Kathleen Clary Miller

Kathleen Clary Miller has written 300+ columns and stories for periodicals both local and national, and has authored three books (www.amazon.com/author/millerkathleenclary). She lives in the woods of the Ninemile Valley, thirty miles west of Missoula.

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“What are we going to talk about?” asked one elderly resident. I’d arrived at one of Missoula’s local Independent and Assisted Living Facilities, a volunteer armed with news magazines for the monthly “News and Views” discussion group. The group gathers weekly to talk about current events, not my favorite topic unless somewhere in the news there is an event that is uplifting. I had no idea what we were going to talk about—had hoped against hope that one of them would.

“What would you all like to discuss?” I challenged. They hemmed and hawed over health care and taxes.

I desperately turned the pages of the magazine I’d brought along, but no topic therein seemed appropriate. Politics and religion had been forbidden after a proposal by one of the group carried the majority vote that such intercourse might make neighboring under the same roof “ a bit dicey.” Despite my voiced concern that to omit two such broad categories would leave us virtually nothing to discuss, they adhered to that self-imposed policy. This wasn’t going to be easy.

Following a brief interlude of silence during which roomers’ fingers reached for brownies on the small round table in the middle of our circle, a quiet woman who had not yet uttered a sound, cleared her throat.

“I have a view I would like to share,” she announced with a winsome grin.

She smoothed the right side of her white hair that was very long, braided to perfection
nearly to her waist. Her eyes gleamed as she surveyed the rest of the group, awaiting
their response. When there was none, despite the fact that all eyes had turned to hers, I
encouraged—basically my job description.

“Go right ahead. What is your name?” I’d not seen her here before.

“Suzanne,” she glanced at me and explained, “I’ve just moved in; I’ve been here just six days.”

The others welcomed her, asked her where she had come from, and offered assistance and companionship—it’s a considerate, caring group who unite based on the premise that none of them have arrived expecting to leave again. There is clear empathy for the one who has not yet adjusted, commonality in the vulnerability of less rather than more time to share.

“My children are happy I am here,” she added, this being the most popular reason for residents having unpacked past lives into an apartment on the Independent or Assisted
Living floor.

“So…I have view to share,” she brought us back to her intention. “This morning—and you know I’ve only risen here on very few mornings yet,” she spoke clearly in a lovely brogue as she chose each word slowly, carefully, apparently awed by the message she wished to deliver.

“This morning, when I awoke I felt…well…disoriented and not exactly brimming with joy.” Still, she smiled.

“I knew this was going to take some time—you know, before I felt like I really belonged to anything in this room, when suddenly I saw that out my small window there was the bluest blue sky I think I’ve ever seen! I was called to that window, don’t you know?” Other eyes were shifting her now, her peers uncertain as to her state of mind. I felt nervous for her as she continued, oblivious to any concern around her. “I walked over and looked out, and you know it was just so blue!”

This must be her point; winter in Missoula, Montana is unforgiving and yields very few clear horizons. Any cloudless vista would be newsworthy. “And then I saw it. Heading straight for my window, overhead, was the most perfect flock of geese. They were flying in a flawless V. It was a miracle… right before my very eyes.” She reverently lowered her head.

“That is my view.” Everyone smiled. Why, I wondered, would anyone care to discuss any other viewpoint? I was not alone in that epiphany as the lively conversation followed her lead. We left world turmoil in the dust and spent the rest of the hour chatting about geese and their migration pattern. Several had at some point in their lives made the trip I’d taken to Freezeout Lake to witness hundreds of thousands of geese glinting in the sunrise at lift-off from the water’s surface. I don’t give a hoot about birds and I get goose bumps (pardon the pun) and my eyes water trying to describe it.

“When they caught the sun and the light was behind them, they gleamed like strands of pearls,” I fumbled to describe such a wondrous scene. Suzanne thought hard for a moment before speaking.

“Pearls of great price.”