(The) Potential (of No)

Emily and I decided on “potential” as our topic about two weeks ago, and she streamlined it into “The Potential of No.” I wasn’t sold on the “no” part at first, but have had a lot of time to think about it, and to be honest I’m not sure I’ve come up with much. But here’s what I have: there’s as much potential in no as there is in yes.

It sounds so cliché. So plagiarized. So familiar, right? Didn’t someone come up with this already? Well, I’m sort of guessing not, since a Google search for “the potential of no” came up with a odd sampling of results, none of which speak to what I’ve been thinking, which is this: a no is sometimes a yes.

There’s as much power in saying no to something as there is in saying yes, because, like my last post about the many variations on light and dark, we can’t know one unless we know the other. It’s like knowing what you don’t want is practically as clear (and in some cases more straightforward) than knowing what you do.

I want to believe that the book I’ve been busting a nut over writing has potential, but that sure is vague. Yes, I want it to have the potential to succeed when so many books don’t. I mean, I want people to buy it, read it, and if I’m lucky, think about it. I want it to have the potential to make a difference in someone’s life, though I know that at the heart of the matter it’s made a difference in one life—mine—and that potential alone just may be enough.

(SIDEBAR: On the topic of enough….Dr. Brene Brown says the two most dangerous words we can say are “not enough.” I honestly think that if everyone in the world watched this there would be an epic shift in how we treat ourselves, and therefore others. Here’s THE LINK to a four-minute, life-changing video.

As an adjective, potential is a win-win situation, defined as having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future. I say win-win because everything has the potential “to become or develop into something,” but I’ll add a kicker: it might not be what we wanted or intended and even worse, it might not be when we begged/pleaded/bargained for it. But it will be something. It might even be (gasp!) failure, though failure too has the potential to…..ok, you know the story by now.

Perhaps this is why we often attach adjectives to potential as a noun, as in unlimited potential, undeveloped potential. It’s why the word itself has as many positive connotations as it does negative, because one thing leads to another to another to another to another. I’m not a scientist, but this is all about about inertia, kids.

Too often (by me) the word potential is followed by “for disaster.”


This is not a photo of Lucky looking out at the water that I forgot to crop the chair out of; this is a picture of a chair-colored caterpillar. Now I know, the caterpillar is perhaps the most overused symbol of potential that we have, and I know I preceded the photo by talking about disaster, and what in the world is so disastrous about a caterpillar? Nothing, obviously. I’m not bound for the institution…YET…But I’m sitting here thinking about the intense book editing I have ahead of me the next few days and about potential and there’s a friggin’ caterpillar there to remind me that it too is in the middle.

{Trust me: when you start thinking about potential you can’t stop.}

But the potential for disaster part is really about the fact that the camouflaged caterpillar reminds me that this is about the time of night when the porcupines come out and start acting like they own the place. Given the fact that I have a rascal of a dog, I am, as they saying, flirting with the potential for disaster. I should could go out to the garage and try to locate a pair of pliers just in case, or at least make sure I know where the emergency vet is though even though I already know it’s a good ninety minutes away. I’m alone, and that could be a long drive for the two of us so really I should must do whatever I need to in order to avoid this potential for disaster. 

I got used to being alone last winter in New Mexico, and now, with modern conveniences such as telephone and Internet, I’m technically much less alone than I was then. So I’m comfortable leaving room for more allowing, though even then I allowed Luck to gallivant at night even when I knew he was running with the coyotes and there was a damn-good possibility he’d eventually encounter something he couldn’t handle. But he didn’t, so I won. Or I lost for the needless worrying. Hmmm….

Even when I wasn’t alone—when I was with friends in Rhode Island—Lucky gave me a run for my money and once stayed out all night. So now, in Maine, somewhere between those two scenarios, I’m pondering what to allow, because the more I allow the more potential there is for the dog to potentially get quilled.

So I don’t allow him off the deck after dark, but I do allow him to stay on the deck when I go inside for tea or to use the bathroom. So there’s a risk there, but he might confuse my absence with permission. Am I allowing life to develop (which it will anyway regardless of my fight) or am I risking the potential for disaster? Is there a difference?

But here’s the thing on a bigger scale: when we deduct allowing (and not just the risky kind) we diminish the possibility of potential.

And allowing, I think, is where it’s at.

