The other night, we watched a re-run of the Montana episode of Parts Unknown hosted by the late Anthony Bourdain. I enjoy watching the series and this episdoe about Montana drew to it as we have visited Montana several times.
Bourdain ate with a poet I had not heard of before: Jim Harrison. He spoke about being part of nature and how he feels small under the big sky of Montana. I looked him up and felt I should have heard of him before. He was a celebrated and well-published poet.
I chose this poem as it speaks to how we create binary choices in a complex world and universe filled with a myriad of choices that we follow depending on the spirit. For example, we often think we have to separate the economy and the environment.
The etymology of economy is from the Greek, oikos, meaning household and suggests keeping a good house. We only have to think about animals and how they do not soil their living quarters to understand how economy and ecology are related.
Harrison created wonderful imagery about the sky being a door never closed, but the sun and moon are not doorknobs. He lived in Montana for years where the sky is big and stretches on, as does the land.
I had to look up Dersu Uzala. It was a movie made about a man who lived his life integrated with nature and the universe, who dies when he moves inside.
I’m trying to create an option for all
these doors in life. You’re inside
or out, outside or in. Of late, doors
have failed us more than the two-party system
or marriages comprising only one person.
We’ve been fooled into thousands of dualisms
which the Buddha says is a bad idea.
Nature has portals rather than doors.
There are two vast cottonwoods near a creek
and when I walk between them I shiver.
Winding through my field of seventy-seven
large white pine stumps from about 1903
I take various paths depending on spirit.
The sky is a door never closed to us.
The sun and moon aren’t doorknobs.
Dersu Uzala slept outside for forty-five years.
When he finally moved inside he died.
I took this picture several years ago as I looked from Alberta towards Montana across the field, with fresh bales of hay in the forefront and the mountains and sky forming the backdrop.
Interesting. Having lived in Chicago for my entire life, I never really saw “big sky.” Sometimes we can barely see the sky at all. Trees, buildings, all sorts of things, including lights, interfere with seeing the sky. When I was in New Mexico I couldn’t believe the turquoise blue sky, that never ended. I couldn’t stop looking at it. There was absolutely nothing in the way. Nothing. Not even a bird. It’s a very dead place, because of the never ending drought, but I couldn’t believe how empty everything was and how gigantic the sky was. We (my daughter was with me) didn’t even see dogs or cats, nothing except for one roadrunner. Our trip almost became a scavenger hunt for living things. Otherwise nothing alive, but for the people. Big sky. I understand it because of my experience. She wanted to go home, because she couldn’t stand not being around trees. The sky was relentless, never changing, no clouds, just blue. Amazing…at least to us. Skyscrapers make me feel small but powerful and invincible. Open country, makes me feel isolated and other. It’s not only what a person is used to, it’s who a person is. It’s what a person needs. Such a thought provoking post. Your photograph is beautiful, but I would want the hay to be cars and the mountains to be skyscrapers and I’d like a LOT of people playing music on the street, and feeding pigeons. LOLOLOL Thank you.
I think the beauty of humans (Gypsy Bev mentioned this) is our diversity. I have lived in both rural and urban settings. They come with their advantages.
I presented after a health care practitioner from British Columbia at a conference. She commented in British Columbia there is about 1.1 people per square kilometer. I started my presentation by saying I had been in places where I was the one person, along with a grizzly bear.
I think it was Carl Sandburg, writing about Chicago, who spoke of its human made beauty.
I grew up in Nebraska and live in Australia. Both have big skies—offering landscapes and skyscapes that I love. Interesting how people have such differing senses of ‘feeling at home’.
I have been to neither place, but I think southern Manitoba is the edge of the Great Plains. Driving alongside flat fields of corn and sunflowers speaks to that. I imagine in both places a person feels small in comparison to the sky.
It’s interesting think if the sky as a door. Normally, we think of our world as land-based and rather horizontal.
We do. I had not thought of the sky as a portal or door, as Harrison does. It is a different way to enter nature.
Once you are accustomed to being in nature, it is very difficult to even think about living in a city. That sounds like punishment to me. It’s certainly fortunate that we don’t all like the same thing.
It is. There is beauty in diversity. I love to walk and just take my time, enjoying the quiet of where I am. Sometimes that quiet comes with special sounds we miss.
I like your stream of consciousness here, Ivon. I am like the man who would die if I had to live inside. Literally. Here in Hawaii our doors and windows are always open. But even in the woods of Maine, we had huge windows on all sides of the house to bring the outside in. And we were outside a Lot. Lived on a lake where we swam Out, flipping onto our backs to view the sky. And near the house was a large clearing rimmed with huge granite boulders. Many nights we would sit on those rocks, looking at the stars or northern lights.
I could no more forego stars and stillness than my city friends could stand them for long. And I’m grateful too. Let the crowds amass, long as they leave me my solitude. Aloha. 🙏🌺
I love driving at night in Alberta during the winter. The Northern Lights are so in evidence. When I am in Edmonton, I don’t get to see them. As a child, I lived further north and on cold nights the sky pops. We can miss so much with the urban lights polluting the sky.
We used to stay at the farm and the train tracks run about a mile away from the old house. On cold winter nights (-40 degrees), when the train went by, it felt like it was coming through the house.
Nature is a brilliant mistress.
She is, indeed.
The photo at the end captures so much of what both you and Harrison said.
I’ve spent most of my life in Arizona. I came here from Illinois after a springtime visit. But I spent two years in Big Sky Country, Montana. Endless sky, endless beauty.
The southern part of Alberta is similar with its mountains, prairies, and sky melding into one. The highway we were on that day runs in the lee of the Rockies and curls right to the edge of it in places. We drove through ranchland most of the way, but a turn of the head reminded us of the grandeur of the Rockies. I think Montana captures more fully, because the sky is so open throughout.
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