Friday, July 13, 2012

Montana Musings, July 13

Our niece Adelina in the LR
Have you ever felt like a foreigner though you’ve been close to home? Montana is still a state of frontier memories, of small towns filled with cowboy art and ranching stores. It’s a world away from the coastal cosmopolitan neighborhoods of Seattle where we live. The thunder rolls between the mountains in the middle of the night, black without the lights of city streets, as I write.

I’ve taken two weeks away from blogging, overwhelmed by W’s building projects and people coming and going. W got a head start at the cabin, arriving a few weeks before I did. He thrives on a plethora of projects while I need solitude to recover my balance. I drove from Seattle to Montana after a spring that included a dissertation and graduation, nearly four weeks in Israel and Jordan, a week with my lovely granddaughter and her mommy, and a trip to middle-Canada for a family celebration. I felt ready for a change of pace.

Our cabin sits near the western gates of Glacier National Park. The air is crisp and the water is pure. The tall-treed mountain slopes tower around us and the Flathead River flows less than a quarter-mile away. We’re smack in the middle of a natural wilderness, near the bighorn sheep, bears, wolves, and deer that populate the park. W’s been working on the cabin for 15 years.

Blockbuster's repurposed shelves take shape
The cabin structure is sound, the rooms are trimmed, the bathrooms are in, and the front steps are built. A few things left to do include door handles, bathroom shelving, towel racks, closet doors ... little stuff compared to what W’s built. The walls are still mostly empty of art and the furniture is second- or third-hand. The mattresses range from comfy to lumpy. But the reclaimed wood floors are spectacular and the walls are painted.

We love the people at the Bible camp where our cabin is located. They are friendly, welcoming, and mostly small-town pastors and church attendees whose families have come to camp for generations. We’ve been spending summers here for 19 years. For many of those, mostly seniors and middle-agers like ourselves filled the campgrounds. The past five years, a new crop of youngsters and their 20-to-30-something parents  have played at the playground or ridden bikes on the gravel streets where our kids used to roam. It’s a rediscovery of a treasured community, the kids of yester-year returning with their own children.

Shelves almost done
The little glacier-fed Lion Lake, filled with crayfish and local swimmers, lies a few miles from camp beside the road to the 500-foot-high Hungry Horse Dam, a spectacular feat of mid-nineteenth-century engineering. Yesterday, I dropped our son Jonathan, my Edmonton brother Will, and his kids Lem and Lina at the lake for a few hours while I went grocery shopping.

In the evening, we ordered American-style meals at the Back Door Restaurant in Columbia Falls, a popular hangout for locals. Except for Lem, an eating machine at 17 years of age, we chipped away at the edges of our meal, overwhelmed by the huge portions of fat-rich foods. We took as much home as we had eaten. Around us, tables crowded with diners polished off their plates and asked for dessert, too.

Ziggy, with the hard-working builder
resting on the sofa upstairs. Shelves
are done!
Most of our family is here this week. I’ve cooked more meals in the past two weeks than I ever make at home, trying to accommodate various adult tastes and diets. No beef for one. No vegetables for the other. Certainly no whole-grain breakfast muelsi for another. The rich foods and lack of fiber of the normal American diet are catching up with me: my body feels toxic, sluggish, and without energy. Next week, I’ll cook healthier food with relief.

As the cabin settles into “finished structure,” I hope to unwind from years of study and writing projects. Especially, I’m looking forward to solitude for prayer and meditation on scripture. My husband is energized by constant interaction with people. However, I’m counting on quiet time and the great outdoors for renewal before heading back to city life and obligations in the fall.

Jeremy, Kirsten, and Rebekah chatting on the sofa
One idea that keeps reoccurring this summer is how scripture calls us to self-control, never to control our circumstances or other people. As I get older, I prefer orderly spaces, tidy rooms, and uncluttered schedules. My habit of reading several books at the same time, of spreading papers across a table for research and writing, and my strong curiosity to explore new things function best without a chaotic backdrop. This week, as W moved the saw outside from the back hall, gathered the tools from the tables and corners of the rooms, and took the piles of wood from the kitchen, I felt my breath begin to deepen and my body to relax.

Jesus never promised neat surroundings and untrammeled relationships. We live in families and among friends with their own ideas and preferences of “normal.” Accommodation of others is part of ongoing self-control.

Even in Montana, where keys are left in unlocked cars and little kids run around without parental super-vision, stuff happens and we learn to lean on Christ for rest and refreshing. He remains the same, in familiar or foreign surroundings.

Hope you’re enjoying summer, wherever you are, too. (I’d love to know where and how you’re living it.)

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  1. Love your cabin! It looks wonderful. I won't be able to be at camp at all this year - bummer! Enjoy your rest.

    1. Sorry you can't be here. A year without HH is missing something. Have a great summer tho, wherever it finds you.

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  3. Thanks for sharing the photos of your lovely retreat. How wonderful that it's (almost) complete! Although you've not had much solitude yet, but I'm glad that you're planning for it. Enjoy the rest of your summer!