A few days ago I went for a run on a trail that made me feel like I was in the Blair Witch Project. This was not an out-and-back trail, nor was it on an open hillside (like my daily hiking/running trail in Missoula), nor was it along the ocean or following the double yellow line. It was a serpentine mess in there that required keeping a constant eye on trail blazes. In this case the blazes were either white or yellow—two different trails snaking around—and all I really wanted was to not think. I just wanted to move without having to pay attention or keep track of anything. Really what I was doing was earning another lobster roll, but that’s a different story…

In the thick woods you can convince yourself that you’re lost and have completely misplaced the trail you were just standing on because all you see in front of you is an enormous slab of rock. But if you turn your eyes up and scan the trees the blazes are there to guide you. Finding the blazes on the trees gives a person the confidence to keep going; not finding them can be paralyzing. Knowing where to look and keeping calm is key. There’s so much potential for a situation to turn either way, and here’s the sucker punch: it’s kind of more-or-less totally our responsibility.


But really, the potential for the upside of potential—the getting found instead of staying lost, the triumph instead of disaster—boils down to this something simple and elementary: pay attention.

I went on a boat trip this morning to Monhegan Island. It was supposed to be a beautiful, ninety-degree day, but at 8:00 am it was cool and foggy. I wore jeans and a long sleeved shirt with a vest, knee socks and sneakers on my feet. I packed a down jacket and knit cap, but also shorts, a t-shirt, and a brimmed hat. I packed sandals and a rain slicker. Yes, all this for an eight-hour excursion.

I used every single thing I brought with me. I was prepared for the potential that the weather forecast was correct, but more than that I was prepared for the potential for change, and if I had to set my heart on believing in one thing in the world it might be in the potential for change.

Now, I’m back at the house generously loaned to me for writing, and I’m sitting on the deck. The temperature is still hovering around eighty though the sun is down, and that caterpillar is still giving me the stink eye. I’m starting, again, to think of the potential for disaster.

I’ve given myself a tremendous gift lately of time, and with that time I’ve been able to allow my life to unfold. I plan some things in advance, but most I leave to chance. This would not work for everyone, but it seems to be working for me though it isn’t without intense, incredible (personal) responsibility.

I’ve given myself the task of not only writing a book, but also of rewriting it, now for the second time. That’s three times for the non-mathematicians out there. That’s a lot. Trust me. It means, in practical terms, that no matter what else I’ve been doing, I’ve also been constantly, incessantly thinking about writing. You should see all the text messages and voice memos I send to myself; it’s  b a n a n a s.

But sometimes I say no to writing. I give myself permission to go on a boat ride or to read the great book I can hardly put down. When I go out for my nightly lobster roll I might, instead of bringing a notebook to the picnic table, just simply sit and observe. I allow the potential to strike up a conversation with a stranger or see something I might otherwise have missed

So. As it turns out, we can’t talk about potential if we don’t also talk about permission.

I addition to three seasons worth of outfits, I also packed my iPad in my backpack today for the day-trip to Monhegan Island. I planned to find a nice spot to sit and write. I planned to write this blog post there, instead of tonight. But I never took the iPad out of my bag, and only even considered taking it out one time. I walked, took pictures and talked to people. I learned about a not-to-be-missed country fair that I’m now going to hit next Friday morning before I head south.

Near the end of the day I was walking back toward the ferry dock and I saw this huge cocoon. I have no idea what insect larvae hatches in that beast, but I found the mass impressive:


I wasn’t sure how I felt about this blog post about potential being driven by the metaphor of the caterpillar, and now, the cocoon, impressive in size or not. But in the midst of the writing, I decided to play it safe, and I went to the garage to take a look around for a pair of pliers just in case, and on the way there I saw in the driveway a beautiful, dead butterfly. I wasn’t sure it was dead at first; it looked too perfect.

So I found the pliers, put in a load of wash and came back out. Still there, still dead. So I did what any normal person would do: I brought in inside, put it on a piece of paper, and took a photo of it.


I did not make this up. Honest. I swear I didn’t spend the day looking for the caterpillar, cocoon, and dead butterfly just so I could find some way to talk about potential, but there they were for me to see. For me to pay attention to. It’s a confirmation that, as always, what happens in real life is better than anything we can imagine.

And by the way, locating the pliers was simple, though I doubt I’ll need them. But I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do right now: as impressive as it is, I’m not going to go take pictures of the lightening that’s going on outside. Instead I’m going to do this: I’m going to give myself permission to get in bed and read. The sun will rise tomorrow on a new day filled, as always, with potential.



Slowing Down. For Real This Time.

In far too many of life’s circumstances and scenarios I’ve viewed the thing as a marathon and not a sprint. I’ve gotten hurt, sprained an ankle, or arrived where I didn’t even want to be.

I’m slowing down. This is not a race, but it’s also not a dress rehearsal: it’s just life. Though there’s everything and nothing “just” about it.

I’ve sprinted through writing the book I’m working on now and others only to be left with jumbles of words and chapters and a mess so thick it’s difficult to wade through. So here I am, slowing down.

I write and I go for runs. I take full days to explore both the outer landscape of this new place I’m calling home right now, and the inner landscape of myself in this place.

I’ve been going for daily three-mile runs on a road with few cars and every day the scenery is a little bit different. With snow or without, with bright sun or twilight, with Gwen Stefani or George Jones to sing me up or down the hills.

I pause to take pictures, to tell Lucky I’m so grateful for his presence, to soak up every blessed moment.

I was going to title this post “Slowing Down,” but my memory kicked in. Did I already have a post with that title? I was partly correct; the post I remembered was called “Slowing Down. Sort of.”

So this one is different: “Slowing Down. For Real This Time.”


The Places That Scare You

The skies have cleared in Missoula and I’ve been running again. It feels so good. I went on a few runs in the particulate thickened air, and didn’t realize how bad it felt—how hard it was to keep moving and breathing—until I had a taste of clarity.

The skies gradually and intermittently cleared, but we basically went from smoke to snow in a single day after breaking a record of forty-two precipitation free days. And as I always say: strike while the iron is hot.

My body hurt from a month of inactivity, and I went from a month of maxing out with three slow walk-jog miles to running five. I tallied those miles in the woods, with my phone in my pocket to count the miles, but my headphones left behind. How nice, right? The woods….the solitude…the longish run…the meditation of feet hitting dirt and breath going in and out.

My motives were not pure, though, and my sedentary-too-long body could have used a little Katy Perry pick-me-up. Except that it wasn’t on the menu. The fact is I’m terribly scared of being in the thick trees alone. I prefer the open hillsides where you can see for miles, and the only wildlife hazards are harmless snakes crossing the trail and making sure the dogs don’t chase white-tails.

{Image by Blake Nicolazzo}

I think it’s good to go to the places that scare you, especially if they aren’t very scary, but sometimes even if (and because) they are. American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron wrote: “A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. ”

Look directly. What an idea.

I am not scared when I’m in the woods with friends, and most of that is attributed to the fact that when I’m with even one friend we yack it up so consistently that we’re not liable to startle a bear, and are far more likely to scare the wildlife than be scared by them. All bets are off when I’m alone in the thick trees. I hear things so little, so big, so not even there.

Birds flushing out of the brush or a chipmunk snapping a twig can freeze my blood when I’m alone. The hairs on my body stand up and my muscles lurch to a stop. What happens next is that I’m embarrassed. There is nothing to be afraid of. Birds and chipmunks? Really? “Pull it together,” I tell myself. Then there are the facts: these woods are home to bears, wolves, and mountain lions. There are things to be afraid of, but not so much so that I can’t put one foot in front of the other.

There’s another aspect to this madness. I forget to carry bear spray. Always. Actually, I forget to buy it, which is just downright silly because there are plenty of things, like these Frye boots, that I would never “forget” to buy. I also forget to put a bell on Lucky so the jingle can frighten off bears and so I know, when I hear the cracking, rustling sounds that lead to my bristling, that it’s just the dog exploring.

We humans seem to avoid doing the things that we know will help us. Ok, I can’t speak for you, but I know this human often makes things more punishing than they need to be.

Sometimes a perspective shift is all that is needed. Instead of seeing the shadows you can see the sunlight. Illumination makes everything less scary. Go ahead, shine a light into all the dark corners.

What about when you can’t see? There is a sweet, tree lined country lane that bends a hundred yards ahead of you. Instead of fearing what is around the corner, you can rest assured that there’s no way to know what’s on the other side unless you go there. You can stall out, or you can go.

