Joy in Grief – Mom’s birthday. 

This day arrives as it usually does for myself and I believe most of my siblings, quietly with grief and memories of a time when we had celebration. While it was and is in subtle ways a joyous date, there is great sorrow. Today is my Mother’s birthday. And she is not here. No phone calls to be made. No cards to write. No meals served with love or visits to be had. Not even Grandparents to call on their daughter’s birthday. It is sad, this day. It is lonely. It is also full of memories of when it was bursting with life. This contradiction we live in. It could tear one apart. 
I don’t feel overwhelmed by this date. Once, I believe I did. Now it arrives with a quiet awareness of what is and what was. I am painfully familiar with this Place, where the deep bottomless well of grief resides. Most of the external world cannot see it. I rarely bring these notable dates up within my day to day life. I wonder at that. How hard it still is to share. Within the context of my siblings and a few close friends it is almost always acknowledged and never forgotten. This feels good that outside of our crazy external world, there is still connection of what is real. What continues to move us.

I cannot find happiness or peace on this date. I also do not feel that I need to. For I can find joy – not in the traditional sense of ‘happiness’ but in the upwelling of emotion that has flavors of gratitude, delight and appreciation for the years we did get. For the context of this grief is to have known the other side of pure joy. I may not smile much on this date, but I can feel the love that is still present even after these years of sadness and despair. I don’t know what it looks like for everyone, but rare it is that I have seen a Mother so wholly loved as mine was and very much still is. How can this not bring tears of joy and not just sorrow? 

This pain we feel, it’s very real and soul deep. Words skip along the surface like stones on a stream, never sinking below the easily seen shallows and ending up on the other bank. Being told to only remember the good times is dismissive of our pain. I cannot say in place of my siblings, but for me, it is okay if you cannot connect with my pain, my grief, my reality. But do not ask me to separate from it. Do not ask me to smile for your sake. Not all of us can run from a lack of comfort, please do not burden me or my family with an inability to be uncomfortable with loss and grief. 

If I could- I would gladly hug each of my brothers and sister and tell them that I know the joy in the pain on this day. And that it is okay if they do too. That whatever it is they feel, it is okay. These feelings and emotions do not need to define you. Instead I am 4 time zones away and hope my words will reach them. I hope they find something in the ways I am able to be there for them. 

I have love on this day. I have grief and acute sadness. I have joy and a bittersweetness of memories. I have appreciation for those who see and a lack of patience of those who cannot. I don’t know what else I could give my Mother on this day other than just being me. For that is all she ever wanted for every one of her children – to have peace, love and purpose in their lives. To find joy. And mostly, to be who we are. And to grow. 

Happy Birthday Mom.

This grief, it tears apart my heart, just as the love around you keeps it going and strong. This contradiction I live in. 

~ Joannie

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What I Haven’t Said ~ Horses

Many people have commented over the years that I don’t share much about the horses – and with the one exception of when I was living in Maryland, attempting to possibly make a go of it one last time – this true. It was simply too painful to write about them. Things went skewed for my plans with the horses and farm, but my time on the Eastern Shore was priceless in terms of experiences and events that led on to other ones. Once it became clear that at this point in my life, there just isn’t a place for me to work with horses (and be able to support my own). It was time to change focus. Accepting that, I slowly started the mental process of selling my Andalusian mare and finding a more permanent boarding place/home for my beloved older horse Domino. These things are hard in person, and 4 time zones away and strained communication with family made things 100x more difficult. I don’t really want to go into the details, but after months of attempting to have conversations with family members starting in the late Spring – I learned in mid July that my Father had sold all the horses, tack, and associated equipment. I can logically understand that it was time for the horses to be sold. My issue with Dad is not that he sold the horses, but how he sold them, the fact that he didn’t tell me beforehand, didn’t let me know after, and then had everyone else in the family keep it a secret. For weeks. Again, I’ve no desire to go into the details (I am sure I have already upset a few people by now as it is), but to say that this didn’t affect me – is a huge understatement. See, my mare Domino I had since she was about 4 years old. Or to put in terms you may know – since I was around 12 years old (possibly younger). This horse SHAPED how I approached all other horses and eventually their people. Domino is the main reason I got into horse training. Domino is why I learned more about equine psychology than any other type of area I could have spent my teenage years pursuing. Domino was my best friend, when the human world didn’t understand. I had Domino longer than my best friend Lorien and I have known each other… And I didn’t even get to say goodbye. By the time I tracked down the man who had bought the horses (no one in my family was forthcoming with this information due to reasons still unexplained to me) – he had already auctioned her off to somewhere in VA. I cannot explain the heartbreak and distress the weeks during and after these events brought me.

Even now, months later, I have little to say to my Dad. I love him, always will. But I have little to say to him now. I don’t expect most people to understand, nor do I need them to. The way he handled the events following his selling of the horses just doesn’t lend to a casual conversation over the phone or a ‘nice’ family visit on my part. He rationalized that due to me spending next to no time at the farm or with the horses, it somehow wouldn’t bother me. He couldn’t have been more wrong. My time at the farm and in TN is clearly a thing of the past. People move on, and often to places you cannot be in.

My last horse – Mikka – who was originally Mom’s horse is safely being boarded long-term with the Myerson family (who have been beyond amazing in helping me with her and all things that involve TN). She will stay with them as long as it works for them or more subtle place for her becomes apparent. As the last living animal that my Mother dearly loved, I will not give her up (unless it is because I can no longer safely care for her) even though horses don’t seem to have a place in my life anymore. She is very well cared for and living with horses she knows, and gets to spend time with people who genuinely enjoy her. I couldn’t ask for a better home away from me. As one of my Mother’s good friends – Barbara gets a lot out of having her as well. For all of this I thankful.

At this point in my life I have my faithful companion River, and make sure Mikka is getting what she needs. All my other animals are gone, some in the most heartbreaking of ways. Everything about who I used to be as a horse person is gone. Even my saddle. After the way this went down, I cannot say if I’ll ever try my hand with horses (outside of Mikka) again. To not even get to say goodbye to one of my most loved animals of all time – is particularly devastating to me. This experience, like many others – is just another painful part of my life that I hide behind pretty pictures and book quotes. Because in the end, it is mostly just I who cares, and will still feel this loss and lack of consideration years from now. This is another of those ‘what I haven’t said’ events.

~J

5 Years Now Without Mom

I read the ‘4 Years Gone’ write up I did a year ago basically to the day, and I am struck by how much things have changed – and how much they haven’t. I could just copy/paste most of the words again for this year. The emotions, the thoughts, the memories; very little is different in those areas, even with another year for perspective. That in itself is a little scary. Makes me want to rage at those who quote that insufferable phrase ‘Time Heals All Wounds’. Dumb fuck who wrote that was clearly in-denial or hadn’t lost very much. I rarely feel angry, except at shallow empty words thrown in my face to ‘console’ me (but only them, in reality). Then the extraordinary pissed-off redhead temper comes out in force.

As you may have guessed, I don’t feel any less grief this year then I did the last 4. I do however feel more sadness than anger (or at least I believe I do) with the world. I also find myself looking back at my experiences with people those first few years, and having much more anger now than I did then, at the level of shit I went through. All it takes is a misguided statement made by a family member or friend and I feel the slow burn of angry pain that they still don’t get it. Maybe my increased sadness is that they and most of the world never will and its unfair of me to want them to be able to grasp the faintest idea of it.

Last year I attended a Tracker class with the 3 women who many know as my ‘Element Sisters’. Though I was around people and not trying to shove everything down, I also didn’t share much – and what I did share was mostly through the girls. Tracy, Linda and Afsoon’s support that year was the beginning of me not trying to hide 24/7. This year, the Healing School I have been apart of ran the 3rd class during the corresponding weekend (the dates are set when we sign up). So not only was I in another class, but this time it was even more hands-on with the emotions of life. Instead of fading into the background and only letting people know the significance of the dates via my Sisters, this year I had to do it myself and beforehand. Instead of standing on the edge of the 130+ group of classmates – many whom I didn’t know – I was in the middle of a very close knit group of 13 that I have worked with before. Not only did I not sit in silence all day, I shared my experience with classmates and friends, many of whom are quickly becoming true family.

