‘Tis the Season to Be Busy

Oh my, have I been busy! I can’t believe that December is more than halfway over, and I am just now getting to my first post of the month.

The Christmas magic in my cozy new hometown continues. December first was the night of the Christmas parade. Fortunately, a friend had asked me if I wanted to go, or I may have missed all of the fun. The variety of floats was charming; I do believe my favorite was the sled dogs—yes, real barking dogs. It was definitely a community event with a constant sprinkling of candy for the kids from almost every float. I think nearly everyone in town was either on a float or watching along the street.

The next day I attended a Christmas party that was held at a local recording studio. Besides a lively variety of music, the white elephant gift exchange was a highlight. There were about forty gifts in all, and the hostess managed the whole affair with great skill, taking control of the mic from the musicians. Afterward, musicians took turns singing and playing their instruments, rotating in and out, and sharing the stage. I’ve decided that being a groupie is pretty cool. You know, I’m doing my part to support the arts.

The following week, I took a field trip to Missoula to check out a business opportunity. It was a perfectly clear winter day, so the scenery alone made the drive worthwhile. My companion for the day was a spirited character who shared his compelling life story all the way there and back, over an hour each way. In the end, I decided against the business opportunity, but I’m trying to convince him that I should ghostwrite his memoir. We’re in touch; it still may happen.

Throughout December, I’ve been covering extra shifts at my friend’s shop here in town. She is active in the community and was coordinating “Twelve Days of Christmas” baskets for a silent auction in support of the local arts and culture center. I jumped in to help set up some of the baskets and typed up some of the descriptions. It was a hectic couple of days before the event. I then actually attended the gala, rather than volunteering, which was a pleasant change of pace. I ended up with the winning bid on one of the baskets, too!

The following morning, I was a volunteer judge at the local high school speech and debate tournament. It was my first return to a school-related event since leaving my teaching position last June. I have to say it was an absolute joy to see so many hard working kids giving their all in such valuable activities. As an added bonus, they were incredibly polite and grateful for my volunteer service. Their coaches had indeed trained them well.

That afternoon, my neighbors hosted an open house style Christmas party. There was an unbelievable number of people crammed into their home, and all were enjoying themselves. Everyone was engaged in conversation, and I have never seen so many people squeezed onto a sofa before. I met some new people, and chatted with neighbors and acquaintances along with a couple of people who seem to appear everywhere in this town!

I had to leave the party early because I had plans to meet a couple of friends for eggnog at the local distillery before catching a favorite local band at one of my hangouts in town. Once again, there were some of those friendly, familiar faces at both the distillery and the bar. My community continues to grow.

Last week I added party preparations into the mix. On Friday, I hosted my first Montana house party which was a huge success. After feeling a little anxious about the mix of neighbors and friends that I had invited, everything went smoothly. It was heartwarming to realize that I had made so many new friends in the few months that I have lived here. Everyone arrived with wine or food to share, and a few people even brought me gifts. My house was full of joyful chatter throughout the evening. This week, I keep running into friends and neighbors who rave about the party and the interesting people they met that night. That is a gift in itself.

The next day, Saturday, I got out for my first cross country ski outing of the season—finally! One of the main reasons that I moved to Montana was to experience the four seasons and winters full of snow rather than Seattle rain. Cross-country skiing is by far my favorite outdoor activity. Sometimes I think it must be because it is a limited activity that I don’t get to experience more than a dozen or so times each year. I just love the smooth swishing of my skis over the pristine white snow; it’s a sort of mediation for me. I can best describe it as my version of a runner’s high. Along our nearly ten-mile course on Whitefish Mountain, we took in some stunning views of the valley, all the way down to Flathead Lake and Blacktail Ski Resort. This is one of the many reasons why I came to Montana!

My friend, the shop owner, was out of town for a few days, so that evening her husband and I went out for a burger at a local bar (well-earned after a day of skiing) and the children’s musical production of A Christmas Carol. Now don’t think quaint little small-town children’s production. This was a professional level performance complete with choreography. Yet another gem in my new hometown! How was I so fortunate to find this place?

I rounded out the weekend on Sunday with a few hours of work, ice skating with a new friend, and a glass of wine with a group of friends afterward. I’m still nursing my bruised knee from my one and only fall on the ice, though. As I said, skiing is more my thing—softer landings!

Today marked the arrival of my “bestie” who is in town for a couple of days. If you’ve been following my story, he’s a friend of a friend who’s been my biggest supporter and ally through my transition. Sadly, he moved to another part of the state back in October. We had a get together this evening with several friends at our favorite local brewery. It was so good to see him in person again and share some holiday joy.

Along with everything else, I’m still trying to get the rest of my Christmas cards sent, have some writing and editing work to complete, and my house is not entirely cleaned up from the party. But those loose ends don’t matter. My life is richly blessed with new friends, new experiences, and a little Montana magic.


Valley Music

One of the many things that fascinate me about the Flathead Valley is the abundance of musical talent. I have a great appreciation of almost every kind of music but have yet to discover any great talent in myself. I am, however, known to sing and dance at random times, and tend to have music blaring whenever possible. Perhaps my purpose is to consume rather than create in the musical realm.

I am inspired by the talent I am seeing and hearing in local venues; people tell me that there is still more to discover, too. Lucky for me, a friend connected me with my new “bestie” in Kalispell. He has become my personal event planner and is responsible for getting me out many of these summer nights. With his help, I have discovered the joys of Picnic in the Park and ThursdayFest, both in downtown Kalispell. We’ve also been to a couple of breweries and a wine bar together to see some of his favorites. On my own, I have discovered the Riverbend Concert Series on summer Sunday nights in Bigfork and music at the Monday market.  (Feel free to respond with a comment if you have further recommendations. Remember, I’m new here!)

This week I have been fortunate to volunteer at the Crown Guitar Festival in Bigfork. Who would have guessed that such a little town would have such an incredible world-class event! The festival includes both a musicians’ workshop and nightly concerts for five days. During the first two days, I’ve seen the legendary Edgar Winter; Cory Henry, who simply makes magic with his Hammond organ; and jazz greats Nathan East and Lee Ritenour. My volunteer duty has been in the silent auction tent, which is anything but work for a social girl like me. In addition to hearing fabulous music, I’m meeting interesting people, including locals and those from various parts of North America who are visiting for the festival.

Once again, I am finding life here better than expected. I look forward to exploring more music and some new indoor venues as fall arrives.


Dog Watching

From an entire month’s experience, I have come to the conclusion that Montanans truly embrace their summer days. I’m guessing that may be because of the cold winters and extreme temperatures they endure. This isn’t a strange concept for a girl from the Seattle area. We take delight in every rainless summer day! But there’s something magical about the more extreme seasonal changes in a mountain climate.

I was surprised and absolutely thrilled to find out that I can experience live music (mostly free of charge) pretty much every summer evening throughout the Flathead Valley. I have been averaging four or five nights a week, mostly in parks.

One of the joys of live outdoor music is people watching, but I have to say a close second is dog watching. Last night, I strategically sat behind a big sad-faced service dog who was slumped under a folding chair.  There was also a little cutie who wandered over to me a few times for some pets.  The most adorable was a golden retriever, who appeared to be smiling at times. The female half of last night’s folk/rock duo even mentioned that dogs like their music.  I’m pretty sure he did.

dog watching