Creeping up on the eve of my retirement, I cannot help but reflect upon my last 13 years spending every workday on the winding roads here in Montana on my way to campus. I chose from the beginning of my journey here at Summit Prep to make my daily drive one of peace and reflection. I could have chosen and sometimes do choose to take the speedy express route from our small city of Kalispell to the campus. That takes 10 minutes less than the route I travel.
I am an early riser. I try to leave my home by 6:30 in the morning and take side streets without any traffic lights. If I do take a road that has a traffic light, it will definitely be blinking with a caution light or a blinking stop sign. I just sneak across that as there is usually few if any obstacles in my way. I pass by elementary schools that are just waking up. I have also gotten accustomed to noticing where my neighbors clothed in their long robes are darting out onto the street to rescue their newspaper.
Leaving the town behind I come to the newest obstacle, the by-pass around the city that comes complete with a round-about that is itself a new feature in the Montana landscape. Finally, I get to slip onto a residential road, Whalebone Drive, that runs along a creek with a wall of forest on the opposite side. Here I have gotten to the place where I begin to encounter wildlife. This past winter a huge elk stepped up onto the road on the Creekside wanting to cross into the woods. He stepped out at the last second. I just about stopped my car when the elk got a bump on his rear flank that rolled him onto the road and he is lying on his back struggling to get back on his feet. He was thrashing his head and the spread of antlers he had seemed to be preventing him from being able to right himself. I sat in awe behind the wheel with my headlights just illuminating the patch of road on which he struggled.
All of this slowness and awareness of my surrounding as an opening to my day has led me to a place where I, as an admissions person, can hear the information that is often quite painful for a family to share. I can read about events that in testing seem unfathomable to have happened. To sit in the wake of rubble and give back hope of light at the other end of the “earthquake.” That is what we are asking of families when we suggest their child is in need of a therapeutic boarding school. Struggling to get back on their feet just as the elk, caught in the blindness of the headlights.
Montana and its environment lends itself to giving space for feeling, thinking and healing. As I move forward and make a transition to a new life schedule, I am keeping my eyes open to how I can begin my day with nurturing and wide-eyed wonder. I believe that the wonders in the world far outweigh the worries in the world….so I will keep on looking for the road less traveled and the space to breathe in & out.