December 2010


Brother Dear and I share much.

But not wrapping styles.

My gift to Dad on his birthday.

Brother Dear’s, held together in the back with shiny duct tape.

What does it all mean?

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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Are you ready for New Year’s Eve?

According to this text message I recently received, our dear friends the Gardners are.  No bar is complete without a bottle of Glacier County Honey!

And no party is complete without Mike and Katie, either.  Here they are at Snow Moon / Falling Leaf, Many Glacier Valley, Glacier National Park, during Hillstock 2008.  Come back soon, y’all!

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Six years.  Six Christmases.

After Howard died, my post office box filled to flowing nearly every day.  Inky words of condolence and hope, some smeared by youthful tears and others set forth in the shaky handwriting of women who’ve outlived so many that their grief in their day-to day-living comes through their strong, spidery scrawl.  Some of the messages made me angry, telling me that my brother had died for this reason or that reason, and that everything under the sun, which failed to rise with regularity in the small town where I lived when Howard died, had a reason.

I scanned the cards and thought of the milk souring in my refrigerator.  There was a reason for that.  There was no reason that I could see that my brother, the kindest of our three, the hardest working, should not live to see 20, should not know that satisfaction in taking on a mortgage, should not name his children.  And to be honest, though post-knee-crippling-grief I feel closer to the mysteries of the universe, and more able to at least appreciate that the world is not a petri dish, we do not actually know the reason for everything, I am still resentful of the lines on my father’s face that deepen in the late summer sun, when we must confront the reality of the number of years again.

At any rate, I am able to write these diatribes on grief, and all that I don’t know about it, because of all the notes, voice mails, and packages I received in the months (and years) after Howard’s death.  And there are many people who contacted me that I am not certain that I ever responded to, even with a cursory, “thank-you-for-thinking-of-me-during-this-horrible-time-that’s-turning-me-into-an-Academy-Award-winning-actress-yes-I’m-fine-and-not-drinking-alone.” And that is terrible, because whether or not what they had to say was illuminating, what I do know about helping others grieve is this: it is sending the letter, it is just showing up that counts.

This morning, I thank everyone who held out their hand to me, through the U.S. Mail or on the dance floor at Charlie’s, and distracted me from my internal dissertations on the whys.

Dancing with Howard at the wedding of Mark and Kray Luxbacher, 2004.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Brother Dear has really been feelin’ the Christmas spirit this year.

He bought Honeydew and I matching Snuggies for our stockings.

We’re invisible!

Oh, if only we were.  Hope your Christmases were … snuggly.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

A pheasant in a non pear tree!

What a gift, huh?

Seriously, though, Honeydew and Brother Dear went pheasant hunting with our sweet friend Hank, down near Valier, and returned with quite a beautiful Christmas gift for me.

Look at those colors … we humans have nothing on the bird race … this photo hardly does Mr. Pheasant justice … the back of his neck was that peculiar blue-green one normally associates with the Caribbean, or maybe the middle fork of the Flathead river in late August.  I marveled over the way those turquoise colors flowed beautifully into his coffee-and-cream patterned feathers at mid back, and further, into the terra cotta hues of his tail feathers.

Trouble with my gift is that Roy thought that it was for him, and that he had suddenly morphed into a bird dawg.

On a different note, how does one determine which day of Christmas it is, anyway?  Do you count backward from the 25th, making the 12th day the 25th, and today the 11th?   Such queries keep me up half the night, when I should be dreaming of pheasants and lake trout and elk and other bounty gathered from the Rocky Mountain Front.

Merry Christmas Eve, y’all.  And happy birthday to my daddy, too.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

I find my new life in a 10,000 sq ft warehouse charming in its oddity.

But when we were negotiating the financing to build this place, I was devastated in a completely different way than Honeydew by the enormity of its cost, a cost so high that also building a home of our own, or even buying a double wide, was simply out of the question.  We would be living in our warehouse for quite some time, and life in a warehouse, I thought to myself, would be cold, sterile, and … cold.  How could I transition from a career gal who’d already purchased a home of her own, modest no doubt, but a house nonetheless, to a warehouse dweller?

