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

7.31.2013… no clouds, slight wind, damp from last night’s rain

Anxious to get to work this last day of July. I feel the shift of August. The season is delicious, but there is an end in sight. Today I will work to keep that end out of focus and invite precision to the current view.

7.30.2013… nearly full cloud cover, no wind, no rain

The sky is cast over with high clouds. There was no drama to the sunrise and I continued to sleep dreaming of my father and his good friend Joe Trucco. In the dream I thanked Joe for all he’d done for our family. He touched my shoulder in a way that surprised me, but didn’t break my appreciation. In waking life I did witness Joe give my dying father the gift of a beautiful bunch of bananas. Joe was awkward, unlike in the dream, shuffling his feet not knowing what to say when he realized it was the last time he would see his friend. Nearly 20 years later I am still thanking Joe in my dreams for that simple gift that said what he couldn’t put words to. It is these kinds of dreams that are inspired by my Montana bed.


Back to the schoolhouse and my work and my reading. Evelyn Cameron’s biographer speculated that the “act of inscribing the concrete details of each day with in the confines of the page” was not only a source of satisfaction and comfort to Cameron, but was a way of giving shape and meaning to her days. Part of that process was recording the weather everyday. Lucey, the biographer, points out that weather was the single most influential factor in historic Montana. I’d say it still is. The beat of thunder and threat of rain is dictating what I am doing at this very moment.

7.28.2013… three quarter cloud cover, no wind, no rain

Merle Haggard is a legend though he claims not to like the title. He’s 76 years old, but today in a full western suit he performed in the dust and heat of a Montana afternoon. He and his band make music with the ease of a long history. The crowd knew his songs and they sang along with hands in the air, no room for dancing. The music was the best of country, but we chose to make our exit when Haggard crooned for us to love America or leave it. Now thinking about it, I question my reaction. I do love America, though it may not always be popular to do so. It is different than loving everything our country does. Even in my frustration with the choices we often make as a nation, I have no intention of leaving this place that is my home. Better to stay in the game.


Camped in a dry field on Jackson’s ranch with hundreds, if not thousands, of others for the Red Ants Music Festival. There has been wind, and sun, and heat, and dust, but most of all music. The Wailin’ Jennys kept their harmonies tight. Corb Lund sang ranching, drinking, and Canadian good will. Amy Helm did her father proud. And Robert Earl Keen brought Texas to Montana tying the knot. With legs aching, I’ve pounded out time in the dirt and sung along on songs I know and others I don’t. Today's clouded up a bit. It doesn’t look threatening and may keep the heat down, but won't dampen spirits.


We got back to the schoolhouse last night after John’s long hiatus and my six day absence. The moon put us to bed, not quite full but brilliant orange-pink.

7.19.2013… no clouds, no wind, no rain

We walked South on the Two Dot highway this morning. It is lovely to head toward Two Dot Butte, still green with rain. There was a lone mule deer with its handsome ears and graceful movement walking through a palette of grasses, all variations on green. In the distance, Dennis Voss’s horses stood out against a herd of Black Angus. What is it about horses attracts us so much? Is it their form? The way they move?  Their willingness to carry us? And why have horses been so strongly associated with waves, and with women, and with sex? They certainly are beautiful with their proud necks and easy manner.


It was a workday: Two Dot mail, drawing, lawn mowing, laundry, work on a book.  In the end there was the reward of an invite to Girl’s Night Out. I ate too little and drank too much, but the conversation had the right amount of joking, and kibitzing, and story telling and enlightenment. I believe I fit in ok…. local/not local. And now tomorrow I will head back to Seattle for a brief visit to my other reality.


Having a local dinner guest has me questioning what kinds of relationships I am trying to build.
There is so much more to this terrain than landscape. I continue to wonder where exactly I fit in, as well as what I have to offer. 

7.16.2013… few clouds, moderate wind, no rain

I haven’t watched the ball of sun break the horizon in a while. It is always shocking how quickly the sun appears to climb at the horizon’s edge; and how powerful and blinding the light is coming through the earth’s atmosphere. I chose to remain horizontal a bit longer letting the light soak into my skin and penetrate my eyelids. Later the sun was veiled and shadows soft, so I was grateful for having witnessed its rising.

7.15.2013… no clouds, no wind, no rain

It is a summer of male guests, but today the tables turned with three female friends arriving for an overnight. We didn’t go to the Two Dot Bar, it being Monday, but the bar’s boast has held true…Two Dot being easy to find and hard to leave. Likewise, it's been easy to have these women come to schoolhouse and will be hard to see them leave. We are eating well, talking a lot, reading mind-bending fortunes and enjoying each other. These three are leaving Two Dot a little better, not just for removing the decaying dead raccoon from the middle of the road.


I am reading an article on meteorology and weather prediction. In The Weather Man Is Not a Moron, Nate Silver explains chaos theory and the power of minute difference to cause exponential changes in the world. “Weather is non-linear… it abides by exponential rather than arithmetic relationships… its dynamic – its behavior at one point in time influences its behavior in the future.” I am thinking this holds true beyond weather, an idea that is both frightening and hopeful.

