By Madison Darbyshire
In A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, the narrator says, “Sunrise is the time to feel that you will be able to find out how to help somebody close to you who you think needs help even if he doesn't think so. At sunrise everything is luminous but not clear.”
It is a story of two brothers tied to a place. One dutiful, returned from college, trapped trying to help the other who cannot be saved from himself. A rebellious journalist, this brother chases violence and danger. They come together on the river, to fish.
The home of their childhood, in Missoula, Montana, sits beside the banks of the Blackfoot River. The house is a quiet place, with old wooden floorboards that creak when you tread on them in the pre-dawn hours. Fishing rods and ornate fishing flies hang on the walls like jewels.
Montana and the river are characters to Maclean. They live and breathe. From the wooden front porch, the brothers stare up at a sky so big Montana named a region after it. The book is a love letter to family, but much of the story is told through the beauty of the American West.
The land of the West is vast in a way that is difficult to fathom. It is an untamed place where wild horses still thunder across plains of golden grass. It is also brutal. The weather swings in extremes; wildfires tear across the hills and floods rise up in the span of minutes, washing everything else away.
The roads that take you home appear to have no names. Directions are dispatched in terms of who occupies the parcels of land, many handed down through families for generations. The ones that held on.
When the swirl of to-dos, should-dos, fears and disappointments rages inside my brain, I find myself somewhere like the Maclean house in Missoula. In this part of the world, sunsets do not slide behind high-rise rooftops, they explode across the entire horizon like a watercolour painting. The colour reaches up high, one last desperate attempt to cling to the day.
Maybe it is because I was raised in New York, a geographically displaced cowgirl in my soul, that I have always loved cowboys. Thinking of Maclean’s words, I find myself dreaming of mornings spent gazing from the panoramic windows of this seven-bedroom Montana estate near Big Sky, on the market for $22.5m.
In my fantasy, I am also beside the river, listening to the wind carry across the trees. I am here, overlooking the Swan River, in a three-bedroom cabin, which comes with a separate two-bedroom house, priced together at $4.98m. My mind, prone to swarming with thoughts of my own importance, would reach across the water and find something quieter. It is enough to make me want to learn to fly fish.
Photography: AF archive/Alamy; Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty; Glacier Sotheby's International Realty