As I mentioned at the end of my last post, my wonderful boyfriend came out to Montana for a visit at the end of Feb/beginning of March. Since it was his spring break, he had just over a week here, which was such a treat! I took a few days off work so that we could spend the maximum amount of time together (seven months to make up for), so we were able to fit in lots of exploring, with special thanks to Frankie, the ’95 Subaru I borrowed from my agency.
We spent Kyle’s first day in Billings exploring the rimrocks, Four Dances, the Will James cabin, and Pictograph Caves. We did a lot of traveling outside of Billings, so later in the week, some other stuff we did in town included a “rally” (actually more of a prayer vigil) for refugees, radical reading group, spirituality night with the babes, and a nice date night at the Fieldhouse Cafe.
First time on the Rims:
Will James and Golden Hour photoshoots:
We planned an ambitious jam-packed two-day roadtrip to the west part of the state, the narrative of which probably won’t interest y’all much, so I’ll stick with pictures:
Palisade Falls, just outside of Bozeman:
Marysville, the ghost town (read: tourist trap) just outside of Helena:
Night-time pit-stops in Helena:
The beautiful Garden of a Thousand Buddhas:
Jerry Johnson hot springs, Idaho:
Little Bighorn National Monument (featuring Indian Tacos at the Trading Post afterward):
Makoshika State Park had topped my list of things-to-do for a while, so we an ambitious day-trip of it (3 hour drive one way!), hoping to also go to the renowned dinosaur/creationist museum in Glendive. Unfortunately, the museum was closed for the season, but once we got to Makoshika, we weren’t too upset about the extra time that allowed us to explore the park. Makoshika is the Lakota word for badlands, and it was some seriously beautiful country, and in such stark contrast to the mountains we had spent the earlier part of the week in! We both loved Makoshika a lot, and I’m already itching to go back:
On Kyle’s last full day in Montana, we took another ambitious day-trip to Yellowstone, and while only a small portion of the park is open during the winter season for vehicle traffic, we decided it’d be worth a shot. We saw tons and tons of wildlife, from bison to elk to coyotes to wolves to bighorn sheep. Such a cool day in such a beautiful park!
This is the town that serves as one of the gateways into the park, and the only way that is accessible in Montana during the off-season:
And here’s a sampling of all the Yellowstone wildlife we saw:
All in all, such an awesome week! Kyle had never been out west before, and I hadn’t had a car to travel around the state, so it was a bunch of new experiences for both of us.
The next weekend, because an FJV left his car with us for the weekend, we planned a day trip to Bighorn Canyon, just an hour and a half southeast of us. I maybe knew it existed (then again, maybe not), but didn’t think much of it until I saw one of “Montana” Instagram posts…classic. People don’t talk about it much. They talk about the Beartooths and the Crazies and Yellowstone, but in my experience, rarely the Bighorn Canyon. I hadn’t even considered it for one of mine and Kyle’s excursions (okay, I totally didn’t know it existed). But anyways, we decided it was worth the trip and what a hidden treasure we found! Like I said, Spring came early to Billings, so we had beautiful weather for the hike.
It took me all month, but I spent March reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, by Dee Brown. It’s dense, and it’s intense, but it’s a must-read for anyone living out here on the beautiful land that was never ours to take, and for any American who is seeking a deeper, more truthful understanding of the history of this country. It’s humbling in many ways, any heartbreaking in many more. I’m still processing it, but hope to write a more in-depth reflection on it in my next post.
On St. Patrick’s Day, also the night Elle’s partner, Nyre, arrived in town for a visit, Elle made corn beef and cabbage and I made some rosemary/black pepper/browned butter Irish soda bread. Yum! That night, we went to Hooligan’s, which is a vaguely Irish bar in downtown Billings that you’ve heard me mention before. We had some green beer and a round of Irish car bombs (yum!) and had a jolly night. Never a dull moment in downtown Billings (okay, that’s definitely not true).
That weekend, we also went downtown for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Billings turned out, man! Tons of young families out, and the parade lasted about an hour, which was longer than I expected from Billings. We stayed after a little bit to watch some Irish dancing, which was adorable, and then headed home to relax for the rest of the afternoon.
Because we’ve had an unseasonably warm and dry transition from winter into spring, the BBQs and bonfires have begun! After recovering from the parade and such, we had a birthday party to attend! Three of my coworkers and friends, Colin, Alicia, and Cameron, all have birthdays at the end of the month, so they a joint birthday party was thrown in their honor. It was potluck-style, per usual, so there was tons of good food and drinks. (I found myself asking if the average young professional life includes as many potlucks as ours does. I sure hope so!)
We went to Hooligan’s again on Friday night to watch two basketball games of particular interest! My alma mater, University of Michigan, was playing Notre Dame, and Carol and MK’s alma mater, St. Joseph’s, was playing Cincinnati around the same time. It was super busy, but we managed to snag a table, a couple pitchers of green beer, and lot of popcorn, and enjoyed two close games. Definitely thought Michigan had a chance for a while, but at least St. Joe’s got the W! The Hawk Will Never Die (#THWND), am I right? Super enjoyable night of basketball, followed by a night at the Loft, dancing to a few current jams and a few too many jams of the late 90s and early 2000s. I don’t get it…every Billings DJ (save DJ Kyle of Hooligan’s) thinks that’s a good idea. It’s not. Do we really need to do the Cupid Shuffle every night? Do we really need to pretend that Get Low is a forever jam? Do we….okay, that’s enough for now. Other than questionable DJs wearing shamrock earrings and a do-rag, it was fun, and we caught 6 promotional Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey t-shirts and one hat thrown from the DJ booth. I promise it was a packed dance floor. So there’s that.
Since St. Joe’s won on Friday, we weren’t going to miss their game against Oregon on Sunday night. Back to Hooligan’s we went, empty this time. To our most pleasant surprise, St. Joe’s put up a great fight, and it was a close game the whole way through. Moreover, two dad-aged dudes at a nearby table sparked conversation with us, which quickly turned into them giving us their just-delivered deep-fried brownie bites (trying really hard not to make a sugar daddy joke) and then bought us a pitched of beer once they realized we were not poor college students, but rather poor post-grad full-time volunteers. Sadly, St. Joe’s was defeated, but the brownies and beer softened the blow.
On Palm Sunday, all the babes, plus a wonderful subset of our friends (coworkers, VISTAs, etc.) all went to First Church (United Church of Christ, a progressive congregationalist church, where I’ve been attending regularly as of late). A few of us performed the ‘reader’s theater’ of the Palm Sunday processional. The five of us in the “cast” gathered a block away from the church in the courthouse lawn, and went over our lines before the congregation arrived. My post, though, was on the corner of 27th and 3rd, a giant, busy intersection, as the “town crier” who yells the Psalm from across the street as the procession made their way from the courthouse lawn back to the church. LOL. This was definitely outside of my comfort zone, and I think they heard most of my lines, save when 3 giant pickup trucks stopped at the light. That’s okay. Still, a cool, new, powerful testimony to that story!
For spirituality night on the Wednesday of Holy Week, we watched the Passion of the Christ. Whew. On Holy Thursday, after making a billion turnout calls for an upcoming clean energy rally, I zipped off to First Church for the “Maundy Thursday” service (Maundy referring to the traditional washing of the feet by Jesus). It was a small, intimate group, but we shared a special service of sharing bread and wine, feet-washing, and praying in the “garden” (the quiet chapel area in the back of the church). The next day, Good Friday, almost everybody from that group plus about 20-30 more gathered for a walking Stations of the Cross through downtown Billings. It was a public and powerful statement, and again, a little outside of my comfort zone, but so cool to see the collaboration between some of Billings’ Lutherans, Catholics, and United Congregation of Christ members. Cooler yet, the theme was climate change, relating the suffering of Jesus to the suffering of our earth today. Read more in this article that ran in the local paper, where I am quoted at the end saying that the whole thing was “really cool”. Cool. Lol jk I say more than that, but barely.
After service on Friday, we packed into Frankie and headed North to Hays, Montana, where another of our Big Sky communities resides. It is located on the Fort Belknap Reservation, and is home to two different tribes – the Gros Ventre (their name for themselves being Ah-ah-ne-nin, or White Clay People) and the Assiniboine (to them, the Nakoda, meaning the generous ones). I forgot my real camera, so enjoy some beautiful photos below, thanks to my talented community-mate, Ellen. We had a 5k on Saturday morning with some community members, a pot-luck style feast on Saturday night (amazing), and an easter egg hunt. We attended Easter Vigil mass on Saturday night at the church just a few steps from the JV house, which was nice, but also left me feeling some weird tensions between Catholic missions as another arm of forced-assimilation of Native peoples into our white culture and traditions, courtesy of my immersion in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. On Easter Sunday, I went for a long run in the canyon, and did not get eaten by a mountain lion, despite several warnings!
Finally, to round out the month, we put on a rally at Northern Plains to counter Senator Steve Daines’ Energy Conference in Billings during the last week of March, which almost exclusively featured fossil fuel representatives as speakers. Nearly 70 people turned out to the rally, despite the freezing rain pouring down on us, and we featured some really awesome speakers from the community, including a faith leader (pastor of my church!), a Northern Cheyenne native and Sundance priest, a wheat farmer, a solar business owner, and a Rocky student. After the rally, we delivered a petition to Senator Daines asking him to protect our land, water, and air, to address climate change, and to create sustainable jobs by supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency. Super cool!
Of course, as Montana weather would have it, March 30th, the day after the rally, was 60 and sunny. Well, ya can’t win ’em all, can you?
Does this make you wonder what I do at my service site on a regular basis (I know I usually don’t elaborate much in my blog, for a couple of reasons, mostly privacy-related). But, we just launched a blog, and you should subscribe to it for cool stories from our members!
In other news, we finally got around to planting in our kitchen garden box. Kale sprouted quickly, but still waiting on the cilantro, basil, and parsley. Hopefully will have lots of growth by next blog:
- I’m running my first 5k in town, the Purple 5k, the proceeds of which are going to “Spare Change for Real Change,” a homeless-outreach initiative in town.
- My birthday (the big two-three) is the 16th, and my dear Danielle is coming to visit all the way from Nashville, woooo!