Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sunrise, May 30, 2012

Yesterday, I diverted to one on of my favorite spots on my drive to work so I could watch the sun clear the Big Belt Range.  It goes without saying that no two sunrises are the same.  But I shall submit this in writing:
No two sunrises are the same!
I think I need a bumper sticker that says “Caution, this car stops for sunrises and sunsets.”
The photographs posted here were taken on the south side of the Helena Valley Regulating Reservoir. 
--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Questions and Answers

DISEMBODIED VOICE:  What gives lasting pleasure?
ME:  Suffering.

DISEMBODIED VOICE:  What do all men seek to find?
ME:  Ways in which to lose themselves.

DISEMBODIED VOICE:  Where does each new day begin?
ME:  At the place where you find the sun setting.

DISEMBODIED VOICE:   What weighs the same whether empty or full?
ME:  The mind.

DISEMBODIED VOICE:  What cannot be avoided?
ME:  Birth.

DISEMBODIED VOICE:   What is empty when full?
ME:  Animosity.

DISEMBODIED VOICE:   What can sometimes hold a man, often not hold him, and yet be the very foundation for his life?
ME:  Water.

DISEMBODIED VOICE:   How is joy best expressed?
ME:  Through tears.

DISEMBODIED VOICE:  How does injustice manifest?
ME:  With the laws of men.

DISEMBODIED VOICE:   When is the passage of time least important?
ME:  When demarcated by the lives of me.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Room that is like a Forest with a Stream Nearby

She sleeps in a room that is like a forest with a stream nearby.  The windows, on two sides, capture the arc of the sun and clothing hangs like Spanish moss within flung-open closets and from half-open drawers.  The windows allow the outside in.  Trees standing beside her in upright shadows.  The scent of sugared plants and soft earth. 
Shoes are gathered alongside the unmade bed and a mirror—one long and wide—captures her movements anywhere in the room.  The bedding is like water in a stream, ever shifting, pooling sometimes at the foot, at other times cascading to the floor.   That bed is for love-making and then sleep.
--Mitchell Hegman                                        

Monday, May 28, 2012

A White Room with a Small Bed and White Curtains

She sleeps in a white room with a small bed and white curtains.  The bedding is white and without quilting or pattern and pulled tightly at all sides.  The windows are clearstory, and without view, save an occasional bird that might darkly flash by.  The walls remain bare.  A single white end table is positioned near the bed.  A white alarm clock and a white porcelain lamp sit on the table.  The room is white—so white you must rub your eyes to find detail.
She sleeps alone in a white room.  And if you did not know better, you might suspect that no one has been in the room before.
--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Though we long ago whisked by the first day of spring for this year and have stepped solidly on a path toward summer, I just now awaked to a snowstorm.  Yesterday, snow fell against the high mountains.  On the way to my cabin, I snapped the photo I posted as I descended toward the Upper Blackfoot Valley from the top of the Continental Divide. 

Fortunately, I have learned to always have a jacket in my truck.

Here some other reasons to always carry a jacket as you travel around Montana:

·         The coldest temperature ever recorded in the Lower 48 states was captured at Rogers Pass, Montana (not more than a dozen miles from where I took today’s picture) on January 20, 1954.  The temperature plummeted to -70 degrees on that day.

·         In February of 1989, Helena witnessed a 50 degree plummet in temperature in only an hour.  By the end of that day, as a wild Arctic blast brawled with the Pacific impulse that had been squatting over our valley, the temperature dropped nearly 100 degrees, falling from 50 above in the morning, to 40 below just after dark.

·         A meteorologist in Havre once witnessed a rise in temperature of 26 degrees in less than a minute (45 seconds, to be exact.)  In another January, somebody recorded a 47 degree lift in only 7 minutes. 

Bottom line: you always need to be prepared for all seasons here in Montana.  You never know how many seconds away you will find the next big swing of temperature.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Against the Gathering of Stars

Against the Gathering of Stars
In the corner, upright, stands a guitar.  Only one string remains on the guitar.  But one string can make music.  Your fingers, strumming high and low, might fill the whole night.  A simple song is still a song.  Even a solitary note, if only a bursting for an instant or if pressed long against the gathering of stars—even that is a song.
--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, May 25, 2012

