When I arrived to East Glacier, there was this immediate feeling of home-ness. It took me a little by surprise, because as much as I’ve been wanting to visit Montana for the four or five years that preceeded my arrival, it was a place completely uknnown to me.
I let it brew in my head for some time, and a few months down the road (okay, a year and a few months down the road), I’m here, trying to find the answer. After all, what does make a place feel like home? I have a few theories, and I am working on writing them all down in an essay, but for now, let’s analyze the phenomenon that was East Glacier to me.
1. The meadows
When I was little, I remember running through fields and meadows. Cutting the grass with a sickle while my grandpa was not far away, swinging around with a scythe, then turning it over with a rake in the midday sun so that it wouldn’t start rotting before it could turn into hay,… those were my favourite moments. My grandpa was a cheerful man, and the most loving. He’d always give me bubble gum and let me chew on dry bread. We’d let the chickens and the goats out onto the grass, and then shoo them back inside before the night came. We’d feed the rabbits and milk the goats together.
Those are some of the warmest memories I have of my childhood. They’re filled with sunlight and happiness. I knew I didn’t have to be scared of anything when I was with my grandpa. And those meadows reminded me of him so dearly, all the beautiful memories came flooding back.
2. The Dandelions
I haven’t seen many dandelions since I moved to California. There are a few here and there, but that’s nothing compared to the acres of dandelion-filled meadows we’d run through with my sister when we were younger. I remember learning to make music with their stems, and turning them into crowns and rings. What more, those medicinal plants are just beautiful. Their leaves are good for salads, their roots for dandelion coffee, their flowers for honey and syrup…
Whatever it is about dandelions — their joyful color, their medicinal properties, or the memories they bring — they make any place feel more like home.
3. The Dirt Roads
There’s just this something about dirt roads. You can walk or bike semi-comfortably almost anywhre while avoiding roads with cars. They have character, and they also build character — they get muddy, wet, riddled with potholes,… They can end unexpectedly or bring you to beautiful places. Sometimes, they’re easy to follow, sometimes, they turn into a single-trail and then disappear altogether.
All the places that ever felt at least a little bit like home to me — the place where I live when I volunteer at Point Reyes, all the spots that have ever become home when living out of my car, that little house in Yosemite,… — had to be accessed at least partly by dirt roads.
5. The Hostel
The hostel where I stayed, as well as quite a few other buildings, were made of wood. Wooden houses and cabins have always made me feel cozy, the scent of wood always associated with beautiful places and feelings of safety. Ever since I was little, I loved playing with wood — from making boats from bark and leaves and letting them sail across ponds to carving cups and pens. Every time I’m outside, I end up carving sticks into snakes and feathers. Every time it rains and the earthy scent of wet pines fills my nose, my heart sings.
The sounds of a mug set down on a wooden table, the sound of knocking on a wooden door, the sounds of steps on a wooden floor… They all make me feel at home. And the hostel was all made from wood — from the walls and floors to the beds and chairs to the bathroom stall and shower dividers.
4. The Lilac
Lilac and golden rain — those are the two plants that have always meant that spring was upon us, that the cold winter was over, and that it was time to get back to tending to our garden where we grew our own food. The scent of the lilacs would mingle with the scent of thawed, wet earth, telling the world that the time of rebirth was coming.
Coming from a place where my pagan roots are still visible and where the coming of spring is an important and celebrated event, lilacs and golden rain hold a dear place in my heart. But until I came to East Glacier, I hadn’t seen or smelled lilacs for years. Finally being in the vicinity of those plants made it feel like coming home.
5. The Rain and Thunderstorms
For as long as I can remember, I always felt this kind of bewilderment whenever a thnderstorm came. I always felt respect towards them, too, starting from when I feared them as a little child, coming to a place of awe and curiosity, and reaching the moment when I just admired them as a teen. This admiration steayed with me, and when I moved to the East Bay where rain is rare and thunderstorms are even rarer, I missed the wave of energy and chaos they’d always bring.
But the clouds, the rain, and, eventually, the thunderstorm that came over East Glacier when I was there brought me this sense of being completely wild and free once again. Perhaps that’s another reason why it felt like home.
6. The Good Humor of the Hostel Staff
Good-natured people make almost any place feel a little warmer, a little bit more like home. And the staff at the hostel as well as other travelers passing through, mostly CDT thru-hikers, was all that — humorous, good-natured and with big, warm hearts. There was never lack of stories from the road or the trail as the people who entered the door came from all over the world.
And as strange as it might sound, meeting people from all around and listening to their stories from places that were thousands of miles away made me feel more at home than anything else.
7. The Bathroom Light
This might sound peculiar, I’ll be the first to admit that. I noticed that the bathroom light was motion-activated, instead of the traditinal lightswitch. I liked that idea — especially in establishments like hostels or gas stations, people tend to leave the bathroom lights on. Motion-activated lights are beautiful in that they don’t waste electricity, switching automatically off if there’s no more motion in the bathroom.
However much I appreciated the motion-activated lights for this reason, I also knew that they were probably going to be a little bit of a trouble when the shower time came, since the motion sensor was only by the door, definitely not reaching all the way to the showers. I came prepared, and so when the lights turned off mid-shower, I had my lamp with me. And something about that care for the environment connected with the tiny light of the lamp made me feel very much at home.