Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Total Dropout Syndrome

I have an ordinary brain.  I mean, it functions relatively well most of the time.  I can string a few numbers together.  I generally avoid running into walls.  I eventually find lost keys.  While rocket science and foreign languages are out, I have, just the same, managed to work steadily throughout my adult life.  I even constructed the house I presently reside in.
Good brain, there.
But my brain has a glitch.  I suffer from what I call “total dropout syndrome.”
Total dropout syndrome is when my brain suddenly ceases normal function.  All synapses drop out at the same time.  When such lapses occur, I entertain bizarre, if not stupid, thoughts.
In common vernacular, my shit does not connect.
I had a total dropout syndrome episode yesterday.  As I read through the paper, I read the following headline: Man shot by police after drawing weapon at US Capitol.   
That’s crazy, I thought.  Why would someone get shot just for drawing (as in sketching on paper) a weapon?  In my mind, I saw the following image.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

As I Sing Along

Singing along with songs pouring from my stereo, I sometimes launch into verses with great commitment.  I fancy myself as a pretty good singer.
Two things:
Apparently, our ears bear false witness to our own singing abilities.  And, judging by the reactions of my 40 pounds of housecat, I have an element of scary monster in my voice.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Reasons Why, Part 2

Because the rain that sweeps down across the mountains from the roaming clouds soon gathers into tiny springs that splash toward stony-bottom brooks. The brooks direct themselves into deep pools and then collect into great rivers that deepen and slow and eventually come still in a wide valley…becoming the very lake that reflects the image of me standing beside you.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, March 28, 2016

Reasons Why, Part 1

Because you hear me when I whisper.
Because your hand finds mine in the darkness.
Because you trust my “yes.”
Because you respect my “no.”
Because, when alone, I think mostly of you.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, March 27, 2016

That’s not a Dog

My sister is a little loopy at present.  This is somewhat expected, considering she underwent back surgery a couple days ago.  I stopped to visit with her on my way home from teaching a class in Helena last evening.  At one point during a conversation, she tried to name the specific breed of dog one of her friend’s has.  “You know what kind of dog it is,” she suggested.  “About this big.”  She held a hand out to illustrate.  “They’ve got messy hair that sticks out everywhere…always matted…” She swung her arms about, hoping they might work as descriptors for retrieving the name of the breed.
“That’s not a dog, Deb,” I told her.  “That sounds like 20 pounds of housecat.” 

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, March 26, 2016


So long as we don’t run out of light, I am not worried.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, March 25, 2016

Business Sense

Never do anything under the banner of a business name that you would not do under the banner of your own name.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, March 24, 2016

If You See My Dental Hygienist, Please, Tell Her She is Beautiful

I knew something was different the instant I saw my dental hygienist yesterday.  Her color seemed off—maybe a bit pale.  She was wearing a cable knit wool hat when she came to get me from the waiting room.  Maybe she is feeling under the weather, I thought.
My hygienist is a talker.  She tends to fill my mouth with tools and tubes and then prattles on, interjecting questions occasionally.  I usually lie back in the chair and allow my eyes to explore the ceiling, hoping the questions do not involve math or long, half-mouthed answers about what I am doing for work these days.
Yesterday, she took x-ray images of my teeth and then went to work on my regularly scheduled cleaning.  After cleaning for only a minute or so, she announced: “I am overheating with this hat on.”
The instant she removed the hat, I understood.  She was bald.  All of her blondish hair was gone.
“I just finished a fight with cancer,” she announced.  “I am cancer free now.  I am feeling much better.”
“What kind of cancer,” I asked. 
“Breast,” she said.
She stopped working on my teeth.  We talked.  Normally, I am annoyed when this happens; I want to get finished and go on with my day.  Not so, yesterday.  We talked about our families.  We talked about dogs.  We talked about Montana.  We talked about cancer.  I looked into her eyes and thought of all those loved ones I have lost to cancer, including my wife.
Eventually, the hygienist finished with my teeth.  “I hope you are feeling one-hundred percent when I see you in six months,” I told her as I rose from the chair. 
“See you then,” she replied, smiling broadly.
Only after I walked out the door did I feel a pang of regret.  I should have lightly grasped her hand and told her that she is still beautiful.  I should have told her how happy I am that she is still with us.  I should have remembered her name.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Qualified Persons

