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My wife and I had stayed up late watching the TV and so about 15 minutes before our daughter, arrived with our grandsons, we jumped out of bed.

We hurried to catch up to where we should have been if we had gotten up a half hour sooner. It’s no use. You can never make up the lost time.

At 7:20 a.m. when our daughter arrived we’d only managed to get the coffee almost made. The fire in the furnace started, but not yet heating the house. The TV blared the morning news. Our daughter and the two boys arrive. She takes off their coats and gets them settled because they aren’t feeling well and by the time she gets to the coffee pot it’s ready to pour.

I drink my morning orange juice, eat my toast, and sip my coffee while we visit. I tend the fire in the furnace, which now has the house warm. I’m going to town and my wife is laying out a few chores for me to tend. We live in a canyon, so in the winter time it is a dull gray light filtering in our windows in the morning.

First, I’m going to the old timer’s coffee club at the Victor Senior Center, and so about 8:30 a.m. I leave the house. As I drive the mile and a half along the gravel road to the pavement, I am surrounded by the gray light of early morning seeping down into Willow Creek canyon.

The Sapphire Mountains are to my back as I head west; the canyon walls sloping to the north and south of Willow Creek Road. The weather has been in the 20s at night, the 40s during the day, causing the road to freeze and thaw. It has become rutted and it must be driven with some care to avoid scraping bottom. I carefully negotiate my way until I get to Koch’s road and start up Gregg’s hill.

As I crest the hill, and hit the blacktop, I utter out loud, “Oh, my, isn’t that beautiful.” No one can hear me. It’s the utter brilliance of the mountains. I’m sort of stunned having spoken out loud when there is no one to hear me.

Bitterroot Mountains rising on the west side of the valley. The tops are all capped in pristine white snow. The blazing morning sun has engulfed about three-quarters of the mountains and they are radiating a whiteness seldom seen. I saw Mount McKinley once with the sun glaring off its frozen mass. The glow off the Bitterroots this morning had almost the same brilliance.

We live in the middle of a panorama of magnificent mountain beauty. I was aware of the mountains before we moved to the Bitterroot Valley in 1965. We were only here a short while when I realized the geography of the mountains had captured my psyche to hold me in ransom forever.

I didn’t go back to Chicago for 10 years. The first trip back I remember very well. As we drove to the eastern part of Montana and headed into North Dakota my eyes were continually drawn to the rearview mirror. I watched the flat lands appear through the windshield and the mountains disappear in the rearview mirror. I felt like a boat that slipped its anchor and was adrift at sea.

I remember the return trip. About Bismarck, North Dakota, I searched the horizon looking for a glimpse of mountains in the distance. Before I hit the Montana border I begin to catch fleeting sightings of dark images arising on the horizon. When I crossed the border, the mountains came into full view. My psyche relaxes. I’m home.

I drive out Willow Creek Road many mornings during the year and the sight greeting my eyes is different each time. This morning was special: the sun framed the mountains in an artist’s light, and, made me utter the words out loud for no one’s ears but my own. Most mornings are not as spectacular, but they are all wonderfully different. In the spring, the snow recedes slowly, and each day will be a different vista. Great huge masses of mountains slowly turning from white to green as the trees shrug their branches in the breezes, to divest the winter’s accumulation of snow.

The Bitterroot Valley is a beautiful place to live and the panorama changes slowly and steady as the sun wends its way in its annual north to south, south to north, journey. Old Sol’s annual trip changes the seasons in the mountain valley of the Bitterroot that’s captured our hearts.

John Robinson, from Chicago attorney, to football coach and teacher at Victor, to cattle rancher, to lawyer in Hamilton, to Ravalli County Attorney to a writing retirement. 

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