Stretching my horizons, heart and stomach

The once-in-fifiteen-year snowstorm happened while I was in Paris....twice...! Traveling is damn good for....everything...!  The opportunity to go to Paris was totally unexpected and lucky-for-me travel expenses were in a large part paid for as I was asked to speak to youth at a business school (one of my favorite experiences from the trip).  My first day in Paris at Muse d'Orsay and my final day in Montmarte were my two favorite days with plenty of goodness (and LOTS of art) in between.  I was struck down by food poisoning one night.  The attack was intense enough that I passed out and hit my face on the way down (in my hotel bathroom) but once again luck was on my side as the black eye from the fall waited until I was on my way home to "bloom."  Although the attack was violent and I was alone, it was rather quick-lived and I was able to recover and resume Paris goodness.  Plus a good friend from home arrived in Paris with her friend at about the same time as the attack so Raymond knew that if I had to be taken care of then she would step up and mother me.  While in the bathroom (for the second time) of the Museum in Monet's house (I was still recovering) I remember thinking happily how I was sooooo inspired all I wanted to do was draw and draw and draw (and then I remembered that is all I wanted to do before I left for Paris).  I laughed out loud.  Happy as hell.


The legendary Fred Becky (and little o'l me)

Patron Saint of the Dirty Sock Club, Fred Becky dosed my life with inspiration right at the budding beginning of my intoxicating love affair with ice climbing. Super lucky to have shared a few days, a few meals, lotsa stories and some unforgettable pitches of ice with the legend when he was 83 or 84 years old.  He kept after it, climbing rock and mountains for yet another decade before he passed away in October.  One of highlights of the Bozeman Ice Festival last weekend was the screening of “Dirt Bag - The Legend of Fred Becky.”

Meeting Fred and viewing the documentary has spurred me to step up my game - both inside the studio and outside in Momma Nature.

Bison Bench - thankful thoughts on Thanksgiving Eve

Hardly a week goes by without a photo arriving from bison bench fans:

Generous supporters made it possible to donate the much-loved sculpture to our welcoming airport. I remember plunging my hands into a five-gallon bucket of ice water to ease the pain and prolong my ability to carve around the clock during the hottest months of summer in the air-conditionless studio downtown sixteen years ago. The intense deadline and the challenge of creating a three-dimensional relief carving from black walnut was challenging to say the least - but frankly so was the task of fundraising to place the sculpture in the airport since asking for help is far from my comfort zone.

The photo on the right was taken by Raymond early in the morning last November after I had pulled another all-nighter with final preparations for my first of three trips to carve for the king of Bhutan. I was weary and anxious, excited and curious - much like I feel before embarking on any new adventure inside or outside the studio.

The eve of Thanksgiving seems an appropriate time to share my gratitude for all of you who support me in various ways.  Your support makes my creative life possible.  Thank-you!

Dear mother

My wedding dress lay on the pillowed wicker love seat in the corner of our bedroom where my husband had taken it off me a few nights earlier. Unopened wedding gifts piled on and around our dining room table amidst the clutter of days and nights entertaining guests, the wedding preparations and my bridal bouquet. One year ago today I packed my bags, loaded the truck and drove the pass to be with mom. She'd miraculously held on to life, rallied broken bits of her mind to be present at my wedding. Earlier that morning Mom told Debbie she was scared. Debbie comforted her with bible verses; a gift powerfully perfect as the verses wouldn't have been in my bag of tools. I dropped my belongings behind the pretty rose quilted king size abandoned bed and curled up next to my impossibly tiny mother, held her hand and napped with her. Little red rosebuds sprinkled the sheets we'd purchased for her hospital bed. The rose sheets would be washed and re-washed, the hospital bed moved from the bedroom to the living room, mom carried in my arms between rooms. Seven days and nights I kept vigil, the angel sisters Debbie and Linda by our side. Mom became smaller, then smaller still. Memories of horrifically difficult moments haunt me, vivid in detail, laden with emotions and smells. Delicate slices of pure grace memories fill me with gratitude. Sincerely a privilege to tend my purple-glitter-toed mother. Dear soul. Sweet beauty.

