In The Breaks

I am sipping an Americano in Great Falls in the brick and stone historic downtown.  Tater lays at my feet on a sidewalk that is warming in the late morning sun.  Everyone walking past me pauses to pet him and they lift his face to meet his eyes with their own and they declare, “He is beautiful!” And it’s true.

Every woman I’ve seen on this city sidewalk looks lovely and put-together in skirts and heels, make-up on and hair smoothed.  I look like a tangle of Provence and hippy in a beautiful pocketed linen skirt, a sloppy tank top, layers of wild jewelry and bed head.  I did sleep in a tent last night.

I slept in a tent last night alongside an easy curve of the Missouri River beside the shadows of the cottonwoods that grow so wide and resplendent in this part of the state.  I like this part of Montana, beneath the High Line in the Missouri River Breaks where the land looks like deflated lungs and the deer grow big.  It’s my sort of country, scrappy but secretly tender; true to itself to such a degree that it is entirely unfettered and free as the wind.

In the morning, I stepped out of my tent and felt the sun on my face.  I stretched my arms out wide and found myself suddenly surprised by my wingspan.  It is wide.  It is wider than ever.  I slid my feet into my shoes and began walking.

When I pass through, when I slip through the golden grass beneath the cottonwoods alongside the river, I imagine myself quadruped and fat on summer.  It is late in the season now and the fresh shoots have to be sought out thoughtfully and teased up out of the dry earth so that the simple action of feeding myself the richest things resembles a kiss.


  1. Jillian! Reading your writing is like having your skin warmed by the sun. So delicious and peaceful, you feel it right in the depths of your being. Your previous blog post about the “west” was beautiful; its not even a state of mind but a state of the soul, that even when you’re not in the west, you are, you long to be, and you yearn for that dust, and scrappy-ness, and those purple rain clouds coming over the mesa and the meandering river waters. Even though I’m originally “of the west”, I’m currently living in the Navajo Nation, and I feel it in a deeper way even now. Its the greatest. As always, thank you for sharing your heart here.

  2. Oh, that last paragraph. I imagine myself quadruped and fat on summer. I know there’s a book or two in you.

  3. Loved this…loved everything about it except for one word…”rodeo”. My first, only, and last was in Yakima. In the space of 2 hours, 2 horses broke their legs and had to be carted out of the ring. I was horrified. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve spoken my mind…

    • Oh! You confused me! I mentioned rodeo in a different post. You can absolutely feel free to dislike the word rodeo. I am curious as to which events horses were injured in while you were at the Yakima rodeo.

      • So sorry, I realized that the text was in the other post after I commented. The horses that I saw get injured (I presume fatally as they both had to be elevated onto the back of a flat truck while people tried to shield what was going on), were both involved in the same “event”. I’m not sure what this spectacle is officially called, but it is where they let a bunch of horses out of a chute and teams of two people see who can be the fastest at roping them and getting a saddle across the horses back. All of the horses coming out of that chute acted “wild”…which is how I suppose the folks putting the event on want them to be. Horses were running into the fenced walls and into each other. Before this event, there was also calf roping. I can’t see how slamming a young animal violently to the ground can be good for them. I insisted we leave early and vowed to never go to another rodeo again. I am not a part of any organized group such as PETA but I can clearly identify animal cruelty. I have loved and admired horses all of my life and to see them get “injured” in a spectator sport is tragic to me. Thank you Jillian for giving me a chance to voice my opinion. Others may not agree and have a full right to do so.

  4. How entirely beautiful this is, Jillian! I can always feel my spirit plumping up when I’m sitting here with your sharing and I love it and am so very thankful for this nourishment. You are as beautiful as sunrise. Long may you shine, love***

  5. John Denver helped me through my teenage years. I always say if someone wants to know me, just listen to some JD. He was and still is such am important person in my life. I love country music, but I ever thought of JD as country either. He was of the Earth, of the west, just as you said. Thank you for loving him as well!

  6. Laura Hunter says:

    I hope you have sat next to Giant Springs in Great Falls. It is a wonderful upwelling of water and energy . The water that flows out takes 50 years to travel from the south in the Belt Mountains. cheers.

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