There is nothing wrong with a qualified person.  Qualified persons, on the other hand, are another matter.  Qualified persons annoy my sister.  They also annoy my technical writing buddy.
Okay.  I am not suggesting that actual people-type persons are annoying my sister and my friend.  It’s the term “persons” that melts their ice cubes.  “Why aren’t they qualified people or qualified personnel?” my sister will ask.
I should explain.  This is all related to those times when I ask my sister or my friend to proof-read the various training documents I produce.
The term “qualified persons” is full tilt Code-speak.  Electric Code.  Example: Only qualified persons are allowed to access energized equipment.
The National Electrical Code thrives on this stuff.
I clearly recall the first time I cracked open a Code book and read a few sections.  “Geez, I hope if there is an English version of this available,” I thought.
Nope.  The Code is the Code, as electricians say.  The whole “persons” thing is part of the Code wanting to emulate old-timey English legal writing.  And the National Electrical Code, as adopted by local authorities having jurisdiction, is a legal document.
Yesterday, as I sat in a Code training class watching Power Point slides, I giggled to myself each time qualified persons appeared on the screen.  To hell with the rest of the world: qualified electricians are persons. 

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Wouldn’t “efficiency” be more so if spelled with only one “f”?

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Lesbian Woman Using a Tattooed Man as a Blanket

A new season of Naked and Afraid has started on the Discovery Channel.  I am simple enough to enjoy the show.  I love the premise.  Two strangers—a man and a woman—are flown to some remote location in the world where they get naked, meet in the wild, and then attempt to survive for 21 days without food stock or water.
They are each allowed one primitive tool.
The show is really not about seeing nudity.  For one thing, censors blur-out all of the blush-worthy stuff.  And pretty soon you are more interested in the dynamic established between the two survivalists anyway.  The team approach to making fire and finding drinking water always fascinates me.
The first episode I watched last night featured a self-proclaimed lesbian and a heavily-tattooed artist dude.  The pair quickly established a solid team bond.  Normally, the first few nights spent together in a shelter are a bit delicate.  Not so with this pair.  After a single night of shivering and tentative hugging to stay warm, the woman basically climbed right on top of the man.  Later, she urged him to lay atop her.
This had zero to do with sex.
This all about survival and—for someone as artless as me—compelling television.  The smart survivalists are the first ones to get beyond sex.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Nature Photo Challenge, Last Photo

My final photograph for this challenge is the oldest of the series.  I captured this photograph with my first digital camera in 2004.  The photograph features a lone tree near the shore of Lake Helena.  The photograph was taken at sunrise during late winter.  The lake is still covered with a layer of ice.
In this photograph, I see light overcoming darkness.
As a final detail of the seven-day nature photo challenge, I am to challenge someone else to post for seven days.  This challenge is to include the sharing of my post and said challenge on the timeline for the person I challenge.  I do not wish to challenge someone without first assuring they are interested.  For one thing, the fact the photos must be taken by the person posting is somewhat limiting.
Thus far, I have not found an interested party.
Still buffering over here…
--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Nature Photo Challenge Day #6

Snow changes everything.  The whole of the outside world is whitewashed.    Details soften.  Sounds are muffled.  In full sunlight, the landscape brightens from end to end.  The sky turns impossibly blue—so blue you feel need to rub your eyes after looking at it.
Snow plays a significant role in life up north.  I don’t think a nature photo challenge featuring Montana can be complete without an image with snow.  Today, I am posting a photograph I snapped near my house following a valley-wide snowfall.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, March 18, 2016

