Work Update

Heated Floor
Heated Floor. Job not done. That tail at the top was attached where wires were not crossed. Notice the cardboard bath tub model.

Last week I installed a heated floor. This was my third installation but we used a different style than the previous two jobs. This heated floor is built from one long loose wire that you weave between anchors to fill the desired floor space. The previous jobs used a mesh where the wire was embedded and the mesh had to be cut to fit the space without cutting the wire. It required solid engineering calculations and origami skills to determine how to fill an irregularly shaped space with a rectangular mat. The style we used this time was quite a bit easier to install but it left me feeling kind of empty. Anybody could have done this. I really enjoyed using my measuring and folding skills on the previous jobs.

As a side note, if you want one of these floors and aren’t planning a full remodel it will be a very pricey job. It’s not very difficult to install a heated floor if you’re down to the subfloor and have stud bays opened for the power and thermostat. It’s a whole can of worms to rip out existing flooring and not damage the walls and temporarily remove toilets and tubs (because all the flooring will have to be replaced) and route the wires up the walls to a thermostat, and then install and redo the floor. It’s also a high risk job. The wire needs to be kept intact and in position while the floor is retiled. If the wire gets cut the floor won’t heat then the whole thing has to be ripped out and started over.  It’s so risky there are current testers to use as you install to make sure there isn’t any unseen line break. Personally, if someone wanted me to install a heated floor in an existing bathroom I’d charge at least plumber’s wages. That’s $120 an hour here. On the other hand, if you’re a DIY homeowner and you are redoing your bathroom, I’d say go for it but skip the box store kits. Buy this style kit from an electrical wholesaler and plan ahead. At the start of the job you need to know where you’ll be sourcing power and placing the thermostat. If you forget this headaches will follow as you try to get wires up stud bays. And be very careful when you cover the wires with thinset.

The counters also came in this week. These are a cultured quartz. Manufactured stone gives a lovely, consistent appearance. Ground up rocks and pigments are mixed with polymer glues and then poured into forms. I prefer this more predictable finish. Granite tops always gave me the shivers. Ordering your dream kitchen from a 4″ x  4″ square that never shows the natural color and texture variations of a full counter is a high stakes game. I love how these tops complement the dark cabinets.

Undermount sink with half divider.
Undermount sink with half height divider. I like the square cornered sinks, too.
Counter install
Counter install.
This is a cultured stone. Quartz style.
This is a cultured stone. Quartz style. I really like it.
Installing a marble style tile.
Installing a marble style tile.
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Cramming in the work and fun

Kitchen
Kitchen minus the island.

The new kitchen is nearly done. The modern cabinets are installed and we are waiting for the counter and appliance delivery. After that it’s just a faucet and touch-up paint. Work continues in the master bathroom. This week we’ll install a heated floor and finish laying tile. Soon after it will be time for the vanity install and counters. After all that we’ll be on our knees for a few too may days installing the engineered flooring in the living room, master bedroom, powder room, entry, and laundry room. I’m going to need a tylenol.

Last night we hiked with a friend at Priest Pass just southwest of Helena. The pass is so named because 19th century Jesuits left behind a stone cross embedded in the hillside. I like going up there to see the remains of the narrow gauge railroad that served as temporary route over the continental divide while they built a tunnel. There’s also an old adit and miner’s shack. Mine and railroad spur were abandoned before the 20th century started. The trestle has stood strong for over 100 years but now time and beetle killed trees are conspiring to bring it down. Yesterday we found ripe huckleberries and whortleberries and a trio of through hikers. The through hikers had started at or near the border with Mexico and were only a week or so away from arriving in Canada. Our friend John shared some homegrown cherry tomatoes and pea pods. He works for Helena Food Share so he knows how to share food. I ate my snack of cold fried spaghetti and dodn’t offer a bite to anyone. That’s how I am.

I hope your summer is full of excursions and interesting people, too.

Range hood detail
Range hood detail
Continental Divide Trail
Continental Divide Trail
Through hikers enjoying fresh veggies John happened to be carrying.
Through hikers enjoying fresh veggies John happened to be carrying.
Flea bane
Flea bane
The three-spotted mariposa lily.
The three-spotted mariposa lily.
Juvenile red cross bill
Juvenile red cross bill
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Occidental Plateau

Occidental Plateau
Occidental Plateau

gNash living hasn’t been too hot for too long this summer. Ninety degree days haven’t piled up side by side and the nights are still sub-sixty. Aside from a dramatic increase in my nocturnal hot flashes it’s been pleasant. Speaking of hot flashes, I know you’re interested, how can one get so hot so fast and then suddenly be cold? I wish there was a magic blanket that would go on and off as needed. I could sleep through the night if I didn’t have to keep adjusting the covers. Mid hot flash I can’t tolerate a sheet on one square inch of my flesh. Then just as a fall back to sleep I get cold and have to get under the blankets. It’s very strange. Some people say hot flashes are psychosomatic. I say those people are idiots. I couldn’t make this up. I had no idea. My favorite way to describe them is like fifteen to twenty minute bouts of the flu. If I have one during waking hours I prefer to stop everything and lie on an ice pack. Mostly though I have to gird my loins and keep driving, holding up a cabinet, or some other tedious life event. Luckily day time flashes are rare.

The other day Burt took us up to the top of the Occidental Plateau just south of Helena. We drove some twisty, single lane roads through a part of the region’s historic mining district. A swarm of ATVs barreled by with no apparent caution. The penultimate guy came at us head-on and downhill in a hairpin turn with one hand holding a beverage, swerved, and flipped his rig. We were moving so slowly uphill we heard the crash and managed to stop within a few yards. Burt and approached the scene with dread. I was going through first aid protocols in my head silently hoping for no injuries or no chance. The guy popped up from behind the bend before we cleared the bumper of our Subaru. He seemed unhurt and he apologized for freaking us out. We were mostly silent with relief and shock. When his friends arrived (the last quad) and said they could attend the situation we left. I failed to take a photo. We were only too happy to depart as quickly as possible. I was sick imagining other scenarios and also wondering how this would have played out if the guy was seriously injured or dead. Would people believe we were not to blame with nobody to take our side?

Up top we found a gray jay and some horned larks. It was cool and clear. The peaks of the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Big Belts and the Elkhorns were all around. We wondered why it took us so long to visit this scenic spot just outside of Helena.

White pine beetle kill.
White pine beetle kill.
Elkhorn Peak and Burt
Elkhorn Peak and Burt
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Long loved the Queen

Mimi's last day
Mimi’s last day

We knew it couldn’t last forever. The Gypsy Carpenters are sad to share the news that our original feline companion has passed on to the great unknown. Our decision to leave jobs and house behind and try life as itinerant carpenters and musicians included Mimi as an after thought. That was nine years ago. Mimi was ten. Long in the tooth even then. No cat was going to get in the way of our great dream. We’d figure something out. Somebody, somewhere would want to take her for us. And that was true. Lots of people loved Mimi and another home could have been found but it never happened. Mimi surprised us all and adapted to life on the road as though she wondered what took us so long.

Nineteen years ago Becky Holmes and I plucked her from a litter of barn kittens. My recollection is that every cat in that barn was dead within the year. Predation, mostly. Mimi was a scrapper from the day she was born. At five weeks she was already supplementing mother’s milk with her own prey.  It took a year of living in my home for her to stop hiding full time. That feral part of her personality never left. Not one kiss in nineteen years. No belly rubs allowed. No holding. Mimi sat on me when she wanted and then I could scratch her ears. Burt called her a spook. She had nothing to say to him. Or Elvis. This was why we though she’d be happier in a new home.

But then life in the gNash changed her profoundly. Forced into close contact with Burt, Elvis, and me she learned to get along and engage. She wanted to sit with us and asked for attention. We had morning wrestling matches and Mimi kept the mice away. If the water bowl was empty Mimi knew how to get it filled while Elvis suffered in silence.

The last three years I’ve wondered daily how much time left we had together. She was restless and occasionally suffered seizures. This last year it became clear twenty was not within reach.  She was losing weight and starting to act funny. I worried constantly that she would decline rapidly and suffer because we were in some remote place without veterinary care. I wondered if I should pre-emptively euthanize her. I wanted to do best by her and feared I was really motivated by my own needs. Sometimes I wondered if I could smoother her if needed.

