Elkhorn Mountains, Montana

Every summer Blue Eyes and I pack up and spend a week with his parents and family in a cabin deep in the Elkhorn Mountains in southwest Montana. I have very little cell service there, no internet, and miles and miles of open spaces. I usually have hours to spend searching out micro and macro vistas, fiddling with my camera settings trying to capture in pixels something that has no business being captured in pixels. Even in July the mountains have patches of snow on their peaks and the morning and evening temperatures leave you reaching for a jacket. The small towns and sprawling ranches that surround the mountains gave me and my camera plenty of raw material.

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The view from my in-laws house. It really is just stunning!

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Minty green lichen.

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Purple mountain lupine.

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There were fields and fields of this in bloom in early July! Entire hillsides were covered in clumps of purple blooms.

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No idea…

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An old abandoned Ford tractor.

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Montana Elkhorn St John Catholic Church_feistyharriet_July 2014

St. John’s Catholic church, out in the middle of practically nowhere, no town close by, very few ranches, just this tiny white church and graveyard.

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I love the old green paint on this bus! I stood gawking and snapping pics until the neighbors started asking questions. (In my bright red mini and giant camera I certainly don’t look like a local in this small rural town.)

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Montana Elkhorn Canola 5_feistyharriet_July 2014

Fields of rapeseed/canola. Rapeseed is the official name of this bright yellow flower, but the Canadians have renamed it “canola” for it’s uses in vegetable oil and plastic production. Canada + ola (meaning “oil”) = canola. Brilliant.

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This might be one of my favorites from my whole trip.

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Such a beautiful stripe of bright color in the middle of miles of greenish-brown fields, mostly alfalfa and hay about ready to be cut and baled for winter.

Next summer I want to take myself and my camera on a few short day-trips to explore more of the surrounding area. On our last trip Blue Eyes and I crawled all over the abandoned Comet Mine and I would love to find something else like that to explore!

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Letter to my 21-year-old self

Dear Harriet,

You just turned 21 and are struggling through some of the most difficult months of your life. You are being beaten and raped by your husband on an almost daily basis and, of course, he blames you for his behavior, you see your hurts and your position as your own fault. You are almost completely numb and wondering what on earth there is to live for; you don’t see an out. For the last few months your only place of refuge–the only place you truly feel safe–is the bathtub, but you are no longer safe from yourself there. I know you have been scraping your skin off–your legs and stomach look like gazpacho and your pumice stones are stained with blood.

Stay with me, honey, don’t turn out the lights; it’s almost over. By March you will somehow find the internal strength to make a decision, and by the beginning of the summer you will be living in your own little apartment. That bastard will go back to the Midwest and you will only see him twice more in your lifetime. He will continue to deteriorate, but you will flourish.

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

Melanie recently posted about what she would tell her 22-year-old self, I have been thinking about it for a couple of weeks. The first few years of my 20’s were volatile and looking back I still don’t know how I happened to come out on the other side in one piece. Truth be told, I wasn’t in one piece, I was a mess, held together with bandages and a few long-buried hopes and dreams. It took me a long time to feel like a whole person again, and I often look back to that girl and whisper to her to just keep going, it will get better, she will be okay. Sometimes I actually believe that these quiet encouragements can transcend time and all the laws of psychics, I wonder if  the bloodied, broken girl in the bathtub can somehow hear my whispers, that she recognizes my voice and is calmed, puts down the stone, and is still.

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

Your career in advertising will take off, you will win awards, the youngest in your company to ever do so. You will keep the people you work with now in your heart for years. You will go back to school–and you will finish your degree. It is wise not to switch to majoring in marketing–the economy will tank in 2008 and marketing and advertising budgets will disappear. An economics degree, however, will provide indispensable.

Facebook will be kind of cool, a little awesome, and a lot of awkward. Learn privacy functions immediately, block without abandon.

I’m sorry to tell you that you will not be a world traveler by the time you are 30; you will explore many new places from coast to coast, and small pockets of Canada and Mexico, but you will not rack up passport stamps. Please don’t stop dreaming about it.

Don’t ever stop dreaming, you will find ways to make your dreams come true, but you have got to keep those dreams alive. They will ebb and flow, change and re-emerge as something new, but do not lose your dreaming soul–it will sustain you during the darkest times.

I know you don’t believe me right now–but you will become the kind of voyeuristic person who shares pages and pages of thoughts and feelings and experiences with thousands dozens of strangers around the world. But the process of opening yourself up will be healing. You don’t have to carry all your hurts in silence.

You will date some wonderful men, your relationships with them will help you heal, help you grow, and teach you an enormous amount about the good parts of human nature. You will learn–slowly–that not all men are as sadistic as he was, many are kind, good, caring men worthy of your trust. You will love them, and be loved, but you won’t marry until late in your twenties. And that’s okay. He’s worth the wait. I’m also sorry to tell you that you will also date one or two duds and a total psycho, a master of manipulation and mind games. And–ultimately–that will be okay too. The duds will help you realize you want more, and the psycho will give you the metaphorical push you need to become a raging feminist and an independent woman who refuses to let anyone put her on a pedestal, who demands to be seen as she is and loved as she is–or not–but loved for herself and not some lofty fantasy she can never sustain.

