Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Sun River (Part II)

The open prairie immediately beyond where the Sun River finally breaks free of the mountains and then weaves through drumlins and glacial scarps is no less wild than the mountain wilderness nearby. Colossal herds of elk rove the sunny rolls of grass where the Sun River Game Preserve extends across the plains. The area is famous for collecting the shed antlers of bull elk. Deer are equally common, and even grizzly bear can be spotted on occasion.

To reach the Sun River, we drove a truck through the summer-bleached plains up from Helena under a hard blue arch of mostly cloudless sky. My sister insisted that we stop by the Milford Hutterite Colony so she could purchase a frozen chicken. The Hutterites are similar in most beliefs to the Amish, with the notable exception that they fully embrace all modern ways of living. They live in mostly self-sufficient colonies, raising all manner of livestock and produce. They employ the very finest of equipment and have fully mechanized irrigation systems, as well as the newest technologies for harvesting and processing any grains, vegetables, and animals they produce. They are firmly pacifist, will readily drink all of your beer, if you let them, and they speak German when we are not looking. So we drove into the tightly packed colony tucked below a grassy bench with a cloud of dust following us all the way from the highway. We parked near the poultry processing building, a low metal structure circumferenced by gravel, and waited for one of the Hutterite women to find us.

Interesting thing about Hutterite women, they all develop eventually into one of two distinct shapes: bowling-ball shape or bowling-pin shape. My sister disappeared into the building with a bowling ball and a pin. Terry, my brother-in-law, and I stood watch near the cooler, which, by something less than coincidence, happened to be fully stocked with beer. “I am not offering any beer this time,” he informed me. “I made that mistake once.” He watched one of the round women step out into the sunlight wearing the same long, pale blue dress as all the others. “I don’t think,” he added flatly, “that the women are as interested in beer as the men.”

I watched the woman, wondering if I was interested in women.

Yes. Definitely interested. Round can be a pleasant shape, too. Looks better the older you get.

We left the colony in a cloud of dust, the truck eleven pounds heavier with the addition of a chicken. My sister and brother-in-law were forced to drink more beer so they could make room in the cooler for the frozen bird. Driving on, we rose and dropped through a series of swales. A stream wound out from the expanse of sun-bleached prairie grass, swung at the highway, and then receded again. A coyote, dragging a three-foot snake, crossed road directly in front of us. The Front Range, looking every bit as ominous as a piled-up freight train and extending as far north as we could see, drew nearer on our left and steadily expanded in size. After we drove through the cottonwood oasis town of Augusta, the stony reefs and mountain faces filled with shadow and detail and continued to expand across the sky before us.

My lovely companions drank more beer as we fell onto another long, dust and windswept road. With the windows rolled down, we allowed the unseasonably hot air to buffet all around us and send a paper skittering across the dash. Terry, my brother-in-law, talked about a coworker of his who grew up near another Hutterite colony a bit farther north. “When he was in high school, he and his buddies would sneak Hutterite girls out of the colony and drive around at night. They didn’t do anything with the girls. Just drank beer.”

I thought about “do anything.”

The mountains continued to grow in front of us. Stark and imposing. Sun Canyon slowly opened against the wall of peaks.

Do anything? I considered one of the bowling pin women I spotted in the Hutterite colony. If you really worked a few angles on her, you might call her attractive. I worked a few angles in my mind. Hot air whistled in my right ear, but my eyes kept finding their way back to the mountains.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cattails (Soft Focus)

Another photo I snapped along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Rocky Mountain Front (Sun River)

Sun River (Part I)

Sun River Canyon allows the Sun River to escape from Gibson Reservoir and the Sawtooth Mountains along Montana’s geological overthrust belt. We Montanans call these abrupt and upturned mountains the “Front Range,” or simply, “the Front.” The Front is a breathtaking sight to behold. This is the exact place where the Rocky Mountains swell suddenly, almost brutishly, against our big sky, lifting themselves upright into the clouds with all the fury of rockets to the moon, powered by tectonic forces that defy comprehension. The mountains here bring to a permanent end the grass and river-stitched Great Plains and mark the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the oldest established wilderness in the nation. The Front is a wall of green timber and gray-blue stone cliff fronts that accordion across the horizon, standing almost like giant playing cards fanned into full-houses and held upright in display by the knuckles and fingers of earthen hands. Also held upright are crooked sedimentary knives, jagged swords of stone, and whole building blocks dredged from the basement of our geologic structures—all of this smashed together in the sky above us and held in place, seemly, by the clouds. If you drove along the Front only once in your life, you would never forget the mountainous exhibit. If, like me, you live nearby, a single trip will never do.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Purple Flowers

The cabbage butterflies, savagely copulating their way out of summer, have become something to consider. Watching them meet, paper-white and frantic as they are, in the air above emerald green fields of alfalfa and again above the black heat-warped highways I drive, watching them funnel together and then spiral down, lascivious and windblown in their unyielding embrace, I cannot ignore that change is afoot. All spring and summer they ignored one another, overlooking their opposite sexes. Now, pairing is their exclusive obsession. I cannot avoid them as I whisk along, driving from place to place. Sometimes they fall all around me like flapping snow.

