Saturday, August 24, 2013

It’s Summer. Still.

And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high (…)”

I don’t have kids, so, no, to me, it’s so not “back to school” time. I am also deaf and blind to all the commercials, ads and store displays that announce fall, and harvest and, oh, Gosh, Christmas!

I am stubbornly and annoyingly saying to myself and to the whole wide world: it is summer, still!

The mountains around us  - on Hidden Peak near Snowbird resort. But see: no snow! Just beautiful skies and greenery!  

I am still wearing tanks and sandals, and my toes are still painted.

I am watering my yard, still, almost every night, so that my veggies, trees and potted flowers won’t die in the unforgiving, desert heat.

We still have thunderstorms and wild fires in the forecast! My car thermometer shows 90+F every day. Still. Do you hear me: still!

Every weekend, our neighborhood is reeking with the smell of grilled hamburgers and corn. Kids are riding pink and purple bikes through the sprinklers. People are going down the Provo river in tubes, and boats are cutting he waves on the lakes around. My freckles are out of control!

And the farmers’ market is still open, in almost every town around us! Still!

See: my grapes are not even ripe yet!

I refuse to believe that summer is over. As long as I eat tomato salad and sandwiches every day, and I bite into crunchy, fresh peppers from the back yard, there is no fall in the air anywhere, people!!!  There is only summertime. Infinite and endless summertime … And the livin’ is easy … Still … 

Summer signs: fresh produce, and everything is still green and keeps coming! 

The blueberries are back this year, and they are extra sweet this season.

I wish you can smell this, or ... taste it: stuffed fresh peppers with fresh tomato sauce.

I am planning our first summer bbq in a week, and a camping trip to follow. See?! Still summer!

And the crickets soothe me to sleep every night. There is no way there is any fall anywhere! Not even in the mountains where the leaves are hinting of red. Ssshhh!! There is no red! Maybe just sunset mirroring in the trees. But nothing besides!

It’s summer. For a little lot longer. And the “f” word is forbidden at my house! So, beware!

 Above the clouds - blue skies and crisp, clean air for miles and miles and miles ...

Monday, August 05, 2013

Chasing Some Dreams

There was no way I was going to figure out when I was little how I would ever trick the American government to make me an American citizen. And so, my dream was that one day, I will find a way to “swim” across that Big Pond, and make it to the Promise Land, and once here I will just hitch a ride to Montana, work on a farm as a hired hand, and no one will ever, ever find me or worry that I am staying here illegally. No one will ever check papers there. No one will ever care. To me, Montana was like the last shore. End of the world. Not in a punishing sense, but in a “go no longer” kind of a sense. The shore of freedom and of no authority.

Well, many moons later, and 7 years after I earned my citizenship, I made it to Montana. This was my second visit, but, in a sense, it was my first one, as this one targeted the heart of the state, instead of its outskirts bordering Wyoming and Idaho, as before.   

And what I found is that although pretty scarce in population, Montana is not totally void of people. I am pretty sure one could still live incognito in that state, but I am also pretty sure that one or two neighbors would notice, too!

We were headed to White Sulphur Springs, for the annual Red Ants Pants Bluegrass Festival (I know: isn’t the name great?!), but we ended up staying 70+ miles out, in Helena, as there was no place at the inn anywhere closer. The drive between the capital city and White Sulphur Springs is a wild one. Literally. You cross through Helena National Forest and there is nothing there, for many, many miles. The Montana (and Idaho, and Wyoming) staples of farmland are nowhere to be seen. Nothing but woods and streams. And mountains, of course. Just the epitome of peaceful, wild country.

Another “dream” I was chasing was the band Donna the Buffalo.  Originally from Upstate New York, they don’t come out West often, so when they make it to … Montana, at said festival, one must drive to share the oxygen with them for a bit. It was probably the quietest festival I have ever partaken in. Montana people are ever so happy, quiet and respectful, really. Just the most organized and subdued crowd. 

