"Montana first told me a secret on the banks of Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula," writes photographer and writer, Jessica Lowry Vizzutti. "I was visiting in summer with my boyfriend as we made a cross-country road trip from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Montana and ultimately Los Angeles. It was July, the perfect month for a Southern woman to fall in love with a snowy state.
Each day I would go for a run on a trail that followed the creek. There is a picture in my mind of bright blue skies against the rolling hills and warmth of sun on my skin. I had joked with my boyfriend that I would never live here. We were just passing through; it was definitely not the place for me. I had set my sights on bigger cities. But something happened in that moment at the water’s edge that I now realize changed everything. Quietly below the buzz of my own ambition I heard a whisper meant just for me. “Remember this moment.” I married that man who drove across America with me and ten years later I call Missoula home.
People fall in love with Montana for different reasons. And just like me they think they’re unique. I haven’t followed all the advice I’ve been given in life, but I’m glad I was listening that July afternoon. Now even when I pick my camera, I am also listening. I hope I catch that whisper so I never forget."
Vizzutti pairs her reflection with a passage from the 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. The Goldfinch tells a fictional story of a young man who loses his mother in the bombing of a museum. This destructive act ultimately draws him into the world of art and antiquity. This passage describes how any mundane moment can change a life, whispering something unique to each listener.
“If a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don't think, 'oh, I love this picture because it's universal.' 'I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.' That's not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It's a secret whisper from an alleyway. “Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes, you.” ...
You see one painting, I see another, the art book puts it at another remove still, the lady buying the greeting card at the museum gift shop sees something else entirely, and that's not even to mention the people separated from us by time -four hundred years before us, four hundred years after we're gone- it'll never strike anybody the same way and the great majority of people it'll never strike in any deep way at all but- a really great painting is fluid enough to work its way into the mind and heart through all kinds of different angles, in ways that are unique and very particular. "Yours, yours. I was painted for you.”
(Broadcast: "Reflections West," 6/8/16 and 12/14/16. Listen weekly on the radio, Wednesdays at 4:54 p.m.)