Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Holding Down the Rugs

Posted is a photograph of 20 pounds of housecat (formerly known as Carmel) holding down two rugs.  The temperature outside, at the time the photograph was captured, measured 101 degrees Fahrenheit in this: the County of Lewis and Clark; in this: the state of Montana; in this: the United States of America.

Thank you, 20 pounds of housecat.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015

When Two Self-Driving Cars Meet

I have been hearing and reading recent news reports about two self-driving cars that nearly collided on a highway in California.  One of the cars, guided by Google, cut-off a car guided by Delphi Automotive as the Delphi car attempted a lane change.  The Delphi car aborted the lane change to avoid a collision.  I think smart money is on the company working to equip self-driving cars with firearms and automatic road rage modules.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, June 26, 2015

My Internal Alarm Clock

My internal alarm clock wakes me at 5:00 every morning.  By 5:01 all of the other stuff inside me that wanted to sleep longer is kicking the hell out of the internal clock.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Domestic Files: Living With Cats

The other night, for some inexplicable reason, my brother-in-law attempted to pick up and snuggle his cat.  The cat immediately launched into emergency-cat-claw-response-mode.  I will spare all the grim details of what I witnessed and simply suggest that if you are ever given the choice to either become a cat owner or, instead, jump off a cliff in one of those flying squirrel suit thingies—take the jump!  You may not even require the flying suit thingy.

I live with 40 pounds of domestic housecat.  To arrive at 40 pounds, you simply add my two 20 pound hairballs together; not that attempting to get my cats near each other is a particularly good idea in practice.  Rather than try to explain what living with cats is like in narrative form, I thought I would present you with a list of what I have learned from my time with housecats:

1. Cats have claws on all ends.

2. Cat hair has magnetic-like properties that attract it to virtually everything but the cat itself.

3. Some days cats like stuff, most days they do not.

4. Humans are stuff.

5. Sleep at night?  Ha!

6. A cat will eat the ass of a mouse, but they are not going to eat the glop you spoon from the can.

7. Cats have two responses to human touch: flop-over-and-purr response or emergency-cat-claw-response-mode.  There exists no predictive behavior to tell you which response to expect.

8. We are alive because our cats allow it.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Can New Technology Save Us?

Admonitions on social media will never replace a good old-fashioned slap in the face, but drones dropping bags of poo might be a possibility.

--Mitchell Hegman 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This Year

Though prickly pear plants are plants that bite, I have allowed them to grow in the “native yard.”  I find the prickly pear cactus handsome in the proper setting.  I have dedicated a blog to photographs of the prickly pear every June since starting my blog.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, June 22, 2015

Giant Hairball

The other evening, that girl and I sat outside on the back deck watching mid-level clouds slowly clouding by and watching waves shuffling across the lake below.  Suddenly, a gust of wind kicked through the tall native grasses in my yard and swept up a giant hairball that quickly whisked off in front of our faces and vanished in the expanse of low hills around us.  Obviously, the hairball was about 10 percent of one of my 40 pounds of housecat.  I just grimaced and said, “Well, that was bound to happen sooner or later.”

--Mitchell Hegman 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Return of the Mountain Lady’s Slipper

According to three of my wildflower books (I have four that I consult regularly) the mountain lady’s slipper is rare throughout its entire range.  As most orchids, the mountain lady’s slipper is finicky about where it will grow.  Slippers prefer moist but well drained soils.  I always find them deep in forests where they are mostly in shade all day.  I have only seen them in two locations near where I live.  I have found them occasionally inside a particular canyon in the Big Belt Mountains and I found them on my cabin property.

Until the pine beetle and spruce budworm infestations swept through the forest around my cabin, five or six of the orchid plants appeared every summer in a densely wooded bowl near the creek at my cabin.  The dying trees and the thinning required to save the rest, changed the nature of the moisture and the light where the orchids flourished.

My orchids vanished.

Though I have an abundance of fairy slippers, I have not seen a lady’s slipper for something near six years.  Yesterday, while taking a break from working on the cabin, I took a short walk from the cabin to clear my mind and, quite by chance, found two mountain lady’s slipper plants in a new location only a stone’s throw from my cabin.

