Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Solar System, My Eclipse

Yesterday, here in Helena, we watched the moon slide overtop the sun until something near 93% of the sun had vanished.  At one time, the Arapaho Plains Indians thought all the celestial bodies were brothers and sisters.  When, on rare occasion, they witnessed a solar eclipse such as this, they were appalled, thinking that brother sun and sister moon might be having sex right there in the sky above them.
We had none of that here, but we also did not experience the level of darkness I expected.  At peak coverage (11:34 AM) we fell into a sort of eerie twilight—something near what you see 15 minutes before the sun is swallowed by the mountains each night.  But this twilight lacked the long shadows projecting from all things upright.
The strangest sensation was temperature. My arms and face chilled considerably as the moon blocked direct irradiation from the sun.
Mosquitoes, shunners of sunlight, emerged from a nearby field, thinking it was time for an evening meal.  I slapped a few of them silly.
Late in the afternoon, long after the eclipse, I received an email from my friend Dan.  He informed me that a mutual friend, Troy, was watching his solar PV power output during the eclipse.  The array output dropped to zero at 11:34.  That makes sense.  PV system output is directly related to the level of irradiation received from the sun.
My array reports daily output for me.  Posted is today a photograph of my solar PV array (taken two years ago) and a graph of my total power output from yesterday.  Each of bars on the graph represents average output over a 15 minute block of time.  You can see the valley in production produced by the array over the 2½ hour stretch of time the moon wiped across the face of the sun.  Though, at the bottom of the valley, 91 watts of output is shown, I assume my system fell to zero at the darkest point.



--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Downside to Ingenuity

If you study the photograph posted at the outset of this blog you will surmise you are looking at a cellphone and a flashlight (torch for those of you from England) duct-taped to broom handle.  But that is only the beginning.
What you are really seeing is pure ingenuity.  And no beer was involved.  Not at this point.
Ingenuity is a difficult and unlikely animal.  On one hand, ingenuity ultimately placed on your lap your laptop computer.  Ingenuity placed a Veg-O-Matic onto your kitchen countertop.
Good stuff, for sure.
On the other hand, ingenuity often turns some hapless (beer-drinking) soul into the next Franz Reichelt.  Franz, for those of you still ruminating about the Veg-O-Matic, was a tailor and early pioneer in the practice of parachuting.  In 1912, Franz climbed up Eiffel Tower, strapped himself inside the world’s first “parachute suit,” and leapt from the tower.
You can find (on YouTube) a surprisingly clear black and white movie of Franz plunging from Eiffel Tower.  If you are the slightest bit squeamish, you might want to find a video of puppies licking kittens instead.            
Getting back to the contraption at the beginning of this blog.  First, I am not going to compare this to the great Veg-O-Matic.  One of the supreme inventions of all history.  When I was seven or eight I gave one to my mother for Christmas.  She was SO impressed.
I can claim that, yesterday, with our duct-taped invention, my young friend Randy and I explored otherworldly places where most men fear to go: the inside of an active septic tank.  If you have ever imagined what the inside of a septic tank looks and smells like, it is much worse than that.
The video we captured begins in the sun and trees and then slowly descends into a hole in the earth.  I will spare you most details.  I can tell you this much.  The inside of a septic tank is an inky and starless universe.  Strange and ugly things suddenly appear before you at each twist of the broom handle.  Frankly, the video we captured is more disgusting than that of Franz Reichelt jumping from Eiffel Tower.
And I can tell you this.  I am looking for drawings of the world’s second parachute suit, because I am going to try that instead of a septic tank should such a proposal arise anytime in the future.