Nature Photo Challenge Day #5

Haystack Butte, the peak at the left in the photograph is unusual.  For one thing, the peak would fit better on a Hawaiian island than here, as a solitary figure, on the Montana prairie south of the Rocky Mountain Front.  I say this because Haystack Butte was born from volcanic forces—same as the Hawaiian Islands.  In the photograph, you will note the Rocky Mountain Front kicking against the sky far off in the distance to the left.  Those mountains are primarily huge blocks of ocean born sedimentary rock that have been violently upturned in tectonic events.
The Front Range, as we call this area, is one of my favorite places in Montana.  Amend that.  In all the world.  This is the exact place where the Great Northern Plains greet the Continental Divide.  Words such as “vast” and “spectacular” come to mind as you drive through this area.
The clarity of view is unmatched.
Wildlife is abundant.  Grizzly bears occasionally probe the prairie from their mountain retreats.
The whole sky moves overtop you.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Nature Photo Challenge Day #4

For the first week of life, white-tailed fawn deer adopt an unusual defense strategy.  When presented with any sense of danger, a fawn will collapse to the ground, fold back its ears, and remain perfectly still.  The fawn will not move if approached.  It may not move even if touched.  At the same time, the fawn’s breathing and heartbeat are reduced to about half the normal rate. 
This state of defense is called “alarm bradycardia.”
Newborn fawns have not yet fully developed their scent glands.  Predators—which often rely on scent and are triggered by motion—may pass by fawns in a state of bradycardia.  During this same first week, the mother (the doe) will likely try to stay hidden with her offspring.  She will also take measures to keep the fawn from developing any notable “deer” scent.  To that end, she will consume the urine and droppings of her offspring.
By the second week of life, however, the fawn will adopt the more recognized defense mechanism of running off in a panic the moment danger is sensed.
The photograph I am posting for today’s entry in the seven-day nature photo challenge is of a fawn I chanced upon near my cabin about ten years ago.  When I surprised a doe with her fawn, the doe quickly rustled off into the brush.  The fawn dropped to the ground and assumed a state of alarm bradycardia.  I slowly approached the fawn, held my camera close, and snapped a couple images.
The fawn was small enough that I could have placed it on a pillow with room to spare.  I stood near the fawn for no more than a few seconds.  I did not touch the fawn or anything near it.  After capturing the image posted here today, I quickly left the area. 
--Mitchell Hegman

Information Sources: Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife, University of Georgia.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Nature Photo Challenge Day #3

Helena Valley Reservoir is about five miles from my house.  The reservoir was established as a regulating agent for the valley irrigation system and a supply reserve for Helena’s municipal water.  The reservoir is popular with fishermen and occasional picnickers who take advantage of day-use spots along the shore.
I have featured the reservoir in many photographs.  Today, I am reposting a sunrise I captured in June of 2011.  The morning I captured this photograph, I drove to the reservoir in darkness with the express purpose of capturing sunrise.  At the time, we had experienced several days of spectacular sunrise events.  I recall standing at the shore expressing “Wow!  Wow!  Wow!” as I snapped images.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Nature Photo Challenge Day #2

Orange agoseris is one of very few native Rocky Mountain wildflowers that displays orange when it blooms.  Some people refer to these flowers as orange mountain dandelions.  The flower is similar and the plant produces a milky white sap as do dandelions.
Agoseris blooms in the summer.  I sometimes find orange agoseris when I am clambering through the forests on a quest for huckleberries.  I have never found them in great quantity.  When I do find one, they standout like bright beacons in the night.  They may reach a height of two feet.  A single flower will appear on each stem.
The picture posted today, as part of the seven-day nature photo challenge I accepted, is a macro shot of an agoseris.  The flower is in early stages of bloom.  I found this particular flower in a sun-crossed opening deep in the woods near Lincoln, Montana.

 --Mitchell Hegman

Monday, March 14, 2016

Nature Photo Challenge Day #1

Yesterday, I accepted a challenge through Facebook to post—for the next seven days—a nature photograph each day.  The photographs must be taken by me.  I will not attempt to take a new photograph each day.  Instead, I will post some of my favorite photographs.  Most of these photos have been posted previously, but they are my personal favorites.
All photographs will be from somewhere in Montana.
For day one, I have selected a photograph I titled “Another Kind of Sky.”  I captured this image on a blustery summer day in 2008.  The photograph was taken from the shore of Lake Sherburne in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park. 
Lake Sherburne is fed by the fresh mountain waters of Swiftcurrent Creek.  All the mountains in this section of the park seem as if freshly hacked from stone with a sharp axe.  The Many Glacier area is also a likely place to sight grizzly bears. 
--Mitchell Hegman  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Spring Forward?

I woke this morning to the loss of one hour on the clock.  Apparently, that particular hour is the one required to fully develop my ambition for the day.  I have no ambition and no plans to shape any.  My plan is to slip into my outdoor hot tub and watch the sun bring forth dawn.
It’s the only option.
I am going to slump forward.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Waking Too Early in Missoula

I wake to a dark room, attended by two red LEDs on a far wall.  I heard a child crying deep in the night.  Later—much later—I heard a man and a woman talking.  Their voices sounded like birds caught inside the walls.  At times, one of the birds flapped desperately in an attempt to escape.
My room is located at the end of a long hall that offers no light from outside.  I know there is an ancient river just outside, yet I cannot sense it.  I also know the name of the river, but the name has no meaning this early.  Even if I could see the river, it would now be black.
This early in the morning, I must be careful what I think.  Some thoughts have damaging claws and thoughts are not fully restrained at such an early hour.
So I fill my mind with a flock of sheep to occupy my thoughts.  Sheep waddling overtop a grassy knoll.  Pure white sheep.  An endless supply of silly sheep slowly pouring over the knoll and out of sight…
Suddenly the radio alarm scratches to life.  KC and the Sunshine Band.  Stupidly happy bastards. Only then do I recall the myriad reasons I never appreciated the music of KC and the Sunshine Band.
The claws are out.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Tale of Two Valleys

That girl and I drove home from Yellowstone Park yesterday.  My work schedule afforded us the entire day for travel.  We were not able to return by driving through the interior of the park because the snow plow crew didn’t begin began clearing park roadways until the day we arrived.  We were told the snow removal crew managed to plow only sixteen miles into the park from Mammoth Hot Springs on the first day.
The park roadway from Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City-Silver Gate, Montana, however, is open year-round.  We opted to drive partway to Cooke City-Silver Gate so we could see a bit of Yellowstone Park and then turn around and drive back home from there.  This road loops through Lamar Valley.  Lamar is famous for the wildlife.  Wolves are most commonly sighted there.
The drive did not disappoint.  We saw expansive herds of bison and elk.  At one point, we had to slow the car and allow a coyote to cross the road near a group of people parked at a pullout.  I actually came to a full stop and grabbed my camera.  Only then, did I realize that the people at the pullout were watching a grizzly bear—fresh from its winter den—feeding on the carcass of what appeared to be an elk.
I managed a few quick photographs from the middle of the road.
After spending an hour or so in the park, that girl and I returned home by way of the Paradise Valley.  As we entered that valley, the clouds quickly parted, allowing sunshine to wash against the high peaks of the Absaroka Mountains and ranchlands along the valley floor.  We stopped at several locations near the Yellowstone River to capture more photographs.
“I took this same picture last year,” that girl remarked when I stopped at one of the fishing access points. 
“I did, too,” I said.  “But here in Montana, the sun paints with a different brush every day.” 

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Learning Opportunities

I once participated in a technical training course instructed by a woman who started the class by saying she hoped there were some mistakes and misunderstandings during the day. “Those,” she brightly announced, “are learning opportunities!”
At several points during the training, we were split into groups to perform group exercises.  Our instructor then wandered throughout the room and visited with each group to check progress.  I still recall her declaring: “Very good!  A learning opportunity!” when she needed to place a group back on track.
The best lesson from that day was leaning to accept and appreciate our mistakes.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Meet the Neighbors

