Monday, January 14, 2013

View of the Bitterroot ...

I spent a winter in Missoula a number of years ago, and was fortunate enough to sit in on K. Ross Toole's legendary Montana and the West history class. Those class sessions were filled with memorable moments, and one of the things I recall was how Toole lamented the slow destruction of the Bitterroot Valley ... the ongoing replacement of its farms and meadows with a sea of faceless subdivisions.

Of course that was nothing compared to what's happened in the Bitterroot in the years since ... and every time I go down that way I remember Toole's lecture and regret the ever-more-depressing view.

Here's a stanza from Greg Pape's poem, "View of the Bitterroot." Pape is a Missoulian who has taught in the University of Montana's creative writing program for many years.
The new owners of the wheat field
plan to develop the land, cut
the acres, where the sandhill cranes
return each year, down into small lots,
five hundred houses packed in tight
like gold bars in rows
over the shallow aquifer
at the edge of the marsh.

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