Last month Mimi was in respiratory distress. We took her to a vet and assumed it was the end. The vet gave her a magic shot and for a few weeks we had the old Mimi back. She was eating and exploring and resting normally. Then one day it all turned terrible.  She wasn’t herself. She couldn’t eat, the weight was melting away daily and, finally, her breathing was labored. We made special meals and tried offering food at all hours. It was no use. I consulted Becky, and Sue, and Magi and we all agreed Mimi was ready. Burt and I took her in and had her put to sleep. I sobbed. Burt cried, too. But it was the right time and the right day. As Becky said, “It’s better to do it on a good day.” Meaning Mimi could go while she still had some energy to walk about and look at things. And that was the last thing she did before we carried her to the vet. The picture above is Mimi sitting outside and enjoying the Montana sun just a couple of hours before she died.

SOmething horribly hilarious happened at the vet. I’ve been waiting to write this because I needed time to catch it. Mimi had just died and Burt went to pay our bill while I held Mimi in a box. I was wearing sunglasses. The receptionist greeted Burt with, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Burt stoically ignored the inane pleasantry. I stayed calm. Then she made another sunny inquiry and Burt says, “I have a dead cat.” Plain as day. New picture in the dictionary for awkward. It took a moment for the woman’s face to collapse. I watched the slow motion change of expression from smile to WTF-did-I just-do to OMG-I-really-fucked-up to sorrow. She was devastated. Now Burt and I were trying to cheer her up. We knew she didn’t know. She was just trying to be nice. She handed me tissues and I gave them back to her. I reassured her that we were not offended. Finally I said, “You are right. It wasn’t that bad after all. It was time.” And it was true.

Here’s what I said that day on Facebook: There will never be a cat as trailer ready as Mimi. Tiny, tidy, quiet, and an excellent mouser. She tolerated two dogs and two clumsy humans. Queen of the Nash.

I am grateful to so many that helped care for Mimi over the years. Just this year we had Dodie, my dad, SaraGay, Burt’s dad, Janet, Barbara and Sue all step in and keep her safe while we traveled the world. In years past Magi and John and Burt and others have lent a hand. I am also please beyond knowing that she went at a time where we could provide for her and that we are able to bury her in Montana. Montana will always be home.

Near the end
Near the end
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Dear Dearborn, I love you

Back in the saddle again.
Back in the saddle again.

I have a boat. Her name is Stella. Stella was my maternal grandmother’s name. I no longer recall why I named a boat after her. Rumor is little grandma was pretty tough. She had a mean fast ball but mostly my memories are of her lamenting the fact that she was still alive. The last few years my dad would take me over to visit mid-week and we’d find her sitting in the dim dining room with her hands clasped begging for the lord to end her misery. I must have been thinking of earlier days when I thought of christening my boat in her honor. Stella is also a fun name to yell and use regularly. See A Streetcar Named Desire. Stella has been in storage for nine years. She’s made four trips down the Grand Canyon (I went once without her and it was not a good trip). Together we’ve covered thousands of river miles and uncountable rapids. This 15′ Aire Puma cataraft is the bomb. I love this boat. I am captain on this boat.

This weekend we took Stella out of storage and after a test of her air holding capacity we took her for an overnight trip on the Dearborn River. Burt’s daughter and family friend McKenzie joined us. The weather was hot, the water high, and the grass plentiful. It’s a summer of lushness we haven’t seen in many years. Many people had the same idea but it wasn’t a problem. We launched very late due to a classic Mittelstadt mis-communication. People were waiting for each other at different bridges. There was no cell service. It all worked out. All the other boaters were gone and we enjoyed a calm evening float in solitude.

Olive and Elvis came along, too. They both has mishaps. Elvis tangled himself in the ours and was knocked from the boat. Olive jumped off once and was left behind on shore. I cat-grabbed Elvis and drug his sogginess into the boat. It was a tough lift. We made Olive swim for us. That would have been light work. That’s the difference between an accident and an intentional screw up. People are happy to help when you make a mistake but when you’re purposely rude people aren’t as amiable. Olive knows not to leave a vehicle without permission.

