Miles from Monday: Beginning In Montana

April 23, 2012, Washington, DC: Welcome to Miles From Monday, a new weekly travel feature on Neighborhood Nomad. On Mondays, we’ll venture out of the spaces we inhabit during our weekday routines and retreat to those that feel far from the start of the work week. If only virtually, from our offices and our desktops, we’ll explore the wide open spaces that have inspired us, the landscapes we subconsciously tote around daily.

In beginning this series, it’s only natural for me to start with Montana, the first western landscape to get under my skin. I’ve been to Montana just once, in the summer of 1994. With a group of fellow students, I slept for a month on the floor of a school building on the edge of Flathead Lake in Elmo, Montana. It was on Montana’s Flathead Reservation that I went on my first camping trip and pitched my first tent and climbed my first rock face and got my first taste of the west. Days were spent repairing a playground at the water’s edge, or constructing a new powwow arena, or playing with young children who lived on the reservation. At night, we heard from elder members of the Flathead tribe who spoke of an intimate connection to the land around them. They told us stories of animals and a landscape personified, stories of roots and the struggles to maintain them, stories of ancestors on sacred ground.

I haven’t been back to Montana since. Friends and family have recently visited and returned with tales of big sky and horses and vast, quiet ranches. In Montana, it seems, we all collect stories of a landscape that’s impossible to shake off.

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