I keenly feel the lack of contact from most people in my life, particularly this day. Lorien, best friend, person that Facebook says I am ‘In a relationship with’ and many people do believe that (which is totally okay by us) and the first person who ever sat with me in the long silences always makes contact this day. Even if its just through text. This year I had more people than I honestly know what to do with make contact with me. Interestingly most were not actual family members – or even old friends. I also shared my experience with feeling for the first time since the first weeks of 2009. In class, while words can be important and are often used to jumpstart an event, its the feeling, the emotion that we are most concerned about. I was the ‘group project’ to experience past events – all 12 classmates and the 3 instructors at the same time. Those of you who really know me, will realize that it is close to the last thing I would ever want to do, share ‘feelings’ while actually in contact with a shit-ton of people in person! But I did. Many may think that the ‘talking’ part is hard. Its not really, I’ve had to tell that fucking story over and over again. For family, for friends, for police, for doctors, and lawyers, therapists and teachers. I’m so not in touch with my emotions when I talk about the days leading up and shortly after Mom was killed, that I learned to ‘fake’ some reaction so as to not upset family or alarm the doctors for the first few years. In the past I’ve been accused of not caring, being a cold heartless bitch and having ‘something really really wrong with me’ because I can’t talk and feel at the same time very well. Clearly the world isn’t as ‘aware’ as they think they are about things like PTSD. The worst part was never how I felt talking about it, but how the other people felt. The shock, the disbelief, the looking for the silver lining, the inability to grasp, and of course; the wondering of how I ‘didn’t know’, which eventually leads to questioning of my intelligence, the darkness I must have to attract such people. The ways in which I am broken that I could be a part of such evil – even as a bystander. My grief, anger and pain I sit with everyday. Its the rest of the world and their judgements, their dismissal and lack of awareness that is so fucking impossible to be with.

By year 2 I had stopped calling people. Asking for people to sit with me (Lorien never had to be asked, but then I moved away) or be supportive. Some friends would take it upon themselves to be around in any way they could. Something I am very grateful for and applaud for dealing with my despair. It was a strange feeling to be the one who explained to the new people in my life (Shaun, classmates, etc) what the days leading up to the 4th meant to me. It was even more surreal when even after I explained that there is only ‘dark and twisty’ on that day that I found myself accepting them in my experience of it. – I will write up another post going into more detail for those interested.

I wish there was a positive spin I could put on things from the kids and Dad. But I am not really privy to their experience with this anymore. I texted the ones who have cell phones, reaching out in between the madness of driving through snow, DC traffic and flying to Alaska. To the younger kids it is probably more of ‘another day’ in the time span of not fun days that makeup this time of year. I can’t really say how they are doing other than just getting by. I like to think I have moved from the space of surviving to living, but some days I am not as convinced. Or maybe it is more of perspective, that in my own way I do live; in the moments possible, and when not, I survive.

I do know that the various places the boys and younger kids are, Mom still smiles. I watch my brothers as they mature, and even with their anger and pain and their struggles, at their core they are amazing young men. Every single one of my 8 siblings is unique, with their own talents. I hope for each one that one day they live, fully and lovingly, their own lives.

I see my Mother in every red sunrise and sunset. I spy a cardinal on a branch and think of her. A waterfall. The Mountains. Roadtrips. All these things she loved. All these things she inspired us children to love. Thinking back to one of the many gifts she bestowed upon her loved ones, I don’t think love was the biggest one. Or even hope. But maybe was inspiration. I have countless (literally, I forget the them often) stories of the people out there who were inspired to do and be more in life from knowing Mom.

Even in death my Mother somehow inspires people to live more fully. To laugh more often. To love more fully. To nurture and care for the lost children. Below: Early 90’s in Alaska, with (I believe) a baby Jeremy. She didn’t let things like having 3 young children, 9 dogs and winter keep her tied down. She had fun anywhere she was.

Mom in Alaska with a baby brother

Mom in Alaska with a baby brother

In one breath I can go back to my last day with Mom. The brightest most beautiful light. The hope. The love. The laughter. 5 years ago in the space of a moment. And in the same space, the 5 years is also an eternity of hell. Of pain. Of a deep black hole of grief that never goes away. A breath of love and an eternity of hell in just one moment. I walk in both worlds, as they are both true. It almost feels as though it should be strange, that just a breath of love can inspire someone to live through hell for eternity. But then that is the type of love my Mother inspired. Not strange at all. Beautiful.