A rabbit for a prince

I leapt into the project the morning after my arrival as if jet lag wouldn't catch me.  The weather has been unseasonably COLD since my arrival in Bhutan.  After two days at the job site finishing the panel with the snow leopard I carved last year, I got sick.  But I continued carving the little rabbit cheered me up as I struggled to carve in the cold with a cold and very little good light. [embed][/embed]

Time warp in Bhutan

These little beauties enthusiastically walked me the last 1/2 mile "home" to Risum yesterday afternoon. They asked me to sing them a song so I sang "Puff the Magic Dragon" - which they said was "a very beautiful song." image

Had fun coaxing this little rabbit out of the wood - a gift for Crown Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck (who celebrated his first birthday last month)

Two weeks have leapt, spun, crawled, tickled and tortured me since I left Montana to embark on the second chapter in the carving project for the king of Bhutan.  Time is a trickster.

Can I just say...."PHEW?!"  Today is my first day off since I arrived.  Unseasonable cold, wet and snowy weather challenged me to the max since I am carving outdoors and have only natural light to see by (not because electricity and light don't exist in Bhutan but because the only artificial light source is florescent which doesn't work at all when carving relief - besides the fact that florescent light literally makes me crazy).  I woke my third morning here with a nasty cold after two bone-chilling long carving days.  Luckily the cold waited until after dinner with the governor in his home before it clutched my innards, clogged my lungs and zapped my bones.

But I kept carving.  I even crammed two sawhorses into my room to carve with more warmth in near darkness next to the window while snow blew sideways outside.

Magic, happiness and soul food are fast friends in this magical kingdom.  But a few days ago I found myself pushed to a tender edge - raw and emotional.  Fragile.  I desperately needed a break before I broke.  My dear friend Dilu offered me refuge at the splendid Druk Hotel which he manages in Thimphu.  After a breath-taking and life-threatening 3 hour steep narrow mountainous ride I arrived weary and teary in Thimphu to the delight of finding a claw foot TUB in my room. Sweetness and relief (tubs are rare here). I awoke early this morning cocooned in sumptuous comforting sheets, serenaded by city dogs enthusiastically barking their Sunday morning "revival meeting."   I am calmed by the elegant beauty and healing tones in my spations well-lit warm room - full of gratitude.  This gift of a room is like a light sponge cake slice of heaven. Pure delight.

Five decades...?!!!

Super tough socks gift with a guaranteed lifetime warranty for the birthday girl... When you get carded at the liqueur store buying goodies to celebrate your 50th birthday AND the memorable weekend away brings lots of warm fuzzies and fond memories shared with my husband (who spoils me) his folks (who are family) and friends (the best).  Plus an extra bonus day celebration President's day when twelve girlfriends soaked with me at the Boiling River while wearing lingerie... (lotsa giggles and goosebumps)

Sparking possibilities...

I see sparks and joy... She was very shy but circled closer and closer once her brother excitedly told her what I was up to. I'm not certain but several of us us discussed it and believe I am the first female to carve in Bhutan. The beautiful fairytale Himalayan country is impressively embellished by a long history of traditionally trained carvers. One of the caught this candid moment while he was on a ladder outside:

Lofty Heights and Soulful Depths

Two weeks of spiritual, artistic, scenic, meditative inspiration and healing.  I feel more-than-blessed. I laughed. I cried. Humbled. Empowered. I felt. So MUCH on my pilgrimage hike to Tiger's Nest


What a happy lot of giggling good energy - the staff at Risum Resort.

While I have zillions to share and stories abound - my internet time is limited.  Although internet is more accessible than one would think in this remote Himalyas valley, I am most often without the internet (which quite frankly is totally ok with me).  Contradictions abound and astound - but rather than being frustrated, I am amused.  For instance, plumbing in my room at this quaint resort freezes each night yet the beautiful staff girls who dote on guests who sing to themselvehave their own cell phones.

Today I completed the design for my carving.  Phew!  I say "Phew!" for several reasons.  I am rather out-of-shape creatively since life events and PTSD from the dog pack attack last year have kept me from creating.  Then too - EVERYTHING here is different.  Even simple things which I take for granted back home (like paper) are cause for a convoluted treasure hunt.  Don't get me started on tools....!  Well just to give you an idea -  back in Montana I pulled the aluminum framing square out of my suitcase at the last minute when Raymond insisted that certainly framing squares exist in Bhutan but it turns out "not so much" (the standard Bhutanese answer for many inquiries).  But I love it. 

I am slurping up the vivid culture like a hungry child.  Total immersion (another reason why blog-time hasn't happened much).  But I do manage Instagram and Facebook posts nearly daily so please follow me there.  Even if you don't participate much in either Social Media worlds, everything I post is public so you can follow and look freely.  The Bhutanese people are not slaves to time - "maybe after sometime" is also standard response - to everything.  

I like it.  Meanwhile, I will write another blog post sometime.  Maybe.  After.  Some.  Time.


