Tomorrow I turn seventy. Scaling the heights or heading downhill? It depends on one’s circumstances and attitude. I’m one of the lucky septuagenarians, unlike my favorite poet Robinson Jeffers who wrote when he aged, “I cannot walk the mountains as I used to do.” That and the loss of his beloved wife Una just about did him in. I still have my beloved Jerry, and if no longer able to reach the top of my mountains, I can still walk them in grateful awe.
I can appreciate the arrival of spring when winter melts away, and ice doesn’t render a pratfall no longer funny, but potential disaster. Contemplating seasons in life and nature, I’m more sharply aware than ever of how I appreciate each of the four as they appear and slip away. I love the blue sky of spring, but in late summer I watch for its paling into Faulkner’s Light in August.
So, keen to remind myself how boundless life can be in any season, I resolve to do seventy fabulous things in my seventieth year starting tomorrow.
See you in the mountains.
Spring comes late to Montana and often, it doesn’t feel like spring until mid to late May. But suddenly, when everything goes green, trees with blossoms bloom pink and white, bears come out of their dens, the robins get fat and squirrels get busy, one of the things I look forward to is the return of the hummingbird. Some fly more than two thousand miles after wintering in South and Central America, some of them soaring over the Gulf of Mexico.
Last summer, I wrote a blog about a hummingbird who got trapped in the house we were building and couldn’t get out. We had to capture him with a net to save him and set him free. I ended up finding a metaphor in that story of the hummingbird bashing against the window trying to break out. I compared it to my attempts to break into the world of traditional publishing – the endless queries, the rejections, the reworking and revising of the queries and the opening pages of the book, hoping to find a break.
By October, I had two offers for my psychological mystery set in Glacier Park and was thrilled beyond words. I am still over the moon about it. But I used to think that all I wanted was to get published, and I’d be satisfied. But now I realize I am much greedier than that. I find myself wanting not just for the book to come out, but for it to succeed. I want the next book I’m writing to succeed as well. And by success, I simply mean I want those books to eventually be in the hands of as many readers as possible.
So for me, once again, it is easy to use the hummingbird as a metaphor. For a writer, the journey doesn’t end with getting published. Like these vibrant-throated birds, the journey is only temporarily over when they get to Southern Mexico. There might be some resting time, but they journey back and forth from start to finish, from finish to start, over and over again. And what an exciting journey it is.
Have a wonderful spring and thanks for stopping by!
P.S. You can attract hummingbirds to your yard with red, tubular flowers that offer nectar.
“And there will be other days and other ways and other months of April.”
Author Nan McKenzie, April 21, 2014
‘And the voice of the turtle dove will be heard throughout the land.’
This quote from the bible is inscribed on my father’s tombstone. He often quoted it as the April full moon came out, along with, ‘And the voice of the turtle dove will be heard throughout the land.’ April was his favorite month, with great promise held in the lighter days, new sunshine heating up the ground to prepare it for the many flowers he would plant, adding color to our cabin camp on Whitefish Lake. As soon as the ice left the lake for good, he could launch The Ranger, the 40-foot excursion boat he had built to carry “dudes” around the perimeter of the lake two to three times a day in high summer.
Mom, my sisters and I, would begin scrubbing the drive-in grille, the concession stand at Bay Point Drive-In Theatre, and the cabins on the lake. Excitement for the busy coming summer began building, even the trees and bushes did their parts, suddenly turning up green after a heavy April rain that caused squishy worms to leave their underground homes and wriggle along the ground.
We’d turn over the two rental inboard boats and three aluminum canoes that were lazing on land next to the dock. The metal canoes were the first of their kind, (Daddy named them for Egyptian kings), and it took several summers before some people would trust them enough to not sink, thinking that the metal was too heavy to float.
In April, Dad liked to call us outside to see the new buds on the many trees around our log house on the lake, and to notice the bright green grass poking heads up to check out the weather. He’d take the big truck with a trailer hooked to the back down to Big Arm to pick up our thirteen horses, which had wintered over in the better weather on the Flathead Reservation. The horses were used for dude rides along the east shore of the lake. Sometimes, Dad would use The Ranger to haul tents and camping gear to the head of the lake, and set up for the tourists to ride in by horseback to spend several days. A helper would take the horses back to the barn while the campers enjoyed several nights under the stars, congregating every night around the campfire. He’d pick them up in The Ranger and bring them back, sunburned, tired and happy.
The first day of spring is one thing, and the first
spring day is another. The difference between them is
sometimes as great as a month.
Henry Van Dyke (1852–1933)
Springtime in Montana can be both a pleasure and a pain. You can go to bed having enjoyed a bright sunny day with temperatures in the mid 50s or 60s, and wake up the next morning to discover you’ve got to dig out that snow shovel again.
Spring is also the rainy season in Montana. The rain is a welcome sight because those of us lucky enough to live in this beautiful land know that every drop of rain we receive helps to lessen the chance for summer wild fires. And for families like mine who depend on a well or developed spring for water, more rain means less chance of dried up wells. However, if you have children or inside pets, more rain means more mud tracked into the house. Don’t worry, this too will pass.
You never know what a Spring Day in Montana will yield, so when you come for a visit or holiday, bring clothes that you can layer throughout the day. We have a saying about Montana weather that if you don’t like this weather, wait five minutes or go five miles and you’re likely to find a change. But whatever the weather brings, I know you’ll be awed by the beauty of this treasured land called Montana.
Thanks for stopping by,
By Ann Minnett
What announces the coming of spring more vividly than bird migration?
Specific to NW Montana is the return of Canada Geese and a little farther to our west, Snow Geese. Some Canada Geese (aka Canadian) stay in our neighborhood to lays their eggs and raise their goslings until the whole family is able to fly north. I took this photo much later in the spring last year. (Eleven babies!)
Last week we visited an area 30 miles from Great Falls to view the migration of Snow Geese—our first time. The area’s shallow lakes annually host many thousands of Snow Geese stopping to rest and feast on nearby barley fields. We met a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks ranger who filmed the birds’ undulating lift-offs with a camera lens the length of my arm. This lucky man’s job is to travel around Montana and capture its amazing wildlife on video and in still photos. He said we were in the right place on the right day but the wrong year because the lakes had refrozen a few days earlier. Not as many geese stopped this year due to the ice. Still, the sights and especially the sounds were impressive. Oh, to have had the ranger’s lens! My photo below screams for more power. We’ll see about that when we try again next year.