We’ve been in the warehouse now for 21 days, and my fears are laid to rest.  It was quite cold in here at the start, but after Honeydew installed a woodstove-furnace-add-on that blasts heat, that issue was solved.  And it’s hardly sterile, now that we’ve unpacked most of our things – everywhere I look, I’m surrounded by colorful, comfortable material objects of desire given to us by family and friends over the years.  And I’ve realized that they are no less desirable because some of our walls are tin and some of our floors are concrete.

Today when I walked into our warehouse, I was filled with that all important sense of home, and gratitude.  Right now, I’m even glad that we can’t rush right out and build our dream house.  How much sweeter it will be to start this business completely from scratch, and then one day, as the morning light slants in through the north facing window in my office and highlights the steam rising from my coffee mug, to look over the books with Honeydew, and hear one of us say, we could do it.  We could build next year.

For now, we are acting like the newlyweds we did not have time to be right after our wedding, spoiling each other and doing everything together, even making the mundane daily run to the post office as a pair.  Yesterday, we called up a friend to get permission to cut down our first Christmas tree together, and had a ball driving up and down the roads, discussing the merits of the Charlie Browns and the thrills of the picture perfect Frasier firs.

In the end, we decided to take full advantage of our warehouse dwelling, with its 13 ft tin ceilings, and we cut down a monster Douglas Fir so tall that it hung off the end of Honeydew’s flatbed bee truck.

Another advantage to living in a warehouse: a garage door in one’s living room allows for easy 13 foot Christmas tree access.

Tonight, Honeydew and I piled every ancient, tacky ornament we collectively own onto the sturdy branches of the monster Christmas Tree, and wrapped it in mismatched lights, some of which blink, some of which do not work, and some of which are so old they’re pink, not red.  We thank you, parents, for your hand me downs!

Roy supervised, refusing to wear Buck’s reindeer antlers.

Honeydew showed me the ornaments that are special to him.

And I showed him one that I love, that Campbell made for me a few years ago, and then we toasted to her arrival next week.  I love it when my husband truly loves my friends.  Somehow, it makes me love those friends all the more.

We talked about traditions, and Honeydew told me that it is good luck to have a bird’s nest in a Christmas tree.

I told him that I like to display small gifts on a Christmas tree’s branches, so we hung Baby It’ll’s new cowboy boots, a sweet gift from Sissy, who also bought a matching pair for Funcle How.  I can hardly wait to take a picture of my Funcle and my It’ll in their boots together.  Happy birthday, Funcle!

And at the end of the night, we collapsed on our hand me down couches and lost ourselves in our own reflections from the dusty mirror balls hanging on our tree.  And we toasted each other, and our bees, and the beautiful oddities of our unusual life in our warehouse.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Still feeling nostalgic, here.  Woke up at 6am seized with an urge to write about Howard.

For now, I thought I’d post a Christmas card picture from many, many years ago.  I’d forgotten about saddle shoes and jumpers for little boys.  I doubt they are sold in Montana.

On the other hand, I had not forgotten about that dress, fashioned of sumptuous forest green velvet, with delicate smocking at the neck.  It twirled when I spun, and I remember spinning around my grandmother’s screened in porch for hours at a Christmas party that year.  As ever, she served her famous tea punch in a shining silver punch bowl, and I felt so grown up as I grasped the heavy serving ladle, trying to delicately break up the ice ring and pour a chunk of frozen pineapple into my glass.  The punch had an exotic flavor to it, and I probably felt it was the taste of adulthood and freedom, though now I think that the taste of adulthood is probably the bitter almond of fear in the back of your throat.  Joy, we feel all of our lives.  Crystalline fear comes much later for most of us.

This Christmas is joyful thus far for me, and I hope the same for all of you.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.

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