All I could think about was getting over that border and getting to my treasured friend, Ramona. The morning light was heavenly. I left the little town of Raymond, drove east and then at the intersection, turned south for the Sweetgrass Hills.
To the right, I passed wetlands and identified American Advocets and a large group of Black-necked Stilts. On road trips, one can not possibly stop often enough to capture all of the wonder as it slips past. I was happy to see many winged friends and to see the vast beauty that is southern Alberta. The past ten years or so I’ve made my life all about the fleeting moments and the tremendous beauty that reveals itself in familiar places. I’m not big into world travel…but, I’m big into deepening my relationship with what is close up, if that makes any sense at all. We all do life in our own particular way.
At the border, I was met by a very stern border service officer. Oh my goodness…a 63 year old lady approaches and ‘you have the need to be miserable’. Mayhaps I was bringing some sort of bias to the experience. “Pull around and park in the back. An officer will meet you there.” Sure…okay.
The officer who joined me a short while later was much more pleasant. She covered an agricultural survey with me and shuffled through my belongings in the vehicle…most concerned with plant matter, foods…yes, I get it. And then I was on my way after sharing with her some pleasantries about high school years in Great Falls.
Continuing on to Shelby, I thought about the lack of gun controls…the shift in thinking. I remembered how grateful I was to be a Canadian. I looked forward to making Great Falls. Once there, I contemplated taking time to visit special places and special people that remain. I sat in the parking lot of the Flying J and felt so close to the memories of home that my family built in this place…thought of my friends and the house on Fox Farm Road. I decided that this wouldn’t be the trip for packing in too much. I needed to sip on my lemonade and enjoy the landscape. I would have to make another opportunity to do all of the rest of it.
I love the landscape just south of Great Falls…Holter…and Prickly Pear. There is only one place to stop and so it’s a chore to be overcome with the extreme beauty and at the same time, in a photo-crazy world like ours, not to be able to archive it. I pulled over at the only stop on my side of the I-15.
I thought about my Dad and wondered why the heck he wasn’t on this road trip with me. I love to drive with my father. These are places he knows and loves far better than I!
In Helena, I had my first learning about roaming data charges. Sigh. Enough said. Bob and Dan, I tried to track you down. I thought I had an hour to play with in Helena. Sorry. I left your deets at home in my address book. (roaming, YOU SUCK!)
I had no recollection of the places I saw south of Helena, although I’ve traveled that road…a couple of times with a long-haul trucker, a few times traveling to see my parents in Colorado Springs, Colorado and likely before that, travels to various speech team competitions. What I haven’t done is turned off into la la land at the Divide exit, west…Wise River…Wisdom…and all of that. There were zero opportunities to take photographs of the wondrous landscape that unfolded after that turn off from the I-15 and my mind set to wondering as I saw such beauty reveal itself. I thought about my new-found cousin, Charlene, who lives in Idaho Falls and a bit of a remote feeling took over me, that likely I wouldn’t be able to meet her on this trip. All of a sudden, I heard the words escape my mouth…
“This is all for you, Kath.” And yes…there were some tears. The crystal blue waters weaving through verdant miles were beyond description. The rugged rock reached vertical to either side of me. I was overcome with beauty.
As I pulled to the right into the Big Hole National Battlefield, I felt exhausted, but so grateful. Swallows seemed to beckon me. I knew that Ramona would be working her shift in the visitor’s center, but decided to spend a few quiet moments looking over the valley. Again, time just for me. I knew that this place held huge spiritual energy and that the history for the Nez Perce peoples on this land held such provision and at the same time, horror, that I wanted to be present to the moment. And then…Ramona.