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I took this photo: Fashion Sense and North Dakota

muddy boots and legs

Displaying my fashion sense, I wear North Dakota.

There were two signs on the front of the building. The more prominent sign did not declare 2 7/8 as the name of the bar, but, rather, said, “ZERO TOLERANCE TO FIGHTING ON 2 7/8 PREMISES.” Welcome to fracking-boomtown North Dakota. I drove by.

That evening a massive thunderstorm piled up along the horizon, clouds towering above open plains, building strength, collecting moisture. Until, in the deepest dark of a moonless night, they had enough and let loose.

The Great Plains create some pretty vivid thunderstorms; this was a beauty. Lightning exploded across town in so many consecutive flashes I could see the length of the main street clearly for several seconds. Not just the blink of an eye that leaves you blinded and wondering if the light had been there at all, these flashes lingered. Clearly jumping from cloud to cloud and ground to cloud, there was constant light. The thunder kept pace, a steady rumble in the background with skull-crushing claps in between.

Then the rain came, pounding on the roof two stories above. The parking lot under my window disappeared behind the downpour, truck tires several inches deep in standing rain, as the drains overloaded.

The storm raged for what seemed hours, eventually tapering off as it moved across the open landscape. I fell back into fitful sleep for too few hours.

Many places become entirely inaccessible after a storm like this. Dirt roads turn to what we called Gumbo in Montana. Red dust, yellow dust, brown dirt, it’s all the same after a night like that, bacon-greased ball bearings. The collective hangover of too much.

Enter, the fracking industry, with its heavily graded and graveled roads that go everywhere, and took me where I needed to go that day. I don’t recall what I was surveying, plants or birds. I remember the landscape, wet and misty from the night’s excess. And, I remember repeatedly scraping mud from the bottom of my boots as I slid through the morning’s work. I took this photo when I realized I was wearing a large chunk of North Dakota. With my newly established fashion sense, I might fit in at the 2 7/8.

The journals of two travelers

An excerpt from February:

11 February

Tamara: Yesterday was a long drive across Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It is not any more interesting or diverse than North or South Dakota.


Big Cat: The litter box has become my friend; I hide in it most of the day. The trunk makes a good perch when I want to stare daggers at her for dragging me across the continent.

12 February

Tamara: Grace asked to see Big Cat but he wouldn’t come out from under the covers. She was disappointed. I told her kitties have different personalities, much like people. Some kitties are shy and like to hide. “Like you?” she asked, “I haven’t seen you before.”

Big Cat: A child came to see me. I refused an audience and made it look like she was lying to the child about there being a cat in the camper at all. I remained curled in my cozy bed under the blankets.

BC camper

15 February

Tamara: Last night was the coldest yet. I popped up on a logging road in the deep quiet of the winter woods.

Big Cat: WTF? My water bowl is frozen.

17 February

Tamara: I sat in a chocolate shop in Montreal this morning and wrote while I drank coffee and ate a croissant. It snowed and then rained so it was a perfect morning to hang out in a warm shop full of bakery smells.

Big Cat: I slept under the blankets while she went away for a few hours. She came back smelling of coffee. I didn’t even get catnip.

21 February

Tamara: Sister Carolyn and I had a lovely dinner in Hanover. Scallops, yum.

Big Cat: Cat food, again. At least I got some catnip today.

22 February

Tamara: Carolyn and I walked up through the forest along the ledges, looking for tracks and hoping for a bobcat.

Big Cat: There is a giant, four-legged animal moving in and out of the barn. It whinnies when anyone walks outside. I can’t take my eyes off of it; I twitch my tail. I am ready to pounce, if only it would come close enough.



2015 in the rearview

Each year about this time I send a review of the year in photos I’ve taken along the way to people I know and love. It’s my annual Solstice letter without all the words, short and sweet. Below is this year’s installment. I offer this with gratitude for the people I do not yet know and love but who find the energy to spend time with me here. I hope it takes you on roads you have not taken enough this year.

Winter self-portrait

Walla Walla impossible green

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Mount Hood through the oaks of Washington

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Blue and yellow make green

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Desert virga, California

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Dragonfly, North Dakota

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Full circle, North Dakota

Travelers: Monarch butterfly, tamarisk, and the Cimarron River, Oklahoma

Evening glow, California

Grizzly River bowl, California

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Crater Lake morning, Oregon


Fire sunset, Steens Mountain, Oregon

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Mars-wanna-be, the Sun, during fire season on planet Earth

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Indian Beach, Oregon

Saddle Mountain, Oregon

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