Familiar to All

Like most men my age my [heart] lives back on trails that have been plowed under.
~Charles M. Russell

A trip home to Montana has meant that ClimbingSky has been quiet for a couple of weeks. It was not the kind of trip that blogging could fit into.

It was a week of big skies, long drives, craft beers and spirits, and a little fishing.

Since it was a week of dealing with an aged father and returning to the significant places of my youth (now much changed) it also turned out to be a week of feeling nostalgic and old and disconnected.

Before I left I posted here my thoughts on place. Now I am thinking about time. And the way time and place are inextricably mixed.

The Townsend, Montana of my youth (of 1972-1978) is no more. It is like a bank of a river that has seen 40 years of flooding, or better yet, like seeing an old friend after 40 years of hard living.

It will take me awhile to process the trip. Most of the processing will no doubt happen in my poetry journal. Some may even happen here.

Growing old happens to everyone, but it only happens once to ourselves. And so like First-Love it seems infinitely novel and fascinating to us even though it is familiar to all.

“Staircase” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)


On Place

“Searching” (photo by unknown)

It is my usual habit to get up by 5:30 so I can get at least an hour and half of writing in before going to work. On weekends, I am usually up about the same time, but have even more time to write.

For the most part, I have not been a disciplined person in my life. About this I am.

Summer mornings like this are much easier of course. The windows are open, and light and birdsongs are already streaming in through the open windows.

A week ago Sue and Morgan and I were down in Southwestern Minnesota staying in a cabin on the edge of a ravine in farm country. It was a nice place to write. But so is my office on the second floor of our house overlooking our backyard and our suburban neighborhood.

There are still days that I marvel to find myself living a suburban life in the Midwest. It is so not me or mine, but it is comfortable and familiar nonetheless. We think our life is going to be one thing, but it ends up as something else.

Preparing for a trip back to Montana and talking to my brother Paul for the first time in years has me reminiscing. About the past, about things long buried, about the way life happens.

In my life I have lived in California, Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas, and Michigan. Each place could have been a stopping point. But for a thousand reasons beyond knowing Minnesota became the place. But I still I carry a part of each place within me.

Mostly though, I carry Townsend Montana. It is the answer I give to the question, “where did you grow up?” Since I lived six years in Santa Cruz, California, then six in Eastern Washington, and then six in Townsend, I could answer that questions three different ways. But I always say, Townsend.

Place matters. It is context and comfort and the lens through which we see a spinning world. It is where we stand most often in our minds when we are lost and trying to make sense of things.

My dad, who is still living, lives in Dillon, Montana, and has now for 40 years. My family moved there between my junior and senior year in high school while I stayed in Townsend to finish my senior year.

My mother, who has been gone for 35 years now, is buried in Dillon. My dad will be too. But Dillon is not home. It is a merely a town in a valley that is beautiful but I feel no real connection to.

Home is a town I lived in for just six years, have re-visited just a handful of times in 39 years, but is always on my mind.


“A Reckoning is Coming” A New Poem

“Rathlin Island Crosses” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

by M.A.H. Hinton

tax breaks
for those
who have too much money
is what they tell us
will turn
the whole damn thing around

for 37 years now
since that B-grade actor
became the first face
of unTruth
they have been selling
this same snake oil
in bigger
and bigger bottles

yet nothing changes

how patient
must God be
to hear
so many
taking his name
in vain

how patient
must the people be
to hear
so few
counting all the coins
at the end
of every day

Photo Friday

Happy Friday! And check out my new page here at ClimbingSky called Beer-Life. Still-life photos of beer and other essential beverages.

“Cheers, Toppling Goliath Brewing, Decorah, Iowa” (photo by s.e.j. hinton)


Still-Lifes: A Gathering


“Barnes & Noble” in Edina, MN (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

Going through my iPhoto library last weekend, I found a lot of still-lifes of beer and alcohol.

It is a habit like taking pictures of Little Libraries. It is I suppose a form of collecting. This time memories. And now like with my pictures of Little Libraries I am going to create a separate page for these pictures as well here at ClimbingSky.

Here are a few samples, some that have already been posted here sometime before but now can be seen in “context.”


