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Author: cmf

I'm a writer and editor based in Livingston, Montana. I moved to Livingston from the San Francisco Bay area in 2002 in search of affordable housing and a small community with a vibrant arts community. I found both. LivingSmall details my experience buying and renovating a house, building a garden, becoming a part of this community. It also chronicles my efforts to rebuild my life after the sudden death of my younger brother, and closest companion, Patrick in a car wreck.
Winter Elk Herd on the Move

Winter Elk Herd on the Move

This herd of elk has been hanging around all winter. They woke us up Monday morning at first light calling to one another — you can hear one “cow call” on the video (over my windshield wipers/car engine).

We’ve had varying numbers in the yard — this big group, one even bigger, and then a core group of about a dozen. We both woke up late one night a few weeks ago — clear skies, full moon, and two dozen elk bedded down right outside our bedroom windows. It was magical. Like a big interspecies slumber party.

Process: Setting Goals, Making Plans

Process: Setting Goals, Making Plans

Weekly planner and pile of notebooks
Weekly planner and pile of notebooks

It’s Monday, which means my weekly session with the planner. About a year ago, I started deliberately planning my week — paid work projects, creative work projects, things I wanted to make — and started setting deliberate goals. My big goals for last year were to finish and send out essays for publication, and to get the mystery novel I’d set aside back on its feet again.

Sitting down every Sunday or Monday and taking stock, then setting goals for the week has helped enormously. I started out using the Passion Planner which I particularly liked for it’s large size and generous real estate per week. However, after a few months, I found the inspirational pages less and less useful — although I have stayed in the habit of doing a monthly summary of what worked, what didn’t work, what I accomplished, and what I’d like to accomplish for the forthcoming month.

Eventually, I moved back to the Moleskine weekly planner because I love the page layout (although I dearly wish they had a bigger size). I like having one blank page to sketch out what the tasks are for the week, and a day-by-day section to track myself. I wrote my first novel with little weekly calendars, where I noted down word counts to keep myself honest, and on track, and I find that essential to my process.

When I was in Milwaukee last summer, I picked up some of these softcover notebooks by Fabriano, and I’ve found them really useful for brainstorming and tracking my various projects: the mystery novel, the essays, the TinyLetter, the BlogReboot. While I still carry a general notebook, I’ve found it more useful to split up into these separate ones, as well as some smaller notebooks I use for reading notes, so I can find things afterwards. I’m not a bullet journal person — all that indexing, while useful, just annoys me — but this way, I can find the notes on say, John Berger that I wanted to roll into a TinyLetter.

My primary goal at the moment is finishing this mystery novel manuscript — I started it several years ago, then put it aside while I was working on a nonfiction memoir, a project I ultimately decided was not so much a book, as it was a series of essays. Abandoning a book is never an easy decision, but that nonfiction project just would not come together the way I wanted it to (and I *really* did not want to write a misery memoir), and after discussions with an agent, I decided to put it aside and mine those ten years of work for essays.

I’ve always been a big chicken about sending things out, and somehow, that changed this year.  In combination with a planning method that seems to work, I managed to pull together five solid essays and send them out. Four of them have been taken, so that’s pretty satisfying. One was taken as a conference paper (I need to rework it a little and send it out again), three were accepted for publication (only one has come out, in the Unearthing Paradise anthology — please buy a copy and help us fight the gold mines on the border of Yellowstone). The other two should be published in the next couple of months and I’ll include links when they do. I had one essay rejected, and I’ve sent it back out. And I have three more solid ideas I’m pulling together, but since I need to draft the mystery novel, I’ve put those aside for now.

And then there’s the new novel. I’d pretty much given up on fiction, and when I decided not to pursue the memoir, I went back to the two half-finished novel drafts I had in the house. They’re both actually pretty good — but I decided to pursue the mystery novel first for a couple of reasons. One is that because the mystery as a genre deals with murder, it allows one a natural outlet to explore in fiction topics like class and money, and good and evil, and life and death. I like people in extreme situations, perhaps because I’ve seen so many of them, and the mystery provides a great opportunity to test your characters under stress. The other reason I started with this one is that I really want to do a series — I love long long form work — and the mysteries I love the best are the ones with a core set of characters who appear across the volumes, and whose development you get to trace as the series progresses. But more than any of those idea-driven reasons for writing this novel — I’m having so much fun making people up again. There are characters living in my head again, and I’d forgotten what a joy that is.

When I quit my job in September, I had about 15k words, and I’m just north of 40K now. I think it’s going to clock in somewhere in the neighborhood of 80K — which is about what Place Last Seen came in at. The planning is necessary because, for instance, I just lost three whole weeks to political madness, and so I found I had to come back, look at the page, and make a real plan. Even if part of me thought I was going to get the whole 40k written in January, and that same part of me is bummed not to be some sort of wordcount superhero, I know myself well enough that if I can come up with a reasonable schedule, and break the project into parts, then I’ll be able to get it done. Barring more insanity from Washington (or more than the level we’ve now become accustomed to), I should have a finished manuscript sometime in the middle of April. And if I can do that, I’ll have proven to myself that I can finish a book in six months, which means that pitching a book a year isn’t totally unreasonable.

The next planning challenge I’m dealing with is figuring out the revenue end of the struggle. I’ll be saying more about that in the days to come, but I’m considering a number of options, including a Patreon. In the meantime, I’ve opened a Store page on the blog, where I’ve linked to books on my Alibris store — so if you’d like to contribute that way, please go buy a book!

Also, please leave notes in the comments — what planning strategies work best for you? Are you a planner? or not-a-planner? How do creativity and planning work in your artistic life?

 

Garlicky Dinner Rolls

Garlicky Dinner Rolls

 

Garlicky dinner rolls in a square pan
Garlicky Dinner Rolls

Our nation might be in the middle of a political garbage fire, but we all still have to eat. One of the best ways I know to take care of oneself, and keep from going batshit crazy, is to cook. And especially to cook for other people. Our friend Shefije came over last weekend to take a break before tackling her Master’s thesis, and I made a batch of these for her with za’atar, the Middle Eastern spice blend.

These are a riff off a recipe I found on the Guardian UK site for a Za’atar bun and since za’atar supposed to be good for the memory, I thought of Shefije when I saw the recipe. She loved them, and she’s a very satisfying person to cook for, because when she loves something, she really loves it.

Earlier this week I got a hankering to do a version with green onions, parsley, garlic and olive oil. I’ve written before about my annual spring mania for green sauce, and this was much the same, but better, since it was green sauce wrapped in bread.

thin rectangle of bread dough spread with green onion, parsley, garlic and olive oil
Dough spread with green sauce

While the original recipe uses a dough enriched with butter, milk and egg, I wanted a very olive-oil-based flavor, and so I just used my standard sourdough bread recipe. Three cups of bread flour, three tablespoons wheat germ, one tablespoon salt, a cup and a half of sourdough starter and enough water to make a shaggy wet dough. I don’t really knead it, but rather use the stretching method described in the Tartine Country Bread recipe. I like the way this aerates the bread, and seems to activate the gluten — especially in really wet doughs like this one.

While it was rising, I made a green sauce with a bunch of green onions and a head of parsley I had in the fridge. I chopped them roughly along with a clove of garlic, then put them in my mini-chop with some Meyer lemon juice, lots of olive oil, an about half a teaspoon of Aleppo pepper. You want it still a little chunky.

Cylinder of dough after it's been rolled around the filling
Dough rolled with flavorings

When the dough was ready, I cut it into two equal sections for ease, since I don’t have a ginormous rolling board. I rolled it into a big rectangle and smeared the green sauce on it, then used my dough scraper to roll it lengthwise into a cylinder. I cut each cylinder into eight slices, then put them into a square baking pan.

Slices cut from the cylinder go face up into the baking pan
Cut slices in baking pan

When the pan was full, I covered it with a plastic bag, and set it aside to rise for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 425, and when the rolls have risen, sprinkle them with more olive oil, sesame seeds, and some coarse salt. Bake for about half an hour, until they are golden on top and are separating one from the next.

These are really yummy, and have the added attraction that you can pick apart the layers as you eat them. And I think you could do almost anything for a filling — black olives and some tomato sauce would be good, parmesan and garlic and olive oil, green sauces of any type from the Indian ones that have all that nice cumin in them to a straight basil pesto, or the original, with lots of za’atar and sesame seed and some coarse crunchy salt. And they cook up really quickly, which is nice.

So there you go — a little project to distract or give a little respite from the national emergency.

The End of Reliability, and Soup

The End of Reliability, and Soup

In The Great Derangement, Amitav Ghosh takes on the question of why climate change, the great challenge of our time, is entirely absent from the modern novel. One of the novel’s many tasks is to take on the human stories of social change, and if you only read modern novels for information, you’d think the greatest crisis modern humans are facing is that husbands and wives seem to hate one another.

One reason for this erasure, Ghosh posits, is the manner in which globalized capitalism has propagated the bourgeois idea that the world is reliable. He looks for instance, at the way the 2004 tsunami devastated the Nicobars. Traditional peoples were spared, because they had always built up in the mountains, away from the sea, but the new middle class residents for whom an ocean view was a sign of wealth and privilege were devastated. Ghosh was thinking this was just an Indian thing until he flew into JFK, over the Far Rockaways, which have been built up extensively — fancy houses along those waterways, docks, powerboats, the works. And of course, they too were devastated in 2012 in Hurricane Sandy. “It was if,” Ghosh notes, “… the bourgeois belief in the regularity of the world had been carried to the point of derangement.”

Much of the outrage we’ve all experienced these first two weeks of the Trump administration seems to me to be predicated on the violation of our bourgeois belief in the reliability of our Nation. So many people after the election, assuring me as I turned into Daffy Duck with sorrow and outrage, as I fled to Yellowstone to hang out with the bison,  that it would be fine. That they system has checks and balances. That our new President didn’t mean all those things he was saying.

And they were wrong. A virulent attack has been unleashed upon the very system we believed in, the one that frustrated us because it didn’t move fast enough, or seemed too dependent on big money, or just didn’t do what we wanted it to do. Which did not mean we wanted it destroyed.

But yet, here we are. Standing amid the cataclysm, trying to figure out what we do next, which fire we rush to put out.

Is this the beginning of the end?

We know for certain that we’re at the tipping point as far as climate change goes, and while we’ve been told for decades that the increasing sea levels and unsustainable heat waves were going to lead to social chaos, and most likely, war — did any of us really believe it?

For the short term political chaos, there seems to be no choice but to take to the streets, to flood the mailboxes and voice mails of our representatives with messages, and to shut out the cynical voices telling us it won’t do any good. We’re all in it now, and we’re in it for one another, as we saw this weekend when people rushed the airports to help stranded people fleeing unimaginable horrors and then, on top of all that, being persecuted by the very government who had agreed to take them in.

We’re in for a long fight on the domestic political front, and as part of that, we need to keep in mind that other big battle we’re engaged in — the battle to rethink capitalism and it’s reliance on fossil fuels that has gotten us in this fix in the first place. We are going to have to radically change our lives. Which means driving hybrids or high-mileage cars, solar panels if we can afford them, not flying recreationally anymore, and eating lower on the food chain.

Which brings me to soup. Soup, as all the fables will tell you, is a magical elixir of comfort, and an infinitely elastic way to avoid food waste and stretch your food dollar. We’re going into hard times again, and so, soup.

As longtime readers of the blog know, I save bones and chicken carcasses and make stock a couple of times a year. All of us out here have freezers, in part because we eat a lot of game and there’s no way you’re going to keep a whole elk, or deer, or combination without a chest or upright freezer. Me, I stash carcasses as I go along, and then usually when it cools off in the fall, I make big stock, clarify it, and pressure can it. These jars are like gold. I can always make dinner — even just broth with frozen tortellini and some spinach in a pinch.

So this particular soup started out as a lovely stewing hen I was given, which made a lovely poule au pot. A few days later, I did a ham steak with white wine and veggies. Then I made soup — sauteed some onion and carrot to begin, then picked the chicken off the carcass, and added it with the leftover stewy juices. Same with the leftover ham steak and it’s nice juices. I added a quart of stock, and some pasta shells, and ate it as is, with a nice piece of toast. A few days later, I was getting bored with that soup, but now I had some leftover mixed brown rice. So into the pot it went, with more water, and about a quarter of a bag of frozen spinach. Who knows what it will morph into next? Some winters, I think I’ve eaten leftover soup that’s contained trace elements of every meal we’ve had.

Our current political fix requires us to fight like hell to save the nation, and if we can manage to do that, we’re still going to be faced with a climate crisis that we have not yet begun to acknowledge. We have a long hard road ahead. The idea that our world was reliable has been shattered, and we may only be at the beginning of it’s destruction.

But we do have soup. We can rely upon soup, if only to see us through this one snowy afternoon.

LivingSmall Reboot

LivingSmall Reboot

I started LivingSmall in 2002 not as a lifestyle blog, but as a political statement. My original tagline was “Thoughts on Literature, Food, Faith, and the Subversive Power of Living Small.”

