Yourself Included

hiking, yellowstone park, river, forest

Yourself Included

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Mike England

Nature welcomes everyone.

There’s much talk these days of inclusivity, a word that makes me think of all the high-end real-estate ads trumpeting the exact opposite: “Exclusive property in the woods!” “Enjoy exclusive access!” “View our exclusive listings!”

That pitch always bothered me—it feeds the ego, tempting the avidly upward mobile with a sort of alpine country club, where they will enjoy special privileges denied the unwashed masses. I also just didn’t get it—who would want to live so differently from everyone else? Why move to Montana and not become a Montanan? 

Until one day, when I helped a friend on a job in the Yellowstone Club. He was short-handed and needed some heavy lifting; I wanted to see the monstrosity first-hand. As we drove in, my eyes passed over the sprawling excess: the gargantuan lodge, the log castles spilling down every slope. The fanciest, most luxurious, most pretentious crap on the planet, right here, in abundance, in this exclusive mountain retreat. 

“What a hellhole,” I grumbled. “This basin must’ve been beautiful before they destroyed it. We need a good earthquake to level the place.” 

“No way,” my friend said. “Can you imagine all these assholes spread throughout the state? Better to have them all here, concentrated in one spot, behind a locked gate.”

Which made me feel a whole lot better. And now, it makes me think a whole lot more about those two words. Exclusivity appeals to self. It connotes superiority and separation. It’s what smug, self-serving people seek, to feed their ever-increasing self-importance. And it's what drives the growing ubiquity of superfluous No Trespassing signs. Inclusivity, on the other hand, appeals to community. It suggests kinship and affinity. It’s what generous, accommodating, unselfish people are all about. And it’s what public land is all about. 

As much as I despise mindless buzzwords—not to mention mindless movements—the ideal behind this one is solid. Especially here, in burgeoning Bozeman, where people are moving en masse, from all walks of life and all corners of the country, all thrown together and trying to get along. 

After all, what’s more inclusive than the outdoors? Nature welcomes everyone. It assimilates everyone. In nature, we are all reduced to the same fundament: our mammalian flesh. A resplendent flower glimmers the same to every human eye. The clean mountain air flows the same through every human lung. And the fangs of a pissed-off mama griz tear the same through every human shoulder. There is no discrimination. No special treatment. No exclusivity. We expose ourselves to the same beauty and the same terror. It’s a truism beyond refutation: in nature, we are all the same. 

So this fall, when this weird world weighs heavily upon you, when these confused times confound your reason, when your mind struggles to make sense of it all, to grapple with it all… just go outside. Load up the car and camp along the water. Shoulder your rifle and wander the woods in search of game. Mount your bike and ride a trail. Steel your nerves and climb a cliff. Whatever, just be sure to clear your head, open your heart, and feel your connection—to the natural world around you, and to every other Montanan. At least the ones outside the gates.


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