~ J

March & Schedule Update

Last day of February is here, I sit in Bangor Maine at Tracy & Carl’s house staving off the 5 degree chill by the wood stove. The last few weeks have gone by rather quickly, as I bounced from state to state along my travels. Early February found me at the DC airport 4pm in the afternoon after 14 hours of flying through the night and running around Anchorage doing last minutes things the day before. My Aunt Cathie and Family was out-of-town, so I picked up the Black Dragon and begun battling the DC 5:30 traffic towards Tennessee. It took a few hours to clear the city’s traffic in Northern VA, at which point I stopped for food and provisions. By 8pm I had been awake already for 32 hours and just wanted a bath. But Winter Storm Pax was crawling up from the southern states, threats of 5+ inches to feet of snow and I needed to not be on the highway once it started. I made it to Best Friend – Lorien’s dorm in Johnson City TN, around 2am. The roads were still clear and I could try to rest. I snoozed through the bustle of college kids and woke up to a world of white. I stayed 2 nights and just about 3 days catching up with Lorien and watching the city shut down from 8 inches of snow. I also got dinner with Jackie and Jeremy in Bristol to catch up. Friday I made the 3 hour trek to the Farm in Madisonville, passing overturned trucks, broken down cars and jack-knifed tractor-trailers. For the first 20-30 miles, I saw at least one every mile marker.

The Farm still had about 5 inches of snow, however was getting slushy. The kids were thrilled to see me. Jackie came down from College to see me. I spent the weekend hanging out, playing cards, sitting by the fire, and of course – snow play with the kids. Everyone packed into the van and off to the mountains we went. Sadly due to the feet of snow, not as much sledding happened as time was spent on getting the van’s chains to stay on, unstuck, pulled out..and other less thrilling activities. The kids were out of school Monday, Jesse and I took them to Citico Creek to fish. Upon the realization that fish weren’t biting, we went for a hike. Was a good day. Tuesday the kids were back in school, I had many things to take care of with Barbara and long chats to catch up. I was also officially sick.

I was on the road late Wednesday afternoon, stopped in Johnson city briefly to say goodbye to Lorien. Sadly Jeremy and Jackie were at wrestling practice and I already had a very late start to get to New Jersey that night. I ended up staying another night in Jersey with my good friend Amy and her husband, due to the stresses of traveling while sick. I actually went to a walk in clinic due a strange rash that had surfaced along with my cold. Turns out that I have horrible luck (those would be the exact words of the Doctor to describe my situation) . Once on the road again, my GPS acted strange around NYC, so I got to get rerouted in the city. Was exciting. The drive through Maine was beautiful and peaceful, till something shattered the little moon roof of my Subie. At that point I pulled over and laughed like a crazy person. It was a clear day, no cars in front of me, no bridges, nothing around but trees. Something just happen to shatter the glass… Carl is going with ‘Space Poo’, Tracy has picked ‘God tried to strike you down’ and I.. well this sorta my life. So I’m going with that. I finally arrived in Maine with my tapped up window to Tracy and Carl’s where Linda was as well, Saturday afternoon to a warm house full of animals and wonderful people. Last few days have been spent recuperating and healing. I have new glass for the Black Dragon, but due to costs it isn’t actually installed yet..More Duct tape!

Today, I leave for my Wilderness Fusion class in NY. Can’t wait to see what will pop out of the wood work for this. I’ll stay at friend and fellow classmate – Justin’s tonight. Class will be starting late due to having to move location to better deal with the frigid temps and..yes more snow. Should be a killer of a class spiritually. I may not survive it though! Monday once class ends, I make a dash for Maryland where I hope to arrive in a timely manner so I can actually spend time with Shaun, before driving to DC the on Tues. Turns out that I need to go back to Alaska for a few days for work (which with the extra bills, is really for the best at this point). If I get in early enough to Ocean City, MD I’ll actually eat dinner, see Shaun. If not, well I’ll stop by my Aunt Terry’s, pick up the gear that needs to go to Alaska, sleep for a few hours. And then battle the snowstorm to DC where hopefully I’ll still be flying out Tuesday afternoon..I mean what couldn’t go wrong with this schedule?

March 9th will find me back in DC (weather permitting) and I will have the rest of the original ‘Maryland stay’ I was planning on before heading out to Belize. Whew. That brings up to March 15th… Next month overview looks something like this:

Feb 28th – Drive from Maine to NY for class.

March 1-3 – Wilderness Fusion Class in NY.

Late March 3rd – Arrive in Ocean City MD.

March 4th – Drive to DC, fly out for AK in the afternoon.