"J. Carver Distillery, Waconia, Minnesota" " (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“J. Carver Distillery, Waconia, Minnesota”
” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

"F-Town, Fairbault, Minnesota" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“F-Town, Fairbault, Minnesota” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

"Happy Gnome, St. Paul, MN" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Happy Gnome, St. Paul, MN” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

"Appetizers and Old Fashions" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Appetizers and Old Fashions” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

"Boat Drinks" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Boat Drinks, Port Isabelle, Texas” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

"Have a Pint" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Guinness on Tap, St. Paul, Minnesota” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

"Nutmeg, Burnsville, Minnesota" (Photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Nutmeg, Burnsville, Minnesota” (Photo by m.a.h. hinton)

Reading, Discussing, & New Publications Coming

"Stepping Stones" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Stepping Stones” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

It has been a wet and gray few weeks in the North Country. Lawns are long and green but we are longing for sun.

The wet weather has meant that I have not been biking to work as often as I had planned. My mood often shows it.

I continue writing and sending out poems, including a 70+-page manuscript I am just beginning to send out.  So far I know of two publications that will be including my poetry this summer.

  • “Picture Album”: Into the Void Magazine, Issue 5 (July 25th 2017)
  • “Momentous Occasions”:  Blue Heron Review (Summer 2017)

When they are published, I will post links here.

It is a odd process this sending out poems. Packaging up your creations and sending them out into the world. Writing is easier in many ways. But for now I have made peace with the process. What is the point, after all, of writing and writing and never sharing what you have written.

I am working my way through three books right now that sit on my writing desk:

  1. Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey, Hayden Carruth, a book of poetry
  2. The Triggering Town, by Richard Hugo, a collection of essays and lectures about writing and poetry
  3. The Visionary Company, by Harold Bloom, the standard on English Romantic poetry

Each book is a marvel and a revelation in its own way. Carruth’s poetry is exactly what I need to be reading right now. And Hugo and Bloom are forcing me to rethink things I thought I understood already.

I think sometimes how strange it is that I spend so much of my time thinking about things that have nothing to do with how I spend my days. But in the evening and the mornings I have the “discussions” I need with these books.

I have noted here before that I am a slow reader. It would be more accurate to say I am a deliberate one. Read a few paragraphs or a few poems and then “discuss” them with myself. How does this fit with what I have thought? How true does this seem and why? How do I feel? How did the writer do this? What can I learn from this?

I marvel daily at the patience of my wife, Sue, who puts up with my distracted ways. I know it is not always easy to live with someone who is always thinking about other things, who is always having “discussions” with dead poets and saints. Everyday I count myself blessed beyond measure.

Summer is coming. There will me more bike riding, more writing and reading, and hopefully more publications.


On Trump, Truth, and Baseball


The madness that is Trump never seems to end. It is one stupid thing followed by one scandalous thing by one outrageous thing. A continuing cycle of unethical and dangerous behavior that stupefies and terrorizes any with a moral and intellectual center.

And then there is baseball.

Baseball has always been a way to forget. A way to care deeply about something that does not really matter but matters anyway.

I follow a number of teams.

It is the curse of my life that the two teams I loved most growing up were from Oakland: the Oakland Raiders and the Oakland As.

It was my inborn contrariness I suppose that led me to pick the two teams across the bay from the two teams my parents rooted for. It was probably also my instinctive eye for the tragic. For the story of both Oakland teams of my youth was tragedy.

The owner of my beloved Raiders, Al Davis, picked the team up and moved them to LA and then back again. Now they are headed for Sin City.

The owner of the As, Charlie Finley, sold off his players after three consecutive World Series Championships to the evil Yankees.

For mere money my first true loves were sold away.

And so now I follow four baseball teams and over time one football team that can never be sold away because the community owns it.

In baseball I follow the Cubs, of course, and have since 1981 when I first saw my first in-person Major League game at Wrigley Field. It was love at first sight.

I follow the Astros who helped me get through a long summer of living in Houston.

I follow the Twins who play in the town where I have lived now for 31 years. And I follow the Giants, my mother’s team and the cross-bay competition to the team that betrayed me.

When you follow four teams, you almost always have a good day. One of your four teams is bound to win. Sometimes all four do and those are the best days of all.

Trump is to me like Al Davis and Charlie Finley, a man who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. He is further proof that running anything important like you run a business is to ruin it. Finally he is merely another businessman who is going to find that there is a special hell for those who crush dreams for something as unimportant as money.