Big Cats Chase Small Birds and Big Birds Chase Small Cats

I tend to gravitate toward children when attending any kind of gathering of families.
I have my reasons.
For one thing, if you want to hear true stories and accuracy in descriptions, you need to confer with children.  Children share emotions openly and honestly.  Children are still fully attached to their imagination.
Yesterday, at the graduation ceremony and luncheon for the trade school where I am employed, I managed to engage in conversation with several boys and girls aged ten and under.  My habit is to treat children as adults and make them feel as though they are the most important people in the room.
I engaged in one very good conversation about rain and mud puddles with one young gentleman.  He liked rain only a little but liked puddles quite a lot.
I also spoke at length to a tiny girl who needed to show me her “done-up” hair and painted fingernails and flowered dress and—oh, yes—this was her daddy!  “Hey, I know him!” I told her, much to her delight.
Another young man wanted to hold the microphone so he could talk and only pretend that everyone heard him.  “I can turn that on, if you wish, I said.
“Oh, no.” he said, backing away from the lectern and microphone stand.
At the end of the celebration, as various groups gathered to talk in the lobby of the Colonial Red Lion Inn, where the graduations was held, I chatted with one of the recent graduates, his wife and four children.  At one point, I turned to one of the boys (aged at something near eight) and asked with calm seriousness.  “So, are you driving everyone home?”
“No,” he answered with a crooked grin.”  He quickly looked over to his father to see the reaction of his father.
“He would love to try,” his father assured me.
“Hmmm…you look like you might be a pretty good driver to me.”
At the end of my long day, I drove home and immediately contacted Ariel for an online chat.  At some point, she asked what “gold nugget” moments I experienced during the day.  I readily responded that I was able to speak with a bunch of children during the graduation luncheon.
Not much tops that.
Children understand that big cats chase small birds and big birds chase small cats.
Often, that is what matters most.
--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


As I sat in my hot tub last evening, a tremendous rainstorm spilled clouds into the valley.  The clouds, oddly enough, looked something like burlap sacks filled with writhing snakes.  Probably, these clouds were what you might term as “ominous.”  A smart guy would have climbed out of the tub, taken cover in the house and, as a final gesture once inside, developed a plan for world peace.  At the very least, I should have grabbed a cold beer.
But we are talking about me here.  I am, as my friend Rodney used to say, “ungood” at thinking stuff through.
So I sat in the water outside as the clouds rapidly converted to jade-colored sheets of rain, rolls of thunder, and lightning strikes that momentarily shattered the sky to bits as they flashed all around me.  Geez, I thought to myself, this might be a little dangerous out here.
I don’t know if I mentioned this--but I had already downed a glass of Scotch. 
Anyhow, rain hit my face.  The wind blew.  And my mind (having a mind of its own) rather wandered off to play with Tinker Toys, as usual.
I began to think about XOXO.
You know, when you write that at the end of a letter.  XOXO.  Hugs and kisses.  You need to employ your imagination, but if you do, the X might look like four lips at the point of kissing.  The O, if you stretch thought a bit, represents four arms in a hug.
Sure.  XOXO.
I love lightning.
Hey!  Boom!  An Idea!
Maybe I will start a new craze: XOXO-XYZ
Hugs and kisses and a bit of a feel.
First step in developing world peace.
Storms are so cool!
--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Another Basic Premise

Every day is a good day when you realize that waking up is never a mistake.
--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, May 21, 2012


Elk prance when they trot away from likely (or unlikely) dangers.  No other descriptive word will suffice.

They prance.

Though I see elk often in my travels from place to place in Montana, I never tire of catching them.  Watching them high-stepping, as they do when moving briskly, is a sight that never fails to bring a smile to my face.
Elk are one of the largest species of deer in the world.  A bull elk can measure 5 foot from the ground to the top of the shoulder and weigh as much a 1000 pounds.  In the fall, when their antlers are fully-grown, the uppermost tines may reach 9 feet into the air. Only the bulls have antlers, which are shed late in the winter each year and grow anew throughout the spring and summer.
In the early fall, when mating season arrives, the mountains and nearby plains fill with the sound of bull elk bugling as they try to assemble all the nearby cows for their own harem.  The shrill fluting of the elk is astonishing and can carry over through the mountains for many miles.  They sound like great birds singing.
Instinctively, elk are herd animals.  Typically, if you chance onto one you will see many more nearby.  Though once animals of the plains, they have adapted to life in the open parks and valleys of the mountains.  They tend to be skittish, and whole herds of elk will readily pour down through the timber if you try to draw anywhere near them.
This time of year, if you rise early and drive through those areas they inhabit here in Montana, you are bound to see them.  Yesterday, on a drive to my cabin along the Blackfoot River Valley, I bumped into two herds.  I have posted photos from my encounters.
The photo of bulls in velvet antlers was taken near Canyon Creek.  The second photo was taken at Alice Creek.  The herd at Alice creek stretched far across an open mountainside and through an aspen grove, probably numbering more than 50 animals.  Here, I have captured them just before they pranced away against the snowy mountains and blue sky.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Imperfect Flowers (for Ariela)

