Friday, September 8, 2017

Home on the range: deer, antelope, birds, beautiful light and that sky

Big Sky Country on the Stillwater River -- looking from our friends' home, John and Laurie Beers, toward High Chaparral. 


A prairie grouse poses out our front door, enjoying the late summer sun.

MUCH HAS been written about Montana's sky and mountains.
Although the state Highway Department used the phrase "Big Sky Country" in a 1960s promotion, the moniker traces back to writer A.B. Guthrie's 1947 novel.
"The Big Sky" is considered by the late writer and critic Wallace Stegner "the best" of Guthrie's six novels dealing with the Oregon Trail and the development of Montana from 1830 to the 1880s.
The Fishtail Store is an institution.
The sweeping saga spans the time of the Mountain Men to the cattle empire of the 1880s to the time of the book's writing, post World War II.
Up the draw toward the artesian
well, High Chap colors are turning.
MY NATIVE state offers a bounty of beautiful sights:  the aspen trees are just beginning to turn.
Wild fires surrounding us give an even
more golden glow to the sunsets.
Birds are loading up on berries.  The sunsets are a glorious blend of crimson, orange, pale blue and golden hues, accentuated by smoke from 19 wild fires surrounding us.
Tourists and natives alike also love Montana's mountains.  Writer John Steinbeck said they were the kind of mountains he'd make if mountains were ever put on his agenda.
RETURNING to the mountains this year has special meaning for us. When we left nearly 13 months ago, for our winter base in San Diego, we were climbing slowly up the list for Keller's liver transplantation.  We did not know if we would be back this year, so even the sometimes smoky view at the Beartooths is a blessing.
High Chap's mountain at the "top of the prop" provides a
setting for an annual picnic and saxophone serenade.
We're reveling in reunions with our dear friends here -- some locals and others summer people such as are we.
We crossed paths by only days with the "Georgia contingent," a group of Atlanta based sojourners and like-minded friends, who closed up their places just after we all met by the river for a "no labor Labor Day party."
Gooseberries, chokecherries and
elderberries are favorites with deer.
OUR FRIENDS are an eclectic group -- well traveled, well educated, avid readers, activists,  thinkers, global in their politics.  It took us a while to find them.  The party hosts, for instance, recently built on the Stillwater and sold their home in St. Croix. Others are from Pennsylvania, Washington state, California and many other parts of the world. We met a couple recently who live in Spain and visit Montana a couple times a year.

Sandhill cranes greeted us on our drive up the valley to home.
Wild roses are still blooming, albeit
only a few.  They are glorious.

WE'RE thankful to celebrate our return with these friends who have had their own losses, illness and accidents during our absence and challenges with the transplant. We're planning an encore climb up the hill behind our home, to the "top of the prop" as we call it, for me to offer a picnic serenade with my saxophone.
And while little things are frustrating -- a few trees lost to winter -- we feel the same love we always feel when we land in Montana with its beauty and staunch pals. There's no place like it. As Steinbeck put it, "For other states, I have admiration, respect, recognition, even affection. But with Montana it is love. And it's difficult to analyze love."

The Ariel String Quartet thrills a sell-out crowd at an earlier Tippet Rise event.
NEXT UP:  Tippet Rise, that magical art and concert venue near Fishtail, Montana, is in its second fantastic season. On tap this weekend are world renowned pianist Anne-Marie McDermott and the St. Lawrence String Quartet.  Each weekend, world class musicians thrill crowds in a unique setting, always a sold-out venue, with tickets kept cheap to encourage a wide audience range. Join us at Tippet Rise, remembering to explore, learn and live. We post our novel look at nature, the arts, health and travel each Friday, for the weekend.


  1. Welcome home. We have all missed you. Take more gorgeous photos and write on!!!

  2. We are excited to see Tippet Rise, on our agenda for next year. One of our Spanish artists has a gorgeous piece have written about him. Gracias for this splendid blog.

  3. Michiganders on the MoveSeptember 15, 2017 at 6:11 AM

    We had the good fortune to visit your glorious Montana. Steinbeck was right, and you nicely carry on the legacy. Looking forward to seeing and hearing more of your impressions.