Have you ever driven cross-country? Neither have I. But I have driven 75% of the way across the country … four times!
In October 2003, I moved to Montana where I lived until last February, and it’s a 2,700-mile drive from Attleboro to Evaro, the tiny town 20 miles north of Missoula where I settled in the mountains on 10 acres of forested land. (I was born in New York City and moved to Massachusetts when I was 11 years old; I’ve lived most of my life in Massachusetts.)
Yes, the picture appearing at the top of this post is what I saw when I stood on the front porch of my Montana house and looked north. It’s pretty much what I saw when I looked south, east, and west as well–although only between the months of November and April! A few of my favorite Montana pics, taken by yours truly, pepper this post.
When you head west by car, you can literally feel things calm down: the frenetic pace of motorists disappears, speech patterns slow, and people become more warm and open. The landscape, as you’d imagine, changes too. The rolling hills of New England and Pennsylvania turn flat as you drive between endless cornfields, silver silos, and big, red barns. Fog embraces you when you skirt Lake Michigan, obscuring the skyline of Chicago, and the wind nearly blows you off the arrow-straight highway as you make your way across the badlands of South Dakota.
When you head east on the way back, the scenery is even more beautiful. There’s nothing quite like looking down as you drive through a mountain pass over the Continental Divide at an elevation of 6,300 feet. The stark beauty of the Crow Indian Reservation reminds you about the history of the wild west and prepares you to drive through the towns of Sundance and Buffalo in Wyoming and Spearfish and Deadwood in South Dakota.
In addition to the awe-inspiring views, the variety of wildlife takes your breath away: the enormous bald eagle standing right beside the highway, trying to figure a way to chase off the three turkey vultures munching on a carcass. White-tail deer, mule deer, elks, antelope, coyotes, hawks, marmots, muskrats, raccoons–you name it, we saw it.
I didn’t take any pictures as I completed this fourth, and probably final, trip between Attleboro and Evaro. I want to remember all the joy I experienced in Montana–not the sadness of leaving it. They say people are the same everywhere but I don’t believe it. The people in Montana were the warmest, most welcoming people I ever met. (Click here for my magazine article, I’m Home, which was published in Three Rivers Lifestyle magazine in 2006.)
My family, however, is here in Masschusetts and they hold a bigger piece of my heart than Montana does. Which is as it should be. My family taught me about love, and about following my heart wherever it leads me. I’m a richer, happier person for having lived in Montana and experienced the last best place. I’m richer still as I surround myself with my father, siblings, children, and grandchildren.
Home isn’t a place. It’s a safe haven wrapped in the arms of people who love you.