Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A White Splendor

According to Wildflowers of Montana, by Donald Anthony Schiemann, beargrass “is a conspicuous plant” when in bloom.
I concur.  Beargrass is loud.  Beargrass is explosive and showy.  When on display, this is a plant that cannot be ignored. 

In the Rocky Mountains, beargrass ranges from Canada through Montana and down into northwestern Wyoming.  Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) is not actually a grass at all.  Beargrass is a member of the lily family.  The stalk and huge plume of white flowers can reach as much as six feet in height.  Most of these plants thrust white plumes about 3 feet into the air at the end of June.  Native Americans used the grass-like leaves of this plant for weaving baskets.  One of the common names for the plant is Indian Basket Grass, which reflects its use for weaving baskets.  Beargrass is also one of the first plants to return to areas struck by wildfire—providing that the fires are not so intense they destroy the root system.   
Beargrass is a perennial, but normally blooms only on five to seven year cycles.  Moreover, communities of beargrass tend to bloom all together on the same cycle, which makes for amazing displays on those years when the populations opt to bloom.  This happens to be one of those years at Seeley Lake in the Swan Valley and on mountainsides near Flesher and Rogers Pass.   In some places, our Montana forest understory looks as if a fireworks display was frozen in place just a few feet off the ground amongst the shadows of the pine and fir trees.  The sweet smell is overpowering.

Yesterday, I spent the better part of two hours wandering the forest in admiration.  I have never seen anything that compares to this year.   Posted today are a few photos from my time in the beargrass.
--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Electric Cat

Nikola Tesla, the electrical genius responsible for inventing our AC power distribution system, the induction motor, remote control, the radio, and fluorescent lighting was inspired as a boy to study electricity after receiving a strong static discharge while petting his pet cat.  He wondered, at the time, if all of nature was like a big cat that might be stroked to produce energy. Before getting zapped by his cat, Tesla wanted to be a poet.
--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Indications That You May Be Wound a Bit Too Tight

—After someone else loads the toilet paper in the bathroom you reverse the roll because you like the sheets to dispense only from the front.
—You have an emergency back-up vacuum cleaner in the event the one you normally use stops working.
—After visiting a friend and borrowing a screwdriver, you organize their catch-all drawer.
—Following rain storms you use your leaf-blower to dry the patio outside.
—You seriously considered buying plane fare to New York City so you could fly out there and convince Donald Trump to cut his hair.
—You chose names for your children partially on the basis that their initials would fall into alphabetical order.
—You once drove to your bank and met with someone to resolve a balance discrepancy of only one cent.
—You use an Excel spreadsheet for your grocery list and back it up daily.
--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Butte, America

I think that people are pretty much the same everywhere, except for Butte, Montana, where a long time ago they realized that you can build a tavern within walking distance of every house in town and, more recently, they realized that women can learn the “sweet science” of boxing in pink boxing gloves.
--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Borrowed Quote

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
--Will Rogers

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Big Belt Mountains

Steady rain fell for the whole of yesterday morning.  The rain did not stop until about noon.  Once the showers stopped, however, the storm clouds quickly parted and provided a very pleasant day.  Martha and I advantaged the more agreeable weather by taking a drive into the Big Belt Mountains. 
The Big Belts extend from the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains rather like an arm.  The Missouri River twines through these mountains and has been formed into Canyon Ferry Reservoir, Hauser Lake, and Holter Lake by a series of dams.  If you happen to live in Helena, Montana, the skyline you see as you look toward to north is that of the Big Belt Mountains; this includes the Sleeping Giant.
I have posted three photos from the upper part of our drive.  The stone canyons that lead to the high meadows pictured are spectacular and must be seen to be understood.  A picture will never do.  The last photograph (though not a very good one) is a view of the Helena (Prickly Pear) Valley as seen from Hogback Mountain.  