--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Where there’s Smoke

I am sure you have heard the expression “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” more than a few times.
I would like to amend that expression. 
Here is the new: “Where there’s fire, there’s smoke.”  Sometimes a lot of smoke.  So much smoke, my brother-in-law (who often requires an inhaler to help him with his compromised breathing), is on the verge of visiting Urgent Care.
The West is ablaze.  Not just Western Montana.  Bigger.  Fires are presently scouring through all the Northwestern U.S. as well as British Columbia.  The monster fires, the type that throw six-foot logs up in the air, create their own weather patterns, and cause trees to explode into flames like rags dipped in gasoline are, in fact, roiling through the mountains of British Columbia.
This year, with the table set for plenty more fire season, British Columbia has seen something approaching three million acres scorched.  That’s already a grim record.
And that’s a lot of smoke.
Clouds, veils, walls of smoke, and sometimes ash, have invaded our valley over the last few weeks.  Much of the smoke has swooped down from British Columbia.  Some from across the Continental Divide here in Montana.  Some from other states to our west.
We have experienced hours where we cannot see for more than a mile or two.  Our mountain views come and go.
It’s awful.
Most mornings have, fortunately, arrived fairly clear.  As soon as I wake, I scamper from room to room opening windows to let in sweet, cool air while it lasts.  Last night, the smoke in the air was thick as pudding.  I woke this morning to a view of the Big Belt Mountains behind my house and only a light gauze across the expanse.
My windows are open.
I now sit drinking coffee, waiting for the next wall of smoke to arrive.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Attack (Almost) of the Sun Spider

While sitting together in the living room last night, I noticed an expression of bewilderment developing on that girl.  “What’s going on?” I asked.
She pointed to the floor.   An inch-long pale, leggy thing stood facing her on the carpet about four feet away.  “What is THAT?”
We have some creepy spiders and bugs around here.   Topping the list of creepy, in my estimation, is the black widow spider.  Those, I see regularly along the foundation of my house and sometimes in my garage.  They are black and shiny as a new lethal weapon and their long legs shift them along like fast wings.  Everything about them is sharp-looking and deadly.
Second on my list of creepy is the thing that girl claimed (after I captured it my wadded sock and released it outside) “was running toward me really fast.”
This creature has many names: sun spider, wind scorpion, camel spider, solifugid, or what is THAT!  These little monsters are members of the order Solifugae, which means “those that flee from the sun.”  They are not exactly spiders, but they look just as disturbing—coming equipped with eight long legs and inordinately large jaws (chelicerae).  They tend to live in deserts, but are widely distributed around the entire world.  In some regions, sun spiders can reach up to six inches in size. They are extremely fast movers.  Some are said capable of reaching half the speed of a running man.  This is not a claim I wish to test anytime soon.
Sun spiders are both ambush hunters, feeding on insects or small animals, and plant eaters.  They are normally tan in color.  Solifugids do not like direct light.  They are mostly nocturnal and they tend to keep to the ground.
Technically, they are harmless to humans.
Today, I am not feeling that technical.
They scare me.
And, as a point of fact, they can give you a nasty bite if you pester them enough.  Posted is a photograph from sydkab.com.  Also posted is a really creepy video.  If you watch the video, make sure you place another person nearby so you can hug them once the video is done playing.
Sources: Wikipedia, https://sydkab.com/2014/10/08/arachnids-solifugids/



--Mitchell Hegman
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-6K7YS4HH4

Friday, August 18, 2017

List of “I Brake For” Bumper Stickers You Don’t Want to See on Automobiles in Front of You

1. I Brake for Pretty Much Anything
2. I Brake for Those Weird Purple Leggy Things I See When I Take LSD
3. I Brake for Pumpkins…What?
4. This Car Actually Brakes and Comes to a Full Stop at Stop Signs
5. I Brake for No Apparent Reason
6. I Brake by Running into Things

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, August 17, 2017

About Computers

“A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.”
--Emo Philips
“Computers are like Old Testament Gods; lots of rules and no mercy.”
--Joseph Campbell
“In short, software is eating the world.”
--Marc Andreessen

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Coffee (A Condensed History)

