Letters to Montana

Lessons in Landscape, History and Imagination

Archive for ‘October, 2014’

We’ve had a remarkably long fall–which I know has a few people feeling uneasy, but I will admit: I’ve relished it. I know that nature doesn’t pay me any heed, but I not-so-secretly believe that this fall is my reward for the two years I gave to Alaska, where summer is all too short and fall is even shorter.

Yet, even with the length of this season, my internal clock has been hounding me to get out and put the garden to bed.

Excavate the dahlia bulbs.IMG_7793

Harvest the tomatoes.

YOU KNOW! Hunker down for winter.

I found it easy to plant bulbs for next spring and cut back the hops, already done for the season. I got excited about mulch this year. Does that mean I am getting dull?

But, every time I went out to do the other thing–the killing thing–I found myself standing in the bath of light that comes with the autumn sun. I felt ablaze like the leaves of our locust tree; illuminated.

This autumn sun is more fitful than brazen, tossing and turning, scattering its treasure this way and that. And the thing is, I don’t want to do anything to squander the light, because all too soon, that sun is going to roll over and steal the covers. Gold blanket gone. Left with nothing but a thin white sheet.

So, that was my first excuse. I couldn’t bring myself to alter anything that swallowed that light. The still ripening sun golds, clustered on their vine, promised me a string of singular moments to carry me into winter, marked by smooth flesh on my tongue and sweet, sweet sugar to follow. The dahlias expanded–more vivid than my sister’s spirograph drawings–color bleeding from yellow to red daily, even as the nights got colder (and maybe because they did).IMG_8416

But the other excuse came from my gut. It kept saying that my internal clock was off, because every time I stood in the garden, poised to tear something out, it told me, “No!”

It’s true, I’ve always had trouble killing stuff, even if it’s for the benefit of other stuff (like the 5 million sunflowers that come up every spring that I have to thin out so the remaining 2,000 can flourish). But this was about more than that and I found myself letting the internal battle between the clock and the gut play out, every day–I found this pressure to sort it out.

And, then I didn’t.

Four days ago, I wandered out there again and I decided that it just wasn’t time, yet. That the season would decide on the time.


Flowers were still blooming.

Food was still growing–and nourishing us.


I love beauty and I love bringing it into the world for those around me.IMG_7849


It goes against my own nature to take beauty away.


In this world, where Nigerian girls fear a fate worse than death,

where men are murdered while guarding the dead,

where children wield guns because they feel no power

or they’ve come untethered from love

–In this world where we can’t seem to protect that which redeems us,

I wanted one more day of this beauty.

Who am I to take it away?

I can’t change so many things,

but I can try to be part of the balance to dismay. I can seek a path to equilibrium.

The killing frost came two nights later and my dahlia bulbs are drying on my living room shelf.

The calendula and pansies are still blooming–orange and purple splashes still swallowing golden light.

Sometimes my gut knows things before I do.

Leave a comment

We were married just over a month ago, when summer ran up against autumn and where the Great Horned Owl* makes its home.

I assume that we were no different than other people on the cusp of marriage in that we spent a fair amount of time considering what it actually means for us:

We, who in many ways, were already married.

We, who have the luxury of marrying for love.

But, arriving at this place, means in part, that we choose simply to navigate life’s mysteries together;

that we are committed to facing the unknown, side by side.

When marriage becomes a palpable thing, I believe that the moments of planning for the ceremony are as valuable as the ceremony itself, for they require that we distill the notion of ourselves as individuals and as part of a couple into words, while also fashioning tools that will help guide us through the journey of marriage.

That distillation process resulted in many gifts for us, but one such outcome was what I wrote for the opening of our ceremony. It was our call to gather, in the name of love:

Wedding Song


Photo by Pam Voth

Photo by Pam Voth

Science tells us that we are all made of dust from the stars.

We are all made from the same thing.


But, we already have proof of this.

Because our hearts beat like wings,

like branches bending in a steady wind,

like the tumbling and rolling of seaweed

rushing and retreating from shore.


That’s why your voiceIMG_7463


a swarm of bees

humming against my breastbone;

their small bodies


with wild sunshine

and giving rise

to music we know

from a time before our birth.



That’s why,

when we wander into the forest

at dusk

the boulder turns into bear

and elk song

into symphony.


We’ve watched water

in a luminous creek

slide across stone

and we’ve sensed

how the stone must feel

under that constant

cool, caress.


We’ve achedIMG_7635

beneath the sky

while birds soar

and dive;

playing games far above

calling in high,

haunting song.


We know that we share

a space

more expansive than breath;

that blood may bind us

but energy defines us;


IMG_7079that whenever we are lost

we need only listen

for the rumblings and rhythms

that rise

from the soil.


We need only press our hands

into the flanks of the ponderosa pine.


We need only search for the flicker

of starlight

in another’s gaze.


Because our animal wisdom

calls to us

as a great thirst;


for kindness,

for patience,

but also for acceptance of

infinite mysteries;IMG_7112


for recognition of ourselves

in all other life,

so that we may fulfill our greatest purpose:

To Love.


* I don’t follow AP or Chicago style when it comes to naming other animals. We all get capitalized!!

**All photos not credited are Danielle Lattuga’s photos. Copyright 2014

Leave a comment