turkeys were few but we had more fun. When we finally arrived on her doorstep to fill out the MT hunting slips Mary Louise confessed she’d just gotten up after a night of dancing at the local bar until 2 AM. She wanted us to know this was not a typical activity for her. When I spotted a birthday card I asked her if she’d just had a birthday she confessed to being 95 years old. Burt and I know a lot of seniors. So far Mary Louise holds the crown for fittest. Next we spotted playing cards and she told us she plays Bridge, too. She learned at 84. Be like Mary Louise. She still mows her own lawn (it’s a rider, but still.) She’s living on her own in a remote town of about 60 people and welcoming all kinds of strangers to hunt her property. She drives to a nearby community to play Bridge once a week. She still drives.
Despite our best efforts and our team being an average of 50 years younger than May Louise we only got one turkey. The wily birds did not cooperate. The flock in Mary Louise’s front yard scattered behind an anti-hunting landowner’s adjacent fences as soon as Mary Louise exhorted us to go and get them out of her yard. Much to Mary Louise’s chagrin. She hates all the poop in her driveway.
Today I am writing from the gNash parked in Helena. The truck has been successfully repaired and returned. The massive oil leak was just a bad gasket and hose. Olive picked up some GI upset on our hunting trip and had to spend last night at the vet on an IV and anti-nausea medications. Normally I’d take a wait and see approach on Olive and her digestion but I noticed she had pale gums so I worried it might be serious. I have since learned that pale gums are a sign of dehydration and, while it was very expensive, seeking medical care was the right thing to do. Meanwhile, I got my second shingles vaccine yesterday and feel like i have the flu. Body aches, headache, no appetite, kinda like Ollie-belle. They say the younger you are the more pronounced the side effects as your immune systems learns to fight the shingles virus.
More interesting news is my dad is in the path of hurricane Florence and is ‘sheltering’ in place despite mandatory evacuation orders. I am not happy about this. He is not listening to a gaggle of friends, relatives, and government officials. This could be the source of some of my stomach upset. I told him to fill his bath tubs while I drain his bank account. A little idle threat to get him laughing but it did not get him to move inland.
Turkeys are thriving in Montana. After years of tight controls where a person could only get two turkeys in the entire state you can now harvest up to twelve in a year but there’s a catch those turkeys have to come from different places andin spring and fall. You’d have to be determined and lucky to find twelve huntable turkeys in a year. We’re happy to be able to try for the two we have time to chase but if we were here year round I’m sure we’d be devising a turkey extravaganza strategy. I love eating turkey.
Today we’ll head up to Kila to meet Burt’s daughter and her boyfriend and the four of us will try for an early and wild Thanksgiving. We have the next four days to get it done. Wish us luck.
My services are suddenly in demand as we wrap up this major remodel. My new meds and the increase in work has improved my tennis game. I’m quicker than I’ve been in a while. Laying flooring requires hand strength and squats. Look out Dad and Sara Gay, Burt and I are in training to take you on this winter.
This summer’s weather has been better than we could have hoped. There was a month on smokey skies but only a few days over ninety degrees. The evenings have cooled down without exception. We haven’t needed our A/C once. The post-Mimi remodel has given the gNash new life. There’s more room and better fengshui. Aside from the truck being at the mechanics for over two weeks it’s looking like a successful summer on the Gypsy Carpenter business and pleasure plan.
Burt thinks we have about 8 days left of work. we’re going to play tennis, music and hike and work from now until our departure for Portal.
Yesterday we had a goal of reaching the Southfork of the Dearborn River and fishing our favorite stretch of stream back to the car. We didn’t make it. A late start and earlier evenings left us with too little time to walk 4 miles in and then fish five miles of stream. Despite that it was a grand adventure. Large bear turds and perfect weather heightened our enjoyment and attention to detail. I saw sculpins swimming everywhere and a couple of garter snakes, too. I also had not one but two epic battles with fish. I lost the 18″ brown trout just as I tried to land it despite Burt’s help. It broke the line and made off with my hopper. I landed a 14″ rainbow with Burt’s help but not before falling to my knees. In the gravel. Those knees were not happy flooring today.