According to the National Coffee Association, Ethiopian legend holds that goats were the first to discover the joys of coffee.  This occurred somewhere prior to the year 1000.  The goats did not brew up a batch of “cowboy coffee,” of course, but rather ate a bunch of the berries and then danced and bleated around the bush all night instead of sleeping.  The goat herder tending the goats, a man named Kaldi, reported this to the abbot of the local monastery and handed over some of the berries.  The abbot threw the berries onto a fire and found the scent they emitted “heavenly.”  The abbot then gobbled up some of the berries.  Next thing you know, I and my friend Sandi are totally addicted to coffee.
At this point, I cannot imagine a day without coffee.  The thought of that causes me to break into a cold sweat.
Early drinkers of coffee considered coffee a medicine.  Moreover, the Muslim regions took to coffee immediately, having eschewed wine and other alcoholic drinks.
The first documented coffee house opened in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1554.  Worldwide expansion of coffee drinking began with Turkish conquests and the influence of the Ottoman Empire.  It must be noted, however, that Sultan Murad IV, a ruler of the Ottoman Empire, attempted to ban the consumption of coffee.  He made the consumption of coffee a capital offense.  He is said to have wandered the streets of Istanbul posing as a commoner and carrying a hundred-pound broadsword.  When he found someone drinking coffee he would decapitate them immediately.  His successor was somewhat more lenient.  A first offense was punishable by a cudgeling (getting beaten with a stick).  A second offense saw offenders sewn into a leather bag and tossed in the river.
The consumption of coffee could not be stopped.  Coffee soon found its way to Europe and from there it traveled in all directions.
Today, Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world.  Coffee in Brazil owes its existence to the Governor’s wife of French Guiana.  In 1727, a certain Francisco de Mello Palheta was sent from Brazil to French Guiana to get coffee seedlings.  The French refused to give any seedlings, but the Governor’s wife—captivated by the envoy’s good looks—gave him a bouquet of flowers with coffee seeds hidden inside.
From those seeds an industry.
--Mitchell Hegman
Sources: National Coffee Association, The Atlantic, www.npr.org, www,childrenswritersguild.com


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ants

I find ants appealing.  I am fascinated by their social behaviors, their industrious nature, and their speed of movement.  Perhaps, most of all, I admire their physical strength.  Imagine yourself hoisting up a mid-sized pickup and packing it around with you as you shop for your groceries.  That is pretty much an equivalent of what an ant can do.  And, by the way, you cannot use your arms to carry the pickup—you have to lift and carry it using your teeth.
Some mornings, as yesterday morning, I pour my first cup of coffee and then go outside so I might sit and sun on the steps and take in the day.  More often than not, I end up watching ants as they arrive and depart, as they weave and scurry along the concrete.  A significant population of them lives down inside the cold-joints and cracks in the concrete of my drive.  Every so often I pick out a single ant and try to follow that single journey as I sit there in the sun—a dizzying project I assure you.  A typical ant bolts ahead, halts, loops around a few times, hooks over to an interesting grain of sand, whisks off to greet another passing ant, circles again, and on and on and on.  Once more than three ants gather in a single location, and begin whisking about more-or-less together, keeping track of just one is nearly impossible.
More than anything, ants are tenacious to a fault.  They will work to their death, ignoring all manner of threat.  Beside them, we are slow and dull.  Across my drive, the ants drag grasshopper wings, detached beetle legs, whole beetles, seeds, and anonymous flecks from faraway places.
Ants are builders of good dirt.  Those living underground aerate the soil.  They contribute to the clean-up and decomposition of all organic material that falls to the earth.
I have on my property perhaps seven or eight huge red and piles, which I do not disturb in any manner.  I have forgiven the red ants for their transgressions against me in my childhood years (on two occasions one of their soldiers climbed up my pant legs and managed to bite what I can only describe as a very tender spot).   I assume, at the same time, they have forgiven me for stirring them up with a stick.
As I write this, a new ant pile is forming very near our lake patio.  While my neighbors would most certainly poison-out the colony, I am pleased.   I caution all visiting children to be careful of this new nest.  I tell them they are more than welcome to go visit the ants, then add: “but don’t mess with them...they may well have something on us.”
--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, August 14, 2017

Making Ends Meet

You cannot make ends meet by clinging to just one end.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nighthawk Coffee

I woke this morning feeling muddled.  First thought: coffee.
My coffee maker (because I believe simpler lasts longer) is one with zero frills.  No digital clock.  No automatic controls.  I prep my coffee maker in the evenings so all I need to do in the morning is pour water into the machine and turn on power.
After waking today, I shuffled off to the kitchen, poured water from the carafe into the machine, and walked off to soak in the hot tub.
This time of year, I can hear my coffee brewing through the open window above the kitchen sink as I relax in the tub.  This morning, I thought to myself: “Geez, the coffee sounds different today.  More like nighthawks swooping and calling off dives all around me.”
I laid my head against the rim of the hot tub and listened to my nighthawk coffee brewing.
Following my soak, I dressed and waddled off to grab a cup of coffee.
When I arrived at the machine, I discovered that I had neglected to turn it on.   The carafe was empty. 