So I consider the butterflies. Have they gone silly with hormones? Does sex blind them to all else? Do they recognize the countdown of days, the incrementally shorter hours of light? Is this desperation only? Do they smell mortality in the final saccharine hay blossoms? Or are the butterflies filled with their air-dancing desire by the sweet scent of purple flowers? Does the trigger even matter?

The butterflies are pretty, even when breeding. We must give them that. I am not sure we can say that about, as example, porcupines or your nearest neighbors. And there is this: only very recently, something has changed in my own perceptions. Not sex. Not sex, precisely. Close, but not that. For many months, most women seemed little more than bright faces floating up around me—inexact in their sex, and with voices that sounded like spoons rattling in glass salad bowls. I gave them no lingering thought. But now I hear something different in their voices, something familiar and sweet as the birthday song, something like purple flowers to a late butterfly.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, September 26, 2011

Watering Day

About the houseplants. Either they are suiciding or I am killing them.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Colley Family (Self-Portrait)

Pictured here is the best-looking family of bald people I have ever seen. Theresa is about to enter into a clinical trial out in Seattle to battle a very tenacious form of leukemia. Something considerably stronger than my thoughts are with the whole family. The words do not exist. Enough said….

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, September 23, 2011


Orion is my favorite constellation. Driving to work through the star-swung cerulean of our early morning sky today, I looked up and saw Orion at ready stance above the center pivot alfalfa fields and later above Lake Helena. One of my quirks is that I have a favorite of every sort of thing. Orion is my favorite constellation. Eight is my favorite number. J is my favorite letter of the alphabet. Blue my favorite color. The Crazies are my favorite mountain range; I love how the peaks burst up from the floor of the plain. Huckleberries are my favorite of favorites. Here is the important thing: huckleberries never grow in an ugly place. And I know where the huckleberries grow.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Shadowed by two of my cats, I scoured all the sacred places in my home. I opened the dresser drawers, now yawning and empty as the mouths of baby robins abandoned in their nest. I pressed my open palm against the blank closet shelf and drew back in shock from the chill. I unzipped the clothing bag and felt the feathery ruffles of the wedding dress as one of the cats flanked my legs. I pulled down the red jacket and posed for a moment as if dancing. Towels, kitchen cupboards, the leather chair I have never liked, and the last book she ever held in our den—the sweet scent of my wife has now faded entirely from all of these things.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Email to a Friend


A brand new day! I have eaten something sweet, coffeed myself, and read from Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems, his poem: Fogs Eat Butterflies. Snakes Eat Frogs. Hogs Eat Snakes. Men Eat Hogs. And that is only the title of the poem. Imagine the poem knowing only that! All of this and not a single of the dozen clocks around me has cracked 4:30 in the morning. Each of them displays a slightly different time, of course. Accuracy, like so many things, must be held at bay as we try to make human this world.

You may yet be sleeping. You must, therefore, take my word when I tell you that the sky has again pivoted over to the cobalt side. Stars have spun up all around my home. My intention is to step outside and seize them. Make the best of your day. Be kind. Complete something important.

Upon my return.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Fresh Bedding

Yesterday morning, I washed my bedding. After drying the last of the sheets, I trundled everything back to my room and tried to make-up the bed. Weird thing. I had to fight through a kind of sad reluctance to make Uyen’s side of the bed. I thought about how that side will remain untouched until I tear the bedding away the next time I wash. Always the small and mundane tasks that carry the weight of loss. Why is that so?

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, September 16, 2011

Another Observation

My friend’s mistakes have almost always been blondes with little desire to go to work.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I presently live with a quarter-of-a-dozen domestic cats. And I think the world would be a far better place if crows and magpies produced honey, too.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Positive Point

Sometimes, to reach the most positive point in the day, you must stop doing whatever important thing you are doing and bury your face in the nearest housecat.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Twisted Way Out

Photograph of an elevator door in Billings, Montana. 

