As a nurse, I encountered numerous memorable patients but there were a few that forever settled into my heart. Montana Wild is fiction, but Jacob, the patient in the story was real. In the span of a human lifetime, I knew him a very short time, but his spirit had a lasting effect on me. Jacob died decades ago but he stays with me and inspired me to write.
How is it that someone I knew for so short a time could have such a lasting effect on me?
Have you ever had a chance encounter with someone. . .a stranger, and you just clicked, even for a few minutes? I am not talking romantically, it goes deeper and more to the core than that. Age, gender, race doesn’t come into play…you just feel a connection with their spirit. In my lifetime, this has happened to me only a handful of times but I cherish each occurrence.
I was in an elevator with a group of people once when it happened…something almost magical. For those few short moments, as we traveled between floors, I felt a kinship… talking, laughing, interacting on a real level, sharing an unusually close rapport of humankind. As the routine journey stopped at every floor, packed in like sardines, we became one…sharing laughter, stories, kindness…basic human spirit.
When we finally reached our destination, I felt sadness when the doors opened and the shared warmth dissipated as we all went our separate ways. I mourned that it was over, but a deep contentment lingered as I knew I had just shared something special. Did everyone feel that same afterglow? I hope so. Why does it happen so rarely?
Jacob’s time with me was short but when a connection like that happens, one cannot measure it in time but in essence. A bit of his spirit lives on in me. It was a gift.
Thank you Jacob.
When my children were growing up, we had a chocolate lab, Stanley who was an ‘old soul’ and loved by all. Pre-occupied with raising kids and a full time job I didn’t give Stanley much of my time but luckily, my kids and husband lavished him with love and attention. Sadly, he developed cancer and the prognosis was poor. I tearfully asked our vet how long can we could keep him without being cruel. “You’ll know when it’s time,” our kind friend answered.
It was only a month later while we were vacationing at our cottage, when his words rang true. We unanimously decided that it was time and my husband would drive Stanley back to our home vet. During his last 2 days with us, we fed him everything and anything he wanted. For his last night, my daughter and I slept in sleeping bags with him between us on his bed on the floor. It was a long, tough night but I hope he felt our love.
Saying good-bye to him as my husband loaded him into the car was heartbreaking.
That was the last summer before our daughter left for college and I swore off any more pets. It was too painful saying good-bye.
Fast forward 8 years and my son temporarily moved back in with us. He wanted a dog and my husband and I finally agreed after many a discussion. After all, my son was home for a short-term transition and it would be his dog, his responsibility. Evan was true to his word. He fed him, trained him, cleaned up after him and loved him.
However, just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a family to raise a puppy. That darn pup worked his way into my heart in a big way. I still had pangs of guilt about not giving Stanley enough attention because I was too busy with life. I didn’t have that excuse this time . . .my kids were grown. I had time to dote on my grand puppy and dote I did. I came home at lunch to walk him, cuddled with him in the evening, and took him to obedience class when my son’s schedule didn’t permit. I had all the time in the world and I fell in love!
Nothing melts away a workday’s stress better than a dog’s loving welcome.
A year later my son tells me he is moving out. My reaction? “I’ll miss you son, but the dog stays!”
I tell myself it’s because my son’s schedule is too busy with full time school, a demanding job and busy social schedule. But I am fooling no one.
For now, we are sharing custody and it is working. I know I will eventually have to give him up but I’ll think about that tomorrow.
In Montana Wild, Jamie the heroine, was a New York City girl, born and bred. An impromptu trip to Montana brings her face to face, literally with horses and she is amazed at her reaction. Having never loved an animal before, she is surprised with her overwhelming affection for one horse in particular.
As she confesses her emotions to the the caretaker of the horses, he acknowledges her feelings.
“We are all God’s creatures. And I don’t necessarily think humans are on a higher level than other animals.”
Is there anything more true, more pure, than the affection of an animal? I think not. It is love in its most basic form and I hope everyone experiences it, at least once in their lifetime.
It is another way to . . .
Talk about opposites . . .
Question - What could make a born and bred New Yorker leave the city she loves for the mountains and wilderness of Montana?
Before I answer, let’s think about this….
Born and raised in Michigan, I had the opportunity to experience life both in a metropolitan area and (as Michiganders say) ‘up north’, in a more rural setting surrounded by forests and lakes. While this gives me a taste of two diverse settings, neither are the extreme.
I don’t think anyone would argue that New York City is the ultimate urban setting. It is home to over eight million people, not counting tourists and visitors. Wow! Imagine all the stories there. Reaching far to the other side of the spectrum is Montana with a population of just over one million…in the whole state!
We often tend to think of city dwellers as soft because of the many creature comforts a large urban area provides. True, civilization and big cities offer many conveniences but, to survive in NYC, you can’t be a cream puff. Contrary to what many believe, New Yorkers are outside…a lot. Walking to and from subway stops in blustery wind and blowing snow, fierce downpours or hot humid windless days…they need to be tough.
Cement sidewalks, granite curbs and endless stairs in the subway provide a daily work out…all while carrying commuter packs and groceries along with their cup of latte. But New Yorkers love it…they thrive on the hustle bustle. Sidewalks are crammed with people laughing, arguing, deep in conversation or silently immersed in their thoughts. It is a people place.
Montana wilderness, on the other hand, is a land of wide open spaces that offer vistas of tree topped mountains, ice cold rivers and of course, Big Sky. It is rugged country and their people are too. They are hard workers who have a slice of heaven and know it. A giant herd of elk crossing the road is the only time you’ll get stuck in traffic. It’s been said that the whole state is just one big small town.
Imagine as a New Yorker, trading in your sky scrapers for majestic pines. Instead of bumping shoulders on the crowded street you walk alone on dirt paths leading up a mountain side. Rather than inhaling exhaust fumes, your lungs are greeted with crisp, pine scented air. In place of blaring taxi horns, your ears are filled with nature’s symphony of birds singing to the tune of tree branches swaying in the wind.
If you are a city dweller, would you welcome the paradox world of Montana or find fault in it? Would you struggle like a fish out of water or welcome the flip-side of life?
In Montana Wild, Jamie the protagonist, struggles with guilt as she falls in love with Montana. New York City is her home…her first and only love and she has become unfaithful. While New York is still her heart, Montana has opened up a new chamber that she didn’t know existed. Blindsided by the rush of new experiences, emotions and wildlife, she tries to deny the change within. She is conflicted…should she resist or give in to the transformation?
Personally I love both worlds and would have a tough time choosing. I’ve always wondered if I am tough enough to live in NYC full time, 365 days a year, surrounded by millions every day. Or could I survive a Montana winter in the mountains, as Mother Nature blankets the state with an often brutal wintery wonderland.
It couldn’t be the physical environment alone that would cause me to pull up my roots and move. Certainly there were factors swaying Jamie’s decision. What were her reasons? What would push her over the edge?
Answer –a) the bond she shares with her co-rescuer after cheating death while rescuing a child
b) a surreal encounter with a divine spirit
c) befriending a volatile stallion
d) having the perfect man pursue you
e) majestic mountains
f) all of the above
What about you? What would it take for you to pick up and impulsively move to an opposite world?
A Little Bit About Me . . . and What I Didn’t Know