Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

...because some of it is pretty and some of it is not.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Single Daisy

The other day, while wandering near our Hogum Creek cabin, I found at the spot where, two years ago, my wife broadcast a handful of domesticated flower seeds, a single daisy exploding loudly white against the lightly swaying Timothy. The single blossom was held high as a plate stiff-armed above a crowd by a waiter passing through a bustling room. I felt convinced, at the time my wife threw the seeds to the open elements, that none of the sissified flower-box exotics would survive the uncertain summers and harsh mountain winters there at the feet of the Continental Divide. I believe I told my wife something about having better luck broadcasting the seeds across the highway to Lincoln. “Try that,” I think I pronounced with appropriate finality.

“Something will grow,” she assured me with certainty as she pitched a mist of seeds.

My wife nearly always proved correct.

I said to the daisy when I found it, “Hello, Uyen,” and I stood with the flower for quite a while, allowing the shadows of clouds to drag right overtop me after watching them rove down though the open parks and forests above the narrow mountain valley. The air smelled of some sweet flower or tree I could not name and I could hear the creek murmuring along the overhang banks in the meadow beyond. The daisy blazed white against the tame green of tall grass. Standing there, I needed to admit to myself that being wrong about that flower surviving felt better than being correct about anything I could readily remember.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where the Day Ends

Another picture taken from my back yard at the calm end of a long day.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Some Luck

I girl-cleaned my house early this morning. If that statement sounds derogatory in any manner to you, let me allow that my meaning is every bit the opposite. Girl-cleaning is deep cleaning. This means lifting all of the rugs before sweeping. Girl-cleaning requires mopping floors, scrubbing the toilet with cleaning agents scented like lemon or pine, putting out new towels—the works. My standard boy-cleaning is something slightly less than that. Okay, if you wish to get all word-smithy and technical, boy-cleaning is a whole lot less.

In boy-cleaning mode, I quickly wipe around everything sitting on the tables and countertop, never bothering to lift the toaster or spice rack or anything else to catch below or behind. When dusting, I tend to tap at everything with my Swiffer—almost the gentle way you expect a good-fairy to tap her magic wand—hoping the dust will vanish. I have toyed with the idea of duct-taping rags and feather-dusters to my cats so I might enlist their help, but, ultimately, I fear that this might be the one application were even duct tape might fail. Cats are tenacious and really whiney. Duct tape is no match. In boy-cleaning: I engage in sweeping only. No mopping. Boy-cleaning is quick and, well, I suppose efficient might be a stretch. The point here is the effort, not getting your house clean in any technical sense.

While cleaning our entry this morning, I found under the throw there, the three Chinese coins Uyen always left hidden underneath. The coins, three brassy-types with a square hole in the center, are all evenly spaced on a length of red ribbon that has been fished through their centers. Uyen placed them at that spot for good luck. I’m not certain if this good luck token stems from feng shui or from some other cultural sensibility found her South-Asian upbringing. I have, in similar fashion in my house, crystals and chimes dangling over doors, a mirror on the eve outside facing the road, beds facing specific directions, and strict orders to never set shoes on a table. She thought these placements and habits very important. And, dammit, if she thought them important: they are. I have not changed any of these things since her passing. But today, when I bent and lifted the ribbon, one of the coins tankled ever so lightly back down to the tile, broken into three distinct continents. I did not place the remaining two coins under the throw after cleaning, fearing that only two coins might somehow be wrong luck under there. I now have the two coins hanging from a plant stand near the front door. I am hoping my guessing at luck with two of them is better than no luck at all.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, August 26, 2011

