Amid the universal rejoicing and advance of humanity, stand fast for a moment and consider the march progress is taking. What are we really gaining? What are we in danger of losing? -Brooke Williams
My father surveyed the little cabin; my kitchen table without chairs, the old TV trays from my past life where I lived in the Kountry Star camper, the TV that only gets 5 working channels, my laptop in a mirage of wires on the floor, my beat up bed that was drug thousands of miles in the nose of a horse trailer.
“I was worried you would be living a life of poverty out here, now that I’ve arrived I am sure of it.”
“She didn’t come here to make money, she came here to disappear.”
The three of us went around and around for nights on end. Why? Why live in such tough country without all the comforts of modern life? What is the point? An RN could go to any large city, land a job in the nearest hospital and earn twice as much I can make in Lincoln county. I could buy a new car, a big house and keep my horses stalled up in a fancy million dollar barn. I could brush shoulders with those that have more money than I’ll earn in a lifetime. Why at this time in my life, run off to a secluded community surrounded by vast wilderness? Why struggle to hack out a living where everything costs more and the dirt itself is too poor to even grow a tomato?
“We have access to new ideas once we divorce ourselves from the idea that limitless work is some form of glory, the main goal of our existence. It has become so clear to me that this modern- especially American – addiction to work and the material rewards we’re promised in exchange must be disrupted, derailed, disconnected if we are to live truly meaningful lives, if a reasonable future is possible. So grown to it’s chains are the masses; to leave them is the only resource.” -Terry Tempest Willams & Robert Jefferies.
I came here to disappear. I was running full speed from all the mistakes I made between Ohio and Nebraska. I needed a quiet place to rest up and figure out what really matters. I got lucky and found more than I imagined possible.
Montana truly belongs to those who embody the rebel spirit. I take care of them at work. The old timers of this community who earned a dollar where most couldn’t. They built houses out of the wilderness, raised families despite harsh and imposing winters and kept the pulse going through thick and thin. Now our current generation is too busy, too wrapped up in technology to spare even a visit. When they do visit the kids sit on their 4G cell phones while the people of this place keep their far away gazes. My hours are awful and long. The pay leaves much to be desired. At the end of squeezing 36 hours of RN time into 72 hours I can barely make the hour drive back up the mountain. But there are plenty of moments that give the job substance. In the haze of confusion of these failing, aging bodies you can hear their stories if you know how to listen. That is the only thing that makes this gut-wrenching job worth it. Imagine living in a prison where every minute you are watched, given rules, herded to meals, told when to sleep and fed pills by the cupful. I didn’t become a nurse so I could be a cog in the machine. I became a nurse so I could promote healing, but there is no healing the process of dying. I know that life is tremendously short and before you know it your good health is gone and someone has to be there in the final moments. It used to be that people died at home with the people they had worked so hard to support. Now even death is commercialized, big business. Birth and death have been institutionalized, and within that institution sometimes I get the chance to make a difference. I do my best to let people have their dreams about going home or seeing a loved one who has been dead for forty years. As we near death the lines between reality and dreams become blurred. Consciousness comes and goes, and in that space between there is truth. Who someone was. Who they weren’t.
“Human suffering is so great, so endless, so awful that I can hardly write of it. I could not go into hospitals and face it, as some do, lest my mind should be temporarily overcome.”
Every day I have in this beautiful place deserves gratitude. Here I have that extra time that city dwellers spend sitting in traffic jams and standing in long lines. There are no digital LCD billboards polluting up the night sky. Fast food is actually banned from existing in town. There are no stop lights. Here people can actually comprehend words like solitude and wilderness.
I can lay on an open ridge overlooking little glacier lakes full of trout, campfire smoking and feel in my soul the people who have meaning in my life. Amidst thousands of acres of the last wilderness left it is still possible to have adventure without computer generated entertainment.