Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Drive

In a yawning predawn that makes me feel as if I am driving along the bottom of a deep ocean,  the headlights of highway cars have strung themselves across the valley like a string of pearls laid carefully in place.
Soon, the pale shoulder of another day will split the mountains from the darkness. 
Someone to be born.
Another to balance by departure.
A city to come alive where nestled into the foothills.
All around me, stars spiral upward as if to escape the emergence of light.
I merge my truck with the string of pearls and accelerate toward the city.  This…the common, simple, beautiful way to begin a new day.
--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, March 30, 2012

0:19 (Suddenly Awake)

Caught naked, I feel slanted against the elements.
The wind has claws.
And I am certain that the pebbles underfoot were once bones
Or are fragments of ancient weaponry.
My hands, eyeless and dumb as empty bottles,
Reach into darkness.
What is this?
Has this a terrible head?
A spiked tail?
Poisoned bite?
Merely a cold stick.
The wind has become hammers wrapped deep in cotton
And swung against my chest.
I wake under heavy blankets.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Reminder

It’s now a quarter to the rest of your life.  Don’t you think it’s time to get dressed?
--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One Subject, Two Views

Without even speaking to me, some people are convinced that I am a bit unhinged.  These folks are primarily those sharing my same route to and from work.  The deal is this…regularly they will find my truck swung off the road in same half-assed manner with the door flung open and me nearby with my camera, contorted into some weird pose as I snap photos of, say, a plastic bag blown against the fence or a weed.
I am always looking for some new angle on everyday subjects. 
I am found quite regularly alongside the road taking photographs.
This morning I have posted two pictures of the same subject.  I took these photos late one night at a hotel along the coast of Vietnam.

The Vietnamese passersby also thought me a bit whacky.
--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our Answer

Outside my house last night, somewhere within the long-needle pines and the juniper, a lone bird called out a single plaintive note over and over again, pausing for a spell between each call.  I listened for a while, hearing no other sound in all the countryside around me.  The whole night stood still, save the clouds rolling across the sky above.
Eventually, the bird stopped calling.  Faced with only silence, I called out a single note of my own and I held the note as long as possible.  Once finished with the call, I stood there staring up the dark shoulders of clouds driven slowly overtop the low hills, the mountains.
There.  I and that lone bird had our final answer.
--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, March 26, 2012

Three Things That I Know

·         If you drop a stone from your hand and the stone falls up, prepare for the worst.

·         Mathematically, you can have less than nothing.  This state may sustain for lengthy vectors of time.

·         Sanity is defined by limits.  Insanity is without measure.
--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Three Observations from Yesterday

1.      European starlings, though a somewhat homely weed-bird, produce dramatic spectacles in the sky, often sweeping themselves into dark murmurations that roll and twist against the blue backdrop like reckless, mechanized clouds.  Starlings were first introduced into North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts who assumed that we needed every sort of bird the Bard mentioned in his writings.

The starling is mentioned in Henry the IV.  Early in the play, a starling is taught to say “Mortimer” repeatedly into the king’s ear as he sleeps as a way to keep him (the king, not the bird) crazy.   Though the Americanized starlings do little more than click, rattle, and chip once in a while, they managed, nonetheless, to drive my uncle Stack quite mad also.  He was regularly found under his apple tree swinging a broom in the air wildly, swatting starlings away from the feeder he kept for chickadees.  Often, he said bad words.

These same literary-minded folks that introduced starlings into North America also introduced the idea that one should extend their pinky finger when drinking tea from a tiny cup.  No documented motive for this extension of the pinky exists today.  The male version of a modern-day Shakespeare enthusiast is often found “birding” while wearing a finely knit dickey.   The dickeys are typically of an earthy tone.  For no readily apparent reason, a project is presently underway to introduce Shakespeare enthusiasts into the Brazilian rainforests.

2.      Some of the Republican candidates running for this nation’s highest office operate under the premise that bogus information, though clearly bogus, is actual information.

