You may have noticed that someone else has been writing some blogs. That is because, like the Sorcerer from Fantasia, I have been training up an apprentice. I have faith that she will prove at least as capable as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Why have I been training an apprentice? Because, like Master Yoda said, “Always two there are, a Master and an Apprentice.” Also because I am leaving. I am moving to [Redacted], and it obviously doesn’t make any sense to try and write a Montana blog from there! I am not, by nature, thoughtful or philosophical. But somewhere in the moving process, I realized that I will miss a lot by moving away. There are many people I will miss, of course, but I will miss the state itself too. I wonder why?
When I went to college, I was more than happy to be out of my home town. But I didn’t leave my state. Montana is my social interaction ace-in-the-hole. I know lots of trivia about Montana, so if I meet an out-of-stater, I can pepper them with interesting facts. On the other hand, if I meet someone from Montana, I probably know something, if only something vague, about the place where they live, and I can come up with some sort of conversation around that. Subtracting Montana will pretty much end my ability to interact with people. I will miss that. I will miss the ability to relate to someone simply because of Montana. I will miss the unique pride Montanans have in their state.
For the last two years, I have worked as a Montana travel blogger. If anything, this has made me love the state more. I cannot speak to other states. They all have unique histories, and personalities and some of them are no doubt lovely. But I know the history of Montana. I have spent the last two years trying to examine, understand, and express the personality of the state.
Northern Cascades National Park has more glaciers than Glacier. Texas has more cows than Montana. Kansas has more wheat. The Tetons rise from the plains at least as spectacularly as the Missions or the Chinese Wall. Yellowstone, no matter what we say, remains in Wyoming. Is there a streak of isolationist myopia in our belief in our state’s superiority? Perhaps. In the oft-quoted (but, I suspect, less oft-read) Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck writes, “I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.” A powerful statement about the inexplicable love for a place, and a just as powerful argument for Montana’s superiority. If John Steinbeck could find no better place than Montana then what, even, is the point of looking? In my (admittedly brief) travels, I have not encountered a love for place as fierce and friendly as I have encountered in Montana. That’s why I think it good that I get out of here as soon as possible: so that I can other people as proud of their place, so that I can see other places as deserving of pride.
Montana exerts an irresistible influence on my mind. In recent years this pull has only grown. As I wrote about every town in the state, as I traveled to places I usually wouldn’t, as I kept my eyes always open for a story, I fell ever deeper in love with my state. I don’t know why. Maybe I will begin to understand after I move away. I am in love with Montana. And love is difficult to explain when you are in it.