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When you live on the plains
you look outwards
and know how it goes

so you walk
the roads
and consider each junction
in turn

and no matter the turns
and the choices
you make
invariably you reach the border
of the grid
the edge of the plains

where a barbed wire fence
partitions off
a new grid
that also goes forever

a ranch house
full of windows
watches you

and considering the highway
at the speed of your self
reveals only
the certainty of violence

there are choices back in town
occluded horizons
mental

labyrinths
the roads multiply
in that direction

roads built years
before you were born

you will go back
to live
when you can

accept that the road
reaches only the wire

and that it’s entirely on you
to stop seeing the plains

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“You have a picture of life within you, a faith, a challenge, and you were ready for deeds and sufferings and sacrifices, and then you became aware by degrees that the world asked no deeds and sacrifices of you whatever, and that life is no poem of heroism with heroic parts to play and so on, but a comfortable room where people are quite content with eating and drinking, coffee and knitting, cards and wireless. And whoever wants more and has got it in him– the heroic and the beautiful, and the reverence for the great poets of for the saints– is a fool and a Don Quixote. Good. And it has been just the same for me, my friend.”

–Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf

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The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

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Glacial Lake Missoula

During the most recent glacial advance a 2000 foot wall of ice near Missoula, Montana, prevented melt water from draining to the Pacific. A tremendous lake backed up into several nearby river valleys.

The lake is best-known for its periodic releases: when the ice dam broke, as it did many times before reforming again, it would discharge a flow of water dozens of times larger than the largest river in the world today.

The same topography that permitted the formation of this lake is responsible for a ghostly and analogous effect that is visible every winter. Ground inversions are common in the five valleys surrounding Missoula. Cold air, which flows down from the surrounding mountain ranges, settles behind the natural bottlenecks that once held water. The weather can become beautifully spring-like above but still not mix with the inverted cold.

Over five days we spent in Missoula in December, the inversion was fierce. Thick, feathery hoar frost covered the branches of trees in town, building up day after day. But in the mountains we could find temperatures that were almost 30 degrees warmer. At the end of a day spent skiing or hiking, we’d have to stop and put on sweaters and coats and hats and gloves before reentering the frozen world trapped beneath the layer of clouds.

One day Jen pointed out that the inversion was sitting at an elevation that fit right in with the horizontal bands marking the ancient lake shores of Lake Missoula, thousands of feet above the valley floor. So it was. This is what it was like looking out across the frozen inland sea that existed 12,000 years ago, when the first humans began crossing the Bering Land Bridge to North America.

The manufacturers of urinal cakes have gotten so good, the sensation of walking into some truck stop restrooms is now almost indistinguishable from biting into a piece of watermelon flavored Bubblicious, and involuntarily I find myself inhaling deeply, and salivating a little.

Jackson, WY

Livingston, MT

Livingston, MT

Missoula, MT

West Yellowstone, MT

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