Happy crowds under Big Skies - Red Ants Pants Festival in White Sulphur Springs, MT

Helena is actually a pretty urban spot, as small cities go. We walked about the streets, had some Greek food, some local beer, visited The Capitol, which is gorgeous for its scarcity of official business (only two legislature meetings a term, one, every 2 years), and we tried to find some trout! We saw fly fishers everywhere in the state. They even built statues for them, to celebrate the … Montana sport of choice, I suspect! But no trout on any menus. Anywhere we looked. I have officially decided people can’t fish in these parts, or trout is smarter than fishermen. 

The roof of The Rotunda, inside The Montana Capitol building

For all its mountainous, lush green beauty and fresh air, Helena failed to feel like home, for some reason. Now, notice that I didn’t say “Montana”, but just … Helena. It did feel cozy when the bells at Cathedral of Saint Helena started tolling for the wedding and the whole city echoed with peace and good news. But there was something amiss on this trip. Something I wished I found but was elusive. 

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" - Cathedral of Saint Helena - Helena, MT

With its “last chance” culture all around (the Last Chance Gulch   is going like a main artery right through the heart of the city), Helena does have sort of the “end of the world” kind of nostalgia I was picturing when thinking about Montana. There is a feeling that once you get here, you’re pretty much reached the end of the road: you have what you need or you’re going to have the resoluteness to find it within you to survive! There are no resources, other than human brains. You’ve got them, or you turn around and go back. This survivalist call spoke to me.

Montana lore

Back in the more earthy, superfluous realm of my travels, yet another dream I have chased for years, and still am, are mailbox shots. You think I am crazy, but I love to shoot (as in Canon, not Smith & Wesson) mailboxes lined up in the middle of nowhere. Equal only to the middle of the Nevada Desert, Montana offers great opps for this! We tried finding Spring Meadow Lake State Park (which we never did), and en route there, we drove through this suburban area which in Montana means farm after farm after farm, or one 10 acre lot after another. We never did see a cookie cutter kind of neighborhood, where houses are clustered together in this uncreative, lets-cut-all-the-trees, the-only-way-the-builder-could-afford-to-make-a-profit, with-total-disrespect-for-human-privacy kind of way… It was refreshing to not see the natural beauty of the state poisoned by such sights.

And when you have large lots+scarce houses+middle of nowehere+dirt roads, you have a recipe for incredible mailbox shots! I feel like each box says a story about each proprietor. Each one, as unique as its people, waiting for news, any news, from the wide world, to reach these lonely and scant parts. They are a testimony of patience to me. Mailboxes are. All of them. Just waiting, together.

I’m still looking for my getaway, end of the world spot, here in America. And for my home, really. The Helena area of Montana was not it. But the beauty is in the journey, and I’ll keep looking, chasing one mailbox after another, or one bluegrass band after another, whichever comes first. One of these days, the eyes of the soul will see and the ears will hear …

Click on the picture to browse the complete album of this trip.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Dead Sheet

Somewhere in America ...
No, this is not a picture of “Huh! Look how fast I am driving!”. Nor one of “look how even much faster than me the huge a** petroleum carrier is driving down the Interstate”. What I want to capture in the picture is that white Chevy truck in front of me.

It’s carrying a large, probably queen size, mattress in its bed. The “problem” was not the mattress, per se. The problem was that this dude decided he would buy this mattress (steal it?!) with the sheet still attached to it. You know, the fitted queen size sheet that you strap over the corners before you lay on it!

So, before I took this picture (sorry, America, I was not ready for the live action shot!), the sheet was getting blown around, up and down, as this guy passed me at at least 90 mph! It finally got peeled off the mattress and landed on this PT Cruiser’s windshield, to the left of me. The guy broke in tire shrieking!

Now, I can’t even begin to tell you how many things I see wrong with this picture! First, who the heck buys a mattress WITH the old sheet still on it?! And then, I am driving 80 mph  in a Prius and I can hardly catch up to the man – he is doing at least 90 on an interstate, on a windy day, with an un-strapped load on his back . What do you think that’ll do to the mattress? Or the sheet, Cpt. Brains?!

You know what they say: guys like that are the reason why we put directions on shampoo bottles in this country! Seriously.

And on top of it (well, at some point): just … eewww!