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Such sunshine and merriment this week!  We had dear friends down to the house to celebrate our anniversary with us, on a cold and starlit night.  After a clear and sunny day, it became one of those nights in which the stars shone all the way down to the horizon, were reflected in the lake, and twinkled between the branches of tall pines behind the house.  The International Space Station is back on its evening orbit over our house.  There are two Americans, two Russians, one Canadian and one German aboard, and on Wednesday, A Christmas dinner of turkey, candied yams, cranberry sauce and fruitcake, was rocketed up to the station.  So, last night, at 5:27, we stood on the dock, looked WNW, and watched them fly overhead for six minutes, as little dots of evening stars came into view around them.   We wondered if it was their sleeping cycle as they passed over, or were they looking down at this beautiful blue mother earth, witnessing her peril.

All the starlight ever produced was measured this week.  According to, scientists have measured, “all the starlight ever produced throughout the 13.7 billion year history of the observable universe.”  I wish they hadn’t done that–it makes it sound like there will be no more starlight.  In other news on the blog, they reported that SETI has found “no artificial emissions” from Oumuamua–that was the “interloper” spotted last year in our solar system.  They figured it was an asteroid or a comet, but considered it might also be an “alien artifact”.  Every once in a while, I’d see an article online about this strange object, which astrophysicists considered might be a light sail or solar spacecraft, constructed by?  I think this SETI discovery is probably a good thing for us all.

I’ve been reading the theoretical physicist, Alan Lightman, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine this past year, and it is always a peaceful retreat from the fraught world we live in.  Best known for the book, Einstein’s Dreams, his discussions about the nature of the universe and human consciousness slide pretty much completely beyond my understanding, but his graceful writing leaves me with a sense of wonder that what is real, is in those stars, and winter skies may be the best gift of the season.

“At some point in the future, new stars will cease being born. Slowly but surely, the stars of our universe are winking out. A day will come when the night sky will be totally black, and the day sky will be totally black as well. Solar systems will become planets orbiting dead stars. According to astrophysical calculations, in about a million billion years, plus or minus, even those dead solar systems will be disrupted from chance gravitational encounters with other stars. In about ten billion billion years, even galaxies will be disrupted, the cold spheres that were once stars flung out to coast solo through empty space.”
Alan Lightman, The Accidental Universe

BUT, in the meantime…

“Suppose that time is not a quantity but a quality, like the luminescence of the night above the trees just when a rising moon has touched the treeline. Time exists, but it cannot be measured.”
Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dreams


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

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All the trees are now up.  There’s the Grand Fir in the living room, draped with multi-colored lights, and the very tall one with white lights on the entry porch, and two smaller white-lit trees on the front porch and the terrace, and the little miniature cottage in the library, and the mantle lights, the stained glass window with fairy lights in the pantry, and votive candles scattered everywhere.  Never mind, that we won’t even be here for Christmas–we are preparing for December’s dark days and nights.

Finally, we’ve had a skiff of snow.  It’s still hovering around freezing, down here at the lake, but an Arctic blast is predicted to bring overnight temperatures down into the teens.  There’s been ice on our stone steps up to the garage.  Great flocks of geese fly across the sky, in search of open water.  Winter is on our doorstep, once again.

“One must have a mind of winter…and not to think of any memory in the sound of the wind”, Wallace Stevens writes in his poem, The Snowman.  Another December quote I’ve recorded in my journal reads, “Christmas is a time you get homesick, even when you are at home.”  It’s so dark, the news out there in the world is so grim, and another year of our  life is coming to an end.  “December’s eyes grow sad”, writes Beatrice Crane in her ancient poem, December–we need “a torch to light the storm.”  Is it any wonder we close the shutters, light the candles, and fill our homes with as much merriment as we can!

DECEMBER, by Beatrice Crane
Now wildly sweeps the wind,
And wildly drives the sleet,
December fast draws nigh
Wrapped close from head to feet.
Her eyes glance restlessly
From shaken tree to plain,
The dark hair neath her head
Is wet with frozen rain.
Her funny cloak she holds
With one hand round her form,
The other one lifts high
A torch to light the storm.
Scare tree or shrub doth cheer
The dreary scene around,
Save for the moaning wind.
There is no other sound.
December’s eyes grow sad
And fainter still her tread;
One hears a long, low sigh
Which tells the year is dead.