March 5-9th – Anchorage.

March 9th-14th – Maryland.

March 15th – Fly to Belize from DC.

March 16th-21st – Class in Belize.

March 21st-23rd DC with Shaun, Kathy & Dave!

March 24th-April 2nd – Unsure/East Coast.

April 3rd – Drive to Maine to meet up with Tracy.

April 4th-6-7th – Canada with the Element Sisters!!!

Early April – I should probably be heading back to Alaska soon so I can continue to eat…

 

Journey On ~ J

December Fun

Arrghh! Once again I look up and time has gotten away from me. December 20th!? WHAT. November was a great month, Thanksgiving nice with Kathy, Dave & friends! I spent about 10 days in Maryland visiting with family & friends before flying out to Alaska for work and the Holiday.

Early December found me in Seattle for a lay over with Reuben. We had a great time seeing some of our old haunts and taking in Seattle’s sushi & coffee. Early the next morning I was supposed to be off to D.C to meet up with a classmate from WildernessFusion and to pickup my car, but I was delayed getting checked in and missed my flight. 8 hours later of sitting at the airport I was *finally* on my way. DC was shockingly warm compared to Alaska and even Seattle. My wonderful Aunt Cathie picked me up along with classmate B, and we stayed the night in Arlington, VA before heading out for NY state. The drive was an adventure itself, but we made it in one piece to another classmate’s house near the park where the class is held. Quite a few people from the class were already there staying the night as well, so much fun was had.

My class itself was an intense – but amazing – and also freaking cold (and damp) time. Wouldn’t have changed a thing. The last night of the class the snow turned to ‘freezing rain’ (my favorite…) and everything was covered in ice. Breakfast was late that morning. By midday, things had warmed up but the skies were not promising to play nice. A few of us met back at J’s house (classmate we stayed with before class) where B was staying till his flight the next morning. Being tired, it wasn’t hard for them to convince me to stay the night (I had planned on staying with Amy in NJ). By the next morning snow was everywhere and no one was leaving… I ended up being snowed in for 2 nights, during which we all had a blast of archery (with hand-made bows), snow tracking while wandering through the storm, venison steaks, even a bit of dog training, and great conversation. Best ‘stuck in NY’ yet!

Snow on the Lake in NY

Snow on the Lake in NY

Once the roads cleared I made it back to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Took some time to myself, hung out with Shaun and basically let my brain stop for a day or two (class was very intense, it needed a break). Food, movies, the rest of the Walking Dead episodes that I hadn’t seen yet; I enjoyed being lazy and Shaun was happy to partake. Then the dreaded Christmas shopping began. Everyone to whom I have sent gifts (or will, since I’m always late with this sort of thing) I love dearly, and even like giving them things. But I HATE HOLIDAY SHOPPING. People are crazy. The music is horrid. The lines ridiculous. And the children… Don’t even get me started on the freaking brats in the store. Crying. Wailing. WHINING. Ugh. And I’m not even done…

This weekend I am going to get to see the semi-famous Baltimore Aquarium and go dancing with Shaun. I just hope I don’t kill anyway who is out shopping with their kids…

I then fly out to Seattle to stay with Reuben, where Linda (Element Sister from Tracker) will meet me and we will be adventuring around the West Coast (literally) for the Holiday. The plan is to see the Redwoods in CA, drive along the Oregon coast, hit up the Olympic Peninsula in WA and see a show in Vancouver, BC, Canada. While in Seattle, I will also get to see my Aunt Michele and Uncle Dave!

On the 31st I will be back in Alaska to kick off the New Year with Kathy, Dave and of course – River. I’ve plenty of work to keep me busy for most of January in Anchorage.

Hope your Holidays are fun!

~ Joannie

Very Sad News

On Saturday my second Dachshund Rosie, was killed via being ran over by a car. She wasn’t just my dog as many know, but originally Mom’s (Renée) dog. Mom loved Rosie and took her just about everyone with her. Once it became clear that Rosie wasn’t doing well at the Farm in TN after Mom was gone, I began to try to find a solution when Jackie mentioned that Grammy Gail Roissier (Mom’s Mom) asked about Rosie and what would happen to her. I called her up and was shortly in route to Sun City Arizona to take Rosie to her new home. Rosie perked up fairly quickly once off the farm and by the time we arrived in AZ was doing better. She bonded quickly with my Uncle Ricky who was also living with Grammy Gail. Rosie loved them both but enjoyed playing with Rick. After Uncle Ricky died Rosie was Grammy Gail’s companion. Otherwise by herself, Rosie kept her active and social. When the sad, sad day came that Grammy Gail was also gone, I took Rosie back and while she had major adjustments, she blossomed with River, Reuben and I. Rosie developed a special bond with Reuben and learned how to be a dog again. Both Reuben and I did training and work with her and within 6 months was a totally different dog. Younger, more social and outgoing, and more like the dog she was with Mom.