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, August 12, 2017

That One Thought You Cannot Escape

I would guess that most people are like me.  Specifically, we all have one or to two recurring thoughts that constantly pop up in our minds.  I have this question nearly every time I enter a room crowded with people: “I wonder if I am the only one not wearing underwear?” 
--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, August 11, 2017

Torn Together

When he hugs her, she becomes a fencepost that still recalls how winter's chill ravens used her, how they sunk their sharp claws into her softest skin, squawked, sharpened their metallic beaks against her cheeks.
She raises full‑bred dogs now, those so pure their blood is thin.  She clips the ears of males for show perfection, pampers them with soft foods.  They are like growling babies.  Sometimes frightened of noise.  Sometimes incontinent.  Sometimes they attack each other.
Sometimes she attacks him.
He is a stone, river‑cold and smooth from years of rolling along the bottom.  He recalls a time before the waters uprooted him from a wide green valley that shaped clouds with fat bellies.  He has never appreciated the dogs.
She is convinced that a tea of boiled bees will cure nausea, that a two‑inch crystal of quartz knows a bleak future.
When they make love, he feels as though drowning.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Hour Before

The hour before first light has always been mine.   Mine for assessing the stars.  For measuring the moon against my upraised thumb.  For making sense of the pewter lake below, the black trees.  For indulging my last frayed emotion from the previous day.
Today is different.  Today, I give the first hour to the lone fox I heard crying out from the dry gully below my house.  His is a desperation bigger than those I have conjured for myself this morning.  The fox cried incessantly, the sound of it fading as the animal fled up the gully and into the juniper and pine hills.
Last night, that girl and I watched Night of the Grizzlies, a documentary about two fatal grizzly bear attacks that occurred on the same August night in Glacier Park in 1967.  Both victims were young women camping in the backcountry.  Both were dragged away in their sleeping bags by the bears.  Fellow campers located one of the victims, Julie Helgeson, in the darkened woods sometime after the attack.  She was still conscious but fading.  As the would-be rescuers carried her to remote Granite Park Chalet, Julie told one of the men she was scared.  She asked him to hold her hand.
This morning, I give to the fox.  The fox knows how this ends.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Remembering Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell contributed more to rock and popular music than most people realize.  As a member of the famous “Wrecking Crew,” a group of session musicians working from recording studio to recording studio in Los Angeles during the 1960s, Campbell played with Phil Spector, The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Merle Haggard, Jan and Dean, the Monkees, Elvis Presley, and dozens more.  Striking out on his own, Campbell became an international success.
Campbell died yesterday following an extended battle with Alzheimer’s.  Rather than playing one of Glen’s songs, I thought I would play a tribute written and performed by his daughter.
The song is quite touching.
--Mitchell Hegman
Video Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEKdambx6gg

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Woman Finds a Hat in a Tree

Following is an actually news story I found on a BuzzFeed page filled with “underwhelming” local news stories:
A hat has been found up a tree in Bilton.
The woolen head garment, which is red and has a bobble, was discovered on Tuesday by Bilton Lane resident Sharon Bromance, 43.  “I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw it up there,” she said.  “I got it down with a stick and put it on a fence post.”
The owner now has until April 10 to reclaim the hat, after which it will be destroyed.
You should probably thank me for not sharing the story about a roll of tin foil lifted from a store in the U.K.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dirty Butterflies

Cabbage butterflies are sloppy fliers.  They often look as though they are blindly tumbling about.   Just the same, they cover a lot of distance in a hurry.  It’s hard to follow their moves, let alone chase them down to figure out what they are doing.
Considering this, I am pretty certain I saw what I think I saw yesterday.  Given all the swirling, pirouetting, swooping, frantic fluttering and grappling, I saw three white cabbage butterflies engaging in a wicked mid-air, across-the-lawn threesome.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, August 6, 2017

If I Could

If I could be elemental, I would be water in a dry place.
If I could be a sound, I would be the sound of aspen leaves in a soft wind.
If I could touch anything in the firmament, I would touch the Sun.
If I could dance atop the point of a knife blade, I would do it.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, August 5, 2017

