About Cynthia Doll

Living in the woods of Northwest Montana I have plenty of inspiration for my stories. When I'm not writing I'm hiking with my four-legged kids, Cooper and Sara. Or I might be kayaking one of the many small lakes, or the big lake, the Flathead. And there's always yard work living in the trees. And I have a job, of course, but I'm lucky and get to work at home. It's taken me a long time to get to "my place" here in the woods, and I'm grateful for every needle I have to rake, every weed that needs pulled, and every deck that needs shoveled through the long winters - all of those chores giving me thinking time for my next story!

Timeless Words

In this time of being up close and personal with our homes, I was doing some spring cleaning of my craft supplies and came across my grandmother’s notes that mom had saved for me.  Looking through them is interesting for a number of reasons.

20200406_104120She clearly didn’t want to waste paper with her thoughts so she gave a second use to something that she may not need or could get double use out of.  She made notes on business cards and pieces of old greetings cards.  And not grocery lists or other mundane info, but words that provided her comfort and inspiration.  Did she stop in the middle of a chore to make these notes or purposely sit down and write them out carefully in an evening?  I didn’t know my grandmother when I became an adult because I moved away, but was surprised when given these notes to find her a spiritual woman, though few of her notes are biblical quotes.  I don’t know what her sources were.   This is my favorite double-sided card:


20200406_104233My grandfather did the same thing.  Some of his notes went in all directions on an envelope or scrap of paper.  Here’s one specifically to me, written on the back of a prayer card.

20200408_150527I don’t know if all people in their generation did this.  My grandparents were Kentucky farmers and I’m sure they conserved and made do, having lived through the depression and the uncertainties that go with farming.   What trials made them turn to comforting words to give them strength?  Crop failure?  A brutal winter?  Illness?  I know when my mom was a little girl the country went through a polio scare that lasted years.   At times during the 1940s and 1950s children had to be quarantined and could have required treatment with an iron lung or possibly died.  Could my grandmother’s notes date from that time?   I can’t imagine what parents went through then, as now, worrying about the health and well-being of their children.

It would make my grandmother smile to know that all these years later her words are still providing comfort, strength and a smile in hard times.   I will save her notes and pay them forward.


Creative Juices

I wish I knew the reason that creativity comes and goes.  Mostly mine has been gone lately, though I had a sustained inspiration when I saw a southwest/cabin décor throw on the back of a couch in a high-end tourist shop.  It just so happened that my next stop was to a craft supply/mountain man hangout type of store (so cool) and I saw this small deer hide that just screamed expensive throw 😊  so home it came.


I pondered several weeks about a design, finding more inspiration and ideas in quilt patterns I like and also the self-imposed need to use up some of my current supplies.


20200106_191158 (1) I played around with squares and beads and folded leather.  I measured and thought and measured several times more.  Hard to determine the center on an asymmetrical hide but away I went and started cutting.

Mostly I was pleased at my stick-to-itiveness.  I worked on this for over a month and only put it away once.  I also don’t seem to have a long attention span these days, but I didn’t get bored with it once.  Good for me!  😀

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I’m pleased with the result.  It’s simple and totally usable with a comfy fleece backing.   I can compete with high-end tourist décor any day…well, any day my creative juices are flowing 😉




This is certainly the moment in our history that is having the biggest impact on my life.  Most historical events during my lifetime happened somewhere else and to somebody else, and I only watched the news on TV or read about them in the paper.   Wars happened, leaders came and went, people flew into space, and economies collapsed.  No one I knew was greatly effected so neither was I.   Now my job is on hold.  Supplies are hard to get, even in my little, remote-feeling Montana town.  I’m glad to be home and secure for the moment with my well-stocked pantry and freezer.  It has certainly made me take stock, think about perspective, and count some blessings.

Look out your window right now – what do you see?  Are there trees leafing out?  Can you hear birds?  Sometimes I see turkeys and they make funny noises 😊


Are you home, safe and warm with enough food to eat?  Do you have family close by, a pet to love?   Thankfully I have Coop!

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Or are you at a job that you’re grateful for?  Is there coffee there in the morning?  Do you have nice coworkers?  All these things, no matter how mundane or simple, are giant blessings.