Curious Rosie

Curious Rosie

When it was time for me to move, Rosie came with me, which was incredibly hard for Reuben who was very much bonded with her. It was important that she be kept within the immediate family and he graciously understood that. Reuben was planning to visit the dogs and I sometime this summer, I suspect to see Rosie just as much as me.

Rosie & Reuben

Rosie & Reuben

Rosie travel with Jackie and I across the United States in the car along with River. She did amazing. She was adjusting pretty good in Maryland minus the bugs, and really loving the open land to romp in.

Rosie Lounging

Rosie Lounging

I of course brought her with us when we drove to Tennessee for a few days. Dad and the Kids hadn’t seen her since August 2009 and were excited to get re-acquainted.  Which just makes her passing all the more painful and shocking in the suddenness. Rosie was greatly loved by everyone in the family on many levels, along with many friends who knew here. There is a whole Sun City, AZ crowd that loves Rosie, Reuben and many of his friends and co-workers love Rosie,  Aunt Michele and Aunt Suzi love Rosie and of course; Dad, the kids and myself. Very sad day. I wish I had better words to say, but more than a simple dog was lost this weekend.

Rosie & River bounding

Rosie & River bounding

~Joannie

Cross-country Road Trip Vol II ~ The Road to Yellowstone June 2013

An early afternoon start out of Seattle afforded us the time to stop a little along the way to see the changing landscape. Once outside Seattle, clear streams and mountain views were to be had. We pulled off for a quick doggie break and pictures.

Light Rays on the Cascades

Light Rays on the Cascades

The drive through the Cascades was clear (shockingly so) and the clouds were doing all sorts of strange formations.

Evergreen Hills & Strange clouds

Evergreen Hills & Strange clouds

The higher peaks still had plenty of snow and the air was crisp.

A Peak

A Peak

Narrow waterfalls lined the mountains with snow-melt coursing down.

Snow Melt Waterfalls

Snow Melt Waterfalls

River and Rosie were pretty excited at first, wanting to be up front, on our laps and ready to spring out if we stopped, but they were banished to the back to ‘their spot’ on all my crap we’d stuffed the Black Dragon with. All in all, the girls had a good deal, with a comfy bed and blankets stacked to window-viewing level (this is highly important as any Doxie owner can attest to…). It took them a few hours to realize their good fortune.

The Girls resigned to their back-seat fate

The Girls resigned to their back-seat fate

Weaving through the mountains, I noticed odd-shaped cloud-like things in the distance. Closer inspection revealed it was indeed an actual cloud but looked more like a UFO. I can see how the flying saucer theme is easily run wild with.

UFO Cloud

UFO Cloud

I believe this is Easton Lake in Washington along Rt 90. The other possibility would be Keechelus Lake, which is near Lake Easton and on the same side of the highway, but bigger.

Easton Lake, WA

Easton Lake, WA

The blues and greens were incredible in the sunlight. The Tough Camera captured it very well.

Mountains over the lake

Mountains over the lake

Once out of the mountains, Jackie took over driving and I caught up on some much-needed sleep. The result was no pictures except this one of Eastern Washington – which is noticeably different from Western Washington. Due to our late spring departure, things were still a nice green even in the drier side of the state.

Eastern WA

Eastern WA

We entered Idaho as the Sun set, driving through mountains almost entirely made up of Sempervirens (evergreen) trees. It was only within two hours that Montana was on the horizon since the part of Idaho we drove through was the northern, narrow part of the state.

Entering Idaho

Entering Idaho

Last of the setting Sun as we cruised down the mountains into Montana.

Sunset in Idaho

Sunset in Idaho

A rather poor quality picture as we entered into Montana, with the low light and high speed of the car – but Jackie was simply so excited to be back in Montana again, he needed a picture!

