Ruth Rudner
Ruth Rudner

David Muench's National Parks


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We sold our New Mexico house, moved permanently to Montana, and traveled to Mongolia all at the same time.

The move to Montana had been planned for four years without it happening. Then, last winter, when we finally began preparing the house for sale, we also needed to decide where we would be living in six months so we could book tickets for a late September trip to Mongolia. New Mexico? Montana? I figured that if we flew out of, and returned to, Montana, it would mean we lived there. This may have lacked something in logic although it didn’t seem entirely unreasonable once we committed to putting the house on the market in June.

Except the house wasn’t ready to sell in June.

rock heart
(Photo Credit: Page Morgan)

But because our trip now began and ended in Bozeman, we drove north in mid-July, providing us the illusion we lived there. The difference between illusion and reality is that one of them is fake.

Leaving the New Mexico house and some remaining packing in the hands of friends, and the market timing to our real estate agent, we set off with our usual grip on reality.

Our two vehicles were loaded with as much as they could carry. As much as they could carry was too much. The house already had everything necessary. What would happen when the things from a house three times the size of the Montana house arrived? There was no space for them . . . books, art work, music, dishes, clothes, dog beds, dog toys, pine cones, rocks, and all the contents of our separate workrooms.

But, at least, we were here.


rock heart
(Photo Credit: Page Morgan)

In preparation for the trip to Mongolia, I took Luke to day care at the kennel where I meant to leave him while we were gone. When I picked him up four hours later, the staff said he had done all right. They even posted a picture of him on their Facebook page. We talked about an overnight sometime in the next weeks, but I essentially pushed it aside, figuring that if he’d been o.k. in daycare, he’d manage the three week stay. I’m not sure where that kind of thinking comes from. Maybe hope. Maybe laziness. Or maybe those two things are the same. At 2 ½ years, he had never stayed in a kennel. Four days before the flight, the kennel called to remind me about the overnight. I could see he wasn’t happy when I brought him in, but figured he would be fine as soon as I left. When I arrived to pick him up the next morning, the people behind the desk looked deadly serious.

rock heart
(Photo Credit: Page Morgan)

“How are you?” the woman in charge asked me. It seemed an odd question, given that I had only come to pick up my dog, make sure everything had gone well.

It hadn’t.

“He barked and cried non-stop, “ the woman said. “Our night care-taker even took him into her room so he could sleep with her, but he couldn’t be comforted. I’m so sorry . . . I don’t think we’re a good match for him . . . .”

So that’s why she asked. To make sure I could handle it. I was polite. I said I understood. I expressed my appreciation for the care they took with him. I closed the door behind us, damning everything in sight. I now had three days before getting on an early morning plane to Mongolia, a dog who couldn’t be kenneled, and no acquaintance with any local sitters.

If I had booked the flight from Albuquerque, I had options. In Montana, living an hour from town, I had none. Except to stay home. I wondered if cancelling a trip to stay home with the dog was covered by travel insurance.

I called Page, who has stayed with Luke in the past. Page lives in Albuquerque, works with David, is a close friend, is someone Luke regards as family.

“Can you come to Montana tomorrow for three weeks?” I asked.

She said she needed to think.

We picked her up at the airport the next day, then left the following morning at 5:00 a.m. for Seattle and Seoul and Ulan Bataar.

Mongolia had long been a dream for me. Years ago, long before moving to New Mexico, I entertained some Mongolian environmentalists visiting Bozeman. They said Montana looked like Mongolia. I looked at photos of people on sturdy Mongol horses crossing landscapes of mountains and grasslands.

rock heart
(Photo Credit: Ruth Rudner)

This trip, however, was not on horseback, but in vintage Russian vans with a group of photographers whose needs are different from the needs of writers, or, for that matter, most people. Before deciding to go, wanting reassurance our itinerary would give me a real picture of the country, I described it to a Montana friend who frequently travels between the U.S. and Mongolia. “It’s a good first trip,” she said.

It was. And I’ll write about it in the next article. This one is about how everything happens at once.

The house was finally scheduled to go on the market -- the day after our arrival in Ulan Bataar. While we were still in the States, I spoke with the agent who was adamant we be reachable by phone so we didn’t risk losing a sale. I suggested to her it might sound sort of 19th century if she just told potential buyers the owners were unreachable somewhere in Mongolia. She asked to speak with David.

We were in the hotel in Ulan Bataar, preparing to leave for the Altai Mountains when the agent called to tell us the house had sold the day before actually going on the market. The closing was set for the end of October, which meant that everything remaining in the house had to be out by then. Returning to Montana on October 10th , we would have time to unpack, repack, leave Montana on the 14th, drive three days to Corrales, arrange for movers, finish packing, get the house cleaned, leave.

We did all that, with serious help from friends. The movers finished the packing . . . the fragile things, the artwork, the rocks too heavy for us to lift. They loaded the truck, including things they had been told not to take, and that I didn’t notice until they arrived in Montana. The empty house, a house that had been so thoroughly ours, looked strange to me, as if I had never seen it. Part of it was that it really was no longer ours. And part of it was that – empty – we had already left it. When it is time to move on, the past is no longer relevant. Maybe that’s part of all time being in the present. You say thank you. You say goodbye.

The closing was rescheduled for early November. We stayed in the casita of dear friends, then left for Montana on election day, watching inexplicable returns in the indifferent space of a hotel.

The movers arrived after Thanksgiving, unloading an array of boxes that ultimately covered every inch of open space in the house. Much more was delivered to a storage space near Bozeman, to remain until we figure out what to do with it. I have been able to find a few things I need. I suspect there are things I will never find.

Does it matter?

I’m home.

rock heart
(Photo Credit: Page Morgan)

Copyright © 2017 Ruth Rudner