The Montana Illusion


In February I traveled to Montana, after a January of my head stuffed into my computer. I needed to pull my head out, blink a few times, and remember there’s clouds and trees and fresh air. After a few blinks, I was on a ranch in Montana where I camped in a Yurt. It was Big Sky Country.


I spun in a circle and mountains three hundred and sixty degrees bordered the horizon. Overhead, the sky felt enormous, a dome that arced above me. In Minnesota there's also fields where the horizon surrounds you, but when I’m in a field, I don’t feel this dome on top of me.



In Montana I took a panoramic photo and I realized why this is: the bordering mountains create an illusion.

Have you heard of the moon illusion? When the moon hangs high in the sky, it’s small in the expanse of the darkness. As it nears the horizon, it appears grandiose and larger than life, because now we perceive the moon’s size, relative to life. The moon is huge compared to buildings, cars, and roads.

In Montana the same thing happens in Big Sky Country.


Unlike in Minnesota, I perceive the sky relative to the border mountains – twelve thousand foot mountains which look like ant hills. Gazing at those ant hills in the distance, the sky above feels like this giant dome. And I feel small underneath it.

There’s a whole lot of world outside of my head and the computer screen.

A week later, I returned to Texas, my apartment, and my computer screen. I told everyone how grateful I felt and how they must visit Montana because it’s the only place that has a Big Sky. But that’s silly, since that too is an illusion.