Montana Public Radio

Lisa Simon

"The man I fall for can be hard to reach," writes author and creative writing professor, Rachel Toor. "When he goes out, he goes far. He fills his bottles, stows food he’s prepared, some of which he’s killed and cured, makes sure his skis are waxed, bike tires filled, boat leaks plugged. He brings extra batteries, toilet paper, and some weed. Some of his clothes and gear, worn but trusted, have outlasted his dogs. He always has a dog, named Rio, or Bridger, or Finn, usually a Lab.

"The year before I started middle school, my parents made me watch a videotape of a professor talking about problem students who engaged in “'negative attention-seeking,'” writes Melissa Stephenson.  "I didn’t understand why my teacher had sent this video home. Mrs. Dolk had short blonde hair like Princess Diana, and sometimes I imagined what life would be like if she adopted me. I tried to impress her with jokes and high test scores. But as we watched the video, I realized my favorite teacher didn’t much like me.

David Allan Cates

"Sixty years old and riding my bike no-handed across the Higgins Street bridge into downtown Missoula, feeling my stomach churn with the anger and fear that has choked our civic air — but also the with the miracles of hot wind and flowing water," writes poet, novelist and teacher, David Allan Cates. "Despite my spread-arm victory pose, I carry a feeling of lost-ness—of emptiness that’s also a kind of balance—a wound, that’s also, somehow, a spring.

"I grew up in Tacoma, a port city on Puget Sound," writes poet, essayist and co-owner of Missoula's Montgomery Distillery, Jenny Montgomery. "We lived on Puyallup Indian reservation land, but there were few signs that this was so. Our neighborhood overlooked ancient salmon fishing waters but was completely inhabited by whites.  There were no Native kids among us at school yet our mascot was the Warrior—a childlike, cartoon brave who wore a single feather on his head and a floppy loincloth.

Martin Klimek (CC-BY-4.0). Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

"One of the central tenets of collaborative comedy writing is the rule of 'Yes, and,'" writes freelance writer and occasional standup comedian, Sarah Aswell. "The concept is simple: when someone has an idea, you should not only validate that idea no matter its absurdity (by saying 'Yes') but you also add something new to the scene (by saying 'and').

Mariana Cook

"When I meet strangers deep in rural white settings, perfect and polite English rolls easily from my face and I watch their eyes and brains appraise me," writes Alex Alviar, who teaches at Salish Kootenai College and with the Missoula Writing Collaborative. "Where is he from? Indian? Tourist? Mexican? Their eyes are like fish in the murk considering the fake fly tied and cast through the ripple before them. What is he? Can we trust him?

"Like many today, my troubled inheritance is the great wave of settler colonialism that washed from Europe over the Americas for the last five centuries.  I carry its invisible weight when I walk these Rocky Mountains and when I drive America’s freeways—all on stolen Indian land," writes "Reflections West" co-host, David Moore.

"Some days I’m the little girl I was 15 years ago: leather boots in tall grass, stroking the black silk neck of my horse," writes Chelsea Drake, assistant editor and writer at Missoula Valley Lifestyle Magazine. "She and I are like limbs of the same tree, growing up and into ourselves, finding a way through fire and ice.

National Park Service. (CC-BY-2.0)

"I fish with my children, the paddle knocking the canoe in an easy rhythm," writes Caroline Patterson, writer, teacher, and director of the Missoula Writing Collaborative.  "Phoebe is five, her taffy hair in braids; Tobin three, his round face expectant as he scans the pocked water. I take up the spinning rod, for we are trolling, the dreamer's way of fishing. Phoebe and I let out line, and I show her how to reel it in. I lie back to wait, studying the tamaracks, capped by the Swan Mountains.

"I have been thinking about consciousness, who has it and who doesn’t," writes poet, essayist and editor, Melissa Kwasny. "'Consciousness: to have a sense of oneself as apart from others.'  Science has discovered that even plants can distinguish between a self and a not-self, halting their growing roots in contact with the foreign. Carl Sapina, in a recent book called Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, says we share basically the same nervous system—wolf, coyote, even the worm. To grant them consciousness is to wake, not to a dream world, but a greater reality that requires a different navigation and a far different morality. 

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