Last month I made my first trip to the state of Montana – ‘Big Sky Country’ – where the rolling plains stretch out endlessly between the mountain ranges, and the heavens laden with fluffy white clouds press down on the swaying grasses, grazing cattle, and rustic barns below. Four of us boarded a trusty Subaru Outback for the five-hour journey from Salt Lake City to Lakeview. The drive went by quickly; my new companions were interesting. Between a discussion on the philosophy of eugenics and its role in and before World War II, listening to Cheryl Strayed conversing about her wonderful book ‘Wild’ on NPR, and a stop to re-fuel with gas and a flavored latte in Pocatello, we were there in no time.
We attended a University of Utah Photography and Writing workshop entitled ‘Tutored by the Land’. Three days were spent taking walks and drives, snapping photos, discussing composition (for both photography and writing), reading acclaimed authors, and eating excellent fare. During this time I met some fascinating people – a stockbroker turned Buddhist, a cancer survivor, two people that independently had climbed every peak over four thousand feet in New Hampshire, an immigrant doctor from Pakistan, and a ninety-two year old on a “quest for fun”, to name just a few.
Each new friend had incredible stories and wisdom to share. Most significant for me was from my ninety-two year roommate, Ann, who when asked “From your perch at the top of the tree, what are the most important things in life – what really matters?”, told us that not much really matters, except your people. I found that a great reminder. At the church I attend, Mountain Life, they remind us that it is God and other people that are paramount too (not material possessions, or popularity, etc., which can be short lived and ultimately unfulfilling).
The second noteworthy thought that helped me to put things into perspective, came from my new friend’s blog and a Buddhist flow chart. I am a worrier and I try hard to diminish this tendency. The chart shared: “Can you do anything about it? – No – Don’t worry; Yes – Don’t worry.” I found that powerful.
I feel enriched by my journey to Montana. I came away from my experience not only tutored by the land, but also tutored by people. I have more than photography and writing to dwell on and practice, and some great new friends to boot. I look forward to growth in all these areas.
Here are photos from my trip. I need to select two that will hang in a gallery this December, as the culmination of my course. Which two would you choose?