“Love someone who does not deserve it. Denounce the government and embrace the flag. Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands.” – Wendell Berry
I have a love/hate with Innermountain West winter that I’m just starting to admit. January is dark and cold in Montana and Idaho. The holiday “hangover” has set in and the year stretches in front of me like twelve blank pages waiting to be crumpled and thrown in the trash.
“Am I okay?” I find myself wondering.
But if I’m willing to work for it, damn, January’s got some joy. The year started with dumping snow and Lolo laps with the “lay on the couch for three hours and drink coffee and talk about nothing” old friends and hasn’t stopped moving since. A trip to Stateline Yurt on the Idaho/Montana border, a trip to Bench Hut along Redfish Lake in the Sawtooths, lazy afternoons watching the Missoula Valley haze from the LaVelle chairlift at Snowbowl… this month I feel like I’ve either got my fingers attached to a keyboard or my skis attached to my feet.
When we arrived in Idaho before the Bench Hut I told myself I’d put in a few hours of work before calling it quits for the long weekend. But then Casey was going to the hot spring and I knew Ranger wanted to too and sometimes, in January, you have to save some work for later.
It was a a gentle weekend before a harsh week. Change yes, but this time not change I can believe in. This post got some love and I wanted to share it here too:
Is your Facebook feed as overwhelming as mine right now? Here’s my plan for sanity and sustainability:
– Read ONE article per day from a reputable, non-fanatical news source (sorry Huffington Post).
– Read ONE article per day from a writer/scholar/politician who doesn’t look like me and/or think like me.
– FOUR days a week, take ONE action (calling a representative, e-mailing about upcoming legislation, etc).
– ONE day a week, write or create art about it.
– TWO days a week, ENJOY pictures of puppies, skiing or big rainbow trout guilt free. Don’t think about it. Go outside. Feel gratitude.
I think a lot of us are trying to be braver, stronger and more engaged right now. The mountains make a good metaphor. Strength comes from pushing slightly beyond your limits then resting and recuperating. Trying to go from the couch to a 40 mile ski traverse expedition would leave me a bloody blistered mess and unable to ski at all. On the other hand, if it’s not uncomfortable, I’m not building physical or mental muscle. If I stay within my comfort zone lapping Lolo Pass, I’ll never have the strength to see those summit views.
How are y’all finding balance between standing up for what matters to you and being true to your family, friends and work?
I remember being at this same hot spring a few years ago when two men pulled up in a well-washed SUV with Montana plates. They were in ties and pulled out pelican cases and set them by the pool.
“What are you doing?” we asked.
And they said that they were sampling water because they were studying for their company the viability of “cleaning” minerals out of the geothermal water in Idaho.
“You just scrub those minerals right out and then return the water cleaner than before, completely natural,” he explained. “We’re going to *secret hot spring name* next. Do you know how to get there?”
And there was a fear mixed with anger in me I hadn’t felt before and I realized that if his little project ever became actually viable, I would fight it until my hands and legs and heart were raw.
Now, with much of what we love about the West (public lands, welcoming communities, environmental protection) in jeopardy, I feel that fire again. You might be too. And I have to realize that this feeling is the feeling that some in our country are born into. It is a feeling that is entangled, for many, with that American dream.
I try not to forget that there are so many ways to speak out in protest and in solidarity – with your march, with your voice, with your calls to your legislators, yes. There’s also your writing, your poetry, your art, your photography, the small conversations you have from day to day with the friends and acquaintances around you. It can be work and it can be joy too, mixed.
I’m watching myself and my friends in this cold, frozen Innermountain West remember that the organism of this country is interconnected. That we can’t isolate ourselves on frozen alpine lakes and mountain cirques because this is big enough to come for what we love too.
Be calm, be fierce, be kind, be brave.
Here’s some resources I’ve found useful this week: