The sun is fully rising in the second window now and it is time to go back to our other home in Seattle. It is a departure that always aches, but it is an ache of privilege, one that comes from opportunity. We are so lucky to retreat to the high plains and surround ourselves with Rocky Mountain ranges each summer. The intent si to accomplish much, and at the end of summer it would be easy to see what wasn’t done, but in the end it would be enough to watch the sun rise and set, to listen to the birds, and to allow our heads to clear. The wind blew all day. It seemed to mark a shift in seasons, probably because it is our shift in seasons. But the freshness of moving air is welcome as we sweep out the summer and prepare the schoolhouse for winter.
local to local
Our end-of-summer picnic took most of the day. We hiked down to Daisy Park from the forest service road through un-tampered forest. Half way down we discovered the first strawberry, tiny and brilliant red nearly hidden under green leaves. Soon we were all on hands and knees collecting the tiny sweet bites. They had no relationship to the gigantic berries in plastic clam shells that we get at the store. The park was thick with waist high timothy grass and Daisy Dean creek ran through the middle with pines and firs shading its banks. Daisy Peak frames one side of the park and Daisy Notch the other. It was my first time to the Park. I’ve heard of it many times from sheep trailing days, but I never realized it was so easy to get to. So many places here in Montana are part of family legend and have seemed mysterious and far away. As I finally go to them I’ve discovered them to more than warrent the stories that have been told about them over and over.
Our sleep was interrupted abruptly last night by an animal sound that wasn’t immediately recognizable as mammal or fowl. It was both bark and squawk and seemed to be right under our window. I lifted the lightness of my comforter swinging my legs over the edge of the bed with great care setting my feet softly on the carpet. The squawking kept up. It sounded like I could reach out and touch it, but I was nothing. So I moved through the house as stealthily as I knew how to another window. And while I could not see it, it much have seen me. It cleared out with three recognizable and telltale hoots; a great gray owl nearly in our bedroom. The summer began and ended with owls; fledgling great horned owls to start and now a great gray to finish.
Richard led the string of 4 wheelers up the familiar road. I have been making my way to Daisy Peak for nearly 20 years, but for my cousins Daisy has been their back yard where they’ve trailed sheep and hunted. Now we visit my dad’s marker at the top. It was Dad’s wish to finally rest on Daisy Peak that brought me to this place and the generosity of my cousins that has bound me to it. Richard stopped at all the old spots: throughways for trailing sheep, parks for letting them graze, meeting places for supply drop offs, and the traditional family picnic spot in a stand of old growth evergreens that was spared in the 1909-10 fire. We didn’t picnic there this time. I was anxious to get the to top, but of course we should have. It was cool and perfectly suited.
It is a rough ride to Daisy Peak. Each year the road is a little harder to pass. We took the ranch 4 wheelers up this year, picking our way over endless rocks and scree. The rough ride pays back in views and clean air. Each successive range lightens in the atmosphere just like the art books say it should. There is also the sharp smells of grass and pines that cannot be matched by anything labeled fresh scent. It is a pilgrimage with effort and reward.
Elements of every variety are having an impact on the progress of Flat Fall. The wood disks were cut, sanded, and beautifully stacked inside, but they were too wet and the auditorium too cool causing them to mold. Anyone cutting firewood could have foreseen that, but we did not. So we took all the disks back outside to let the sun kill the mold spores, but rain got in the way. The disks had to be handled with care again getting tucked under the eaves and covered. On and off they have been covered and exposed depending on the weather. But today was bright, the birds sang, the mold was dry and we began a second sanding. What is often considered firewood has been handled into something else here in the schoolhouse. Eventually all the disks will assemble again into a flat version of the grand limb that once shaded the front yard. The wood will not warm us in winter, but it will remind us of the pleasures of summer.