I made my way east from Missoula, crossing rolling glacial hills, fields of golden grass, and low, stony mountains, stopping briefly in Butte, a small mining town that stretches from the highway up the side of a large hill, “the richest hill on earth” as it is known, where prospectors struck gold in what is now the main street. For having the name, “the richest hill on earth”, the town certainly did not look like an overly prosperous place to live. Houses and shops were small and rundown, every fourth lot sat empty, and men wore wife beaters and drove rusty Camaros and old Chevrolet Pickups. It was almost exactly what I would expect a mining town to look like, except of course that a mining town should have more trees, and be very dark and cloudy all of the time.
I am always pleasantly surprised when I find a town that catches my eye. Bozeman is one of those towns. I think it is the downtown that attracted my attention. In my exhaustingly repetitive search for a place to sleep, I accidentally drove one exit past the Wal-Mart, and had to circle back through downtown Bozeman to get to my free version of the holiday inn.
I was shocked by the feeling of vitality that I got as I drove through downtown. People were still out and about at 9:30, stores and restaurants were still open, children and adult lined the streets alongside the college age, and young professional crowd. Bozeman feels like a town with some culture.
I drove all the way to Wal-Mart before deciding to turn around and get a little bit of the Bozeman experience. As I walked up and down the streets, feeling underdressed in my jeans and brown plaid shirt; I was approached by a man speaking truth out of the scriptures. His words were not long, his opinion not shared.
He simply stated: “seek yea first the kingdom of God,” along with a word of exhortation.
A few minutes later, a lady approached me to ask if I knew the location of the bus stop. I did not. After she had walked off, I got a feeling like I should make an effort to help her out rather than sitting on my lazy butt. I asked a passerby about the location of the bus station, and then found the lady and gave her a ride.
I ended up spending the next hour or so enjoying a glass of PBR with Carmen, while we talked about our life stories and our respective travels. Carmen is a former army medic, and EMT. She spent years working two jobs to support her teenage daughter, until she was no longer physically able to work because of the combination of no rest, and gulf war syndrome.
Now that her daughter has graduated, she travels around the country visiting friends in various places. I am always amazed by the stories of people that I meet, as well as by the words of encouragement that they so often share with me. As we talked about things that we felt like were valuable, I mentioned my own skepticism about the value of my photography, a skepticism that she did not share at all.
She told me that God gave me this gift for a reason, and that the images that I capture may not impact most people, but they impact some. She said that if a person looked at one of the images that I capture and stopped for just a second to think about G-d’s creation or our relationship to eternity, that would be something of value.