April 9, 2011

Winter and Discontent

A few weeks ago, Jacob and I were walking to the grocery store with Willa in tow and Jacob sort of non-nonchalantly asks: "So, are you sure you want to live here for the rest of our lives?"

It was a gray, winter day, so cold I had both a Carharrt vest and a down jacket on for the block-and-a-half walk. I was certain Willa's cheeks were getting frost bit, a fear only exasperated by the fact that it was taking us forever to get anywhere because of the death trap that had become our sidewalks after a few weeks of thaw/freeze/snow, thaw/freeze/snow.

The week before, I took the kind of fall that can only be characterized as a total-freaking-yard sale. A feet-flailing, body-horizontal-in-mid-air, grocery-flying, neighbors-running-out-their-front-door kind of fall. (No, Willa wasn't with me. She was safe with her Nana in the car while I unloaded said flying groceries. And yes, I'm really, fine, thank you. I'm pretty sure I broke my hip, but really, I'm fine.)

Jacob's question was more rhetorical than anything, an opportunity to talk about the legally binding buy-sell agreement we were working on for the farm.

It was a "are we ready for this?" kind of question, the kind you might ask yourself before bungee jumping off a bridge, knowing full well you're going to do it -- I mean you're up there and you're strapped in already – but you just need to ask one last time.

 I took the question literally.

And my answer at that moment was "no." 

"Do you really want to shop at this grocery store the rest of your life?" I asked, even though we really kind of love our grocery store.

"Do you want to see that cold, gray sky the rest of your life? 

Do you want to eat at that restaurant for the rest of your life?"  

(Let the record show I was pointing at the "Keg," where the fry oil is changed once a year whether it needs it or not and oh! how lucky are we!? Everything is fried!)

We both laughed a little and went into the store to buy another box of wine, all of us forgetting for a moment that I'd just attempted to crush this whole, small-town living dream.

I'm guessing my reaction had something to do with the weather, something to do with the pressure of some impending farm decisions and something to do with the fact that the week before, my Mom said to me:

"Funny, I always imagined you as more of an urban person."

Me too, Mom. Me too. 

There are days when living here and farming are no-brainer decisions. We're in a place we have roots. We have great friends. Our families are close. The community has been so very welcoming.

But, there are days when I still wonder: What the hell am I doing here?

Do you have any idea how cold and windy it is here? Very doesn't cut it.

This winter, it seems I've had more than my fair share of those days. It's been a hard winter in Montana and it feels especially so in our little town. It's been gray and windy, cold and long. And when there are no forests to escape to or wonderful warm, dimly-lit restaurants to gather at, that get-me-out-of-here feeling can fester.

The festering recently seemed to wane, mainly thanks to better weather and the company of good friends, but when the forecast this week called for more cold and more snow, it started creeping back in.

So, I did what my best friend (and sister-in-law, how lucky am I?) Renee suggested.

"You know what the secret is to living here?" she said a few weeks ago. "Travel. And, this time of year, buy yourself fresh flowers every week."

I now have a few lily stems on my table and I started putting $50 a month into a travel fund so next February, when I'm out of fried-food options and the sky won't stop dumping snow, we'll get to someplace sunnier  and warmer, and fast.

Oh, and I've added one more item to Renee's advice for surviving winter in a small, windswept prairie town:

Buy wine by the box.


  1. This house, in which I reside and occasionally exist, is perpetually stocked with boxed wine. Remember that. :)

  2. Even down here in "urban" Montana it's been a long winter. Gray and cold and snow and Lord am I ready for a little sun. Fresh flowers. Got it. Boxed wine, I'm on it. Love this blog by the way!

  3. If you didn't have some gray and cold how much less would you appreciate the warm big blue sky of august? I'm a martini with two Queen olives at 4:00 p.m. every afternoon kind of guy.

    Uncle Chick

  4. Thank you for sharing all of this, Courtney. I'm not sure how I missed this one, but I love it. You're doing such an amazing job with this blog! I hope things are starting to warm up in Conrad. Lots of love to the three of you.

  5. "Buy wine by the box."

    Hahaha! I love your blog. (As I sip my own glass of boxed wine...)

  6. wow! great stuff. I think i will convince my wife to have a garden instead of a farm in Colorado! Take care,

    denver, sf.bay area, new mexico and singapore! moving back to colorado soon.



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