3.      A young female cashier with nose piercings and a studded tongue is the surest way to distract me from properly checking my receipt for overcharges. 
--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Colors Flowing Out

I am not teasing when I say that color photography is all about the color.  My continued interest in photography is the result of a landscapes, unusual patterns, or colors catching my eye.  Sometimes the patterns and colors disclose dramatic impact only if the camera draws you near.  Other subjects may require a broad view for proper effect. 
On occasion, the sun will discover one of my houseplants in a different way and I will grab my camera so I can explore the details as they are continuously repainted by changing light.  I have spent whole hours hovering around a single cactus or daylily.
Time well spent.
The photograph posted here is the product of such an episode as described above.
--Mitchell Hegman


Friday, March 23, 2012


Maybe we are a faulted species.  Consider just this: many of our heroes are often heroes only because they excelled at killing other people under the name of enemy.
--Mitchell Hegman  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Man, Island, and Sea

While no man is an island, far too many are a very shallow sea.
--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We Fade in a Quiet Room

My uncle Stack is in his mid-nineties.  He has been in pretty decent health up until the last few weeks.   Unfortunately, a couple of strokes have landed him in a nursing home. After a phone call from my cousin, who suggested Stack  may be declining, I stopped in to see him before going home from work two evenings back.
I found Uncle Stack in a room at the end long hall with shiny floors that skipped sunlight against the eggshell walls.  The staff had wheeled an ancient and inordinately skinny man out and left him in the hall about halfway down.  Sleeping in his wheelchair, the old man slumped entirely to one side and looked eerily like the worn and curled wick of a spent candle.
I strode by the old man, making a point not to look at his face.  What if I knew him?  What if he was once a job push on a constructions site where I worked?  What if I had dated his daughter during highschool and brought her home late one night?  I entered a quiet room and found my Uncle Harry—Stack—sleeping in a bed barely big enough to support his tall frame.
Tall as the smelter’s smokestack.  That’s how he got the nickname.
I simply watched Stack sleeping for a few minutes, thinking that I might do only that and then turn and leave for home.
No.  I wanted to talk with Stack.
I gently shook him.  “Stack?”  
His eyes opened.  Gray eyes.  Shallow.
“How you doin’, Uncle Stack?”
A blue depth slowly came to Stack’s eyes.  You might imagine trout swishing through such blue pools as that.
“How are you feeling, Stack?”
He smiled, seeming to recognize me—me, the little boy in a blue jacket who fell into a fresh cowpie that day nearly fifty years ago when we drove to Montana City to dig earthworms from near the banks of Prickly Pear Creek.  My dog Sandalwood was still alive then.   Jets were still allowed to sonic boom directly overhead.  I wore my jacket in the heat of summer.  “I’m fine,” Uncle Stack suggested.  “I sleep a lot.”
“Me, too,” I said.
Stack’s hair looked more yellow than gray and his lips were cracked and stiff from lack of moisture.
“Would you like some water?” I asked.
”No,” he said. “The water is ice cold.  The food is bad.”
“So…how have you been, Stack?”
“Good.  They move me around a lot.”
“Has Loren been in to see you much?”
“Some.  They move him around a lot.” 
A somewhat uneasy silence fell over the room again.  I thumbed through a Smithsonian Magazine until I saw the photo of a dead horse.  Uncle Stack’s eyes slowly rolled around the room and then settled on me again.  “You still work up here?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.  “Still do…”
--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

