MTPR

Reflections West

Wednesday 4:54 PM

Reflections West is a weekly radio program that presents the thoughts of writers and scholars on the American West. These thinkers pair their own thoughts with a passage from literature and history.

Reflections West podcast

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Martin Klimek (CC-BY-4.0). Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

"One of the central tenets of collaborative comedy writing is the rule of 'Yes, and,'" writes freelance writer and occasional standup comedian, Sarah Aswell. "The concept is simple: when someone has an idea, you should not only validate that idea no matter its absurdity (by saying 'Yes') but you also add something new to the scene (by saying 'and').

Mariana Cook

"When I meet strangers deep in rural white settings, perfect and polite English rolls easily from my face and I watch their eyes and brains appraise me," writes Alex Alviar, who teaches at Salish Kootenai College and with the Missoula Writing Collaborative. "Where is he from? Indian? Tourist? Mexican? Their eyes are like fish in the murk considering the fake fly tied and cast through the ripple before them. What is he? Can we trust him?

"Like many today, my troubled inheritance is the great wave of settler colonialism that washed from Europe over the Americas for the last five centuries.  I carry its invisible weight when I walk these Rocky Mountains and when I drive America’s freeways—all on stolen Indian land," writes "Reflections West" co-host, David Moore.

Larry Miller (CC-BY-2.0)

"A decade ago I packed everything I owned into my little car and drove across the country to Montana, in part because of a few poems," writes essayist, poet and two-time winner of the Obsidian Prize for Poetry, Melissa Mylchreest.

Jennifer Savage moved to Montana from South Carolina fifteen years ago for what was to be a one-year job.  She has never left.  "An old friend recently told me, “I suppose you are as much Western as you are Southern, since you’ve lived so long in Montana.”

"Some days I’m the little girl I was 15 years ago: leather boots in tall grass, stroking the black silk neck of my horse," writes Chelsea Drake, assistant editor and writer at Missoula Valley Lifestyle Magazine. "She and I are like limbs of the same tree, growing up and into ourselves, finding a way through fire and ice.

National Park Service. (CC-BY-2.0)

"I fish with my children, the paddle knocking the canoe in an easy rhythm," writes Caroline Patterson, writer, teacher, and director of the Missoula Writing Collaborative.  "Phoebe is five, her taffy hair in braids; Tobin three, his round face expectant as he scans the pocked water. I take up the spinning rod, for we are trolling, the dreamer's way of fishing. Phoebe and I let out line, and I show her how to reel it in. I lie back to wait, studying the tamaracks, capped by the Swan Mountains.

"I have been thinking about consciousness, who has it and who doesn’t," writes poet, essayist and editor, Melissa Kwasny. "'Consciousness: to have a sense of oneself as apart from others.'  Science has discovered that even plants can distinguish between a self and a not-self, halting their growing roots in contact with the foreign. Carl Sapina, in a recent book called Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, says we share basically the same nervous system—wolf, coyote, even the worm. To grant them consciousness is to wake, not to a dream world, but a greater reality that requires a different navigation and a far different morality. 

Flickr user, Bradley Gordon. (CC-BY-2.0)

"In my youth, I was restless enough to have spent four years on the road searching for the Great American Bar," writes Livingston, MT teacher and author, Toby Thompson.  "I often visited thirty a day, learning in my travels that the mountain West– specifically Montana–held more saloons than any other region.

Murray Hotel in Livingston Montana
Flickr user Carol Vinzant (CC-BY-NC-ND-2)

To Toby Thompson, the Christmas spirit is really just the warmth of community, something we can find any time of year.

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