One for the Books

The optimism for a better future is on the rise

By Mike Jopek

What a year. We’ll be reading about this one in the books. It fittingly ended with a Christmastime star appearing, as Jupiter and Saturn formed their closest alignment in 800 years. The two planets lined up to perform as nearly one bright light as twilight emerged.

To recap all the ways that 2020 was just off would seem intolerable. The injustice and callous behavior that permeated across the nation and state was heartbreaking. It hurt.

Still, we retain hope for the New Year, which is full of promise. Better days won’t come easy nor fast. We’ll claw our way back to community, ever so slow as the vaccine becomes more readily accessible.

Many people have it very good in America. Other locals have it very hard. Paying the bills, keeping decent food on the table, or just being able to maintain work can be overwhelming in any pandemic.

All around the valley there’s new construction popping up at record speed, with seemingly little consideration of place. On land historically open to wildlife and people are expensive new roads and fences to improve the estate. Soon houses and neighbors arrive as the beep-beep-beep of earth-moving equipment disrupts the quiet outdoors.

There’s much money in land, and the Flathead traditionally enjoys good construction jobs and piles of ancillary money from the services of property. The American migrants who fled other parts of our nation, seeking a calmer, safer way of life, flooded the valley with an ability to pay big money to make the Flathead look more like from where they traveled.

Mask-less bandits raged the past 10 months, appearing callous toward healthcare workers as the virus engulfed our planet. Many places across the world experienced a second and third more contagious wave of sickness as hospitals quickly filled and ravaged the workforce.

The year of 2021 brings tears of joy and hope that a vaccine eases the contagion, helping more people build immunity. A more normal pace to life seems further into the New Year. I know, it sucks. We’re seemingly months away from when friends can safely greet others with a traditional handshake or hug.

Hope may not be quick. Hope flitters on the evening horizon much like converging planets that pointed a way forward, as we work earning enough money to keep the lights on, woodstove fed, and landlords at bay.

We have confidence in the courage of local people to find a kind path. With such great faith comes big expectations to remain optimistic that the goodness of people will shine forward, returning us toward the bright side of life.

There’s no promise to better days, just hard work and obligation to neighbors. The road ahead is not easy. It will be slow. We can only get there together.

This dawn, much like most wintertime mornings, the farmhouse woodstove seemed as hot as the glow emerging from a summer sunrise. The farm feels lonely, much like many homes across town that are forgoing traditional gatherings to help keep the contagious sickness from infecting everybody before the vaccine readily arrives.

You, my friends, are my hope, my inspiration. Only people like you make the days ahead better for everybody, be they family, neighbor or that nameless teenager seeking food, lodging or just a little help on the streets of town.

The days are getting longer, the optimism for a better future on the rise. May we all find a little grace in the New Year. I honor you for the work you did in 2020. You helped others, saved lives, and persisted. You helped keep the Flathead fed, safer, and healthier. You believed in all of us and we thank you.