 Montana in the last light

Montana in the last light

We drove until it was fully dark, found dinner at a random diner along the way and made camp at a pull-off on the highway. The plan was to get a few hours of shuteye and start as early as we could so as to make the most of the daylight. As everyone knows, I am not a morning person. But strangely enough, I sometimes can get moving before 7am when on road trips (still not a guarantee though). The car being packed meant shuffling around some stuff just to squeeze myself into the back seat; Jackie took the front passenger seat which reclines fairly well. Both girls had to vie for space and one ended up sleeping perched above dashboard level on a crate of books. Jackie ignored my ‘you’ll be cold’ warnings and forewent the sleeping bag. He was cold, and barely slept…

River and I were horribly cramped, but warm. Other than my left leg going numb from sciatic pain after driving in a car all day and my back doing its own form of bone jarring pain (remember, I’ve major back & hips problems), I slept well. 

Snow Capped Mountains that are the iconic sight of Montana made waking up – stiff from sleeping in the Black Dragon (Subaru), without any coffee – worth the early hour. Jackie was a tad grumpy to start from the uncomfortable seat and cold, but cheered up when food and coffee was on the horizon.

Montana Morning

Montana Morning

We had breakfast somewhere in Montana at a quaint town with a tasty and cheap diner. Jackie was ready to stay. My encouraging descriptions of what Yellowstone would be like helped move him along.

Layered Hills

Layered Hills

The sun was bright and quickly warming the day. Jackie perked up after enough coffee to kill a horse (or at least a dog). The low haze from the dew/frost cleared and every song and quote of ‘God’s Country’ came to mind.

Montana - God's Country

Montana – God’s Country

Old barbed wire, cattle gates and never-ending pastures.

The Range

The Range

Lowland scrub brush, I believe Sage is in there too, dotting the hills.

Lowland Brush

Lowland Brush

The layered land and brilliantly blue sky was perfection as only nature can do.

Layers of Perfection

Layers of Perfection

By this point we were off the main highway and on a much smaller, no-quick-stop type road. Below are snow drift fences for winter winds.

Getting further off the beaten path

Getting further off the beaten path

The girls had settled into comfortable contentment of the drive. Rosie in particular was in her own idea of Heaven with her favorite bed at window level and direct sunlight.

Rosie Lounging in the Sun

Rosie lounging in the Sun

We stopped off an unmarked road to get some fresh air (of course potty break for the dogs) and snap some pictures. The Sun was almost blinding, the air still had a hint of the morning chill.

Unmarked Road
Unmarked Road

Jackie looking particularly bright with his pink shirt ♡

Jackie in Montana

Jackie in Montana

One of my favorite pictures of my handsome brother!

Jackie looking epic

Jackie looking epic

Jackie took a great photo of me with the new Tough Camera, if he can use it like this, its a good camera!

Joannie in MT

Joannie in MT

Staring off into the mountains, with no power lines, roads or fences marring the view. You could believe it was hundreds of years ago – no people, just the land as it used to be…

The Lost Country

The Lost Country

Approaching a lake, I noticed some level of scarring on the mountainside, I pointed it out to Jackie and we contemplated what may have caused it; landslide? Avalanche? Erosion from logging? Blasting for rock? Maybe even an Earthquake?!

We pulled off to investigate (and dog potty break). There were a few signs describing what had happened here. Earthquake it was indeed!

Earthquake Lake

Quake Lake

We walked around, noticing how far out the trees went into the lake and how recent everything felt from this Earthquake. I began to think that maybe even the Lake itself was made in the Earthquake. One of the info signs had the answers – the lake was where a valley used to be, an 80-million ton landslide caused a dam on the Madison River. The Earthquake happen in 1959 in the summer camping season, killing 28 people and causing exorbitant amounts of damage to surrounding areas. At 7.3 (USGS) it is the largest quake to hit Montana in recorded history.

Tree Root Skeleton

Tree Root Skeleton

The water was a clear green, trees practically growing out of the water on some banks.

Earthquake Lake

Earthquake Lake’s Sparkling Waters

While it was born out of destruction, the lake today is beautiful; but I think, also a stark reminder of how quickly things can change and how quick death can come.

Beauty out of Destruction

Beauty out of Destruction

Everywhere the eye could see was picturesque.  We continued on through the valleys towards Yellowstone’s West entrance. The plan was to be at the Grand Tetons, south of Yellowstone Park where my amazing friend Kathy had gotten us a cabin for 2 nights! After the Tetons, we would drive back up to Yellowstone and continue the loop. That way we would cover as many sights as possible.

More of Montana

More of Montana

I was napping as Jackie neared Yellowstone, the girls sleeping, Jackie’s music playing in the background – everything was quiet and peaceful. When suddenly, I hear”oh OH SHIT!” and the Black Dragon jerks to the left than to the right, tires squeal, dogs go flying, stuff in the back comes forward. I jump up with the faint thought of ‘if this hadn’t been a low center of gravity car – we’d be rolled!’. Yelling “WTF JACKIE!!!!” Fully expecting that we had just dodged a runway Semi Truck or a herd of Elk had dashed across the road, barely hitting our bumper or at the very least, a wolf. I turned to my insane-driving brother as he slammed the brakes to demand what the hell was happening. He whipped the car around and swerved back the way we had came. Folks, he sighted a Buffalo.. And no, it didn’t even cross the damn road. Thankfully no one was around to witness that, ah… episode.

'The Buffalo"

‘The Buffalo”

The Buffalo did have a little cute calf with her. Even so, I was a second away from a heart attack and trying not to yell. The girls were growling (clearly something was out there) and Jackie was scrambling for the camera like a mad man. I calmly said “there will be more Buffalo…”. But we went bouncing along (not on) the road  and after the Buffalo. I managed a few shots to appease my possessed brother and took over driving so he could ‘look’ for the animals… I seriously thought we were about to die for a second.

Entering Yellowstone

Entering Yellowstone

After a quick stop for more batteries, some water and coffee in the little town before the park, we entered Yellowstone! I thought Jackie was excited to see Montana, Yellowstone was a whole new creature. Practically on the edge of his seat, snapping pictures with the Tough Camera as his smartphone was acting up, and exclaiming in barely contained glee at the sights.

Flat Mountain

Flat Mountain

Not too far into the park proper, in the near distance we saw:

Buffalo

Buffalo

Yep. You guessed it. More Buffalo. The exact same thing (only a lot more of them) that I had almost died for about 20 miles back… The cars lined the road. The Buffalo were about 1/2 a mile out across the river. Jackie was so hyped I couldn’t really say no to walking over to the river’s edge. ‘Course we had to take the Dachshunds since they were barking at all the people and weird cows around them.

Jackie & Rosie Shooting Buffalo

Jackie & Rosie Shooting Buffalo

Rosie being patient as Jackie shoots.

Sleeping by the River

Sleeping by the River

With the river in-between to give us a safety net, we cruised up and down the banks to get the best shots.

Mom & Calf

Mom & Calf

Early June meant quite a few young calves out with the herd.

Geese Family

Geese Family

Along with Geese and other critters. Rosie was quite interested in the goslings…

By the River

By the River

The calves frolicked about, the young bulls butting and chasing one another.

Cooling off

Cooling off

A few stepped into the river, eyed our little dogs. One even rolled in the mud. The Buffalo clearly owned the place. We were the guests.

The Sun was hot, even for June. The girls were happy to splash in the river. After taking numerous pictures, we got back on the road. Only a few miles into the drive, and oh look – more buffalo!

More Buffalo

More Buffalo

And even more Buffalo towards the Hot Springs in the distance.

Buffalo & Hot Springs

Buffalo & Hot Springs

Up ahead. What’s this? Even MORE Buffalo. On the ROAD. The only sort of traffic I’ve ever experienced in Wyoming has been animals…

Yellowstone Traffica Jam

Yellowstone Traffic Jam

It was at this point, being so close we could practically touch them, that Jackie finally understood what I meant by ‘there will be more Buffalo’.

Closeup

Closeup

The little calves were particularly cute.

Little Guy

Little Guy

We drove the Fire Hole Canyon road as we made our way to the Hot Springs in the southern part of the park.

Fire Hole Canyon

Fire Hole Canyon

Next up is the various Hot Springs on the way to the South entrance – to see the Grand Tetons.

This post got long quick with the pictures, so the Hot Springs will be in the next installment. We took hundreds of pictures during just this one day, the photos posted I feel reflect what we saw and liked best.

A lifetime’s worth of memories in only a few days thus far- back on the road we go. Hopefully stay on the road this time (Jackie).

~ J