That girl and I drove to Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone Park yesterday.  We braved a half-assed snowstorm to get here.  A half-assed snowstorm (for those unfamiliar) is one where snow fills the air and reduces visibility dramatically; but the snowflakes melt the instant they strike the ground—something like ghosts passing right through a wall.
I am teaching a digital multimeter class for park employees at a shop facility here in the park today.
We saw hundreds of elk scattered across landscape as we drove the final twisting miles to reach our destination.   Upon our arrival at Mammoth, a few of the neighborhood elk came out to meet us.  Posted today are two photographs I captured of elk just outside the Electric Shop at Mammoth.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Six Simple Rules for Practical Living

1. Fight all urges to hug naked mannequins.
2. Never eliminate bacon from a recipe that calls for bacon.
3. Don’t kick animals that have actual teeth at any end.
4. Approach any internet search for booby birds with extreme caution.
5. Make sure the garbage disposer switch is the first switch you identify in the kitchen.
6. Avoid throwing temper tantrums while naked.
--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, March 7, 2016

Most Days

All I need is a chair facing an expansive view of the mountains.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, March 6, 2016

First Bluebird, 2016

If you were to say to my sister: “Hey, I just saw a bluebird!”  She would say to you: “Bluebirds are not blue.  They are gray.”
“Nooooo,” you would insist.  “I just saw a bird.  The bird was blue.  Hence…bluebird.”
“Gray,” my sister would assure you.  “Bluebirds are gray.”
This can be highly frustrating.  At this point, you may be wanting to shove my sister in front of a speeding bus.  Probably there will not be a speeding bus near enough to suit your urge. 
Here is the deal: my sister suffers from a rare malady called “reads everything she gets her hands on.”  Somewhere along the line, she read an article about bluebirds that (pun intended) brought to light the fact that bluebird feathers should appear gray.  Instead, light refracts off air pockets and cells within the feathers in a manner that sends only blue wavelengths to our eyes.
My sister is technically correct.  Bluebirds are gray until struck by direct light.  But I am still of a mind that when I see something that registers as blue in my eye—it is blue.  Also, as a point of fact, all of the colors we perceive are really those which are rejected by objects.  In that regard, nothing is the color we perceive.
I apologize, at this point, for calling bluebirds “objects.”  Bluebirds are more than that.  For one thing, they are blue.  And they are birds.  Two of my two favorite things, right there.
Also, this far north, bluebirds are the first certain sign of spring.
Yesterday, I saw the first bluebird of the year.  A pair of them.  Male and female.  Throughout the afternoon, the pair delicately danced along the rails of the fence surrounding my house.  The male shone blue as an energized Christmas light.
Last year, I saw my first bluebird on March 12.
Spring, a week earlier.

                                                                                         Photo: Elaine R. Wilson

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, March 5, 2016

When We Pour the Ashes

When we pour the ashes of the departed out to sea,
terns scatter upwards, shrieking.
On shore, waves claw at statuaries.

Water, whether becalmed or in havoc, never held us in life
and will not hold the grieved.
Twenty-thousand days of light quickly sieve through.
The sea reclaims its color.

Time has set the continents adrift.
The collective of stars slowly shift around us
as we float back toward our homes
clutching an empty receptacle.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, March 4, 2016

Not 20 Pounds of Housecat

This morning, while still rubbing sleep from my eyes, I set coffee to brewing in my mostly darkened house and stepped outside to peer at the stars.  I check on the stars nearly every morning.
Yep.  I could tell they were all still there without counting.
As I wandered back in the house, I saw what I thought was 20 pounds of overfed housecat on the floor in my living room.  “Geez,” I thought, “I need to thin my boys down.  That is one fat cat!”
When I switched on another light, I saw that the “cat” was actually one of that girl’s folding step stools.  These stools occasionally migrate through the house.
Posted, is a photograph the stool in question.  I placed my coffee cup on the step stool (for reference to size) before snapping the photograph. 
Not exactly 20 pounds of overfed housecat…but if you know my cats, you can understand my mistake.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thinking Machines

A quote:

The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do. 

--B. F. Skinner

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Other Way

If there is thinking way to do something and a non-thinking way to do the same thing, I prefer the non-thinking way where I can drink beer at the same time.

--Mitchell Hegman