Solo Retreat in a Lookout Tower (Part 1 of 3)

Six months ago, on November 21st, 2017, I reserved to stay a full week at the Mission Lookout Tower starting on May 21st, located just a few miles from Swan Lake, Montana. With the exception of my husband and stepson coming up to spend the afternoon yesterday, I spent the week there solo. No power, no running water, no cell service.

It was deeply nourishing…ravishingly beautiful…heart-quenchingly filled with quietude…and luminous in every possible internal and external way.

I have scores of daily logging entries in my spiral-bound notebook, dozens of short creative writing snippets in my leather-bound catch-all, two freshly written spoken word pieces, over two hundred photos, and a multitude of video segments. It’s difficult to know how best to wrap up this past week, so I plan on crafting a 3-post series.

My 360-degree glass nest was perched 40-feet up high in the air atop a wooden tower, nestled in a thick of pine trees. Mission Mountains to the west. Swan Range to the east. I watched the sun rise every morning and the sun set every evening. I watched as the waxing moon made her way across the sky. Never before had I been so connected, engaged, and enthralled with the presence and pulsing movement of light.

If I could choose a superhero power, it would be to stare directly into the sun as long as I wanted to without any ocular hardships. I’d want to watch a sun rise without spots developing in my eyes for a time when I was through.

Every sun rise witnessed is a moment my heart grows just a little bit bigger, like the Grinch when he discovers that stealing all the presents from the Who’s in Whoville did nothing to dampen their holiday spirit. It swells in tandem with the building of the day’s first light, as it stacks and spreads in all directions.

In each tender heart-expanding sliver of sun rise, I am born anew. Forever changed for the better.

When I am in need of restoration – or to have my faith in humanity rekindled – this one action alone would do it.


Friday, May 25th: Day 5. 7:13am

Even though my daily meditation practice is strong enough to where it would feel foreign and strange if I were to skip it, and even though my stomach loudly beckons me to eat, I’m finding I need to push myself to do either one, as they both require that I stop writing.

If I weren’t in the honeymoon phase with this tower, I’d clamber down the 53 plus 2 steps to the ground and make a fire in the designated area with accompanying bench beside it. But as I don’t like being away too long, I’m content to ward off the soft chill of morning with tea and layers of clothes. Besides, I can have a fire any ole time and I’m an on-the-ground dweller every day of the year. I want to savor this sky perch as much as I possibly can.


I just had a one-way conversation with a low-flying small aircraft that went a little something like this:

Me: Hey there buddy! It’s a lovely day to do what you’re doing there, my friend.

Airplane: Rrrr rrrhhh rrrwhirlllrrrrr (English translation: Yep! It sure is!)

Me: Not to rub it in or anything, but, like, I have that view your loud engine is probably dulling the vibe of a bit from where you’re seated, like, ALL of the time.


Friday, May 25th: Day 5

I wonder how it was that the phrase “middle of no where” came to be. Where, I wonder, is the honorific place this saying was coined after? A corn field in Iowa? A sugar beet field in North Dakota? A flat prairie in Nebraska? Or maybe it was in the middle of the Pacific, bobbing in an endless sea of, well, sea.

I find it even more perplexing – in a delightful sort of way – that everyone knows what you mean when you say it, without really having any idea about what you’re talking about. If you were to press them on it, they’d stammer and stutter to go into detail, while sweat dripped from their foreheads. I don’t think there’s ever been a meeting to discuss such things. No consensus reached about what quantifies said “middle of no where.”

For some reason, though, I think it pertains exclusively to a location in the U.S. I don’t think there’s a “middle of no where” in Africa or Europe or even Australia. Well, maybe Australia. It’s the U.S and Australia. That’s it. In every other country, no matter how remote you may be in a far-flung place surrounded by grasslands, desert, or scrub hills riddled with snakes, you are decidedly somewhere.

The other day, a Coloradan man, who’d found himself winding the dirt road to the tower and then chatting with me from the ground as I looked down from the  deck to survey my vehicular visitor situation, said to me: “You’re sure out here in the middle of no where!”

“Hmm,” I thought. “Am I?”

Where does the fabled “middle of no where” start exactly? Is it as soon as you hop on a forest service road and start kicking up dust in your wake? Is it .7 miles from a paved highway? 3.5 miles?

I would think it should count against me classifying as a registered “middle of no where” destination given that in 8.1 miles I could fetch myself a pizza at OConnells, drive it right up to the tower in under an hour, and enjoy it while sitting on the deck with my killer mammoth view, which includes a large, popular recreation lake dotted with houses. If I’m in the “middle of no where” I think I may be doing it wrong.

It also sullies the hard-won distinction of other true-to-form “middle of no where” spots, if I were to claim use of such titles, too. I’m situated only 3.7 miles on two well-maintained forest service roads from highway 83. It equates to a 12-minute pleasant drive to paved road. Dubbing me out in the “middle of no where” seems rather like telling a guy you love him on the second date – it’s a little premature.


3 thoughts on “Solo Retreat in a Lookout Tower (Part 1 of 3)

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