Place Where You Live:

The Gallatin Canyon, Montana

This place is not so much wild as alive.

Each morning as sunlight slips down the hill across from the cabin, the surrounding community either wakes up, or slips off. The big raven appears at the barn to pick grain from the horse manure as the chipmunks start their energetic acrobatics. Elk might be grazing on the spot where the sun first hits the hill, gathering warmth even as they gather grass. The fox will be gone, rarely seen in the day, but often leaving his small scat in front of the door as a reminder that he was here in the night – that this is after all his territory. A bear may also have passed in the dark, moving things around: I wake to find the salt blocks tumbled, the heavy grate over the burn barrel transported into the field.

Such events start the day, here on this slip of land in southern Montana, tucked between National Park and Wilderness Area. Grandpa bought the small ranch in the 1950s, when it was considered isolated and no good for cattle (too high, too snowy), so not worth much. Grandpa raised quarter horses and found the ranch an exceptionally worthy place to live.

Looking out from the cabin, every ridge, peak, valley, and forest is familiar, changed little since my youth. Most of this land I have walked, usually solo. I appreciate how few people can walk where they did as a child, and find it much the same. Yes, the aspen have died off, the forests have decayed, and far more traffic rattles through the Gallatin Canyon than it did. But I can walk this land, and feel the same earth beneath my feet that I did decades ago.

Where I live, my neighbors are mostly non-human, and a conversation with an excitable squirrel or a curious chickadee is more likely than any talk carried out in English. This is a different sort of community, one that embraces human and non-human alike. It is vibrant and alive, and yes, even a bit wild.