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Serendipitous March 29, 2009

Posted by Emily in jobs schmobs, Montana, photography, working.
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Isn’t life weird sometimes?

After more months than I wish to count bumming around my hometown, doing a fair amount of reading and some dog walking mixed in with a lot of job applying and general internet time, all it took was one little catalyst to get things moving differently. And now, all of a sudden, everything is moving along at quite a clip in ways I would not have anticipated even a few months ago.

The temporary job I took last month is wrapping up but it looks like I’ll be staying on for a while part time. I just got hired on at a new part time job in town, one that is perfect for the recession. It doesn’t pay well, but it is something that speaks to one of my passions, something I maybe couldn’t do longterm but hope to really enjoy for a while. I’ve been on a string of housesitting gigs, one of which may turn into somewhere I can live through the summer paying only minimal rent. I’ve started seeing someone new. Things are falling into place so nicely.

I’ve been too occupied to pay too much attention to Google Reader, email, even Flickr and this blog. And that’s a good thing. A little internet time today is nice, but I’m out there taking photos, meeting friends for dinner, getting outside. It’s wonderful.

More soon.


No more Bull January 14, 2009

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, design, Montana, things that make me smile.

Sometimes it takes a little while for your emotions to catch up with you and actually seem real.

I suppose this applies to a couple of situations that have occurred lately, and I could go into emotional specifics, but this isn’t really a post of that nature. Instead, I thought I’d write a bit about something seemingly inconsequential that I see as a small tragedy.

The Bull Market Antique Mall in my hometown closed in November.

Random, right?

I happened to stop in sometime in November when a friend was in town. He’d never been there and I wanted to give him a glimpse into my favorite place to shop for Christmas presents. As we walked by the counter, one of those wooden behemoths that showcased grains and flour and such in little glass windows in some general store long ago, I saw the sign. Store closing. This is a situation where the heart sinking cliché actually works.

The couple who ran it live outside of town, and they said that with the high cost of gas (remember that?) and the economy, it wasn’t worth it anymore. They had let all of the vendors know and had started discounting the sea of antique goods to be gone by the end of the month.

I was sort of at a loss.

I’m not in a place to purposefully accumulate a lot more stuff. (I do a good enough job adding to my load even when I’m desperately trying to behave.) I bought only two things—a pewter dish for $3.50 and a well-loved1896 copy of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s children’s collection A Wonder Book for a buck—and even those seemed incredibly impractical considering where I am in life. And yet I was sad to walk down those steps for the last time.

It’s a tangible result of the economic quagmire we’re in. It’s yet another local shop giving up, for one reason or another. And those things matter to me. But mostly, the Bull Market had been a place of discovery, and I wasn’t fully aware how much I was going to miss it.

Each vendor’s cubicle offered the possibility of something completely different from the space you’d just left. Each display case commemorated history—local history in the form of bottle openers emblazoned with defunct beer companies or photos of long-gone buildings, national history with inauguration buttons and old Time magazine covers, international with globes of forgotten countries and tchotchkes “Made in West Germany.” I loved its location on Machinery Row, on the top floor of a huge brick historical building with windows overlooking the river.

Over the years, members of my family and I found a tea service in my grandma’s sixty year old pattern, a part cowboy, part Art Deco belt buckle, and a wooden box that once held dynamite just the right size for summer geraniums. One year, a tiny Danish stainless steel dish with an itty pedestal caught my eye. I mentioned it to my sister, offhandedly, and she and my mom searched the entire place for it—quite a feat considering the sheer quantity of stuff on display. I got it for Christmas and it still brings me joy just thinking of it.

Sometimes I would go there just to wander (though I rarely left empty handed). I liked reading the inscriptions in old books. In November, I found a couple of high school yearbooks from the 1920s—the person had gotten every member of his class, plus all administrators, to sign next to his or her name. There were hilarious clubs. The school looks largely unchanged. These books had that great musty smell in the spines. I love that. And I wondered what made this person give up his yearbook after all of these years, wondered whether it was a result of family cleaning out the home after his death.

We are a country of hoarders. We have too much stuff. Every magazine cover this past month focused on getting rid of clutter, organizing the home. And I am diligently trying to do just that. But sometimes stuff, cool stuff and not just something utilitarian or picked up one day when I was bored at one of the -Marts, can make the quotidian beautiful. The Bull Market brought together so many disparate memories in one place, and a little something is missing downtown now that it’s closed.

Al-Azhar Temple

Divan 1949
My dad bought my mom a set of 4 1949 Al-Azhar Shrine Temple glasses for Christmas this year. They are the perfect size for juice.

pewter handle
My $3.50 pewter tray.

Northern Hotel, Billings, MT
Northern Hotel stationery
One of the Aristocrats of the West
Air Mail, Northern Hotel
A full set of stationery from the fancy Northern Hotel (“One of the Aristocrats of the West”) which closed years ago. Another Dad to Mom Christmas present, as this is where they had the rehearsal dinner for their wedding. There’s everything from air mail envelopes to stickers to your suitcase (or trunk!) to reservation postcards. Travel used to be so extravagant and elegant.

A Wonder Book
a page in the Wonder Book
A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys
metallic edging on every page
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys

No need for dreaming December 23, 2008

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, fiesta, Montana, things that make me smile.
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1 comment so far

We are going to have a white Christmas, and now that my brother is home from driving all over the Pacific Northwest, I can be really excited about it. Last year was white lights in orange trees, which was lovely and new, but I really have been dreaming of a white Christmas for this year.

(some of you may have already seen this, as my uncle sent it out last year…but it makes me smile every time)

Merry Christmas!