Electrical Theory

Benjamin Franklin was first to described electricity, in the form of lighting strikes, as a “flow” of energy. He called lightening “electric fire,” and thought the stuff a sort of fluid, as did most people at that time. Franklin was also the first person to ascribe “positive” and “negative” to the yet unknown forces triggering small static and huge lightening discharges. Franklin tried to capture lightening in a Leiden jar, something of a crude “battery” (which is another term fist coined by Franklin), with his famous kite experiments. Fortunately, for both Ben Franklin and the jar, the experiments produced only in minor success so far as attracting a big bolt of electric fire. Franklin, in a sense, was also the first person to electrify his home. He accomplished this by means of lightning rods (another Franklin invention) that he attached to the peak of his roof, tied to some bells, and then “grounded” (his term) to the earth with a driven rod by means of a wire. After so wiring his home, Ben promptly shipped-off to diddle around with aristocrats in Europe, leaving his wife at the home alone with his new experiment. Every direct lighting stroke thereafter caused the bells to clamor mightily and sometimes caused great showers of sparks. He learned, among other things, that it is possible to make inventions which will actively annoy your wife even while you are away. We still use Franklins lightning protection systems to this day, though attaching bells is no longer advised. Annoying your wife is always a valid option.

A fair amount of mystery yet remains in the exact mechanics regarding the flow of electricity. At present, electrical theory allows for two explanations in describing the flow of electricity: conventional flow and electron flow. We must be cautious about getting all sciencey here. To begin, we need to first recognize that positive is used to describe electrons or a place where a bunch of electrons are hanging out together like gangs in seedy neighborhoods, just waiting to bust a move. Positive is a hole where an electron would nicely balance everything in the atomic sense. Positive, in this sense, is a kind of absence, like a place with no beer. Conventional theory assumes that electrical current flows from positive to negative, which is kind of weird, because that ultimately means the flow is the direction of holes travelling in the circuit. Electron theory, contrarily, presumes that current flows from negative to positive. Here we follow the electrons as they rush from a place (potential) of over-abundance and try to fill holes.

Electron flow is the one that rings my bells.

Point is—and I do have one—we really don’t fully understand everything. We use electricity. We make electricity glow, run, juggle, play the fiddle, and lift whole cars, but still we guess at some of the basic facts. As an electrician, I needed to choose a theory for my understanding, so I grabbed one. I probably think about this theory more than I should. Though I have been in the electrical industry for nearly thirty-five solid years, I remain ever fascinated by the stuff. And I have gone so far as to try and apply electron flow theory to all aspects of my life. I seek to always draw away from the negative and find the most positive place.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Action Rubric (For Your Behavior Today)

At each station in the rubric below, choose only one of the three listed actions and then progress to the next station. Proceed to the end of the rubric to determine your actions for the day. Good luck with your day!

A. Grab someone:
1. You love
2. You like
3. Who reminds you of your grandmother

B. By the:
1. Hand
2. Arm
3. Something unmentionable

C. Tell them:
1. You feel great
2. You just purchased Vincent van Gogh’s (OPTION) ear or self-portrait
3. You need to be sexed-up

D. Then:
1. Kiss them
2. Kick them
3. If you made a choice of “3” at the first station, you may exit here

E. And tell them:
1. They are the best
2. You are convinced that in a previous life you were a ripe watermelon
3. You think you kicked your grandmother a moment ago

F. Once you have done this, you must:
1. Run like hell
2. Wag your tongue
3. Hang your Vincent van Gogh portrait in the kitchen above the sink

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Not to Forget

A friend of mine took her two grade-school-aged boys to the summer Olympics the year the games were held in Atlanta. She drove them all the way from Montana, taking the larger part of two weeks for travel and attending the events. Upon their return to Montana, the father of the boys asked the younger of the two what he though about the trip. “Dad,” the boy answered without hesitation, “I had no idea there was so much corn growing out there.”

Clearly, a few details of the trip were lacking in the description provided by the boy—the long-drawn highways over the Great Plains, the lush hills rolling into the Ozarks, the moss-hung South, and the thunderous crowds cheering athletes on at the games, to name but a few details. I realize today that I made a similar error in how sparsely I described the lakeside celebration held for Uyen on Saturday last. I have thought about the gathering a great deal these last two days. Yesterday, driving home along the green windrows a freshly swathed alfalfa, I had to wipe tears from my face as I thought about everyone there. Not tears of sadness. Tears of joy.

We are rich in friends, me and Uyen. Gathered at the lakeside, dozens upon dozens of beautiful people. Children wading into the water at the lakeshore and splashing silver against the sun. Adults gathered under the giant golden willows and spilling cheerfully onto the docks and lawn. My sisters. Our daughter chatting with our oldest and newest friends, providing continuity. Val, who drove over one-hundred miles in each direction, several times every week, to visit Uyen when she was hospitalized in Missoula. Leo, who drove Uyen to town for doctors appointments weekly so that I could continue to work as she slowly battled back from the transverse myelitis that wounded her so hard. Ginny, who would do anything for Uyen. Scott, Kevin, Vicki and Vicki, Patti and Patty, Thao, and on so many dozen times. People who helped us build our house. Children who have now had children of their own.

How could I forget the most lovely and important part of this entire walk along the bottom of the big sky—our friends and family?

To all, forever, thank you! Love.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, August 22, 2011

Taking Measure

I woke early this morning, pulled myself upright, and sat there in my bed against stack of pillows supported by the headboard. For a very long time I remained in pure silence, gazing at a few random stars through my half-open window, thinking about yesterday, and all of the very dear people, the sea of sweet faces, who came to celebrate the life of my wife—our oldest and newest friends together. One of the faces came to me and said, “This is for you as much as Uyen. This is a testament to you, Mitch.” Until then, I never really considered that. I cannot fully explain, but this—today—feels like a new place where I must begin again without my best friend. Something important occurred yesterday.

Eventually, the sun scaled the far side of the mountains, flushing the cloudless sky orange, then white, finally, blue. Sometime later, the drone of a single motor boat Dopplered from one end of the lake to the other without pause, as if taking measure of the entire expanse. Long after that, the family presently sharing my house began to stir in all the rooms surrounding. A footfall here. Voices there, sounding like stones rolling along the bottom of a river. Cups kissing countertops. Plate clattering against plate.

At a younger age—for many years, actually—I suffered through depression. I bumped along the floor of this life, a maudlin little man. I have since taught myself how to avoid depression by devotedly focusing of all things mundane. I wipe the sides of the kitchen sink twice each day. I line my shoes along the wall in pairs. I stop to pat the head of each cat whenever I find one sitting atop a chair or standing at my feet. I vigorously brush my teeth and try to shave the one whisker John, at work, teases me about missing. I bring work home with me so I can always remain busy. I am not depressed. I am, instead, stuck at some numb point between happy and unhappy. I feel almost as if I have been captured in a clear jar for keeping. I have only my own name and rote habits left for default operation. I am pleased to have my house coming to life around me. I am. I do appreciate all of the dear people. I love them. But if that early morning boat was taking measure, I somehow feel just outside the results.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, August 19, 2011


As a general rule, I do not appreciate watching team sporting events. Football and soccer leave me particularly deadened. The last full game of football I watched was the first year the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl. I don’t recall the exact year, but I do remember my sister transforming into a fountain of tears and joy at the moment of victory. I cannot explain what I don’t get about these sporting events because, well, I don’t get it.

Except baseball.

I like watching baseball. My grandmother loved the game. I learned what I know of the game form her. I sometimes watched games on television with my grandmother. On occasion, I accompanied her to Legion ballgames in Helena. Granny loved those games where everything went awry, say, when every available pitcher put on the mound got clobbered out of the park by the batters and the coach, in desperation, shoved infielders and outfielders up there and let them toss an inning or two of wild pitches. Typically, the fielders did pretty well because the batters stood there in fear of their lives. My grandmother enjoyed a colorful player and the goofy rituals performed by some batters when they stepped up to the plate—the bat-swishers and spitters and three-time dirt-stampers.

