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The quiet peacefulness of winter in Montana

Winter Solistice
Sunrise between the points of Emigrant Peak
December 17th, 2008

Every morning the sun appears to slip a little further south and rises a few minutes later than the previous day. At 7:04 AM on December 21st the sun will linger behind the southernmost point of Emigrant Peak before it begins its long trek north along the Absaroka mountain chain.

Frequent light snows cover the forest floor, the gardens and my yard. Slowly the garage, house and greenhouse are encased in fluffy, deep snow that will not release its icy grip until late April or May. It is a robe they wear well and allows them to blend into the magical winter landscape. Sharp building corners and geometric angles give way to the gentle and flowing curves of Mother Nature.

Renaisance Ballustrade
Drifting snow and soft curves compliment my
ordered and precise yard and buildings.
Magical Landscape
Winter snow alters the landscape in magical ways
and opens new vistas to ordinary scenes.
Tiered Gardens in snow
Snow deepens and covers the tiered gardens

Several light storms quickly covered the tiered gardens with a thick white blanket of snow. The bulbs and perennial flowers were protected from the bitter cold and howling winds of winter. No doubt the chipmunks who frolicked amongst the flowers last summer were grateful for the deep snow too as they slept soundly in their burrows behind the garden walls.

While winter winds howled and the drifts grew ever taller Shane and I worked on the greenhouse. I designed tile walls and floors while Shane patiently constructed them. I drew my inspiration once again from the 15th century Venetian architect, Andrea Palladio. I used his floor design from the 1565 San Giorgio Maggiore cathedral in Venice, Italy for the thermal tub exterior walls. For the inside of the tub I modified a design from the Casino Venier in Venice originally created by Bernardino Maccaruzzi in 1760. Many more Venetian tile and mosaic designs may be found in Tudy Sammartini's Decorative Floors of Venice published by Merrell in London, England in the year 2000.

Tile Blueprint
A Palladian inspired tile blueprint
Greenhouse Thermal Pool
Shane meticulously tiled the inside of the greenhouse thermal pool
Fire Wood Cutting
Christmas decorations adorn a home in the valley
December 24th, 2008

It is always a white and beautiful Christmas in Montana. I attended a lovely Christmas service at the Livingston Congregational church this past Sunday. The children acted out the Nativity Play and the adults sang familiar Christmas carols. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and I enjoyed it immensely. I was reminded of the many blessings in my life and I gave thanks to the Lord for all of them.

Neighbors often stop by for firewood in early winter. The snow will soon be too deep to drive a truck through the forest and these lumbermen had a tough time getting back to the gravel road. Next year I will build a gravel walkway through the cleared forest and plant a few trees. I might add a garden gazebo with an old fashioned porch swing too. Winter is the perfect time to plan new gardens and dream of warm summer days.

Firewood Gathering
One last truckload of firewood before the snow gets too deep
Mule Deer in the forest
Mule deer do not seem to mind the cold.
This one slept in the snow all night.
SnowSport Plow
Plowing the driveway takes about one hour
January 24th, 2009

Steady but light snow requires that I plow the driveway on average every ten days from December to April. I use a Snowsport personal snow plow which easily attaches to my Jeep via a square hitch. It usually takes me about an hour to plow the looping and often wide 800 foot driveway. Then I brush the snow off the aluminum plow blade, lift it off the hitch and stow it in the garage for the next storm. The hitch is constructed from heavy gauge steel, weighs about 60 pounds and easily disengages so I can store it next to the plow.

Visit SnowSport at http://www.agricover.com by clicking on the underlined text.

I live in the woods on nature's stage where her small and grand dramas are continually in play. Today an unlucky but feisty male mule deer wandered into the front yard and picked a fight with the local harem's leader. After locking antlers and pawing the frozen ground for almost an hour he retreated back into the forest.

The Discus Thrower
Mule deer and The Discus Thrower
Mule Deer Fighting
Two Mule deer bucks brawl in the front yard
Mule Deer Sunrise
Do the clouds look like a deer to you?
Mountain Sunrise
Nature's dramatic opening act on February 5th, 2009
Aedicule Sun Rise
Sunrise reflections
February 5th, 2009

Montana winter sunrises are often breathtakingly brilliant. On Mondays and Wednesdays I saw many on my way to school in Bozeman. This semester I took Art History II and History of the Roman Empire. Both are excellent classes but Art History starts at 8 AM. I must rise at 4:45 and leave the house by 6 AM. For the first few classes I did not see the sun rise until class was over.

Darryl Windorski of Paradise Construction stopped by in February to finish tiling the greenhouse thermal pool and floor. Unfortunately Shane was called away to two other long term tiling jobs. Over the course of the next month Darryl artfully clad the exterior pool walls with marble and granite. Then he finished tiling the inside of the tub, grouted, and sealed all the joints. Next he laid an intricate, multiple design tile floor in the greenhouse. The central aisle consists of a diamond pattern bordered by eight inch squares. To the left is a brick style pattern that is harmoniously divided into three sections by the same eight inch tile squares. At the end of the pool, in a small seating area, Darryl laid a three dimensional 15th century Venetian trompe l'aeil (fool the eye) design that is identical to the potting bench surface. Originally it was used for the floor of the Libreria Marciana facing Saint Mark's Square in Venice, Italy.