It was a perfect overnight outing, nineteen river miles and a sleep under the stars, family and friends with fresh trout on the side. I felt a little decrepit since it had been 9 years without rowing and my technique was sloppy. Stella took a few hits on the nose but it didn’t matter. Today I am a happy sore.

The only ugliness on this trip was an incident at the take-out that I feel compelled to share. I hesitate because I’m not sure I’ll capture the nuance of the interaction and I don’t want to complain just for the sake of complaining. Here goes:

Burt left the truck at a really steep take-out and the Missouri was flowing high so I suggested he get out and drive down to the next take-out while we three girls float on in our two rafts. The Mid-Canon take out normally has a wide beach and ample room for trucks and trailers and the scores of holiday boaters. We three ladies arrived at the campground just upstream of the designated take-out. I paused there to suss out the situation. In times past I’ve used the campground for a less crowded access point. There were no cars and we quickly deduced the campground must be closed due to the recent high water. We could see standing water in the road. We moved onward.

It is very important not to pass your take-out spot. Logistics become nightmarish if you miss the take out. So we crept down the shore and hugged the willows looking for a take-out I had not seen in 10 years. It should be obvious. Indeed, it was obvious. There was a large parking lot and a boat in the eddy. In the boat was a man. We said hello. He did not respond. I looked around and thought, “Wow, this place is empty. I wonder where everybody is?” I looked at the guy in his boat. It was empty of gear. He was obviously waiting to be picked up. This must be the spot. We started de-rigging our boats. I saw the guy smirking. I thought, “Is this not the spot? Wouldn’t he tell us if he knew this wasn’t the take-out?” Everything was off my boat and the lasses were about to start deflating theirs. Just as I was about to disassemble Stella Burt came running up. He was yelling. “Stop, stop, stop. This isn’t the take-out.” I looked at the guy who had been watching us from 10′ away. He smirked and turned away.  Jen, McKenzie and I shrugged our shoulders and started reloading the boats. Burt asked the guy and said, “Why didn’t you say something?” The guy averted his eyes. He already knew the entire normal take-out was closed due to road flooding and people were using a makeshift spot just downstream. It was a very crowded spot. He was waiting his turn. Since the dogs were in the truck and it was 90 degrees Burt ran back to the take-out and we finished re-rigging.

We three ignored the man. McKenzie was pushing off their boat when a second man ran up to the other guy and asked us to stop. He said, “Would you please let us go first? Our trailer is in the way down there and I’d like to get our boat down so we can move.” I looked at him and his friend. I was suddenly very, very angry. I said, “I’d feel a lot better about helping you out if your buddy there had been kind enough to tell us that this isn’t the take-out.” AWKWARD silence. Look up awkward and you’ll see Jen, McK, and I staring at these two mouth breathing men. I waved them on since this was a classic time to turn the other cheek. Just then the first man’s wife and very young daughter emerged from the willows. The men pushed off. We waited. Then this silent eye-averting SOB starts screaming at his daughter from the safety of his boat. He hadn’t a word for us and now he’s screaming at his kid. I couldn’t see the mother so I got off my boat to make sure the mother had eyes on the child. She did. I heard the dad make a derogatory remark about his child’s intelligence. I got on my boat and waited in silence.

After about five minutes Jen and McK floated down. I waited a few more minutes. I came in to the tight spot and made a perfect landing. These two men and several other giant friends were there. They all tried to help me. (An aside here, my cataraft cannot be lifted out of the river like a raft. These men would not have known that. But by trying to help me they risked seriously damaging the boat.) I still have some serious verbal defense skills. I said, “Do not touch my boat” and they disappeared. I mean evaporated. They were gone so fast I had to ask my people if they had indeed just tried to drag me and my boat out of the river. Jen told me this morning I was sending out some heavy DO NOT MESS WITH ME VIBES and I scared them all away. Fine by me.

So I asked Burt what he thought would have happened if Burt had been there as captain of Stella and I was away running shuttle. Burt agreed this man would not have ignored Burt’s greeting nor would he have smirked while Burt de-rigged, nor would he have failed to share valuable information with Burt.

So here I am again. I thought I’d be sharing a nice trip report and instead I’m thinking about the ugliness of sexism.

Some assembly required.
Some assembly required.
Cook fire.
Cook fire.
Burt listened to me. That won't happen again.
Burt listened to me. That won’t happen again.
The dogs got tangled a couple of times.
The dogs got tangled a couple of times.
Buddies
Buddies
Trout appetizer.
Trout appetizer.
Elvis loves water
Elvis loves water
Burt loves water
Burt loves water
Olive hates water
Olive hates water
I had some help from a friend.
I had some help from a friend.
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“Fall in Love”

Ruby and the Gypsy Carpenters
Ruby and the Gypsy Carpenters

There’s Ruby up above. She’s looking forward to her 97th birthday in a few weeks. Ruby has been in the US some 95 years. Born in 1921 she recalls crossing the Rio Bravo or Rio Grande (depends on where you’re standing which name is used) on her grandfather’s back.  But she was so young nobody really knows. It was a very long time ago and the details are lost in the mist. Warren G. Harding was president. Here’s what else was happening in 1921:

1. The Emergency Quota Act set immigration limits on eastern European Jews. This ban on Jews being allowed in the US resulted in a Jewish migration towards Palestinian lands. The ramifications are still seen today.

2. The first victim in the Osage Indian murders was discovered. This was a series of killings of Indians to get mineral rights. Estimates of sixty wealthy full-blood Osage Indians were killed during a several year reign of terror.

3. The Tulsa race riot, which should be called the Tulsa massacre or Tulsa pogrom, took place between May 31 and June 1, 1921, when a white mob attacked the wealthiest black community in the United States. The attack was carried out on the ground and by air and destroyed more than 35 blocks of the district. No accurate figure exists for the number of dead.

4. Sacco and Vanzetti found guilty. Italian and immigrant with unpopular political beliefs they were railroaded for a crime they did not commit and eventually met their ends in the electric chair.

This is one year of our racist US history and only the most notable racist events of that year. I read this and thought, wow, have the underlying causes changed? Has the fear of other in our society dissipated? Has the avarice and resentment gone? The answer is a resounding no. I also wonder why I only learned about Sacco and Vanzetti. Revisionist history harms all of us. It allows some of us to believe there’s a level playing field. It makes us think we’re all playing by the same rules. It is the root of entitlement and privilege. This is white supremacy and it runs deep. We must face it and resist it wherever we can. We must make restitution, too.

At the tender age of two Ruby entered the United States. Mexico was just finishing its revolution. Her father was working on the railroad in the southwestern United States, an area that was once Indian, Spanish, and Mexican.  Ruby’s father met a tragic end after becoming sick and dying in the railroad hospital only a few years late. Within a couple of years the family moved to Montana. Can you imagine Montana in the twenties? In 1920 half of Montana’s population was foreign born. That’s not including Native Americans, I presume. Less than 100 years ago this state was full of immigrants looking for opportunity. The Indians were all penned on their reservations by then. How quickly we forget our own history and our sins. The complications are important to hold in mind as we sit and try and decide what is fair and who is welcome.

Ninety-five years later Guadalupe (Ruby’s birth name) is still here. She became a citizen in the 1940s. She spent her career as a nurse. She marched for civil rights all over the United States. She raised a family. There are more Rubys out there hoping for a chance in this deeply flawed country because it is better than the situation they have where they were born.

A word on railroad hospitals. I remember when Ruby first shared the story of her father dying in a railroad hospital I was shaken. Her father had fallen ill with some kind of stomach ailment. He was shipped off to a hospital hundreds of miles away from his family. The hospital was owned by his employer. The family received no word until he was dead. These hospital were set up in the frontier areas of railroad expansion to purportedly aid workers. It was difficult finding workers willing to work in harsh and remote areas of the country. Most were, surprise, immigrants. The railroads hired doctors and built ‘hospitals’ to attract workers. Or did they hire doctors to control the workers? Here’s one take:

The very first medical subspecialty organization in the U.S. was the Railway Surgeons.  Unlike physicians of today who at least in theory are supposed to put the interests of the patient before the interests of anyone or any institution or company, the Railway Physicians gave their primary allegiance to the company, and viewed their major challenges as the identification of malingerers, defending the company against lawsuits, competition from unaffiliated physicians, and maintaining their access to the free pass. – RWM (aka Railwayman, I don’t know his real name so I cannot attribute correctly)

It’s safe to presume Ruby’s father didn’t have much of a chance at a railway hospital hundreds of miles from home. Perhaps,even, Ruby’s mother was forced to return to Mexico to give birth because the hospital wouldn’t help her.

Last night we sat with Ruby and visited. She lives in an assisted living facility. Her family is nearby. Ruby told us that someone had recently someone asked her advice on living life. Here’s what Ruby said, “Fall in love!” Ruby had a many decades marriage to Ed who died a few years ago but she wasn’t talking about that kind of thing.  She was talking about big love. She said first fall in love with YOURSELF. Then walk out the door and look around and fall in love with everything. Words to live by. The trees, the birds, each other.

Here's a map I used to explain to a ten year old friend in Mexico where we all are.
Here’s a map I used to explain to a ten year old friend in Mexico where we all are. It’s all connected.
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Families Belong Together

Todd and Burt
Todd and Burt

The time for staying out of the political fray is gone. I’ve never hid my views but I’ve also tried to limit my discussions here to things that effect us personally. I’ve tried to respect that reasonable people can disagree. I never wanted to hurt feelings. I’m done with that. The things being done in our name by our government make me sick. If you think it’s all fake news you are an idiot. Okay, maybe you’re brainwashed by FOX and company or your preacher. If that’s the case you’ve surrendered critical thinking to a machine that makes money from selling propaganda. It’s too late for me to reach you. I won’t be rude but I will be forceful. The direction this country is headed is dangerous. I will stand up and protect the people.

Yesterday Burt and I played music for the Keeping Families Together Rally in Helena, Montana. This was our friend Todd’s idea. Todd said, “Let’s do this.” We said, “Great idea.” So I called the organizers and offered our services. They did not say no. We showed up and they used us to hold the crowd while the normal event technical snafus were worked out. We sang Spanish language tunes and played Latin melodies. We sang “Mary Don’t You Weep” with the line “Pharaoh’s army got dorwnded” for inspiration. We must persevere.  Fear of the other cannot be how we govern. It is the worst way to live. Fear is a large part of my life. I suffer from anxiety. I face it every day. And I know that all good things are beyond the mists of fear. In my experience decisions made in fear are never the best. Strength, love, diversity of life, wonder…Push past your inner monologue of  fear of scarcity, immigrants, drug traffickers, black people, muslims, Mexicans, women and see the range of humanity out there. If I listened to my fears there would be no Burt and Susan, no Gypsy Carpenters, no Portal Irish Music Week, no life in Mexico, no music.

On the other side, the intellectual side, these actions of our government make no sense to me. Alienating allies, embracing oppressive regimes, making health care unaffordable again, building a wall that has been proven not to work? I could go on.

In summary, if you think separating families asking for asylum and sending those children only-god-knows-where is a reasonable approach to our border’s human rights crisis, then get the fuck out of here. There. I’ve said it.

George McCauley original

Good crowd
Good crowd
Singing for the crowd
Singing for the crowd
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Play on despite the rain

Amnesia?
Amnesia?

So all anyone really says after a colonoscopy is the procedure isn’t bad, it’s the prep. Yup. Forty-five minutes of twilight sedation is fun – if you even remember it. I don’t. The 12 hours of swallowing a gallon of grossness scented with lime and it’s purgative effects are your beginning of the end. It’s like a Sweet Sixteen for the over fifty. Middle age is fading fast and the next thing is barreling at you. Arrival at the hospital after a night of little sleep and much toilet paper was a relief. Put me under. I don’t care what you do to me. Three people asked me if my ‘stools’ were clear and sediment free. Uh, I guess so. The state of our trailer toilet precluded a thorough look. Plastic just doesn’t let go of 9 years of bodily fluids. Describing our plastic throne as stained is an understatement. It’s scarred.

My results, thanks, ObamaCare or ACA, made me really happy to have finally done my screening colonoscopy. They doctor found and removed a small polyp. I have learned it was benign. Polyps are where colon cancer gets started so it is very nice to not have that little guy lurking and growing in my gut. And since it was benign I don’t have to do this for ten more years. That is great news. I could’t have done this without health insurance and I’m grateful I don’t the polyp is gone and can’t get into any dirty business.

