“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.”
― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
On Tuesday, I am heading west. I will load up my little man, hit the gas, and watch Montana slip away in my rearview mirror.
and I will mourn it.
At a time in my life when I am mourning both a marriage and an expectation of a healthy baby, it is Montana that seems to be the hand I don't want to let go of.
There is nowhere else in the world where my feet just belong to the ground, where I feel an insane connection to the earth. Call me a hippie, but there is just something spiritual about belonging to this land, and breathing in this air.
Maybe it has something to do with the flowers that smell as sweet as the childhood I spent here picking them.
Or the fact that the ashes of both my son and grandfather are embedded in this dirt, and hidden among the pebbles at the bottom of the lake I swim in.
It might be the dark. The way that the stars saturate a sky that isn't washed away by city lights. How lying on this grass and looking up at night can make a person feel so small, and their worries even smaller.
This is home.
This life is ours, and I know that I belong here. Where things move slowly and seem to just get done easier.
I will miss pulling over to cast a few lines. I will miss sitting at the counter of the gas station diner and listening to the old men, the neighbors, sip their coffee and discuss things like hunting season, wolf management, and firewood.
A life of simplicity that I fear we might be giving up, as we trade it in for culture, delicious food, and indoor entertainment. (Tacoma, WA is not without it perks.)
Maybe I am being dramatic, I know that we will be back. A tiny thump under my hand reminds me that we have to go, and that we should. That I am doing what is best for my children and that this, in turn, it also what's best for me.
Still, Montana is so much a part of me that leaving it behind feels the same as leaving behind a family member. I have spent a lifetime building a relationship with this sweet little middle-of-nowhere, and have found comfort in its streams, mountains, and at the end of unmarked dirt roads.
This is a beauty that you never "get used to." A beauty that grounds you, and forces you to acknowledge how overpowering nature is. How little control you hold, and how that's okay.
A beauty that I know has seeped into my soul, and will stay there.
No matter where I go.
With the coordinates of my favorite place in the world tattooed on my wrist, and a compass tattooed on the other, I will never be without this place or the push I might need in the other direction.
I just have to remind myself that we are headed in the right direction. This might be a quick detour, it might be a longer road than we expected. Either way, we are going to enjoy this ride.
and eventually, we will find our way back home.