Monday, July 14, 2008

The Last Best Place

"I am 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."

Steinbeck couldn't have said it better. I am not really a world traveler (ok, I did go to Tanzania, but before that my world travels were limited to Banff, Victoria, and Tijuana). I have not been through the Colorado Rockies. I haven't hiked the Appalachian Trail. I haven't been to Maine. I haven't traveled Alaska. So there may be some who would consider my love of Montana to be a little limited. But I don't think I will ever find a place that is as beautiful as where I grew up. And I don't think it's solely nostalgia talking, either. I have lived in Minnesota for 20 years and I don't own one photo or coffee table book of any place there. On the other hand, most of the things hanging on my walls or decorating my house are from Montana. Go figure. Our kids have ridden jet skis, ATVs, and shot guns. They have exploded large (dangerous) fireworks with their uncles. They have rafted rivers. They have, in short, vacationed the way we grew up. And lived to tell the tale.

I think Calandria would understand how a person can feel about a place where they grew up. From the moment I step off the plane or out of the car at my mother's house, the smell of the ponderosa pines hits me and I breathe deep every time I step outside. Often there is a tinge of smoke in the air from the forest fires that spring up every August. There is a woodsy smell that I don't smell anywhere in Minnesota. There's so much that has changed and modernized since I lived here, but there is so much that remains, too. I love the familiar mountains (I remember an old boyfried of a friend that found the mountains claustrophobic, being from the East Side. Crazy.) that surround the valley. I love Glacier Park. I worked at Granite Park Chalet for a summer and was a park ranger for the next two and it was wonderful. I love(d) spending a week there with Mark's brother and his family, camping in the same site in the same campground they camped at as kids. I love the fact that we go (went) there every year and took the same hikes together, even though it meant we never went to any place new. I love the fact that when we did branch out (Yellowstone, Black Hills) we always missed being in Glacier. The feeling of being so far away from people, so alone...Glacier is really a park where you can get away from people easily. On our hike yesterday we drove an hour, hiked for two (at Ava's pace) and were the only people within 50 miles. It's a feeling we never had in Tanzania, where we always went everywhere with a guide and so to a certain extent saw things through their eyes. Every time we are here I feel so lucky to have grown up in this place and get to visit.

I love Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp. I started going there when I was 9 years old and worked there my last year at the age of 19--and I picked up my 9 year old niece up from her first year there this week (Mark camped and worked there, too). I loved all my counselors, waking up and looking at the sun over Flathead Lake, the retreat center (we settled on our church in Bloomington in part because the view out the windows reminded us of the retreat center). It's another place where I can sit in the bunk that I slept in over 30 years ago. I hope that my kids have a chance to spend a practically perfect week there someday.

It's going to be a bittersweet visit, I think. My mother is planning to sell the house within a year. It's not a fancy house at all. When we all stay here (there will be 13 people staying here the last week of July) we share 1 bathroom. It now sits right on a busy highway that was recently expanded.

I am not nostalgic for the house. I am sad that this may be the last summer we will spend in Montana. There is no way we can afford to buy anything here, and without a "base" we will be simply tourists, coming for a camping week. I am so sad at the thought! The snow is still too deep and all the trails in Glacier are still closed, so our hiking that we had planned is significantly curtailed. We were so excited to visit all those places and now we won't be able to.

*sigh* I didn't expect this.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Work in Progress

If you are checking the blog and find odd colors or weird layouts, bear with me. I'm trying to get a look that is a little less earthy and more in keeping with our (soon to be) new home. If you have any hints or links for personalizing backgrounds, etc. please post them here!

If you want to see where we'll be teaching for the next 3 years, you can go HERE and click on one of the school's promo videos. We're very excited!