7.13.2013… no clouds, slight breeze, no rain

The wind picked up this afternoon, but I braved it outside. Just a few clouds are puffed in the sky like cartoons. If you take the time to watch them, you'll see they are animated. These look so soft and inviting, but I know there is nothing there really… just some dust particles with moisture attached, no real substance. It is a bit like my thinking today; a lot of random thoughts with only thin connections. At some point, I know there will be enough accumulation in both clouds and thoughts to erupt with an undeniable presence. Until then, I must be satisfied with the comedy of one puffball after another.


Time moves along differently when I'm alone; every minute a decision. I am reading randomly and waiting for direction. Where does it come from? I recently took care of a dog. Lilly would get up from a nap and wander around the corner of the schoolhouse. Why does she suddenly need to sniff things in the yard? Perhaps the answer to these questions is similar. I’d like to say the nag of needing to accomplish things is gone, but it remains as an overextended visitor. Never the less, I am thinking more freely and I am comfortable just committing shadows to the page. Never mind the need to know why.


Between a bull and a rattlesnake. No good options.


I went into the mountains on 4-wheelers with my Carolina friends and their white puff of a dog. I am accustomed to moving slowly under the power of my own feet. While I find ATV’s annoying when I am walking, I have to admit it’s fun to be on one. We covered a lot of ground, all of it shockingly beautiful. We’d hoped to see wildlife, but the engine roar must have scared it all away as we only saw the tracks of fleeing deer, elk, and bear. I did see a garter snake winding back into the grass out of our way, and hundreds of butterflies flew up as we approached; blue, yellow, and orange all around our heads then settling back down as we moved on. Best of all, I found the spot where we picnicked so many years ago on the single cattle drive I took part in. It lost no magic in the finding as some things do. Instead it confirmed and deepened my memories. It is always a gamble to return, but this time worked in my favor.

7.09.2013… no clouds, no wind, no rain

In Evelyn Cameron’s biography I ran across one of her diary entries, “Lovely. Mild. No wind. Became overcast…” our impulses are the same. And “no wind” is not only a common denominator, but the absence of wind is a great presence in Montana when it comes.


Again the ground is wet with last night’s rain, water collecting in the deep ruts left from last fall’s waterline project. We’ve begun to repair the sinking trenches, starting on the east side of the schoolhouse where the damage was the least. Yesterday I saw grass spikes coming up where John seeded. Promising. We're hoping the county will fill the ditch that now crosses the road causing everyone to slow down when driving past the school house. Everyday I hear the 4 thumps of cars taking the ditch one wheel at a time. We will continue to work on the rest and be grateful for our fabulous water presser. But just now, the left over rain glitters on the grass and puddles in the holes making pools for animals and birds and a mud bath for every tire.

7.07.2013… few clouds, no wind, no rain

Everything is wet with yesterday’s rain. The fields are misting it off and unless another rainstorm comes in it will be dry by afternoon except for the puddles in the road. James took the 4th of July flag down, but we couldn’t fold it. It remains draped on the railing, a damp remnant of the rain that ended five brilliant days of celebrating. Dana and little James, their nephew Braydon, and friend Zane will go this morning, leaving me with the bitter sweetness of another holiday ending and my time alone beginning.


John flew back to Seattle today. There were tears at the Helena Airport as he ripped away quick and sharp at the terminal drop off curb. I got back into the car alone as he walked away, each of us wiping at our eyes. It will only be two weeks, but he is my daily world, my waking and my going to sleep at night, my “what do you want for breakfast?” and my “what do you think of this?” He is my full body embrace, my comfort, my crazy maker, my everyday true love. And now we are apart so I can get comfortable with my work.


Over the holiday I had my houseguests looking for the coyote skulls we buried last summer. I'd been sure we would remember the exact location, but of course we did not. First Kendel and Braydon, then later James, Dana, and Zane shoveled dirt in the approximate place… but the skulls refused to be found. I’d rescued them last year from the ground where they'd rotted off the fence posts they’d hung on. I’d thought to do something dignifying with them. After everyone gave up digging, I had a dream. In the dream I knew right where the skulls were and dug them up. When I woke up I went out to look, it was true… there was a patch that hadn’t been disturbed. But, John had already raked and seeded the whole mess. In the end, I guess the dignity came from the burying.


I seem to be everyone’s cousin: first cousin, second cousin, third cousin, cousin once or twice removed, cousin-in-law, future cousin-in-law. In the end, there is no hierarchy, just family. We gather on July fourth not to celebrate independence so much as dependence…dependence on each other for the belonging that tethers us to purpose, that gives us a reason.


John drove a truck and trailer in the Harlo parade. The trailer was full of “Cream of the West” kids tossing sweets (not hot cereal) to everyone they passed. They were delirious with the responsibility of dispensing so much candy. I, on the other hand, was terrified for the driver who had never driven with a trailer. Of course he was fine… even when he took his hands off the wheel to take my picture while I was taking a picture of him.


Two Dot danced in the street again: little girls with arms around each other dreaming of boyfriends, tall girls with their little brothers, hand held circles of children in boots and hats…some still in diapers, couples in matching western shirts, and half of lifetime dance partners dancing with someone else for the first time. Some danced in boots and some danced in sensible comfort shoes, but pretty much everyone had a little polish on because this only happens once a year.

7.01.2013… no clouds or wind or rain, hot

The family came to dinner. It was about as fine a time as you can have. The food was good, the wine was delicious, the stories well told, and everybody laughed. I begin to understand the earlier generation and their family relationships… my aunties traveling back and forth to each other’s homes, best friends built on history together.