Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wildflower Bounty in the Woods

Summers in Montana may be brief but they are beyond compare!  My love of this place began while I was in high school.  Our church youth group would work hard fundraising all year to pay for a week in Montana at the Clydehurst Christian Ranch.  I remember washing windows in homes, painting homes, carrying firewood, and serving many church meals for donations.  We'd load up that school bus at midnight and drive for hours.  When evening arrived, we'd sleep on the floor of a church in Billings.  One year we slept on the floor of an implement dealer.  That was a hard floor.  That next day, we'd drive to the camp and the surroundings felt like heaven.  My dream to live somewhere in a mountain state became specifically a dream of moving to Montana.  It's still just amazing that this did come true and I've been here for over twenty years.  There's no swimming pool in my backyard.  Horseback riding is not my regular free time activity.  I could, with so many friends that own horses.  That young girl had no idea what life in Montana would look like.  There have been several memorable blizzards and I'm lightning fast at grabbing the radio and flashlights...but that's more Nebraska tornado response than blizzard response, huh.  Blizzard response is charging electronic devices...right?  What would we do if we couldn't play angry birds?!  

Sarcasm here, because I hate to say I'm a pro!

No, I'm not  giving any more information on my age.  I'll let you wonder!'s forty something.  Are you happy now? Which leads my mind to do the math that I've been painting in watercolors for about 30 years.  That's hard for me to grasp.  When I was in my thirties, with two young children, fourteen months apart, it didn't take long to realize that the camera got more use than the art supplies.  I'd pack up the art gear and be prepared for prime opportunity to be artsy...and later realize that the bag went along for the ride.  I'd get everything loaded, just in case this time was different.  And then, nope.  Not yet.  We're talking close to ten years of this pattern continuing like this.  I was a tired, tired, tired mom without extra time or energy for anything but sleep.  Was that frustrating?  You bet it was.  But those years will never come again and I was there to experience all that family time.  They were worth every bit of sacrifice in the foundation they have had.  The life seasons are changing and I'm seeing more opportunity to dive into artistic pursuits again.

This is tired mom, still going!

We purchased a camp trailer this spring.  We had one when the children were younger and stories were told about "at camping."  There were short little hikes with hoodies, snacks, hats and water bottles.  We sang favorite songs loudly and the kids had no idea it was to keep the bears at a safe distance.  Campfires and marshmallow sticky faces.  The first-aid kit was stocked with butterfly bandages and poison ivy towelettes.  And then the children were taller and the trailer seemed to shrink.  My daughter experienced a severe aversion to wasps, bees, grasshoppers...anything of the insect sort that had jumpy legs or wings.  Hm.  That was quite a problem for spending weekends in the mountains.  So we sold the trailer and took a break.  There were still day trips and scenic drives but it was not the same.  This summer we've celebrated the opportunity to get away from town, phones, friends, electronics and any other distractions.  I absolutely love it.  I feel more it's a nature deficiency I'm recovering from and I soak it up.

My husband and kids know and somehow understand how much I need this.  Excitedly exploring and taking the camera everywhere.  Maybe this is contagious because they join in, pointing out flowers or picturesque views.  They are observant, too...and they see the details.  Bored?  How can you be bored if you are looking carefully and seeking out something you've never seen before?  That's just a way of living for me now as I move through my day.  I'm more observant of life.  

When I think of artists I admire, I pay attention to what they chose for their subject matter.  Vincent Van Gogh painted the Cafe Terrace at Night because it captured his attention.  He painted a wide range of subjects from irises and sunflowers to haystacks.  He was aware of the simple things of life and made them something worth pausing to admire, not only in his work but in our movements through the day.  How many times did he paint the sunflowers?  A quick search on google gave me a little rabbit trail of information but the article on  describes seven paintings, one of which was destroyed during WWII.  A print has been found of that painting and it is vibrant with blues and golds and greens.  If you're curious to see more of his work, the Van Gogh Gallery site is a great place to go explore online.  While I struggled in knowing the story of his life, his struggles, and his end...I have realized that he was a talented man lost in so many ways.  I'm thankful for the beautiful works he left for all of us to appreciate.


These unique little flowers were bountiful down on the rocks by the river.  This area was dry rocky river bed, room for the spring thaw to swell the river in May and June.  There was no shade here and I was wishing we had packed more water.  We weren't but a few minutes from the campground so we were fine.  These little puffs are so unusual, almost Dr.Seuss-like.  The fibers are all compactly swirled into a pointed cone shape.  Bloomed, they are more eye catching than any dandelion.  The closest I can come to identifying it is cotton grass.

I didn't go on a 5 mile hike or a back country trip to get my photos.  Baby steps here.  It was just a year and half ago I had procedures done to take care of vericose veins.  There's no doubt I needed to have it done but I spent years afraid of what was required to feel better.  I should have done something five years before because it was much easier than I imagined.  My summers in the mountains were hindered because I wouldn't make myself be brave.  My husband and kids would take off on hour long hikes while I stayed behind because my legs ached from daily activity.  If this is you, don't wait.  Be brave.  It's worth it!  I was so foolish to put it off.  I mention on each weekend excursion on how much I am enjoying being more active.

