Hole-in-the-wall, Glacier National Park, Montana

East of Boulder Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana, Sept 2018

When you possess light within you, you see it externally – Anais Yin

Light from the sun is one of nature’s BIG miracles. It provides the warmth that plants and animals need to survive, the illumination necessary for vision to work, and serves as the engine of photosynthesis which is fundamental to regulating our atmospheric composition of CO2 and oxygen among other things. Yet we continually take it for granted. After all, “the sun will come out tomorrow…”. Occasionally we find ourselves reminded if it’s significance, such as when we are standing exposed on a high mountain pass beneath dark rain clouds in the midst of a relentless bone chilling wind, with an aching back, groveling stomach, and blistered feet. In an instant the sun breaks through and the moment we see it we realize that we are smiling.

If light is in your heart, you will find your way home – Rumi

Bigfork Bound

A memoire of a frantic weekend with Juliana.

Scrambling to find housing in Bigfork! What an experience. After a relaxing Thanksgiving holiday at home, Juliana and I set out on Saturday afternoon to find her new home in Montana! We touch down in Calgary late on Saturday night, got a rental car, and headed south. In the darkness, we really didn’t get a sense of what was to come. We made it as far as Carston, where we grabbed a small hotel and crashed out. We got up before sunrise, and hit the road again. We timed it well, with the sun peeking over the eastern mountains just as we were entering glacier np. In our haste, we forgot to check road conditions however. Although the weather was overcast, there was certainly no snow or ice. There was a brisk wind which brought the chill down to perhaps the high 30s, but it certainly wasn’t severe weather conditions. Nevertheless, when we got to “going to the sun road”, it was closed. This being late November, this naturally made sense. We both felt a little chagrined that we did not even consider this possibility. So we headed back down the road to the nearest southbound highway, took a right, and continued along the eastern side of glacier. Along the way, we saw a moose. We also saw a great horned owl which flew within 6 feet of our windshield! We stopped to take a few pictures, but we’re mainly motivated to get to Kalispell and begin looking for housing,so we pressed on.

When we finally arrived in Kalispell, we were hungry and headed straight for Applebee’s. Our waitress was a young woman named Kendall. She had moved Kalispell a few years ago and knew exactly what we were going through trying to find housing. She informed us that the housing market was very very tight, but she put us on to a few important leads such as a Facebook group for property managers and craigslist. After lunch we made a point of driving the entire town of Kalispell, as well as Bigfork, and Columbia Falls. We went to every apartment complex in those three cities, and we poured over craigslist listings and Facebook posts to find available rooms for rent, duplexes, or town homes. Unfortunately the majority available listings refused to take pets, or were far too expensive. As it was Sunday, we did make a few phone calls to some potential listings but most went on answered. We decided to drive past one apartment complex that didn’t specify whether pets were accepted or not. Though the office was closed there was a note on the office door listing a one bedroom apartment available, but specifically saying no pets. I decided to call the number to ask for possible exception, and was surprised when a woman named Wanda answered. She was very pleasant, and Empathetic to our situation after I explained to her that we were only here for two days to find a place for her to live. Despite her empathy however, she stated that the owners really didn’t want pets. She agreed to reach out to the complex owners and ask them about the possibility of an exception, and to call us tomorrow. However she reiterated that she was doubtful, and encouraged us to continue looking elsewhere.

This all left Juliana🦄 discouraged, and her anxiety level was clearly on the rise. We headed to the red lion hotel where we got an excellent $50 rate due to cyber Monday sale. The woman behind the front desk at the hotel was also very conversational. On the way out to dinner I realize that I left my credit card at Applebee’s, so Juliana🦄 texted Kendall who had given us her cell phone number for future reference. Kendall confirmed that it was there, so we headed back to Applebee’s where I was able to get my credit card without any difficulty. While I was there, I took note of the friendly vibe. For instance, while getting my credit card, the fellow at the bar struck up a conversation with me spontaneously. Then it was off to Qdoba for dinner, then back to the hotel for more research, followed by some lounging in the hot tub.

