Solo Retreat in a Lookout Tower (Part 2 of 3)

I’m back among the ground-dwellers. I awoke this morning around 3:30am, disappointed after a confusing moment that I wasn’t in the tower.

Prior to my solo sojourn, I’d given no thought to the effects of tree top living. I hadn’t considered how well I might take to it or the re-calibration period afterwards that I’m experiencing now.

Upon returning home on Saturday night, I stood on our wooden deck out back, located 19″ off the ground, wondering why I felt so strange. In short order, I realized it was due to having spent the week in high concentration of time on a wooden deck rocketed 40-feet up high in the air. The ground was just too oddly close from where my feet were settled.

I didn’t anticipate loving – and therefor now missing – the ritual of lighting the gas stove. A task I involved myself in more than the average person who is not an avid tea drinker.

I’d forgotten how in love I am with trees and sky and sun rises – and how sad I would be to leave them behind. While they surround me every day, of course, it’s not the same as paying the kind of close and unscripted attention to them that comes from dwelling directly in their midst.

Tuesday May 22nd: Day 2. 4:48am

I’m sitting here at the map table inside, guessing over which peak the sun will rise, based on the color patterns unfurling over the mountains. I’ve got it narrowed down to two. With how much light hangs in the sky this time of year, I will make little use of my headlamp, book light, and lantern I packed along. Perhaps an hour’s worth of artificial lighting in the morning is all I’ll need. A truly dark sky only lasts for around 6-hours, in the late springtime of Montana.

With the light, temperatures, and time of year, I think I’ve managed to stumble upon the very best time to situate myself here. It’s neither bug, fire, or tourist season just yet; the nights and mornings are tinged with just the right amount of cool to accompany tea drinking and a hoodie; and the days are warm and friendly to my skin. I see this place becoming an annual excursion, and I only just arrived yesterday. It’s simply brilliant here.

Monday May 21st: Day 1. 8:41pm

Among the varied tower supplies provided sits an assortment of books, maps, and board games. There’s also bear spray, a smiley-faced sponge, and a piece of paper with the music and lyrics for the 1952 song Smokey the Bear, written by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins on one side and the Conservation Pledge on the other. True to form, I already wrote my own melody for the song and took great joy in singing it aloud to myself as I strolled about the tower.

P.S The tower smelled thick of bacon when I entered earlier, but now I think the fragrant aroma has been released to mingle with the pines. Despite my having been a vegetarian since I was 12-years-old, I delight in the smell of bacon. Even I know that bacon makes the world seem a little better when you eat it. I met the couple who stayed here the previous two nights, when they four-wheeled up to inquire how I managed to get the gate on the road unlocked. After telling them that I had to call the ranger’s station, and hearing that they had to pack their stuff in rather than drive right up to the tower, the man asked if it smelled like bacon. When I said, “Yes!” in a cheerful tone, he seemed to delight in telling me that it was he who made it so, as though he did it intentionally with care, to welcome me.

Tuesday May 22nd: Day 2.

Swan Chapel. The stone and dirt parking lot, which joins with the Laughing Horse Lodge B & B, was freshly oiled or otherwise shellacked with something asphalt aromatic related. After a few failed attempts, I’ve landed here at 10:30 on a Tuesday, to make tea by the roadside and poach their outdoor outlet by which to charge my camera, which is already out of juice.

A woman pulled up a few minutes ago, ducking inside for a short spell. Since I was sitting on the front step of the chapel, she asked if I needed anything. In addition to telling her I had pulled over to make tea – a fact clearly visible that she didn’t seem in the slightest to mind – I contemplated whether or not to ask/tell her I was also pilfering their electricity via slow drain into my camera battery around the corner of their building. On-the-spot, however, I decided telling her half a true story was good enough.

After she left, an older gentleman who lives next door walked over to tell me how he’d just sprayed the dandelions near where I was stationed about an hour ago. He wanted to give me a friendly warning not to sit in the grass, so as not to be coated in chemicals. He also asked me to tell so-and-so about him having sprayed (so-and-so being a woman’s name I can’t recall). Apparently, not only do I not stand out in this one-store town like I imagined I would, but I also appear to reside here and be well-acquainted with the woman who runs the chapel office, which is no doubt the woman I just spoke with.

Wednesday, May 23rd: Day 3. 8:53am

My cup of nourishment and healing is over-flowing, and it’s not yet 9:00am on my third day. Last night, I emptied one of the two 500-piece puzzles on the floor and set to sorting it into border and non-border piles.  It took me 9 minutes and 8 seconds to sort all the pieces and another exactly 30 minutes to assemble a majority of the border, before both the light and I waned to the extent of calling it quits, as I was unable to ascertain which nondescript green piece went with another. 

Just now, I spent another 18 minutes and 4 seconds finishing the border to its full and rectangular glory. In my sorting of piles, I inadvertently cast one lone border piece in with the interior stash and was forced to go through the hundreds of oddly-shaped pieces to retrieve it. In finally locating it, my eyes agog in searching for the one piece with one straight, non-Dr. Seuss-esque side on it, I was filled with such a wave of elation that it was as though I’d discovered how to fetch a treasured jewel from under a sleeping dragon without waking it up. Sliding that final piece into its proper placement was almost as exhilarating as watching the sun rise this morning for the second day in a row. And that is really saying something.


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