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Making the hard thing easy

September 20, 2009

Over a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt traveled to the Badlands of North Dakota in search of a visceral existence he couldn’t find in New York.  Even in the late 1800s, city people had already lost touch with what kept humans alive, with basic skills such as hunting, building, and cultivating.  Amidst a political election, Roosevelt took a train to North Dakota and loved the life he encountered there so much that he immediately put down cash to buy a ranch.  His friends and relatives all advised against it, but something in his soul just felt right.

That’s how life in rural Montana feels to me.  It just feels right.  It feels right to fetch my water, to have to plan ahead for my food needs on my twice-monthly shopping trips, to have to ration my fruits and veggies in between.  It feels right to watch the sunset instead of sitcoms, to cook on a stove instead of in a microwave.  To pull dead logs down from the hill behind my house to fuel a campfire in my front yard.  To sit around that fire and gaze up at the stars while roasting s’mores on a homemade skewer. 

I don’t have to fetch my water – I could use a filter.  And I don’t have to cook on a stove – I could afford a microwave.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that doing things the “hard” way makes them more valuable; it makes me more appreciative.  And it’s hard to do things the hard way in a large town or city, where there aren’t natural springs from which to retrieve water and where even without a microwave, dinner can be ready in minutes  by simply stopping at a fast-food joint or ordering take-out.

In Montana, and in any rural area, it’s easier to live life the hard way, in a way that makes one slow down and appreciate the food on her table and the water in her glass (and the chocolate and marshmallow all over her fingers).  Being in Montana feels right to me because being in Montana reminds me that life isn’t always easy or convenient, yet it sure as hell is beautiful.

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