After watching the bees in there lurid dancing and making-out with the blossoms of my Mayday tree, I conducted a bit of online study about bees and flowers and made a startling discovery!
We are imperfect.  Well, if we were flowers that would be so.
Flowers, you see, are divided into three types: perfect, imperfect, and incomplete. 
Perfect flowers are both male and female.  An example of a perfect flower (anatomically and otherwise) is the rose.  The beauty of a perfect flower is that reproduction can occur within one bloom because both the pistil (female part) and the stamens (male part) are present.  Imagine the human equivalent.  Further imagine that everyone around us could get pregnant by means of self-satisfaction.
That gives one pause.
Imperfect flowers are either male or they are female—same as us, providing you don’t take into account certain districts in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro.  Sometimes, both male and female flowers can occur on the same plant.  This is handy for reproduction since the wind tossing the flowers about might be enough to transfer pollen from the male parts to the female parts, which is the nitty-gritty of reproduction.  Imperfect flowers may also appear separate on male and female versions of the very same plant.  In this case mightier weather events may transfer of pollen or insects and animals may act as a vector for pollen between the sexes.
The sex life of an imperfect flower is notably more romantic than the sex life of perfect flowers.   But now imagine that every time the wind blows briskly or an insect lands on you a pregnancy might result. 
The third sort of flower, the incomplete, might be perfect or imperfect, but is missing one of the four major anatomical features of a flower: petals, sepals, stamens, or pistil.  Incomplete flowers tend to require a bit more outside assistance in the transfer of pollen.  Bees perform quite well in this regard.
Alas, we arrive back to the two of us, my imperfect flower.  We hold and gleefully embrace our unchanging and opposite sexes.  The bees, sadly, will not suffice in bringing us together.  We are ever a work in progress, sexually speaking.
We need more…  A big jet plane to carry one of us near.  Quiet conversation at the undefined edge of a forest.  A bottle of red wine.   The smallest slice of the moon hoisted above the low hills or the ocean.  A long drive.  A short swim.  The cry of tree frogs.  Crickets in Montana.
A kiss.
A thoughtful silence.
--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Today, I have posted a photograph I took the other day.  The photo was taken between Avon and Elliston, Montana, along the Little Blackfoot River.  The hay in this area is comprised entirely of the natural grasses that grow in the lush bottoms.  The hay is stacked by means of a contraption called a “beaverslide” hay stacker.   The beaverslides, which are generally made from lodgepole pine, were invented here Southwestern Montana’s Big Hole Valley.

--Mitchell Hegman (Beaverslide photo from

Friday, May 18, 2012


For Sale:
Used only 1½ times by previous owner.
--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, May 17, 2012

In Response

Love is the hill you fall up.
Love is five when the limit is four.
Love has petals and wings, branches and hands, roots and claws.
Love uplifts when standing still.
Love knows restraint.
Love both leads and follows.
Loves glitters and sings and splashes and sighs.
Love dangles like an ornament and burrows into walls.
--Mitchell Hegman (NOTE: Yes, I know this exercise was somewhat trite, but fun just the same…)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Flint Creek Range

The Flint Creek Mountains rise up like a rocky tsunami on the Montana landscape with the highest peak reaching a bit over 10,000 feet.   Located near the halfway point between Helena and Missoula, the mountains draw your attention the instant you first round a corner or emerge from river bottomland and sight them.  
I have posted a photograph I took of the Flint Creek Range on a drive to Missoula yesterday.   I like the photo principally because it captures most of what Montana has to offer: lush meadows, wild elk in the foreground, grassy hills, craggy peaks, and sky.
--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Water, the insatiable lover, writhes where laid in the orchard grass, gasps and moans where embraced by stone or thrust against the sands at the edge of an open sea.  Terns flirt at the shore, locked in pairs, as if tethered, they tango with waves as the waves break, run up the shore, and quickly draw back again.  In the sunlight, the calmest pools are blue satin.  Where shaded, the water is black velvet.
You can have, but not hold.
--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, May 14, 2012

Life…Another Quote

Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't.
                   Richard Bach

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Creek through the Meadow

By way of the Blackfoot River, by way of the Clark Fork River, by way of the Pend Oreille, by way of the Columbia, water eventually finds its way to the Pacific Ocean.  But for now the water is a creek twisting through a meadow at the base of the Continental Divide in Montana.
Yesterday, I slowly poured the ashes of the woman I loved into that creek, and I watched the ashes swirl in the water and then drift away, and I drank red wine, and I held my daughter, and my sister held me, and we threw the figure of an angel in after, and then we broadcast the seeds of wildflowers all around our cabin.
We spent the night there in the mountains, sitting late by a campfire.  The creek sounded like voices.  We cooked over the open fire, drank more wine.  Late in the night, I crawled into a loft bed, fully clothed.
I woke early this morning, a little achy, and hiked into the forest alone.  I hiked until the sound of the creek faded into the quiet forest.  After a while, I found a place amid some lodgepole deadfall and I sat listening to the silence. Eventually, a robin flew down to the understory nearby and chirped at me.
“I am with you,” I said to the robin.
Better than silence—even the commonest of birds.
--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, May 12, 2012

38 Women

Debberlee, Helen, Val, Southwest Mary, Cheryl, Esther, Constance, Paula, Ariel, Oonie, Ginny, Joni/Hank, Janet, Jana, Kim, Thao, Ree-Ree, Sarah, Nan, Nancy, Nancy Work, Kathy, Joyce, Jen, Theresa Colley, Jodi, Zoe, Toren, Jeanne, Tammy, Vickie, Wendy, Natalia, Susan, Patti, Lynn, Wendy, and Hannah.
Not without you this last year.
--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

On This Day

Today, I am posting the last in my series of photographs from my spectacular/crazy trip to Hawaii and from my wayward driving adventures with Ariel Murphy, of the wildly dancing Murphy clan. 
Great and intense fun, that!
As I browsed through my photographs to find one that might typify the Hawaii I experienced, my thoughts turned back one full year.  On this date last year, the high sun shone on the face of my sweet Uyen for the last time.  Throughout this day, last year, I gave Uyen thick drops of morphine as she lay comatose in a bed at our home.  That day turned slowly and eventually ground into the dark of night, and somewhere in the night, Uyen—as I clasped her hand in mine—drifted away from me, never to return.
Here is a photograph taken along the coast of Hawaii a little below Pahoa on the island’s windward side.  Here something from this year.  Here, then, something from my second life—the one brought forth by the sun on May 11, 2011.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Coqui Song

Here is a video of the coqui song I captured outside of Ariel's house.

--Mitchell Hegman

The Coqui Song

Ariel lives in a rain forest.  Her house is near Pahoa on the windward side of Hawaii, the Big Island.  Rain falls on the roof of Ariel’s house several times each night and usually once in the morning.  Something near 130 inches of rain falls in her area annually; while the leeward side of the island—about 30 miles distant—remains always in parched desert, capturing as little as 5 inches of moisture annually in some locations.  Only a dozen or so miles from Ariel, nearly 300 inches of rain falls annually.  The island, though only 93 miles wide at its greatest distance, upswings to an elevation of over 13,000 feet and boasts 11 of the 13 climate zones present on Earth.   The temperature is such that Ariel requires neither heat nor air conditioning.  The windows always remain open.
When I asked her what kind of heat she had in her house as we drove there for the first time, she did not understand the question.
“Heat?” she asked.  “Heat for what?”
At night the coqui tree frogs sing like mad birds from broad-leaf trees and from the vine understory that rises like walls only a few steps away on all sides of Ariel’s home.  The coqui are an invasive species originally from Puerto Rico.  Unchecked and without natural predators, as they are on Hawaii, the coqui can reach a population density approaching 20,000 frogs per acre.  Starting at dusk, the frogs begin a chirping symphony that continues without intermission until sunlight strikes a new day against the green canopy.  The coqui community song is so intense it sometimes causes Ariel’s house to vibrate with music, but this is by no means unpleasant.
The first night I experienced the coqui symphony, I stepped outside to try and fathom the immensity of it.  The song fell on me like a kind of audible rain, pushed at me like the wind.  The singing is breathless and whole.   And at the end of my first night on the island (an every night thereafter) the song of the frogs lulled me to a deep sleep.
--Mitchell Hegman.      

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fern Growing in Lava

--Mitchell Hegman

Riding in a Car with Ariel

Within the first two minutes of getting in a car with Ariel (after first having both of us try to remember how to find it in the parking lot even though I was flying in from Maui as she parked) we ran over a curb and crossed a grass strip to access the exit toll booth.  The woman collecting money stared in disbelief once Ariel finally managed to stop rather crosswise at the exit gate to pay.
Ariel’s driving went downhill from then on.  We left the Airport parking lot, wrong-turned onto a highway and then blissfully drifted in and out of our lane as we drove around the streets of Hilo seeking to find a certain Japanese restaurant.  Naturally, before arrival at the restaurant, we nearly drove head on into an oncoming car.  We dropped the passenger side tires off the roadway before finally parking sideways—taking up two spaces.
Over the next few days, as we drove all around the Big Island, Ariel sat through green lights, wrong-turned, drove up over curbs, stopped halfway through intersections, stopped abruptly after running up on intersections and cars (sending anything resting on the seats to the floor), bumped into the back of an SUV at the gas station, and blocked traffic in a variety of ways.  Hawaiians take this sort of inconvenience in stride.  We never once experienced so much as a honked horn.
And I’ll be damned if I didn’t have the time of my life riding in a car with Ariel.
--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Black Sand Beach and Sea Turtle

--Mitchell Hegman

Turtles at Rest, Turtles at Sea

Yesterday, we drove back through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  The park is a mix of desert landscape and jungle and rainforest and savanna all which can be driven through in less than one-hundred miles.  More dramatic than the climate-changes are the impact of volcanic eruptions and lava flows over the course of years.  More recent flows have left either sharp and jumbled landscapes of lava called ‘a,‘ā or stark and smooth flows called pāhoehoe.  These flows often split in two lush forests or desert plains.  Driving along, you seem to almost flash through these landscapes in the way dreams transport you from place to place without logical preparation.
Our final destination yesterday was the black sand beach at Punalù u.  The beach is famous for sea turtles.  The turtles feed on greens in the tide pools and regularly labor up onto the black sand beach to rest alongside the people swimming and playing there.
Here are two photos I took of the turtles.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012

No Equivalent

There is no equivalent to waiting in in airport to connect with your next flight.  Even in paradise, as I am here in Hawaii, trying to catch hopscotching flights across the islands, waiting at the boarding gate makes time thick and sluggish.  The people surrounding are beautiful and not.  Babies cry near and far.  The windows rattle as jets throttle to clear the tarmac.  Someone is blocking another person’s path.  Another person has opened their carry-on and spilled trinkets and clinkets and whunkets across the tile floor.  Cell phone conversations.  Texting.  Newspapers.
I can deal with the pretty girls and the ocean view.
And my final destination.
NOTE: Written at gate 6, Lihue Airport.
--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sometimes a Silly Notion

My mind, if improperly supervised, tends to wander off and dig into red ant piles or leave the hose running.  Sometimes, I entertain rather silly lines of thought.  I recall, many years ago (back in the unlikely days of manual typewriters and corrective ink) expending several days writing a really awful short story with a rather absurd premise.
The general layout of the story goes something like this.  Here on planet Earth our warring nations finally push the big “nuke” button (likely) and almost annihilate the human population.  Nuclear winter (somewhat likely) follows.   During the missile volleys, one of the impacts to New York City sends part of a bathroom stall partition hurtling out into space (unlikely) mostly intact.  The partition panel is covered with graffiti (very likely) and travels deep into uncharted space. 
After many years of tumbling through space, the bathroom partition is chanced upon by aliens taking Sunday drive in their space ship (unlikely that they will have noses shaped like a trumpet).  Naturally, they grab the partition and haul it back to their planet for study (likely to be the heart of this story).  After a decade or so of study the aliens not only understand how the English and Spanish languages sound—they also have some idea of certain human anatomy and they determine where the partition came from (likely that I have left the hose running at this point).  
Armed with all of this newfound knowledge, the aliens send forth a craft to seek contact with the inhabitants of Earth.  When the aliens finally land on our planet, in roughly that same place where New York City once stood, they discover an after-war wasteland.  Obviously, the human population has regressed and lost the keys (likely) to technology.  Eventually, the aliens chance upon a band of humans scavenging through a heap of junk.  At first sight, the aliens run toward the humans spouting out the terms and phrases learned from the bathroom partition.  They wave renditions of the graffiti drawings on flags they have brought with them.
Ironically, the language has managed to survive through the harsh nuclear winter mostly intact (unlikely, if you consider that the language barely survives the streets today).  Highly offended, the humans slay the aliens with clubs and crude spears.

NOTE: My sincerest apologies to the late Ken Kesey.
--Mitchell Hegman    

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fragment (likely meaningless but sounds good)

But the ideas of men
Are not those of dogs—
To stiffen metals into a hinge
And hang such heavy voices
On a weakling wind.

--Mitchell Hegman