DFS

My 20 pounds of housecat is afflicted with DFS.  Not many people are familiar with DFS, owing mainly to the fact this affliction is localized to an area of precisely my house.
DFS is an acronym for Debbie Feeding Syndrome.
I began to notice the hideous symptoms of DFS the first time I left my 20 pounds of housecat under the care of my sister Debbie when I traveled for an extended period of time.  Really there is only one symptom: my cat thinking he should be fed every time he comes in the house or makes eye contact with me.
With many cats you could solve this problem by leaving a giant bowl dry cat food out so said cats could eat whenever they had the urge.  My 20 pounds of housecat is different.  By different I mean bungling and piggish in eating habits.  He would eat without stopping, eat until he got sick.  For this reason, his eating must be regulated.
My regimen for feeding includes a feeding when I first rise in the morning, a feeding between 4:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon, and a final small bowl of food at about 9:00 in the evening.  I will admit to an occasional snack near the 4:00 mark in the afternoon.        
When Debbie takes care of my cat for me, she also stays out here at the lake.  She is a softy when dealing with cats.  In addition to my normal regulated feedings, she provides snacks, pre-snacks, morsel drops, and some kind of nameless thing in-between all of those.
Whenever I come home after an extended absence, my 20 pounds of housecat is closer to 22 pounds of housecat and pretty much any move I make is interpreted as a signal he will be fed.  He trots off to his food bowl with great expectation at the first sign of me walking in that general direction or opening a cupboard.  When I let him in if he has been outside, he races to his bowl in anticipation.  DFS for sure.
Having recently returned from a trip to Ohio, I noticed something of an uptick in my 21½ pounds of housecat’s DFS.  Raising a cup of coffee for a drink is enough to launch him toward his bowl.  On the plus side, he will lose some weight quickly with this increase in activity.  
--Mitchell Hegman                                                               

NOTE: Kidding, Deb!  Thanks, for the cat care.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Scotch Stipend

I enjoy a glass of Scotch—especially a Speyside.  My favorite is Glenlivit 18 year old.
The problem with Scotch whisky (not whiskey) is the price tag.  Here in Montana, thanks partially to steep taxes on alcohol, you are going to plunk down more than $100.00 before that kid with the long face at the liquor store will slide you a bottle to take home.
Back in the late 1980’s, my late wife and I created a simple investment scheme.  Part of that plan saw each of us setting aside $50.00 every month.  We faithfully set aside this money for many years.  Eventually, we converted the fund to individual Roth IRAs.  Following the passing of my wife, I rolled the IRAs into a single fund.
Recently, I got to thinking about this Roth IRA.  For the last few years, the IRA has consistently provided between $200.00 and $350.00 of income (which rolled back into the IRA) every month.  “What if,” I wondered, “some of the tax-free income rolled out of the IRA and into my pocket instead?”
This week I made my move.  I created a permanent Scotch stipend with this IRA.  Each month from here forth, $200.00 will automatically be deposited in my personal bank account from the Roth IRA.  At such a rate, the IRA should still grow a little, but I will be provided a permanent source of money for a bottle of Glenlivet 18 and a bottle of Balvenie Doublewood 12.
Now I simply need to figure out how to cover my living expenses.







--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Tick

Ticks are attracted to the odor, breathing, and heat signature of “host” animals (read Mitch Hegman here).   Because they cannot fly, ticks crawl up onto low brush and grass and extend a few of their eight legs in hopes of attaching to a host passing through.
In early spring, ticks are often successful in catching a certain Mitch Hegman.  Knowing this, I tend to shy away from tall grass and brush.  When, in spite of efforts to avoid them, I find a tick on me, I like to totally freak out.  The end result is something of a marriage between breakdancing any yodeling.
It’s not pretty.
Ticks in Montana become inactive somewhere in mid-July when our forests begin to dry out.  This is especially fortunate because the expiration of tick activity coincides with the ripening of huckleberries.  This is good because I pretty much wade and swim through heavy brush, grass, and tall whatnots as I pick huckleberries.
I have never found a tick on me in August and have never found one after a day of picking berries.  Yesterday, while soaking in my hot tub to ease the aching from a hard day spent swimming in the woods, I felt something on my leg.  Absently, I reached down to scratch free a small tickling speck.
Next thing you know I am water-bugging around the hot tub, yodeling.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Natural Laws for Household Appliance

—A microwave carousel plate will always stop when your coffee cup has reached the far back.
—When you place your toaster exactly where you want it on the counter, the power cord will be three inches shorter than required to reach the nearest receptacle.
—The last button you press when trying to set time on an appliance will invariably force you to start over.
—The vibration of opening an oven door is just enough to assure the contents of whatever you are baking will spill over the sides of the dish.
—The rate of failure for appliances is directly proportional to the number of guests you are entertaining.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Don’t be Yourself

Common advice is to “be yourself.”   Honestly, I consider this bad advice.  If I was to be myself, I would spend my time snooping through my friend’s belongings whenever visiting their houses because I am naturally curious.  I would run about freeing dogs from chains and pens.  I would hand out small wind-up toys during serious business meetings because I am convinced seriousness is often too limiting a thing.  And I would constantly outburst.
So far as advice?
My advice is: “be the you your grandmother liked” (unless I am your grandmother…and I am not).

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, July 31, 2017

Wildfires

This morning, heavy smoke fills the air around my house and chokes the expansive valley beyond.  The smell of burnt wood is strong.  A red sun will soon rise in the east.   At present, some 24 wildfires are active in Montana.  The largest and most ferocious fires are not in the mountainous western half of Montana, they are, instead, savaging the broken lands and Big Open of our eastern half.
One of those fires, the Lodgepole Complex, has scorched 270,723 acres since first flaring to life on the 19th of July.  Located some 52 miles from Jordan, Montana, that fire scoured through entire ranches, killing livestock and leaving only an occasional island of grass behind.  When punched forward by the wind, there is no stopping such fires.
Jordan, for those interested in our more sketchy history, was the small town at center of the Montana Freeman standoff of 1996.  That event saw a small virulently anti-government armed militia engage in a months-long standoff with the federal agents and local law enforcement agencies.
Oddly, what I most recall from the Freeman standoff, is the terrible haircuts sported by all of the local men whenever they appeared in interviews on national news outlets.  Apparently the same very bad barber cut hair for the entire local population.
Closer to home, three fires are burning within a dozen miles of my cabin.  The largest of those, the Park Creek Fire, has burned through 4,133 acres since being ignited by lightning on the 15th of July.  So far, these fires have clawed slowly through heavy timber and rugged mountains.
The smoke outside my house in more than a reminder of the fires.  The smoke is a reminder that we are shaped by the landscape and the weather surrounding us.  I cannot imagine what a first-time visitor to the area would think if confronted by this.  The pall and smell would likely be both overwhelming and frightening.
I don’t like this, but I understand the fires as a natural part of living here.  Here in the natural rain shadow, we are shaped by an arid climate and the expected occurrence of wildfires as much as we are shaped by the beautiful clear trout streams and the snow-tented mountains.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Huckleberry Hell?

If you go out picking huckleberries and return home without bruises, small cuts, or scrapes, you are probably not a serious berry picker.  Real honest-to-goodness huckleberry picking is like participating in a demolition derby without the cars.  It’s you charging against steep inclines, holes, loose rocks, sharp sticks, and deadfall.
The best berries, by some cruel trick of nature or fate, tend to flourish in the deepest crosshatch of fallen trees or at the edge of the steepest incline.
If you want choice berries, you must go there.
On occasion you may be required to literally swim through a thick patch of small spruce, alder, or stick willow.  You must crawl under snags, clamber over huge logs, and climb up and down steep embankments.
People traps abound.
Sticks fly back at you as you snap dead branches out of your immediate path.  Unexpected holes lie hidden under the grasses and forbs.  Sharp points from broken branches extend along the lengths of downed trees and amid slash on the forest floor.
But also there: gorgeous huckleberries.
The other day, I returned from a trip to the huckleberry patch with several serious scrapes on my shin and countless small cuts on my arms.  At one point, while traversing a tangle of blowdown trees, I caught my leg between a pair of fallen lodgepole and I fell forward.  That one produced the biggest scrape on my shin.  Fortunately, I did not spill a single berry from the gallon jug strapped alongside the bear spray on my belt.
That’s another thing: bears.  We often seek berries in known grizzly country.  While picking berries alongside one of my buddies, we got to talking about bears.  “I tend to keep my head down as I’m moving around,” I said. “I want to find berries and need to watch my step.  But I still stop now and again to scan around for bears.”
“Same here,” my buddy responded.  “But I’m actually more afraid I’m gonna bust my ass in here or trip and impale myself on a stick than I am afraid of bears.”
“Agree.”
Finally, I don’t want to leave you standing here at the end my blog with nothing to show but scrapes and bruises.  Huckleberry picking is a beautiful event.  My favorite.  The berries grow only in lovely forests and mountains.  At times, the piercing, unique smell of huckleberries will draw you into a thick berry patch and hold you as might an ancient spell.  You can expect butterflies and songbirds in your periphery, soft wind through tall trees, maybe elk or deer.  You will strike clear mountain streams that have produced smooth, heart-shaped stones you can fish from the stream bottom and take home.
And from the huckleberry patch you take huckleberries and deep red stains on your fingers.
Posted are a few photographs I captured in the huckleberry patch with my smarter-than-me-phone.