Your sweetheart will be nothing like you expect at first glance; in fact, had you dated him at anytime before he actually asked you out you may have only remembered him for his small-town charm and great smile. But, after the good boyfriends, the psycho, and the duds, you will learn to see and value people differently and you will see much more than that sweet cowboy.

In your mid-to-late twenties you will find a fall in love with a group of friends who–I hope–you’ll keep the rest of your life. These friends, mostly women (I know, you’ll change your opinions on that), will be a lifeline. They are–in part–what will make your future struggles seem easier. They will mourn with you, cry with you, laugh and cheer with you, they will hold you up when you feel you are unable to stand.

Right now so much seems hopeless, hang in there, young Harriet. You will find hope, you will be thrown into chaos, just breathe, you will be okay. You will make it through this, you will thrive, and you will find your happiness.


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Writing for you, but really, writing for me

A few weeks ago I saw this writing meme on SoMi Speaks and Kristin’s blog and while it has taken me longer to get this completed than is fashionable when responding to a meme, I liked it enough to persevere anyway.

1. What am I writing or working on?

A few weeks ago I finished an enormous manual for my 8-5 job, it was full of technical information, timelines, sample communications, images, and media releases. I’ve had some good feedback and some constructive critique and am ready to tackle the 2.0 version, to be released in the fall.

On a personal level, recent events in my world and the world at large have prompted me to think about some very difficult questions and have demanded some answers. I don’t know if there has been another time in my life where I so desperately needed clarity. Beginning with the kidnapped young women in Nigeria, the subsequent #yesallwomen explosion and aftermath, and –most recently–a threat of excommunication of a Mormon feminist for her public work to advance equality within the LDS faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). My heart both hurts and is simultaneously seething with anger. I know that women are not the only underrepresented group, but for a world with a population that is probably more than half female, we surely have a lot of unnecessary obstacles and difficulties and not a proportionate amount of heartache and lack of control.

I am trying to organize my thoughts on these events, and also on feminism in general. It’s not hard for me to write about, I find every topic I explore launches me into 3 or 4 more topics to address. I’ve opened Pandora’s box and the memories and hurts and issues escaping from it demand my attention. I am both energized and overwhelmed. ANd–more than ever–I am grateful for this space where, when they are fermented enough, I can share my thoughts and opinions without the fear that used to loom over every post. I have written nearly 100 pages on my “coming out” as a feminist and the experiences that catalyzed that realization. So, when I have something a little more formed and formatted, you can expect a series on Why I Am A Feminist.

2. How does my work differ from others of it’s genre?

I don’t really know how (or if) my writing differs from others “in it’s genre.” Honestly, I don’t know if I could put myself into any categorical genre. I suppose I write more non-fiction than fiction or creative writing; more edited than not (and only sometimes with spelling or grammar mistakes); I am more word-focused than image-focused (except when I post image-heavy photologues…ahem); more opinions and rantyness than DIY or crafts; more original content than reviews of products. I am not a Mommy blogger, not really a lifestyle blogger, not a fashion blogger, not a food blogger (at least, not here), and I don’t really travel enough to be considered a travel blogger. I’m just a girl with a notebook and a lot of opinions…is that a genre?

3. Why do I write?

Why? I write because I need to get words and thoughts and ideas out of my head and onto a page. I write because it helps me process and is the winding path from a jumbled mess of thoughts to something cohesive–from chaos to concrete opinion. I write because when I don’t my thoughts stop tumbling, begin to crust, and stagnate into a murky pool, suffocating themselves into oblivion. I write because it somehow makes me feel more alive.

4. How does my writing process work?

Part of me wishes I was some kind of uber-sophisticate with a tiny, shiny tablet-laptop that generated silent keystrokes who could sit on the train or in a hip coffee shop with bluesy music in my tiny earbuds, generating blog posts, paragraph after paragraph of perfectly edited prose.

Um, I’m not that person.

I write–in pen–furiously in a college-ruled 1-subject notebook because anything else seems overwhelming. I fill pages with thoughts and scribbles–crossing out entire paragraphs and writing new ones in teeny letters in the margins. I used to be able to open a new blog post and fill it with 1,000 words of…well, to be honest, mostly drivel. I am finding I like the ache in my hand from writing–I like being able to express some of my emotion in my handwriting: neat, well-formed letters for something I am almost certain of; larger ones when I’m forming the thoughts as I write; super slanty jagged ones when I’m angry, abbreviated words and a lot of them missing the last few letters when I am trying to write fast enough to keep up with my brain.

I don’t worry about “messing up” a page, or about anyone else reading what I write, and I no longer worry about composing the perfect blog post that could maybe go viral and make me famous/in-famous for a minute. I just write. Anything I want to publish here I transfer from my notebook to a blog post. I don’t know if that is a “process”…but that’s how it works for me.

What about you? How do you write? Where? Are you a genre-compliant writer? Or are you all over the map?



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