The songbird that walks and flies underwater

“He is the mountain streams’ own darling, the humming-bird of blooming waters, loving rocky ripple-slopes and sheets of foam as a bee loves flowers, as a lark loves sunshine and meadows. Among all the mountain birds, none has cheered me so much in my lonely wanderings, –none so unfailingly. For both in winter and summer he sings, sweetly, cheerily, independent alike of sunshine and of love, requiring no other inspiration than the stream on which he dwells. While water sings, so must he, in heat or cold, calm or storm, ever attuning his voice in sure accord; low in the drought of summer and the drought of winter, but never silent.” – John Muir

When I worked as a seasonal hotel employee in Glacier National Park, my attention focused first on mountain sheep and mountain goats, deer and moose, marmots and ground squirrels, and–of course bears. The most striking birds were the ospreys and golden eagles, followed by large flocks of songbirds such as pine siskins. A month went by before I saw a water ouzel, beloved by John Muir, because this bird seems to spend more time underwater than in the air. Imagine resting beside a stream on a long hike, glancing down into the water where–amongst the minnows–you see a dark grey bird walking on the bottom looking for insects and even small fish.

Wikipedia Photo

We consulted George Ruhle’s Guide to Glacier National Park and learned the bird was a water ouzel, now (for reasons I don’t know) more commonly called the American Dipper ( Cinclus mexicanus). Cornell Labs calls the dipper “America’s only truly aquatic songbird,” noting also its thick plumage, low metabolic rate, and molting of feathers (like ducks) every year.

According to Audubon, “This distinctive bird is locally common along rushing streams in the West, especially in high mountains. It is usually seen bobbing up and down on a rock in mid-stream, or flying low over the water, following the winding course of a creek rather than taking overland shortcuts. The song and callnotes of the Dipper are loud, audible above the roar of the water.”

I found the bird fascinating even before I learned later that one of my wilderness heroes, John Muir considered it a favorite. 

–Malcolm

Glacier Park Novel

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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A shortlist of stuff

  • Today’s bad weather in Georgia came and went between dawn and noon. No tornados. Blowing rain and river flooding.
  • Just wondering why I didn’t write Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. A comment from the character Miss Harty about Billy Sunday sets the tone for the novel: “There was great excitement. Mr. Sunday got up and declared at the top of his voice that Savannah was ‘the wickedest city in the world!’ Well, of course, we all thought that was perfectly marvelous.”
  • Regardless of which side of the political divide we live on, I think all of us are tired of the crap at the Mexican border. We don’t need to mistreat people, nor do we need to be emotionally brainwashed into letting everyone in. This isn’t rocket science.
  • I guess I’ve led a sheltered life. I’ve been vaccinated against mostly everything and haven’t given it a second thought. Now with COVID, I’m learning there are people whose distrust of vaccines is (for them) like holy writ. I don’t understand that. But it does raise the question about whether or not forced vaccinations and vaccination cards are too much government. I see this as rather like the Brits mandating blackout curtains during the blitz: it makes us all safer as long as the cops don’t hassle us on the street asking to see “our papers.”
  • The ninth book in Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series Go Tell The Bees That I’m Gone will be published this year (I think). I’ve read all the primary novels in the series, but few of those based on secondary characters. Who knew when this storyline began that reading it would be a lifetime pursuit? But I’ll probably get a copy after we get out of the expensive hardcover phase of book releases. I’m a Scot. I’m cheap even though I met Diana years ago in Atlanta.
  • A friend of mine will probably have to drive several states away from her home to look after her aging parents again. Her last visit was more dear than she expected and yet she wonders why none of her siblings will lend a hand. She’s just as busy as her siblings, but they have unending excuses for not helping. Elderly parents often make decisions that make life harder for their children, and usually, the difficulties are left to the oldest daughter to solve.
  • The Glacier Park employees’ reunion will take place this summer at Many Glacier Hotel. They happen from time to time but are too far away for me to attend. Everyone was worried about access to the east side of the park, but the Blackfeet Reservation has announced it will be open for travelers going to the park (unlike last summer). I will miss it more than I can say.

–Malcolm

I’ve written several novels set in the park.

Potpourri (unscented)

  • The weather forecaster(s) who predicted a lot of north Georgia snow yesterday were wrong–not that I’m complaining. There were a few flakes around, mostly two-legged.
  • Those who know a cat has adopted us want us to name it. Look, we’re already feeding him and trying to keep him warm. We’ve referring to him as OC (outside kitty) but people want something better.
  • My former publisher Vanilla Heart Publishing has closed due to health problems of the owner. 
  • I was happy to see that one of the first things President Biden said he wanted to achieve was unity. I hope he can do this and that the unity includes voters from all parts of the political spectrum–because if it doesn’t, we won’t really have unity will we?
  • This is not a good time to live in Texas or have anything to do with managing the state’s power grid.
  • Gosh, all the old “What’s My Line” shows are available to YouTube. Fun to see a few of them again after all these years.
  • As I discovered with “tennis shoes” some years ago, expensive hearing aids don’t last any longer than cheap hearing aids. So, I ordered another pair of the cheap ones and am happy to say I can hear what my wife’s talking about.
  • Rush Limbaugh has died. I never listened to his radio program because I didn’t agree with him. Yet, I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone.
  • I keep wondering why my top post is an old one about graveyard dirt.  If you need to ask me about it, you’re probably going to get hurt. Just saying.
  • Serena Williams’ last tennis match aired at 3:00 a.m. No, I didn’t stay up to watch it. I do intend to watch her Australian Open match tonight against Osaka at 10:00 p.m.

  • I continue to work on my next novel, Weeping Wall, set in Glacier National Park. I seem to be writing slower than ever. Most be getting old.
  • Next week, I’ll be getting my semiannual anti-cancer shot. I don’t like the fact that it causes random hot flashes. Oh boy, I can hardly wait.
  • I’m currently reading a David Baldacci novel to take a break from Shuggie Bain which, though it’s well written, is filled with people who are messed up.

Malcolm

Giveaway: ‘Mountain Song’

My Montana novel Mountain Song will be free on Kindle for three days, February 8 through February 10. Previously called The Seeker, the novel is the first of my two David Ward novels. At Sea is the sequel.

Description

David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?

Background

This novel is set in Glacier National Park Montana where I worked for two summers as a resort hotel employee. It’s also set at a fictional Montana sheep ranch and at a real Florida Panhandle swamp. The characters move around a bit, one might say. The mountain on the cover is named Heavy Shield, previously Mt. Wilbur, and can be seen across Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel on the east side of the park.

You can find information about all of my books on my website.

–Malcolm

for the love of rock

Serious mountain climbers attend very closely to the nature of rock. Is it crumbly? Does it take a piton? In addition to the historic routes to the summits of mountains, guidebooks often mention the condition of the rock.

One thing I care about is the kind of rock I’m climbing on. Climbers’ guidebooks seldom mention this because, I suppose, the authors don’t care and/or they don’t know. When it comes to mountains, I see guidebooks as a teaching opportunity. Without becoming a geology textbook, guidebooks could easily note the name of a mountain’s rock formation or the principal rock along a climbing route.

NPS Glacier Park

I’m surprised that mountainous national parks, some of which have climbers’ guides, don’t mention the kinds of rocks or the specific rock formations (in passing) along with the recipes for getting to the summits.  Or, if that’s too much trouble, the park service could even create a guidebook that addresses geology for a park’s major peaks–as a self-guided tour, perhaps, that would be suitable for those who view the mountains from a road or trail as opposed to climbing them.

The rock within a mountain or a mountain chain has an interesting history, often beginning as sediment deposited in an ancient sea during the Proterozoic eon and–as one might say for Glacier National Park–carved by water and ice for 60 million years to create the spectacular sights we see today.

Or, perhaps only a mountain climber who loves geology would care.

