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Loving Bozeman in Four Seasons
An Inner Voice –the sense that my calling and my study lie elsewhere, in the sweet air and under the open sky of the broad world, among my friends and folks, in space and movement and adventure. –Edward Abbey
When I am in Montana, I don’t feel restless. I cherish this place with a fierceness usually reserved for people. In an effort to explain my love of Montana, I have broken it up into seasons.
My first winter in Bozeman was the last proper one to descend upon the Gallatin Valley since I have lived here. When I told people that I had just relocated to the area and loved it, they almost universally muttered something along the lines of “talk to me after winter.” This was a bit unnerving, but also exciting. The idea of an initiation appealed to me, because this place is too extraordinary to come easily.
Growing up in the Midwest, I actually used to hate winter. It involved a lot of feeling trapped and discolored snow. I hated it so much that I escaped to college in the Deep South to pursue my fascination with cheese grits and magnolia blossoms. As much as I did enjoy the grits and being called darlin’ until I felt it, it paled in comparison to the joy of waking up a couple of weeks after moving to Bozeman to discover that heaping piles of snow had fallen overnight. I threw on some boots and wandered all over town. I still try to do this after a snowstorm, unable to resist the snow blowing off roofs and sparking in the sunshine as it flitters to the ground.
Now, I embrace other winter activities such as digging my car out of the snow for an hour and shopping for sandbags. I love snowshoeing and the fact that it is sometimes cold enough here to turn my hand into an inoperable claw during the short walk from my car to the movie return box if I am careless enough not to put on gloves.
Rather than the collective sigh of relief experienced in the Midwest, I actually feel sad when the winter is nearing an end. However, this feeling only lasts until enough snow melts to start hiking.
Fleeting, beautiful, and filled with wildflowers, the summer in this state presents preposterously easy opportunities for adventure. Without much fuss, it is possible to go hiking through groves of quaking aspen, float down the lovely Madison in an inner tube, and get tossed about the Gallatin with my raft guide brother.
As if the natural resources weren’t distracting enough, Montana is steeped in a fascinating history. At least once a year, I try to go to Virginia City because it is awesome, but also for the Brewery Follies. Intrigued by the idea of a comedy show in a town celebrated primarily for its historical significance, I still remember the first time I called for a reservation. The person on the other end of the line went out of her way to disclaim how offensive the show is before reserving my tickets. With skepticism I thought, how offensive can a show in rural Montana possibly be? The answer is delightfully so. They sing: they dance: they make me chortle.
With clear roads, the summer also presents the wonderful prospect of visiting the place where my love affair with the West began-Yellowstone. Within easy driving distance of Bozeman it is possible to experience the truly wild. I couldn’t be happier that my neighbors include wolves, grizzlies, and geothermal features. Closer to home, the sunset viewed from Pete’s Hill still manages to take my breath away.
See winter. However, this brief period of time when the aspen are on fire with color may be my favorite time of the year.
In conclusion, I love this state. I love that the seasons matter here and have a major impact on daily life. I love that people value and participate in community events. The ladies who call me once a year to see if I am interested in opera tickets because I went once a couple of years ago charm me to my core. The self-empowered, independent spirit that pervades and defines this state gives me goose bumps.
I hope, I am here to stay.
After visiting the west at the age of fourteen, Jamie Balke has been coming up with progressively more elaborate schemes to never leave.