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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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.


"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.