Malcolm

My novels set in Glacier National Park include: “Mountain Song” and “The Sun Singer.”

The Weeping Wall

If you’ve driven along Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park–or taken a red bus tour–you probably saw The Weeping Wall. If you’re in a red bus and the top is down, you’ll get a bit wet early in the season when the water looks like it does in this Wikipedia photo.

The rock behind the water is the Siyeh Formation. It tends to have a khaki color. Like most of the rock in the park, Siyeh (often called Helena) is sedimentary, beginning its life at the bottom of an ancient sea during the Proterozoic age over 800 million years ago. In Blackfeet, Siyeh (Sáiyi) means Mad Wolf and is the name of a creek, pass, and mountain. It’s made of limestone and dolomite.

I have changed the name of my novel-in-progress from Aeon (too obscure) to The Weeping Wall. Even those who have never visited Glacier National Park will get a sense of the novel from that title–I hope.

As with previous novels set in the park, this one will be as accurate as I can make it in terms of the location and its features. This is one of those cases where it helps the writer to have been there–and got wet.

Malcolm

 

Two Free Books on Presidents Day

Two Free Books – 2/18 and 2/19

The Sun Singer

Robert Adams is a normal teenager who raises tropical fish, makes money shoveling snow off his neighbors’ sidewalks, gets stuck washing the breakfast dishes, dreads trying to ask girls out on dates and enjoys listening to his grandfather’s tall tales about magic and the western mountains. Yet, Robert is cursed by a raw talent his parents refuse to talk to him about: his dreams show him what others cannot see.

When the family plans a vacation to the Montana high country, Grandfather Elliott tells Robert there’s more to the trip than his parents’ suspect. The mountains hide a hidden world where people the ailing old man no longer remembers need help and dangerous tasks remain unfinished. Thinking that he and his grandfather will visit that world together, Robert promises to help.

On the shore of a mountain lake, Robert steps alone through a doorway into a world at war where magic runs deeper than the glacier-fed rivers. Grandfather Elliott meant to return to this world before his health failed him and now Robert must resurrect a long-suppressed gift to fulfill his promises, uncover old secrets, undo the deeds of his grandfather’s foul betrayer, subdue brutal enemy soldiers in battle, and survive the trip home.

Malcolm’s Comment: As a Florida boy, I was in awe of the mountains of Montana’s Glacier National Park when I worked there as a hotel bellman two summers. I’ve been back many times. I couldn’t think of a better place for my derring-do, hero’s journey novel. If you’ve been to Many Glacier Valley, you’ll recognize the settings.

Waking Plain

The exact opposite of “Sleeping Beauty,” this tale involves a dull-as-dishwater prince, a century-long sleeping enchantment, and beautiful queens who have the power to wake the rich sleeper with a kiss–if only he weren’t so plain.

He sleeps because the king and queen inadvertently slighted the eldest faerie on the prince’s naming day. She curses him with foul words that are mitigated from a quick death to a long sleep. Will any of the eligible queens wake a man so plain as he?

Malcolm’s Comment: One of my favorite parts of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle TV show was a segment called “Fractured Fairy Tales”. Let’s just say, they were twisted up and funny.  In the same vein, I was also drawn to Richard Armour’s “Twisted Tales from Shakespeare” and the equally hilarious “It all Started With Columbus.” So, it was just a matter of time before I turned my sarcastic author’s eyes on “Sleeping Beauty” and thought, this story really needs to be twisted into the very opposite of what it is. I’m sure it was wrong to do this, but I couldn’t help it.

 

 

 

Let’s ban Glacier’s helicopter tours

“For almost twenty years Glacier has been listening to visitors from all over the country, the world and residents of Montana complaining about the NOISE of helicopter sightseeing tours in the Park.  Its time for them to STOP.