I was adventurous enough to look toward the flowers out of reach and shed my shoes.  I spied the flowers at the water's edge as the river spread its fingers toward the beaver dams.  The bright magenta blossoms bending toward the water.  I knew the water would be cold but I didn't really comprehend how cold.  Shoes and socks placed on the rocks, I hung the camera around my neck from its strap.  You can see the mossy green rocks in the water and I knew that meant slippery footing.  I mapped out the rocks with least moss.  I stepped in and icy frigid water wrapped all around my feet.  I knew I needed to move quickly but without losing my footing.  The numbness would be mounting quickly.  I murmured under my breath, "just don't drop the camera," and "if I fall, camera must not get wet."  Again and again, I spoke this to myself while judging my next step placement.  Stepping to the edges opposite edge of the water took no time at all.  It seemed like an hour!  I matted down some of the plants under my feet to let them get warm again.  My husband has the dog on the leash and they are watching me.  I think I amuse my husband and the dog wants to come join me.  The flowers seem to a variety of fireweed.  It's name is based on it being one of the first flowers to grow after a wildfire.

When our children were very young there's a campground we enjoyed very's quite a few miles from this campground.  You drive further up the mountain, past the ski run closed for the season, and over the top to the other side.  The North Fork Campground had a fire several years ago and we enjoy driving over to see how it's recovering.

Here's a photo taken just after those fires happened; we took this photo on an afternoon drive to see the sad scene left behind.  Our kids are now teens so this was quite a while ago. 

This summer we drove over to that area again and below you can see the regrowth.  The brilliantly vivid green at the base of all the bare trees is breathtaking.  The amount of wildflowers just basking in the sunlight in such a wide variety, thick and lush amazes me.


...Okay, with this I need to switch subjects and location a bit.  The fires in Glacier National Park this week made me think about this area of forest that is slowly recovering and coming back to life.  My heart goes out to the people affected by those fires near St. Mary's and Babb.  Evacuations and fire fighting efforts have been taking place for the past week.  It will be sad to hear of what's been lost.  I pray that they will have the fire contained this week.  I read this morning that it's at 60% containment today.  Others have mentioned on Facebook thankfulness for photos taken before this fire.  The photo below was taken late summer of 2013 and the fires are occurring in that area nearest to the right.  The fires have closed the Going To The Sun Road from the summit to the east side.  If you're considering a trip to Glacier National Park, don't change your plans.  The majority of this large national park is unaffected and you'll regret not going.  For an update by NPR, here is an update, Crews Scramble to Contain 3,000-Acre Fire in Glacier National Park.  Do not pass up your opportunity to see the spectacular views that take several days to really enjoy.  Majestic peaks with snow still staying higher even in summer.  The tranquil river banks are begging for a picnic and some fishing for the afternoon.  Park yourself at the edge of the mountain lake and watch those with canoes and paddle boards glide across the water.  See, how can one not love it here?!

Okay, thanks for letting me get that tourist advice out there.  Back to our exploring the bounty of the Teton and Cave Mountain area after a wildfire.  Sorry if I'm losing you here.  I had my books for identifying the trees, flowers and berries with me in the pickup.  My daughter called to me to have her try identifying them with the reference books.  The one below turned out to be a form of nightshade which one book labeled mountain death camas.  I found that so interesting considering how dainty and beautiful it is.  Nothing about its appearance shouts poison.  

The purple blossoms are mountain gentians and they had such a deep blue violet at their tips.  Over this weekend trip I took well over 500 photos.  So when I say wildflower bounty, I'm not exaggerating in the least.  We've had a few little hiccups with the trailer this summer.  The first trip we found the refrigerator, furnace, and hot water heater to not be working.  The water pump, stove and lights worked so we got by just fine.  This being our third outing with it, we had all of it working after some repair but now we realize the batteries need to be replaced by next year.  We're just so thankful to have this trailer even with little problems to address.  We're not tent camping and safe from the bears.  This trip was taken Fourth of July weekend and we didn't need the furnace anymore.
The kids are gone to grandma and grandpa's this week...and this weekend my hubby and I are going camping!  I know this camping thing is not for everyone.  My dad says his idea of camping is a hotel.  He's the one who got me hooked on the camping in the first place.  So funny, really.  

This weekend I'm packing two cameras and maybe my husband can get some time in with the camera, too.  We're ready to take off and go see what there is to discover this time.  I wonder if there are any meteor showers going this weekend.  I've never gotten a really great show of northern lights so that would be a nice surprise.  We'll see...

The artwork I'm focusing on right now is coming along a little slower than the previous works.  Indian paintbrush is the focus with these three paintings.  I've had to take a few days off and that has gotten me out of my rhythm a bit.  With a quiet house, I feel like I'm moving much slower.  The first painting is complete and I really enjoyed its flow.  The second painting is close to completion yet was not as easy in its development.  The third one now has color on it but just basic washes at this point.  My husband has commented that these three are very different and couldn't be seen as a set to hang on the same wall.  I agree.  They each have their own character or personality.  It's hard to explain how the artist doesn't really know exactly what a painting will be when it's finished...or how one knows when it's finished.  It's just as big a mystery for the artist, and I'm always learning to be okay with not knowing but being open to what may develop on the paper.

Until next Thursday, look around and see for great and amazing beauty in the ordinary things of life.


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