For several years I have had the joy of spending a couple of weeks in such a place. It is a spacious ranch tucked away on the sun-pummeled high desert bordering the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Native Americans called any wide valley a hole. This beautiful, broad valley they dubbed the Big Hole.
It was here that Native American Sacagawea, while guiding Lewis and Clark, recognized the Beaverhead Mountain and realized they were back on the home range of her native tribe.
Nearby is the only spot it is known for sure the two explorers stood. Mt. McCartney, the tallest freestanding mountain in North America, is on the ranch. The area provides a range for whitetail deer, mule deer, antelope, moose, elk and bear. Among the many birds are bald eagles, golden eagles, long-billed curlew, egrets, sandhill crane and surprisingly — pelicans.
The graceful ranch house sits on a table overlooking the Big Hole River. The cold pure blue rushing waters of the Big Hole kept fresh by the annual snow melt from the upper elevations sing as they flow.
The Big Hole twists and bends more than twice the seven miles required to cross the ranch. It teams with a variety of fish, making it one of the 10 top fishing streams in North America. These waters reach their final destination as they join the Mississippi River on their journey into the Gulf of Mexico.
Day gives way to night reluctantly.
As if controlled by a celestial rheostat, the sun hesitantly relinquishes the light of the western horizon. Displayed on the black night sky are an inestimable number of stars that stay hidden for urban dwellers.
The dawning of each new day awakens the senses. Before the sun has climbed the mountain’s ridge, before the shadows slink away from the desert floor, the branches of cottonwoods framed against a clearing sky herald the birth of another magnificent Montana morning.
In this scenic setting the angels must have applauded the Creator on earth’s natal morn.
Born with the necessity of change in our DNA, it is good to be where change is an alien. I said to a little 92-year-old lady, “I suppose you have seen a lot changes here during your life.” She replied, “Nope!”
Up here time can’t be measured by the ticking of a watch, but by when the eagle soared overhead or the passing of a swirl of sky-dancing swallows, or the mischievous magpies mocking one another, or the honking of geese, or the cackle of a sandhill crane, or the tweet of a titmouse or pelicans effortlessly gliding just over the river’s waters on fish patrol. These unappointed events are the time setters, not a calendar or a timekeeper.
Leonardo da Vinci observed, “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” How would he characterize the work of the “engineer” who designed Montana?
The serenity bestowed by the Creator is summarized by the words of the transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau: “I found myself, and still find, an instinct toward a higher, or as it is named, spiritual life, as do most men...”
King David, the psalmist, was one whose aroused instincts stated that sentiment more succinctly, “His glory is above the earth and heaven.” (Psalm 147:13). The Apostle Paul expressed the same sentiment differently: “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made....” The “him” Paul further identified as “...the Creator who is blessed forever....” (Romans 12: 20 & 25).
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.