The next morning, we rose early and headed out to Sykes for breakfast. It was good. We met an old man who approached our table and showed us some origami. He illustrated how to fold and tear a piece of paper to spell the word “hell” and leave behind a small scrap that will become a cross. He was a nice man, and he clearly took delight in sharing this project of years. We then headed out to Bigfork to meet Lily The landlord at a small two bedroom house on the edge of the lake. Lilly was an interesting character, with a bit of a hippy vibe. She connected easily with Juliana and I, and there is a strong sense that she was much more about interpersonal connections then contracts and so forth. The house was small and clean and would be adequate, though it was a little bit dilapidated. It did have deadbolts on all doors. The upstairs portion of the house sits directly above the basement which is rented to a retired deputy sheriff. He happened to be headed to a Tai Chi class and stopped in to say hi. He was warm and he seems like an excellent neighbor.

After spending some time here, with Juliana’s spirits now lifted, we went to take a look at couple other places. These did not compare favorably. At the same time, we received a call from Wanda who is excited to tell us that she had gotten permission to make an exception for us with regard to Rori. The cat would now be allowed with a $300 nonrefundable deposit. Unfortunately Wanda was not working at that apartment complex this day, it would have to wait until the evening to show it to us. We agreed to touch base with her later in the evening, and headed to lunch.This time we opted for pizza, keeping with the vegetarian theme. The pizza was outstanding.

After pizza we drove to The Appleway apartments. We had left them a couple of messages and they had failed to return our phone calls. As we enter the office, we met the complex manager Deb. She indicated that these were low income housing units only, and the pets were not allowed. Upon learning of our situation, she became very maternal and offered us her contact information and encouraged us to call her to get her opinion about any place were thinking of staying. She also gave us contact information for a woman named Jessica at integrity property management whom she believe might be able to help us with some other low income housing options. We thanked her for her interest and assistance, and headed straight over to Integrity where we did in fact meet Jessica. Jessica did not have any low income housing units available, but she did have a small two bedroom duplex which was not available for rent yet but would be coming available in January. She gave us the address and we headed over to that place. This was the second reasonably acceptable unit that we had come across. We knocked on the neighbor’s door, the back half of the duplex, and met a young woman there who was friendly and helpful as well. She lived in Kalispell her whole life, and had good things to say about the neighbors in the neighborhood.

We parted, and returned to Bigfork to get a second look at the house owned by Lilly the landlord. Upon arriving, Juliana was decisive, knowing instantly that this was the one she wanted to live in. Luckily for us, Lily was just finishing some touch up work and was on her way out. We stopped and explain that we had made several appointments, but that her house was the one we were really interested in. She was genuinely relieved and grateful, and was eager to have us sign the contract then and there. No application fees, no reference checks. This was especially reassuring to Juliana who was afraid that her prior landlord would have given her a bad review because of her roommates dog. Lily also said she would waive the pet deposit because she really genuinely believed that Juliana was a great young lady. One of Juliana’s biggest concerns about renting from Lily was her bad experiences with renting from an individual landlord as opposed to property management company. Although they certainly can be difficult, I am hoping this positive interaction from the get-go will set the tone for this next year with her.

Now that we had signed a lease, and taken care of business, the pressure was off. Juliana finally began to relax, and we spent the next two hours driving around Flathead Lake. It’s a beautiful lake with starkly different scenery from one end to the next. Afterwards we went back and once again rented another room at red lion, then headed out for dinner. Because we both really enjoyed the afternoon pizza, we opted for pizza for dinner. After dinner we hunkered down, worked on social media bit, and turn in early.

The final morning we rose, had a quick breakfast at the hotel, and begin the 5 1/2 hour drive north to Calgary. I will say once you get out of the mountains, there is very little to see along the way to Calgary. It’s best done in the dark. At the airport we really had no issues. It was basically smooth sailing. I did meet a nice young man named Robert Rooke. He is an aspiring musician on his way to Nashville, and I’ll hope for and look for good things from him. That’s about it. Four glorious days.

As always, be thankful and be giving.