February 28, 2009
Thus the dilemma of living in a beautiful place when Momma Nature beckons on a glorious Saturday morning dressed in her finest tantalizing outfit to come out and play BUT the same sunshine which highlights the fresh sequined snow also beams in through windows and lights up dust bunnies big enough to make slippers out of.
Seems my quaint little cabin in the woods should have a batch of tweetering chubby cheeked birds and scampering chipper little forest critters to take care of the chores for me. If my part of the cleaning scene including singing like Cinderella…well…that thought just burst the bubble on a rather colorful animated fantasy. So here I am, wind chimes with their cathedral-like ambiance, sunshine, and the fur of one cat, one dog, and myself (I shed worse than the two put together) to tend to. But before I drag out my little purple vacuum, let me tell you a bit about a beautiful little detour I took last night after attending an art opening at the Holter Museum in Helena. I’d made the two hour drive to Helena in the late afternoon on dry roads punctuated by the customary stop at the junction of I-90 and 287. The junction is just that, a junction…not a town…nor is it near any town but it has a gas station, a bakery, and a strip joint complete with a sex toy store. The bakery is a “must stop” for two reasons: 1) everything is baked with flour from wheat grown in the surrounding hills 2) the ladies who work there are like a batch of aunts and grandma’s who bake and serve with the kind familiarity of a church picnic. (a third reason would be the cinnamon scones, or the best macaroons in the world, or the homemade biscuits with sausage gravy, or the desert-plate-sized cinnamon rolls of four or five different varieties, or the sack lunches, or…ok…see?!...must…stop). Munching on a warm cinnamon scone, I admired the late afternoon pastel painted sky, saw more antelope than you could count, and marveled at the huge frozen lakes while driving across country to a museum. Cliff called just as I was leaving Helena. He wanted me to look at the moon and the bright spot next to the moon which he said was the space station. The moon appeared as a paper cut out and the space station was brighter than any planet or star; a fact I found both a bit thrilling and totally disturbing. The night drive was uneventful, not even a deer in the headlights. Sometime around 10 pm I got a phone call and an invitation to visit a friend, so while distracted, I had one of my admit ably frequent blond moments and took the wrong exit onto Churchill road thinking it was a shortcut at a junction closer to Bozeman. The slender paved road ambled on past farm buildings, cottonwood trees, and the occasional oversize mailbox before it began to dip, roll, and wind through two sweet little rural communities. Small houses nestled close together with warm lights glowed invitingly. Each small community had an impressively large lit up church. The feeling of “wholesomeness” wafted in the chilly night air as I looked into living room windows with simple furniture and walls full of framed pictures. Barn after barn caught my eye as potential perfect studio spaces. I am drawn to the classic farm outbuilding shapes and have no intention of building a big square box studio. I visualize variations of barns as the ideal exterior for the studio I plan to build here on the mountain. Peering at the buildings in the moonlight, I had the same overwhelming variety of choices as if I were standing back at the bakery trying to make up my mind as to which treat to indulge in. Each offered different potential and nudged me with an odd familiarity. I believe the familiar feeling was linked to an idea I had fourteen years ago. When I set out after graduating from college I hatched a plan; once cold temps and shorter days ended my summer job as a wilderness ranger, I would drive to little communities in Montana and seek out a widowed rancher or farmer’s wife who needed help around the place in exchange for a bed and a barn or shop complete with her late husband’s tools to use and plenty of time to create sculptures. Depending on how deep my well of optimism flowed as I pondered my possibilities, sometimes the widow would be well educated and spry with a deep rooted love of art coupled with an insatiable desire to travel the world. She would actually pay me to be her companion. We’d settle down between trips at the picturesque ranch or farm for long periods each year during which I was free to create art. The memory of that very real fantasy swung along with me as I lightly zipped and rolled over the snow covered hills and hugged curves in creek bottoms. The sky felt friendly and inviting; like an exotic sparkly canopy the heavens shimmered with stars and a space station. Zaydee looked out the window attentively with expectation; I matched her mood and laughed out loud, wondering where the road led but never actually feeling lost.