In C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia Aslan tells the Pevensie children that they cannot come back to Narnia. They go back to their own world and live their lives, never forgetting the magical land of Narnia where animals talk and they have wonderful adventures. Then, in the final book, the children are suddenly snatched from their world to Narnia--this time to stay. I feel a little bit like that. This week I moved to Montana. "Moving to Montana" sounds like it ought to be on a bumper sticker. Starting tomorrow I will be an instructor for the Yellowstone Association. Yellowstone National Park, like Narnia for the Pevensie's, is now my permanent home. Most people tell me that I'm "living the dream". If you should wonder what the dream is like, let me tell you a little bit about Gardiner, Montana.
It's located on the edge of the northwest corner of Yellowstone only a few miles north of Wyoming and the 45th parallel. In other words, I am closer to the North Pole than the equator. Sociologist that I am, I can't resist demographic statistics: population of 742 (counting me), pretty even gender ratios and married vs. singles, ranks in the 98th percentile for air quality, the unemployment rate of 6.6%, the crime rate is half that of the U.S. average, the mean temperature in July is 86 degrees and in January it's 13, and the elevation is 5,285 feet. I went to church today where there 21 people (8 under 18) and 3 deer in the parking lot.
I have 400 square feet, not counting the front porch, to myself. For the first time I have no roommates which means I don't have to label my food anymore. I've already learned that I talk to myself more than I realized. I take my garbage a few miles outside of town to the dump where I was thrilled to discover that they have recycling! The lone grocery store is called The Food Farm and I can walk there in three minutes. The only chain restaurant in town is a Subway. The closest stoplight is 51 miles away. And what of my neighbors? I often see residents walking down the street. About half of the time these residents are human; the other half are deer working their way down from high elevations that are now filled with snow towards lower ground for the winter. There was a five point elk in the post office parking lot yesterday. There is a pile of deer scat on my front porch, which was where I was standing for the following:
I feel the immensity of the change as much as if I really had stepped through a magical wardrobe and heard the door close behind me. Even good change can be disconcerting. I tell myself, "I can do brave things." I remember being part of a discussion about the meaning of the word home. Is it a childhood house? A college apartment or a car packed for a long road trip? For me, home is the place that I think of while falling asleep at night and where I want to be in those moments before I first open my eyes in the morning. I think of a place that is quiet with few people. I imagine beautiful pine trees. There are stars twinkling above and I can see the Milky Way. I must be home because now when I go to sleep I cannot wish myself in any other place.