Short summers are a hallmark of living in Montana. What feels like yesterday’s wildflowers have given way to the golden hues of early autumn. This year’s summer season seems to have been especially short. Perhaps it’s due to the drawn-out cool wet spring that lasted into June. Or perhaps it’s due to home projects requiring too many trips to town rather than following our instincts in the backwoods of Yellowstone. Wood-cutting has run late this season; we finally got our last load in this week. Usually wood is in by early July and we feel a sense of accomplishment, which gives us time to enjoy the rest of the summer. Or perhaps the season’s quick passage is due to being another year older. With each year, time seems to fly by ever more quickly. The angst of childhood impatient anticipation was replaced long ago by adult stoicism. And now, when I look forward, I realize that there is less forward in my life than backward. My curiosity and enthusiasm for adventure remain, however., and with each passing season, I feel an increased urgency to fit everything in. Who knows what may happen in the next year? Though the future is unknown for all of us at any age, it seems even more uncertain with each birthday. I want to experience it all, see it all, embrace it all. While I can. While it’s still there.
I realize I used a lot of ‘it’s in those sentences. What do I mean by ‘it’? How do I put ‘it’ into words? Here goes a try: It is the land. It is the experience of being connected with the land and with other living beings. It is the joy of moving and learning. It is love. It is life.
We grabbed a bit of ‘it’ this week. September sun enticed us away from house chores and we wandered through fields of dry grasses and sagebrush above the Yellowstone River. Following historic trails now used mainly by bison and migrating pronghorn and elk, we hiked silently through valleys and over ridges. A watchful bull bison caused us to detour, and we did, talking to him quietly, praising his beauty and letting him know we meant no harm. After a prolonged stare, he returned to grazing and we walked on by. A few harebells and asters hung on, putting blue and purple periods to the golden paragraphs of grassy meadows. Bones and antlers attracted us away from our intended route, and we read life and death stories in the land. A few hours of meandering restored our equanimity and calmed our souls. Days like this are what I want to grab and hold on to. Yet they slip away like silk through my fingers. And that is ok. As it should be.