One fall, I was permitted to leave our village for a short trip for supplies. I had gone with two of the elders, Anne and Jane, and another girl from my generation, Beth. It was the first time I had ever left the city walls except for running around in the green mountain pasture right outside of town. This time I was really, truly leaving. Beth and I were the first two aside from the elders ever permitted to go.
Anne and Jane were making their biannual trip for clothing, and Beth and I had begged for so long to be able to go outside the walls that the elders had finally complied.
Some time in the early twentieth century, several of the elders explored the world outside. They liberally took the step of dressing like humans while they were walking among them, and they brought back clothes for us all to wear. Every few years, there would be more trips by only a select few, and we would get more updated. They did this with technology, too, to an extent. In the 1980s, they brought the first computers, and they spoke of the existence of phones for years but never brought any to us. There were no lines running to our town, and we had no one to call. We had radios as early as the 1950s, but they kept them away from us, likely shielding us from news of the world outside. Soon we had record players, and cassette players, and, eventually, we would even get CD players. Of course, none of that compares to the amazement of the iPod. It turns out that “60 gigabytes” of music…whatever that means…is a lot. I don’t think I could ever live without it now.
So when they let us out, Jane, Anne, Beth, and I visited Bigfork, a town about a hundred-mile run from our family’s settlement. Its most noticeable feature was its location, nestled on the northeast corner of Flathead Lake, just above the Flathead Indian Reservation. There wasn’t too much there in the eighties, but there was enough for me. The majority of the town concentrated on Electric Avenue, a tiny main street comprised mostly of small cafés, tourist shops, and art galleries. I wandered the town’s narrow sidewalks, astonished by the tiny galleries that dotted the lane. I stopped in front of several and just stared, completely in awe. I had never seen anything so beautiful. I had never known art.