Sunday, April 30

Not the most exiciting of photos, but one I enjoy ... because it conveys one of the bizarre pleasures of our mornings in Crete -- that cup of Nescafe. I wanted my coffee in the morning, and although I have quit drinking coffee (oh, that drug of choice!) many many times over my 50+ years, and it's really not that hard to "quit" ... still, I like my coffee. On the island of Crete, we had the choice of "Greek coffee" or Nescafe. The Greek style of coffee is sweet (unless you ask for it w/o sugar, in which case you get some pretty intense looks from the restaurant owner) The bottom 1/3 of the coffee is what I lovingly called "sludge" -- you definitely do NOT stir unless you want to be straining super-fine coffee grounds between your front teeth (in my case, front crowns).

The alternative, Nescafe, was a shock to my espresso/double-short-Americano-with-room self. At first. Then, the realization hit me. It was either quit the 'feine altogether over the next two weeks ... strain bitter sludge through my teeth ... or just get used to Nescafe.

The Nescafe won out. Now that we're back home and Tim is making me my little pot of espresso every morning again, I kinda miss that foamy instant coffee. I miss the flavor of my Crete mornings.

Friday, April 28

4wd ... no coffee yet ... road block ... pre-dawn ... blur vision

Tim and I have recently returned from an awesome trip to the Greek island of Crete. We were both working there as well as spending time at a spiritual retreat on the island. It was a physically demanding time, yet we both want to go back as soon as we can. Crete is an incredibly nourishing place while at the same time presenting challenges (such as the prickly shrubs that seem to fill in all of the open spaces on the island). The Mediterranean was warm enough to swim in, especially on days I thought I was going to keel over from sweating and working in the sun!

4wd ... no coffee yet ... road block ... pre-dawn ... blur vision
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

Just before sunrise most mornings, we either hiked or took a 4wd jeep to where we were working on a landcaping project. These sheep greeted up each day somewhere along the road. It's blurry because I was half asleep, not having had my usual cup of coffee that morning.

I will write more about Crete as I have time in the next week or so. Please check back if you're interested in reading or seeing more photos.

Here are some I've uploaded so far from our time in Kriti (Crete) If you'd like to see any of these pics at a larger size, click on the corresponding title below the mosaic and it will take you to that photo's page on my flickr stream.

1. Sunrise Work Break, 2. Defense against the Cretan Goats, 3. Sunrise Glow, 4. 4wd ... no coffee yet ... road block ... pre-dawn ... blur vision, 5. Before Dawn Monolithic Stones, 6. Sea Foam, Crete Morning, 7. Forms of Crete, 8. Gentle Mediterranean Shore, 9. Springtime surf on Crete, 10. Slow Denizen of Crete, 11. Wild Orchid, 12. Lone Carob, 13. White, 14. Blue & Yellow on Crete, 15. Mediterranean Blue, 16. Crete Lavender, 17. Phlomis growing wild on Crete, 18. MidDay Shade on Crete, 19. Red Dancers, 20. Garden Wall, Greece, 21. Growing Low in the Gardens Now, 22. Roadside Shrine, 23. Good Friday, 24. Pondering layouts over Nescafe

Calendar for May: so pink!

Hi friends and family, here, again, is my monthly offering to readers of my blog, this calendar which you are welcome to download, print, use however you want to. I'm on time with the calendar this time!

Click on the photo for a larger version. It looks best printed out at 8"x10" size on heavy weight matte photo paper, but any paper will do.

I'm always curious if anyone is actually using these calendars, so if you do, please leave me a comment. (that's optional as always, though). And for sure ... enjoy it!

Monday, April 10

Calendar for April ... a wee bit late!

Hi friends and family, here is my monthly offering to readers of my blog, this calendar which you are welcome to download, print, use however you want to. Click on the photo for a larger version. It looks best printed out at 8"x10" size on heavy weight matte photo paper, but any paper will do.

I'm always curious if anyone is actually using these calendars, so if you do, please leave me a comment. (that's optional as always, though). And for sure ... enjoy it!

Thursday, April 6

Poetry Thursday

You do not have to be good ...

You do not have to be good ...
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

I know this poem has possibly been repeated near to death with all the people who love it and want to share it with everyone they know. I heard this for the first time in the early 80s ... (hmmm, I wonder when she wrote it?) during a body massage. The massage therapist had made a tape of her wooden flute music mixed with readings of her favorite poems. I listened to these words of acceptance and felt Mary Oliver was talking directly to me ...

Over the years I have come back to this poem again and again. I never tire of reading it, writing it down, typing the words, hearing other people say this. I hope there is someone reading this who needs to hear these exact words right now. Take it in and know that you don't have to do anything. You are precious just the way you are.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers,
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things

-- written by poet, Mary Oliver

Wednesday, April 5

Standing in the light, waiting for his time

My constant, soul-full friend
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

A couple of days ago, I took Sam out to the fairgrounds for his afternoon walk -- it has become one of his favorite outings. He loves the wetlands, the secret aspen meadow, the old barns and the duck pond for many reasons. Not least of those reasons, I'd venture to guess, is that the fairgrounds is a literal soup of good smells (at least for a dog) and in spring, those smells are bursting from the warming duck pond like something delicious baking in a oven!

In case you haven't already read some of my other posts about our flatcoated retriever, Sam ... I'll fill you in.