--Mitchell Hegman


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Only in Those Places

I succeed only in those places where I have embraced my mistakes.
--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, June 21, 2013

Nonsense Without a Name, With a Refrigerator

While the rest of the scientific community (in particular the theoretical mathematicians) strove to prove that not even a nineteen-year-old exotic dancer with enhanced breasts can survive passing through a black hole, Michael S. Franks desired to employ math for more mundane studies.  In particular, Michael wished to prove by unequivocal mathematical expression that the light inside a refrigerator does go out the moment you shut the door.
Substituting the number “one” for light and the number “seven” for the refrigerator, Michael Franks set to work on a virtual cascade of formulae and numbers.  He worked tirelessly with a variety of calculations and computer programs to simulate a refrigerator door shutting.  Months into his work, Michael suddenly realized that he could simply shut himself inside the refrigerator to prove empirically that the light went out at the moment the door shut.
One day, Michael S. Franks shut himself inside his refrigerator shortly after eating breakfast. 
A small minority of the scientific community still persist to believe in the theoretical possibility that the light inside a refrigerator remains lighted when you shut the door.  They await the mathematic logic to prove otherwise—the very logic that eluded Michael Franks.  Mr. Frank’s wife, upon opening her refrigerator for a snack, discovered this cryptic note written in mustard across the inside of the door: “Out of mayonnaise.  The dancers live!”      
--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ultimate Question

What is my purpose?

To empty the trash on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and possibly Sundays.
--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Late Mountain Showers

Last night, an orange sunset washed up over the mountains just as a thin curtain of rain showers swayed down from low clouds above.  Martha and I stood on my deck and snapped pictures until the full of night blanketed over us.  
I am posting my favorite images.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, June 17, 2013

Two Small Facts

—At the element, an electric heater is essentially 100% efficient.
—An electric motor running while not under load is 0% efficient.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Slow Boy

My friends and I played basketball with the slow boy.   We also patted the top of his head fairly often.  He seemed to enjoy that.
Not everyone would play with the slow boy.  He slobbered a little sometimes—most of the time—and blurted out single random words that did not make sense.  “Timbuktu!” he might exclaim when someone made a nice shot from outside the key.  “Breakout!” he would yell exuberantly if any long silence befell our play.
The slow boy never double-knotted his shoelaces and usually ended up with at least one sneaker untied during our games.  More often than not, the basketball bounced off the slow boy’s chest if you pitched him a brisk pass.  He sunk only the occasional shot at the basket and dribbled with two hands.
We did not tease the slow boy all that much.  Each of us made sure to ease him a soft pass now and then.  We allowed him open shots.   He played for both teams.  All of us understood that if he were a rabbit or deer or any such creature in the wild, the coyotes and mountain lions would have devoured him.
I know where most of the players are today.  From Helena to Seattle to the grave, I know…but what do you suppose came of the slow boy?
--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Soft Focus

The ball cactus clusters in my yard are just now coming to bloom.   Today, I am posting two photographs I captured of the same cactus.  This particular cactus is growing very close to my bay windows.  I captured the first image three days ago in gentle light diffused by rainclouds.  I softened the focus to allow a certain blending of lines and colors.  I took the second photograph in full light yesterday afternoon.  The second photograph employs a much sharper focus and fills the screen with more distinct detail.
Interestingly enough, I prefer the inexact qualities of the softly focused photograph.   In some ways that is a reflection of my personal life.  I tend to enjoy organization and neatness only to a certain point—what you might call a point of practicality.  Beyond that is what I consider obsession.  In construction, as example, I have seen a few new subcontractor foremen who expended so much labor trying to keep materials super-organized and work areas ever clean they fell behind the rest of the naturally chaos-generating crews and actually lost money for their employer.  They became so busy with organizing stuff they forgot that they had a structure to build. 
I also like the inaccurate and ghostly views provided by morning fog.   In sound, I prefer the muted rolling of creek water as heard through a veil of trees—a place where the sound of the creek does not drown-out the call of nearby birds or the sound of wind shuffling aspen leaves.
I like a place where lines and colors merge together.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, June 14, 2013

