local to local

Daily observations at or near Two Dot Spot, written by hand on the backs of postcards that record with ink and coffee a few minutes of the earth's orbit around the sun. The cards are physically mailed from Two Dot, Montana to those who have requested them...local to local. Ruth Marie Tomlinson


A few cumulus clouds, puffy like a child’s drawing, are grey nearly violet in this predawn light with their undersides glowing like hot plates. At the edge of the horizon there are a few white-hot 500-watt clouds announcing the sun nearly ready to crest the hill. And... there it is at 5:33, that lucky old ball of fire blasting over the horizon; a sliver to round in less than a minute. All the pink is gone the sky is blue and the day is at hand.


Sitting in the first park above Daisy Dean Campground we look out at nearly infinite space. The Crazies touch the sky in the far distance with some trees and mostly prairie in between. It takes a turn of my head to see the expanse. Four wheelers are coming back off the peak, they stop to pick up the half full potato chip bag they dropped on the road. Hunger, frugality, or contentiousness? It is only a stereotype that 4-wheelers have no conscious, though some of them appear not to.


Yesterday complete cloud cover combined with the dampness of a little rainfall made everything brighter, colors more saturated, not bleached out in the sun. Without a brilliant sunrise I slept till nearly 7. This morning I was awake at 5:45 and the sun was a heavy ball served in the swale of the horizon. Weather dictates my habits here in Two Dot.


This morning I was up about 4:45 and birds were singing a riot. The ring-necked pheasant squawked and I saw him in the predawn light strutting up the road. There was also a young deer in the dim front yard. I went back to bed. In the afternoon there was a red winged black bird sitting on the fence line and lots of Eastern Kingbirds flitting back and forth along with the usual magpies. Each of these claims the yard as their territory at a particular time of day. I too have only certain hours and conditions when the yard is mine.


Twelve days into Two Dot and a few days from the official start of summer. There’s been plenty of lawn mowing and family visiting, a trip to Great Falls and several days in Bozeman. I have begun stabbing away at my work, but am not sure what it is yet. I think is has something to do with the horizon line…a line that is not real, yet defines exactly where you are, suggesting a meeting place of the celestial and the mundane.


The deer ate all the leaves from my two newly planted quaking aspen…damn deer. I went to Richard’s to borrow the pounder. I told him what happened and he asked me if I cussed. I think it was a Montana test. Back at the schoolhouse Deborah wielded the pounder and we put in posts and strung fencing around the sticks that were my trees. It is a western stand off. Deborah is betting on the aspen, but Richard shakes his head looking doubtful.


Deborah arrived yesterday via Delta 973 in Bozeman. We drove I-90 to Big Timber and highway 191 to Harlowton then highway 12 to Two Dot. Deborah’s camera did not stop until she saw the first real effects of the flood…not wanting to exploit someone else’s tragedy. It continues to be difficult to reconcile Stegner’s characterization of the West being defined by aridness, but the pendulum swings from the same balance point.


The scenery along Highway 191 between Harlowton and Big Timber is swathed in unprecedented green and dotted with scrubby pines and Black Angus…one color made for the other. The Crazy Mountain Range shrouded in mist and clouds only offers glimpses of a brilliant heavy snow pack that, as it melts, is fueling the green and the flooding as well. Houses stranded in newly formed lakes, creeks dry for decades flowing strong, bridges compromised and roads disappeared... all companions to this green. Having experienced years of drought in Montana, I never dreamed of such wetness. I never knew of 1975 and 1965; floods that everyone is remembering now. Wallace Stegner defines The West as an arid place with fluctuating boarders depending on the weather. I wonder if the feast helps define the famine.


We can see the river’s edge clearly from the schoolhouse now, the water a shimmering reflector winking code to satellites or perhaps the gods. Does a swollen river wish for more? Or beg for a reprieve? Or simply revel in its acquired freedom?


The swollen river is a live thing: changing course, covering roads, flooding fields and houses. Like visiting relatives you’re so anxious to see; sometimes they stay too long, clearing out the refrigerator or breaking the furniture. The river has taken liberties in its newly acquired freedom creating havoc for many. I have no desire to make light of those tragedies, but here in the stillness of the schoolhouse with meadowlark calls and the water’s rushing like a metronome, I am feeling freedom as well. The wild dogs are awakening in me. They have been burrowed under the porch for too long and there are things to smell and territory to cover.