The Return to Montana

As I write this I am listening to “Pale September” by Fiona Apple, this mixed with other female vocalists have been the sounds of this summer. I think that is important because music often moves us and makes us feel differently, more or less. (I suggest listening to it now, maybe you’ll feel what I am feeling as I write this).

What is the purpose of writing all this down? I am sure of only one thing, its not only for the reader necessarily, but maybe just for me. Maybe the purpose is to spin yet another fine web and send it off into the universe. Perhaps this writing will reach someone who is not fitting in, not feeling beautiful, not feeling driven to find their own happiness, not speaking their truths to people who need to hear it or maybe to the folks that forget our lives are not infinite but need to be reminded its finite.

Last summer I spent the summer, my first as a fisheries intern, in an entirely different mood and spirit. The summer was excellent in many ways, however in the end I felt my world was closed, surrounded by those with full lives and full hearts. I was outside of that circle, or so I felt, because of my differences from those who dwell here in the mountains. The summer was full of beautiful experiences which all shaped my opinion of the area and created a well inside of me that previous had been absent. When I returned to Washington for my school year (knowing that I would be returning to Montana the next year) my life was dark for a time, I stayed close to the couch eating and watching Parks and Rec. I didn’t know the reason that I reacted this way at the time to the changes of coming home. I decided it must be how I was spending my time differently, in the summer I was outside Monday through Friday in what most people would call Gods country–or Bob Ross’s country in my opinion. The absence of the sunshine caused my well of self to dwindle greatly, as I am like a cold blooded creature, I require the sun. Regardless of the effects of leaving Montana, I grew out of my home period and move on still unknowing why the mountains refused to leave my heart. Fast forward to this summer (2017).

Arrival was different this time, this place was a known, I knew where to go and I had people in my life to spend time with. Immediately I feel myself reaching out and connecting in a way that I had not before, like spider webs my spirit reaches out until a thin invisible net has surrounded me. My opinion began to change immediately and suddenly I am beginning to see what could be a semblance of home or at least possibility. I have met individuals which broadened my scope even further and for reasons beyond my understanding released me from fears that have long since bore upon my shoulders. I am suddenly seeing so many things in an entirely different light and I am sure we could say this about all experiences, they change us in some way. The universe works in such amazing ways sometimes giving us what we need exactly when we need it, then taking it away and so on and so forth. I am solid in self and feel myself becoming a woman finally at almost 30, I feel beautiful, capable and I know that I will receive what I need. I was drawing some time back and found myself drawing this goddess like woman walking through the woods at night, moonlight pouring upon her shoulders as she walked carrying a lantern. Upon her head was a set of antlers and she carried a hunters knife. Later that night I found out that the full moon, that was to be that night, was called the “full buck” moon. I felt alive, connected and that night I danced under that moon feeling more whole than I have ever.

This area is so open and full of possibility, so many places one could live here their whole lives while never seeing everything. The mountains humble you and the peaks breathe life sealing up the cracks in your spirit. The wind even speaks to you as it passes through the trees, carrying that wonderful pine sap smell. Every day that I spend out here I feel that well I created last summer filling, while previously it laid empty. I used to think that I had a center of power which was fueled with; working out (feeling capable), solitude (mixed with some social interaction) and being outside in any manner. I find that my center has changed somewhat it is now being fueled with; the desire to be capable but more so self reliant, having alone time but also creating deep community connection, still being outside in any manner and now allowing myself to just be present–sit and be still.

I do not know what my future hold for me, I feel as though I am at a intersection and I am waiting for the breeze to send me in the right direction. This may sound like something that is negative but actually it is not, it is anything but. I feel free and something that has been mostly absent in my life–hope. I have always been a realist mixed with a little old fashion romantic and a touch of altruism. Hope flickered to light not long ago, was quickly snuffed out and now I feel the radiance of the warmth moving through the cockles of my heart and spirit. I will be okay, I will always be okay until the moment that I cease to be and even that will be alright.

“Love flowers best in openness and freedom”-Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire 

I used to think that this referred to only romantic relationships but now I believe it means more than that, self love and love of the things you care about (not always people). Allowing yourself to be free but also open, allowing the good in with the bad and accepting that things will virtually always be out of your control. The best I can do now is to be honest, kind, open and hope that all the other shit falls away.

I am here to say that whoever you are out there, life is all around at us at all times and sometimes we all forget that simple fact. We are all broken, in a state of mending in some way at all times. Sometimes perspective is everything, one of my favorite songwriters wrote these lines

“Cant you see that a breeze is just a change of pace?” and “Stuck in the rain? Do a rain dance” 

Maybe you’ll see worth in those line. I wish so much hope, love and light to all of my people (and beyond) and to myself so that next time I feel spent and empty I can drink from this like a flask of hope.

Thank you if you made it to the end, much love-Leah



The Things We Don’t Speak Of

Man posts newspaper ad seeking leads in killing of wife, daughter over 9 years ago

Just as life was definite, so is death. This has been on my mind for the last year or so, the impending darkness that beckons us from our first breath. It terrifies me some nights, that my thoughts and I one day would fade from this world. It’s something I cannot fathom and I cannot fathom it for my loved ones either. I think that death and the fragility of our lives should be talked about open, not kept in a scary closet where we store the things that we’ll never speak of.

Often when I go out into the wilderness by myself , at times I feel apprehensive as most people would. What exactly do I feel apprehensive about? Strangers, unreasonable predator fear and just the unknowing of what is out there. I remember my first trip out on a long hike by myself in the cascades I got to the trail-head put my heavy backpack on immediately wanted to go home, I didn’t, but every noise for the first miles scared the life out of me. I ran across this story about the daughter and mother shot in the head for no reason and something hit me, that trail the first one that scared me was this very trail that they lost their lives on, Pinnacle Lake Trail. I remember reaching the top of this long climb and there was this beautiful vista, sitting at the edge of the trees looking out on the view were two crosses and I had always wondered who they were and what happened, now I know.

The back of my brain says that I should never go back out there to that area, to that mountain, but the other larger more dominant says this: We cannot let fear ruin life for us. We cannot hide under our beds hoping that death doesn’t find us or that evil people simply pass by us. Life is hard, and hopefully long, but for most that is not true. It is a blessing to live long enough to truly know what it means to live.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
―Mark Twain 

You will die. Maybe peacefully, maybe in an hospital or maybe from a senseless act of violence, but it doesn’t change the outcome, fear won’t either. This I will say, knowing that one day your light will go out, knowing that maybe you won’t make it to see all of your goals meet fruition , what are you going to do with that? Why do we wait to tell people we care, or go to a place we have always wanted to go to or even to just take a day off of work. We have learned that we must put our head down and follow the paths of all those before us- Work, home, work , home……. until we get embalmed (so we cannot decay even once in the earth that bore us) and occupy a coffin (our family likely couldn’t even afford) unaged for all of time. Do what makes you happy, I am not talking about “living each day as if it were you last” because if that was true we wouldn’t need to pay our bills or worry about the consequences of dropping acid. What I am talking about is remembering that your happiness is that matters and you are in charge of it, every minute of every day regardless what you actually think. Make sure you are following where your soul beckons, I think you will find that it takes you strange and magical places.

Also, don’t let “evil” people scare you away from the things you love (I am also telling this to myself) because then fear has won, they have won.


Get up out of your snuggie and get outside!

Much Love, Leah

“If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture—that is immortality enough for me. And as much as anyone deserves.”
― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire