Joy No. 47

Born and raised a flatlander, I have always been awed by mountains, their massive beauty, the way their vegetation and topography evolve from bottom to top, the way they seem to touch the sky.

But I have also resented them. I’ll never forget driving my little Saturn coupe solo from North Dakota to Washington in 2001, the interstate’s slope increasing through western Montana and Idaho, my car’s engine working harder and harder, my palms breaking such a nervous sweat that I had no choice but to steer with one hand, wiping the other on my jeans, switching hands back and forth, steering and wiping, steering and wiping, wondering how much steeper the road could get, and then arriving at the top of Lookout Pass, taking a breath and embarking on an anxiety-inducing descent … before repeating the same process again up and over Fourth of July Pass.

Blasted Bitterroots!

Living out West, whenever people heard I was from the Northern Plains, they inevitably would comment, even laugh, envisioning (or recalling their own visits to) the flat topography I had left. But for me, talking about it — even just thinking about it — would cause me to exhale, to relax. Yes, I could appreciate the landscape of mountains, but for me home is where we focus on the skyscape.

Now back in Minnesota, Leo and I recently took a trot across a new (to me) bridge crossing the Red River of the North. Along the bridge deck were plaques sharing facts about the area, including this one:

“The Red River Valley is one of the flattest landscapes on Earth.”

At least I can say I come by my preferences honestly.

Now if we could only engrave another stone recognizing our skyscape as one of the world’s most spectacular …

Exhale.

Joy.

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