Pebbles on the Edge

Pebbles on the Edge
Lake McDonald, 2014

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Scottish Band

I just heard this group called Manran yesterday, a group of talented young Scottish musicians. They just released their first single, called Latha Math air an Eilean (A Beautiful Day on the Island). It's a lovely tune, and good to hear and see a Gaelic song try to break into the charts for the first time since Runrig did it in the 80s. Here it is:

I've translated the lyrics and think I have them correct but want to make sure before I put them on here. Enjoy anyway! It's a beautiful song.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

This is where we left Dad's ashes, on a bluff just above where he'd been born, in a cabin beside a weeping willow tree across from the Stillwater River near Columbus, Montana. A fitting place of rest: wildflowers, native grasses, ponderosa pines, silence.
It had stormed the night before. My sister and I drove through lightning-lit pitch blackness, impenetrable sheets of rain, and four inches of standing water in the middle of a super-cell on I-90 to get to our Grandmother's funeral. We started in Butte. It took us hours to get to Columbus just from Big Timber, a journey that should have taken about a half-hour. Harrowing, white-knuckle, driving-at-20-mph, and then dawn, over a fresh landscape, scrubbed and sparkling.
And there, after the graveside ceremony with all its trappings for our Gramma, we took Dad to the Stillwater.
This shot was taken with a Pentax K-1000 back in 90-something. That was a great old camera. I now use a Nikon D-40 SLR. I don't miss the film as much as I thought I would, but I'm looking forward to making my first pinhole camera, exposing film that is probably 20 years old. We'll see...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Runrig. The first songs I heard them sing were all in Gaelic: beautiful, powerfully moving songs, with rock sensibilities but firmly rooted in Scottish Gaelic culture and musical practice, a seamless blending of rock and tradition in soaring tunes, sweet melodies, and poignant words. The geniuses behind this band, brothers Rory and Calum Macdonald, grew up on North Uist and then Skye, and formed the band in 1973 as a dance band. They were joined later by guitarist par excellence Malcolm Jones; drummer Iain Bayne; and young keyboardist, Brian Hurrin, with lead singer, Bruce Guthro, both of whom are more recent additions to the group replacing Donnie, and former keyboardist Peter Wishart, who is now an MP in the Scottish Parliament representing the Scottish National Party.

One can read more about the long history of this fantastic group of lads on Wickipedia. They've been together nearly forty years!

Runrig is my favorite group, bar none, forever. Their music made me love music again. After hearing all the Gaelic stuff, I was a bit leery about listening to their songs composed in English. After all I am trying to learn the Gaelic language.

But I broke down in the spring of 2010 and purchased three of their newest recordings, all with their new lead singer, Bruce Guthro, a Canadian. And it was love, all over again. Since then I've purchased around ten recordings, including one while we were visiting Culloden Moor in Scotland, site of the last battle between government troops and Jacobite Highlanders. The vengeful and savage aftermath of that battle is well known to those whose interests include Scottish history.

I have plenty of equally favorite Runrig tunes, but edging out the rest by a hair is "Big Sky". I recall exactly where I was when I first heard the song. I missed my exit, so intently was I listening, and I had to laugh at myself. Since then, there aren't many days that I don't listen to Runrig. They make me happy, in Gaelic and in English. Someday I hope to be able to see them live in Scotland, after a year of rest in 2011(they're old guys now, like us!).

Check them out on You-tube.

...So, how does this connect with Montana? In ways, Montana is like Scotland. I'll leave it to whomever reads this to figure that one out... If anyone at all ever reads this blog. Then there's Norman Maclean, A.B. Guthrie, Ivan Doig--all of Scottish descent, all Montana writers.

Here's a hint: cianalas: it means homesickness and longing in Gaelic.

"Arise soul
Soar above the singing river
Go lying down
Into the ground
Quickened by the stream
When all is said and done
The race moves on..."

Runrig: Running to the Light, from The Stamping Ground

Ceol na mara...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Living without a camera has been interesting and frustrating. I broke my wide-angle lens after we got back from Scotland by sticking my finger into it (don't ask). My other lens is a telephoto zoom and you can't get nearer than six feet to take a picture close up, and distance pictures are, of course, telephotoized. Plus, there's annoying dust inside the camera body that blotched every Scottish picture I took.

So, until I have the cash to buy a new lens and get the camera cleaned--which may be never--I'll have to resort to posting old stuff on here. That's good, because I have plenty of it!

Meanwhile, my characters continue to surprise me by acting out of character. That's what they do. It's fun. They're making me rewrite my story! The main character, of course, is Montana.

And the river dreamed...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Well, it's January, nearly the end of it already. The flies of time keep buzzing by.

My attempt at continuing my story about Scotland lies temporarily aborted and I'm back to Great Northern, my tale about Montana, the High Plains east of the Lewis Overthrust (where I grew up), and the western side of GNP, a private cabin on Lake McDonald, and two people who meet by accident--isn't it always an accident?--both of them coming home after years of being gone. It's about younger people, of course...and I am writing about things I know, having been born a third generation Montanan, and having spent most of my life there in the shadow of the Rockies, in the impossibly open wheat country of the Golden Triangle--which, by the way, produces one-sixth of the world's wheat on mostly dry-land farms stretching endlessly in a patchwork all the way into Canada, or as far as the eye can see.

Every weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day almost, we went somewhere in or near the Park. Our dad--whatever his faults, and there were many--loved camping. Rain or shine, and there was a lot of rain on the west side sometimes, days and days of it.

I remember...oh, I remember, and gilded are the memories now of that growing-up in freedom and light, discovering sweet thimbleberries amid the rain-soaked undergrowth at Two Medicine, walking a trail between Rising Wolf and the lake amid a riot of wildflowers, watercolor-painting the sunrise over Lake McDonald from the shingle shoreline at Fish Creek...

Things grow here in Oregon that don't even dream about growing in Montana, as if that were some sort of compensation.

A snippet from Norman Maclean:

“On the Big Blackfoot River above the mouth of Belmont Creek the banks are fringed by large Ponderosa pines. In the slanting sun of late afternoon the shadows of great branches reached across the river, and the trees took the river in their arms.”

And we take memory in ours.