Why We Live Here

The mountains keep calling us

By Patrick McGunagle

The Flathead is missing one of its best in the mountains at the head of the valley. Further, another tree well fatality puts us at two for the winter.

Some have seen fit to submit sage admonishment from the sanctity of their laptops: “It didn’t have to be this way … he could have stayed home … selfish to put himself at risk … why ski outside the resor t… no one ever died from knitting … I’ll never understand people who do extreme sports.” These same people probably own a “The mountains are calling and I must go” T-shirt, but I’m not sure they actually Get Lost in Montana.

I think we lose sight of our reality for our own comfortable self-flattery – we are privileged and lucky to be here!

This place we live in is AWEsome. I think we forget ourselves amidst that term. To be in awe is to quail, to be frozen in the now, to feel small, to define a limit to your own agency and efficacy, to know boundless energy and beauty, to witness raw physics and raw reality devoid of the compassion our emotions contrive in all things. Nature has no humanity. These mountains are awesome because we’re forced to experience them mostly on their terms. We adapt with skill and gear out of respect. Every day is a new reckoning.

We love the mountains and want to know them; we seek the meaning of their fixture, a truth in the workings of it all, and perhaps a little bit more about ourselves along the way. In my opinion, there is no greater altar.

I don’t mind how you commune with higher power and forces beyond human control. It’s human nature to wonder at such things, and events like this. We ignore our human condition when we stop exploring. The good doctor is missing; he is out there and we understand him. Obviously it is a crushing blow to lose someone who gives so much to our community. By his example we may live more thoroughly and give love more completely. But the mountains keep calling us. We respectfully keep going. We don’t understand why and perhaps we really don’t have to.

Patrick McGunagle

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