Missoula, magkíta táyo mamayâ! See you later!
The last year has been a wonderful, exhausting, and emotional journey. This journey has provided some of the highest summits of my life (figuratively, though I’ve definitely been atop a fair share of mountains), but I’ve also experienced some of the lowest points I’ve ever known. I’ve recently finished graduate school, earning an MS in environmental studies and a certificate in natural resources conflict resolution. I’ve come to the end of almost two years of living at the amazing community of the UM FLAT. I’ve spent a fair amount of time writing, and confidence in my late-night wordsmithing has been boosted by acceptance to a couple of journals. Though busy, I put in enough trail time to feel the need to jump in a couple ultras, and experienced grueling physical and mental challenges at the Yakima Skyline 50k and Scout Mountain 60k. Since the start of the year I’ve grieved over the loss of a dear friend in California, as well as my grandmother in North Carolina and another family member in Eugene. Lastly, this spring I was accepted to serve in a coastal resource management Peace Corps position in the Philippines. While I’m excited to step into this new, wild current, I’m also focused on seeing and talking with as many friends and family as possible before I leave. I’m confident in my ability to transition into this part of life, but also as nervous for the uncertain road ahead.
I think about what other recently accepted volunteers are doing. Are they using Rosetta Stone? Are they buying Chacos with a PC pro deal? How much experience do they have in community-based resource management in tropical coastal climates while using a new language (or two)? I’ve spent far less time dreaming of the Philippines than simply trying to juggle loads of commitments, including trying to check off medical and legal paperwork and getting my visa/passport information completed. But I have thought about the place I’m leaving.
Seven years (give or take some winters away) of these Montana mountains, rivers, alpine flowers, and yeah…really good malty beers (how much does it cost to ship yourself Cold Smokes to the Philippines?). I know the ascending trails around this valley as well as anyone. Each year I’ve waited for the mountain bluebirds to show in spring, and for the western larch to turn in fall. I’ve met a lot of people here, and many of them have had, and will continue to have huge, positive impacts on my life. These are things I know I’ll think about when I get lonely, when I struggle for the right word in a new language, or when I get tired of doing long runs on the beach (ok, perhaps running on the beach might not be terrible).
This blog may end up spending more words on mangroves than mountains, on hornbills instead of huckleberries, and Mindoro dwarf buffaloes instead of…bison. Regardless, I know I’ll miss the people and things of Missoula, Montana, and if folks ever feel like sending reminders of this amazing place, it’d be much appreciated. This post starts with see you later, not goodbye, and that’s very intentional.
Missoula in my head and heart,