Find a Way Forward

Try to make it better, try to find the joy, try to live a life of gratitude

By Mike Jopek

The cold air poured into the farmhouse through the open window. Outside was barely light. The horizon was morning-blue above the tree line.

Soon the best season is amongst us. Many locals agree that autumn is their favorite. Maybe it’s the cooler nights. Maybe it’s the less crowded streets.

The next wave of economy driving visitors has yet to fully engulf our valley. A silver tsunami of retirees may soon be among us, spending money to help assure that local workers can earn enough wages to pay high rents and the expenses of daily living.

Early fall on the farm is fruit time. The pear trees are abundant this season. The persistent summertime rains helped assure that the red-blushed pears are plump, sweet and crisp.

Across the farm, outside the game fence, are native plum trees. The fruit is small, deep purple, and now easily splits away from the pit. The splitting from the pit, similar to how the core of pears look, are signals of changing time.

The purple plums are from a local tree that our neighbor dug up decades ago along the rail tracks, when he was travelling across the highline for work. They, unlike the pear trees, are not grafted onto cold-hearty rootstocks. The plum runners can be dug up and replanted.

I marvel at the skyline in the valley. Last evening we were walking the dogs after a busy evening of vending produce at Whitefish farmers market. The clouds were a fuzzy mix of dark gray and pink. The edges of the vapor seemed furry, like uncombed hairs whispering in the wind.

The next minute the pinks vanished, leaving a monochrome image in the sky. Technicolor seemed washed from the sky with time. The dogs didn’t much care. Yet these instants of phenomenon seem important, like building blocks to memory.

The growing season was pleasant. Sure it had its difficulties like most years. A couple hailstorms pounded the produce. The spring was late, followed by cold snaps, making early growing difficult.

But compared to other places on the planet we seem to have had it easy. Knock on wood.

National news reminds us that large places of our planet, like the Amazon, Siberia, and Africa, are raging with fire. The magnitude of the burning is astounding.

We watched in awe from afar as the largest hurricane experienced by humans parked itself on top of the Bahamas, near Florida, and pounded the landscape and inhabitants for two solid days.

Earlier that spring the Midwest was so badly flooded that farmers could not access farmland to plant commodity crops. They will be poorly compensated by the feds for the weather related losses.

Couple that economic damage to livelihoods with a seemingly deliberate ruining of export markets and we may see many farms transfer hands in the coming years.

It’s doesn’t feel great out there, past the valley. I routinely tell my mother-in-law to turn off the national news as it gets her so worked up. She mutters at the screen as if the pundits can hear her voice through the digital divide.

This time is like no other time in history. It’s our time to find a way forward.

Our parents hopefully gave us enough skills to make things better. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe it doesn’t matter. I, like many other Montana citizens, still try.

Try to make it better. Try to find the joy. Try to live a life of gratitude. It’s the trying that matters.

Soon enough it will be apple-pressing season. A time when community gets together will bushel loads of fruit, picked from the multitude of apple trees around town. I can almost taste the sweet cider and hear the laughter of kids.

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