First Day of Spring

Today marks the first day of spring.  Last year, on the first day of spring, I stood beside my wife as she lay in a hospital bed.  She had been having great difficulty walking.  In fact, she was no longer able to lift her feet to climb a single step.
Two solid days of blood tests, x-rays, MRI images, and prodding delivered us to this point—me, Uyen, and a diminutive woman doctor whose given name was then, and is yet, unknown to me.
“You have cancer,” the doctor told Uyen.  “The cancer is terminal.  There is nothing we can do for you.”
“But nobody in my family has ever had cancer,” Uyen said plainly, gazing up at the doctor.  Soon, she turned to look at me.  My eyes failed to register properly.  Tears had already streaked down my cheeks and dropped away to the floor and bedding.
Welcome, the first day of spring.
My wife did not cry then and she did not cry in my presence at any time after that.  I was always the weaker of us.  Was me who scuttled off to unlit rooms and sobbed into my hands.  Was me who pulled off to the side of the road and rested my head against the steering wheel.  Was me swimming in uncertainty.
This morning, here on this first day of spring, I see me holding Uyen’s hand again…holding my wife’s hand in mine as she slowly dwindles away and becomes part of the sunlight and part of the night.
--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012


My friend X engaged in shoplifting only once.  He did this at the age of twelve.  His venture into this unscrupulous practice did not turn out particularly well. 
A few of our mutual friends, including two black-haired brothers (I shall call them “the two black-haired brothers” for the purpose of relating this story), were accomplished shoplifters.  If “accomplished” strikes you as too positive a word, I assure you that I do not intend this as a complement.  To make all of us feel better about this, I will add that the two black-haired brothers eventually stopped shoplifting and became fine adult citizens.  They voted on occasion and one of them even went so far as to sacrifice his own life to save the life of a third, younger brother, on a sinking ship in the Bering Sea.
You cannot become more upstanding than that.   
These mutual friends, the two black-haired brothers, took up smoking cigarettes at the age of about ten and eleven, respectively.  They were crass, loud, and could spit better than anybody we knew.  They practiced spitting constantly.  “Watch this,” one or the other of them would say, and then they would…
Okay, no need for lurid details.
For a while, the brothers supported their smoking habit by snitching an occasional cigarette from open packs left lying around by their parents or any other smoker within their territory.  As their smoking habit gradually took root and the number of cigarettes required to sate them grew to a sizable figure, the black-haired brothers came to realize that a new system for procuring smokes might be required.  They struck upon the idea of a newspaper route as a way to finance their smoking habit as well as pinball games and candy.   
Two things dawned on the black-haired brothers as they started into their paper-carrier occupation.  First, delivering papers seemed curiously like work.  Secondly, spending money on cigarettes when they could now buy candy or fishing gear seemed, well, goofy.
Out of these distressing elements arose what might be described as a shoplifting spree.  Using their paper route and paper bags as cover, they would drop into one of the local stores and give the owner a “free” newspaper.  While one brother engaged the owner in pleasantry and presented the paper, the other got busy raking goodies into his paper bag: cigarettes, candy, that kind of thing.
This probably went on for far longer than is should have.
One day, the black-haired brothers decided to have X help them pilfer goods in the grocery.  They outfitted my friend X with a paper bag and took him into the store.  X had never stolen anything in his life.  Naturally, he quaked and shivered from fear the whole time he wandered around the store.  He felt certain somebody was watching from just beyond the displays of bread and canned goods.  He kept slipping back and forth between groceries and hardware.  While the younger of the two black-haired brothers distracted the store owner, the older brother carefully raked items into his paper bag.
X watched.
Finally, shaking horribly, X swept something into his bag.  He quickly whisked down the aisles, and then burst out the door onto the sidewalk and into the glare of full sunlight.
All three boys soon gathered again in an alley a block away.
“I got some good stuff!” enthused the older of the black-haired brothers.  He quickly brought forth packs of cigarettes and a few candy bars from his bag.  They all touched the booty.
Satisfied with that, the two brothers started poking at the newspaper bag hanging from X’s shoulder.  “What about you, mother-humper?” asked the little black-haired brother.  “Show us what you, grabbed.”
X slowly opened his bag and lifted the items he had brushed into his bag.
The black-haired brothers stared in disbelief.
“Light bulbs!” screeched the older brother.  “You took light bulbs?  Why did you take those?  What are we going to do with light bulbs?”
A shoulder-punching and spitting frenzy quickly developed in the alley.
So began and so ended one life of crime.
--Mitchell Hegman 

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Friends, family, six bikers in black leather, seventeen cowboys, old men, old women in perfumed mist, and one crying baby, we gather today to sit in a forced silence that feels like sacks of wheat flour stacked on our chest.  We gather to remember how to forget.
Please be silent, except the baby gasping between siren calls.
Now let is bow our heads and pray:

Artificial light.  American flag.  Antique trike.
Give us a stained-glass lamb in oaken relief.
Give us a long green valley from which we never return.
Ink drawing.  Old hat.  Eagle feather.
Give us a dove frozen in crooked flight.
Give us a man in flowing white robes strolling low hills.
A life.   A loss.  All locked.

The end.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, March 16, 2012

First Bluebird


I saw my first bluebird of the year, returned from the south and electric blue.  I wanted to steal a bluebird photo from someplace and post it, but I could not find anything quite as blue.
--Mitchell Hegman

Ghost Town

This is a photograph I snapped with my cheapo pocket camera after a day of skiing at the Great Divide.  The picture was taken near Marysville, Montana.  My ancestors, when they first settled in Montana during the gold rush of the 1860’s, settled in this very mountain valley.
--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stars Drink Gravity and Wobble Around

If a given star has a planet orbiting around it, the star will wobble due to the gravitational forces of the planet pulling on the star.  Having discovered this, astronomers now seek out the stars wobbling amid the firmament in their quest to locate distant planets.  Once they locate a star swaying about, astronomers look in the space surrounding to locate the planet promoting this motion.
A question.
What might we seek to find near a man wobbling similarly through our night?
--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


A man is not free that knows his genetic make-up.
--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Little Girl

I once read an online article about a little girl who was very afraid.  I suppose most people would not find anything unusual about a little girl being afraid, but this little girl was only ten and dying from an aggressive form of cancer.   This filled her mind with fear. 
She had one last wish.
As we get older, some of us might develop alarmingly elaborate last wishes—dancehall nights and gambling with stacks of pure gold bricks, maybe a month-long trek to the Arctic.  The little girl, though, expressed a most simple wish.
She just wanted to see her daddy.
Her daddy was serving the last year of a five-year prison sentence for drug charges.  She did not understand the drug charges and did not care about them.  The little girl wanted to see her daddy.  This was her only wish.
We are a nation of laws.  These laws generally serve us well but move slowly.  Some of these laws stood as a wall between the little girl and her daddy.   Finally, one day, the laws moved and allowed the little girl’s daddy to leave the prison so he could spend twenty minutes with the girl.  By that time, however, the little girl had slipped into a coma.  She perished soon after and never did see her daddy.
--Mitchell Hegman


Monday, March 12, 2012


Better yet that the whole of this life is based on music.  The newborn child tolling like a brass bell in rough seas.  The elderly humming softy in warm squares of light.   The creeks strumming through tall timber.  The wind sounding like deep horns where sweeping against cities.  And small yellow birds with sharp songs rising far above all else.
--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, March 11, 2012

More of the Crazies

One more photograph from the sunrise over the Crazy Mountains on Friday morning.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Up Crazy, Down Crazy

Legend holds that The Crazy Mountains were originally called the “Crazy Woman Mountains” by the Crow Tribe living in the area. The Crow named them that for a “crazy” white woman who lived all alone amid the stark peaks following the murder of her settler family by marauding Natives during the early migration westward.  This story is used in "Jeremiah Johnson,” the movie starring Robert Redford.
The Crazies are my favorite mountain range.  They are, put in simple terms, an explosion of stone and timber—an up-blast from the Yellowstone River and the floor of the plains.  Nearly every time I drive near the Crazies, I find that I must stop, climb out from the car, and take them in for a bit. These are powerful mountains.  They are wild to this day, having one of the last healthy populations of wolverines left to this water, stone, and grass landscape of ours.
Up crazy, those mountains.
I would like to end with that, but cannot.  This is a down crazy world, too.  Yesterday, one of my dearest friends came home to a cold house.  Normally, the house is warm because his live-in girlfriend of many years faithfully tends to the woodstove because she craves the heat. 
Odd, the chill.
My friend called out his girlfriend’s name to no response.  Assuming she had fallen into a deep sleep during one of her normal afternoon naps, my friend walked back to the bedroom.  He saw her there and touched the skin of her leg.
He knew instantly.  He knew even before he saw the pistol in the bedding.
Down crazy, that woman.
--Mitchell Hegman
(Today, I am going to help my friend rid the house of that fucking bed.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Crazy Mountains

