Enjoy the Silence of Missoula

By ANNIE GRAHAM

“I love to work out in the garden, mom.”

What? Really? Cha-ching! Parenting gold!

“I mean, I don’t like the work part of it, but…”

Oh, ok. It seemed too good to be true and it was…

“There’s this owl in that tree over there and we talk to each other every time I come out here.”

My heart melts and I am once again head over heals in love with my eight year old… cha-ching!

During the summer months, there is at least one moment every day when I am thankful that we live in Missoula. People travel from all over the world to experience our amazing landscape.

The Silence of Glacier National Park

The Silence of Glacier NationalPark

If you get a chance to travel to Glacier or Yellowstone this year, you will hear dozens of languages spoken over the course of a weekend. We are lucky enough to live here year round (ok, I may not feel exactly the same way in February).

I’ve taken a few trips to Hawaii over the years and when I tell the locals where I’m from, their response is usually something along the lines of “I’ve heard it’s beautiful there – I hope I can go see it some day”. At first, I was taken aback by these statements – what could be more amazing than Hawaii? But upon reflection – Montana is equally beautiful in its own way, and we often forget to appreciate the beauty in our own backyards. Thus, Hawaiian locals may be just as jealous of our mountains as we are of their beaches.

The silence is something that I am very aware of when I return home from the more populated parts of the country. Chainsaws, lawnmowers, backhoes and traffic noise create the soundtrack for most people’s every day. But not me. I have wind, birds and water. I live 20 minutes from downtown Missoula and I am blessed with silence. I can hear the crickets chirping in the fields (yes, the official cliché of quiet) and my son can talk to an owl while he weeds the garden.

Missoula

The Silence of Missoula,Montana

We just returned home from a trip to northern Minnesota. We stayed at a cabin on lake Superior where my husband spent his childhood summer days. This was an important place to him, but I was having a hard time getting into it. As soon as things started to feel relaxed, I would hear the roar of a truck driving down the nearby highway.  I commented that it was hard to feel calm in such a noisy place and my husband responded that he had never noticed it when he was younger. I think that he was just so used to the noise of Minneapolis that his vacation spot did seem slower and more peaceful. Coming from Missoula, though, it was louder and somehow the constant noise of traffic took away from the amazing beauty of lake Superior.

As a parent, I want to help my kids to understand what a gift this silence is. It is, of course, not really silence, but another level of noise, without the human element. There is something about this lack of audio intrusion that I think really helps us to feel more centered, more at ease, and more willing to cooperate with those around us.

rivers of western Montana

Enjoy the sound of one of  western Montana’s manyrivers.

Maybe it’s because the noise is a reminder of all of the things we don’t want to think about on our never ending and generally overwhelming to-do list. Whatever the reason, I think that the silence is a key ingredient to our western Montanan relaxed nature. A subconscious embrace of this silence may just help our kids to be more successful (or at the very least, less anxious) adults.

Many people do not get to experience the song of the wind as it races through a meadow or the race-track-like vibrations coming from a tree filled with thousands of bees. We are so lucky that these things can be a part of our every day.  Even if you live in downtown Missoula, I would encourage you to find a nearby place where your kids can appreciate the silence. As our town grows, it may become harder and harder to come by.

Maclay Flats is a wonderful area to go for a short hike and enjoy the sounds underneath the people sounds.  You can get there by taking Brooks (93 South) toward Lolo, turning right onto Blue Mountain Rd. and driving for about a mile. Get there early, though – on a hot summer afternoon, it will quickly fill up with tubers and beach goers (people sounds – yes, but mostly just the sound of laughing children).  Do you have a favorite place to “enjoy the silence” around Missoula? Let us know where it is!

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Learn it BioAnnie Graham and Brandon Kendall are convinced that education can be fun, exciting, and meaningful. Brandon has been a teacher in Missoula for the better part of a decade. Annie is a proud parent of six children and a home school teacher. Check out their blog for fun (and educational) adventures around Missoula. Visit their Learning With Meaning website for ideas on dynamic and project based learning at home and in theclassroom.