Saturday, July 7, 2012

Returning to a Thread

Some 42 years ago, the government moved my Dad to Missoula, Montana. When he and my Mom settled in to life in Missoula, Dad requested that this be the last transfer, and he had enough seniority that his request was granted. So here is where I spent some of my most formative years...living on a hill overlooking Rattlesnake Canyon. We are not sure why it is called "rattlesnake" as one hasn't been sighted in years, and whatever sightings there has been, they have been extremely rare. Nonetheless, it's a nice name, one that lends some pizzazz to a person's living environment.

This hill is just up the street from my childhood home...where my Mom still lives and the memory of my dear Dad remains. I wandered this hill, and those around it, for what seemed to a teenager's mind to be ages. Now the hills are more populated and homes have been crawling up the slopes of my hills...and yeah, I think of them as mine. Probably 1000 other people considered them to be their own. I guess that makes us brothers and sisters in a way so let me say "Howdy" in my Texas-influenced voice to all my brothers and sisters.

I'd roam these hills alone at times, other times with some friends. I had a friend who owned a horse, and she pastured her horse in the field just across the Rattlesnake Creek Drive from Lincoln Hills Drive...which is now all built with homes. She was allowed to borrow a horse from neighbors a few times and together with our trusty steeds, we roamed these hills. I spent so much time in these hills that one day I figured out that I was a person, unique and with a mind that like to think deep things when wandering the hills. It was sort of like a Descartes moment "I think, therefore I am." I used to tell folks I found my soul in those hills, and left my heart there too. Without realizing what was going on, I had my first of many spiritual awakenings.

So early this morning, I leashed up my Mom's dog, McDuff, and together we went roaming. I'm 40 some years older, out of shape, but I still trekked up the trail that has been cut for the use of those who love these hills. My hills have changed. Not just built with more homes, but trees are gone, new ones taking their place. Most of the trees there are younger than my absence from these hills.

I have a feeling I may know these trees, but at the time I knew them, they were not conjoined. No matter, it was good to revisit some old friends. By the time I was taking this picture, I was on the downhill return of my "hike" feeling warm, toasty and refreshed, even though the climb was a tad rough on this out-of-shape body. I left some sweat up in the hills, taken away by the cool breeze of a western Montana dawn. This tree has a lesson for me, but I still need to meditate on what it was telling me. I will know soon enough; hopefully it will be a tender lesson, not a harsh one. But no matter, a lesson is a lesson, and they are always for our benefit, if we survive them. I'm just glad this tree survived whatever took away all its brothers and sisters that I knew 40 years ago.

Norman Maclean came from these parts and he was haunted by the waters. I am haunted by the trees. Either way, I understand what he meant by stating all things merge into one. Because I was 14 years old this morning, without losing any of the lessons I gained these past 40 years.

No one, and I mean no one, has done a better job expressing what if feels to be in western Montana than Norman Maclean. The world saw the movie (and a very young Brad Pitt in what was probably his breakout role) and some have read his writings. Those of you who have seen the movie but never read the book, do yourself a favor, find a copy and read it. Than man wrote the most beautiful prose I have ever read, and I have read a lot.

I will leave you with a quote that has a whole lot of meaning for me:

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. 
To him all good things-trout as well as eternal salvation-come by grace 
and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.” 

― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

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