The Dream of Montana
It is an odd, if common, experience to hop on a plane and be suddenly deposited in a different environment. These airplane trips feel like time travel or like being beamed somewhere, Star Trek-style, creating a strange disruption in my normal sense of continuity. Flying is a slow version of being de-materializing in one place and re-materializing in another. It seemed as if part of me remained in California, asleep, awaiting my return from a dream.
The Montana dream happened because I was attending a meditation retreat. The unfamiliar beauty of the place along with days of silence and the hours of meditation contributed to the dream-like feeling. We met at a Lutheran camp on the shores of Flathead Lake, held in the arms of the surrounding forests and lapping waters.
Before arriving at the camp, I met up with three others in Kalispell for a ride to the retreat. The weather was cool, rain falling unpredictably, randomly. Clouds hung low as if becoming too heavy to float. We first visited a Tibetan Buddhist center called “Garden of a 1,000 Buddhas.” It had a great mandala garden with a Tara statue at the center. Spokes radiated outward lined with identical white Buddhas side by side. The enclosing wall was topped with small stupas, each with a Tara inside, perhaps a thousand of them as well. This was the dream, the vision, of a Tibetan lama, come to realization in this wide grassy valley in a tiny town in remote northern Montana. (As lovely as this was, I prefer the shrine of Wild Nature – snow covered peaks, for example.)
Our cabin at the retreat (mine and two other women) was perched on a bluff facing south across the lake. A large picture window and outside benches drew us back again and again to the spacious view. It was pure luck that I had signed up for this particular cabin, the one with the most spectacular vista.
Each day during breaks between the scheduled sessions, I wandered the property, exploring the aromatic Douglas fir and pine woods with my senses and camera. I was still on the hunt for spring wildflowers, still inspired by the abundant blooms recently seen in California. There were arrowleaf balsamroot, arnica, Oregon grape, penstemon, paintbrush and others adorning the forest floor.
Gradually smoke from wildfires in Alberta made the features hazy, dissolving mountains and lake into something more like the sky, something more like a dream.
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