journal: montana

6-18-09

my car is facing away from the mountain.  i wake to the cold and rain.  it’s 5:30 a.m.

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behind me, the mountain is covered in a thin fog, like a bride under her fine lace veil.  she thought she was hiding from me, but how could i not notice her?

cooke city, montana has always treated me well, but this morning, i feel lost.

i rolled in late last night.  weary from the road and rain.  the miner’s saloon, as inviting as it always is, seemed distant.  they only take cash, and the big city man i am, i only had plastic.  no problem, i thought.  this always happens.  luckily, they have the only atm in town.  i slid the blue card in nice and easy, and yanked it back in a forceful, but fluid motion.  “out of order.”  !?!?  but i had already started drinking my beer!

i apologized.  the bartendress seemed annoyed at my genuine apology.

“well, i guess this one’s on me,” she said angrily.

i finished my free scapegoat pale ale and left.

my usual “free” campsite at the edge of town was closed with no explanation.  i put “free” in quotes because i believe you’re supposed to pay.  but i always seem to pull into cooke city after dark… so, i never have.

i decided to park at the old city dump, on the other edge of town.  it only takes about two minutes to walk from one end of town to the other.

i reclined the driver seat of my chevy aveo rental, wrapped myself haphazardly in a sleeping bag, and called it a day.

now here i am; seven hours of restless sleep later.

the sun rose somewhere already, but not here.  the cloud cover is thick, and there’s a light drizzle.  35 degrees.  massive lodgepole pines in front of me absorb the rain like thirsty sailors imbibe on the first day of fleet week.

lately my heart’s been heavy like a sandbag.

this morning is no different.  in fact, today it’s worse.

it feels like someone tied a cinder block, or a dozen, to my chest, and dropped it in the deepest ocean.

if it felt possible to cry, i would.  but i wouldn’t know what for.  after all, i’m in one of my favorite places in the world.

so i decided to start my day.

i made a cup of coffee and rolled a cigarette.  yeah i know, i quit smoking three years ago.  it was three years ago almost to the day when i started again in spain.  then it continued on into lebanon…

you can smoke anywhere in lebanon.  just walk into the airport in beirut with a lit cigarette, and see if i’m exaggerating.

so, unfortunately, for a time, i’m smoking again.

slowly my mind and body, cold and slightly wet from the night before, begin to wake up.

the lamar valley of yellowstone anxiously awaited my arrival.  but the sun still hides it’s precious rays.

in spite of my thoughts, behind the clouds, the light is there just waiting for me to remember it still exists.

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all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2009