Last winter, my first in Western Montana, was the cloudiest season I’ve ever known. Home in the Midwest, I never struggled with the season as much as I did with the low-light days of Missoula last winter. In fact, I have never minded even the most extreme traits of northern winters in my home state—those frigid Arctic blasts that bring skies of such deep blue they appear brittle: cold enough to snap. At least a person can deal with icy periods in the north by wearing long underwear; I have yet to see a pair of long johns bring sunshine to Western Montana.
But today I did see something else bring (or at least coincidentally precede the arrival of) sunshine to Western Montana—my own incorrect prediction. Though I stepped off the train in Whitefish last night with a lot to look forward to about being in Montana again, I knew what I wasn’t looking forward to: clouds.
When I woke up in this morning and began my drive south to Missoula, the sky was sealed with low clouds the color of ashes. Just north of Polson, however, the gray above started to break, revealing vivid seams of pink light and bands of blue sky. I still don’t know if I like the simile, but I couldn’t help but think that the changing clouds above looked just like cotton candy—fluffy mounds stretching and pulling and breaking into wispy, palm-sized tufts with broad gaps of blue sky and sunlight between them. When I crested a rise in the highway just north of Polson, Montana, my right hand darted to find sunglasses on the passenger’s seat. The low sun of morning found me like a razor, cutting sharp and crisp from just above the Mission Mountains to the east. Ahead of me, I could see that the Mission Valley was capped with blue: my first day back was going to be clear, after all.
Please keep proving me wrong, Montana! Here’s to the sunshine that breaks predicted clouds.