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


One last bonfire, one last party, one last steak night, and this morning one last breakfast of hash browns made of left over steak night potatoes and eggs from Stevie’s chickens. The sun is a perfect brilliant ball completely illuminating the second window with orange red and purple. Rufus predicts it will freeze within a couple of weeks…maybe so. We will be in the mild Northwest, hoping daily for a patch of sun. If we make it back to Two Dot this year, the sun will have moved from window to window. We’ve seen it in the fifth window at the end of November. Maybe this year we will find out if it really rises in the last window on the winter Solstice. For now, we have to be satisfied with a good summer.


We took one last trip to the Vestal Place. There are two young owls in the sheep shed now, making four all together. We tried to photograph them as they flew out. The young ones, who don’t yet have horn tufts, couldn’t figure out what to do. Are we the only humans they have seen in the shed? They flew back and forth from back rafter to front, finally making their way out the large door. Under their roost we found piles of owl pellets. They are amazing with perfect bones inside a ball of fur, all formed in the owl’s gizzard. And now, on the morning of my Open Studio, I am looking at the bones rather than hanging work and making appetizers.


The sun no longer rises in the Summer Solstice window. Nearly two months later, it marks our Two Dot summer drawing to a close. Every day is packed now. Finishing projects in the schoolhouse and the studio, visiting places one last time, performing the rituals that we have established for ourselves. Sunday we went on our annual picnic with Richard and Alicia. This year we went up Spring Creek on the mining road. We drank beer under the trees at the edge of the creek where it is barely five feet wide and clear as glass rippling over rocks made gemlike by the water’s covering. Our conversation flows as easily as the creek water, illuminating and exploring ideas that I think we may live with daily, but only bring to the surface occasionally and in particular settings. Many of those occasions for us are with Richard and Alicia.
The picnic continued with brats and potato chips. We justify a well-balanced meal with a few carrot sticks, and wash the whole thing down with a fabulous bottle of Malbec wine from the Altos vineyard. The wine is a payback for having drunk Richard’s fathers day bottle of wine, though I will never admit it to his face. We complete the picnic by losing Maggie, Richard’s boarder collie. It happens every year, and every year Alicia says we won’t bring the dog again. And every following year Richard stands firm, “dogs belong on picnic.”


Yesterday was a workday. John painted and ran errands. I worked in the studio and did a million fussy things…the things we do as we begin to think of leaving. But, the major accomplishment was finding a home for Frankie, who we struggle to part with. Over breakfast, we named our best-case scenario for Frankie…placing him with one of our dear friends. By the end of the day Frankie had a clean bill of health from the vet and a home with Mike and Deborah…the first people we thought of. Pretty as you please.


It is completely clear after last night’s thunderstorm, everything fresh and brilliant. But yesterday we drove to Lewistown and saw rainstorms off in every direction…over the Crazies, over the Little Belts. On the trip home it began to rain, and by Judith Gap it was a torrential. Even though it cleared in Harlo, it rained again in Two Dot. The skies lowered with grey messing with our psyches.
Good cheer returned at night when the sky broke open with lightning, each square of window momentarily brilliant, followed by house rattling reports of positive to negative electrical connections dramatically and instantly heating the air. Is it the light? The fire? The heat? Or the positive/negative charge making connection that had the power to amend our mood? Regardless, the instantaneous flashes confirmed by dramatic crashes put us back to rights and now we have woken to a day of steady light, the distant fire in the sky keeping us even.


Poor John has been rousted from bed to make way fro my reading and writing. Frankie, on the other hand has settled down for a nap. Another week in Two Dot feels like a gift…seven more days.


Jessica has gone, but Frankie is still with us... named by Jessica before she left, for his brilliant blue Sinatra eyes. He lounges on our bed while we contemplate finding him a home...our first foray in cat rescue.


Last night Jessica befriended a cat in the yard. We’ve been on high alert in Two Dot, after Judy’s stroke, she left perhaps 40 cats unattended. Yesterday we had confirmed that a resident is trapping them and shooting them. I’ve seen a couple, they are skittish, nearly feral, and un-catchable. But this cat walked right up to Jessica...another wayfarer. They are sleeping together in the guest studio with a dirt litter box, a dog dish of water and a saucer of milk. Today we will put up a notice to see if he belongs to anyone. Meanwhile he and Jessica make companions of one another. Perhaps we have saved one cat.


Jessica has stopped on her way to Minneapolis. She is going to be with her brother. The two of them will be together for the first time without the cohesion of their mother alive. Having her here makes the schoolhouse feels like a wayfarer's station...a pause between one thing and another, a reprieve from a different life, but it has always been that.


The summer came and went quickly which is the nature of summer for people who are not children, those lucky ones to whom clocks are of not consequence but who drift along on the true emotional content of time.

Summer drifts along in Two Dot and while clocks are of less consequence they are still ticking…but the clock usually suggests things about where the sun is in the sky that could just as easily be surmised by looking up. Being awake during the daylight hours leaves shortened hours for sleeping. But If I can drift along in the true emotional content of time, as Brown Dog put it in Jim Harrison’s The Summer He Didn’t Die, describes it, the need for recovering sleep lessens and the summer lengthens.


Birthday steaks on Richard and Alicia’s sun porch; Richard slowly emerging from the weariness of a long day ranching warmed to conversations and was as animated as you please. This phrase adopted from Rufus Kimmery is a perfect illumination, acknowledging the things outside of ourselves that give us particular pleasure. Richard’s presence in conversations does just that; four of us together, not always agreeing or even sure of what we think ourselves, but willing to listen and think and wrestle things out together as the sun goes down.


Two beautiful cut-throat trout on the line at Forest Lake. I couldn’t wait to write about this experience, and now I am tongue…or pen tied. How do you describe a little lake so green and sweetly tucked into a wooded depression with such blue blue skies overhead that it nearly makes you weep? “Just as pretty as you like,” Rufus said, understated but complete.


John arrived in Bozeman at 11pm. Elizabeth has put us up in her and Jim’s bedroom. I have a strange feeling that I am the wrong person… that we in all our little habits and small ways are the wrong couple. And yet, tightly within our own circle of arms, everything is just right.


Here in my room with Montana sun streaming in every window I feel I am at the beginning of my thinking, not moving toward the last faze. Still stretched out before me is the impossibility of the deep blue horizon, a fact and a fiction. With a process repeated four summers now I continue even though the horizon is never reached. I am happy to do it again: to sit at my table tracing shadows, to visit the same locations, to reach for the truths that hold us to the earth. Is it art? I have no idea. Am I a professional? That is a self-defeating question. But, do I try? Do I repeat the process and aim to achieve skill, to answer the questions? Yes.

It is not fly-fishing if you are not looking for answers to questions. Norman Mclean


Gun shots in Two Dot and I don’t like my town very much right now. I see someone roaming around with a shotgun and another following with a black plastic bag. They can only be after Judy and Mary’s abandon cats. I don’t like myself very much right now either, because I am sitting here writing and letting it happen. I think I know who is driving this effort. Why is there always an unsavory neighbor? And I have to ask, how am I unsavory as well with my timid passivity covered in the shade of my cottonwood with field glass surveillance.


Second day on my own, starting the day with tea and a wake up phone call from John. He is my light, and now two weeks apart I am aching for him. The days are longer when I am alone…more accomplished, more time to think, but more time to miss him. Four more days and only three nights till our arms slip through each other’s and I can feel the full body press of his embrace.


Two days without writing a word or putting my clothes away or cleaning the kitchen or breathing enough to register the shifts and changes that took place over the weekend while I was at the music festival and the girls left one by one. But, here I am now this Monday morning alone in the schoolhouse without a schedule until I pick up John in Bozeman on Friday night.

Tesha and Sara Ann in the schoolhouse… they cooked and cleaned up…. a dinner of pickles, cookies, a pie. Fresh out of college, they might still look at me as a teacher figure or a superfluous adult, but there have been good conversations about birds and bones and making. Mostly they focused on their bubbling new relationship, which seems to be all tied up with their work. So I continued my own solitary inquiry…time and place and shifting light. Even though I will miss them, I am ready to be truly alone in this place and with my work.


Tesha is awake early and in the yard writing. She is wrapped in her scarf looking beautiful. Now I know her well enough to understand her commitment to looking lovely at all times: digging holes for compost in silver heeled sandals, eating dinner at the school house in a lace halter and pearls. She is also knowledgeable about the natural world, and curious about her relationship to it, drawn to what is lovely and mysterious and profane at once. It is this shared fascination that draws me to her.


The girls were seduced yesterday by the mysteries of a ghost town. They both made their own version of snap shots, Sara Ann with a digital camera, and Tesha with a medium format film camera. They roamed around the remnants and relics of an old silver mining town considering what the town had been and what it was about now. Tesha eventually moved on to her wet plate camera and its long process while Sara Ann sat and drew plant life. Each of them taking in this place in their own way, drawing their own conclusions while succumbing to a ghost towns charms.


We had a bonfire for Cindy last night, Tesha, Sara Ann and I. They didn’t know her but care for Jessica and mothers and life in general. So together, we celebrated Cindy’s life, wished her safe passage and sent love and care to Jessica who will always love her mother and wrestle with her absence. The fire was hot and beautiful and we threw things into it and watched them burn: the date of Cindy’s birth, her name, tobacco to honor a life passed, copal to keep her journey safe, petals from my fathers rose that continues to bloom after his death, beach glass that will always remind me of my mother’s beach walks, a photo of clouds in a field of endless blue, and Jessica’s hand writing on an envelop to be sure our good wishes find her. Finally, with glasses of throat burning tequila we toasted Cynthia Charbonneau, tits, mothers, and the beyond.


The pheasant is back. Rufus brought pheasant food and we spread it near the road. He assured me in his easy South Carolina drawl that it might be one day or it might be a week, but the bird would come back. Yesterday I was awake early and heard his call…then, there he was in my field glasses with his cocky red head.