I was working at a small health food store in NW Montana. It was a small town with a huge tourist population. Whitefish was its name. I had moved there by chance, on a train, to be with a significant other in a place where I could begin to learn the in’s and out’s of market farming, organic gardening.
So on a cold day in late March I arrived in town via Amtrak with two bags to my name. I had a place to crash for a week or so…. And honestly, after that… no plans. I had a pending work/trade at Purple Frog Gardens. Which was weeks away, and if you have never spent time in NW MT…. April is chilly.
After a few weeks of living out in the woods, I moved into a tool shed on Purple Frog. And even though it was a bit overwhelming with the amount of people that I then considered quasi-roommates (they occupied other tool sheds, cabins, vans and airstreams around the property)…. It was an amazing learning experience – in and out of the field.
I got situated in Whitefish rather quickly. From that moment, when I moved onto the farm, which was located just a few short miles outside of downtown Whitefish, I integrated into the community. It was a place I was expecting to spend about six months and all of the sudden two years had passed by…. After many farmer’s markets’ that I just couldn’t pass up. Too short of summers that offered incredible playgrounds – from the parks to the lakes to the local trails.
It was just about two years when Rebecca moved there. At first we didn’t really connect. But I could tell this was a girl I wanted to befriend. Even though I didn’t know why at first. It soon became evident that her view of life would be, should be, adopted by more and her enthusiasm for pleasure seeking would be highly addictive.
I had been spending the winter at the local gym to get some running in. I also had just started getting into CC skiing and skate skiing. Once we got passed the point of mere introductions, we started to really become friends. For me, this was huge. I didn’t have a lot of friends outside of my coupledom at the time, and none that were really into the same things. So this was the first time when I felt stronger in my independence.
Rebecca. The beginning was a bit fuzzy, but I remember at work her commenting – always slightly – when I mentioned how often or how many miles I was running. It was nothing major at the time. Just regularly and happily. A few miles here and a few miles there. I honestly had no hopes or ambitions at that point of taking it further. And I don’t think she cared whether she influenced me to or not. Either way, we each where open to a running partner, or maybe just someone to play with, and we started running together.
She is the first and still the only running partner I have had. Somehow, without pressure, without even suggestion, just mere ambition or desire…. All of the sudden we where out on epic runs through Glacier National Park. Into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Things I hadn’t even considered before where now there, laid in front me. Truly presented to me…. In the sort of detached way she has that somehow instills confidence … “Yes, you can. You are already here. You are already doing it.” It was that same confidence that led me to my first trail marathon in Ashland, Oregon later on that year.
Most of our time we just played. Going to the closest trail. Hiking up Big Mountain at 5am just to run down it by the time we had to be at work. We would use every spare minute to be on a mountain, on a trail, river or lake.
It was at a time when I needed to relearn how to play. Truly play. Not train. Not struggle or even try. Just to think of the best way to let all the other bullshit fall away. So we did. A few short months later and the miles started to add up. The hour long runs after work turned into 3 hour long outings. Our weekdays were spent figuring out what awe-inspiring loop we would get into on the weekends.
Soon after, her and I set off, moving into her Blazer with no plans in sight. Me sans relationship and most of my belongings. Her ready for her next car trip with a companion. For at least 4 months we played. Stopping at trails, to run into hotsprings, to Mt. Rainier. To run, just to run, when camped in beautiful NW forest, through the Redwoods or Joshua Tree. We ran through the hail and through snow. We ran until dusk and then hitch hiked back to our car, filled with ecstatic laughter at the 20 something miles we had covered over two passes. Laughter at the spiraling eagles and awesome photo shoots. Laughter at the sun and the beauty we had just witnessed. Laughter that at the end of the day there is nothing else that could have made that day better spent.
We played. We spent our time wisely. Sometimes it takes a friend to relearn that.