A River Runs through It

Last night on the road. My. Last. Night.

I’m just about half an hour outside of Missoula Montana, and it is as beautiful as you can imagine. Route 90 pipes down and winds along the Clark Fork river and the mountains are close and sagey, soft looking. Even though there are still hours of light, I pulled off before 6:00 at the Bear Creek State Park and grabbed a site before I got to that point of perpetual-motion sickness I felt last night. There are just under seven hours to go tomorrow, which is a good three or more less than I’ve been averaging.

I can still hear the highway, but I don’t really care. I have earplugs and that white noise has been ever present day in and out since I set out four days ago. And it might slack off over night.

This morning, I woke at dawn, and it was windy and cold as it had been all night. As I was about half an hour from Devil’s Tower, I decided to get on the road right away and check it out. I am completely in love with that place!

It says a lot about this culture that anyone would name that place Devil’s anything. It is a compellingly majestic and benevolent structure. She–for surely it is a She, a manifestation of Panchamama, Gaia, Mother Earth–rises up into view as you drive west on route 14, appearing and disappearing with each turn if the road. She has one face going west and another going east.

I stopped on the road and took Her picture from each angle and in the rapidly changing light, first under drizzly clouds, later against deep blue with a backdrop of cumulus. None of them captures her exquisite beauty. At Her feet are furrowed fields in alternating arcs of green and brown or pastures blazing with fragrant yellow ground cover.

I felt, gazing upon Her on my eastbound trip back to the highway the way I’d felt in Peru. As if I was under Her spell and could have sat on the grassy golden roadside at Her feet all day.

Native people have many names for Her, and She is a sacred site marking a variety of ceremonial uses. The local tribes ask climbers to refrain from scaling her 1267 feet in the month of June when many sacred ceremonies are held such as vision quests and the Lakota Sun Dance on the solstice. I felt especially blessed to receive Her benediction on this last day of June at the end of my own journey into renewal.

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