Last night, I went to a Helena Brewers, Pioneer League game with all of my visiting family. Natural to this season, the Brewers should have just phoned-in a loss and saved the embarrassment, but even with that, I enjoyed the game. With baseball, I know what I like. For one thing, I appreciate the high level of fan participation—not only the standard heckling and stomping, but the fact that you can, as did my niece, catch a foul ball and take it home. I appreciate that every player has a specific identity by position played. They are equal part individual and team player. Baseball is also a game of distinct sounds. The umpires growling strike calls. The swack of a fastball finding the catcher’s mitt. The crack of a well-hit ball to the outfield. The fish-dropped-to-the-floor sound of a batter getting hit by a pitch. Last night, I even imagined the sound of my grandmother’s voice at times, cursing a player or umpire for their infractions.

I am not crazy about a baseball game. I would never consider a season pass. But I enjoy baseball enough game that I might attend one on occasion, and anything that takes me back to my grandmother is good.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Quote

"Though an old man, I am but a young gardener."

--Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


A close-up picture of the St. John Church near Boulder, Montana. I mean really, really close! I took the photo in yesterday's fading sun.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, August 15, 2011

On This Side

June, one of my coworkers, today informed me that she had a dream about one of my cats. “The fuzzy one,” in her words. She was similarly “fuzzy” on exact details. I had to tell that if the dream was something about him pooping in the bottom of the whirl-tub in my master bath—that was no dream. I actually had to clean that up on this side of her sleep early this morning.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I drove into the stone and tree mountainscapes yesterday to pick huckleberries with Bill and Miles. I tell anyone uncertain, but curious, about picking huckleberries that the most important thing to know is that huckleberries refuse to grow in an ugly place. No exception to that yesterday. We climbed high into the Rockies and began picking in a wide and handsome bowl, sparsely populated with tall pines and awash with pink-to-red fireweed and yellow brush-stokes of stickseed. The berries, unfortunately, were mostly green and not plentiful on the whole, so we began to slowly unwind down from the high elevations on a road the clings to the mountainsides like a crack on the side of a porcelain cup, always looking for berries.

We stopped often to scout the vividly green steeps and swales. I thought about my wife as we either rolled past or stopped to pick berries at familiar landmarks. When first diagnosed with terminal cancer, a bit over four months back, both of us agreed that we would be in the mountains together for this. Our agreement did not, as they say, hold water. In spite of that, I still found myself looking for holes and flats where Uyen, who could barely walk on bad days, might be eased into a productive swath of huckleberries. For the last ten years of her life, nothing brought more joy and excitement to Uyen than picking huckleberries. My habit, after settling her into a “honey hole” was to orbit all around, picking, keeping watch for grizzly bears, all the while calling out my location.

Yesterday, each time we stopped to scour the understory and half-light breaks in forest cover, I allowed myself to quietly scramble deep into the timber and deadfall. I struggled to keep myself from looking back.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shooting Star

My Sunday started with a quiet drive to Butte to visit with relations in from Illinois. Deadened from a week of travel and training in such things as trust fund fiduciary obligations, standards for apprenticeship, and disciplinary discharge from training programs, I simply did not feel like talking. While in Butte, we toured the World Museum of Mining, located on the site of what was once the Orphan Girl Mine—named such because the mine and her headframe (for dropping men and mules and equipment directly underground) sat so far apart from the cluster of other mines in the area. Though known mostly for copper production, the Orphan Girl expelled some 7,500,000 ounces of silver from her day of opening in 1875 until closure in 1956.

I enjoyed the museum for all the old equipment, with wheels as big as houses and gearboxes that might fill a living room. I liked walking through the old mining town, reconstructed on site, and the huge blue sky above us filled with roving clouds. Still, I remained pensive. Honestly, I felt a little empty and unable to focus on much of anything.

When I arrived home again, late in the afternoon, I gathered up the week’s worth of newspapers I missed and began to read through articles that captured my attention. Upon opening one of the papers, I saw a picture of some dear friends, Chuck and Esther, accompanied by some quotes from them. I read only a few lines, pleased to find my good friends there, talking about flowers and gardens, and then, in my excitement, I turned to my wife’s chair to share this with her.

