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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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.

P.D.

"Ten years ago, my dad told me I would be inheriting his 30.06," writes Erika Fredrickson, arts editor at the Missoula Independent. "I nearly choked on my coffee. My grandfather, who died before I could meet him, had passed the gun to my dad, and my dad wanted to do the same. But I was a writer, not a hunter.

"Montana first told me a secret on the banks of Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula," writes photographer and writer, Jessica Lowry Vizzutti. "I was visiting in summer with my boyfriend as we made a cross-country road trip from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Montana and ultimately Los Angeles.  It was July, the perfect month for a Southern woman to fall in love with a snowy state.

Len Jenshel

Stephanie Land knew in fourth grade that she wanted to become a professional writer. She's written for the New York Times and the Washington Post about the obstacles thrown in her path by the challenges of single parenthood.

"For two decades I wrote horrible poems," Land writes. "I believed in soul mates. I devoured books. I drank too many jugs of wine. I sowed my wild oats.

Toni Truesdale works with people suffering from dementia. In "Behind The Locked Door," her book of essays and poems about Alzheimer's, she writes about "sundowning," the symptoms of restlessness and confusion when, at around sunset each day, patients begin searching for home and bygone family.

"My sweet, eighty-two-year–old friend repeats a sentence for the third time: “Well, I guess it’s time to go home; Mother will be waiting” I look at the clock. It's 4:30 p.m. and the shadows outside are lengthening; the sun is going down. Her mother has been gone for over twenty-five years.

Illustration by Jesse Wells

"My wife and daughter left Montana for our new home in Ontario while I stayed to pack our things," writes journalist, editor and recent University of Montana MFA graduate, Brendan Fitzgerald. "I was glad they’d gone ahead. It was fire season, and smoke had lowered the ceiling of the world, dissolved the mountains and filtered color from the sunlight. On the radio, someone said that spending more than an hour outside was hazardous. I spent two in the parking lot of the post office, hauling books from my car and packing them into boxes.

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