I am nine years old. My hair is taut with the braids I have forcefully pulled them into at dawn. I rest beneath our faded blanket, a place of security and warmth from the morning cold and my rosy cheek lays somewhat uncomfortably against the slate colored interior door of our Subaru. I see paths and boulders cast in a warm glow of escaped light, and I imagine a whole world beyond mine. A place of tranquility; a home to creatures happily coexisting in their world without hate.

 My tired eyes drift above as the birch and pine recede and I am struck with a view unlike I’ve ever seen: the great peaks of Glacier National Park. I am overcome with emotion. My body hums with an intensity of excitement, passion and hesitation at the sight which my eyes and heart are now locked onto. I yell, “Mama! Papa! Are you looking? Look!” They respond with their oh yeses and I sees, but their sounds are a blur to me as I roll down my window. I begin to cry, utterly perplexed by such beauty, and stick my face into the breeze to see more, feel more. I breathe deeply, feeling the sensation of the cold air into my sensitive lungs, smelling something pure and ancient. I am at peace and I’m unsure why, but this feels like home. 

Though that was my first discovery of Glacier, I found that the awe never ceased for that place that soon became my backyard. 

I am 14 years old. My hair is long in crimps of unnatural angles from undone and redone braids. I now know every curve and sight leading to Apgar Village on that 40-minute drive to Glacier. That same blanket now lays on my little brother, and I am basking in the soft light peeking out of the ridges before me, a place of security and warmth from the morning cold. I peer into the skies, watching a crow dart in and out of space; soaring and falling, spinning and gliding, and I imagine myself gracing these skies so free and unconstrained. I am now faced with insecurities of face, my clothes, my hair, my actions, my voice. The burdens of the world have begun to sit within me, darkly boiling in a pot of anxiety as I feel everything. 

But as I look beyond my head thoughts, I see great overlapping fields of life and nature and I feel the iridescent hum of the wind against my cheeks. I am filled with such beauty as we drive along Going to the Sun Road. Every ivory peak shimmering with light and history, the great rock walls cascading with tears that match mine as I am once again overcome with her beauty, my home. Bear grass sways lightly in the wind, mountain goats graze in the emerald grasses and pika peer at us as we reach Logan Pass, chirping with the black swifts. The jaw dropping view lays before me, awaiting doors open to adventure and pure joy, and the weight in my chest releases bit my bit.  

I am 17 years old. My hair lays at my shoulders. My world has started to make more sense, though the outside world is just as obscure and alarming. Dust surrounds us as we drive down the dirt road leading to Many Glacier, jolting with every natural dip. Anticipation lives within our Subaru and my eyes dart through the tinted window pane into every sight. As we round a corner, I gasp in exhilaration at a sight so unexpectedly stunning every time. A masterpiece greater than any Michelangelo greets us at Swiftcurrent Lake. The deep waters, clear and true, gleam with the reflection of each peak, gravitationally pulling me in. I know this is my last time to see this place and the ache dwells into my core. I take in every moment, every smell, every detail in hopes of remembering it all. 

That evening, as we slowly descend Going to the Sun Road, the setting sun sends streaks of orange across the sky, revealing a sight unlike I’d seen in all of our years here. Casting over the valley below, golden light creeps through the peaks saying goodbye. I stick my head out the window in hopes of feeling that wind and smelling that air. My security, my home. I begin to cry in gratitude and grief, for this place that I love, and for my fear of its safety. I wish I could protect it, to keep it pure and ancient and unharmed against mankind. Against the invading damages of climate change that threaten us all. So, as I say goodbye, I make a promise to fight and a promise to return to my home I treasure so dearly.

  • Rhianyon Larson
  • : I am 17 years old on my way to a journalism major at the Honors College at the University of Arizona. I am excited for this upcoming chapter in my life and look forward to helping fight climate change. I am passionate about sharing stories and using these stories to connect to one other, thus learning from each other.
  • : https://www.instagram.com/rhianyon_/
  • : I share my photography with the same passion as I share this story. In sharing my photographs, I hope to inspire others to get out and see the world and discover my same love for nature.
  • : youth_(12_–_18_as_of_31st_december_2019)
  • : This is the first time this story has been published.