Life in Big Sky Country

So... I know you're wondering what in the world I've been up to!

The answer is I've been up to quite a lot. But right now I'm living in Absarokee, Montana, in the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains and don't have any steady Internet access. Thus, the poor record of blog posting. In my daily routine, I drive the mile or two into town to nab a bit of Wi-Fi from a local establishment to check my e-mail, but I find it hard to write blog posts and interact with the broader world without a constant Wi-Fi supply.

I've been working mostly on two lectures I will give next week in San Francisco for the Center For Cultural Leadership Annual Conference. That is going to be a wonderful event, and if you happen to be in the area, it will take place on Saturday, October 18th at the Embassy Suites (Burlingame). I am the keynote speaker, along with Andrew Sandlin, Jeffrey Ventrella, and David Bahnsen. The conference theme is "Why The Church is Failing Culture and What To Do About It." It promises to be a splendid time!

Living in the sticks has its benefits, I'll tell you. Tonight dinner was provided by the bounty of the river. Four trout, (3 Brown, 1 Rainbow), fresh from the Rosebud River, fed me and my three girls. One for each of us! The biggest, a 14-inch Brown, for me. :) (And that's very big for the Rosebud!) Have you ever looked at a trout? I mean, really looked at a trout? I've been doing a lot of that. They are a marvel. Their colors shift and change depending on how the light hits them. In the water, tucked between the rocks, they are well nigh invisible. I cannot fathom how birds of prey, circling far overhead, can see them, much less catch them. Oh, and by the way, I think the conventional wisdom is that Rainbow Trout are the prettiest, but conventional wisdom doesn't have a clue. A Brown Trout is one of the prettiest things on earth. The red spots on the one I had tonight were actually dazzling copper. The fishing recently has been good, even though the water level continues to drop now that it is starting to freeze way up high. I've found that lower water actually opens up some nice holes where normally the raging water would keep the fish away. I find that with the consistent fishing I've become a much better fisherman. I haven't been skunked on a river in a long time. As long as I live, I will never tire of the electric feeling when the strike-indicator drops, I raise the rod, and a trout starts fighting. There is nothing like it, in my experience. Well, kissing maybe. But just maybe...

Two evenings ago was magic. I am standing in the middle of the river in the light of the late afternoon Autumn sun. The leaves, turned all shades of yellow and orange, are dropping and whirling into the water. The light is just... gold. The purest gold. As I raise my rod, the beads of water on my outstretched line are sparkling, a string of diamonds like no queen could ever dream. My string of diamonds swirl back behind my head and then loop forward to softly place my fly at its destination. I am nearly blinded by the beauty. I am Paul MacLean in A River Runs Through It, only my setting is more beautiful than Robert Redford's camera could ever capture. I concentrate, fix my eyes on my strike indicator, strip the slack out of the line as the fly drifts steadily downstream. It is only an instant. The indicator drops below the surface. My right hand raises the rod high, my left pulling out the remaining slack. I am getting used to this. Only this time when I pull the rod, it feels stuck. There is no give. A snag? Caught in a rock? Then the rod starts tugging the opposite direction, a feat impossible for a rock. This is unusual for the small trout stream I fish. I give it some slack, and slowly my quarry rises to the surface and thrashes his long body. I don't want to lose him, so landing him takes patience. Give him more line if he wants it. He will tire. Tire he does, and behold, a very large Brown trout with colors that seem predestined for the amber setting: shimmering yellows, golds, and copper. He matches the sunlight, the leaves, the rocks, and my string of diamonds. There is a Designer. And he has a certain style.

Caught a glimpse of a Bald Eagle earlier this evening, making his way up river. He landed on some tall, standing-dead, overlooking the water.

The elk are moving to lower ground. I hear them bugling back and forth every night.

I can hardly walk down to the meadow any time of day without scaring up White-Tail does.

A family of wild turkeys really likes our yard, for some reason.

The girls spotted a Great-Horned Owl yesterday. He just sat on his perch and almost seemed to pose for the fantastic pictures we took (see above).

None of it ever gets boring. I never want it to get boring. I tell the girls, any time you see wild animals, these magnificent creatures God made that usually mind their own business and steer clear of view, relish it!

And all the while my mind continues to run, as computers do, "in the background." Thinking about my lectures, my book projects, illustrations that just might work, or not, arguments that need a lot of untangling. I think about our culture and how Christianity might influence it for the better. At month's end, all that will cease being "background," of course, when I leave this place.

Just now, I'm enjoying the foreground.

Brian Mattson