A long weekend back in Chicago is done. It is time to return to routine again: up early, writing, biking to work, working, biking home, It is a routine I can settle into quite easily.

I came across an interesting book at the Pauline Bookstore in Chicago called The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton, by Daniel P. Horan. As I have said here before, it seems clear to me that the message of St. Francis is more urgent today than ever before in a society that worships wealth and violence above all else. It was a book I could not pass up.

I also picked up another Hayden Carruth volume.

Here are some pictures from my trip to the Windy City to watch a Dead and Company concert.


“Self-Portrait: Cubs, Dead, and Books” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Waiting on a Train” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Door Post” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“North Michigan Avenue” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

Some Random Photos

“Ghost Sign, Butte, Montana” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Old Jars, Bannack, Montana” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“My Hat and Walking Stick” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Alley Way, Bismarck, North Dakota” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

A Monday Sermon

“Assumption Abbey, Richardson, North Dakota” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

A recent list of Trumps lies published in the New York Times reminds me of why I am so on edge these days. It is difficult to imagine a world where egregious and dangerous behavior is not universally condemned and held accountable in some way.

But this is the the world we live in.

In Montana and North Dakota, most bars and restaurants we went into had big televisions streaming FoxNews. 24 hours of propaganda and mis-information being sung to the choir. In the world of FoxNews Land, truth is twisted and lies become truth and hate becomes virtue.

I spend a great deal of time thinking of St. Francis these days.

In America we worship violence and wealth, guns and billionaires. St. Francis taught that God intends something quite different indeed.

Contrary to Calvin, wealth is not a sign of virtue in anyway. It is the fruit of selfishness and violence. It is not giving to our neighbor, but is taking away.

There are enough resources on this good earth to take care of all. But when a few claim it as a right to take so much, there can never be enough.

Our system is flawed. The problem is there for all to see. And yet in FoxNews Land what is obvious is intentionally obscured.

The rich are takers. They are not the great wealth-makers they want us to believe. Neither are they the emblems of virtue that they claim. Acquisition of wealth is by definition antithetical to the Kingdom of God.

Conspicuous consumption is a sign of failure– failure of humanity, of imagination, of faith. Accumulating wealth is a sign of selfishness, of self-aggrandizement, of imagining we are more important and more deserving than we are.

How do we save a world from Trump and FoxNews?

The way of St. Francis seems like the obvious choice.


Old White Men

“Gettysburg” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

Cooler than normal temperatures have descended upon the North Country. This morning the sky is overcast and gray. With the windows closed, the sound of bird songs is muted. Yet still I am up early and writing.

It has been a week since getting back from Montana. This week I head to Chicago for a Dead and Company concert at Wrigley Field. In a different way, it will be a similar trip: returning to a place I once lived and still love.

I lived in Chicago two different times in my early 20s. In Bucktown for five months (1981) while a college student then for two years in Hyde Park as a seminary student (1982-84).

Without realizing I was doing so, this summer appears to have become a tour of my youth.


OLD WHITE MEN [a draft]
by M.A.H. Hinton

I crank out
the pages

in end
it is the only thing
I know
I know how to do

a scrawl
a scratch
a ruminating soul

a man nears 60
and realizes
that most of what he knows
was picked up
in a small town
that is long gone
but remains on maps anyway

my daughters tell me
it is time
for old white men
to give way

we have ruined
the world enough already

and poverty
and injustice

I say
this old white man
has already given way
and did
a long time ago


Little BigHorn Battlefield

Little BigHorn Battlefield

On the way home from Montana, we stopped at the Little BigHorn Battlefield. It was the first time I had been there in in close to 20+ years. It was more crowded with tourists than I remember it being in the past.

One “new” feature was a bus tour led by American Indians. It is something I would recommend to any who visit there.

With that in mind, I picked up a book by Joseph M. Marshall III called The Day the World Ended at Little BigHorn: A Lakota History. I would recommend it as well.

Here are a few photos of a truly sacred place.

“Last Stand Hill” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Fallen Soldiers” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Fallen Warriors” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Good Book” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

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