Someone Said It Is Going To Rain
I think it is not so
Boozhoo! Aaniin! Welcome to another edition of An Irritable Métis. This one is something of a diversion because I’ve been relentlessly running back and forth across the Divide lately — Choteau, then Great Falls, then Great Falls again and Fort Benton — and I’d rather be a little less … irritable? Today at least (except on Twitter, that is, where my most extreme irritability is just a click away at any moment). I hope you still enjoy it. Meanwhile, if you forgot what all this is even about, or you’re new here, whatever, you may refresh your memory here. If you want to help keep a writer out of hard labor, well….
From the notebook, June 11th:
Third multi-hour trip north and east on Highway 200 in about a week. The route is green and lush in a way I can't recall seeing before; mist clinging to the trees and cliffs from a night-and-morning's worth of steady rain, the Blackfoot River brown and swollen and surging. At some point in the past three days a large rock about the size of a wheelbarrow has squirmed free of one such stretch of looming canyon — I suspect loosened by all the precipitation — to tumble down the slope and slam into the guardrail. Broken pieces of it are scattered all across the highway blacktop from shoulder to shoulder. Given its significant damage to the thick metal rail and heavy post buttressing it, it is fortunate that rock didn't take out a passing car.
Listening to the audio version of A.B. Guthrie's The Big Sky I can imagine what this landscape looked like before it all changed. Not just in the way it might have looked to Guthrie seventy years ago, but the near-to-two centuries since when the narrative takes place. Or at least I like to try and imagine it, which makes my time with the book, which I don’t much care for by the end of it, more enjoyable. There are still elk and deer and moose and mountain lions and bighorn sheep to be alert for, if far fewer of them. I still keep my eyes open, and am rewarded when Migizi makes an appearance soaring over Ovando. By the time I make it to Lincoln (somewhere near 90 minutes or so in) there are patches of blue sky, and with the retreating gray there looks to be fresh snow on the mountain peaks to the north.
Now I am waiting for breakfast at a restaurant called Lambkins. The coffee is middling but welcome, the dining area largely occupied by burly white men in camo-patterned caps muttering authoritatively about this and that. The one facing me has a grizzled beard and oxygen plugs in his nose connected to a tank on the floor beside him. I'm sure I could find common conversation with this crew but I suspect, based on the snippets of their words I catch, we couldn't be more different.
I like stopping at this place. The food — the breakfast especially — is good. There is a sentimental component to it too, meals I've shared here with others. Like Métis elder (and former Little Shell Tribal Chairman) John Gilbert, who I joined here for coffee last year. And my dad, at least one time, when we took a drive for no good reason, looked at the massive road-killed grizzly living on in taxidermy that has become a tourist attraction at the ranger station, and then stopped here for lunch.
While I reflect on all this a mostly-bald old timer from the Big White Beard Society enters, takes a table, and tells the server he's waiting for others. He's joined shortly by a tall, stocky, clean-shaven man with a buzz-cut, then finally by a third man, maybe my age or so, also impressively-bearded in mostly gray with lingering patches of pale red. He walks with a pronounced limp (not the only such affliction I've observed from patrons here this morning) and arrived in an older Ford F150 that is now parked not eight feet beyond the window I am seated beside. This pickup was once black, I think, but large faded spots edged with pale markings that resemble etchings of frost on a window speak to years under the sun. The running circles of flashing yellow lights from the restaurant's highway-side sign are reflecting on the truck's passenger-side front quarter panel. A red and white disabled parking permit hangs from the rearview mirror, authorized to "JJH."
It isn't a stretch to imagine the political sensibilities of this man, given where I am, and I imagine all his beefs with the government and the Democrats and dirty unAmerican socialists like me, but he isn't above a little government support when it comes to shortening his stagger from the parking lot. Still, I'm glad he has it.
Time to go. I pay with a c-note. Now the server is training a gorgeous young woman in jeans and a t-shirt, long blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail, with bright green eyes. The young woman counts my change back to me with only a couple stumbles, the older server looming over and behind her offering some coaching. A final swig of coffee, two of water, and I'm headed outside, where the rain has caught up to me, and I'm back on the road.
Friends, I have two things coming up under the auspices of Humanities Montana as part of their “Gather Round” program series happening this summer. Here’s the lowdown:
The National Endowment for the Humanities, on the approach of the 250th anniversary of the signing of this country’s founding documents, encouraged states to, as Humanities Montana’s Sam Dwyer explains, “nurture stories that have been ignored and buried, listen to the stories of the people who have always been here, tell stories of the environment, and raise up stories that lead us toward justice and a more perfect union.”
In response to this invitation, Humanities Montana has created an initiative – called Gather Round – to bring Montanans closer to place, history, literature, and meaning.
The first event is this week, June 16th, via zoom and it’s FREE!
If you want to hang out with me and some other people talking about this book, Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry, edited by Joy Harjo, then click THIS LINK to register. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the book, it will still be worth your time if you’re into this kind of thing.
The second event is July 1st, in person, in Choteau, Montana, with support from the Freeflow Institute, and it is also FREE!
This one has a limit on attendees, so if you think you are interested in attending don’t waste any time CLICKING HERE to register. It’s going to be a good one. Al Wiseman is one of our most treasured Métis elders and he tells great stories.
Whitefish Review Release Event
I have an essay being published in the upcoming issue of Whitefish Review and will also be reading at the release party for it. Here is the lowdown:
Whitefish Review will launch its 27th issue (“The Vortex”) on Thursday, June 23, 2022 at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, at the Tent Pavilion on the shores of Whitefish Lake!
The event will feature the poet laureate of Montana, Mark Gibbons, Montana Book Award winner, Chris La Tray, and Whitefish High School student Gracie Hickman, reading an essay about growing up and mental health.
Legendary singer John Dunnigan will provide live entertainment. Doors open at 6:30 pm for cocktails and music. Readings begin at 8 pm.
This should be fun too. From what I understand, the “Reading” part will be a moderated discussion with Gibbons and I, and we usually deliver a pretty decent show. If you are anywhere near Whitefish, I hope you can join us.
Poetry as Spiritual Practice
Still pitching this August 18 – 22 workshop, in person, in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park, under the auspices of Yellowstone Forever. You can dig the registration HERE. Here’s the lowdown:
The practice of quiet attentiveness and observation is critical to the writing and enjoyment of poetry, and a key element of what makes life living in many, many ways. It is a refuge for me. Perhaps it can be for you too. The course will include reading and discussing and writing poems from three (or more) points of reflection. In particular, impermanence, mindfulness, and joy, and how these ideas relate to a spiritual practice, regardless (or lack) of religion. The instructor's approach is deeply connected to the natural world, and there will be particular emphasis there.
There are still a few spaces left and I hope some of you can make it happen. I did a workshop for these folks in February and loved it. Summer will be spectacular. And warmer, which means more time outside. I can hardly wait.
Miigwech for hanging with me, friends….
An Irritable Métis is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.