--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Specificity

Seeking stones is not enough.
One should seek heart-shaped stones. 
One should seek heart-shaped stones colored red or blue.
One should seek heart-shaped stones colored red or blue and made smooth by water and time.
One should seek heart-shaped stones colored blue or red, made smooth by water and time, and found within the waters that smoothed them.
One should seek a generous lover.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, July 28, 2017

Report from the Hot Tub

I woke at 3:00 this morning and could not find my way back to sleep.   At 3:30 I crawled from bed, fed my 20 pounds of housecat, started my coffee, and staggered outside to soak in the hot tub.
Here is my report from the hot tub:
—One satellite crossing from west to east.
—Two shooting stars.   
—Seventeen very bright clusters of stars in groups of three.  (NOTE: My view is blocked by trees and my house which limits my assessment.)
—One small bug zizzing past my nose.
—I also had a thought.  If it is legal, here in Montana, for a person to take home (as harvest) a deer or other such game animal they strike and kill with an automobile, should we now put stickers on cars and trucks sold here with this warning: CAUTION—This Automobile Is Not Intended For Use As A Weapon For Hunting Big Game.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Recent Observations

—From a great distance, the calling of sandhill cranes sounds like people chanting.
—Sadness must be dragged along.  Happiness carries you.
—Few things are more unnerving than an absolutely still forest.
—The word “stuff,” though common and indefinite, has become my new favorite word.  It is a word with towering possibilities.  It is a blank wanting to be filled.  If I say “good stuff” in a room filled with twenty people, twenty different images of “good stuff” will appear in the room.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Something I Had To Do

Yesterday, at about 1:00 in the afternoon, I did something I had to do.
I had to stand on mountainside of mixed timber and sunshine, in a cooling breeze faintly scented by huckleberries.
I had to stand there and watch a small white moth lift from the broad leaf of a thimbleberry, tumble off through the green understory, and then dissolve in the arresting light of a small clearing.
If not me, who?

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

If You See That Girl, Please Send Her Home

Going through whole days alone changes me.  More accurately, wounds me.  I imagine my belly growing exponentially.  Helicopters fly closer to my house than they should.  If the Smurfs appear on television, I watch them.  I turn up music and sing along so poorly, my 20 pounds of housecat considers sauntering off to watch the old episodes of Gunsmoke in the spare bedroom.
I returned from Ohio by myself late last Wednesday night and have been spending whole days alone since.
The flight into Bozeman was interesting because I met a know-it-all couple from Virginia.  They quickly insisted I was wrong about Mount St Helens erupting in 1980.  I was, they similarly asserted, incorrect in identifying the old man who refused to leave Spirit Lake (and died in the eruption) as a certain Harry Truman.
“That’s close,” the wife insisted, “but that’s not his name.”
I freely admit I am a full-blown dumbass with a poor memory.  I therefore shrugged off Harry and the volcano.  But our conversation became slightly disturbing when the subject turned to lightning—spurred by a fierce lightning storm brawling inside a brooding cloudscape within arm’s reach of our jetliner.
The husband informed me that their house had been struck by lightning. 
Bad electrical stuff happened when the lightning flashed through their house.  Appliances popped apart.  Smoke emerged from wiring.
He then went on to tell me about how corrupt the practice of grounding a house is.  Apparently, according to some inspector dude he personally knows, grounding your house makes your home a lightning strike target.  Just the opposite of what all our electrical Codes suggest!
“That’s amazing!” I said.
I pretty much kept to myself after the lightning discussion.
And now I’m home alone.
That girl will not be flying home until the fifth of August.  That’s a lot of time for watching the Smurfs.  I’m not sure my cat is up to it.  I know that girl worries about what I eat while I am foraging for myself, but I'm more worried I might take up slam dancing with the walls in my house.
I’m wondering if I should run outside with a screwdriver and disconnect the grounding electrode connection at my electrical service.  I also picked up a new poetry book, which is always a little dangerous.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, July 24, 2017