I moved to Montana not only because I could afford a house here, a house I managed this summer to pay off, but because I wanted to deliberately disconnect from the terrifying engine of consumer capitalism that I saw devouring the Bay Area (and pretty much the rest of America).

This has always been a political project, and now, as we see the monster who is us — the big baby in the highest office of the land, a man who does not read, who cannot carry a thought from point A to point B, who is an avatar of consumptive greed and the puppet of white supremacists and foreign dictators, a creepy rich man with a golden apartment in the sky who has, like some villain out of a superhero movie, taken over the Republic, well it seems that the real work of LivingSmall might be relevant again.

So keep an eye out here, or subscribe in the sidebar to be notified when a new post is up.

Tomorrow, we’ll have a non-political recipe for garlicky dinner rolls.

Sign Up For My TinyLetter

Sign Up For My TinyLetter

If you’re interested in the kind of content I’ve always posted here at LivingSmall — please sign up for my TinyLetter: Is This It?

I’ll send you an essay about every two weeks, covering the topics I’ve always covered here: cooking and gardens, living lower on the consumerist scale, the Anthropocene, Climate Change and politics, and how we’re all going to survive in a world that seems to be getting hotter and meaner and more frightening.

And there will be recipes, because we need something to keep our heads above water.

Please sign up here: https://tinyletter.com/CharlotteMF

The recipe from my first TinyLetter was: Peach Jam with Aleppo Pepper. Here’s a link to that TinyLetter, if you’d like to see what you’re getting into.

PeachAleppoJam

Getting My Feet Underneath Myself

Getting My Feet Underneath Myself

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So — this quitting my job thing has been slightly more unsettling than I’d anticipated. I’ve worked steadily since I was fourteen — even earlier if you count babysitting (really, who’d let a 10 year old babysit an infant these days?). Anyhow, I’ve always had jobs. I’ve always known where the next chunk of money is coming in from. There always has been a next chunk of money coming in. Currently, I’ve one outstanding invoice. One.

It’s been a challenge not to panic.

I wasted a couple of weeks spinning my wheels and panicking. Complete with many, many dreams in which I had to move, in some cases to return to graduate school. Dorm rooms. Strange cities. Finding an apartment on no money. It’s been like a nocturnal tour of the first 20 years of my adult life.

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not like that. The house is paid off. The student loans are paid off. There’s money for the property tax bill next month. There’s money for the few other bills I have. No one is turning off the power. There’s food in the cupboard. It’s not an emergency, this was the plan. Getting to here has been the whole point of the LivingSmall project.

I was on the phone with my writer friend Melissa Clark last weekend — talking about the freelance thing. She’s on the verge of taking the leap as well. “I didn’t work this hard to get to where I can do this, ” I heard myself telling her, “Just to panic after three weeks and take another job.” One of those sentences you hear come out of your mouth, then write down and tack above your desk.

So, this week, a full month after I sent the Cisco computer back to them, I finally sat down, made a daily to-do list, and started making forward progress on my mystery novel manuscript again. I figure I have until the New Year before I have to really start scrambling for work (although I’ve got some work between now and then), and it’s time to step up and take advantage of this opportunity. Three months. X dollars in the bank. It’s the same time/money chunk I had for those two summers in grad school (thanks to a generous friend) that I used to write Place Last Seen. If I did it before, I can do it again.

So, here we go. I have four cords of wood out there and a pantry full of staples. I have a few bills every month, and money to cover them for a bit. How little can I spend? How much can I write?

Making and Creating

Making and Creating

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So, everything is fairly terrifying right now. The election is horrific. Climate change is continuing to wreck havoc across the globe. I don’t have a job, or at the moment, even any freelance gigs signed. And the Red Sox, sigh.

So I’m making things.

I made the jacket in the photo above, from two fabrics in my stash. The blue wool is from a piece I bought on eBay a year or so ago, and has the loveliest selvage on it. I used it for the end of the sleeves, which you can see when they’re not cuffed. It’s lined with an end-piece of orange raw silk I bought a year or so ago when I was in Seattle at District Fabric, and that I’ve been trying to figure out ever since what to do with — it was too short for a dress or a skirt. I have another jacket in this pattern cut out downstairs — in heavier wool, charcoal grey color, with a grey Robert Kaufman chambray to line it with. It’ll be terrific for dog walking, and will distract me for the three or four hours it takes to put it together. I knit a Hitchhiker shawl  from a ball of ombre sock yarn that had too much space between the colors (I would have wound up with one black sock and one white sock). I’m also working up a pair of Kate Davies stranded Pawkies, which I’m doing as mittens, because winter is coming, and dog walking is upon me. I’m going to experiment with knitting a little hole for my index finger so I can select stuff on my iPhone through the mittens — I like taking Instagram shots while dog walking.

