Natural Rhythms

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. —Aristotle

Most folks would agree that Bozemanites are a happy lot. One of the reasons for this, I’ve always believed, is that by and large, we live in harmony with nature. Happiness tends to spring from a feeling of belonging, from a deep conviction that we’re part of something bigger and more important than ourselves. Or, as Willa Cather puts it in her novel My Antonia, “to be dissolved into something complete and great.” What could possibly be greater or more complete than the mountains, rivers, and forests of Montana?

Well, God, I suppose. But for most residents of southwest Montana, that’s pretty much the same thing. We may go to church once a week for an hour, but we spend as much time as we possibly can in the cathedral of Nature—and we feel our absolute best when we’re there. Floating a picturesque river, climbing a rocky summit, hiking or biking a fragrant pine forest—these are the experiences in which we become subsumed by the beauty and grandeur surrounding us.

Now, the human community of southwest Montana is pretty great too, and dissolution therein can bring about the same kind of joy. Is there anything better than a burger and beer with friends after a day spent outdoors? That’s what this issue of Outside Bozeman—and the fall season itself—celebrates: how the natural community sustains and provides for the human one. From an unforgettable bike tour through Yellowstone Park, to a treatise on the virtues of early-season skiing, to the amazing images that won the 2010 Outside Bozeman Photo Contest, this issue highlights how both worlds combine to create a seedbed of human satisfaction.

One of the hallmarks of a happy community is the abundance of altruistic locals who constantly strive to help others and to improve our collective quality of life. Check out the articles on Eagle Mount, the restoration of Livingston’s Fleshman Creek, and the ongoing effort to restore antelope migration routes in Paradise Valley. The folks behind these projects know that some people need help getting out into that outdoor temple, and that some temples need to be refurbished. Thank goodness for them.

And of course, there’s hunting season. For many of us, nothing makes us happier—or makes us feel more complete—than to walk the woods, gun or bow in hand, in pursuit of game. With our purpose strengthened, our senses heightened, and our instincts sharpened, we make that palpable shift from casual observer to active participant. As we immerse ourselves in that primordial dynamic of predator versus prey, we feel simplified, reduced, dissolved… into a world older, larger, and far more intense than the one we left behind. With that in mind, we’ve put together a diverse array of stories and photos to help make this hunting season the best one yet.

Whatever your autumnal avocation—from hiking to biking, skiing to stargazing, shooting guns to shooting photographs—remember to slow down and move at nature’s pace. Feel the forces of the natural world around you, upon you, within you. Feel the spirit of the season, and allow yourself to be consumed by it. When you do, as Cather notes, happiness “comes as naturally as sleep.” Sweet dreams, everyone. We’ll see you out there.