GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Reacting to the hidden sunset, mountains and clouds take turns glowing pink and shadowing indigo on the other side of Lake McDonald, which reflects the color and smudges it sideways. I can no longer resist the urge to bring my easel out to the porch to try to capture the last minutes of light.
The July sun sets late this far north in Montana, after ten there is still light in the west. The mountains have absorbed an afternoon of the sun's energy into their deep rock, and they relinquish it only slowly. The late clouds pass over and darken, then redden again, and long after the sun disappears the peaks remember, and burn like embers, then slowly fade in the cool blue mist.
The stars come out, but not the moon, yet. Bats swing over my head and when John comes out and we talk for a long time, until we see the Milky Way, and then our first view of the Northern Lights, green veils falling softly over the black silhouettes of the mountains. Then, from behind their ridges, another glow, the moon is rising.• • •
The house I am given to live in as artist in residence inspires abstraction of space and views. Slipped between the cedars in 1962, its geometric lines fit perfectly with the cedars straight silvery trunks, which grow so close that the edges of the porch is cut in places to accommodate them. The impression is like that of a Mondrian painting, if he had picked up Braque's pallet by mistake.
Everywhere in this house leads everywhere else. From the hillside drive you step down to a porch which wraps around the lakeside of the house and ends in cedar-stump steps down to a door, which opens to inside another door, out to the porch, down a level to a cellar door which leads upstairs to huge windows which look out to Synder ridge, and the lake.
The porch outside the windows overlooks the lake so closely that, when sitting on it, there is no pebbly beach visible between its weathered floor and the turquoise, and cerulean surface of the water which stretches to the opposite shore.
Fifteen feet above the Highline Trail I spread my watercolors on a flat rock which overhangs a tiny trickling waterfall. Few people on the trail below notice me, most look in the other direction, where a sharp drop swoops into a tree covered glacial valley and rises upbruptly in the rough granite of the Livingston Range.
It seems the perfect spot to paint, perfect, that is, until a bee hovers a foot from my face, just looking. I can ignore a bee—or two. But before long a dozen orbit me. Then the humming suddenly stops. They have landed. On me. And my painting could still use work, but the little vibrating threats are too distracting, so I pack up hastily, shaking bees from my pack and scrambling back down the rocky ledge.
The narrow trail back to the Logan Pass hugs a cliff called the garden wall. Its blocky ancient rock contains fossil impressions of the cracked-mud gasps of long extinct seas on the rocks flat tops, and organic patterns of sea life in cross sections. I stop as if walking through a gallery--each section of the wall is like the best of abstract paintings. Paintings with enough substance that they shed layers which collect like broken pottery at their base.
As I am about to climb the last steep rise to the road, my path is block by a shaggy mountain goat who looks at me sideways from her square wise head--a curious babe prances around her. I'm grateful to get a close look at them, but nervous of the ewes horns, which up close look extremely sharp. She know who this trail belongs to, and it's not to me.[TO BE CONTINUED]