Two weeks ago my husband Dave and I left Santa Barbara to drive to Montana for our annual Fall visit. We almost delayed our trip for we had heard that it was hot, dry, and very smoky there due to the numerous wildfires in Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Since this would be the only time we would be able to travel this fall, we decided to pack up our RV, opened the door for our three excited poodles to jump in, and we were off. We were concerned that our route would take us close to some of the many wildfires that were still active, but all went well and three days later, we arrived at our little “cabin” on the Swan River near Bigfork, MT. When we arrived, it was still hot, the grasses dry and brown, and all the trees (birch, willow, aspen, larch, & firs) still displayed their green leaves as they do throughout the summer months. While it was late September, Fall hadn’t knocked on the door yet. Smoke was still in the air and we again wondered if we shouldn’t have postponed our trip. However, the next morning we awoke to weather that had completely changed overnight. There was a chill in the air, beautiful moisture filled clouds were in the sky, and it started to rain. The smoke was gone and the air was fresh and clean. As the day progressed and the sky cleared, we could see snow on the mountain peaks across the river from us. A beautiful fall day had come to Montana.
This change of weather continued all week, to the delight of the firefighters who had been battling many wildfires for weeks. Some were closing their fire camps and starting to head home or to other fires where they were badly needed.
I can only imagine that all the wildlife that were affected by the fires were also relieved that they could finally breath comfortably again.
Several days later, after the rains subsided, the sun came out and shone brilliantly, giving us the most glorious Autumn days possible. I watched the ducks swimming and diving for food on the river. White tailed deer could be seen throughout the woods and pastures that surround us. In the morning and evening, gaggles of Canada geese noisily made their way up the river. My woodcut print “Wild Geese of Autumn” was inspired by this experience and depicts a “skein” of geese passing by our place on the beautiful Swan River. The effect of all these sights, sounds, and smells on my senses is overwhelming and amazes me of the beauty of life in this wonderful part of the country that we are so privileged to live in part of the year.