The places that scare you can be external—woods, public speaking, pages of a book, standing up on a surfboard with your rash guard hiked above your belly—or they can be of a far graver version: they can be internal. (For what it’s worth you can shine light into those dark corners too…)

A hill rises before you. It’s a mile long and you’re not sure you can make it up the grade. You might have to walk and would that be so bad? You think it might be “that bad,” but what would be worse: going and having to walk, or not going and not knowing?

You can focus on what you might not achieve, or you can take it one step at a time, or until your favorite song is over, or until you reach that fence or that tree, or maybe, god willing, the top. The thing is: you will not know unless you try.

Today: go to a place that scares you.

Lesser of Two Evils: Mind vs Body

Over the past week the air quality in Missoula has ranged from “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy,” with conditions in the Bitterroot Valley, just south of Missoula, determined “hazardous.” At “unhealthy” you should limit prolonged exertion outdoors; at “very unhealthy” you should stay inside; hazardous air quality more or less speaks for itself.

Friday was bad. High school sporting competitions were first relocated to fields with cleaner air, but when the overall quality continued to worsen they were flat-out cancelled. The University of Montana Grizzlies played—only apocalypse could cancel that—to 24,000 fans.

One friend reported on Facebook that she was “Suffering FB induced air envy,” then she begged for rain. There was a lot of chatter about cabin fever and the general consensus is that it would be nice to get out of town “just to take a deep breath.” The problem is: where to go? There are fires all over, and even if you go to an area without fires there’s still the element of wind to blow smoky air into fire-free valleys. There’s also the chance that a new fire could sprout up anywhere, anytime.

The closest fire to Missoula is about fifty miles south in Hamilton where almost five thousand acres are burning and the blaze is 25% contained. We’re getting our share of that smoke, as well as smoke from all other directions. By far the most smoke is coming from Idaho, where the Mustang Complex fire is currently at 327,017 acres with 20% of it contained.


It seems selfish; we worry about having cabin fever while our neighbors to the south worry if the cabin will make it. This is the warning down in Idaho: Residents returning to their homes are warned that hazards may exist such as weakened trees, rolling and burning debris, and thick smoke along roadways. Residents should be fully prepared to leave at a moment’s notice if there is a change in fire conditions.

So there’s a bit of smoke in the second largest city in Montana, but it’s not like we’re in Beijing, where their Air Quality Index (AQI) is regularly as bad as our worst. There’s a twitter site that regularly tweets the AQI in Beijing, and China has asked the American Embassy not to release its air data.

The research is clear: pollution causes oxidative stress to the body. Prolonged exposure increases the likelihood of cardiopulmonary diseases and inflammation, which takes its toll on all areas of the mind and body. With its increased respiration, exercise further increases risks. Outside Online published an article back in July about this, and cited Netherlands research that “estimated that the air-pollution effects of switching from a car to a bike for short daily trips in polluted cities would subtract between 0.8 and 40 days from the average life span—but the additional exercise would extend it by three to 14 months.”

I know this smoke is bad for me, but I also know what’s worse: staying still. My recent blog post talked about how statistics lie, and one reader said, “ I know when my gut tells me to go in a certain direction, I’m inclined to gather data that supports it.” It’s true, sometimes sadly so. More than one of my friends has suggested that I am capable of justifying anything, and—like most vices and virtues—the door swings both ways.


I discovered a long time ago that physical exertion is crucial to my mental health. If walking and hiking are good, then running is better. I rarely run long distances, and with even less frequency run fast. It could be argued that I don’t run—but rather that I jog—but I don’t care what you call it— between touchdowns both feet are simultaneously suspended in the air. It both literally and figuratively moves me. I’ve been relying on running as a mental health counselor since before going for a drive was an option, and it’s the most dependable antidote to a bad mood that I’ve ever found. It is basically free—each run on a pair of one hundred dollars shoes costs just pennies—and you can do it anywhere. You can do it and actually go somewhere, or you can do it on a track, up and down bleachers and even on the stairs in your house if that’s all that is available. But however it’s done, it sure seems to work.

I play mind-over-matter with myself a lot. “If I think this doesn’t hurt, then it doesn’t,” or in the case of bad air quality, “I’m going to imagine that the sky is blue and the air is clear.”

I know we can’t all run. I dedicated a run last week to a runner friend who just had knee surgery and can’t right now. Last February I ran with thousands of others in honor of Sherry Arnold who was abducted and murdered while on a run. While on a run. That just isn’t fair, but so many things in life aren’t.

