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In the Scheme of Things


Nan Russell

Jun 8, 2016

Leaving Montana

Leaving Montana

I was born in Whitefish, Montana, leaving without choice at age three when my father couldn't find work after the Hungry Horse Dam Project finished. But my grandparents remained and Montana stayed part of my life.

My grandfather was a mechanic on the red busses in Glacier National Park and I have great memories as a child hiking its trails, boating on Flathead Lake, and go-carting at my Uncle Ole's wheat farm in the eastern part of the state.

As long as I can remember, Montana has been part of my life. Even as an adult, living in Pennsylvania with my husband and son, we'd plan most summers around a trip to Glacier. Eventually, Glacier became my extended family's gathering spot for reunions every few years. So much so that my son and daughter-in-law decided to get married at the top of Big Mountain.

The seeds of a dream about returning to live in Montana was hatched as my husband and I fell in love in graduate school and talked of someday living in a cabin in the mountains. During our marriage, that young dream became a symbol about what mattered to us, about spending more time together, about family and friends, and nurturing our love and awakening our spirits. It represented the future we wanted to create together.

Over the years, we called it our "Montana Dream," adding parameters of living near Glacier Park, moving by the time we turned 50; and bringing meaningful work with us. It took 25 years for us to actualize that dream, including building a cabin on the North Fork, but we did.

Now after more than a dozen years living our Montana Dream in Montana, surrounded by its beauty and majestic spirit, we're leaving - at least physically.

It turns out our dream was never about a place. It was a vision of the life we wanted to share, where we would choose intangibles over tangibles; people over stuff; and passions over existence. It was about keeping our hearts open, our minds curious, and our spirits nurtured. But most of all, it was about growing our love.

It's that part of our dream - the love part - that expanded more than we imagined. We call them Neva and Addy; our granddaughters. For a few years now, they and their parents have been nudging us to move near them in Colorado. With the growing knowledge that none of us are getting any younger, we decided to do just that.

I cried when we left California with our 3-year-old son, taking him away from both sets of grandparents for an opportunity in Pennsylvania we couldn't afford to pass up. I cried when we left Pennsylvania and dear friends 23 years later to actualize our Montana Dream and live in the Flathead Valley. But I didn't cry when we left Montana. That's because I don't feel I did, exactly.

Montana isn't just where I was born, spent time growing up, and returned to as an adult to launch my second-act career as a writer. Montana is part of me. It always has been and it always will be.

Nan S. Russell - Gellatio.png
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