Uncommon Ground

Climate of Stress

Thanks for doing your part to lower the stress levels in the Flathead

By Mike Jopek

There’s no denying it, we’re in it now. Luckily for us, the storms unleashed some nice rainfall. Not enough to push back wildfires, but enough to relieve weary locals and some parched soils. Water is the one thing making outdoor work bearable. The intolerable heat, smoke and humidity make outdoor activities feel quite hellish. 

Driven indoors to seek cleaner air, Montanans are again wary that the sickness that plagued the nation for over a year has mutated into a fourth wave and is actively sending locals to the hospital. It’s currently a pandemic of the unvaccinated and these new mutations put everyone in danger, especially kids who are not yet eligible for shots. 

The Flathead leads the state in both sickness and the lowest uptake of the vaccine. Allowing this newest transmission of the COVID-19 virus to run wild puts our economy and livelihoods in danger. Couple that threat with raging forest fires, which burned homesteads, it’s pushing locals to pray for snowfall. Not that many public indoor spaces will feel safe come wintertime. 

Both my spouse and dad spent days inside separate hospitals in the past week. It’s been a stressful time for my family as people heal from nonviral injuries. But persevere we do, we must, like so many other locals facing the new stress of a pandemic lifestyle in wildfire country.

Thank goodness for the emergency personnel who work nonstop providing lifesaving services for locals throughout the valley. The nurses, doctors and staff at the local hospital are exceptional, courteous, and attentive working an enormously difficult job while providing great care to people in need. 

If it wasn’t for nurses, teachers, and firefighters this valley would be a very different place. These dedicated public servants need your support and acknowledgement as their jobs seem lonely with little public respect offered to how hard they work.

Outside morning awoke, the thick smog smothering the farm is intense as it slowly burns off with a return of a super-hot sun, making the air feel like humid Georgia. All the air quality monitors throughout the valley have been screaming unhealthy for a while. The weather people say relief is en route but for anyone working outdoors, it’s a long wait. 

Far as we can see, the same blowhard politicians who don’t believe in science and deny that unprecedented industrialization changed the climate are the same showoff policymakers who don’t believe in the science that masks slow the spread of sickness or the science that vaccinations halted killer viruses throughout societal history. 

The stress that many locals feel this year is vastly greater than past seasons. It’s a testament to our spirit that humans can actually handle such nonsense. The housing crisis, the hordes of visitors hammering the valley’s infrastructure coupled with a return of the virus and raging forest fires cloud much vision and pressure family structures. Better days must be ahead. It’s hard to see optimism past family, friends and an early snowfall. Yet this too shall pass. More offseason rains would help.

I’m grateful for the people who make stuff happen. The firefighters, teachers, nurses and doctors who continually do the work of service behind the scenes as the rest of society lives our lives. These public servants have real nobility in purpose. We thank you. We wish you got paid more. You deserve it by putting yourselves in danger to save us from ourselves.

I’m also grateful for the many friends who came out to the farm this season to help yank garlic from the ground and hang it up in the barn to cure, allowing the bulbs to store and taste better. What a great and thoughtful community we live in. Thanks for doing your part to lower the stress levels in the Flathead. 

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