Taking Pleasure in the Simple Things at Our Western Montana Lodge

Sometimes life is busy - and experiences seem to zoom through life like a freight train rushing to its destination. Other times life is quieter and nothing extra-ordinary happens. It is often in the quieter times I fail to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. The beauty of a wildflower. The song of a tree swallow outside my bedroom door. The shush of the wind in the trees. A brief glimpse of baby birds - mouths open and waiting as their mother brings another meal.

The past week has been one of those 'slower' and 'quieter' weeks. Not that there haven't been moments (and hours) full of rush and flurry, but the slower moments have been more frequent than normal for the summer season. No 'record breaking' incidents have come trampling through, forcing me to sit up and take notice. No 'WOW' moments have struck me with the extra-ordinary. But, this doesn't mean life has been boring. It doesn't even mean I haven't been enjoying events and sightings others would consider 'unusual'.

Four 'normal' pleasures have been the highlights of this week. A brisk and refreshing swim with the kids off the new swim dock; the opportunity to watch several young fawns during my morning walk; the arrival of about 13,000 yearling fish; and, the opportunity to meet several new 'friends'.

A couple of weeks ago, at the request of our teenage summer crew, Craig built a swimming dock. Situated in the large cove near the boat ramp at our Western Montana Lodge where the water begins to deepen dramatically, this swimming dock has seen regular use (by us and our guests) since its installation. A 12 x 12 platform with anchors to hold it in place (generally), and a ladder to allow swimmers to regain its surface, this simple dock has already brought much pleasure to our family.

Having only swam near the boat ramp and boat docks, I always thought of Elk Lake as 'weedy' and 'fishy'. However, my perspective changed radically after an hour spent swimming with the girls this week. Not only was the water 'not' weedy or fishy, it was clear, clean and quite pleasant. And, of course, the mountain view and the lack of bugs out on the lake made the experience all the more delightful.

In spite of the overly friendly mosquitos, I've been trying to get back into walking in the mornings. Not only do I LOVE to be out before things get busy - just to look and listen - but I especially need these times to remind me why I love living here (at a time of year when work seems to dog my steps all too frequently - keeping me inside and leaving little time to 'enjoy' the beauty outside my window - or door). In an effort to avoid the thickest concentration of winged pests, I've directed my recent walks down the lake. This morning I had the pleasure of watching several deer - actually the most I've seen in one morning. Most of them were does (one buck stood like a malformed statue as I walked by - in an obvious effort to not attract the dog's attention), and several had fawns. In fact, the first wildlife sighted were twins in the middle of the road beside the Resort fence.

Oh, and the fish. Two years ago I was too busy to watch the annual 'plant'. Last year they dropped them at the foot of the lake. However, this year I wasn't too busy - and so, camera in hand, I headed to the lake (along with everyone else) to watch this year's plant.

The yearling fish (averaging 4 - 8") quickly adapted to their new home. After swimming briefly in the shallow water near the docks, they quickly disappeared - only to reappear briefly as they bumped the water surface or jumped clear of their confines after a snack. Now, I expect, we'll be seeing quite a bit more of the otters and the eagles.

Often the greatest pleasure of a day is the remembrance of 'meeting' a new friend (or friends). The very nature of the business indicates the obvious frequency with which people come through our doors. Many of these people come in strangers - we've never seen them, they've never seen us - BUT, most leave as friends! That, in and of itself, is one of the greatest pleasures of living our lives. Just yesterday - a typical day in many ways - is a good example.

The day started with a couple from California coming by for some out-of-state fishing licenses. Although they had been camping over near 'world-famous' Henry's Lake, they'd managed to find their way into our valley - and thus to our door. After serving them lunch a few days ago, we spent a bit of time visiting. As they left they told me they'd be back for fishing licenses, a day on Hidden, and a late lunch. And, so they did. However, as so often happens, when they walked through the door yesterday morning, they were no longer strangers but friends come to visit. And, they obviously felt the same since, after lunch, they said, "We just wish we hadn't found you so late in our vacation. We'd have been out here a lot more for the good fishing and the great food."

Then there were the two families from Maryland. One of the wives grew up in Ennis (How on earth did she end up in Maryland?). Although she obviously loves many aspects about her 'adopted' state, she still returns to her roots each year. And, she and her family usually make the trek up our way. This year was no different. After a hearty lunch the 7 of them headed up to Hidden Lake - rowed across - and walked down to Goose and Otter.

They returned several hours later (just before IMPRESSIVE thunder storm which they watched from our deck - wine glasses in hand) tired but pleased with the beauty of the day and the quality of birding they had enjoyed. As they left, the one lady (a friend of the lady from Ennis) gave me a beautiful book on raptors which I had admired during their lunch visit. What a generous way to say 'nice to meet you!'

And, as often happens, a stressful event at the end of the day turned into another opportunity to make new friends. I had just finished seating our last dinner party when in walked a family of four. "How may I help you?" I inquired.

"We have dinner reservations," the lady said.

In an effort to keep mt shock from showing, I turned back toward my reservation book. I knew there were no more reservations for the night (and, since we rarely prepare much more than we need as 'drop ins' are very rare - this was a big issue). "What was the name?" I asked over my shoulder.

"The reservation is under the name, Linda," she replied.

"I'm sorry, I don't have a Linda down. Do you know who you talked to?" I turned back to them, my emotions under check.

"Um, do you have a guy named Richard working here?"

Well, we don't. In the end we figured out she'd called a place in Island Park with 'Elk' in their name and thought she'd gotten us. Now, the problem was - we're 45 minutes from the nearest restaurant. What do we do?

With a little improvisation and a lot of good humor, we seated them for dinner. As it turned out it was Harry's birthday and Linda and the kids had planned a special dinner for him. They'd intended to eat here, they'd just gotten the name mixed up.

Dinner passed with a lot of tasty food a few hearty laughs. Afterward Harry and Linda stayed on a little longer to visit. Turns out, as often happens, we had a few things in common (mostly places in Oregon which we both knew) and this turned in to a few more connections. And so, what could have been a disaster turned into new friends. Friends who say they "WILL BE BACK!"

As always, there are unexpected pleasures in the simple events of life - and this, I'm glad to say, is no less the case just because we live quite a long way 'off the beaten path.'

Lady of the Lake

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