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Ten years, exactly, since the towers fell. My daughter lived near them then and is back near them now. Four months, exactly, since Uyen died as I held her right hand and our daughter held her left. Ain’t a fucking thing that needs to added to that list.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Saturday morning. I wake, pull on some clothes, and then trudge out to sit on my sofa. My three cats gather in front of me and we take turns staring at each other in silence. My friend Kevin and I drank wine and beer late into yesterday evening. I didn’t get drunk, but imbibed enough to achieve a sizeable headache. We are widower twins, me and Kevin, just trying to find our way to an uncertain middle-aged future. Clearly, the beer and wine is of little help.

“What if we have thirty years of all-alone left ahead of us?” I asked Kevin toward the end of yesterday evening. No firm answer on that. Click your glasses of merlot together. Drink. I thought about Grover Jones, the ancient widower who lived in our neighborhood when we were kids. Grover, by then, drove a twenty-year-old clunker and had allowed the ragweed and lambsquarters to crawl up the sides of his ramshackle house. He drove like maniac. Spoke to nobody.

I expected to find Kevin on my sofa this morning. He agreed not to drive home, having drunk far beyond the headache level. I heard him shouting out that he loved me a while after I crashed into my bed. I heard Dido and Adele on my stereo when, later, I woke just long enough to flop around to a more comfortable position. Now, only Kevin’s shoes and empty beer cooler remain at my front door. His van has vanished from the prairie parking spot in front of my house.

Kevin is a brilliant, wounded man. I should worry, but I think we are going to be okay. Really, I think so.

Eventually, I open some windows and allow the chill air to sweep in around me. The cats decide to stare out the windows as the intensifying glow of day spreads honey-colored over the bunchgrass outside. Honking and chattering, Canada geese flap just overtop my house on their way to the lake. I wonder where Kevin has gone off to. I wonder when he left.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunrise, September 9, 2011

I left Billings (for Helena) at 4:30 in the morning.  Just before dropping into Deep Creek Canyon, between White Sulphur Springs and Townsend, I stopped to look back.   I took this photogragh.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fill in the Blank

Without my dear friends and family, I would be ___________________.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Moon (Part I), Moon (Part II)

Moon (Part I)

The other night, the moon, tinted a faded-rose red from forestfire smoke, managed to hoist only half of itself above the valley. The valley floor sparkled with distant lights from homes, but the smoke obscured the mountains. And I wondered of the moon: half empty or half full?

How does a man judge the moon? Am I “judgment impaired,” having lived these last months alone with three cats that only semi-like me? Half full? Or half empty? Upon what basis would a man make such a verdict? Do we allow loss to define everything? Am I, by this calculus, now half the man I was? Isn’t it true that the moon exerts the greatest tidal pull when full, that the pull wanes with the diminishing display? Do we judge by light or do we judge by shadow?

I stood at my bay window.

Moon (Part II)

The other night, as I stood long at my bay window, thinking about how the dull light shows no wounds on me, I saw a lone mule deer doe tip-toe across the home-spangled expanse, her way lighted a deep red and half-full moon.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mule Deer (Hard Shadows)

In photography, even the best of subjects have no value without proper lighting. A clear sunny day, while pleasant, usually makes for flat and washed-out photographs. The best sunrise or sunset might last only ten minutes. The sun seems conspiring against photographers a great deal of the time—landing always in the wrong spot or hiding out when you most require light. In some instances, though, you can convert the very thing that will render most subjects as dull or meaningless into the feature that binds the shot together. I chanced upon these deer while driving to work one morning. With the rising sun behind them, I had only hard and featureless shadow to work with. Here is one photograph from a series of photographs I took that morning.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, September 4, 2011

New Maxim

Take every challenge presented and try any new thing, no matter the risk. Or, at the very least, watch my friend Kevin try after a few drinks and see if he gets injured.

Note to Kevin: I love you, man.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, September 2, 2011


Again, I wake to full darkness, but cannot force myself back to sleep. Somewhere in the night, a cat has curled into a lump on the pillow beside me and purrs ever so softly. How many days in a row has this been so? Dozens? Hundreds? By constant observation, I have come to know the precise spot where the sun first emerges amid the blue folds of the mountains. I know the exact pine that brushes against its ruby face. Today, I render my decision. One day, I will climb that mountain to stand there with the tree. One day, I will reach out and hold the sun in my hands.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What We Know Thus Far:

...........................Here is where you want to be.

.....Here is where you are.

--Mitchell Hegman