I’ve been thinking a lot about making stuff and creativity as I try to sketch out and envision what kind of freelance life I’d like to build. Sadly, I can’t retire, or tap into my savings, so I do have to find work, but my hope is to find work that allows me to write about issues I’m interested in, and in the best of all possible worlds, about people who are doing creative things.

In the meantime, I’m staving off panic by thinking about what I want to wear this winter. I have a couple of skirts I made this summer that I loved, and wore all the time. So I’ve been eyeing my stash (since I quit my job, and Can Not Buy More Fabric) and thinking about which patterns would work in which fabrics. It’s also Slow Fashion October, during which my Instagram feed is full of people who sew and knit thinking through their issues of consumption, of how clothes are made and sold in a consumer capitalist model and how, by making our own, we can strike back, even if only on small personal levels, at an economic model built on the idea of cheap, fast, and replaceable items.

Part of the pleasure in making clothes, for me, is thinking about it beforehand. What do I want to look like? And how do I want my clothes to feel? And then, can I make that happen? I have to say, three years into making most of my own clothes, I love getting dressed. I was never fashion-y, but now, I look in my closet, or more likely at my clothesline after doing wash, and it’s just so pleasing. Clothes I like, that fit me, in colors I wanted, that go together most of the time, which last, and that I made myself.

I had a friend visiting about a week ago. Months ago he convinced me to propose my first ever academic paper, nearly 20 years after I finished my Phd, for the Western Literature Association conference which was over at Big Sky this year. It was nearby, and seemed like a good idea. It was fine — I wrote about it in more detail over at my TinyLetter (subscribe here). He was amazed the whole weekend at the way the Montana writers all seem to know one another, and how, for the most part, we’re all pretty supportive of one another. And then, driving around town the next day, showing him Livingston, with our old school buildings repurposed as artist studios and theater spaces, our community garden and used bookstore/reading space, our funky little shops which exist because rent is cheap, it did strike me that we’re a pretty creative bunch of folks around here.

You can forget how important it is to live embedded in a community of creative people until you have to leave it for a while. I’m not slagging on the academics, but that conference, along with the one I went to a year ago, both confirmed for me that I was right to leave academia when I did. And my buddy who came to visit, and who is marooned in the Midwest, in a town where he doesn’t have a circle of people to help feed his own creative work, well, it just drove home for me that even if I sometimes roll my eyes when the local creative types get a little woo, I’d rather live among folks whose first response to most things is “what can I make from it?” or “how can I fix it?” or “can we use this somehow to improve our community?” It’s a small town, and like most small towns we sometimes get kind of fed up with one another, so it was a good reminder of just how fortunate we are. it’s not perfect, goodness knows, but it is creative. And for that I’m deeply grateful.

Sign up for my TinyLetter

Sign up for my TinyLetter

Hi everyone — I’m starting a TinyLetter called “Is This It?”

Please sign up here: https://tinyletter.com/CharlotteMF

I’ll send you an essay every two weeks about life in Montana on the cusp of the Anthropocene, with recipes.

First recipe — Peach Jam with Aleppo Pepper, which I made this past weekend.

PeachAleppoJam

Apocalyptic Skies in Montana

Apocalyptic Skies in Montana

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There are mountains out there, mountains you can’t see for the smoke of burning forests.

It’s apocalyptic in Montana tonight. On the flanks of Emigrant peak, a place where we can usually see the Crazy Mountains 60 miles or so to the north, the skies are orange and grey with smoke. Wildfires are burning in Yellowstone National Park, closing off the south entrance altogether, and threatening the West one. The Yellowstone River has turned belly up like the thousands of dead whitefish that litter its shores, and the Governor has declared it a state of emergency. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is about to delist grizzly bears despite record numbers of grizzlies killed by poachers and automobiles last year , and allow the states to sell trophy licenses to further decimate a population endangered by climate change, while visitors to our national parks and wild areas, continue to do unbelievably dumb things because they can’t recognize actual nature when confronted with it. And through the smoke, drive the RVs. Rig after rig after rig, hauling overstuffed Americans around the country entombed with their carpet and reclining chairs and big-screen TVs, burning fossil fuels as they drag ancillary vehicles behind them.

I’m usually fairly immune to environmentalist gloom, but tonight, despite writing this from the cabin porch, the kind of spot I dreamed of for decades only to find myself gobsmacked by the good luck of getting to live here, tonight in the smoke and the heat and the apocalyptic light, I’m on the edge of despair.

I got into it today with an out-of-work fishing guide, who was ranting about irrigation continuing when the river is closed. The fish kill is exacerbated by low water, he was saying. Maybe there’d be more water if they weren’t draining the tributaries to spray on alfalfa fields. He’s not wrong, but he apparently didn’t know anything about water rights. Water rights, I tried telling him, are entirely separated by history and law from natural resource protection. The river has no rights. The river, its fish, its beauty, its value as an economic driver of the economy in this county (a county for those of you not in Montana, about the size of the state of Delaware) — none of those things have any bearing on water rights. None of those things are considered “beneficial use” — for which water rights are claimed on a historic first-come, first-get, basis.

The fish have no rights to water. The cattle and the ranchers who grow hay to feed cattle have rights, but the fish have no rights.

(Neither do the Native Americans, as evidenced by the current protests at Standing Rock. But in Livingston, fish matter more than Native Americans, as they do in most of the country).

He wasn’t wrong, we would have more water in the river if the ranchers weren’t irrigating. But what got to me wasn’t even his ignorance about such a basic fact of Western historical and political life. What got me was, again, the notion of beneficial use. It’s defined as beneficial to humans, particularly humans involved in the agriculture, timber and mining industries. Along with Manifest Destiny, it was the excuse for white people claiming vast swathes of western land, this notion that by “improving” it for extractive use, they could claim ownership. This is the idea the Bundy clan and their ilk were defending when they occupied the Malheur Wildlife Refuge last winter — the notion that the land exists for human use, that it exists solely for human use. This is not a fringe belief in the West (or, in the East, as evinced when an environmentalist writer friend from the Carolinas posted on Facebook about how mountain lions are showing up in Tennessee, and even his friends commented that they wanted them all killed, because they scared them). While the Bundys taking over the wildlife refuge because they believe setting aside any land for wildlife threatens their historic claims, there are plenty of folks out here who believe that while wildlife is important, it’s only really important for the uses we put it to. These are the folks who think, for example, that the point of the Endangered Species Act is not to save species from extinction because biodiversity is important in and of itself, but that the act exists to bring species back in order that we can hunt them. The Grizzly Bear for example. There are plenty of people commenting all over the intertubes this very minute who think the entire point of protecting the Grizzly all these years was so that we could hunt it again. (To be clear, I have no gripe with hunting or fishing for meat on a non-industrial scale. I’d almost always rather eat clean organic game than even the nicest grassfed local domestic meat. My gripe is with trophy hunting of predator species. And no, I’m not buying your “scientific game management” arguments, because if this essay has any idea at its core, its that “the wild” is, a self-regulating system that is not in need of our interference).

In essence, my guide friend wasn’t being any less anthropocentric than the ranchers or the guys who want to hunt trophy grizzlies. He wanted the water in the river, not for the fish themselves, but so he and his buddies and the rich guys who hire them could get back to pestering the fish for fun, as if nothing had changed.

While I am more than happy to see the outdoor recreation and tourism industries surpass the old extractive mining and timber interests economically, and while the fact that they’re catching up to agriculture is going to make for some interesting legislative opportunities, I’d also like to take a moment to point out that outdoor recreation and tourism are not without environmental impact. We’ve literally flogged the Yellowstone into a state of exhaustion this summer.

So perhaps while we’re in this enforced time out, it might be time to take stock. It might be time to rethink the consumerist mentality we’ve had toward the river — that it exists primarily for our pleasure, and that all our fishing, and boating, and rafting, and SUP paddling, and throwing balls for the dogs, and driving trucks and trailers on 20 and 30 and 40 mile river shuttles are not extractive uses. Maybe we could use a little of that most un-American trait, restraint.

And maybe we could go back to some of our core writers on the subject — Aldo Leopold comes to mind, who noted that: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Because what I’m seeing off this cabin porch is a disaster, and one of our own making. We’re can’t continue the way we have been. We have to change.