I took this photograph yesterday on my way to Billings.  Not a particularly striking photo, but the “feel” of the drive between Ringling and Wilsall, Montana is expressed properly, I think.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Life is full of challenges, and sometimes they are running for the presidency of these United States.
--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Spelling Exercise

Not understanding the importance of proper spelling, the priest dispatched to save a parishioner, instead of exorcising an evil spirit, gave the spirit a brisk workout that included weight training to add definition to the abs.
--Mitchell Hegman     

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Maybe your life would be better if every day you drove across a pretty bridge on your way to and from work. 
--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lifting into the Light

Yesterday, the sun drew near and temperatures rose dramatically.  All at once, Montana swung out from underneath snowsqualls and landed in some semblance of spring.  My gravel road melted into a bottomless run of mud.  The first robins chip-chip-chipped at me from the nearest pine trees.  Everywhere outside, spiders and beetles and box elder bugs scuttled on the bare ground between snow banks and ascended up the walls of my house.  Flies, seemingly dead in a pile on the concrete floor inside my garage, below the window where they often gather in a panic to escape, began to spin around on the deck like tops before springing into the air and drunkenly flying out through my lifted garage door and into the universe of light.  For a while I sat on my front step watching cloud-shadows cross the blue and white Elkhorn Mountains.  I watched ravens, like polished chunks of coal, veer over the cured grass and snowpatch plain.
Some days, that is easily enough for me.
--Mitchell Hegman 

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Here is a photograph taken at a local parking lot durning an early morning snowfall.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Up Long before the First Light

Up long before first light, I stand at my bay window, shivering.
I am thinking, as I peer into the gloom outside, that I would do just about anything to bring my grandparents and my wife and Theresa Colley back again.
--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, March 2, 2012

Last Light

The last light is always best.  Not the fading light.  Not the light slowly softening into stars above the dusky mountains.
Not that.
The best light slants through the low clouds and into the side of the forest and mountains. The best light strikes like a single note from the deep end of a piano, ignites a single purple candle of lupine against the forest floor, defines only a single aspen tree, or spills like honey over pinedrops rising red and yellow from green grass.
If you follow the last good light you will ascend.
Always, you will ascend. 
--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Next in Line

When I looked into the mirror a minute ago and saw my poor old face, I didn’t think about me.  Me, the graying man looking out at me, the unshaven man looking in.  I saw, instead, a memory from grade school gym class.
Who knows why our minds leap about and flip sides as they do?  We are fickle and generally unruly in our thinking.  So, my mind jumped back through all the years as I looked into the mirror.
There we stood in white tee shirts and red shorts on the gymnasium floor—sixth-grade boys with pitchy voices and aching muscles.  We stood in line, bathed in bright light, awaiting our turn at the pull-up bar fastened to the wall above the polished hardwood deck.  Each of us was expected to jump up, grasp the bar, execute ten clean pull-ups, drop down, and let the next kid take a turn.
One by one, gangly boys flung themselves at the bar and ten-counted.  Pretty soon one of the obese kids stepped up to the bar.  He just barely managed to jump up and hang from the bar.   His gym shorts were as wide as a stuffed chair.  And he just draped there for a long, long time, trying to pull his face to the bar.  Up halfway on the first attempt.  Up one quarter the distance on the second.  Up only a little on the third. Then just hanging there, embarrassed.
We all knew that he would never pull a single one.  He never did.
So, I looked in the mirror, remembering that.  Reliving that time until a single tear escaped the corner of my eye.
I really liked that kid.
--Mitchell Hegman