Montana has a long tradition of listening to and respecting — revering — its writers and the state’s literary tradition. In an unprecedented show of unity, more than forty of Montana’s best writers have gathered, in rapid response fashion, to write original essays and testimonials advocating for the protection of our public lands, and endorsing Democratic House of Representatives candidate Rob Quist’s position on this (literally) most common ground of issues. Please vote on May 25.
Landscape Without Figures
From Highway 278 eastbound after Badger Pass
Just beyond a chute fringed by lodgepole
the roadbed rises then breasts, sagebrush
clumps forever and the Beaverhead Valley
unrolls, widening ripples in a giant pond,
girded by near and distant ranges with local
names tagged to memory. Somewhere in this
broad brown bowl capped by winter snow
a river runs through it and borders the town
called home this quarter century, invisible
in the big round view where riparian zones
retreat to mountain shoulders and sheds
or houses, infrequent, shrink below vision
and what’s changed since William Clark
and crew trod through and long before
them, Shoshone hunted and fished? Where
is the crowded 21st century in this Montana
panorama, this wide-angle basin and range?
Where am I, a dot between wagging sagebrush?
Novelist Thomas Savage said, “it’s impossible . . .
to look at the horizon. . .and consider that there
is such a thing as Europe or neighbors or
anything else.” Big Sky Country shrinks a guy,
enfolds me within countless open benches
and ridges like standing on a mountaintop,
growing tiny amidst a jumble of aspiring
points. I lose myself in the curving rim
without end that cups my middle life.
Alan Weltzien teaches at the University of Montana Western in Dillon.