‘Everything is waiting for you’



I have been from sea to shining sea twice in the past thirty days–October on the Atlantic Ocean, and November on the Pacific.  When we arrived home Sunday afternoon, having shared a lovely Thanksgiving week on the Oregon coast with dear friends, the bright sunshine spilled over my living room, welcoming me back.  Then, again, there could be snow drifts outside the door, and I would still love being home.  I am–we both are–homebodies by nature.  Our long-time friends who we were with in Oregon, couldn’t believe we had committed to staying so long away.  We are infamous for leaving in the middle of the night, once we have become overwhelmed by the need to be home.  Twice, we have decided to rent a place in our beloved Santa Fe, for a full month in early Spring, when winter never seems to lose its grip, back at home.  But, we’ve only made it three weeks, each time, overcome by homesickness.  Friends often remark to me, “For two people who don’t like travel, you sure travel all the time!”  Yes, we do–about a trip each month, somewhere.   Usually, it’s because I get such heartache for my family that I must go to wherever they are, and, then, there are such lovely places in the world that keep sending out their siren’s call for me to come.

But, finding home, is why I began writing this blog in the first place.  Growing up in Ohio, then living on each coast over the years, as well as cities in-between, I ended up in northwestern Montana, nearing the age of fifty, now a long twenty-three years ago.  I’ve never been the one to choose where I would live, in my whole life–which seems so strange to acknowledge.  But, maybe, it explains why once I landed in this beautiful place, over time, I put my own roots into the ground, and found home, at last, in Montana.  Not that I don’t pick up realtor brochures in every lovely town we visit, and declare, “I know I could live here”!  But, here, at the lake, is where I keep finding home.  Not a home place, as described by Wallace Stegner, in which generations of family tilled the soil and lived out their lives, but a place ‘profoundly felt, deeply loved’, nonetheless.

I wonder if ever again Americans can have that experience of returning to a home place so intimately known, profoundly felt, deeply loved, and absolutely submitted to? It is not quite true that you can’t go home again. I have done it, coming back here. But it gets less likely. We have had too many divorces, we have consumed too much transportation, we have lived too shallowly in too many places.”
Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

Perhaps, finding home is as simple as being at one’s angle of repose, a scientific measurement of “the steepest angle at which sloping surface formed of a particular loose material is stable”.

Now, we are home for an entire month, before we are off to California to spend Christmas with the Golden State families. Today is a true November day, covered in slate gray clouds, rain and drizzle, cold, dreary, and still.  Snow can’t be too far away, but likes to wait until December.  It’s time to get the Christmas tree and decorate the house with lights and candles and fairy trees outside the windows.  These are the darkest days we ever have, and the fire is lit by 4:00, the soup simmers on the stove, and it feels like ‘everything is waiting for you’, right inside my house.

Everything is Waiting for You–by David Whyte

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.


Winter preparedness

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A Long and Gracious Fall

by David Budbill


A long and gracious fall this year.
The leaves are down. Gardens: emptied,
manured, tilled, smooth, and waiting.
Mower and tiller serviced and put away.

Smoker put away, as is the summer table.
Prayer flags, windsocks and their poles: down.
Twenty-foot homemade badminton poles,
peace flag at the top of one, store-bought net—
all down and put away for another year. No more
outdoor summer chores.

Fall planting — peonies and tiger lilies — done.
Summer flower stalks removed, beds mulched,
a blanket for the cold. Fall pruning done.

Woodshed roof hammered down and sealed again.
Cellar closed. Drive staked and flagged so the
snowplow knows where to go.

What else is there to do? Finally, for once, we are ready
for the snow. Ready now to come inside. Time now for
words and music, poems and shakuhachi. Time now
to light some incense, sit and stare at candlelight.

This is the first morning to be below freezing at our house, and except for the now-dead geraniums on the porch, we have readied the house for winter.  Although, when I sat on the cold steps at sunset yesterday, to pet the kitties, I spotted a tiny lavender pansy growing between the stones on the terrace– a lingering reminder of our ‘long and gracious fall’.

But, I love the words and music, poems and candlelight, of this new season.  An author-friend of mine is having a video produced to promote her latest novel, As The Christmas Cookie Crumbles.  She needed a fireplace as backdrop for the scene in which she talks to Santa, so I removed the velvet pumpkins from my mantle, and hurriedly put up some lighted greenery, lit a roaring fire, and she and the NBC crew did their video shoot in my living room last Friday.  That was all I needed to jump-start my holiday decorations.

My daughter, Joy, and I had a conversation last week in which she said she was irrationally excited about the Christmas holiday this year.  She was on her way home from a conference in Phoenix, and whilst sitting in 80 degree sunshine, she was planning her Christmas decorations.   We talked about how it was probably an escape from politics, the shootings, the fires, the fears we have for our future.  She said she wishes she could crawl into her enormous Christmas village, which glows in the bay window all through the holidays, and just live in there.  The season of darkness is upon us.  For me, staring at candlelight with fairy lights in the windows, is a way to embrace it all, and is a necessary part of winter preparedness.  And there is joy there–like the kingfisher, in Wendell Berry’s poem–“Somewhere the night had accommodated him”.

Before Dark


From the porch at dusk I watched
a kingfisher wild in flight
he could only have made for joy.

He came down the river, splashing
against the water’s dimming face
like a skipped rock, passing

on down out of sight. And still
I could hear the splashes
farther and farther away

as it grew darker. He came back
the same way, dusky as his shadow,
sudden beyond the willows.

The splashes went on out of hearing.
It was dark then. Somewhere
the night had accommodated him

—at the place he was headed for
or where, led by his delight,
he came.


Now it’s November…

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“In November you begin to know how long the winter will be.”   –Martha Gellhorn

It rained all this past week, with brief breaks now and then.  There’s been a wind advisory the past three or four days, and the sound of waves crashing against the shore has been constant.  When the clouds lift, you can see the snow line slowly moving down the mountains, even though there has yet to be a frost here at the lake.  Autumn is slipping away, and with the time change in my sleep last night, darkness will spill over the house, well before dinner time, and it doesn’t seem that much lighter here in the morning dark.  An Arctic front is predicted to make a swipe at us this upcoming week.  That will end the geraniums on the porch, and we will know the gods are serious about bringing on another winter.

We had an unexpected snow storm this time last year, which covered the outdoor furniture before we could put it away, so I don’t want to be greedy–this fall was long and spectacularly beautiful, glorious.  But, still.  When November comes, it’s a new chapter, which begins, “It was a dark and stormy night…”.  I often think of November as one of those pause months, like in January, where time stands still for a while so you can sweep up all the holiday glitter and quiet down the house.  In November, there’s still time to get ready for winter, but darkness is coming on fast, and I find myself peeking through the slats of the bedroom shutters at 3:00 a.m., to see if any lights are visible across the lake, and l listen to the pounding of the waves.

I find that I really need November, to get prepared.  Reading in bed last night, I finished George Colt’s book, The Big House, about one of the original grand homes on Cape Cod.  It’s the third or fourth time I’ve read this memoir, but, on the heels of our visit to Chatham, I was at it again.  Near the end of the story, in late fall, a hurricane is threatening to hit Buzzard’s Bay, and all the families leave early to get off the Cape, but George stays behind to batten down the hatches.  He spends all day with the usual preparations for a hurricane, and then he sits on the piazza, near dark, and watches the broiling gray clouds, wild surf, and feels the fierce winds moving onto shore–getting ready for what might happen.  It’s a bit like that, here in November, on a dark and stormy night.

Carol called from Arizona the other day, and said the air was soft, and a pleasant 75 degrees, with cool night-time temperatures.  After thirty years of living here in the Flathead Valley, she’s happy to be a snow bird.  I tell her all the time what’s she’s missing.


by Ron Koertge


Some of my friends claim they could
never live in California. They find
the regular beauty too much like
a postcard with its predictable

And, anyway, how do I ever get
anything done with the sun luring
everyone to the first tee
or the pari-mutuel windows,

much less the way the chairs
all seem to lean back under a tree,
a cat ready to curl up on my lap
or at my sandaled feet.

They prefer the bracing rigors
of snow and rain. They write
about its feet and inches, all
they endure to buy an orange
or see a movie as they

picture me, probably, still on
my chaise, their letter falling
from one languid hand onto
the voluptuous lawn.



