Two Dot: full house

There is no poetry or cleverness in saying that my heart is full and brimming to my eyes with love for my boy and his son who are here in Two Dot. Just now, in the early morning, they are working out in our schoolyard. Bryan, who is strong and disciplined, hoists himself on the swing set bar and Ben, who is young and eager to imitate his dad, tries to do the same. I can’t stop crying both with love for the two of them and with longing for my own parents... to be in the thick of so much love. But when you are in the thick of it, you never really know what you have. It is the prerogative of the old to see that. I think there is no one left on earth that I could tell this story to and expect complete understanding. Only my mother would cry with my happiness, with my fullness.

Four days with Ben, 7 years old... a magic year. Is it too soon to write down the details? Will it inspire another plate of tears.

Some of the best experiences leave you crying, leave you aching in your middle chest. The transition from experience to memory can be painful. Both can be full of joy, but the space in-between is colored by a hazy sky, an empty bed, and indeterminacy while one thing tries to become another.

Two Dot: horizon

A summer of smoke and headaches. Fires are burning in places I can’t see. Fires in every direction. Smoke roles in on the wind and keeps slipping in, even when the air is still. John smells it when he first opens the door in the morning. I feel it in my head, just left of center above my eyes. The near pain persists, sometimes unfolding into pain and becoming all-consuming, and sometimes disappearing for a while, but never completely gone. I didn’t know if smoke is the cause, but they coincide, marching side by side. When I put these thoughts down, ink on paper, I have to.... cannot not.... acknowledge that my house, my ranch, my job has not burned. For me it is only a hazy horizon.

Two Dot: missing

I cried as the wheels from your car left dust in my driveway. You waved and I waved until you disappeared. I cried for a visit too short. I cried for wanting the rhythm of many days together and for the “unexpected” that often accompanies that rhythm. I cried for my good fortune at having a friend like you, a friend to exchange bossiness with and then laugh confessions of bossiness, a friend who tells me what I need to know, a friend who sees deep into the pool and describes it in colors that are more real for those words. I cried for being in between so many memories and more memories to come with you. I cried because of the nature of time and our increased awareness of its fleeting nature. I cried In that last moment because just then, I didn’t know why I was here and not going home with you. And finally, I cried because it is good to miss a good friend... to long for more time together. And I cried because I knew that before the day was over, I would remember – with the pervasiveness of the soft breeze on my skin right now – why I am here, knowing I will be here again and again longing for you my friend.

Two Dot: starlings

The starlings came in today by hundreds... or at least it seemed like hundreds. I think of them as immigrants. I think of them as notbelonging here. I think thoughts about them that I would never think about other people or myself. The starlings are loud and busy. They fill the air. I wonder if the other birds, the native birds, will leave?

I saw an Edward Curtis exhibition at the Bair Museum. There are 40 prints of his Indian work. Curtis spent a lifetime losing family and money while trying to capture what was Native to this place, just at the moment when Native customs/traditions/lifestyle were vanishing. I am reminded that we are the starlings.

Two Dot: yellow

I’ve never been to Naples. I don’t know what the light is like there, but I have always associated the color Naples yellow with what I have thought that light would be like. Here in Montana fields and hills are beginning to change color. The range of greens, yellows and even reds is wide. When I looked out at the field across the road this morning I thought “Naples yellow,” probably because it is a color both organic and made of light. The field’s yellow leans toward green, but I know Naples yellow sometimes does that. Maybe that is why I have associated it with light... its ability to lean green or red.

A bit of internet research this morning pointed out that I am not a painter and know little of paint. The reference to Naples in Naples yellow apparently has to do with where the pigment is mined as opposed to any reference to the quality of light in Southern Italy.  And the red/green range has to do with how the pigment is prepared and what it is mixed with. But knowing little of paint doesn’t prevent me from seeing the field out my window gather light in a way that makes it appear backlit...luminous and yet, still of the earth.