We get angry at forest fires for “ruining” some of our summers, and in this case our September, typically a glorious time in Montana. Some say the forests are angry with us for encroaching too deeply into wilderness areas, and that the fires are just doing what they do: staying healthy in their cycle of life and death. Fires help maintain soil health by converting ammonia into nitrogen, which is a crucial component to plant prosperity. Things like artificial fertilizer and chemical pesticides harm natural nitrogen cycles, so…in lieu of shoving an amateur science lesson down your throats: you do the math.

Destruction can be beautiful in a heartbreaking way, as can running in the midst of it. On my recent hikes and runs on Waterworks Hill I’ve often been alone. It’s creepy to pull up to a near empty trailhead, and when I’ve been alone I’ve thought 1) have I completely lost it to be up here right now? and/or 2) Oh Wow! I’m alone! I’m going to crank up my music and sing my little heart out!

But my stubbornness does not always serve me well. Friday was one of the worst smoke days we’ve had in Missoula—with an afternoon AQI to rival Beijing’s—but because my body begged to move and sweat, I headed up to the hill. I walked for thirty minutes, then said “What the hell?” and ran for another thirty. I went up there crabby, and came down decidedly less so. It worked. But did it? I worked all day Saturday and then was so headachy, fatigued, and downright irritable that I missed a good friend’s birthday party. I felt bad about it, so what did I need to do on Sunday?—you’re right, hit the hill again.

I walked with a friend, then the sky cleared enough to be noticeable and I decided to stay and run by myself for a while. I hadn’t needed motivational music since I went with a friend, and my ear buds weren’t in the car. I debated if I felt like running alone—and by alone I mean without the Rolling Stones, Wyclef, and Taylor Swift—and it turned out I did. It was, after the all, the way I’d started my twenty-plus year love affair with running: in silence.

But it’s not all that silent when you think about it, though it is without external distraction. I listened to my feet hit the ground and my breath and my heartbeat. I heard Lucky panting next to me, and I noticed him in ways I often fail to. There was no iphone app telling me how far or how fast. There was nothing to hold. It became a running mediation where I thought of nothing else but exactly what I was doing in each moment of feet lifting and feet landing, breathing in and breathing out.

Despite the lingering smoke, it was one of the best runs I’ve had in awhile.


A picture of a smoky sunset from Hamilton, MT that I ripped off KPAX-TV’s Facebook page.

City Love

I posted a few pictures yesterday on Facebook in an album titled “Missoula Marathon 2012.” That is what the event is called, but in addition to a full marathon there’s a half-marathon, a relay, a 5K, and a Kid’s run. A lot of my friends “liked” my album and the individual photos, and with each click I almost felt obligated to clarify: You know I “just” ran the half? Right?

But there’s something odd to me about the word “just.” Just is one of those words that has a wide range of meaning—everything from morally right to deserved to only.

In the case of my marathon it means “only” or “no more than” the half. Sort of like when people say “we’re just friends,” as if being more than friends would be better, when in fact sometimes it’s not. Or like when people say, “I’ll just have the bacon double cheeseburger, with fries, and might as well have onion rings,” then when asked if they want a drink say, “Okay, I’ll just have a diet coke.”

In a lot of cases “just” is quite a lot.

I ran the half-marathon in 2008, and in 2010 and 2011 my mother came out and we “just” walked it. After I ran the 2008 half-marathon I was with a friend who told his mother I’d just finished the half-marathon to which she replied: “What happened to the other half?” She was being funny, but for some reason it stuck with me. Is the other half necessary? Is it too much? Is it more than enough?

A lot of people run full marathons, sometimes multiple marathons in a year. Sometimes marathons on challenging terrain. Sometimes marathons with a live band at every mile. Sometimes marathon that hurt their bodies beyond repair.

Some people never run a full marathon; I am one of those people.

I’ve thought about it. I love running and its ability to reset me when my wiring goes haywire. I love that running requires so little and gives so much, and I will do it until my body tells me not too. I’ll do it when it’s too hot, too cold, too icy, too dark. That said, I’m not physically constructed “like a runner,” and definitely fall into the category of built for comfort and not for speed. I don’t think running a full marathon would serve me well, so I gratefully accept my ability to run just half.

Just half is a lot. It’s 13.1 miles, and in Missoula that is all on pavement. It starts at 6:00, which means a wake up time around 4:00. On July 8th the sun rose before 6:00 and there was light popping over the hills before that, but still…waking up that early is just not just. It feels downright inhumane to be awake at that hour wondering: have I eaten enough? Have I pooped? Have I hydrated? Have I completely lost my mind? {emphasis on that last one.}

But then you get downtown and start to feel the energy of the thousands of other runners taking school busses to the start. You’re glad you have a rack of ponytail holders on your wrist so you can give one to the woman who can’t believe she forgot. You see bodies that have trained and bodies that have not. You see runners, walkers, and hand-cyclers. You see wheelchairs. You see t-shirts announcing the runner is running in loving memory of someone. You think: maybe I haven’t lost it. You know: I can do this.

You hear the Star-Spangled Banner and you put your hand over your heart. You might tear up. You see the guys running in superhero underpants, the girls running in tutus. You smile. But the national anthem ends, the shot is fired, the fireworks go off, and so do you.

Afterward you’ll hear about the ten-year old who finished (just the half) and the woman who ran NOT just the half after sustaining a traumatic brain injury twelve years ago and had to learn to walk and then to run. You’re in awe.

I didn’t train for this event. I hadn’t run more than five miles since last fall and I was technically unprepared. The week before the marathon I googled “ running a half-marathon without training” but the results were inconclusive; I was going to have to find that answer within myself, and myself said, “YES!” Then it said, “maybe,” then it said, “yes” again. I caught myself on a yes and signed up less than twenty-four hours before the event. I made my decision they way I’ve made most of my decisions in life: would I rather try and fail then not try and not know?

trytrytry. yesyesyes. trytrytry. yesyesyes. trytrytry. yesyesyes. trytrytry. yesyesyes.

There were times I was propelled along by the energy of the runners all around me, but most of the time I was in my own little world. I enjoyed toggling back and forth between running with thousands of others runners and going within, telling myself I was “just going on a nice Sunday run across town, listening to music, enjoying the views.” The body is powerful, but the mind even more so.

I made myself a killer playlist that had about eight days worth of songs on it. Some of the songs I’ve loved in my past didn’t deliver the way I’d hoped, and some songs that I’d added on a hunch got me turning my legs over in ways I didn’t expect. House of Pain “Jump Around.” Gwen Stefani “The Sweet Escape.” Tiffany “I think we’re Alone Now.” Kid Rock “Bawitdaba.” Sugarland “Stuck on You.” Barry White “Can’t Get Enough.” Sublime, “Santeria.”

Wow, there really isn’t a lot of shame left in my game…

Because I went into the event “untrained” I told myself I could walk some if I needed to, but it turned out that if I ran at my own pace I didn’t need to. It took me two-and-a-half hours to finish, with my miles averaging out at 11:40. I almost felt guilty because at the end I had some juice to spare, but I stopped myself: why is it necessary to push ourselves to exhaustion or injury? Why can’t we just enjoy ourselves?

The Missoula Marathon has been rated among the best in the US, and was ranked #1 by Runner’s World in 2010. That’s great. It’s great for our community and for the runners who get to experience the improvements every year even as the event continues to grow. If the Missoula Marathon has growing pains they are not apparent; every year the efficiency improves but the hometown feel remains.

Formal and informal surveys alike continually name one thing as the factor that makes the Missoula Marathon so incredible. Everyone agrees that the scenery is lovely and the climate is dry and comfortable, but it’s the people that really make it special.

The marathon volunteers give us water, sort our bags, and cheer us on. My bus driver told every single person who got off to “have a good run.” Then there’s the man playing his grand piano on his lawn across from the Bitterroot River just after 6:00am. There’s the guy with the record player. There are the dozens of people who set up sprinklers in front of their houses, some rigged high on ladders so you can run through a shower. There are the people drinking coffee wrapped in blankets sitting on tailgates, the kids in pajamas, the mothers in robes. The dogs. There are the kids handing out otter pops (I got pink!) and the coolers of ice with signs to “help yourself.” There is so much cheering, so much support, so much city love.

I don’t live in Missoula for the skiing, the fishing, or the mountain biking: I live here (and love it) because of the people. Missoula people are so awesome. My close friends, my extended friends, the barista at the coffee shop, the stranger who changed my tire, the three-year old (also a “stranger”) who gave Lucky a tennis ball at the Big Dipper last night. I’ll say it again: Missoula people are so awesome.

Yeah, I guess it’s just the people.

Thanks, again, Missoula.