The remains of October

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May the strength of the wind and the light of the sun
The softness of the rain and the mystery of the moon
Reach you and fill you…Celtic Blessing

I am back home in time for these final days of October.  We have entered the “atmospheric river”, as the meteorologists like to say for this time of the year.  Cliff Mass, whose blog from Seattle I regularly follow, writes:  “It is like falling off a meteorological cliff.  And it happens every year.  The transition to winter weather in the Pacific.”  Today he wrote, “the spigot is turned on.”  It was pouring rain when we got home at midnight, but, yesterday, in what felt like a kind gift from the gods, it was sunny and warm, and golden with a blue sky.  Birds, especially robins, were as busy as I’ve ever seen them, flitting from berry branch to berry branch, and that quintessential scent of Autumn’s decay filled the air.  I spent much of the day outside, filling myself up with the warmth of the sun, and when the sun went down, I watched the pink light leave the sky from my living room.  In the dark of this morning, when I went up to the garage to feed the kitties, the cold rain was dripping through the branches, plastering yellow leaves to the wet stone steps.  There is nothing but a river of moisture forecasted for this upcoming week, and soon, with the time change, the end of each day will rapidly slide into darkness, as we move towards the ending of another year.

In Cape Cod, I saw the full moon glittering over the ocean, and a sparkling clear blue sky on a sunny day.  I walked in soft white sand, picking up shells, and through swaying grasses of the dunes.  I photographed beautiful weathered shingled houses and their window boxes full of colorful Fall mums.  I spent a blustery late afternoon, dramatic cloud formations overhead, on the same stretch of seashore where Henry Beston wrote his beloved book, The Outermost House.  And, then I got to come home, to my own house by the water, with golden light in the woods.

It’s been a terrible week of news.  As my heart aches for the people killed and the mournful suffering in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, I thought of how Fred Rogers said his mother always told him that, in times of sorrow, we must “look for the helpers.”  The words of Henry Beston help me.

“Hold your hands out over the earth as over a flame. To all who love her, who open to her the doors of their veins, she gives of her strength, sustaining them with her own measureless tremor of dark life. Touch the earth, love the earth, honour the earth, her plains, her valleys, her hills, and her seas; rest your spirit in her solitary places. For the gifts of life are the earth’s and they are given to all, and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and dawn seen over ocean from the beach.”
Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

Late October forecast


Here is this morning’s forecast discussion on our NOAA weather page:

.DISCUSSION…The Northern Rockies will enjoy several more days of spectacular late fall weather. The mornings will start off pretty crisp at or below freezing. Otherwise expect Sunny skies with highs in the mid and upper 60s with light winds, ten degrees above normal. Take advantage of the next 5 days as it`s looking like we may not have several days of 60 degree weather until next spring.

I really hate it when they remind us that we won’t have any warm temperatures until next spring–as if we weren’t already clinging to every single glorious October day we’ve had this month.  Geraniums are still in bloom on the porch, and frost has yet to appear on my Cinderella pumpkins next to the stone steps.  Our evening dinners have been so late, as I can’t bring myself inside the house, and then they are interrupted, so I can run out on the dock to see the Hunter Moon.  I feel like the squirrels, jumping from tree to tree, in their frantic work to put away winter’s stash of food.  I came home with a final bag of vegetables from my farm, earlier in the week.  It’s not really “my” farm, but as an early member of Mountain Kind Farm in their first season, I have delighted in getting all of my vegetables, locally grown, just ten minutes from the house.  When the grandkids were here this summer, and we drove by the farm on our way into town, I told them to look out into the fields and see what was growing, and they loved to come with me to pick up our vegetables.  I think we had roasted carrots and cucumber salad every night for months, declaring they were the best we’d ever eaten.

I will miss these next five days of “spectacular late Fall weather”.  We fly out early tomorrow morning, for Cape Cod, to join friends who are flying in from Switzerland.  Like it is here at home, their summer people will be gone, and I except it will be quiet and similarly cool and crisp.  And, then, there is that smell of the sea, and I’m wondering if we’ll see the full Hunter Moon out over the ocean.  Since my time living in Boston, now forty years ago, I have a powerful affinity for New England.  I always thought I might live there again someday.  It was not to be, but occasionally, I’ve been fortunate to return for visits, and it always captures my heart, especially the quintessential architecture.  Once, I read a quote from an artist, who said she draws and paints that which she cannot have.  I could photograph one of those enchanting historic homes, or the seaside, and spend some winter’s day, trying to capture what I love, in a watercolor painting.

At a minimum, although I have been to this part of Cape Cod in the past, I could do what John O’Donohue tell us:  “The first time you see a place, take it all in, as you will never see it like this again.”  I thought about that quote when I was in Ireland, along the Flaggy Shore in September, and how important it is to take it all in, and to understand it’s useless to think you’ll capture it, for we are neither here nor there.


Postscript, by Seamus Heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open