Words and Photos by Niall Clancy
My home state of Montana is well known for its mountain vistas and rolling hills. The reputation of places like Glacier Park and the Upper Missouri Breaks is spread far and wide. I have been fortunate enough to live my entire life here, playing in the streams, turning over rocks, hiking to alpine lakes, skiing powdery slopes. The appeal of living in such a place is not lost on me. It’s why folks move to Montana from California, Washington, and Arizona. We’ve got the goods and still aren’t as crowded as Colorado’s front range or other such places. However, I’ve never been as taken by those mountain vistas and rolling hills as others. Sure, Going-to-the-Sun Road is spectacular, but I don’t think the best part is the sheer cliffs or falling water; I like the mountain goats. You see, in our awe at the places where nature provides wonders at such a scale, we’ve forgotten to look down. We’ve forgotten to appreciate the small things. It sounds cliché but it’s meant in a different way. Instead of looking at that snowy mountain range, try examining the ants in your lawn. Look at how all the individuals come together for one purpose. How? Instead of flipping through that National Geographic, looking at pictures of the Serengeti, watch how the squirrels and magpies interact. As kids, we are constantly thrilled by the little miracles nature provides. But once we’ve reached adulthood, we can only be awed by magnificence of monumental proportion? I suggest we stop pining for a new setting or adventure in some foreign country and turn our gaze downward.
The actor Jim Carrey has a saying, “I wish everyone could become rich and famous so they’d learn it isn’t the answer.” Here’s a corollary: I wish everyone could live somewhere beautiful so they’d learn that there’s beauty everywhere. You don’t need mountains to get outdoors and enjoy nature. Walk among the grasses, and the swamps, and the flatlands. You’ll soon see the intricacies and the uniqueness of each place. And, I believe, if we find the beauty in all places, we’ll want to protect all places. If settlers had truly seen the beauty of the Great Plains, perhaps they wouldn’t have tilled its entirety. So, go. Get out in that forest and up in the mountains, and out on the lakes. Just remember to look down.
Niall Clancy is a freelance nature writer and naturalist based in Bozeman, Montana.
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