When I was a little girl, I wanted to marry a cowboy. Driving a back road through turquoise hills, we'd round a bend and come across what can only be called a 'spread' of ranch house surrounded by big cotton woods, with a stream running through it. I wanted to live there.
After I watched a River Runs Through It, I imagined all cowboys and the most beautiful mountains were in Montana. Even the name, Montana...sounded wild and western, and it became my fantasy. So getting to go visit Montana for the first time a couple weeks back, felt like Christmas.
My original little sister teaches the intersection of dance and divinity in a community of others, no less passionate about changing the world, all living on a mission base in Lakeside. She picks me up from the airport in the middle of nowhere on a cool night wearing a tube top and scarf, earning her moniker, Hollywood Outback. She tells me Demi Moore has a place close by.
Turns out Montana is beautiful, and Lakeside is nestled against one of the largest lakes in the country, surrounded by mountains, and most delightfully, old trucks rusting in the backyards of most residences.
I did not do any fly fishing, nor did I visit Glacier National Park, just a stones throw away. That's my MO; I love the outdoors, couldn't survive without the natural world, but I'm more into extreme sitting, preferably from the patio of a mom and pop coffee shop...with a view of of the Rockies, of course.
On a sunny day with a cool breeze, lil’ sis and I went down to the dock to lay out in our bikinis. Yes, missionaries sometimes wear bikinis. I remember a time when I wouldn’t be seen anywhere in a swimsuit without a white tee to hide under. This day, not even the cool waters of the lake tempted me to disappear; mostly because a hot day in Montana still isn’t hot enough for me. Shortly, Mirjam, recently come from the Netherlands, joined us and I was introduced. “I have a brother with the same small arm,” she said. Flash forward, we are now probably friends for life.
I didn't meet any cowboys, but one robust gentleman did offer to whittle me a marshmallow roaster from a stick for an after dark bonfire. Be still my beating heart. I bonded with lil’ sis’ roommate over big trucks and the mountain men who sometimes drive them...and she gets the “take it to the next level” award for wanting me to go slap a stranger with my little arm, though I still maintain the logistical difficulty of first getting said stranger to nestle into my armpit so I can reach him. To Becky, may you find your plaid-flannel-wearing mullet man very soon.
My stay was filling and rejuvenating. I even managed to scare a baby (something I hadn't accomplished since the spring) when I waved my little arm at her. She cried and ran away, and eyed me warily every time she saw me after that. I think I'll recover, but Finneas may need some time.
I did meet quite a few Indians...East Indians. I met a small Indian boy called Finneas...and I met an Indian guy from South Africa who could only remember ‘Finneas’ when he tried to think of my name. I’m sure there are some Freudian implications to this, but my subconscious is currently sleeping. [See blog post “Meet Finneas” if the above made no sense to you].
And I met a bunch of Canadians. Probably more Canadians in one week than I've met in my entire lifetime. I learned valuable things like Canadian weddings go deep into the night with sometimes awkward, but always heartfelt, toasts. And Canadians are mostly exactly like us except they say things like “Oh hey” when they text you, where US citizens would have just said “Hey.” I like it; thank you, Nathan. I even met an East Indian Canadian who likes to tell people she converted from Islam to Christianity so that she could eat bacon. Canadian bacon, I presume. That is the short version, however. I also met an Egyptian who can’t barter for goods in his home land because it makes him feel bad. What is this world coming to? One thing is certain: Jesus has a diverse following.
I flew standby thanks to my first (rate) officer friend Ariel, who it will be noted, has a wonderful phone voice. I spent one day at Glacier International Airport trying to get on a plane without success, and when I showed up the next morning, I felt like Amelia Earhart as each successive security checkpoint person recognized me with “Back again, eh?” and a thumbs up for “Good luck!” while I stripped off any ‘gratuitous’ luggage and clothing. After three trips through airport security in two days, I truly felt it had taken a village to get me off the ground.
To all my wonderful new friends in Montana, thank you for a beautiful trip. And to lil’ sis, my hero, for letting me vicariously experience your inspiring adventure: Thank you.
But, though I’m glad to have finally visited my fantasy state, I’m happy to be back in reality. I can still wear shorts here.