The Tree of Light

The Tree of life, the Tree of light.

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When the sun finally sets, and the stars come out, the whole dynamic of the world changes. I just don't know how to explain it. The power of the stars is simply unexplainable, and so fitting. I love to wonder how it all got there, but I do not wish to solve it. For if anything was intended to be forgotten by science, left unsolved, unknown, perhaps it be the stars. I can't help but thank the milky way sometimes. It is a perfect fit for the solitude I experience out here, and it helps me know for certain that I am not alone.  

Clear nights don't come around too often this time of year, but when they do, they are special. They are each unique in themselves and always unforgettable. Every photograph holds with it a memory so vivid, placing me right back in the moment. This time it was the great horned owl, hooting away his evening song beside me as the camera shutter clicked. It was the river of nighttime breeze sifting through the sagebrush and grasses alike. And the lone ponderosa pine; stood out from the others, glowing with the light from a distant Wyoming city, framing a scene I will not soon forget. It was the Tree of light, the Tree of life.



Short and sweet; the theme for this post. But that's not to say I haven't been writing a ton.

Oh Montana...

It's been a whirlwind of events, emotions, people, places, birds, mountains, grasslands and more, all within the two weeks I've been out west. Montana is a combination of everything you can think of, whether it be geographically, socially, politically, you name it. It's as if each corner of the country some how found itself here and never left.

I started here: 


Flathead National Forest. Condon, in particular. Heaven. On. Earth. Fifty miles from Glacier National Park, peaks in the tens of thousands of feet, one of the most wild places I've ever visited, surrounded by some of the best people I've ever had the chance to spend time with. This was our location for training. It was a rather rigorous week, packed tightly with early alarms and lots of coffee, but the learning, the experiences, the laughs and constant excitement of a new place made it all worth while. A week was not nearly enough, Condon. I could've stayed forever.

My assignment for the summer covers a large portion of Montana, focused primarily in the south. Out of 27 breeding bird transects I'll be completing, nearly all of them are scattered amongst the overwhelmingly flat and barren terrain of the state. This hit me hard on the first day, as I sat alone on the back of my car, before a 2,000 acre cattle ranch, contemplating why I had taken a job in such a place. My heart was in Condon, and I was out East. Luckily, I broke free from this mindset. I have since fallen for this place, and undoubtedly begun to embrace it. As everyone has been saying to me, THIS is Montana. Without this job opportunity, I may have never seen it. There are not many people here to begin with; even fewer in the places I go. There is something to be said for that. 

I have since named this part of Montana, The Flat.

If I've learned anything thus far, it's to keep an eye out for the surprises in The Flat; the little badlands and canyons tucked in here and there, the oases of ponderosa forests every few hundred miles, the rattlesnakes and coyotes that share the sunrises, and the endless opportunity to discover. And, it's my home.  

Soon enough, I will be ending my season back in the mountains of Red Lodge - some of the tallest in Montana. I can't say I wouldn't go today if given the opportunity, but I will say that I'm looking forward to the rest of my time here. I've grown to appreciate The Flat, and look forward to all of the surprises I have yet to come across. 

To the adventures ahead.



Adventures Pending

Every story you hear about a climber, a cross-country hiker, an outdoor enthusiast, they all begin with one life changing moment; one that opened up their mind so wide that it let life in, and changed them. Maybe it was the view atop El Capitan after a long overnight climb, or the first light of a spring morning painting over the Wind River Range. Whatever it may have been, it was unforgettable. I've had these moments, too. Some here at home, others amongst the open space of Yellowstone, and South Dakota. Nights under the milky way, with best friends. Bonfires and ice cold beers in the middle of January. Even those long walks through any old stand of trees without telephone wires running through them. Those are adventures. They are what you make them.

Maybe it was the time you saw your first Blackburnian warbler, or watched an eagle fishing from your boat. Your first Adirondack high peak, or overnight hike. It was a moment that changed you, something you'll never forget. As I open up this next chapter in my book of life, I take these memories with me; for they have made me the person I am today.

This chapter begins far from home. Far from a warm shower and a cozy bed at night. It starts in the mountains and valleys of Montana; places where no one goes. It starts with my roots, and that drive to connect with natural places. And most importantly, it starts with adventure. I've been craving an escape, and I've finally gotten my chance. Stay tuned for a story, because I assure you, you won't want to miss this one.



My home is with the hills and trees around me. 

My ceiling holds the moon and stars above. 

So I'll never be a lonely man walking. 

And I'll never live one day without love.


- t.b.t.