“Glacier National Park has been steadfast in their commitment to discontinue overflights since studies in 1999 determined them to be inappropriate, having adverse impact on wildlife, visitors and all the natural sounds.  Helicopter noise pollution has no place in an International Peace Park and World Heritage site, abounding in wilderness, serenity, majesty and quiet.  Noise has no boundaries and cannot be contained.

“A quagmire of regulations  have prevented the protection of the peace and quiet Glacier was known for and for which millions every year travel to experience..  That’s the bad news.  What’s the good news? We can help Glacier Park get QUIET!”

Source: coalitioninformation

I’ve disliked these absurd helicopter overflights from the beginning. The National Park Service doesn’t want them. But so far, the FAA won’t ban them. Meanwhile, the tranquility of the place, the visitor experience, and the natural habitat is compromised by noise.

If you don’t like this either, click on the link above and sign the petition.

–Malcolm

Summer Sale – Two Free Books

To celebrate the arrival of summer, my companion novels Mountain Song and At Sea are free on Kindle June 22 through June 26.

Mountain Song

David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?

At Sea

Even though he wanted to dodge the draft in Canada or Sweden, David Ward joined the navy during the Vietnam War. He ended up on an aircraft carrier. Unlike the pilots, he couldn’t say he went in harm’s way unless he counted the baggage he carried with him. As it turned out, those back home were more dangerous than enemy fire.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is also the author of Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman.

‘Mountain Song’ is a story about love that might be too broke to fix

As far as I know, we all experience “first love” and ultimately we all “come of age,” yet these subjects have become so cliched, that they are very difficult for writers to tackle with any hope of getting it right. We know in spades what it’s like to experience what our elders in a other era used to call “puppy love,” telling us it was immature, part of growing up (like falling off a bike), and ultimately wouldn’t matter.

mountainsongcover4We all know the territory, don’t we: the love that seems both fresh and infinite that for reasons unknown collapses without warning as thought it never happened. But we never forget and we could easily bore young people with our stories about it, but just in telling old secrets about long-gone moments, we would appear to be discounting what people in high school and college are feeling right now.

There’s always something heroic about the risks of first love, yet when it comes to fiction, we can hardly turn a boy-meets-girl story in a college geography class into and epic of star-crossed lovers such as Romeo and Juliette. It strikes me odd that such a common occurrence as first love boils down to something each of us must suffer alone when we experience its collapsing.

The world seems to end for us and while it’s ending, we’re mostly silent. From time to time, I read a short story or a novel where the author gets it right. I’ve tried to get it right–but the words never seem to match the experience. Perhaps they can’t because we’ve all been there and have our own stories to tell (should we ever dare) about what it was like.

Based on a true story (kind of)

That said, Mountain Song has kernels of truth in it. I’ve obscured them because the real life characters, one of whom was me, were two people who had a summer romance while working at a resort hotel. By itself, that doesn’t make for a compelling novel because we took long walks in the moonlight and stole guarded kisses while on duty, and there’s just so much that can be said about that.

Plus, the characters had to be very different than their real-life counterparts. Otherwise, one has to worry about libel and invasion of privacy. So, in Mountain Song, the characters’ diverse backgrounds provided the framework for the story. Bottom line, as was true in real life, the two main characters were poles apart in terms of upbringing, home towns, and lifetime goals. But neither of us had the bizarre, flawed upbringings of the characters representing us in the novel.

The people who knew me then, said the true story ruined me. It did for a while. Then I recovered (mostly). If you’ve read everything I’ve ever written about Glacier National Park (and heaven help you if you have), then you’ll know I’ve tried twice before to tell this story. The first time was in an experimental novel that made Finnegans Wake look like an easy read. The second time, I had a publisher who wanted the book turned into commercial fiction. That didn’t work.

I’m not sure whether I’ve gotten it right yet because, truth be told–and it can’t be–I’m not a fan of sentimentality, worse yet novels where the protagonist comes across as a whiner with a “poor me” attitude because, well, nobody likes reading that schlock and one way or another we’ve all had a wedding ring ready and waiting in our pocket for the right moment when things fell apart.

–Malcolm