Off to adventure...

Blurry-eyed and anxious Soooooo...... Best intentions of keeping you up to date literally slid sideways as a careless driver T-boned me when running a stop sign in an intersection, totaling my truck, battering my body and rattling my core just one day before the dedication party for the Bison Bench at the airport and five days before departure on the BIG adventure/Bhutan project.  Raymond took this photo of me at the airport early the morning of my departure to Bhutan:

My husband the bullfighter

Dust. Snot. Sweat. Dirt. Skill. My husband is a bullfighter (as a hobby) which means he gets paid to protect the fellas who ride bulls. Raymond simply loves impressive bulls - especially a rank pen of bulls bred to do what they do with impressive aptitude and cunning. Raymond cares about the peeps who attempt to ride bulls and he's gotten so damn good at bullfighting in the years we've been together (as his wife I believe I can brag 'tho Raymond is humble and would never brag).  His cousin John Ansotegui put together this short sharp video recently from a local event.  Raymond is wearing a black hat and blue shirt fighting bulls with a  young partner named Ty Simenson.  Raymond's little grin at the end makes my heart flutter... [embed][/embed]

Ritual for Cliff

Arms around Wynn, the river at dusk A big bird landed with a loud flutter in a tree at dusk Sunday night. "Is that an owl?" Wynn asked. The calm strong HOOT answered her question and sent a flood of warmth into numb cold-with-grief bones. We had just turned back from the river after sharing yet another crying session. Cliff grew up on the banks of the Yellowstone - the river his backyard. Literally. One spring he and I waded the river with furniture over our heads when it flooded his parents' house. Dinner by the river was Raymond's idea. "The owl will be here when we return," Raymond said with confidence when our waitress announced with a friendly yell that our appetizers were ready. We climbed the stairs to our table outside the Yellowstone Valley Grill and shared a meal so impressively delicious it coaxed joy into deep sadness. We celebrated our love of Cliff and his love of life. After dessert the three of us walked past the fire pit to the bank of the river. The owl hooted in darkness, we lit candles, Raymond pulled off his boots, waded into water more-than-refreshingly cold and launched the floatilla crafted with love. I marveled at the magic of place, the strength of love, the ability to endure and the encouraging enchanting befitting presence of the owl.

Meaningful objects with Cliff energy and so much love

Floatilla on the banks of the Yellowstone

Radiate Confidence

  I have tagged peaks in the Tetons several times, including one traverse where I tagged three of the tallest (including the Grand) in one expedition

Many years ago someone from the Oprah Network wanted me on their show called, “Fearless Women.” I laughed. I am anything but fearless. I told them they should name their show “Gals with Gumption” to honor those of us who pursue our passions despite our fears. You can watch a five-minute segment from the show here:

On the summit of Mt Rainier

Compelled to explore - I push boundaries and scare myself. I have been shipwrecked on a Mexican island, stepped on by a bear while sleeping alone in the backcountry, nearly blown off the top of Mt Rainier, flipped in Class Five rapids and completely mesmerized while climbing frozen waterfalls. Do you feel tempted to embolden yourself and step up your participation in a more adventurous life?  If you are inspired, sign up for the FREE online Radiate Confidence Summit to hear from me, Katie and a whole line-up of remarkable women.

Radiate Confidence

Yellowstone Art Museum Auction

Bunny ring and lace.. “Secret Miracles at Work” – my very first tree reliquary sculpture created years ago has been shown recently at the Yellowstone Art Museum in the exhibit leading up to their annual auction fundraiser. Raymond and I “gussied up” and had a blast at the auction Saturday night. The theme was “fire” (which I LOVE on lots a levels). The food was amazing (ask Raymond about the impressive BIG bowl of bacon at one of the buffets). Art auctions can be a bit stressful on donating artists but I felt quite “zen” about it that night (not always accomplished by me). Mostly we enjoyed the energy of being around artists and collectors in the museum community.

(I got the sweet bunny ring in Panama - love'n it SO much I might have to start collecting bunny rings)

HATCH Latin America

Yarrow Kraner, the mastermind behind HATCH on the outdoor jungle stage sharing his unique self and thoughtful vision What happens when a thoughtfully curated group of “Dreamers who Do” from fourteen countries go “off the grid” together in the jungle with intense authentic soul opening, heart touching, thought provoking agenda and integrated programs to “HATCH a better world?”


I have soooooo much to say!  Yet. I have no words…

(lots of goodness to process).  I am changed (for the better).  Full of gratitude...