Immediately afterwards Burt loaded me into the truck and we headed out to the Good Medicine music jam just out of Jefferson City. The Simms brothers host a music campout in June. Food and showers are provided. We just have to show up and be musicians. We get to see old friends from all over the region and just focus on making music. The meal bells ring and we put our stuff away and pile in the food. Repeat for three days. There is no internet or cell reception. Ahhhh….

Highlights of this year’s Good Medicine for me were seeing my friend Sally O’Neill and playing Spanish songs and leading my first fiddle jam and laughing with a friend who was sort of fired/let go from a pseudo-band that I was fired from over 13 years ago. Sally did a semester in Mexico a while back and she returned with a love of Mexican folk music. So we swapped tunes and she gave me some new ones to work on.

I anchored my first fiddle jam at 8:00AM on Sunday morning. No real fiddlers are awake at this hour so I stepped into the void. I found myself surrounded by loved ones and felt lifted by their appreciation of my music such as it is. We played simple and lovely and ancient music. Then we went to breakfast and packed up for home.

The person let go from the band that I was let go from and I got a good laugh because there are more people fired from the band than actually still in the band. My claim to fame is that I was a founding member and I was the first one fired. Some might say the people losing their jobs could all get together and form a better band than the band that fired us. All of us have been told by the same person that we weren’t taking our commitment to the band seriously enough. This is a band that when I was fired had not had a paying gigs. My recently cast-off amigo reports that they still haven’t had a paying gig. I’ll call the band of castaways the commitment phobes.

Cantamos en español.
Cantamos en español.
Sally and Steve
Sally and Steve
Mountain Lady Slipper
Mountain Lady Slipper
Old and new.
Old and new.
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Flooding

The flooding Dearborn at the Hwy 200 Bridge.
The flooding Dearborn at the Hwy 200 Bridge.

Tomorrow is my first screening colonoscopy. I am three years late for this party. Between our travel schedule and Helena’s former shortage in persons that probe I couldn’t get this classic right of passage into ‘you’re over the hill’ scheduled. Here are some flood photos in honor of my personal flush.

Baby bluebirds. Maybe.
Baby bluebirds. Maybe.
Mushrooms
Mushrooms
Yucca
Yucca
Dearborn River and the Railroad Bridge. This is just above the confluence with the Missouri.
Dearborn River and the Railroad Bridge. This is just above the confluence with the Missouri.

IMG_3356

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If you don’t like the weather…

Rocky Mountain Goat
Rocky Mountain Goat

My 53rd birthday has come and gone since I last posted. Burt and I have been taking advantage of the extra long days and wandering far and wide taking in the Montana scenery. The old saw of “If you don’t like the weather in Montana…just wait 15 minutes” is proving itself true. We’ve had balmy, warm. sunny days interspersed with snow and gilded with rain. Three solid days of rain reignited the local flooding and sapped our solar power batteries. I keep telling Burt that we’re reducing our carbon footprint by refusing to fix the furnace and going without power when the sun stays away for too long. It’s helped me toughen up.

On my actual birthday we birded, played Bridge, went to a new restaurant and took in a show. It was all enjoyable but the Bridge. The Thursday crowd is a tough one and Burt and I were shredded. Proverbial ribbons or mincemeat or chum. Pick your favorite ass-kicking analogy. Our pictures will be in the dictionary next to chump.

Two days later we rejoiced in helping Montana celebrate the 25th anniversary of its first Pride parade. I remember the first event and it gives me hope to see how much has improved in twenty five years. There is so much wrong and too much work still to be done to secure human rights for everyone but I was uplifted by the energy of Saturday’s event. Despite heavy rain and frigid temperatures the parade was well attended and local business were busy. Our spirit of love kept us all warm.

Montana sunset
Montana sunset
Canada Geese at K-Mart wetlands.
Canada Geese at K-Mart wetlands. That’s I-15 in the background.
Happy Pride
Happy Pride
No closets needed.
No closets needed.
Staying Warm
Staying Warm
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