2010 June Archive | Amber Jean

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Monthly Archives: June 2010

Go’n Underground

Haunted.  Humbled.  Horrified. 

We found ourselves underground on one of the first hot sunny summer days after being lured by Sami to take a tour of the Orphan Girl Mine.  Our day began in a rainstorm before sunup when we piled ourselves (a bit blurry-eyed) into the truck, struck out across rolling fields and snow-capped peaks toward Homestake Pass with the obligatory scrumptious stop at Wheat Montana Bakery for scones, cinnamon rolls, and turnovers – to go.  They hold the World’s Record for the fasted bread from harvest to loaves.  We rolled down the pass into the wonderful rich quirky historical town of Butte in time for Ali’s pre-game warm-up at 7:30 a.m.  Wet from rain, the grass sparkled until the sun powered up.  Blitz (blue) team won their first soccer game.  After the 2nd game, we put on hardhats and headlamps then spent 1.5 hours underground.  Cold.  Clammy.  Creepy.  Disturbing.  Fascinating.  The men (and mules) who worked more than 10,000 miles of horizontal drifts and 4,000 miles of vertical shafts under Butte were tough buggers – to say the leastLordy.

Using candlelight, picks, hammers, shovels and dynamite, the fellas worked 12 hour shifts seven days a week underground.  Wet, hot/cold, dusty, toxic and LOUD (no ear protection back then).  I am blown away by the stories, the weight of the worn tools I held, the conditions I witnessed and the many thoughts I have of their plight.

Al Roker “Lends a Hand” to Eaglemount

Goose bumps and grinning, I must say it is tough to write or type when the warm fuzzies take over. Yesterday morning Al Roker from The Today Show landed in Bozeman, MT to “lend a hand” to Eaglemount – a volunteer organization near and dear to my heart. Just after sunrise, (I hear they met at 4:00 a.m. to film) thousands and thousands of dollars worth in donations were given to the deserving program. The Eaglemount website explains their program: “Imagine yourself in this place of extraordinary possibilities . . . a place where the power of the human spirit triumphs and miracles are celebrated regularly . . . Eagle Mount Bozeman is committed to provide quality therapeutic recreational opportunities for people with disabilities and young people with cancer, and to provide support for families of participants so that “they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31)

My own heartwarming (and giggle inducing) experiences as an Eaglemount volunteer have enriched my life (follow the charity blog tag). The organization was given a total of 1.23 million in products, services, land, and solar panels.  Even Tom Brokaw gave one of his own horses to the program. I am tickled…thrilled…thankful.

Rainy Day Thoughts


Emotions ooze, wheeze, plod, siege, poke into and peak past my innards since Dad’s passing two weeks ago. Loss (many different kinds) anger, sadness, frustration, gratitude, joy, liberation, disbelief, quirky humor, black humor, horror, compassion, love, and (I know I said this already) – loss.   Vivid surreal and unreal scenes play like bad dreams behind my eyes. My heart feels pummeled, puffy – yet powerful.

I am tired.

I have taken long indulgent naps, watched the birds, reveled in the lush green spring, nuzzled the children, rested my head on Paul’s chest, tossed and turned, cleaned, cooked, and climbed. The rock feels good beneath my hands; the sun a blessing on my face. My arms are weak from a winter of post-surgery healing but my dog, my nose, and my lungs are happy to be outside. Summer remains elusive after a tumultuous spring of snow, hail, and rain. I gobble up the bits of sun between storms and wish for more energy to play and work. My thighs and shoulders are sunburned in patches after a Sunday afternoon mountain bike ride. Itchy bug bites polka-dot my legs, my head of hair hasn’t been cut for eight months and my bubble gum colored toenails are chipped and begging for a pedicure. There are bills to pay, shows to get ready for, projects to begin at the studio, thank-you-notes to write, a bulging e-mail “inbox” to reckon with, the hummingbird feeder to fill and plants to plant. Photos and video footage from the Nestle chocolate sculpture commission need to be edited and published (yes…I have gotten all of your requests and understand your curiosity to see results of the project). Giant industrious carpenter ants moved into my little cabin during the six week absence while I tended my folks and completed the chocolate commission.   I am squeamish when it comes to squishing BIG ants. Armed with my little purple vacuum cleaner; I am waging war to reclaim my space. I can hardly express how good it feels to be home in my little cabin at the end of a road near the top of a mountain. Retreat and rejuvenation accompanied by the patter of rain on my tin roof.

My father did not want a memorial service. We will travel to his childhood home in Nebraska – perhaps next spring – to bury his ashes. The ashes from my parents’ little dog Taz will journey from their current perch near Dad’s favorite recliner to Nebraska with us since Dad wanted Taz to be buried alongside him. My family is grateful for the exceptional care Chris Remely professionally and kindly bestowed upon us. The young owner of the hundred-year-old Dokken Nelson Funeral Home (and Howard’s high school classmate) Chris met several times with my father and us during the weeks preceding Dad’s death. Chris’s grace, concern and care were far beyond our expectations. We are thankful.


Spring Storm

The sun is sleeping-in after an impressive rainstorm. The sky on the horizon is heavy like my father’s eyelids; unblinking. Dad loved the birds. Today they are singing with a post-storm celebratory vigor. My heart is like the morning; a light grey-white fog stimulated by the soft patter of raindrops. Heartened by the birds’ song, humbled by the force of the storm; I drink from the moisture laden lush green life – thankful as a farmer for the promise of life-after-the-storm.

Dad passed peacefully yesterday afternoon.

His strength is impressive. The sheer grit and power of Dad’s will was a marvel to witness – yet excruciating. A wrestling match dragged on for several days and nights. Dad’s grip on life and desire for control was an unprecedented opponent for his cancer-ridden body. His grit and determination won round after round even as his body weakened. Only with the help of accumulative medication did the wrestling subside.

Mom, Robin and I were talking and touching Dad when he died while lying under his two favorite pale blue and cream afghans (crocheted by mom). He was on the hospital bed in the TV room next to the sliding patio door where a cool breeze blew. Edye (his kind attentive Hospice nurse) arrived to clean and dress Dad. We had a silent respectful procession on the wrap-around-deck he spent so much time enjoying – from the covered porch at his favorite sit’n spot outside the TV room, past the little wild bunny feeding spot, several bird feeders, the barbeque, and his proudly pruned yard.

Looking up from my computer just now, the rain has subsided. I see a hint of blue on the horizon – the color of my father’s eyes. I can’t see them in the early morning light but I hear a gaggle of Canadian Geese crescendo and fade – a fitting tribute to the man we loved.