An autumn weekend in Glacier November 23, 2008

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, Montana, photography, Travel.
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This is a little late in coming, as I’ve been desperately trying to catch up on Flickr uploading after thousands of European photos, plus another summer’s worth, and very little internet access from February-August or so. Phew.

But I’ve finally gotten around to posting some of the many shots from the long weekend I spent in Glacier in early October. I took a class through UM’s Wilderness Institute taught by Tim Cooper of the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, and it was sort of a funny hodgepodge of students and professors, current and retired, and friends and strangers. Outwardly, we had very little in common–but we were all interested enough in photography to think mile long hikes could take two hours.

One of the biggest issues with traveling with others when you like to stop every fifteen feet and take a photo (or ten) is that you don’t find many people so patient, and even with them I’m hesitant to take away from their experience. When you go out walking with no plan BUT to stop every five feet and take photos, when you’re expected to notice and talk about every little detail along the way, it’s so relaxing. Like traveling alone, except with people to talk to.

And so we laughed. And compared tips and stories and shots. We reveled in the amazing colors Glacier offered, actually made more vibrant by the fairly heavy rain. My friend Christy’s Coleman tent magically held off the downpour, which left me strangely giddy. And even the most experienced of us (uh, definitely not me) learned something new about photography.

Here are a few of my shots from the weekend (with more on Flickr):


Fall colors


Three little birds

Avalanche Falls

Berry fractal


We are having a show at the Dark Room in Missoula, with an official opening for First Friday on December 5th –stop by and check out some of the amazing work from the weekend!

Whatever happened to Thanksgiving? November 9, 2008

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, Montana, rants.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Christmas as much as the next person, but I am starting to resent it.

For years, the Christmas decorations have been hiding out year round in the dark corners of WalMart, and maybe I am more likely to notice as I missed my last American holiday season, but Target, my beloved Target, has also started stretching the Christmas season into late summer and early fall. I know, we’re in a recession and stores are hurting and people love spending their minimal money on reindeer sweatshirts and singing, dancing Hula Santas, but there’s just one main problem with all of this.

This most American fascination with buy, buy, buy starts to eclipse the most American holiday―Thanksgiving.

And I miss Thanksgiving.

The idea of Thanksgiving is so different from what Christmas has become. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about slowing down, not racing around elbowing off other mothers intent upon buying this year’s version of Tickle Me Elmo.

Thanksgiving isn’t about wanting more. It’s about being grateful for what you have.

Thanksgiving is about eating and drinking and chatting and spending time with people you care about. There’s rarely any pressure to attend lame office parties, and I don’t know of anyone who feels a need to wear any theme jewelery for the occasion.

Thanksgiving is about celebrating fall, taking note of the crisp evenings and maybe a skiff of snow.

Thanksgiving is about traditions that weren’t created by Hallmark. And new friendships. And old cultural ties.

The morning after Thanksgiving, all bets are off and I understand that. It’s likely that I’ll be out early with my mom and sister, looking for good deals, avoiding any place where elbowing is taking place, and enjoying each other’s company, some breakfast, and the official emergence of the Christmas season. We’ll probably head out on our annual Christmas tree cutting excursion the next day.

But until then, I don’t want to see commercials about planning your Christmas meal. I don’t want to hear Christmas jingles when I go shopping for pumpkin pies. And I don’t care that KMart is offering layaway for people buying outside their means for Christmas.

I want to take things one holiday at a time. I am thankful for Thanksgiving, and I’d like to actually be able to appreciate it without being overwhelmed by all of the red and green.

Driving Montana October 15, 2008

Posted by Emily in books, Montana, photography, things that make me smile, Travel.

I feel like Richard Hugo lately, “driving Montana” and finding myself stopping in some interesting small towns. (for anyone who hasn’t read The Lady in Kicking Horse Resevoir, even if you think you don’t like poetry, I recommend it. It was nominated for the National Book Award and has been called groundbreaking, but mostly I just like its descriptions of Montana cities.) Now all I need is a Buick convertible like Hugo, and I’ll be all set.

A couple weeks ago, I spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday traipsing around Glacier National Park in the rain for a photo workshop in conjunction with UM’s Wilderness Institute. I learned a ton about composition, lighting, and photography in general from the instructor, Tim Cooper, and laughed more than I have in some time with the random, but hugely entertaining, group of fellow workshop attendees. But more than anything, I felt the weekend was a success because I was finally spending some time in Glacier, not just passing through. To have something so lovely and so breathtaking so close by for so long and not take advantage, other than the odd shot through the window while driving the Going to the Sun, seems a real travesty. One of the perks of being unemployed is the nearly unlimited time one has to spend doing things that have been on the mental “to do” for some time.

In the same vein, tomorrow I am heading off to Butte, Montana. Yes, it has been the butt (pun intended) of a number of Beavis and Butthead jokes over the years and is the site of The Pit, which I believe still holds the title of the biggest EPA cleanup site in America. But it’s also a pretty fascinating city historically and a place I’ve never been, other than sporting events in which I saw little more than the inside of the gym (always thought purple was an interesting mascot choice).

Journalist Edwin Dobb wrote, “Like Concord, Gettysburg, and Wounded Knee, Butte is one of the places that America came from.” I’m looking forward to playing tourist for a day, tooling around historic homes including the Copper King Mansion, wandering around Uptown Butte, maybe stopping into the Mai Wah Society, and staying at the Finlen Hotel. It’ll be fun.

(and hey, if I really get desperate with the job search, it looks like Butte could use a web designer!)

And then one of these days, I will actually get around to posting some photos. And maybe some Hugo while I’m at it.

Wish me luck in Butte, America!