Ponderosa Pines smell like vanilla. I’d learned that more than thirty years ago when I spent a good chunk of one summer backpacking around the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico with the Outward Bound folk. I’ve been reminded this week, surrounded by those pines here in Montana, on the shores of Flathead Lake, taking my tea in the morning, watching the sun backlight the Mission Mountains, then rim the edges of them in napalm lipstick before streaking the surface of the water in fire and color. Always the scent of pine in the air, pine and vanilla. If you put your nose right up close to the bark and take a deep sniff, it’s like snorting ice cream. I’m a little long in the tooth to turn all the way in to a tree hugger, but I am now a devoted tree sniffer.
Grandeur doesn’t photograph well. The land has a soul that doesn’t want to be stolen by the camera. I scroll through the shots I’ve taken, and it’s like they have the facts right – yes that mountain was there, and yes the lake was that color blue and yes you would think the entire world was still carpeted with trees – but the sense of scale is gone, the slight mist that hints at the distance, the caress of a slant of sunlight cutting between clouds that turned a distant hillside of treetops into green down, none of that comes out right.
Something in beauty makes us avaricious. Already, I have to remember to see and feel and enjoy this moment instead of thinking that in a week I’ll be back in my office and wishing I had more time. Why can’t I look at anything without thinking that it will be gone soon, or that I will?