Newmann: The mosaic travelogue
We rolled into Missoula, Montana, the other day after taking an unexpected left turn in Idaho. We could have turned right and ended up in a completely different destination. Maybe there’s something to be said for spontaneity.
It’s been a while since the last trip to this city (about 15 years) and, like most desirable areas, it’s rambled way outside its former boundaries. There are all the requisite box stores, supermarkets and tire centers on the periphery of the town. But once you get through that maze, the city becomes more familiar. It starts to look like the Missoula you once thought you knew.
Fortunately, we have relatives here who are not totally surprised by nomads arriving unannounced. So instead of sleeping in a tent, we had a wonderful welcome — and a roof and a bed. And a chance to wander down to one of the local parks to watch a group of 7-year-old girls at their soccer practice.
The team is a study in … fun. In a time where kids often seem to be on traveling teams when they start to tie their shoelaces and practices are regimented with a military precision, it was sometimes tough to distinguish what these kids were actually doing in their practice. Or if some of it was even related to soccer.
In between (and sometimes during) their drills, kids would be sitting on the grass and chatting with one another. One girl was very intent on practicing somersaults (and was very accomplished at that maneuver). Balls were in motion, both in the air and on the ground, some kicked with intent and others randomly flying around. The coaches, all very good-natured, created as much structure as possible without taking away the fun.
At one stage, one of the coaches (who is also a relative, was formerly a very accomplished player and is now a rather notable presence in the community) came over to say hello. Her daughter, a member of the team, also came over and promptly lay down on the grass and chatted about non-soccer matters (most notably her upcoming birthday). Then they both returned to the practice.
As the practice continued, a group of Native American drummers started to set up shop in a nearby corner of the park. At the other end of the park, tennis players tried to concentrate on their shots. And a volleyball match (with some pretty agile players) was going on behind the young soccer team.
The whole scene, with such a myriad of activities on the green grass of the small park — punctuated by the rhythmic Native American drumming — on a warm and sunny afternoon, seemed so … spontaneous. And meshed almost perfectly with our own decision earlier in the day to turn left instead of right.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, the random pieces just fit together.
Tom Newmann splits his time between Edwards and Queenstown, New Zealand. He has been going winter-to-winter since 1986. He was also a journalist in Missoula, Montana, at the Missoulian for quite a few years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.