Yesterday, I as I stepped of the Horizon Air Q400, I stood on the tarmac, looked around at the empty mountains and squat terminal building nearby, and took a deep breath. That thin, fresh mountain air, tinged with jet fuel means I am back in Montana.
I took care of business in Missoula today, and now I'm sitting on the balcony of my hotel room, looking out over the dense black water of the Clark Fork River at night. Its subtle roar seems healthier that the similar, yet disturbing, constant highway roar ever-present in most cities.
It's quieter tonight. The inebriated college kids seem to have knocked off early. There is no second-hand marijuana smell wafting in from one of the neighbors' balconies. The police just drove quietly through the park across the river sweeping the spot light across the banks, hoping to spot the errant camper, homeless person, or whomever they were looking for. They found no one.
Even in the second biggest city in the state, it's easy to feel the open space. And it's easy to feel that something in the air is fundamentally different than in many places. Perhaps it's the oxygen.
I've been thinking over the past couple of days about what story to tell. How should I describe Missoula? How do I capture the magic of this state? What anecdotes are most appropriate.
In the end, I gave up trying.
So I just look out over the water in the calm chill of the night, inhale deeply, smile slighty, and just say: