I’m a morning person by nature—uh, as long as nature is somehow involved. This morning I got up at 4:44 a.m. mountain time, which is surprisingly early even for me. I power showered, ground some gourmet coffee beans, and plopped myself on my friends’ patio which overlooks the ultra-serene Flathead Lake in unincorporated Lakeside, Montana.
I wanted to watch the sunrise.
I’ve been obsessed with scenic sunrises ever since I met a woman in Tahoe City who—hand to God—got up every morning and sat on the dock at Sunnyside Resort to watch the sun come up over Lake Tahoe. Locals called her the lady of the lake. She let me join her one frigid June morning—as long as I kept my yapper shut.
The only thing she told me was to soak it all in. Between shivers, I did just that. It took me a hot-minute to comprehend this woman does this every single day without fail. 2 feet of snow, she’s out there. Lightning storm, she’s out there. She’s legendary in the Tahoe basin—and I applaud her regimented structure and inner fortitude. (She clearly needs my approval.)
So, this morning—as I pen this—I’m, indeed soaking it all in. When I’m not typing, my hands are cradling my steaming coffee mug. It’s a brisk 50 degrees on the dot yet doesn’t feel at all chilly. In the .08 seconds it took me to write that last sentence, the temperature jumped eight degrees as the sun cleared the mountains. Not even kidding.
Last night before I turned in around 10 p.m., I was being bombarded by swooping bats. This morning, it’s barn swallows—which look suspiciously like bats if you’re near-sighted. It’s painfully still out. There’s not so much as a single leaf swaying, but I still feel a gentle breeze wafting near me. The lake, however, has some chop to it. No whitecaps, but it’s not the perfectly smooth, glassy exterior I expected.
There’s a veritable symphony of birds singing—none of which I readily recognize. Mind you, I’m not a birder by any means, but I know my Midwest bird chirps. There’s nary a cardinal or mourning dove coo in the mix. Weirdo that I am, I just downloaded the Merlin app which identifies random birds sounds. It quickly picked up a MacGillivray’s warbler, a yellow warbler, a mountain chickadee, a violet-green swallow, a Northern flicker, and warbling vireo.
Baby pinecones are dropping around me at an alarming rate—with the teensiest of thuds. And when my friends’ timed sprinkler went off, it was so jarringly loud it sounded like a sonic boom. (Okay, it wasn’t loud, it just threw off my ambient quiet.) Other than faint traffic noise from the nearby town, it’s suspiciously quiet here. I hear a neighbor’s windchime in the distance, but it’s stuck on repeat. The same chime keeps bonging intermittently. Nature needs to nudge the needle on that record player. And there’s a particularly persistent woodpecker doing his thing somewhere close by.
The scent of pine was overwhelming yesterday when I arrived, now it’s wispy and faint. It’s like my nose acclimated to the smell. What is permeating the air right now? It’s the soap I used this morning. I smell like lemon verbena. Whatever the case, mosquitoes are mercifully avoiding me.
Fun fact: I used to come to Montana once a year-ish with my parents to visit my Aunt Ruth. (She wasn’t really my aunt. I’m not even sure we were related.) She and her hubs Bill owned a cabin and lived a rustic life. When my parents showed up in their fancy-schmancy RV, it had plenty more amenities than Non-Aunt Ruth’s abode. Bill was retired and spent his days searching for arrowheads and gold. They were weird mountain folk. Bless.
This go-around I’m doing as little as humanly possible. I came here to write, relax, and bask in the non-hellscape of Kansas City’s 100-degree temps. I’m not sure who coined Montana as Big Sky Country, but they deserve a bonus. It’s a wildly accurate tagline. It’s time for more coffee.