I know it’s been a while since y’all last heard from me. In the last month, I’ve experienced a lot of struggles and rewards. I moved to another state, closing out a life I built up over the course of seven years and completing a part of my life which started in 2004.
The Muppets got it right with the song “Saying Good-bye”. To this day, watching that part of the Muppet Movie still chokes me up. Over the last month I lived in Montana, I caught myself thinking things like, “That’s the last time I’ll walk through that door.” Or “That’s the last time I’ll see that person,” or hundreds of other ways it could be the “last”. Somehow, I found myself considering what it will be like when the time comes that it will be my last of everything. Morbid, to say the least, but very realistic.
The first week in May, I attended my last meeting with Search and Rescue. I intended that it would be the last time I would pilot a motorboat on the Upper Missouri. Instead, my last time was on a search the week before when I navigated to the base of one of the Great Falls through rapids and heavy flows. It was a high point in my experience, despite the tragedy that took me there, and I will always remember that, I hope, and I hope that it will not be the end of service to my community.
I packed up everything that I own, at least everything that fits into a 6×12 foot trailer, walked out of a place that has been home for the last two and a half years and locked the door for the last time. This town is the first place I have settled since college and is the center of the first somewhat permanent life I have created for myself as an adult. My life there has ended, so in a way, it a death, but before this exposé gets too mushy or dark, let me just say that I’m never one of those who truly believes the dead were all saints, and though I suffer from a condition called tact, I’m not afraid to speak ill of a particular member of the dearly departed so long as it is true. It is with that attitude that I regard the life I have left. There was good and bad, and since I still draw breath, there are new “good old times” to search for and find.
From time to time, I miss watching the sunset cast a shimmer across the waters of the Missouri and miss being reminded of summer patrols in the wind, rain and heat. I miss the grocery store selection and the services a big town provides. I miss looking up and seeing the distant mountains and thinking, “Man! I should go for a hike.” Most of all, I miss the beer selection and the friends I share it with.
But, the real art of life is recognizing the good times and savoring them while they last. It’s the ability to look up from the hustle of life at street level to appreciate the mountains beyond town. But while I miss the grandeur of Montana, I appreciate the quiet of small town Midwest. It’s a beauty that few recognize and seek, which is good for those who wish only a quiet part of the world to be themselves and make a living.
One mile from the border, I shut off the stereo and quietly reflected on where and how life has led me to this moment. There are choices I made that, in some ways, were utter mistakes, but had I not made them, I would not have found that particular someone who completes me as a person. That being said, I have no regrets. Life would not be complete without a few struggles, but as long as I am complete, I can take on anything. Being a Montanan is part of my identity and always will be.
So here’s to Montana! Good-bye and good luck!