I am posting a photograph taken with my twice-as-smarter-than-me-phone.

Welcome back, slippers!

 --Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Return of the Nighthawks

If this were only a sunup and sundown world, with no harsh light in-between, the nighthawks would own it.  They appear in the warm summer half-light hours, pirouetting from clouds and threading through trees.  Nighthawks are quick beyond measure.  They seem almost as if ricocheting off invisible walls in the sky as they abruptly veer in all directions while chasing after insects.  At times, they will fold their wings and freefall from the sky—calling off the dive only an instant before crashing to the ground with a loud hooowuuuuush as they unfurl to rebound back into lateral flight once again.

Where I live, nighthawks are the last birds to return from wintering.  I have seen them here only in the last two weeks.  These birds winter in the tropics of South America and undertake one of the longest migrations of North American birds to reach all the way through the United States and into Canada.

According the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, fossil specimens of nighthawks dating back as far as 400,000 years have been found in the United States.  They are not opposed to showing up outside of their normal range.  Sightings of the birds have been recorded in Iceland, Greenland, and on occasion, the British Isles.

Sadly, nighthawk populations are is steep decline.  The North American Breeding Bird Survey notes that, between the years 1966 and 2010, the population of nighthawks declined by 2 percent every year.  This amounts to a cumulative drop in population of nearly 60 percent.  Threats to their population include reduction in mosquitoes and other aerial insects due to the use of pesticides and loss of habitat.

Nighthawks are particularly vulnerable to being struck by automobiles as they forage the morning and night skies for insects.  Nighthawks nest on open ground and tend to roost on roadways at night.  I have had many close encounters with roosting nighthawks while driving out from my house along the ranchland roads in the predawn.  Fortunately, I have never struck one.  Declines in urban nighthawk populations has been attributed to the loss of flat gravel rooftops (replaced with new membrane roofing systems), which made ideal nesting spots for the birds.  Some people have created nesting habitat on new membrane roofs by placing gravel pads in the corners.

As the sun softly crashed into the Rocky Mountains last night, I watched several nighthawks deflecting from cloud to cloud in sunset sky above the lake.  I am pleased to share my sky with them for one more summer.  After all, the sky is my garden.    
--Mitchell Hegman

Illustration: Wikipedia 

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Domestic Files: Changing the Bedding

I did not change my bedding when I was a kid.  My older sisters changed my bedding for me.  This occurred on a quarterly basis and occurred only when my mother forced one of my sisters enter my room and do so.   My sisters did not like my room.  I kept old bird’s nests and animal bones and rocks and bottles and just about anything you can imagine in my room.  I wanted my room more like the outside world.  Only a few weeks ago, my sister, Debbie, reminded me of how much she hated going near my bed.  “Your bed was full of sand,” she said.  “It was gross!”

Honestly, I think the girls got off pretty easy.  I would have slept with my full rock collection had not the iron pyrite and ore specimens scratched me to pieces when I tried.

I have a far more frequent schedule for changing bedding these days.  I have Uyen Hegman, my sweet and long departed wife to thank for that.  For the first thirteen years we were together, she took on the task all by herself.  For the final fifteen years we were together—due to the lasting disabilities caused by her transverse myelitis—she often asked me to help her change the bedding.  Naturally, some of our housecats also “helped” us when we spread-out the new bedsheets.  Our first cat, Denver, especially like to shark around under freshly spread sheets.  Uyen and I enjoyed poking at Denver as he swam under the fresh bedding.  Sometimes, we would finish making the bed, leaving Denver as a purring lump under the freshly spread linens and comforter.

Mostly, though, I did not enjoy changing the bedding.   On many occasions I complained when Uyen asked me to help her put the bed together.  “It will only take a minute,” she would gently say.  “It’s too hard for me to do it myself.”

The first few times I changed the bedding after Uyen’s passing, I had total breakdowns.  I wept into my hands as I held them to my face.  I felt the most intense sorrow.   I felt like such an ass for every time I complained about helping her with that chore.  I would have given anything to have just one more chance to make the bed with Uyen.

Today, I am happy to change the bedding.  I fling the sheets with abandon.  I wrestle with the pillows.  I stroke the comforter into place.   I feel so lucky to be here making the bed.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lines in the Sand

Whenever I hear someone proclaim that they have “drawn a line in the sand,” I imagine myself adding a few lines of my own to theirs so I can produce stick figures in an obvious sex position.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Workers completed the Going-to-the-Sun Road in 1932 after many years of engineering and a bit over a decade of construction.  The road was officially opened in 1933.  According to the National Park Service, construction included the use of power shovels, stream shovels, gas shovels, pneumatic tools, and nearly 500,000 pounds of explosives on the central cliffs.  Three men died during construction of the road.  One man perished in a fall.  Another man got caught in a rockslide.  A falling rock killed the third man.

Going-to-the-Sun Road bisects Glacier National Park from east to west.  On the west side, the road gently weaves along the shores of Lake McDonald before lacing up onto the stony faces of the mountains themselves.  Once on the mountains, the roadway alternately clings to green belts of high alpine vegetation or is carved into the cliffs themselves.  The highway crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, reaching an elevation of 6,646 feet.  The east side of the road twists back down the mountains to St. Mary Lake.  From beginning to end, the drive is about 50 miles in length.

Preserving and blending in with the landscape was a major concern during construction.  The route was chosen with great concern for the visual impact.  Materials removed to make way for the roadway were painstakingly hauled away to designated dumping sites.  Today, at places such as the Weeping Wall, you can see where snowmelt cascades right through the roadway.

Going-to-the-Sun Road typically opens in June (after two months of snow removal) and closes in October.  Snow can accumulate to depths of nearly 80 feet in some locations.  Even the removal of snow can be hazardous; in 1953 four men working on a crew operating snow removal equipment were swept away in a snow slide.  Two men were killed.

Today, I am posting photographs from my recent drive up the west side of Going-to-the-Sun Road.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, June 15, 2015

Glacier Park

Yesterday, I drove half a day from Helena to reach Glacier National Park.  The whole of Montana is green now.   The prairies are painted with wildflowers.  The forests are filled with expanding light and all manner of wild creatures passing through.  The rivers and streams are nearly flouncing free of their banks.
Glacier Park never fails to fill me with awe—something about the mountains freshly hewn from solid stone.  Once set free from the high snowfields there, snowmelt waters tumble and stitch down from the peaks to feed lush green catchments and slopes where wildflowers sometimes touch the passing clouds.  In the deep valleys, aquamarine waters gather together to form deafening cascades before finally pooling into clear lakes.

Posted are a couple of photographs I captured.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Domestic Cat Hair Removal Program

I know it is time to launch my “domestic cat hair removal program” when hair tornadoes appear on the floor if I open exterior doors and big hairballs chase little hairballs across the kitchen floor.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Earthquake Lake

On August 17, 1959, just a few minutes before midnight, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake shook me from my bed in East Helena, Montana.  I do not recall the incident.  My mother told me this.  I was three at the time.  That earthquake killed 28 people.  Most of the victims perished when half of a mountain in the Madison Range collapsed onto them as they slept or sat by campfires at a campground along the Madison River not far from West Yellowstone, Montana.

Though I do not recall the quake, I do recall sitting in the back of my family’s station wagon when my father drove the lot of us down to investigate the scene not long after the quake.  I vividly recall the buckled highway near Hebgen Lake about nine miles above the landslide.  I remember looking at an overturned car and some trucks thrown from the roadway and saying “those look just like my Tonka trucks!”

At this date, the lake formed by the blockage of the river is about six miles long and reaches a depth of 190 feet at the deepest point.  A few of the trees that were only half-submerged by the sudden formation of the lake remain dead-standing.  As that girl and I drove along the shore of Earthquake Lake two days ago, we spotted two fishermen on a small boat slowly threading through a few of the upright trees in the water.  Just two men in what is now a calm mountain lake.

Posted is a photograph I captured two days ago (still showing the bare rock exposed by the collapse of the mountain) and a photo I found at the National Museum of the Forest Service website where I gathered most of my information.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, June 12, 2015

Rube Goldberg Machine

I saw this posted on a friend’s Facebook wall.  I really like the visual impact of the video.

--Mitchell Hegman

If the posted video does not launch, click on this link:

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Domestic Files: Washing Dishes

Some people refer to the task of washing dishes as “pearl diving.”  That is, to say the least, a little romanticized.  Sometimes—with all the knives and broken glassware in the sink—washing dishes by hand is closer to stuffing your fingers inside the jaws of a shark.

As a kid, I watched enough people retrieve bloody fingers from dishwater to know that washing dishes was not for me.  My sisters thought that I didn’t like to wash dishes because I was afraid I might accidentally clean myself in the process.  There is some truth in that.  There is also something to the fact that washing dishes severely cut into my time for getting covered by dirt in the first place.

Oddly, as an adult, I have learned to accept and sometimes enjoy washing dishes.  Washing dishes provides just enough structure and motion to clear my mind of most extraneous inputs.  I think better.  I solve problems at the sink.  I was at the sink washing dishes, for instance, when I realized that I kept crashing my face into the bedroom door when I got up late at night because I closed the door when I went to bed.

The door is open now.

I am a vigorous dishwasher.  My friend Kenny would say that I “go about it like a man killing snakes.”   I sometimes fling soap suds from one end of the counter to the other.  I will also admit to breaking glassware and bending the occasional tine on a fork.  I also enjoy making “creative” drying stacks, where bowls balance precariously on cups and silverware props up plates.  Though not always stable, my inventive drying stacks are personally satisfying.

My final observation is this: washing the dishes and drying clothes are the very two tasks that provide absolute balance in the universe as we presently know it.  They are the perfect opposites to establish equilibrium.  Where clothing (socks in particular) tend to vanish in the dryer; dishes greatly multiply in number while hidden under the heap of soap suds in the sink.              

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Laws of Home Electronics

1. Four out of four cords saved in your junk drawer will not fit the electronic widget you need tie into your home entertainment center.

2. For every two remotes used in a home, a third, “mysterious” remote must be somewhere collecting dust.

3. Volume that goes up does not necessarily come back down.

4. Electronic devices that require programming are “adult-proof” in design.

5. Ten out of ten batteries in your junk drawer will not fit the electronic widget you need a battery for.   

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Domestic Files: The Carpet Sweeper

My 40 pounds of cat are convinced that I want to kill them with my carpet sweeper.  As soon as they see me wheel the sweeper out from the utility room, they basically explode into escape mode.  While I have no intent to harm my cats, I have no compunction about thrashing a dust bunny or two.
I have had a few carpet sweeper “episodes’ over the years.  The tarantula incident comes to mind first.  When I was younger, I kept an assortment of exotic pets: birds, snakes, lizards, and one tarantula.  Sadly, the tarantula escaped from her aquarium—a fact discovered only when my mother pulled the sweeper from the corner where she kept it.  The giant spider quickly legged across the floor to hide under a bed.  Few words can accurately describe how my mother felt about finding the tarantula free. 

End of pet tarantula.

Over the years, I have had a host of my own carpet sweeper misadventures.  I have sucked-up several dozen coins.  The sound a coin makes when caught-up in a sweeper ranges on a scale that begins at slightly musical and escalates to downright catastrophic.  I have drawn-in shoes by the shoelaces.  I have started ugly wrestling matches between my sweeper and pretty little throw rugs.  You might think that a beefy, cord-powered machine would win in a wrestling match with a throw rug, but rugs are resilient beyond measure.  Once the rug and the machine lock-together, the machine will immediately start wheezing.  If left to battle long enough, the sweeper will begin to let-out puffs of blue smoke.

