Glacier National ParkI have visitors in town and it is summer. This means I facilitate as much saturation of natural beauty as possible from dawn to dusk, and since it gets dark around ten o’clock this time of year, that’s two days in one. It means that we drive the Going-to-the-sun road in Glacier National Park. It means, on our car ride there and back, we traverse the mighty and currently flooded Flathead River myriad times in one day. Each time we inwardly (or outwardly) gasp at its power, backtracking in our brains and eventually lifting our heads to the still-snowpack in the high country—from glacier to stream to creek to lake to creek to river to lake to the Columbia to the sea. We are going to its genesis. We might see bear. We might see bighorn sheep. We might see mountain goat, elk, moose, Harlequin duck. I have seen all of them. This is my eighteenth summer in Montana.

But when visitors come, I never really feel like they see what I know of this fairly inconceivable force of beauty and force of force. You could spend a lifetime in Glacier and not really see what there is to see or experience what there is to experience. Driving through and stopping at scenic lookouts worthy of a Springbok puzzle, or taking a day hike to Hidden Lake, just doesn’t match what it is to spend hours on the beaches of Lake MacDonald finding tiny smooth rocks with rings on them to give to your nephews for graduation back in Boston. Or breast-feeding your child a week into her life, on riverbanks knowing that a mother grizzly is doing the same not too far away. Or hiking in high country when the tourists have gone and not seeing another human for hours, so that it’s like you are a discoverer, and maybe you are. Or riding your bike by moonlight down Logan Pass, a whole loneliness. It’s not possible to have these sorts of experiences in a day or two, really. Just like a tourist anywhere. And as much as I know my guests are feeling the Montana love, I always feel a little sad for them in a way.

There’s a phrase around here: getting after it. “How’s your summer going?” “I’ve been getting after it.” We know what “it” is. It’s life here. It’s home here. suppose this is the difference between visiting a place and living in a place. In that case, I’m honored to call this home. Come take a peek.

To read more of Laura Munson’s work, go to her website or blog These Here Hills

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