In the final days of September 2016, the North Fork of the Flathead River, Polebridge, and Glacier National Park put an exclamation point on why autumn is best.
I just started reading a book called The Wolverine Way by Douglas H. Chadwick. It’s about an in-depth study of one of the most mysterious, and unknown, predators in North America, the wolverine. By coincidence, considering our recent outing, the study was undertaken in Glacier Park. So far I really like it, as I expected to. It fits the bill as one of my favorite types of books: part educational, part adventure story, and part just a good read.
Chadwick is turning 60 years old at the time he was involved with this study. I love his reminiscing on life, when, in his words, “the calendar made it plain that I was farther from the year of my own birth than from the year of my death.” This passage really caught my attention:
What drew me so strongly to Many Glacier, and to Glacier Park as a whole, was exactly that kind of perpetual beginning. Lovely in its contours, breathtaking in scale, the reserve spans a nearly 60-mile length of the Montana Rockies just south of the Canadian border. It’s a million acres of Continental Divide topography, a superstructure of tilted rock layers, white, tan, grayish green, wine red, and more than a billion years old. They have tales to tell of great forces at play on the planet, and their stories soar. They shine with alpenglow. They sing in your eyes. They make you want to stay strong for another century, because while you think you could maybe face dying, you can’t deal with the idea of one day becoming too old and weak to ramble among these summits any longer.
The crags all around are beyond monumental; I’m a mote beneath them. They have endured for eons on end; my existence, by comparison, seems a passing glimmer, like the ring of ripples on a lake from the rise of a trout. The lesson from nature this grand, I would tell myself, is to at least have the grace to be humble. Then I started following wolverines around. They are smaller than I. Their life span is considerably shorter. Yet whatever they do, they do undaunted. They live life as fiercely and relentlessly as it has ever lived.
If wolverines have a strategy, it’s this: Go hard, and high, and steep, and never back down, not even from the biggest grizzly, and least of all from a mountain. Climb everything: trees, cliffs, avalanche chutes, summits. Eat everybody: alive, dead, long-dead, moose, mouse, fox, frog, its still-warm heart of frozen bones.
I love that attitude. It’s part of what Julia has always said she loves about Jack Russell Terriers, the idea that life is to be lived, and I ain’t going down without a last gasp at life chomped lustily in my jaws. Something to keep in mind, especially the next time the couch seems more attractive than another unknown bend on the next trail.