The field started out yellow like butter today. It was not so luminous as yesterday, but a very saturated color. It seems the smoke haze that rolled in from the Parks Fire in Lincoln has altered my perception of the color. I know it is a small thing to have the color of the field outside my window altered. So many of the things that affect my days are small: two hares dead on the Two Dot/ Melville road, a hazy view out my window, birds eating the golden currents before I pick them... everything relative.  

Two Dot: salt and sweet

Cutting a slice of watermelon, the steel blade slipped through red and released cool sweetness summoning a complete encapsulated moment of childhood summer. It burst open with shorts and a tee-shirt, with salt water and blue sky, with an untroubled tangle of uncombed hair. And then it was over, leaving me with a plate of sliced watermelon.

Two Dot: reads

I ran into a young man I know at the bar. We talked the usual pleasantries: time of year, weather, ranching. He complained of summer after the 4th of July. “So dry and hot,” but admitted to spending July in an air-conditioned swather. He told me he’d decided to listen to Jane Austin’s novels while haying last year... classics he’d missed. It began as a curious exercise, but he found himself staying after work to keep listening. We talked books for a while. He is a fan of Ivan Doig, but hasn’t read A.B.Guthrie or Zane Grey. He surprised me with his one complaint of Doig. “He portrays his Montana characters as literary, quoting classics in any situations. It’s not that way,” he said. This young man is certainly more Montana than I will ever be and knows so many more Montanans than I ever will know, but I have seen a copy of The Odyssey on the bench seat of a ranch truck. I have heard a rancher’s wife quoting poetry. And I now have a vision of this young man sitting in a parked swather listening to the last bit of a chapter of one of Austin’s piercing and humorous looks at English country life. 

Two Dot: Bonnie

In rural Montana everyone is invited. The newspaper publishes what is going on: weddings, anniversaries, funerals, graduations, reunions. All are welcome. We never met Bonnie Moore Willis, but we went to her memorial because she was the sister of Jim Moore, who we did know. And she was part of the fabric of Two Dot. We joined her relatives and friends and other community members on a sandstone ridge on her family’s ranch and later gathered at the bar for a meal. There were maybe 75 people there, the number matching the ranching population of Two Dot if not matching them person for person. We talked with people we know and some we didn’t know. Bonnie’s family said she would not have come to her own memorial... too many people. Perhaps this is why I never met her. I had never even heard stories of this private Montana horse woman who was by parts tough, cantankerous, accomplished, brave, and competitive... a real adventurer. I would have been terrified and thrilled to meet her. 

Two Dot: don't think about it

A baby rabbit has claimed our two orange mowers as its home. I am terrified of running over it. We coax it out whenever we have to mow and it reluctantly moves into the shed. Early in the mornings it is out next to the mowers eating grass. We’ve grown fond of it, checking on it throughout the day. We call it Bun Bun. It is a pathetic name, but nothing else comes to mind. It doesn’t seem to belong to anyone or anything except the two mowers. I try not to think of the circle of fur in the grass near by.

Two Dot: there/not there

I look to the sky and at the earth and straight ahead

and since then I’ve been writing a long letter to the dead

on a typewriter with no ribbon just a horizon line

so the words knock in vain and nothing sticks.

             -       from Baltics (section v) 1974, Tomas Tranströmer

I came back to these lines for the images. Was it a mistake to read so many reviews? I am timid with poetry... so much expectation of translation, interpretation, unpacking, digging deep. But I couldn't let the image alone. The conflation of horizon, the place where sky and earth meet, and the impression of a horizontal line banged out on a ribbon-less typewriter. I guess it is an easy leap from words creating no tangible line to the understanding that the place where earth and sky meet is intangible as well.

Back with Tranströmer’s Baltics, I notice today that it is a long letter to the dead being written on a ribbon-less typewriter. All of my love of the image and all of my review-reading missed this. The images came first, and now the gesture. Offering language to the dead is not something I haven’t thought about. It is my idea that it is not in vain, though Tranströmer writes that it is.... “nothing sticks.” I am not so sure... the horizon line is only visible from where I stand, the words written known only to my hand. Not there and yet... there.