Summertime in the garden.

I wrote this letter from my office at Higgins and Broadway. My view? Snow-capped mountains. The date was May 17. That morning, our community—which had welcomed a few 80-degree days just a week earlier—woke up to find the hills and mountains surrounding us blanketed white. They, too, thought they had said goodbye to a winter that lingered a bit too long. In fact, I may have spotted a frown or two from Mount Jumbo’s snow-covered base. Even the mountains were missing the sun’s warmth.

Today, the day you’re reading this, is likely to be warm, our skies blue and dotted with the occasional alabaster-white cloud lingering over our valley, reluctant to leave. No doubt that cloud agrees with Norman Maclean: “The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.”

Our place is special, even more special in summer.

The snow shouldn’t have surprised me. Three years ago, on a hike up to Bear Creek Overlook in July, my brother and I found ourselves with company at the top: snowflakes. They stuck to the rocks, even as the wind ripped in ill-defined directions. At the time, I couldn’t fathom such an occurrence. Today, I expect the unexpected from the place I call home. And I love her for it.

My homes have been around the country and on three continents, and I agree with John Steinbeck and believe—correctly or incorrectly, no matter—that his words were inspired by our valley. He always says it best:

I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.

Efforts to explain my love are futile. I just know that there’s no other place I’d like to be this summer than floating the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers, hiking Stuart Peak, swimming the lakes that are on the outskirts of our valley, listening to music in Caras Park, and just being home, in the Garden City.

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Summer in Missoula (and Montana, really) means outdoor concerts and music festivals like this one from a recent Beerfest celebration in Caras Park. Photography by Pamela Dunn-Parrish