Sam helped me raise my boys when I was a single mother trying to be everything for them. He filled in as companion adventurer for Mickey and Gabe on their hikes and play in the hills around Helena. He kept them company on their paper routes, traipsing the dark early morning streets of our neighborhood as they delivered the news. Sam would lead the way, showing them which houses took the paper and which ones had "bad-dogs" to watch out for ...

This gentle black dog comforted Mickey when he was out of sorts, and listened with complete attention and unconditional love, to anything anyone wanted to tell him. He taught all three of us compassion, empathy, connection and discipline. He was part buddy, part parent, part goofball and part life-lesson for those boys. He helped me raise them and for that I am always grateful.

Sam is almost 17 years old now. He has outlived most other flatcoats I know of ... and surely outlived all of his friends of the same general size: big. Everyone who knows Sam is awed by the fact that not only is he still alive -- he still loves his life and has spurts of energy and exuburance. He's slowing down though. Someday he won't be able to take these daily walks with us.


Sam is getting so he doesn't like going in the water the way he used to. Maybe it's too cold for his old joints. Maybe it's just too much trouble -- when you're an old guy, you shouldn't have to get wet and cold and tired just for the sake of chasing a few ducks. Or chunks of bread.

I get so sad everytime I think of my sweet companion, Sam, leaving us someday.

Any day now.

I don't know how I will be able to bear his going.


I haven't taken many photos of Sam lately, though I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe because he is kindof tangly and dirty and raggedy these days and I haven't wanted to record that side of him ... so today I shot almost a hundred frames. As if I were trying to save him. As if I were trying to memorize exactly the look in his eyes, the shape of his back and wagging tail. The wake he leaves in the water's surface, as he slowly paddles out to the deep parts.

I will be glad someday to have this set of uncomplicated photos:

Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.


Sam cooling his belly in the water
checking with me to see
if it's okay to go

He turns and pushes through
the element he was born to love,

swims out deep enough to
lose touch with the bottom

Sam looking away,
into the distance

(to him, those ducks may seem unreachable)
Maybe he is dreaming
of giving chase
or wishing
he could retrieve

a bundle of feathers for me

my handsome, constant,

soul-full friend

standing in the light
waiting for his time

biding this afternoon in
the sweetness
of spring, light, water ...

his world quiet with deafness,
filled with a symphony of smells
the sparkling dance of sun and sky and wings.

I love this dog with my whole heart.

The untrimmable light of the world

This is why I do what I do ... because I cannot leave it undone, because I am compelled by something in my heart and soul to listen, look, learn.

Then to take some action to protect and preserve what I have witnessed. To share what I have learned whether joyful or despairing.

One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver (actually she's probably my very favorite writer and poet I've ever known) expresses better than I can, this feeling in her poem, Mindful.


Every day
I see or I hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for –
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentation.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

-- written by Mary Oliver
from Why I Wake Early

Paying Attention to Smells

Spring Couple

I took Sam to the duck pond at the county fairgrounds today -- seems to be no end to the interesting places we can find around the fairgrounds. Lately Sam hasn't wanted to go in the water and I have figured it's because he's over 100 (in dog years) and maybe, just maybe doesn't want to get his old creaky joints all wet and cold. But today he walked right into the water and flopped down maybe to cool his belly. Then he slowly got up, walked right out to where the water was too deep to stand and kept on going. Swimming slowly towards the geese and ducks he could see off a ways ... he can't hear much, so I'm pretty sure he wasn't going toward the "noise."

Sam's vision and sense of smell are still keen and it seemed he was heading toward the excitement, the festive atmosphere filled with the smells of duck poop, soggy bread chunks (people throw bread to the birds) and just plain ol' spring-in-Montana smells! There was definitely something going on of some interest out there in the middle of the lake and he was damned if he wasn't going to participate!

Anyway, I will post a few of the pretty-good-pics I took of Sam in the water .... tomorrow. In the meantime, here is one I clicked, of some brave and curious Canada geese who came close enough for a decent shot.

Sunday, April 2

Beautiful Sunday

Chick Time at the Ranch Supply Store

Our local ranch-supply store just received their yearly spring-chick-duckling-gosling supply. I walk in the double-automatic doors and one sound floats over every other noise in the store -- a thousand high-pitched peeps and cheeps blend like tiny dust grains swirling in a shaft of light. It's almost Easter -- when parents bring their children to see the recently hatched baby birds. It's also time to buy new chicks to replenish the home flock.

I follow the jumping, skipping line of little kids to the stock tanks, where warming lights keep the fragile bundles of down alive. One little girl of about five, dressed in overalls, reaches her chubby hands over the top of lowest stock tank and stirs the softness there. Chicks coalesce in masses as if this happens every few hours. A few brave lumps come back to the warmth of their light. and peck at her fingers. She pulls back.

Her older brother lifts her up and tells her, "S'okay, Annie, go ahead and let them peck you. It won't hurt."

Annie holds her hand open flat, like a tiny plate, and thrusts it into the cloud of feathery lumps. She feels soft baby feathers, diminutive chick-toes and the curious pecks of little beaks. Eyes closed, she floats, her imagination lifting lke a feather on a breeze. She picks one to take home to her family's backyard coop.

New life begins again every spring with hope, optimism and tender connections: small fingers and little scaley chick feet.