WALL STYLE | Amber Jean

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Dancing with Bulls…

While this footage isn’t from this weekend’s event, it captures in slow motion a few seconds of what I prefer to call “bull-dancing” rather than bullfighting. Those who choose to protect the cowboys who ride bulls are a gritty graceful bunch. Raymond entered his career “dancing with bulls” at about the time most men retire. He got kicked, flipped, flattened, winded, whooped, whacked, squashed and even scalped once when a bull stepped on his head. But between the dirt and the snot, the air and the hard ground, the bull and the rider, Raymond got GOOD. Damn good. Last night’s event with a pen of rank bulls in a small dust-filled arena, ten young competitive college cowboys rode their hearts out knowing Raymond would go the distance and do everything possible to protect them. Raymond is too humble to brag but this little bit of footage gives a glimpse of his ability as a dance partner to lead and redirect his 2000 pound “partner” in the chaos on a dirty dance floor in Wyoming.

Momma Nature’s PMS

Autumn in the Rockies can be almost anything weather-wise.  Just check out the history of Facebook posts from September 10:

Snapshots from September 10

Momma Nature is moody to say the least but I love it…!  The last month has been full.  Ten days spent helping prepare for and participating in HATCH at Big Sky left me plumb tuckered.


Certainly. But the exhaustion that hit was bone-deep.  So deep I began to think it might be part of so many intense life events which have tumbled one after another.  I am wrestling with several desires:

  • to be fully in my studio creating with freedom
  • to be magically caught up with  desk life/admin life (I need a leprechaun to help)
  • to scoot to the desert to climb or the ocean to gather energy
  • to spend some weeks just reading, writing, napping and hiking
  • to launch into and gain back momentum in both my studio life and my art career
  • to catch up with you (SO much has happened).Mostly I like being home-sweet-home with Raymond.  We live in a beautiful place.  We have plenty of catching up and chores here on the mountain to keep us both busy without being bored.  We are settling into married life (I LOVE it).  I miss Cliff horribly and grieve the loss of my mother.  Last week I returned to 6am crossfit workouts (damn sore but a good kind of sore).

    The above list of desires will be fulfilled – just not all at once… 

Montana Fires

My goodness – I am far behind with updates as I returned last month to Bhutan to complete the sculpture for the king a few months earlier than planned (with only two weeks to prepare during which I worked hard to try to complete a commissioned sculpture and then too – we took my mother’s ashes to Nebraska to entomb with my father’s ashes). Friday I finally felt more grounded and less jet-laggy.
Meanwhile, Montana is experiencing an unprecedented fire season so I wanted to let you know that so far we are ok up here on my mountain while much of the state suffers and we are all under extreme alert and much smoke:

I didn’t take this photo (not sure who did) but it is compelling…

Fingers crossed…

I update Facebook and Instagram nearly daily (and will soon be investing in a way for my blog to be more connected to the daily updates)

Stay tuned (and stay safe)

One year ago today…

Betty Jean: August 13, 1940-July 21, 2016.

Raymond dreamed about my mother last night. Perhaps the dream perched like a little bird during the midnight moments I spent crying beneath the stars in a sky quiet and pale.

Montana Rodeo Nights

Montana outdoor rodeo drama and laughs with these cute little cowboys.

Dear mother

My wedding dress lay on the pillowed wicker love seat in the corner of our bedroom where my husband had taken it off me a few nights earlier. Unopened wedding gifts piled on and around our dining room table amidst the clutter of days and nights entertaining guests, the wedding preparations and my bridal bouquet. One year ago today I packed my bags, loaded the truck and drove the pass to be with mom. She’d miraculously held on to life, rallied broken bits of her mind to be present at my wedding. Earlier that morning Mom told Debbie she was scared. Debbie comforted her with bible verses; a gift powerfully perfect as the verses wouldn’t have been in my bag of tools. I dropped my belongings behind the pretty rose quilted king size abandoned bed and curled up next to my impossibly tiny mother, held her hand and napped with her. Little red rosebuds sprinkled the sheets we’d purchased for her hospital bed. The rose sheets would be washed and re-washed, the hospital bed moved from the bedroom to the living room, mom carried in my arms between rooms. Seven days and nights I kept vigil, the angel sisters Debbie and Linda by our side. Mom became smaller, then smaller still. Memories of horrifically difficult moments haunt me, vivid in detail, laden with emotions and smells. Delicate slices of pure grace memories fill me with gratitude. Sincerely a privilege to tend my purple-glitter-toed mother. Dear soul. Sweet beauty.

Charity Fundraiser

Passionate locals rallied to save the old Teslow grain elevator that is part of our town’s history and landscape. Several birdhouses were made in the shape of the grain elevator using wood taken from the Teslow during the restoration process. Artists were asked to embellish the birdhouses which are currently around town collecting donations before they are raffled off.

My husband the rodeo clown…

Raymond bulls My My husband; kick’ n up dirt and tapping bulls while protecting the young men who ride.

Inspiration for “Owl”

Owlets are flying out of the studio

Owlets are flying out of the studio

I began this little bugger early last year. I hadn’t planned on creating an owl for 2016 (I had a another critter in mind) but early in the year an owl visited me on a full moon night. I filmed the Great Horned Owl while it sat like a sentinel on top of my beloved tree. Perfect shaped and majestic, the giant Fir tree a picturesque silhouette on starry nights between my bedroom window and the twinkling lights of Livingston below. The tree greeted me each time I drove home to my cabin at the end of the road near the top of this mountain. During the holidays I was always tempted to light it up with a huge star on top for everyone in the valley below to enjoy. We suffered and celebrated more than two decades together. The tree scourged summer after summer by Spruce Bud Worms during the last years.

After a particularly difficult winter for both of us, the tree seemed to bounce back with vigor. That spring it looked better than it had in years and I thought, “We are survivors, you and me, dear tree…we have this…!” Looking back, it is as if the tree rallied for me, knowing I needed a boost and some confidence, I drew strength from its strength.

Then it died.

I hated to ask Cliff to cut it down because Cliff had back and shoulder pain issues; old injuries from his logging days. I complained to Raymond about the negative “Feng Shui” that comes from such a large dead thing in our front yard. But what a perfect perch for a giant owl. The full moon night visit from the owl was poignant. Remarkable. I had a sense it carried a message and thought the message had something to do with my mother – perhaps the owl was letting me know 2016 would be mother’s final year. Raymond asked for Cliff’s assistance to cut the tree down in February as I birthday present surprise while I was in Panama. Of course Cliff made quick business of the tree and landed it perfectly so that it wouldn’t squish any of the young trees sprouting everywhere. Cliff cut the trunk of the tree into perfect rounds which became seats for guests at our wedding. The stumps sit in an Aspen Grove near my studio.

A few months after my return from Panama, Cliff comforted me on the morning I called Hospice for assistance to continue care for my mother in her home. Cliff took mom cookies and then he died on the same day Raymond cut the path in the meadow where Cliff was to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. An owl perched on the tallest tree next to the Yellowstone River when Raymond, Wynn and I launched a home made flotilla with some of Cliff’s ashes in the moonlight.

Again and again I picked up the little lump of “owlish” clay but I simply could not create. On a cold winter night I gave a stranded motorist a ride to his home up Paradise Valley, a giant Great Horned Owl owl flew past my truck window and looked directly at me. Those of you who know Cliff know he was legendary for the assistance he gave friends, family and strangers alike. I knew it was time to finish the little owlet. Emotional but healing, the little sculpture began to find itself while a fire crackled in my studio.

I sent a photo of the clay owl to my girlfriend Wynn. She texted, “OMG. It looks like him. Did u do that intentionally?” Honestly I did not…but I felt so much of Cliff while working on his owl that of course “Cliffness” emanates from the owlet. Crying as I write this, feeling is part of healing topped with gratitude. Not many are gifted with a “Cliff” in their life. He was one-of-a-kind, gentle, strong and damn loyal. The tears are good – the kind of gold that comes from loving and being loved.

Chapter after chapter, critter after critter and plenty of blessings…

Rodeo season has begun…

Raymond and his sidekick outside the arena watching the bareback bronc event

Raymond and his sidekick outside the arena watching the bareback bronc event

Stellar full moon dance by the river, perfect temps, lotsa dirt, a few ticks and no injuries at the rodeo in White Earth, ND – Raymond’s bullfighting season has begun…!