I think it had been ten years since I used a gas pump like this. When we pulled up next to it in Wallace, Idaho, in the only vehicle in sight without a gun rack, I should have seen it as some sort of omen: Our weekend in Montana would be a time warp, in the very best way.
The drive to Big Sky brought the sense of distance from real life that any good vacation requires. Seven hundred miles is a long way, no matter how fast you go. As we hummed along I-90, we had time to realize we were driving the same road we’d taken on our way to Seattle almost exactly a year ago. We had time to take in what’s happened since then, to think of how much of Seattle has revealed itself to us, and how we’ve adjusted. And we had time to think back on our own wedding, and just sit, often quietly, together. Time went so much more slowly than usual, which meant we could simply enjoy having it.
Josh and Dani had somehow created a wedding bubble in and around Rainbow Ranch and a few big, comfy cabins along the Gallatin River. The guests were one big family, existing in that very moment for no other reason than to support and celebrate them. The bubble enveloped us the moment we arrived.
The morning of the wedding, about fifteen women gathered on my cabin’s porch, where Sarah, an ashtanga teacher from Boise, lead a vinyasa session in the hot Montana sun that made me wonder why anyone ever decided yoga should be practiced indoors.
The wedding itself brought me into the moment in a way I experience just too rarely – funny thing about time, I always seem so acutely aware of the past and future, and never quite aware enough of the present.
The ceremony tent was surrounded by prayer flags, both the traditional kind they’d brought back from recent travels, and homemade flags, made from fabric squares on which we’d all written our impromptu wedding wishes the night before.
There was very little pomp and circumstance, which I loved. Dani and Josh were wandering around outside before the actual ceremony, hanging out, looking dapper and elegant but not coiffed or artificial.
When they made their official entrance, heading toward a tree branch chuppah carried by their parents, I got an odd sense of watching them from a day far, far in the future, maybe telling their story like a fairy tale. I knew it then, that they’d be forever, and so did everyone else that was there. It was calming, and comforting, in a way, not feeling I had to wish them a fulfilling, successful, happy life because I felt so sure that what lies ahead for them is exactly that. As we watched them exchange vows, I think we all felt a surge of excitement that went beyond our thrill of seeing them get married; we felt that a union like theirs might (pardon the cliche, but there’s one good way to say it) make the world a better place.
We all shared a few loaves of challah, toasted the bride and groom, and Josh and Dani circled all 120 of us up into one giant ring of people, to say thank you for being their family. Then we partied.
The food was, of course, delicious and creative. (The Rainbow Ranch is known for its grub, and apparently they’re just as good at it when serving giant crowds buffet-style.) The appetizers were actually interesting: Elk carpaccio toasts, carrot pancakes with smoked trout and horseradish, and vegetarian potstickers, both steamed (for the bride) and fried (for the groom, I guess, or the rest of us). I can’t say I expected Grandma to enjoy them so much:
I hope she didn’t notice, but I watched her all night. My own Jewish grandmother is gone, and I felt some comfort following her, watching her alternate between ordering people around and pretending to be completely oblivious, just like mine used to do. I wish you could see her make-up up close.
The whole dinner was cooked in a giant gazebo/outdoor kitchen, so we watched as they seared up (perfectly cooked) game sausage, London broil (wait – was that beef, or buffalo?), salmon, etc. (There was no lack of choice.)
This was the view behind my chair at dinner:
And this was my view across the way (yes, she was that short):
We dove into sweet, moist salmon with a chive-garlic pesto (which I must make at some point, to share with you); a spunky, light, thin-cut slaw with cabbage, peppers, and celery seeds; the steak with a Burgundy sauce . . .then the carrot cake Piper and Molly made, complete with little skiers for the bride and groom:
Luckily, Josh and Dani just set up slightly more permanent tent stakes in Mazama, WA, so we didn’t really have to say goodbye.
Instead, we hopped across the street to Jake’s Horses, and took a beautiful two-hour horseback ride up above Porcupine Creek. I loved Matt the Horse for schlepping me up 1500 feet for views of Lone Peak and much of the Gallatin River valley, but truth be told, I’m still not sitting all that comfortably.
We took our time coming home. We hit Taco del Sol in Missoula, where immediately after entering a bum passed out against the door, so we were sort of trapped there for a while. The city of Missoula must be a little hard-up for interesting emergencies; the bum brought four vehicles and no fewer than eight officers.
We also stopped in Spokane for a meal with John and Hilary at Elk Public House, whose devotion to our own 74th Street Ale House (a stone’s throw from where I’m sitting) was literally in lights (their website actually gives 74th Street’s gumbo recipe):
After promising ourselves we’d keep it light, since we had another five hours of driving to go, we chowed on intensely buttery garlic bread, topped with caramelized onions and gorgonzola cheese. Its memory followed us home.
And now, in Seattle, time has been fast forwarded, and it’s as fall as the crisp red leaves on the Japanese maple next door. My fingers are freezing. It’s gray gray gray and there’s a light, dusty blush on our grapes, and the sun’s hours are suddenly much more limited.
It must have happened when we were gone. But I’m ready. I hesitate to say I wish this year would end, but when I start counting the recipes down from 100, later this week, part of me will celebrate, for sure.
Recipe 262 of 365: Caramelized Onion and Gorgonzola Toasts
Slice an onion into 1/4″ half-circles. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat, add a swirl of olive oil, then the onions. Season with salt and pepper, then cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until deeply caramelized. (Don’t rush it, they will eventually begin to turn brown.) Add a thinly sliced garlic clove, and cook ten more minutes, stirring. Meanwhile, slice half a baguette in half lengthwise, and spray or brush both cut sides with olive oil. Toast the bread for 5 minutes in a 400 degree oven (or grill it in a panini press). Pile the onion/garlic mixture on top of the bread, sprinkle with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, and warm another 5 minutes in the oven. Cut into chunks and serve warm.