Toolkit

Sometimes I didn’t fully appreciate gifts given to me by my late wife.  The most glaring example of this is how I reacted when she gave me—on advice from my friend Bill—a power miter saw for my birthday.
I think my exact words to Uyen after she gave me the saw were something like: “What do I need this for?”
That was thirty years ago.
Turns out, I needed the saw to build a garage, remodel a basement, construct a new house, build a cabin, and finish countless smaller projects.  I used the miter saw again just yesterday while working on my cabin’s bathroom.
About ten years ago, Uyen gave me a small clearance-sale toolkit she’d found at a hardware store.  “This might be good to keep at the cabin,” she suggested.
I didn’t think much of the toolkit.
For the last fourteen years, ever since I started building the cabin, I have been dragging tools back and forth between my home and the cabin.  During the last ten years, the cheapo toolkit sat collecting dust on a shelf alongside cans and boxes of screws and nails in the basement of the cabin.
Yesterday, I needed a small Phillips screwdriver to finish installing a venting van, but had neglected to toss one in my truck before I headed to the cabin. 
I’m not sure I can accurately describe my sentiments as I tromped down the stairs to retrieve the toolkit.  My emotions rushed from one end of the spectrum to the other.  I leapt from frustration and anger (in not having a tool I needed) to bittersweet gratitude when I unzipped the kit and found exactly what I needed.
I had to fight back tears.
I am six years beyond the ability to thank Uyen.










--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Empire

We had our choice.
Cling to the rock
or cling to the vine.
The rock: sharp-edged, crumbling at the edges, difficult to grasp.
The vine: pliant, easy to grasp.
I remembered then—who knows why—the fall of Rome was a process of decline.
The Romans had gone soft
with Vandals and Goths at the door.
It required years of mistakes to fail.
Our choice seemed natural.
We could dye our hair black
and wear black clothing.
Grab the rock.
--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Softening

At the end of a long night of sitting near a campfire, as you stir the final embers with a stick, you should realize that your time at the fire has softened a few hard edges in your thinking.  If this is not so, throw another log on the fire and try again.
--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, July 21, 2017

My Two Left Feet

Somebody came up with a clever idea for idiots such as me.  The idea is this: pairs of socks marked with “R” for the right foot and “L” for the left foot.  With such socks, no matter your level of dress dysfunction (mine is severe), you should not be able to screw-up.
First, if you pair socks with letters embossed on them you will have matching socks by default.  Additionally, you will have the added benefit of a proper left and right fit.
Well, in theory, that is. 
Sadly, left and right feet have met their mis-match in me…
I give you, as exhibit number one, a photograph of my feet after I finished dressing this morning.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Smoke

I arrived back home from Ohio by plane near midnight last night.  The mountain air felt refreshingly cool as I walked out from the terminal to retrieve my car before driving home.  When I arrived here at the house, I scurried about and opened windows before crashing into my bed, hoping to bring fresh air into my house.
This morning, I woke to cool air pouring across my bed.  A glance outside, however, revealed a blue-gray haze in the sky. 
I have come home to fire season.
Fire season is an expected quantity when you live out West.  Searching today's news, I found summaries of two wildfires not far from Lincoln, a fire near Canyon Ferry, and a fire near Elliston, just across the Continental Divide.
We are both early and dry in this season.

--Mitchell Hegman