Keeping Time

Mark Charles Heidinger stomps his foot on a wood board to set time, vibrating the deck beneath us. The strum of the acoustic guitar sets the melody; the twang of the steel-pedal guitar layers the tune. Mark leans back and sings in a bold, clear voice into the brisk, evening air: “Dig down deep, don’t fold…for the faintest wind might…

Summertime Jam

I’m an avid gardener. Avid meaning “enthusiastic,” not “successful.” I shouldn’t say that. I’m great with herbs and this year, my squash and tomatoes are all blooming nicely. The wait for fresh produce became a bit too tiring and I stumbled upon something to make the time pass more quickly.

A Realistic Guide to Getting the Most Out of Your Montana Summer

Summer is the season of expression. After the long dormancy of winter, suddenly the serviceberries are flowering, the chickadees are trilling, and everything is clamoring for your attention. If you have an adventurous streak, as I do, then innumerable hikes, bikes, paddles, and camping excursions begin to crowd into the vacant spaces in your summer schedule. There’s always more to…

The Silent Teacher

Most children take after one parent more than the other. Such was the case with my family. I am the spitting image of my father: the nose, the opinions, the gregarious nature. My sister is equally like my mother: quiet, stubborn, and extremely shy.

Thank you, Farmer

When daffodils steal from their bulbs and the days become longer than the nights, I begin to dream of bountiful food—the crisp sweetness of peas, the moisture of lettuce, the fullness of tomatoes—all the vegetables that the warming soil and the abundant sunshine will grow. But each year, as I plan my summer garden, I confront the same hard truth:…

Nesting

Nesting, by my definition, is the readying of one’s arrival—perhaps even my own. My mother, whom I’ve always considered a professional home decorator, nested when she was just a child, buying things for a home she didn’t yet have. My brothers and sisters nested for their children, collecting clothes, painting the little one’s room—making everything picture perfect to make up…

The Things We Collect

In the lobby of the public library in my neighborhood, there is a yard square glass-topped display case with the intriguing sign, “Things People Collect.” It draws me every time I am there to peek into the curious favorites of other people. I have dawdled over marbles in every color and pattern, vintage ceramic flower planters shaped like lambs and…

Renewed and Ready

On Christmas day of 2015, I found myself among towering pines on a high plateau in the desert. It was cold—ten degrees when I woke. I leaned over from my bed and clicked on the small propane heater to begin warming our 60-square-foot home—a 1985 Volkswagen Westfalia.

Christmas in the Desert

Every year in late December, when Missoula is bundled in cold and snow, I pack a bag and drive or fly due south to the desert. For the past 21 years, I’ve spent a part of every Christmas season in southwestern Utah. My Christmas memories are backlit by burnt orange sandstone, sagebrush and yucca, crisp sunny days, and sharp, clear…

On the Wild River

The first night—when the giants begin leaping from the mountains, and the air becomes heavy and injected with electric potential, and there are nothing but burned, white snags all around me—is the first time I feel small and vulnerable on this adventure.

In the Shadows of Friday Night Lights

How could a woman who still has no idea what a “first down” is find herself so captivated at Friday night football games? It’s easy. In the past few years, my sports cluelessness has allowed me to keenly observe the hundreds and hundreds of folks off the field. There is juicy stuff there.

The Sweet Smell of School

Every time I step into a school cafeteria (which is easily 100 times a year), the acrid smells of sour milk, baked mystery meat, and bleachy cleansers swirl into an unpleasant olfactory gumbo that assaults my brain's limbic system, somewhere near the hippocampus. That's the spot where smells trigger memories.

A Place in 
Our Hearts 
for the 
Furry Ones

I'm not claiming to be akin to the great dog whisperer Caesar Millan or anything. It's just that I have this way of interpreting small snippets of "stuff" from my dogs. Lest you think I'm getting carried away or need to be carried away, it's not like my dog, Bandit, is walking up to me and saying, "Gee, Mom, that…

The Sound of Summer

Some might hear the chirp of the grasshoppers, the thrum of bees, the splash of trout, the chatter of starlings. Others might hear the slap of sprinklers, the pop of cooking hamburgers, the drone of lawnmowers. When I hear summer, it’s serene, playful, and nostalgic. There’s little tension. It resolves easily. But I might only be able to describe the…

Oh, Yes We Can!

For much of my adult life, people have told me, "You can't do that!" or "That'll never work." And I'm not talking about expecting things to always "work out" or "succeed." I'm talking about following our passions, no matter the outcome. Success is never guaranteed. But stagnation is certain if we don't ever take a leap of faith.

A Mother’s Commitment

My mother is always the first to call me on my birthday to remind me of the night before I was born. At the time, she was living in a one-room adobe house in Tucson, Arizona. On this late November night, she sat outside, leaning back in a deep-set wicker chair, letting her belly rest, and watching the full moon.

The Promises of Gardens

Starting a garden can be like reuniting with an old, old bottle of wine—a vintage forgotten somewhere in the crevices of the basement for three decades, or four—then discovered one day and carried up to the light to be decanted and poured into a glass for the first time. The color is the deep burgundy of heavy velvet curtains. It…

A Love Letter to the Arts

I went to a Christmas caroling party a few years ago where many people had highfalutin jobs. They were numbers people. Something I most certainly was not. They'd saved lives, designed buildings. They were from further flung places, big cities. Their children spoke several languages and giggled at their own striking accomplishments.

Love Is in the Air




Who knew boarding a flight 23 years ago in my blue sweat suit (think 1980's wear) would change my entire life? Certainly not me, or I might have dressed a bit snappier and put on a smidge of makeup and perfume. But I had reached that elusive place of peace in my quickly-nearing-explosion biological countdown when I figured that if…

Growing Older, 
But Not Up

Jim Cosgrove, aka Mr. Stinky Feet, and his wife make their home in Johnson County, Kansas, with their two beautiful daughters. For details about where your family can be entertained by Jim, visit JimCosgrove.com. My New Year’s resolution is to act more like a 5 year old. I got the idea from my daughters. They laugh a lot. They sing…

Creating Your Own Family

With a family the size of a small compact car, I often use the term "family" to describe my friends. My lineage is a long thin vine, rather than a large leafy tree, due to circumstances and odds that would win the lottery, if played. My mom was an only child. My dad was an only. Both of my paternal…

STARS AND STRIPES

I bought my first home with the love of my life a few months ago. It’s a place that only existed in my mind up until this year, where our horses would graze and where our dog would pace the fence line with his nose to the ground. It’s now home for all of us and I’m thankful for that.…

Mulling Over the Wine Reviews

I was a weary shopper looking for a simple Riesling when my innocent eyes fell upon this: “Opens with a gorgeous bouquet of yellow flowers, stone fruit and musk against a backdrop of chalk and minerals. It’s richly fruity, with a sharp, honed acidity that’s shocking and penetrating. Finishes long, with an elegant honeyed touch.”

Birds on a Wire

One of my dear friends is a painter who sees the world through her amazing artist eyes. When she was the newbie in our neighborhood, her heart was sensitive to how she would integrate her family into the community. Driving one day she noticed how birds perched on a telephone wire seemed to choose when to gather, and whom to…

The Back Porch

On summertime mornings, I love having breakfast and reading the newspaper on my northwest-facing back porch. At first sunrise, the sunlight kisses the tops of the Rattlesnake Mountain’s Stuart Peak and Sleeping Woman Peak on the Ninemile Divide.

Adventure Is a 
Nine-Letter Word

The word "adventure" conjures up different images for different people, and let's face it: Some images are just prettier than others. For my hard-core outdoorsy friends, adventure means tackling the Appalachian Trail with three pounds of dried beans, a tarp the size of a Kleenex and a compass. Just to fluff things up a bit, they might take a change…

June 2015 Parting Thoughts

The helmet wobbled around my head as I cautiously took my first steps to stand over home base. A not-so-confident 6-year-old, I tapped the plate with my bat, glanced over my shoulder to find my parents, and gulped air.