Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Sense of North

The Ryegate Contingency
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.

Somewhere north of Harlowton, perhaps around Judith Gap, is where I first detect that I’m in a place that is strange to me. This is that expanse in the Montana geography where it begins to feel as much North as it does West.

Every time I go there and beyond, I always find myself trying to articulate what it is that makes it feel different or look different. Perhaps it’s the angle of the waning autumn sun—lower in the South than back home in Wyoming. Maybe it’s the alternating fields of winter wheat rather than the endless horizons of sagebrush.

Whatever defines this space, my arrival there is confirmed visually as I scan the northern horizon in search of the Highwood Mountains or Square Butte. Once I see them, I know I’ve crossed that ambiguous threshold.

It’s a wonderous, but at the same time, uncomfortable feeling that never quite retreats from my conscious. Despite this unsettled feeling, I’m always gratified in its presence when I drift through towns like Stanford, Geraldine and even the metropolis of Great Falls.

Tonight as I make the short trek to my office in the dark, quiet streets of Powell, I’m thinking back to yesterday which feels so far away now; of Rocky Boy and the football game there. So far north it seems—and to think about all the darkness that separates us now. Yet, if I were desperate enough, I could jump back in my car and before morning light arrives, I could be back in that faraway place to experience its sense of north.

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