Thursday, April 30, 2009


The Valier butcher came last evening and dug out my driveway with a nifty little tractor. I’d already dug out my cat paths so this morning when I looked for the paper (not there) instead I found three cats! Caspar, the big white bully, and both Inkydinks, the sweet little Siamese twins. Bored with home, they'd come to see whether there was any action over here. There was: ME! They scrambled for home. There are lots of bird tracks on the snow, but no birds. They must be resting from all their foraging yesterday.

I’d dug the back cat path after my movie last night ("Youth Without Youth," a philosophical love story by Mircea Eliade, master of myth) with a fuzzy crescent moon watching. It looked like candy that rolled under the couch and got covered with lint. But that signaled the end of the snowfall.

This morning I shouldered my shovel, went to the end of what I shoveled last night and set to work. There’s a big drift which turned out to be three cats deep, counting tails stuck up straight. Crackers came out to watch and looked like this: ___^__^___ Only ears were showing. Squibbie, who is a slightly smarter cat, stayed in the window. I thought that I could just punch my way across the alley but it was up to my butt and then up to my shoulders, so I ended up sort of floundering across to the perpendicular alley and then had to hang onto the bit of fence above the snow to keep going something like straight. In the Anderson yard it was easy shoveling where the wind had blown it shallow, but then came Moby Drift, the biggest one of all. By that time Wayne was out on his porch yelling at me to stop being a nutcase because he’d hired Jerry to come with the backhoe.

The Montana road report shows I-15 dry from the cut-across (highway 44) to the border. Highway 89, closer to the mountains, is still closed. The winter reporting season ends tomorrow. No newspapers have showed up yet, but I’m reading it online anyhow. The weather forecast has switched over from blizzards to floods. I’ll give the mail a few more hours before I trudge up through the slush. It’s just above freezing. We never lost electricity, but I think it was spiking and breaking: two lightbulbs died.

When I was teaching in 1972-73 and living in Ramona Wellman’s big old abandoned yellow house in East Glacier, there was a storm like this that lasted ten days. I tell about it often because it was of epic proportions. We teachers got trapped in Browning and slept on our classroom floors until finally the railroad sent a huge locomotive with a rotary plow on the front of it that carried us all up to East Glacier. My van got buried at Christmas and I had to pay a backhoe to dig it out for Easter.

Now I see that there’s a man shoveling on the path I started across Rose’s yard and, strangely, I just feel jealous! I’d planned on being a HERO. (Er, heroine?)

There are pillows and cornices and toppling pudding piles on tops of everything, including vehicles, except that I pushed the snow off my little pickiup’s hood and it’s warm. If cats knew, they’d take advantage. All our eaves are lined with sharp icicles, the long thin kind. My house has no eaves and I know some of the water is going into my walls. The gypsum wallboard is buckling at the seams in some places. People who can afford it have reroofed with metal, which warms quickly and sends huge avalanches rocketing down on the unsuspecting, so they have small metal fences along the roofs to slow the sliding snow down.

This is Heart Butte, a building that started out as a sewing co-op, then became a rec center, and is now the “trading post” which sells food and has an area for sit-down coffee. A good destination when touring the rez, but I’d wait for summer. Here’s their regular website. In late summer they become a check-in point for forest fires, which can come perilously close. Janet Running Crane has posted a good reminiscence about the old days and how to cope. I can see Heart Butte from here and my next-door neighbors grew up there.

I’ve got two pairs of pants going now: sweats for going out to flounder in the snow and chinos for sitting in here with the keyboard. The sweats hang on a hook above the floor furnace to dry out. But now that there are starter paths dug, I have some ground to stand on so I don’t need boots. It’s not cold at all -- in fact, it’s overcast but there’s a good deal of radiant heat. Tomorrow and through the weekend the forecast is fifty. All these paths will soon be streams of water and boots will be essential again. The ground is thawed enough to soak it up. Some basements will have water. The door frames change shape as ground and wood swell and then shrink.

This is living earth and we know it. It breathes and slumps and sprouts beneath us. Co-existence takes constant readjustment and back-up plans. More than that, patience.

Valier is still quiet this morning. Not many vehicles, not many people walking. I don’t hear the beeping of equipment or the grinding of the big grader going through. We’re waiting.

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