Think about your bucket list – how many adventures have you marked off?  What fun things are left on it?  Are they doable?  Can you schedule at least one of them right now?   We need things to look forward to.  I’ve done everything on my bucket list.  I’ve been to Alaska and ridden a bike through a covered bridge in Vermont.   How lucky is that?  Thoughts of those things make me smile despite whatever turmoil is trying to put life on hold.   And there are still things to look forward to.  I have a new bucket list with things that may or may not happen but they’re something to work toward and hope for.  I want to go camping on a beach – totally doable and it’s fun to think about maybe doing that this summer.  Why not?

All of our days are numbered.  That’s not morbid, it’s a fact, so even when history-in-the-making wreaks havoc with life, don’t waste any of it!  Sit down and enjoy your favorite dessert, flip through a photo album and smile, or take a walk after dinner and be glad for all the sights and sounds that you’re able to see and hear.   Then take a nice hot shower.  Life is good 😀

“Every day may not be a Good day, But there is something Good in Every day.”  Alice Morse Earle

The Sweetest

“What good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?”  So says John Steinbeck in Travels with Charley.  And he loved Montana!

I can appreciate the benefits of cold here in Montana.  I may think differently if I lived in Minnesota 😊.  Living in the woods, I spend a lot of time outside.  There is always a view to be enjoyed, wind in the pines to be heard, cones to pick up, firewood to chop or snow to shovel.  I have critters of all sorts visiting my property.  Except for the occasional feather or the deposit of digested berries, it’s only in winter that I can really see who comes and goes.

Deer are the most common.  They leave lots of signs, mostly chewed off shrubs, but in the winter they add a bit of artful creativity.  Sometimes their little hooves leave heart-shaped prints.

When I first moved here rabbits were everywhere, so many I might see several a day.  I went to great effort to make my garden rabbit proof.   We had an influx of fox one year and the rabbits disappeared.  Now, though I don’t see them, they are making a comeback.  I’d never know it if  it weren’t for their distinctive prints in the snow.

I love feeding the birds in the winter.  I get the typical juncos, nuthatches, and chickadees, and I’m also treated with visits from nutcrackers, jays and flickers.   They all leave me crystallized artwork that can last for days.


The local flocks of turkeys keep me entertained with their comical tromping around.


Even the trees sprinkle their ideas on the white canvas.


I’ve talked about trade offs before.  Since I have no choice in our weather, I may as well enjoy what I can of each season.   Sometimes it’s a trial, I know, but I’m in good company.  Steinbeck loved it here as well.  I’m sorry couldn’t meet him, we’d have had lots to talk about.  😊

“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”


Home Fires

Can’t complain about a brutal winter with snow and icy roads this year in Montana.  Holy cow, except for a mean blast in October, we’ve had no winter to speak of.  The weekend before Christmas temps rose into the 50s.  This works fine for a school bus driver!  😊

I must say the snow makes things prettier.  Here’s my kitchen view with and without:



Even a light dusting reveals traffic info, like the turkeys that pass through, so I don’t mind that at all.  It also reveals unidentified tracks that are fun to ponder – like maybe the foxes are back!


Coop doesn’t care either way as long as the fire’s going.  I keep it stoked and he keeps toasty.  Nothing better than a happy dog.


We’ve gone back to winter temps now, in the low 20s this morning with an ugly, low overcast.  Still no snow in sight.  Me and Coop are good at bundling up and making the most of it.  Our hard work and free exercise over the past eight months have paid off with plenty of wood to keep our home fires burning!

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One Man’s Junk…

…could be this girl’s treasure 😊  I’ve always liked repurposing used, worn out, or just old stuff.  I often get frustrated at this point in my life because my house is “done.”  The walls are full and faux painted, every nook and cranny filled, available floor space covered.  But once in a while a fun project presents itself that I can still try to work into my decor.

Coop and I went out for a leisurely kayak ride on “our” little lake and…


We found junk!


I couldn’t imagine initially what I was pulling out of the water, a mess of wire stuffed under a tree that was only accessible from the water.  Oh boy, a mangled bed frame!  There was a homestead years ago on the lake, so either it came from them or some low life who thought it was okay to dump their trash in the lake.  At any rate, I fished it out and was thrilled to take it home.

I also have a couple of bed springs from a bed frame sticking out of the dirt on a trail that runs through the hills behind the lake, just a corner poking up, something to surely ruin a tire.   I’ve had 3 of my dogs back in the woods on that trail so the springs I was able to pull off that little corner have sentimental value 😊.  And, yes, I’ve tried pulling up the whole frame but no luck…


I use Pinterest for lots of ideas but still manage to come up with a few of my own.   I’ve been having fun putting other supposedly useless items to use with the springs, including insulators and other pieces of wrought iron (pieces of fence and old lamps that I’ve collected).








So there it is – my latest effort to reuse junk.  I haven’t worked all of it into my home’s decor yet but it’s fun trying!


Color Pictures

I probably don’t need to say much or explain things regarding these pictures.  We all know that fall is the best!

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Trees start changing gradually, teasing us.

Tree almost


Then almost overnight we’re immersed in colors that range from coral to gold, lemon to burnt orange.   Look out New England – you’ve got competition!


It’s time for pumpkin patches with pumpkins and hay rides and hungry goats!

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And walks in the woods…




Of course, there are tradeoffs – always tradeoffs.  All the lovely maples eventually drop their leaves…20191018_101801

Here’s my driveway before and after raking.


We had supervision while we raked.  Well, I raked, Coop watched: (turkeys are at left center)


And then comes burning.  So much to burn:

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And when it’s all done you treat yourself to another walk in the woods!!!





Time Machines

This weekend I went to a fly-in.  It’s been a while since I’ve been to one, and, though it seems simple enough, it can be hard.  Fly-ins transport me back in time, an emotional journey.

This annual event is small here in our town but draws dozens of planes of every purpose and vintage along with hungry pilots, families and people like me who enjoy the planes and a pancake breakfast.  This year was not a disappointment with a variety of old and new, large and small, useful and just-for-fun flying machines.  Just seeing these planes took me back to another life, and the lives of others, the memories of which are precious to me.

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There was a Cessna 150 (over on the far right) like I learned to fly in.  It looks like a toy now but seeing it tugged at my heart – I spent a lot of hours in a little plane just like that.  Flying was simpler then with far less technology.  My instructor, Hal Chappel, sat beside me for hours, his unlit pipe dangling from his teeth, guiding me through radio technique, emergency procedures, and now-outdated VOR navigation.  Our time over Phoenix was usually at sun rise, hours I will never forget.


There was a handsome, yellow Harvard from Canada there, a WWII trainer.  A friend of mine had an American version of that plane, a T6, and took me for a ride once upon a time.  It has a big radial engine out front, and nothing sounds better or more powerful when you’re thundering over the desert with one of those pulling you.

There was a 1928 Travel Air there, a restored beauty.  There was an unusual little float plane that had a single float as part of the fuselage, and a sleek, black Pitts that I’ve watched playing over our valley.  A little Robinson helicopter hovered in the background off the ramp.  I hovered a little Hughes 300 once, out over the desert, and I managed not to trim off any cactus with the tail rotor 😉



Planes came and went during my visit to the air field.  When those planes lifted off I knew exactly how it felt – the wheels leave the ground and you are part of the air, closer to the clouds, seeing the world as landscapes and horizons!  To say that flying made my spirit soar may seem banal but platitudes have truth in their origins.

Fly-ins used to be a routine part of my life, in Arizona, California and Washington.  In that life I went with friends, husband, or my dad.  How I miss the shared discoveries, the hangar flying, and the heart-stopping roar of engines.  I smile with each memory, trying to ignore the single tear.


Silver Linings

August is my least favorite month.  Day after day in the 90s makes me crabby and lethargic, mostly ’cause it’s too hot to sleep.  And the yard is dried up and crispy, and the long-awaited spring and summer weather are sadly over, and thoughts are focused on fall.  If we could just get through August!  We were lucky this year – half of August treated us to cooler temps and some rain!  Go figure.  To be fair, there are a few advantages to the late summer misery and I try to enjoy them as best I can.  Like  –

It’s serviceberry season!  Yay.  You’ve gotta catch them just right.  I watch them on our walks around the lake.  Can’t be too green, can’t be drying up and shriveled.  I didn’t go hog wild this year but picked enough to make some tasty syrup with a one-of-a-kind taste.  Yum, worth the trouble but Coop didn’t understand the fascination at all!

service berry collage

He’s a little happier going kayaking.  Only a little though.  Stumps are a threat and there’s lots of splashy things in the water he doesn’t understand.   Coop’s a trooper though and mostly glad to be out with mom, and always manages to get himself and mom soaked.  I know he laughs inside 😊

Kayak collage

It’s also finish-up-chores season.  This year my deck was ready for sanding and staining.  Yuck, but so nice when it’s done.

Deck collage

In the mornings I’ve been sitting on my freshly stained and rearranged deck and enjoying the fruits of my labor.  And my garden.  August heat does wonders for homegrown tomatoes and there’s not much better than home grown veggies.


The throbbing days will continue for another six weeks or so.  It won’t be long after and I’m sure I’ll be looking back and wishing for some of their warmth.   When that happens I’ll do a silver linings blog on the advantages of winter again, and please be patient with my rantings 😉


The Undercover Book Tour and the Traveling Gate

It was a long time in the planning.  A long time – inspired by dreams of a new truck.  What better thing with a new, reliable truck than a road trip!  (Read my blog “Tribute to a Truck” to see what I had to give up, still breaks my heart.  It went to a good home, though, so have to move on.)  Of course family came to mind.   Two trips morphed into one and plans came together, including delivery of said new truck.

It was the perfect time of year.  Wild flowers in Utah were at their spring peak.  Penstemon painted road cuts a bright orange.  Blue flax poked out of roadside greenery.  Lake Powell was a planned stop.  The temperature was perfect.  Coop played in the water.  The view of the diminishing water source was alarming.


Crossing into the Arizona desert didn’t show off with any flowers but the colors of the mesas and rock formations made up for it.  My favorite southwest flower is the bougainvilla, and it was in profusion for all of my southwest travels.  Once I was on the coast there were flowers and blooming trees that were now unfamiliar to me, but my favorite, the jacaranda, was still showing off.  I had visits with all my family and a couple of friends.   The trip was a success in many ways!

Another part of my road trip plan was to distribute The Sparrow’s Choice, of which I have plenty of copies to share.  I visited six states and numerous locations in each of those states received at least one. 

Books were surreptitiously left or volunteered up front.   My book is now in Nehi, Utah, Prescott, Az, Phoenix, Poway, California, Rancho Santa Margarita,  Dana Point, Mission Viejo, Placer County, Monterey,  and Ft. McDermitt, Nevada.  Even if no movie producers pick up a copy of my book, I wish happy reading to all those who come across it.

Book collage

As a bonus to my trip, I was able to bring home a gate that my dad built 60+ years ago.  For years it served as the crossing point from the front of our house to the back, hanging there keeping us little kids secure through our vulnerable years.  It served as my back stop when I learned to ride a unicycle.  And dad built it…

After being stashed in my mom’s shed after the addition of a garage, the gate now has a new home.  It’s exact function hasn’t been determined but it’s glad to be stationary again.  From Phoenix on it was tucked in the back of the truck, silently enduring a 2000-mile trip tucked under camping equipment, scavenged rocks and sliding around on sea sand and miscellaneous souvenirs I tossed in the back of the truck.  It had a couple of days to stretch its boards a bit in Mission Viejo.  It handled the trip like a champ.

Gate collage.jpgIt will have a good view wherever it ends up.  It may become house decor.  I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, it’s wondering what kind of place this is – distant hills, big pines, cooler temps and new smells.  It wonders where the bougainvillea went 🙂


It was the perfect time of year.  Wild flowers in Utah were at their spring peak.  painted road cuts a bright orange.  Blue flax hid in the roadside greenery.  Lake Powell was a planned stop.  The temperature was perfect, though the view of a diminishing water source was alarming.  Crossing into the Arizona desert didn’t show off with any flowers but the colors of the mesas and rock formations made up for it.  My favorite southwest flower is thand it was in profusion for most of my trip.  Once I was on the coast there were flowers and blooming trees that I hadn’t a clue about, but the jacaranda, one of my favorites from my days in Southern California, was still showing off.