Children on the Mountain, Children in the Trees

Though I have visited the graveyard at the ghost town of Elkhorn, Montana many times, I am always a little troubled as I leave there.
I think of the children.
Elkhorn thrived in a narrow mountain valley near Helena in the last half of the 1800s and reached a population of 2500 during the peak of silver production.  Elkhorn grew, as most mining towns did back then, in fits and starts, and with a mix of shacks and fancy commercial buildings.  Elkhorn, however, was different in that whole families of European immigrants came to populate the town rather than the usual flurry of single raucous men.  At one point, the town boasted over a dozen saloons, three hotels, a two-lane bowling alley, and Fraternity Hall—which is pictured below.
The immigrants carved an honest community from the wood and stone of the nearby mountains.  Elkhorn bustled until the silver crash of 1893.  The saddest episode, though, befell Elkhorn in the latter half of 1888 and extending into the early months of 1889.  A diphtheria epidemic began taking the lives of the town’s children one by one and two by two.  Many families lost multiple children.  Mother’s and daughters perished side by side.  Few families were spared.
The graveyard at Elkhorn can be found on a mountain above the town and is now overtaken by the forest.  Many of the grave markers were made of wood and have long since been reclaimed by the elements.  The stone markers and an occasional fence still stand—often aslant amidst upright pine and fir trees.   You can still find the names and ages of many children on the mountain there.
The arched tombstone pictured below is for Beatrice and Clara (aged 3 and 5). 
All of the photographs posted today were taken yesterday afternoon while Martha and I visited the Elkhorn during a rainstorm.

--Mitchell Hegman     

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Modesty in all things…except kissing and uprooting weeds.
--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Blue Virgin’s Bower

Posted today is photograph taken on a hike along the upper switchbacks of Refrigerator Canyon Trail yesterday (6-11-2013).  The whole forest is vividly green following weeks of good rain.  Some of the patches of balsamroot flowers stand waist-high.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Like Forces Repel (the not-too-technical version)

In nature, like forces repel.  The often cited example is the like poles of magnets, which readily push away from each other when they are brought near enough that their lines of flux meet.  Similarly, two negative sub-atomic particles of the same sort will repel. 
In human behavior, however, two negatives readily attract.  Quite often, they will cohabitate for over twenty years and steadily produce offspring for the whole time.  Their offspring will likely set fire to your lawn furniture while they are young children, steal cars from your neighborhood as young adults, and then eventually marry into your own family.  
--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Summer Sundog

While out for a walk the other day, I glanced up into a pine tree and noticed that a fairly vivid sundog was on display; this one caused by ice crystals held aloft with the high cirrus clouds. Fortunately, I almost always have my camera with me, whether afoot or in an automobile.  No exception to that the other day.
Here are a couple of images that I captured. 
--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Strange Facts about the Human Body

1.      The risk of heart attack is greatest on Monday—thought to be partially true because people at risk have too much fun on the weekend.

2.      People are taller in the morning than they are in the evening—due to compression of cartilage in the joints of the bones.

3.      The bones in your feet account for one quarter of the number of bones in your entire body.

4.      An estimated 32 million bacteria reside on every square inch of human skin.

5.      Fear increases the production of earwax.

6.      People who are right-handed live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people—due mainly to left-handed accidents in a mostly right-hand intended world.

7.      Your ears never stop growing.

8.      The largest human cell is the egg in a female and the smallest human cell is sperm in a male.

9.      Your chances of having a bad dream increases as the temperature of the room in which you sleep decreases.

10.  The tooth is the only part of the human body that cannot repair itself.

--Mitchell Hegman

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

In My Velvet Dream

Our lovemaking is like slow boxing

We throw fakes and soft punches
And then merge together like cross-ripples on a velvet sea
Like kittens falling into silk pillows

Please don’t speak to me baby

Don’t hesitate
Or drop aside

Your skin is the open plain upon which I run
Deliciously out-of-breath

My hands are no longer mine

My lips
My thoughts
These all belong to you

--Mitchell Hegman  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Day’s End, June 5, 2013

A photograph taken from my deck just as the last of daylight smoldered atop the mountains northwest of where I live.  A single fishing boat rests on the lake.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It’s not just a Flower, It’s an Annual Event

Every year I tell myself that I will not take more photographs of the bitterroot when they bloom in June.  I have—without exaggeration—many dozens of quite lovely photographs of them from previous years.  If you shuffled though the photographs, you might even successfully argue that most of them look alike.
I tend to photograph the bitterroot in pairs.  I usually do not center them in the frame.
Well, the bitterroot bloom is at its peak all around my home right now.  For the last week or so I have successfully fought the urge to photograph them; with the exception of a few random cell phone pictures I snapped and sent to my dearest.
Yesterday, I caved-in to my impulse to photograph the flowers in earnest.  Is it possible to have too many beautiful flowers, I asked myself?   I streaked out into the prairie on the south side of my home (with my digital SLR) and began taking pictures.  The bitterroot are too conspicuous to ignore.  They became the State flower of Montana for good reason.
Posted today is an off-center pair of bitterroot blossoms.
--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Last Words

“Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.”
--Voltaire (when asked to renounce Satan by a priest)

“Now comes the mystery.”
--Henry Ward Beecher

“I am about to—or I am going to—die; either expression is used.”
--Dominique Bouhours (French grammarian)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Five Things Not to Say in a Quiet Elevator Filled with Strangers

—Guess what?  I just committed my first murder.
—I was called here to work on this elevator…please tell me that nobody punched any buttons that go beyond the third floor.
—Well, I hope all of you are immune to contagious diseases?
—My family has this curse where we perish in freakish elevator accidents.
—Is this the petting zoo?
--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, June 3, 2013

We, the Eaters of Culls

Secretly, we whittle away our days in your closets, under your boxes, in corn meal, at the edge of your burlap sacks, and within book-backs.  Wee-intentioned and practical, our sort happily noses through your bread crumbs and wriggle through corner-caught lint.
What might be more perfect than to cohabit without the smallest tap or clatter to annoy you?
We, the eaters of culls.
We, that bloom in disrepair. 
We, clawing up the backside of your stairs.
We’ve no lovers or dearest mothers or even a common word to spare.
But we are quick when you find us.  We are raw nerve endings and vaulters-away.
We, the silver.
We, quick as a shadow-crossed fish


--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, June 2, 2013

From the Fire and into the Sun

Iliamna rivularis, more commonly known as streambank wild hollyhock or streambank globe mallow, disperses seeds that can lie dormant in the soil for several hundred years, waiting for ideal growth conditions before germinating and growing.  The plant might grow to a height of six feet.
Similar in habit to lodgepole pine, wild hollyhock flourishes following forest fires in the mountains of Western Montana.  The intense heat of fire is key to germination.  The tough outer shell of the seed is broken down by the heat of the fire.  Some horticulturists actually drop hollyhock seeds into water after it has been brought to a boil and then allow the water and seeds to stand overnight as a way to soften the seed shell prior to planting.
Streambank wild hollyhock has seen great declines in population in the eastern half of the United States as result of decades of fire suppression.  Additionally, hollyhock thrives in the open sunlight provided after forest fires clear the canopy.  The plant, however, is not drought tolerant.
I know of only one place in the nearby Big Belt Mountains where I am able to find streambank hollyhock every season.  As their name has it, this population thrives along a small stream that flounces down through a narrow limestone canyon. 

Photo: U.S. Forest Service
--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Twenty Pounds of Housecat

I am posting a picture of Splash, twenty pounds of domestic housecat.  I snapped this picture about fifteen minutes ago after I let him out back.  Yesterday, Splash brought me a mouse he captured out back.  The day before that, he kicked Carmel’s ass out there.  Carmel is my other twenty pounds of housecat.  Carmel’s belly very nearly drags on the ground.
Carmel did not deserve to get his ass kicked.
That’s about all I have for today.

--Mitchell Hegman