An Inside Writing Poem by Deborah Houlihan O’Connell

An Inside Writing Poem

by Deborah Houlihan O’Connell

Silver Linings

Often anxious, I spend hours outside in contemplation,

Watching clouds tumble over Sheep Mountain into the west end of the Blackfoot Valley.

Against a cerulean sky, clouds in all variations of shapes and sizes drift one after another,

Stacked tightly like the sterling silver teaspoons in my Mother’s antique box.

Shadows of cloud silhouettes trace the faded travois marks on the Kokalahishkit Trail below,

Traveled for centuries by the Salish and Kootenai Indians on their journey to the bison hunting grounds.

I live in the Land of the Big Sky,

Where nature’s mélange of wildlife, mountains, rivers, and sky all blend into one grand seamless landscape.

Yet, against that backdrop I watch a foreboding sky,

Wondering if dark clouds might be a harbinger of a perfect storm.

Some days, my perception of life is upside down,

I see colossal Ponderosa pines and feathery wisps of prairie smoke float aimlessly above me, untethered in a world gone awry.

Other days, I am centered and recover my balance,

Standing steadfast on sacred ground, I breathe deeply and watch the clouds drift in ebb-and-flow down the length of the valley.

I am learning that humanity, like clouds, has deckled edges,

A contrast between translucent and opaque.

In the evening, when the sun’s last rays illuminate the western sky, some clouds have silver linings,

And I am inspired to face another day.


Deborah Houlihan O’Connell lives with her husband, two horses and two dogs on the bank of the historic Blackfoot River in northwest Montana. Known as the Crown of the Continent, it is one of the last contiguous untamed landscapes in the United States. Her writing is inspired by our inherent connection to nature and the importance of protecting our wildlife and open spaces.

While earning a BFA in Journalism, she interned and freelanced in both radio (NPR) and print and was published in newspaper and trade publications. Despite intentions to pursue a career in writing, life got in the way – marriage, children and a 30-year career in the corporate world. She has just retired this spring and is finally back full circle, doing what she loves most.

This poem was written in response to Rituals, a creative writing challenge created by Jane Clarke as part of the 2020 Inside Writing showcase.