Apparently it is good practice to somewhat clear the larger clutter from the carpet before sweeping.  After finishing my sweeping, I often find what appears to be an entire cat inside my sweeper.  Honestly, I sometimes don’t know if I should start feeding what I find inside the sweeper or triple-bag it before disposal.  I have noticed that the newer (all plastic) carpet sweepers have become much more powerful in their sweeping abilities, but a throw rug can still kick their ass.

--Mitchell Hegman  

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sunset, June 7, 2015

Posted are two photographs taken of the sunset and Hauser Lake as seen from my house.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Notes on Domestic Living

1.  Cats are hair dispensing machines.
2.  Water will run uphill to soak important papers.
3.  Red wine can jump one freed from the bottle.
4.  There will be spiders!
5.  Towels and rugs cost real money.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, June 6, 2015


I come from a well-muscled land, where the hills flex into mountains and the creeks might coil or unwind as quickly as snakes.  At night, the cobalt skies fill with stars and the moon appears in her mutable phases.  If you watch the stars long enough, you can see how they are like shimmering specks of sand caught-up in invisible gears.

Everything around us is in motion.

If you think, as you watch the stars, your thoughts shall soon get caught-up in gears of their own—the destination of your thoughts not as predictable as that of the stars.   And if you sleep after watching the stars, your dreams will be like the hills flexing into mountains, and stars swirling in the deepest pools of a river.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sunrise, June 4

Posted is a photograph of yesterday’s misty sunrise.
--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Mount Helena City Park

According to the Prickly Pear Land Trust website, Mount Helena City Park is the second largest city park in the United States.  At just over 700 acres in size, Mount Helena City Park is surpassed in size only by Central Park in New York City.   The important point of separation between our parks, however, is that our park is a genuine mountain.  The peak of Mount Helena rises to an elevation of 5,468 feet above sea level and presides over the city of Helena, Montana, more than 1,000 feet directly below the highest rocky promontories.

Once you climb to the top of Mount Helena (on any of several trails that loop to the top), an expansive view is provided in all directions.  Directly below, to the north and east, lie the streets of the capital city of Montana (population of about 30,000).   Beyond that, roving clouds extend over the wide Prickly Pear Valley, the Sleeping Giant mountain formation, and Lake Helena.  To the west you find the very mountains that comprise the Continental Divide, which cleaves the rainfall waters and sends the east slope watershed to the Atlantic Ocean and the west slope watershed to the Pacific Ocean.  The south is given entirely to heavily forested mountains.

That girl and I hiked to the summit of Mount Helena yesterday.   We trekked through cool pine forests and seas of arrowleaf balsamroot flowers to reach the summit.  After reaching the top, we stood for a long time trying to comprehend the view as a whole.  Posted are photographs from our hike.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dark Clouds, Then Rain

I arrived home yesterday afternoon just as a dusky thunderstorm heaved over the Rocky Mountains.  The storm rapidly engulfed the entire valley and then the Elkhorn Mountains.  I stopped once on the drive through the ranchlands, stepped out into the peculiar calm before the coming rain and hail, and captured a photograph with my twice-as-smarter-than-me-phone.

By the time I arrived home, thunder had begun to rumble constantly from somewhere deep within the interior of the mountains to our west.  I retrieved my digital SLR camera and seized one more photograph of the lead stormcloud dragging overtop the prairie.  I stood out beside my house for only a minute or two before wind drove heavy rains and hail down against the entire expanse and forced me inside.
--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Boat

Positive thinking does not repair the holes in a sinking boat; positive thinking is the boat.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Neon Cactus

On May 12, I posted photographs a ball cactus (sometimes called a pin-cushion cactus) in the first stage of blooming.  The flowers of the ball cactus open only during the full hours of sunlight and close-up each night.  After showing their yellow core for a few sunny days in mid-May, the flowers closed again.  Yesterday, the ball cactus flowers opened to display their full color for the first time.

The flowers on ball cactus are startlingly magenta in color—almost neon in their intensity.  Few flowers can outshine them.  Today, I am posting a couple of photographs I captured near my house.

--Mitchell Hegman