Thursday, June 29, 2017

What Do People Do Here?

The girls are gearing up to race on the indoor track at the Hub in Missoula and I am stuck on a conversation we had in the car on the way in from Polson this morning. As we drove down to Missoula, Jessie looked out the window at the little towns, rolling fields, and mountains and asked, "What do people who live here do?". Her question made me remember back to when I was her age and growing up in Missoula. I would have rather died than live in or outside one of the little towns between Missoula and Kalispell. Even Kalispell would have been too small for me. My feelings were based on what I had to do at the time and what I liked to do at the time. I had to go to school, and high school with its greater density of people was much more enjoyable to me than was grade school. I liked to do social things--like dance and party with large groups of people. I dreamed of traveling, going anywhere. I loved meeting new people. Living in one house my whole life (till I was 17) gave me itchy feet.

That's a nice reminiscence, but I don't think it was really what she was asking. She was honestly curious about what people would do for a living and for enjoyment in the apparent middle of nowhere. The short answer to her question is that people here, as everywhere, do what they have to do (work, school), and in their free time they do what they like to do. For many people in Montana, what they like to do takes place outdoors. They hike, bike, kayak, ski, boat, snowboard, run around on ATV's or snowmobiles, raft, hunt, fish, etc. They live here for the proximity to those activities, and for the slower lifestyle you get in a more rural area. Even cities in Montana aren't very big. Billings, the largest (and in my opinion least pleasant) had only 104K people in the 2010 census. Missoula was second largest with 67K, and Bozeman and Helena (the capital) had 37K and 28K respectively. Polson, where we live in the summer, only has 4K people. All together the entire state--the fourth largest state in the union just behind California) holds 990K people. There are half again as many people in Hawaii, and California has 39 million...

So what do people in Polson do? What do people do anywhere? They live. They laugh, cry, fall in love, pay taxes, die. Some of them go to church (yet another social opportunity) or belong to fraternal organizations (Elk, Moose, Kiwanas). They own or work in retail businesses. They work in infrastructure support (for the utility providers). They work for the government or the banks or the grocery stores. They are electricians, plumbers, carpenters. They work at the hospital or in one of the private medical or dental offices. Some of them are teachers, some are mathematicians, some are carpenters' wives. For entertainment they go to the movies, go out for meals, do the outdoor things aforementioned. They (like me) craft, make, build and garden. Like Dave they code, cook, play video or computer games. They read, write, paint, compose poetry, swim. In short, they live.

Living here is not for everybody. Life is best spent where you find your passion and your muse. If you wake up, look around you and are uplifted by the world around you, you're in the right place. If the things you like to do are regularly available to you--you don't have to wait for vacation to do them--you're in the right place. Of course you have to be able to make a living there too. If you hate where you live, it's hard to like life.

When I was younger, meeting and interacting with people was everything to me. Now, I couldn't care less. I can go most days without talking to another being. If I am inspired by my surroundings I'll create. If I create, I'll lose myself in it. I also lose myself in books--and I can do that whether I am inspired by my surroundings or not. Beauty, cool weather, and lack of traffic (people) are now the markers of a good place for me.

1 comment:

Bill said...

I wonder how you'd get on on the north shores of Alaska?