Not there. Only an empty chair. For a brief snippet of time, for the length of time required to skip a shooting star across our atmosphere, I had my wife back with me. And I’ll be damned if that didn’t bring one of the only smiles I managed for the entire day.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, August 8, 2011


Military choppers brought down by rocket-propelled grenades in Afghanistan. Worldwide stock markets tumbling. The credit rating of the United States downgraded. Drought in the South. Famine in Africa. Rogue asteroids and doomsday comets streaking toward our planet from the vastness of space. Meanwhile, on my television, as if we don’t have enough to worry about, this big-eared fellow is telling me about the alarming number of right-handed batters up against left-handed pitchers in future baseball games. How shall we rest on this desperate night?

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Northern Lights

Somewhere above the Great Plains of North Dakota, our flight back to Montana slipped overtop a massive lightning storm. Below us, and extending northward to the horizon, black clouds pulsed and strobed with brilliant flashes of light from within, bringing startling depth and detail, in the form of white and blue thunderheads, before falling back to black again. The flashes from below caused the wings of our jet to wink platinum in varied cadence. Above the clouds, hard to our north, the northern lights appeared and rapidly fanned-out between the storm horizon and wide blast of stars above. The lights began to accordion back and forth, streaking upwards, dropping back again, dancing and swaying to sun-driven rhythms. Everyone peered out the windows.

We gradually drew away from the lightning and the aurora borealis. As the storm and the northern lights dissolved back into the night, lights below began to pool into familiar towns: Bozeman, Three Forks, and then Townsend. Our descent brought us into Helena and the mountains grew imposing as the lights rapidly gathered all around us. Home.

I woke today in my own bed with one cat sprawled on the blankets beside me, another hunched at the open door, and cool, pine-scented air spilling inside from an open window. After dressing and brewing coffee, I stood at my bay windows to appraise the coming day, as I so often do. Beyond the blonde and fading green of bunchgrass prairie, the russet-brown of raw earth where farmers have flayed their wheatfields to fallow, and beyond the up-rise of open foothills, the Elkhorn Mountains stacked together in bluish layers. Nearer, my Mayday tree seemed as if fluffing itself, shaking and preening its own branches the way a brooding partridge might. Only after closer observation did I finally see, within the thick mesh of branches and leaves, cedar waxwings, robins, and chickadees jostling back and forth, feeding on the ripening berries.

For a time, quite foolishly, I thought that I owned the Mayday tree. Not so. The tree, the soil that sifts through my fingers, my wife, now gone for these three solid months, the come-and-go storms, and the northern lights—none of these can be held for long. I thought again about the northern lights. Scientifically, the lights are the end result the place where magnetic lines of flux and charged particles dance together. Below all of that, where we live, that is another kind of dance, one where we must cling together for as long as we can.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, August 5, 2011


The National Training Institute I am attending is a gathering of people involved in the electrical industry from every state and much of Canada. Naturally, when you meet someone and make introduction, you tell them where you are from. I am astounded by how many people say, after I tell them I am from Montana, that if they ever moved from their present place of residence, Montana is where they would like to live.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Where Clouds Are Born

I am attending a week of training at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Yesterday, after eating dinner a few blocks off campus, four of us walked Huron Street back to our hotel during a rainstorm. Here, the rain falls straight down to the streets and buildings, steady and warm. As we walked, the people and small birds that perpetually fill the sidewalks, drew back under the canopy of either storefronts or trees. Above an old stone church, we saw a single cloud, much lower than the others, slowly spinning and tightening into a ball, pure white under the bruised underbelly of the stormfront. This low, treed place, pinched between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, just at the high and jumbled Rocky Mountain Front, is a place where clouds are born.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


As I studied my reflection in the mirror early this morning, again trying my damndest to comb order into my hair, I realized that, as of two weeks ago, I have become living proof that a man can survive a really bad haircut.

--Mitchell Hegman