March 9, 2013
* A SENSE OF PLACE *
Let's talk about loving a place and melding into it. Without the first, one cannot have the second. Without the second, one will never have the first.
It seems the most at-peace-with-themselves individuals I know
are those comfortable with both their place and their station in
life. Are they in love with what they do? Where they live? Their
neighbors? Of course, otherwise they will have no peace.
As stark as the eastern prairies might seem to some, the freedom
such a vast landscape afforded must've seemed like heaven-on-earth
to the landless Old World peasant fleeing army conscription and
involuntary servitude. To the Finlander from the Baltic who could
own a quarter section of land by simply promising to live on it for
five years, what a deal! So what that they nearly starved? They
were on the threshold of starvation in their birthland, anyway.
Here, at least, they OWNED LAND.
Even if an Irish family held a tiny survival plot, there were
only so many mouths that could be fed from potatoes it produced.
Why wouldn't a new life in a New World beckon to their youngsters?
Montana is full of Swensons and Bergstroms and Hagermans and
Lundquists whose ancestors stepped of a boat at Ellis Island and
found their way West to homestead their own little piece of heaven.
Never mind that winter snows blew level with the prairie sod, or
that summer rains never fell, or that it turned one hundred degrees
in the July shade and there was no shade. It was, by yimminy THEIR'S and the devil take the hindmost!
Other men came to Montana for different reasons: Californians
for placer gold, Texans for open range, Cornishmen for hardrock
mines, Minnesotans for virgin timber. They came and stayed.
Sometimes their women came with them, other times they sent home
for their sweethearts.
But without exceptions, those who stuck--be they Norwegians or
Germans, Irish or Jews, Russians or Mexicans or Metis--they learned
to love this land. And they melded into it, learned its rhythms
until their pulse rates matched the pulse of their surroundings.
I came to the Treasure State for similar reasons. I came
because I so loved Montana's outdoor world that I gave my father's
only misbegotten son so I could have everlasting life. The love of
my life trailed along because her damfool husband came. And in
truth, we both came because we wanted to raise our children amid an
honest rural environment.
We melded because we learned to pay attention, to relax, to listen, to absorb that everywhere around us was purity and clarity
and, yes, obstinacy among the inhabitants of our adopted land. We
knew from the beginning that we must eschew the old and embrace the
new and we did.
Still, there are two differing polar fields to those who love
Montana: desolation on the one hand, elation on the other. There's a certain loneliness of the spirit that eats at outsiders and fulfills insiders. Outsiders leave. Insiders stick. Ain't it great!
It's that greatness that means so much for those with
the fortitude to stick. I'm proud to be among 'em.
Next week? Another walk on the wild side.
for previous posts in
ROLAND'S Campfire Culture blog