Posted by: highmountainmuse | 25th Mar, 2011


Home. I breathe deeply of the thin mountain air, savor, and exhale slowly. I am home on this mountain so beautiful and silent and serene. Such a lovely land. How many come here to forget their worries and get away from it all in summer?

But now winter remains, and it feels cold and dark and I’m somehow longing for mud, and flowing waters, and sun on the back of my neck.

The sun will rise. I will walk the land. I will step outside and smell the purity of air and stare up at the growing light on the sturdy mountain and see the brightness and beauty again.

Like seasons that blow the leaves from the trees and winds that cover the tracks, the problems of the past will not remain. Really, how shallow are my concerns? I will ascend above the skeletons in the dirt, and climb the magnificent mountains that beckon me.

Posted by: highmountainmuse | 20th Mar, 2011

My moon

They said it was the closest the full moon would be in almost twenty years. We tried to watch it rise last night, over the mesa to the east. A halo on the peak brightening, lightening, a silver gold glow in the black ink sky. And then right as it was about to clear the ridge and show us her face directly, coyly she hid behind a heavy cloud and was gone. Just like that. As if someone flicked the switch.

This morning she was there, austere and aloof, low to the west. Though an intimacy grew as I stood with my coffee in hand, sweet and creamy, sipping by the sliding glass door, staring over the backs of the horses silhouettes, the peaks of the bald mountains, and asked for nothing. There, alone, the two of us, she faced me.

Was she closer? Did she appear bigger? I can’t say I saw a difference. What I can say is that I looked a little longer than I usually do. And you know, the longer you look, the more you see. , More. Deeper. Details. Lines and curves and subtle shadows I never notice before. And something more.

The importance of that little bit of rock reflecting the sun back down at us. And to think when I was a child, man had not yet touched her. She was still only a myth.

Our moon has since become closer, more manageable, understandable, real and tangent. Funny, though, how the mystery has not disappeared. Like fire, our innate intrigue does not dissipate with a grasping of the facts. It only goes a bit deeper, more personal.

My moon.

This morning I watched my moon, diffused behind the high clouds, set behind my mountain. Did your moon do the same?

Posted by: highmountainmuse | 19th Mar, 2011

Spring Prelude

The first of brown waters
Peering through thin cracks in endless white
The sound, a distant storm, rumbling uneasy
We stand on the deck to listen and feel the fury of the waking beast
As the mountain stirs about us
Shivering with expectation
Blood in the veins running wild
She slowly awakens
And the white walls that protect and surround us
The cracked shell of the growing revival
A covering that can no longer bear our weight
We do not fall far
Before settling on solid ground
The earth beneath our heavy boots
While vociferous winds with stories to tell
Turn us instead indoors
To consider the promise of a blossom yet unseen

Posted by: highmountainmuse | 15th Mar, 2011

I feel

My moods fluctuate with the wind and change just as quickly.

I am a kite caught in a whirlwind I cannot control. I seek stability but find none. Not within. Only around me in the solid rocks of the high mountain, the spruce trees that have endured how many seasons of storms, and the steady flow of the river.

I am not certain like the seasons. I am quick to cry. Slow to heal. I love fiercely. And see passionately. And give all I can to those I love most.

I feel too much.

I am here to seek a balance in a land more passionate and intense than me. I give myself to the mountain, my tears to the river, my rage to the wind, and for a moment, I feel nothing but the ensuing silence for which I have hungered.

Posted by: highmountainmuse | 12th Mar, 2011

Mid March

Aspen buds forced on my kitchen window

This morning I slept in. By the time I went out to feed the horses, spring had already arrived. The sun was warm and the air was easy. I walked Gunnar along our path through golden snow twinkling like a million diamonds and I felt very rich indeed.

The dormant season begins her end. Mountain awakes. I am reminded how wild our world is. Yesterday, the first squirrel. Then a skunk, left dead to a .22 in the chicken coop before the dog or playful colts could find it or we would find a dead chicken. This attracted a fox who climbed into the coop and chased off the chickens only to be tempted by the foul smelling carcass. And finally a pine martin. All this just yesterday.

I imagine it was the fox who took care of the stinky thing for us last night. This morning, the odor of ranch begins to clear.

On a walk this afternoon along a packed snowmobile trail. South hillsides trickle with the first melting, hidden under snow, exposed where rocks have opened to earth. An unfolding, unfurling of the season. A small secret we can find by sound. The drip drip drip we have not heard for months.

Around every tree bare dirt is rendered, relieved of its heavy load. And at the very top of one tree, a quick shiver of brilliant blue. A pair of bluebirds has returned.

Posted by: highmountainmuse | 11th Mar, 2011

This place

An excerpt from the introduction.

The place where I live is just east of the Divide along the start of the Rio Grande. A somewhat protected valley in the high mountains. A land feral, fierce, cold and stoic. Elevation: almost ten thousand feet. Population: three year round. Myself, my husband, our son. We’re not counting, of course, the assorted pets and livestock, and wild game that outnumber us a hundred to one.

The place where I live is two different worlds. That of the in season, and that of the out. I survive the in and savor the out, though numbers will tell you few feel the same. No one has lived here before, and once we leave, perhaps no one will live here again.

This place is surrounded by high peaks reaching well over thirteen thousand feet, enwrapping us in rugged arms. In winter, our nearest neighbor is miles and miles away. The nearest possibly plowed road, six and a half miles. Nearest paved road, eighteen miles. Nearest small town, thirty eight miles away. No phone, no on-grid power, no TV or traffic. I head to town but once a month, a two day ordeal involving snowmobiles, shoveling out the truck, busting through snow banks, and finally reaching the pavement that in itself looks like the end of the road to nowhere to some.

For half the year, we are snowed in. Our long cold winter turns this into a place of silence, solitude, untamed and unprocessed beauty, cold temperatures and the color white. Isolation and confinement are a part of our labored breath, though more comfortable for us than a forced or false conversation.

Posted by: highmountainmuse | 8th Mar, 2011

A little morning muse

It is black at first as I step out to call in the pup. I am drawn to the corner of the deck, my slippers silent in a dusting of fresh snow. Then the wide open pasture begins to show, emerging grey under the muted starlight behind heavy clouds. The ground spreads before me, an endless steal sea. I lean over the rail like the bow of my boat and look off into where the winds will take me.

There is no wind before the sunrise. My world is completely still.

Far off on the distant shore in the obscurity of the timbered hillside across river an owl calls. In this blackness, this whiteness, this big wide open empty frozen world.

Who? Who does he call to there so lonely when it seems like so long since I have seen heard seen smelled life in the shadow of day?

Posted by: highmountainmuse | 3rd Mar, 2011

On writing

I thought it would be easy. I write every day. Putting words and stories together in a book shouldn’t be that hard. I guess that’s why some folks go to college. Me, I got stuck living life rather than studying it. I wouldn’t trade a thing. Anyway, I can’t, can I? But getting the book together with my lack of knowledge is proving quite a challenge. Writing is only part of it. Then there is editing, editing, editing. And you know, I thought it sounded great the first time. Then you read it over, and it sounds terrible and you’re completely filled with that big black cloud that I’m great at dragging along with me call SELF DOUBT. Confidence is not my forte. And the process of critiquing my writing has been a good blow to what little confidence I had.

I’d like to look at this process as learning experience. So what have I learned so far? How much work my writing needs in order to be as good as I want it to be. And how much time things take when some of us want results yesterday. I wish I could say something like you can’t rush the aging of a fine wine, but I’m not going there.

Here’s how it worked. This time last year I was finishing the original manuscript. Later in the spring I sent it out to several literary agents. One was very encouraging, positive of my writing, but wanted me to refine the manuscript. After my family’s plans and thus a big part of my life fell apart later in the spring, I sunk and wasn’t able to see the trees for the forest, or something like that. I couldn’t get myself to edit my own work well. This winter I found an editor I decided to work with. A remarkable man with more knowledge and experience in writing and publishing than I will ever dream to amass. And for me, the most interesting and exciting part of working with him is that he speaks and writes with more grace and courtesy than I have read/heard in too long. A reminder of the choices we have in communication. Do we want to be curt and slang and casual? Or positive, inspiring, and polite? His words are always the latter. Always. And that makes hearing from him always something one looks forward to. Words like little blessings. That alone is an invaluable lesson.

He’s been helping me re-see the old work, and what I’m seeing is, it needs a lot more work than I was hoping for. I find myself re-writing about three quarters of what I already wrote. Like starting a new, but with the old stuff. Not quite as fun and exciting. Really, quite a challenge and a chore. But I am learning from it. I’m learning how much I do not know. And how much work my writing needs.

It’s growing. I’m growing. That’s a good thing. I should be done with this stage in the next month. And then… back to the editor in New York, and we’ll see what he says. Move on from there.

I’d like it to be done now. I’ve been ready to move on to the next book for some time now. Continuing to work this first one is like reliving the past, Groundhog Day, over and over and over again. It’s not a past I want to relive. No past is. I’d rather live today and look forward to tomorrow.

But ultimately what I want is good work. And I guess like that fine wine, it takes time. At least I don’t have to sit and watch the bottle age. I can be in the vat, mixing and stirring and making it happen. I’ve never been one to sit around and watch my life ripen. I don’t think it really ripens that way anyway, now does it?

I’m going to dive in. Sometimes it’s pretty messy. But look at it this way. At least it always gives me something to write about.

Posted by: highmountainmuse | 1st Mar, 2011

From a new perspective

I’ve stared into her eyes for nine winters, her and I alone in heavy winter moods. You would think I’ve seen it all. I would think I’ve seen enough. And just when I think I have, given up hope to see fresh and new, the light changes, subtle shadows, a change in clouds, a sparkle of sun on spring glazed snow that I’ve never seen before.

I see her now, not all anew, but from a new perspective.

An intimate view. I slow down and look closer. Fine details reveal themselves only with time.

In the early morning after a clean snow the trees sparkled with a hoar frost in a way I’ve never seen. Fine silver branches of the Aspen, delicate and intricate tips with the new sun just up behind them, setting them all aglow. The mountain sprinkled with diamonds. For a moment I felt like a princess dancing through the soft snow beneath my heavy boots.

Yesterday in an Aspen Grove. Snowshoeing up a silent trail. The old ones are dying. The largest of the trees finished playing out their part let loose of their bark and reveal their orange blood below, the demise of the old growth. The Aspen are never too old. Short lived trees. I am glad in a way as I see the passing of this generation of so many scarred with names and initials and dates of tourists who felt they mattered so much to the mountain to leave such a lasting mark, who felt carving into a living tree was somehow not the same as scrawling on a subway with spray paint. I fail to see the difference. Both selfish marks some stranger passing by had the ego to leave behind.

It is hard now not to be distracted. First light from the rising sun has topped the mountain to the east and is illuminating the uppermost stark white peaks of Indian Ridge and Pole Mountain. A pinkish layer of light. Off set dramatically against the steel grey sky behind. Another storm pours in form the west. A little more snow to add to our load.

How can I overlook each detail now in this silence? I remain in tune while I can hear.

Posted by: highmountainmuse | 23rd Feb, 2011

Continuing on ritual

beautiful photo by Bob, up by Kite Lake

It has been a few years, but still I fondly remember the mornings heading down the grassy hill with the clean steel bucket swinging alongside my rubber boots, dog by my side (he could keep up with me then) leading in the cow. Then resting my head against her warm brown flank, and setting down to milk.

My favorite part of having a dairy cow is what some folks say is the worst. The daily ball and chain. The day in, day out, heading down the hill to bring her in, wash her up, and sit beside her as you lean over to milk, warming your hands even on the coldest of mornings.


The rhythm of our day. A metronome pulsing in the background, mindlessly pacing us to keep up, keep on.

Something I could count on. Like the sunrise. Or the ticking of the clock.

For my child, chores have provided unspoken lessons of caring, of self discipline and responsibility, of humility. I don’t need to remind Forrest that the chickens are waiting to be let out in the morning or closed up at night. He has left the coop unlocked and knows the guilt and sadness of the resulting loss resulting from any one of the assorted predators that call the mountain home. He has let them free range on a day that was too quiet to keep off the coyote.

Remorse from his losses, affections from his nurturing, and pride as he comes in at night with pockets full of eggs, has taught him many of life’s most important lessons. Lessons learned better from his actions than from my words.

Like learning to take the eggs out of your pockets before you sit down.