Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Moment I Fell In Love

The other day, when everyone else was absorbed in football, I was watching "The River Runs Through It." It was the first time I'd ever seen it. Before, when I told people I'd never seen it before they gasped in astonishment. Now, I understand why, and it made me remember the moment I fell completely in love with Montana.

It was an early summer morning, way up in the mountains of the wilderness, when I found myself hiking alone, as fast as I could, with my bear spray at hand. I had separated from my crew the pervious evening to continue up the trail with a couple guys we'd met the week before. I had heard about the age old cabin up the trail for four summers, and finally had found an opportunity to see it. The morning after arriving at that historical place, I'd decided to start the hike back an hour earlier then the packer and his mules and meet up with them a few miles later because they were fording the river and I had no water shoes to cross.

The morning was cold, but I knew I'd warm up faster then I could take layers off, so I dawned my light tank-top, shorts, sturdy boots, and a handkerchief for wilderness hair management, and was off. It was too dim to see much, but I made out the packer preparing his entourage, and waved a farewell. Crossing the stock bridge, I determined to keep a sharp eye out for bears and cats, looking to make an early morning snack of me. While that thought made me hike faster, I still reassured myself that the bears and cats were too busy filling up on huckleberries and easier prey and didn't want to munch on my little bit of a carcass.

I came to a fork in the trail and paused. I'd been too busy having a lively conversation with my hiking pal the night before to notice which way we'd come from, so I looked for the tracks of my boots from the prior evening. I couldn't find them, and decided to just start on the trail that paralleled the river for a bit. It seems I can trust my instinct more then I think because I ran across my familiar tracks going in the opposite direction soon after.

I thought I was in shape from my two weeks of constant hiking and trail repair, but I guess I wasn't because I was hiking so fast my legs hurt and my feet broke out in several blisters. I'd been wearing those boots for two summers! After all we'd been through together, how could they betray me? I smiled. Boots are funny that way.

The landscape gradually changed. I noticed the beautifully rushing river swing in and out of view to my left and the dense foliage of a healthy forest give way to a barren burn to my right. It was all so beautiful! How was it that I am so privileged to live here? Ah, it's a good place, I thought. A good place to understand that God is bigger than me too, and to comprehend that He is gracious enough to draw me to Him while watching me enjoy the work of His hands. It's a thing of beauty.

I had lost sight of the river, and began wondering when the packer's trail and mine would cross when I turned a bend and paused at a break in the trees to see the packer slowly making his way across the river, leading his string behind him. I moved quickly, wanting to get a better glimpse of the sight. Finally, there was a path down to the rivers edge. I paused, perched atop a rock, watching him as he expertly guided the animals on a safe path through the midst of the shallow, yet swift current.

The sun had just begun to spread his yellow highlights over the valley. Its sparkle glinting off the horses bridle and stirrups. A golden halo crowned the packers worn and holey straw hat. He had the lead ropes in his right hand, as he guided his stead with his left. He constantly looked back over his shoulder to direct the unruly crew in the rear. The sun seemed to clothe his whole being in the light weave of yellow, as he came from the shadows into the light around the bend. It was a spectacular scene! The water heeding the dominance of the glowing sunshine as it flowed trying to take it with it... it couldn't overtake it, making it all the more lovely to watch for it's efforts. Every dip and jab the water made, didn't change the sun's mind. It only embraced the flow more- covering it with a veil of broken crystal, enhancing his radiance to the fullest.

This was the moment I fell in love. The moment my heart filled and overflowed with gratefulness that my path has lead me to this point. I couldn't exchange it for a thousand sky scrapers, my toes in the sand, or a basket full of exotic fruit just gathered from a forest in New Zealand. No doubt those things or experiences would pique my curiosity, fascinate my mind, and gratify my tastes, but the Montana I've seen, and fallen in love with... words can hardly describe. It almost makes it less then it is to try to describe it in every detail. It is wild, untouched, strong. Part of me wants to keep this to myself, but the other part of me is overflowing to the point of unrestraint. And so I write and share my heart with you.