I so regret not bringing my camera to this place, so I’ll have to describe the scene with words. July 2- Ashley Lake, beautiful NW Montana, 90 degrees and an occasional cloud that makes the breeze pleasant.
From my sun faded, 10 season worn fold up camp chair, I am people watching…. this is truly a favorite pastime. I could do it all day and feel entertained, educated, and called to prayer. Satisfied.
One man next to us is so intriguing. He has a story I can’t imagine. He pulls up in his older but well maintained Dodge van. It would be a 15 passenger if it had seats, but it has been converted to a camper of sorts. The van’s frame is old – 80’sI think, but it has good tires and spotless leather seats up front. He pulls the van up next to our little day spot next to the boat ramp. There, he idles for about 40 minutes while he unloads his Zodiak raft from the roof of the van. He has the system down, complete with carpeted 2x8’s that attach to the raft rack with a door hinge. This man is an inventor, and he knows what he needs to get the job done. Well, no big one man project is without a hitch, and he once he lets a foul word slip as he walked around the edge of the van. Seeing me, he immediately follows with “Sorry, ma’am”. I heard but had my head turned toward the children, and didn’t had time to acknowledge.
Once the raft is in the water, the man opens 2 side doors of the van to reveal a disorganized combination of bare necessities: Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, a bottle of syrup, a futon style chair. He disappears into the van for a while and emerges wrestling a shiny blue boat motor: not what I would have guessed to be in the limited space. He is an older man, grey hair and frail voice showing his age. His shirtless skin explains he has been outdoors much of this summer. I wonder if his Carhartt cutoffs have been around longer than I’ve recognized the Carhartt brand? His bowed legs remind me of a cowboy; his belly shape tells me he enjoys his drinks ~ the American way. On my way back from a trek to our own van, I see the stranger has Oregon license plates, so I’m curious where he lives, but not the type to ask.
The other 6 people I am watching are my favorites. We have happened upon a little cove where a stream quietly runs into Ashley Lake. All around the stream are lush green grass, bushy trees, and wildflowers. The lake is a stunning aqua color. Adrian is the first to walk right in; Jaci and Aaron go wading with him. Ella and Tessa begin playing in the cooler stream, and their idea to create a fountain results in all the kids moving handfuls of rocky beach and asking Adrian to lift heavier rocks into place. Orion, sitting in a mini camp chair beside me, spots a seagull on the water and tells me it cannot fly. I assure him I saw it fly before landing on the water, so together we watch for it to take flight.
The sun makes the water glitter, and I feel so satisfied. Today my kids are civil engineers: designing a dam, a bridge, a waterfall. They are biologists: observing tadpoles, minnows, crawdads, leeches, and the butterfly that rested on Tessa’s hand. They are true scientists as they experience the water and theorize about the critters. They are budding geologists picking out the unique stone to keep. They are soaking up sun, spending time as a family, and they don’t even realize they are learning!