“There is a mask that drops and vanishes when surrounded by such serenity within this Nature so generous to my Soul. The mask is always within, it is an internal shield, it is not a disguise as there is too much on my surface, it is just a “feel”, a “being”, and all goes away when amongst such incredible surfaces letting me witness the natural habitat of this Earth.”
I am not one that has ever been cooped up throughout Life. Many years on a sailboat, and not moored as taking on the ever growing barnacles, but out to sea with the help of any spare moments, 5 months a year vacation before Lance got sick, while motorcycling or being blown away by the incessant winds, and yet today some thoughts passing through never cease to amaze me. Some days everything happens at once, the chapter becomes a long one and the punctuations are rare. The deep cold woke me up early this morning and my first vision was of clear blue skies. No sense wasting time, quickly dressed I noticed the fog laying over slowly rising on the Madison River just a few feet away, and camera in hand, Spirit still asleep, it was a brisk walk over the bridge.
It was as the world of the livings was still dormant, missing out on these moments where the shadows and the light confront each other throughout these morning hours. I am a morning person, I cannot and will not let this early stage setting up for the day go to waste. Montana is indeed the Big Sky State, it is the often such desolate lands, lands that however project such an immense feeling of applause. Suddenly I saw, imagined what I could not see, a Big Earth shaped as it should be, myself as little and insignificant as presented in my own reality, I visualized and mainly thought about it’s surface. I thought how much we took for granted these millions of square miles we stand on, no inch square alike, it’s foundations, “the ground”, “the soil”… and as I heard and smelled and pondered on this flow of water running, of this fog forming it’s own incredible shapes, and every little details from the trees to the weeds, I suddenly became overwhelmed by this notion that we just plainly live on a land of “miracles”.
It was just the beginning of the day and I knew that my speculations would not stop here. I had promised myself since bad weather had prevailed these past days that I would not gamble away a day as the present sunny one staring at me. Gravelly Range Rd was calling me once again. I have been asked, and heard mentioned why of my liking of this interminable road? It is one of those one has to experience, it is truly as simple as that. An easy road as I have to say that the State of Montana takes good care of it’s non paved roads, one can wonder as I need myself to find out, who build it and why? when another road parallel and much easier to navigate on is only a few miles away down the near by Valley.
Last time ridden I cut it short by rejoining the Valley through Johnny Ridge Rd. This time I rode it further, not quite the end yet, and dropped down from 9400 feet through NF 237 back into the same Valley. We stopped often, the clouds started forming and as when shadowed by them, the hot rays turned always suddenly into icy cold bursts of wind. An amazing feast as in an instant always, changes of temperatures helped by a wool cap on and off as a game played to no end. It is huge “up there”. It is calm, peaceful, raw. The horizon has no limits and again I could not help feeling how fortunate to be living on a “ground” which could have been anything but what I was seeing. As other planets, I have seen photos of it’s surfaces, this one also could have been not as gifted as it is today. It could have been all flat, could have been red or gray, hard or dusty, how fortunate we are, wondering how many even see this extraordinary phenomenon considering the infinite Universe so unlike our little Planet we call Earth.
Right passed the peak I see a sheepherder wagon. No horses, but four dogs and a young gentleman out of his door right away, instantly signaling me to come toward him as of course I had stopped. What would anyone be doing here at this altitude throughout the cold and rainy waves we have had lately? His name is “Bigne”, I thought at first “Big Name” as when he talked to his dogs he just called them all “Dogs”. So we had a language barrier, he is from Chile, he barely understands English and my Spanish is about as poor as it could be. But there was a common Spirit here, two Souls in the middle of nowhere suddenly happy and overwhelmed getting to know each other. He is the true sheepherder with 1200 sheep about 20 minutes away, four white dogs for the herd and four black dogs for himself at camp as he has also a “Boss” as he calls him.
In no time we are sitting in his wagon, “mi casa is su casa”, I think that is what we both said, and… lunch is served. Rice with chicken and carrots and beans. And a full plate of it as I could only complement his generosity with my couple meager bananas I carried. We talked and talked, how we manage is beyond me to this day right now, but we both found the ability to speak from our heart toward these Lifestyles we both live and experience. His “Boss” stops by twice a week, a Ranch owner in Dillon, and brings him food, water and exchanges his battery that runs his phone working only on the top of the next hill and his video player as we both watched a Chilean band, and whatever else he needs for the three months he is parked.
There are not many sheepherders in this country, his “Boss” employs seven of them in the area as it seems I came across one with a big Heart. His Family is on the wall, he misses them as he points out his mother, his father, his relatives with a silence heavy as I can understand and share. He loves his Life though, and as we left after Spirit not being very happy with his own visitors, I promised him that I would come back as I also asked him what he would like me to bring. “Nothing” he said, “Nada”, just you and your Friendship my Friend… Two Souls thinking alike. Surrounded by the most beautiful setting one could imagine, nothing here anyone could buy, lease or rent, it is the gold lining of our Journey. I will bring him some photos and lunch.
Ah! that “don’t bother me” look!!! or….
The ride was not over, mental or otherwise. Cold set in, wind a bit blasting to remind me of the night time freezing temperatures and a turn east took us back to civilization, as one Rancher we came across said with a spin of his eyes around his own habitat he rarely leaves. A few bicyclists on the road, fully packed giving away their own Journey’s intent as not being a short one, as suddenly what I had never seen before, three riders on one bicycle. We waived, and ourselves of course as usual, a U turn!
Now that is something else! I stopped a mile ahead to give me some time to get ready to take a photo. Little did I know they also stopped… I forget that Mr Spirit, specially when wearing his goggles and helmet is the main attraction. I think we all looked at each other, surprised each other. I lift my hat to the Williams. Dorrie, the mother and a teacher home schooling Gregory, 8 years old, and Mike at the head of it all, only as I hear if he could stop dropping their laptop. They left Oregon not too long ago, on their way to Virginia and also, their Blog does not say it, will try for around the World. Nicest people you can meet as we chatted for a while which could have gone on for a long time.
I spoke with Gregory for a bit, I was curious to find out if he knew how lucky of a child he is. I think he knows… what a kid, and what incredible parents with an incredible decision. This is when “just do it” truly applies. They are totally self contained, I am still smiling at the memories of their meet.
So I cooked the other night, something colorful and good enough to take photos of it and eat it, all at the same time. Teri and I here have been sharing the cooking, but I think I am falling behind a bit. This is really simple. The pasta is done al dente in a separate pot. Plenty of chopped garlic sauteed in olive oil, add chopped zucchini, squash, red bell pepper or anything “veggie” on hand. Once half way done add the shrimp, cook some more and finally the juice of a couple limes. I used limes because I would refuse to pay $1.89 a lemon at the “$3 an egg” store. Add some chopped parsley and finish by mixing the pasta in. For a different taste, chopped cilantro also works well.
You be well, always.
Ara & Spirit