Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cool, Clear skies.

Well, today was the first official day of fall in the northern hemisphere and it has been accompanied by the first two mornings of frost in Montana. I've woken up to frost and 30 degree temps the past two days. It hasn't caused any problems as far as sleeping at night. I haven't had any trouble staying warm. It is harder waking up in the morning. The quickly vanishing sunlight and the lower mercury make for a situation better faced from the inside of a sleeping bag. I'm a bit disorganized at the moment, which makes adjustments more difficult to make. I have been doing some cleaning of the tipi and thinning out my things but it's a bit of a clutter. I just need to figure out a system that allows me to adapt to the cold weather. I need to get all of my stuff ready in the evening, while it is still daylight, so I can wake up in the morning, before the sun has filtered into the tipi, and leave for work without delay.

One thing that has been nice is sleeping outside in the cold weather. The great thing about living in a tipi is that you don't forget about the outdoors when the weather turns coold. It's right there. If I were living in a house I wouldn't think to forgo the warmth and comfort of my bed and sleep on my lawn, but since I'm in a tipi, I'm already sleeping on the lawn. I might as well go outside where I can look up at the stars. There's something special about sleeping under the stars in sub-freezing conditions. The air and sky have a sterile, fresh, clean look and feel. The stars are brighter and crisper. Your breath hovers in a cloud then evaporates.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I've been away from the tipi for a few days, actually, I've been away for an entire week. I hadn't realized it was that long until I thought about it this afternoon. Crouching down to enter the A-frame door of my humble abode I found everything to be the way I left it. The door was open, but that happens sometimes. It could have been the wind that swayed the rock enough to un-trap the string and allow the door to swing open (yes, my security system is a canvas door with strings attached to both sides and rocks to hold the strings in place), it could have been shadow letting himself in for an evening snack. Other than that, things were the same, the grill was still over the fire, the pots and pans were still on the top shelf. My swimming trunks were still dangling from the fence where I left them after my shower (oops)

It's just like living in a house; things stay where you leave them, weather you're gone for a day or a week. That's not to say everything stays how you leave it. I've notice big changes in fact. As I walked the short dirt path through the tall grass from my car to my tipi I noticed a reduction. The number of grasshoppers that chatter and jump has declined rapidly. The second change I noticed when I was doing some cleaning and purging of things around the tipi and looked up at the sun to find it already gone at 7:30, and now I lay, in the dark, at 8:30 typing this message slowly while using the light of my laptop screen to find those unfamiliar punctuation marks. Just one week ago I would have had 15 more minutes of light!

It's hard to fathom how things can change so quickly, yet it happens every year, it's just that usually I wake up one morning and realize that summer is gone and fall is here. Now I'm actually witnessing summer slipping silently out the back door while others may have their heads turn. I'm seeing the day-by-day changes that cumulate into the massive change that is Montana Summer to Montana Winter. Indeed, it's sad to see it slip away, I feel like I’ve only gotten a taste of what this landscape has to offer, but I'm also excited to see it go. As summer slips out fall and winter take its place on the dance floor.

I've been in the tipi for about 6 weeks now. I've got this summer thing down. I can cook, wash up, sleep, I can do everything I need to do in the tipi, and not once have I been discouraged or second-guessed my decision. The Montana summer is a companion, not an opponent. It's good that I've started with such a gentle season, but now I'm ready for the fun to begin. Living in a tipi in winter in Montana is going to be on heck of a ride. Every day I get a minute or two of daylight closer to those 5pm sunsets and bone chilling temps. Let the games begin.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dependency and Perception

The closer I live to nature the more I recognize my dependence on it. But it stops there. When I hear the chime of a grasshopper land on a spoke of my bike tire inside the tipi, sneak over, cup my hand and scoop him up in one quick swoop, run over to my cook pot and throw him in forcefully, to create enough force to stifle his last effort to jump out of my hand, I'm able to realize had that grasshopper not been in that spot at that moment or had he been a tenth of a second faster to jump I would have had to find something else to eat. It is easy to connect the dots in that way, whereas if you go to McDonald's and order a double cheese you lose the connection. Itis still there, but you do not feel it.

You do not get to see the cow roaming free in an open pasture (oops, I said McDonald's, right? Correction: You do not get to see that sick cow crowded in a coral with all the other sick cows) You are still dependent on nature, but you do not realize how dependent you are. It is a dangerous thing. Modern society has allowed us to turn off our brains to think that hamburgers come from a heat lamp on the back counter of a fast food restaurant, that gas comes from a pump at the quick stop, that water comes from a faucet in your kitchen, and light comes from a switch on your bedroom wall. This disconnect negates the natural world to a leisure activity, a past time, a luxury. The rivers becomes for play when we have free time on a hot summer afternoon, the sun is for tanning, the trees are for shade. it is much easier to justify destroying a wilderness when we recognize it as a place for children to build forts rather than the life sustaining entity it is.

Whether you enjoy a lazy afternoon on the trails or you prefer to sit on your sofa and finish the latest season of Curb Your Enthusiasm on DVD you still need that forest, that open land, that lake. Regardless of your love and direct interaction with nature, your dependency on it is fixed, it's only your perception which is variable.

the Cree Indian prophecy says it all:
Only after the last tree is cut down
Only after the last river has been poisoned
Only after the last fish has been caught
Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten