5 week trip, day 22-24, part 2: 6th ward gardens, Archie Bray ceramics, Lodoe arrives

I told Joan that I wanted to check out the “6th ward” community garden, given what some folks had said about it the night before, when I gave the Green Acres presentation. So that morning we drove out to that section of Helena, where she showed me around. But first, we passed by some other kind of community garden, can’t remember what it was for, seniors? And guess what? It features my son Colin’s Garden Tower, and is one of three Towers Joan’s husband Max donated to various community food programs around town.


I was especially interested to see the “6th ward” community gardens because the entire project is only two years old. It contains both the beginnings of an edible forest garden and single raised beds for individual plots.

What is an edible forest garden? Check out this paragraph from the preface to permaculturist Dave Jacke’s two-volume book, Edible Forest Gardens. (Jacke himself came to Helena for a workshop on edible forest gardens.)


Here’s the design:

6th-ward-sign close-up-of-sign-for-6th-ward And here’s the beginnings of manifestation. First, the edible forest garden, two shots, with the second one featuring, in the background, a gigantic hugelkultur bed.


hugelkultur-in-distanceAnd here are some raised beds for individual plots.


Wherever I go on this 5 week trip, I am drawn to uncover what’s going on with the local food scene. And I’m never disappointed. We live inside a growing movement of localities everywhere to rejoin the natural world and to reconnect in community by reimagining and reconfiguring our entire way of working with food. The insidious corporatization of the American “way of life” is being slowly and subtly dismantled, little by little, as we remember how to work together, from the ground up. 

Later that day, Joan and I took a walk around the grounds of the Archie Bray Foundation, set on the grounds of an old brick factory, and established in 1951, “dedicated to the enrichment of the ceramic arts.”

A sign greeted us. Hilarious!

archie-bray-selfie-spotAnd that wasn’t the only hilarity. How about this? A man on a child’s wagon . . .


That’s one of the hundreds of ceramic pieces, large and small, that nestle in and among the ruins.



Some are so tiny you have to look hard to see . . .


Others are massive, awesome, like this goddess.

goddess-3 goddess-2 goddess-1

Here’s what I would call the male/female polarity, displayed in two pieces.

masculinefeminineClose-up of the female part . . .

close-up-feminineIn the museum, a ceramic flower blooms, also decidedly feminine. . .

flower-ceramicclose-up-flower-ceramicMeanwhile, all sorts of other artistic displays, including on outside walls.

bas-relief-1wall-artInside the museum, a sweet elephant with child.

elephant-girl elephant-girl-closeupMeanwhile, everything else is allowed, too. Whatever the artist imagines, finds form here. Nothing is “too much,” even this line-up of decidedly weird figures, of which the two on the right look suspiciously “ET.”

weird-figures weird-figures-close-up

All of which reminds me of the UFO meeting I talked about in Part I of this set of posts. It appears that Helena can accept and find a home for just about anything!

Including this sheep head,

sheep-headand this little figure in a corner, both at the Bray.


Late that evening Lodoe, an extraordinary singer and Tibetan refugee, arrived at Joan’s house for a weekend concert, having flown in from New York. The next morning, prior to my departure for Lander Wyoming, an eight hour drive, Joan and I breakfasted with Lodoe, and she suggested the two of us pose for a photo.


By the way, I have been listening to Lodoe’s Tibetana for years, and have now purchased his Tibetana II and III.

Here’s the Amazon review of Tibetana that Joan put up in 2014. I heartily agree with her assessment.

I love this album. It belongs in the collection of everyone looking for great meditation, sacred and world music. Lodoe’s voice is just unlike anything else I’ve ever heard, and it is showcased by world-class musicianship and sound production. With the artistry of Bruce Becvar’s acoustic guitar to the sensitivity of Ilona Selke’s and Don Paris’ flute, harp, keyboard and drum accompaniment, these musicians weave something magical with Lodoe’s Tibetan voice. The result is an album that takes me very deep, very fast. The album cover says that Lodoe taught at the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts in Dharamsala for 15 years, which verifies his extensive background. But he imparts something beyond skill, perhaps something uniquely Tibetan in the emotional depth and range of his voice. At times it feels like he is caressing our hearts with sacred chant and tender prayer. At other times he soars into heavenly realms with this primal indigenous power. His voice is just a stunning combination of mastery and innocence. The result is an album that calms the busy mind, soothes the broken heart and helps open those hearts that are shut down. It is a great gift to the world. Put on your earphones and listen deeply. This is medicine music.

All in all, Montana certainly lived up to this vanity license plate I spotted in a parking lot.


But of course, nothing can top the license plate on Joan’s Prius.

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