Always Look for the Light
That one split-second, a splinter in time, where our life veers off course and crashes into an entirely new existence. In that moment, it transforms not only who we are, but where we might go. And for Patrick Muri, that single moment of darkness became a doorway of sorts—helping this adventuring photographer and outdoorsman find the light that would illuminate the rest of his days. And this light was brighter than any he might have imagined…but with it came a terrible, unimaginable cost.
“Man, I’m going to make the best out of every day.”
Fifty-four years ago, Patrick’s life veered off-course, along with the car he was in. He was driving with a friend.
“I gotta tell you about Donny Schwenke,” he says, his normally open and amiable face creased with sadness. “And I don’t that I can by now, but I’ll try. He and I were in a car wreck.” The moment would prove a devastating turning point for Patrick, who spent time hunting and fishing with his Whitefish-born friend.
“You know, we were just college kids and we ran off the road,” he says, as grief plays across his face. “And we ran off fast and hit trees and… it’s so instant, you know.” He gestures broadly. “I went through this windshield so this arm was tore up. And I came back through the windshield and they figured that’s when I cut the ear off. And poor Donny was dealing with the car and the steering wheel, and we rolled into the trees and he was killed instantly.”
Almost half a century later, that memory is still carved into his memory, an emotional wound so deep and yet so profound that simply recalling the memory seems to transpose Patrick in time.
And that intense grief did indeed change Patrick. Because when that car crashed, the path he was on was gone forever in an instant. And all of his grief and sadness created a kind of catalyst, launching him into a place where he realized life is meant to be lived. Fully and completely.
And so he did.
“I grew up in Great Falls where winters are tough, and I loved it. I became a lineman, and I worked all over the state of Montana. Summer, fall, winter. And I just love being outside. It was a fun job,” he laughs. “It’s exhilarating. It pushes you.” As a lineman, Patrick ensured that communities continued to have access to electricity and could be found in dangerously high places with very little below his feet but the Earth below. While some folks keep their feet firmly on the ground, Patrick chose to work among the treetops. It’s a job that kept him outdoors, where he most liked to be.
“Look at the places you get to go.”
But Patrick’s adventurous, outdoorsy spirit didn’t stop with just his profession. His love for skiing combined with photography quickly created more opportunities to see not only the wilderness but to open more doors to the world beyond. Suddenly it wasn’t just Montana’s snow and treetops, but the entire world open for adventure. “By skiing, that opened up the traveling I’ve done,” he says, his face bright with memories of adventures and exploring. “Got me to Europe, got me to Japan, Nepal, and… well, you can’t go wrong. You just can’t go wrong.”
It almost seems like in that one terrible, heartbreaking moment became the event that showed Patrick just how valuable life is, and to seize it. How to find passion and what some call his “zest for living.” Not just his love of nature and moving within it, but his appetite for living as fiercely, joyfully, and authentically as one man can—a true Montanan.
And throughout it all, Patrick’s made every effort to document his experiences in all their vivid glory as best as he could.
“I’ve carried a camera forever. Just the light is all I’m looking for. Interpretation of the quality of light. And I even get in a photo once in a while.” As Patrick speaks, he’s watching slides of his trips, glimpses of places visited, wildernesses crossed, and panoramic vistas that seem like something out of a nature magazine. “Look at the places you get to go,” he says with amazement and laughs.
Now at the age of seventy-two, Patrick isn’t exactly slowing down. He still loves hiking in the outdoors, through trails and hills and forests, meeting new people, and taking a moment to stop and chat when that moment hits.
“We just have this population of wonderful people [in Montana], and I just happen to be the old fart that’s alongside of them.”
For Patrick, the spirit of adventure is something that never fades with age. Indeed, it’s something to be cherished and shared with others, whether while he is traversing the great outdoors and running into people from all walks of life, or through the Ski Heritage Center—which is supported by the Whitefish Credit Union—where Patrick volunteers both his time and photography expertise. This is yet another avenue for him to share his love of adventure but also to encourage others to grab life by the horns, get up on the beast, and ride.
“I would love to do an around-the-world [trip] and kind of revisit places. And I can’t call it a farewell tour, because that would be putting a bad onus on it. But I just want to do it. I’ve always traveled. And I travel alone.”
Because these moments that shape and define each of us and—certainly for adventurers like Patrick—impart their own lessons. Sometimes in the shape of grief or trauma. Sometimes as a lesson to be heeded. But these moments have the power to shift our perspective. Even in the darkest moments, we must find the light and follow it and allow ourselves to be guided to new and incredible adventures no matter what shape. For some, it’s the calling of a unique career. For others, it’s art. And for people like Patrick, it’s following the call of the outdoors, of new places, and new people.
“I have been extremely lucky in life,” Patrick says. “I don’t know if it’s a higher power or what it is, but I’m not pushing my luck at seventy-two, either.”
And then he laughs.
For Members Like You. Because What We Do Pays Dividends.