Ocean set

The cloudless sky colors slightly as the sun sets over the Pacific south of Shell Beach. A couple wears colors of pale pink, peach, green and blue. Their photographer snaps away, his box light flashing after ever soft suggestion of a command he coaxes the couple through.

They walk the same path. Over and over as he judges the light, works the scene, tries his hand at capturing some semblance of a fleeting moment, some emotion of love that could perhaps be held in the shattered light that sets in colors over the blue rippling pond of water that laps before their feet.

If they hold their hands together just so and walk into the fading ray of sunlight. If they can clasp each other close and feign the look of the lover’s eye, staring full into each others’ faces then maybe the rest of the world can see that they do. An engagement photo session perhaps to be shared via social networks and wedding websites.

A couple, well into their years of marriage quietly walks around the makeshift studio, bare feet in the pebbled sand. One in front of the other they stare at their feet and softly gaze at the sky and ocean that only meet at the horizon of the far away setting sun.

They come together as they walk closer to the end of sand, where the pebbles turn to boulders half-submerged in the surf and the boulders turn to a wall of cliffs that lead up to the Shell Beach park full of dog-walking families. Crinkled up-turned faces come to an understanding of laughter and light of heart.

The feet sticking out from between the cliffs turn into a man, naked except for his Hawaii print shorts and beer bottle covered palm. He rises from his chair and wraps himself in a big towel after the sun sucks its heat from the earth. Standing, he sways and watches the water. Flippers kick up at the surface past the breaking waves, near the furthest boulder.

Light fades from the inside of the rocky arch, mimicking the sunlight that erases its memory from the ocean.

 

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Winter walk

Tire tracks and horseshoe shaped molds mark over the trails above the housing tracts and business districts that are the Bay Area. Oaks and Eucalyptus trees still hang their leaves proudly as neon green moss grows on the shadiest hillsides. A quiet calm is broken by laughter and chatter from a distant trail. Although I grew up about two miles from the Fremont Older Open Space Preserve, this is only the second time I’ve walked the ups and downs of its hills.

Mansions dot the valleys and hilltops as the trails winds from nature vistas to views of populated space. The Bay Area View Trail takes a loop that hesitates before a sign that signals a small rise in elevation to Maisie Peak. It’s the highest peak (I use that term extremely loosely) in the preserve and shows off the South Bay, a valley full of life as far as the eye can see in either direction and a horizon line above the smoke and smog that share space with the blue sky.

It’s winter in the Bay and the only evidence I find is the muddy ground and a slight chill in the shade. Other than that, it’s above 60 degrees and sunny blue skies without a cloud to destroy it.

Goodbye Bigfork…goodbye Montana

My favorite photos from the last year of reporting for the Bigfork Eagle

It’s weird for me to think that I will be living in a different state by the end of the month.

Montana has been my home for most of my adult life, and now I’m leaving it. I think deep down, since the moment I drove my Landcruiser across the stateline, I knew I wouldn’t stay forever.

I knew eventually I would go back to California to be closer to my family and closer to my roots. But I fought the urge. Everytime a life changing moment came about, I found a reason to stay up here. I wasn’t ready to leave.

I think there’s something about life in northwestern Montana that becomes almost a fantasy. The mountains, lakes, rivers, wildlife, small population, close-knit communities, cowboys, cattle, rodeos, backcountry adventures and utter vastness of open space leave an imprint on the minds of the people who visit and later come to live in this area. I am sad to say goodbye.

My time in this state has been tumultuous to say the least. Whether it’s been boys, jobs, school, cars or friendships, the last six years have definitely not been boring.

I went from living on a ranch in the Thompson River Valley, playing cowboy, marketing beer and snowboarding almost every weekend to living in Bigfork, exploring every little nook and cranny of wildlife management area, coaching soccer, reporting for a newspaper and becoming a part of The Garden Bar community.

In between was Missoula, where I met many of the Montana friends that I will keep for the rest of my life, where I made a home for myself and where I learned to love Montana even more than I already did.

Missoula, I think, was where I became an adult. I know it sounds strange, but I feel like life comes at you in segments. The segment I spent in Missoula was where I gained confidence in my ability to be me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had confidence in myself, but there were areas where I lacked it — most particularly in my ability to make a decision that seriously affected my future and my ability to commit to something.

I was afraid of making the wrong decision. Before that, I didn’t want one career to carry me through. I didn’t want all my arrows in one quiver, I didn’t want to look at something I couldn’t see right in front of me. And although to a certain degree, I think that’s just a part of who I will always be, I’m not afraid to do it anymore.

I’m committed to being a writer, telling stories, being a journalist of some sort, and my time in the Flathead Valley has cemented that feeling inside of me. Being able to tell the stories of this community has been challenging, interesting and fun. It’s allowed me to put time into something I believe is important and blossom as a writer. For that I am thankful.

I know I am just another in a line of Bigfork Eagle employees to leave in the last few years, and I apologize for that. I hope that whoever comes next decides to make it for a while because this is a great area, with a warm, giving and open community and some kick-butt recreational opportunites.

For me it’s just not home, and I think I finally realized that Montana never was home, it was just a fantasy for me. My home is close to my family, close to what I left behind and what I want to get to know again.

My heart will always have a hole in it after I leave Montana, that much I know for sure. And I hope that someday I will be able to make it my home. But now it’s time for the next adventure, which as everyone knows is the future with a huge question mark, a little fear and a lot of excitement — my favorite. That adventure takes me to Santa Maria and a new paper.

Hopefully when I get there, the community treats me as kindly and with as much respect as those that I interacted with in Bigfork.