Thursday, October 15, 2009

Missoula 2009, Episode 2

The idea of home, the definition of home, is not a concrete one for me. I've had a few different ones in my life -- south-central Pennslvania; Susquehanna University for college; Alexandria, Virginia; Missoula, Montana; and now the prairies of eastern Montana -- and the special thing about these places is that I still consider each and every one home. There are memories and traits unique to each place and I treasure them all. But Missoula is special. It was an awakening for me.
I traveled here in August 2001, sight unseen, knowing in my heart that it was the right thing to do, with the goal of a Master's degree in sight. I moved myself in to a university-owned apartment after my mom and I had traveled across the country in my little Toyota pick-up with all my worldly possessions stowed in the back. My mom headed home and I was left in this mountain town knowing no one but myself and with only the promise of an October visit from a college friend to keep me company.
And the loneliness was quite marvelous. I woke up to this view up Mount Sentinel every morning, took short hikes in the mountains around town with the distinct aroma of pine sap boiling in the hot, dry, August afternoons. I woke up to snow on Lolo Peak the day after Labor Day. I settled in to a routine of school and research. I was content to be on my own, enjoying school, wondering where life would take me. And then Danish Cowboy showed up.
But I continued with my studies and we had a long-distance relationship for 1.5 years until I graduated, making the trek from mountains to the prairies (or vice versa) every two to three weeks. And I continued to love Missoula and ride a bike everywhere I went, as is custom in these parts.
Missoula is, first and foremost, a college town. The irony and multi-cultural spirit that is lacking on the prairie runs wild here. You are as likely to find a staunch Republican as a cross-dressing hippie bellied up to any given bar. And you'll find them conversing with one another. Peacefully. It is a town surrounded by mountains stretching in all directions with hiking trails into the wilderness backcountry beckoning at almost every turn. And perhaps most important for me, it is an inspiring little town, a hotbed of grassroots activism. Activism for open land and land trusting, acitivism for Community Supported Agriculture, activism for sustainable logging, and activism for being your own person and expressing your beliefs and having them accepted. Perhaps not agreed with, but accepted. I love it here.
P.S. I apologize for the lack of pictures of Missoula experiences. However, the country boy that I was traveling with asked one too many times how the 4 way stop signs worked and whether he could turn right on red. Then we got lost in a gnarly series of roundabouts on the way to the mall. So we grumbled at each other for an hour or two and then I took over the driving. All was well, although there is a considerable lack of pictures of what makes Missoula so amazing. Never fear though, I did get some pictures on Day 2 of Missoula '09 (to be shared tomorrow).
P.P.S.: The country boy is really good at driving in mud and on ice-covered roads, which is more useful to me than navigating city streets, considering where we live. He needs to be commended for this.

No comments:

Post a Comment