Call Darryl at (406) 223-5863 for your next tile or concrete construction job.

Renaissance Tile Work
A Palladian tile design is slowly applied to the greenhouse pool
Greenhouse Tub Exterior
Polished marble and granite adorn the tub's exterior walls
Greenhouse Aisle
A diamond pattern aisle runs along the
main axis of the greenhouse
Greenhouse Tile Floor
A harmoniously divided brick pattern
tile design surrounds the potting bench
Greenhouse Tub Exterior
Can you see the three dimensional aspect
of the Palladian design in the tub's walls?
Renaissance Tile Work
15th century Venetian tile patterns inspired
the greenhouse pool floor design
trompe l'aeil tile design
A small seating area tile floor attempts to
fool the eye with this unique pattern

Counting my blessings...

Lady with the Ermine
Leonardo Davinci - Lady with the Ermine, 1482-83
Czartoryski Museum, Cracow in Poland
March 24th, 2009

Almost 15 years ago I met a bright, ambitious and exceptionally hard working young woman named Patrycja Zielinska. Patrycja, or Trisha as she liked to be called was born in Poland and emigrated to the United States with her family when she was just seven years old. She learned to speak perfect English while retaining her native Polish tongue. Trisha worked with me at Branford Bike while she was in High school. A cultured woman, she would often share stories about Poland and her impressions of America with me over an afternoon raspberry chocolate coffee. I listened intently as she talked about growing up in the small village of Rydzów near the city of Mielec in central Poland. Trisha's personality was warm and engaging. Our conversations passed quickly but they left an indelible impression upon me.

Trisha loved children and wished to become a child psychologist. I remember how she quieted an entire room of rowdy children at a hospital day care center one spring afternoon. I think she would have made a wonderful mother and perhaps she is one by now. Patrycja graduated from high school and left Branford Bike for college in the fall of 1996. In the spring of 1998 we shared coffee again. Once again Trisha captivated me with stories of Poland, swimming in the Wisla (Vistula) river, shopping in Cracow and visiting the beautiful Tatra mountains along the Slovakian border. Trisha's soft and melodic voice was charming. It lifted and carried me to all the wonderful places she spoke of. I felt like a feather blown aloft by her enchanting breath. After three hours of serene and pleasent conversation I gently drifted back to my chair at a small table in the coffee shop where Trisha was sitting next to me.

The Castle on the Vistula river in Cracow, Poland
Tatra mountains near Zakopane, Poland
Tatra mountains near Zakopane, Poland
Black Madonna
The Black Madonna at the Jasna Góra
Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland

Patrycja Zielinska inspired me to study the history of and eventually travel to Poland. I discovered a beautiful country, a rich culture and wonderful hard working people. On a warm Sunday afternoon I wandered the grounds of Chopin's boyhood home while his piano recitals gently rolled across the landscaped gardens. I visited Cracow, toured Jagiellonian University where Copernicus studied and discovered that the earth revolved around the sun. I walked through the cobbled streets in Warsaw's restored old town district. Another time I hiked amongst the old growth trees of Bialowieski National Park and marveled at their ancient beauty. Twice I climbed the lofty peaks of the Tatra mountains and peered over pristine glacial lakes into Slovakia. I also visited Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp and stood in the blackened gas chamber where tens of thousands of innocent people were brutally executed in WW II. Then I washed away the evil by visiting the Black Madonna and bathing in the spiritual beauty of the Jasna Góra Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland.

One afternoon at the Long Market in Gdansk a stooped over old man caught my eye. He asked me if I was from England. "No, I am from America" I replied. His eyes brightened and his bent back straightened. "America" he exclaimed. "Let me tell you a story" he continued. He told me about how he was a prisoner of war in a Nazi death camp in Germany during WW II. The happiest day of his life was when he and his fellow prisoners were freed by American soldiers towards the end of the war. As he recounted his experiences I could see tears forming in his grey and tired eyes. He deftly wiped them away while pretending to rub his cheeks. We talked about his family, his life in Poland after the war and his work and then shook hands before we parted.

My studies of and travels to Poland helped me understand Trisha's character; at least that part of which she inherited from her native country. Much of what I found enchanting, captivating and wonderful in Patrycja still remains a mystery and may forever. The time we shared was short and precious. The memories we created will last forever. Patrycja Zielinska is one of the many blessings of my life that I am thankful for.

Leonardo DaVinci's Lady with the Ermine is on display in the Czartoryski Museum in the city of Cracow in Poland. I purchased a copy so I could always remember the wonderful times I shared with Patrycja and experienced in my subsequent adventures in Poland. Eventually the painting will hang in the foyer where it will greet visitors to my home and my life.

Czarny Staw
Czarny Staw in the Valley of Five Polish Lakes.
Tatra mountains in Poland.
Long Market Gdansk
The Long Market in Gdansk, Poland
The Old Town in Warsaw, Poland
Jasna Góra Monastery
Jasna Góra Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland

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