August 2013


Although it didn’t take me long to realize that the “freedoms” of adulthood are just good marketing for the endless responsibilities that marriage, parenthood, and business ownership entail, most of the time I’m glad I traded the true freedom of my youth to take on the life that suits me.

But of course, there are moments like this morning, when I lay in tear soaked sheets, with the sky pressing down on my rib cage, and longed to return to that uncomplicated youth.  For me, that “time” is marked as clearly as the line defining Mountain Standard Time, though it is a date: pre-August 27, 2004, the day my youngest brother, Howard, died.

In the nine years since, I’ve spoken marriage vows under the Big Sky, laid a treasured grandpa to rest, given birth to two fascinating children, stood on top of Little Chief and wondered how the heck I would get down, frosted birthday cakes and chilled champagne to honor those I love who live still, experienced the magic that I think comes only with old friends, a blazing fire, and a guitar, and endured a pregnancy wherein every day I wondered if my baby had suffered a brain hemorrhage, and if I had been too selfish in wanting to give Maggie Rose a sibling.

Enormous highs, black lows, indeed, in these nine years.

There was a time in the immediate whiteout following Howard’s death that I feared I would never feel deeply again.  There was an even deeper fear on certain nights at 3am that I didn’t want to ever feel so alive again, that to insulate myself from future heartbreak was perhaps the path I should take.   Howard’s death crystallized the knowledge for me that to revel in joy, you’ve got to wallow in grief, too, and in that realization I remembered the only thing I retained from 7th grade science class:  every action in nature has an equal and opposite reaction.

I think I’m reflecting on these concepts not only because August 27th is an emotional date for me, but because I have dear friends who are new to the rage and terror of grief, and I long to rescue them.  Of course I cannot, and I know that to be able to feel those highs and lows again, a griever must get herself back on the so called path.  Friends will offer wine, and prose, and at times, a much needed glimpse at a map, but there is no substitution for the hard work of grieving.

It is worth it, though, and as I look back on the fuzzy years after Howard’s death, years that became clearer with each emotional risk I took — a new boyfriend, a move, a breakup, a career, a husband, another move, children — I will stand by the advice my mother once offered to me: go on.  It is worth it.  And though each anniversary will forever torture me with unanswered questions like the temperament of the wife Howard would have chosen, and the colors of his children’s eyes, I try each year to stop the tears and also acknowledge to myself new risks I have taken, and the new joys I have found.

I know that Howard would be proud that I’ve learned to look potential heartbreak in the eye while going on.  To those whose hearts are broken, I urge you to be brave, and to take comfort in the idea that grief this debilitating can lead you to its opposite in joy, if only you’ll keep walking.

Howard

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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Right now, MCT is carrying the 1# bottles at their Highway (5810 Hwy 93 S, Whitefish) and Columbia Falls (30 9th St W) locations, but it will also soon be available at the Kalispell (328 W. Center St) and Whitefish (110 Central Ave) locations, too.  Please, stop by for a fresh bottle and tell Montana Coffee Traders thanks for its commitment to local business and the highest quality honey money can buy.

And get us an Americano, with cream, and French Roast, black, to go.  Thanks!

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Dear July,

Our history together is storied, though I cannot know if our love affair is one sided or not.  I try to celebrate you fully, and yesterday, during my daily mad dash to the post office, I paused for a moment on our dusty dirt road and drank in the goodness of the last day of your July-ness, and I thought to write to you and recap our best moments together this year.

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As anyone who’s read this blog for any period of time knows, you are by far my favorite month of the year, and I was a little heartbroken when I awoke this morning in the cool quiet and realized today is August 1.

Oh, July.

We worked on most of your days this year, as the result of the start to what Honeydew and I think will be a very fine honey harvest.  Can’t complain about that.  Thank you for your bountiful sunshine and calm winds that helped the bees make such a great crop.

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But there was time for play, too.

In memory of my brother, Howard, we participated in our annual Beer Olympics.  Remarkably, for the 7th year in a row, the only injuries suffered by the enthusiastic participants were ones to the ego.

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Notably in July, our new son Howard met his Sissy, and it was true love on both sides.

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And Maggie learned about sharing Nan’s lap:

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Maggie Rose also went on her first self-propelled hike, with me, Howard, Nan and Chuck, around the Red Eagle Nature Trail.  It was a little too long for a 2 year old, but listening to Maggie chanting “Maggie hikin’!” for the first mile or so was the best sound these ears have ever heard.  Of course this would happen in July.

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Since then, Maggie’s hiked from Sunrift Gorge to Sun Point, and up to Hidden Pass from Logan Pass.  I really can’t say whether or not she actually likes hiking, but she surely does like the ice cream that inevitably follows it!

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Ugh.  Blue, bubblegum ice cream.  Maybe we don’t share the same tastebuds after all, Maggie Rose!

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On July 4, we held our annual Parade & Potluck at Duck Lake, and Maggie once again fulfilled her Royal Duties.

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She also played her first game of kickball, in the Big Field.  I’d be willing to bet she’s the only two year old in Montana who played kickball in July wearing Lilly Pulitzer — thanks to Southern friends for keeping her true to her roots!

Honeydew and I always say that Maggie was born in the Summer of the Snow.  Remember this?  Well, it practically stuck around till the next winter!  We’ll tell Howard that he was born in the Summer of the Bears.  They were legion and storied in July 2013.  This guy stole our volleyball during the Hillstock festivities:

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As the month wore on, a lovely woman who spends her summers at Duck Lake was attacked by a bear while walking just north of the lake. Not long after that, I ran into a black bear near Sun Point while carrying Howard, holding Maggie Rose’s hand, and trying to keep up with my 8 and 10 year old niece and nephew.   And then our dear friend, The Bear Ranger for Glacier National Park, heard a late night noise in her kitchen and discovered that a black bear had jimmied open the latched screen door and let himself in.  Now, what are the Las Vegas odds on that?

Definitely the Summer of the Bears.

Howard grew and grew each day of July, although at first his relative tiny-ness next to Maggie Rose concerned me, and I worried.  Funny how you can forget infancy’s fragility in two short years.   He’s just fine.

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July, thank you for your good humour and kind countenance.

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I will miss each you day until we are re-united.  Tell March to be gentle with me.

Love, Courtney

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  Some photo credits to Charlie Stone.  All Rights Reserved.