Returning to spaces in Missoula in the last year and a half after being away for 20 years is often a complex experience. And today, because it’s Pi day, the best metaphor I can use is that Missoula’s geometry has changed.  

I’ll immediately provide a disclaimer that math isn’t my strong suit, but I think the comparison is an appropriate one. If geometry deals with the “relative position of figures” then I think I’m onto something. 

The Missoula Public Library 

There are two of them. And they’re right next to each other. The first time I visited the library I felt like the multiverse had folded in on itself and I was looking at the past and the future at the same time. I know, it’s just an old building next to a new building, but how often have you seen an old building and a new building next to each other...that were the same place?   

Beartracks Bridge 

The increased surface area of the bridge makes the whole city feel larger, the way an optical illusion can make a room look larger based on which walls have been painted a dark color. 

The Wilma

I have years’ worth of fond memories performing in the Wilma Theater, and another set of memories attending events there. On my first visit back to the Wilma, I almost didn’t recognize the theater.  

The wall between the lobby and the seating had been removed so the low crackle of popcorn created an unexpected ambiance to what used to feel like a decidedly formal experience. When I took my seat (in a much more comfortable chair) and looked at the stage, I was transported back to my childhood. There were ornate carvings and crown molding. The stage still feels larger than life. Lines and curves, planes and surfaces, the geometry changed.  

Front Street 

Front Street has become exactly what I wanted when, as a teenager, I ached to escape Montana for somewhere bigger and faster. I wanted skyscrapers and busy streets. Now, I admit, in this slice of a metropolis, I’ve actually gotten lost.  

South Reserve Street 

Where buildings once stood the shapes changed. When I remembered there used to be a movie theater at Brooks and Reserve I felt like Marty McFly in “Back to the Future” watching his siblings disappearing from a photo.  

The Tesselation of Missoula 

And with all this change, beautiful patterns appear, like geometric tiling. More music. More art. More science. More sports. More thoughts that meet, edge-to-edge. Because when you live in a valley surrounded by mountains and hills, it’s just a circle. And circles are a beautiful shape.  

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