Place Where You Live:

Missoula, Montana (and Las Vegas, New Mexico)

Missoula, Montana, is the place I have come to rest, like a Greater Roadrunner who ran too far north, and is simply pausing for breath before making the 1,200 mile journey home. Missoula does not have the piercing blue skies of Las Vegas, New Mexico, nor the sun that scours you clean. Missoula does not graze the stars with 6,400 feet of high desert, marking the place where the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains embrace; rather, it sits at half this height in a verdant bowl ringed with brown hills which in turn are ringed with blue peaks. Missoula is cut through by the Clark Fork, a river that has inspired books and movies and numerous essays about fly fishing. This river is not the Rio Gallinas, named for the wild turkey that roams the scrubby foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a river with a trickle so thin it merely inspires water conservation. Missoula is not a town with wide dusty streets, fleets of Chevy Impala low riders amassed in xeriscaped yards, houses with pigeons roosting on faded porch couches. It is a town with streets that intersect in unintuitive places, vibrant and untagged murals adorning walls and electrical boxes on countless corners, families of deer that provide animated lawn ornamentation, and the “M” trail on Mount Sentinel offering a way to orient. Missoula comes in shades of greys and blues and greens. Muted colors. Soft on the eyes. It is not a place with red crumbling arroyos, golden yarrow, crimson King Cup cactus flowers, or purple and orange sunsets setting fire to the sky. Still, I greet the cottonwoods like old friends here in Missoula. “Do you know,” I whisper, “your kin to the south”? They shimmer their leaves in response. They are not the trees near the plaza with limbs I can trace in the air with my eyes closed. But for now, their presence is enough, here in this place of abundant water and scant light.