It’s been one year.
One year that I’ve lived in your valley along the Clark Fork river, one year that I’ve lived in the West, one year that I’ve hiked up my skirt for your hillsides.
That’s a long courtship by my standards. Usually the caveats, bad habits and dirty laundry cut into the open by now.
Instead, you continue to woo me.
You arch your back of rock, pull me into your canyon veins, and peel me naked.
I sigh at the wildness of it all—the breadth of space between your spiny ridges.
And I inhale at the petals unfurling, the fields of wildflowers, the winged delicacy of it all.
You see, Montana, I told people back East, in those Adirondack mountains I came from not so long ago, that I’d return. I told them this was only temporary.
And here you are, wooing me at every turn.
Something happens to me here.
I wasn’t sure if it was because it’s a new place, a new set of mountains, or if it’s you in particular. Or perhaps it’s both.
Love confuses me in this way.
I came here.
You opened your bronze fields, and I suppose I walked into them unknowing, all barefoot and raw and in need of some topography to show me I was going to be okay.
Cherry Gulch held me loosely, pushed me up onto the ridge.It pushed my chest wide open.
I can breathe here in a way I’ve never been able to anywhere else.
This winter, I biked to class nearly every day in mild weather. And then, I would drive up onto your mountain passes, find five feet of snow on the trail.
I found your hot springs, and one morning after too many hours immersed, I swooned in the heat of it.
But I went back again and again, went back to find the water pouring out of the earth still hot.
Snow and ice and steam: It splits a woman like me. Splits her so she can see who she is once again.
Seven months in, when I thought I knew you, you surprised me with the smell of cottonwood buds after an evening rain.
Then came green hills.
The balsamroot, the prairie smoke, the lupine, the arnica, larkspur and penstemon.
I biked for miles with scenes like this.
I’m infatuated. We’ve always known this is the problem—my infatuations with places and flowers and hills.
I dream of roots. Of some place teaching me how to hold on, to set tap roots and fibrous roots like talons. But plants are fragile like this. And I’m not sure. Not sure if roots are ever that which we hope them to be.
Is it fair to say that you make me whole in some way I have not yet known, until now?
You are relentless in summer now.
The bike rides.
My hair resurrecting the blondness of my childhood.
One Friday, I wrote at my computer until four in the afternoon. And then I found myself in a raft on the Blackfoot River until eight. On the way home, you thundered and hailed and swiped the sky with a rainbow before waxing the sky pink at sunset. At home, still hungry, we harvested vegetables and grilled bison.
The thing is, I’ve written love letters before. It’s not that I stop loving, as much as I decide to break free.
I’m not sure what this means for us in the long run, but you’re romancing me in ways I have never known.
I’m trying to be all non-committal about this, Montana. (I like to insure my word in that way.) But you’re making it hard. You’re too lovely.
Even now, you burn in places. You smoke the sunsets red.
But I’ve seen your burns and how they then bloom pink with fireweed.
I spent our one-year anniversary camping next to a stream in the Mission Mountains.
I slept on your ground, swam in your water, ate your huckleberries, and lengthened my heartbeat.
Tonight, I realize I am no longer waiting for the bottom to drop out.
Today you gave blue skies; a thunderstorm; the clouds inked their way through yellows, violets and bruised purples as the sun set; and tonight a pearl of a moon drifts outside my window.
We are just as we are.
We are here.
And that is the rooted beauty of it all.