The Montana I love
I would be hard pressed to say that I chose Montana when there is more truth in the idea that Montana chose me – or at least won’t let me go.
I’ve made my escape twice with the intent to never return. In 1998 I moved to Salem, Ore., for college and in the act of self-discovery, I found myself back in Missoula – for school – by 1999.
At the end of college I moved to Chattanooga, Tenn., for work at a newspaper. Thinking I had accomplished what most of my peers had done before me, venturing beyond the boundaries of Big Sky Country to greener pastures.
After five years at the paper, a brief move to London and a short residence in Atlanta, the search for a job and an unforeseen magnet pulled me back to my home state.
It is incredibly easy to be blind to and neglect those singular elements in our own backyard. When you live next to the stream, it is easy to say, “I’ll wet my line tomorrow.”
The stream is always there with silent trout swaying in the current. It is a constant, and something I can put off.
It took me leaving Montana to fully recognize how spectacular of a place it truly is.
It’s an honor to be a part of a place that takes effort to maintain open lands, wild country and scenic vistas. With near immediate access to world-class trout streams, rolling hills, skiing and crystal-clear lakes. Where heavenly reaching mountain peaks give way to flat, endless plains flowing to the edge of the horizon.
Our back-yard playground extends from Glacier National Park with pristine Rocky Mountain landscape through the great prairies where the buffalo once again graze and the smell of sage perfumes the air.
How could I not be captivated when reintroduced to this state of extremes?
Camping alone on the prairie with the limitless Milky Way blanketing me with stars while the dance of Northern Lights hypnotizes me to slumber. Finding a place in the creek where I’m suddenly alone, tucked into a tiny crease in the mountain landscape. The only sound the gurgle of the water and the light slip of my line as I cast. I am dwarfed by the majesty.
Wholly insignificant and minute, yet at the same time comforted and welcomed into the natural world surrounding me, interconnected through an infinite series of unseen forces. I am absolutely free.
I had a conversation with a friend a few years ago – another victim of the Montana vacuum, leaving only to get sucked back in – and we both were surprised by our differing perspectives of the Montana we grew up in. Hailing from Billings, her predominant memories of cowboys, ranchers and short rolling hills of rocky prairie seemed foreign to my fly-fishing, mountain climbing, college-city influenced upbringing in Missoula.
This gets to the heart of my excitement of being a photographer in Montana. Over the past decade, after my return, I have been given the opportunity to look deeper into the place I once took for granted and find adventures, meet new people, poke around in unfamiliar places and ultimately explore and tell stories.
The people of Montana are proud and private and I find that deep respect for privacy paired with a willingness to listen and help their neighbors.
A rich history and honesty billows from the fields like dust on the boots of the ranchers, farmers, miners and loggers that built the state, while the advancement in technologies and high-speed interconnectedness helps cities big and small hum and buzz with youth and a new kind of growth.
Artists abound in Montana, world-class storytellers in a vast variety of media, happy to find a space for respite to create. They choose to be here because of the creative electricity, the solitude and sense of community.
I love how craft brewing has boomed in the state, placing Montana fourth in most craft breweries per capita. I love the small weekly rodeos where families gather and young bull riders cut their teeth on the backs of giants for the first time.
From the ski-bums and organic farmers, commercial grain growers and livestock ranchers, ultra-runners and mountain bikers, the politics of water and the rights of land – the state is endless stories.
When I left Montana I could not express precisely what I would miss. Coming back I understand home is too many things to generalize let alone summarize.
Everyone has their own perspective about how they fit into the fabric of this wonderful state. I am honored and so proud that I have the opportunity to share a few of those stories.
About Intersection Journal
Telling authentic stories in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota with photography.
We are so excited for our relaunch on May 3, 2016.
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