Monday, December 8, 2008

Good things and bad things

Don't be afraid to buy a tree for Christmas. They are a "green" cash crop, and the farmers that live near me are meticulous in their care of the trees. They've got the rotation down to a science, and I am amazed by the precision of different sizes of trees growing in different fields. These farm grown trees are much better for the planet than factory produced artifical trees, believe me.

Happy "I did it" day to me. I have completed my eighth edit on my first novel, and at last, after four years, I am satisfied and shopping for an agent. The work has left my little computer here in Bigfork, and been electronically transmitted to several agents in Manhattan. I now have visions of my novel flitting around the skyscrapers of Manhattan like a little yellow finch, and I wonder who is going to open the window and let it in. But, it is off. And so, I am moving on to the NEXT novel. In the meantime. . .

So much is happening! So many questions asked and answered. I couldn't sleep on Friday night, wondering if anyone in the nation could figure out what needed to be done to save us from a re-run of the Great Depression. And then our Pres To Be made his Saturday remarks on infrastructure and education and other avenues of redemption. And so, now I can sleep again, because Obama has named avenues, which I hope are open to travel soon.

In Montana. . . always a startling assortment of news. W.R. Grace has been on the front page lately. Yes, easterners, the W.R. Grace of A Civil Action, where John Travolta played high profile attorney Jan Schlichtmann. The chemical company was accused and found guilty of dumping toxic waste in Woburn, MA, and causing the poisoning of drinking water and the deaths of children. Remember that movie? 1999? Great movie.

Well. . . . some things you just don't move away from. Here in North West Montana there is a town named Libby. W.R.Grace had a vermiculite (sort of light and fluffy type of mineral related to asbestos) mine there, knew that the substance was dangerous, never told the miners, and bagged the stuff up and shipped it around the country as insulation, called Zonolite. I remember my Dad kneeling in the attic under and eaves and pouring bags of Zonolite down between the studs of our New England farmhouse. It was dusty. The mine was in operation for 70 years. The EPA knew all about it, too.

A government study that ended in 1998 showed that death by asbestos related causes was 40 to 80 times higher in Libby than expected. The cemetery was full of former miners and their family members. Two hundred deaths are attributed to the mine's activities. The whole town was covered with dust, you see. It took a major battle to have the place declared a super fund site, but it finally was, in 2001, by a reluctant publicty seeking governor. She had been so pro-industry and anti-people that she really had to be held to the fire and face the people of Libby.

Well, la de da, this past week a class action suit has been settled, and old WR will be paying out millions of dollars (140 million in all) to a trust fund to pay people who can prove and have the receipts and/or the empty bags that they used Zonolite in their homes, and their health has been damaged. The catch is, each family or household can only receive a maximum of around five thousand dollars. Our EPA has made no formal announcements that the time bomb of Zonolite has been poured into millions of homes across the US. You just have to know about it.

Other news from Montana: (sorry, but it seems to be all about death right now)

The full reintroduced and growing wolf pack in the Hog Heaven area, south west of Kalispell, had to be killed this week. They were hungry, and had killed cattle and llamas over the last two months. More than a dozen wolves were shot. There was no place to relocate them to, given the wolf growth across the state. Sad, but the ranchers aren't sad.

And finally, some good news about death. Montana just made history by being the third state in the nation (Washington and Oregon are the other two) to de-criminalize physician assisted suicide in the case of terminal illness. Ten years ago on Cape Cod, I remember how much my mother suffered for months after she couldn't even stand, couldn't even lift her hands up off her chest. And how she begged for mercy. But it was illegal to grant her wish, so she had to continue suffering in the most horrible manner as she died of lung cancer. And she never smoked. She just kept asking, "Why, why, why?" And so, BRAVO to Judge Dorothy McCarter, who issued her ruling on Friday that a mentally competent person who is terminally ill can now make a choice and die with dignity in the state of Montana. Of course, there will be a battle, and some people will want the suffering to continue. But, I am happy that finally, the legal system is beginning to see the light in realizing that it is inhumane to force people to go through extreme pain and debilitation at the end of their lives. Judge McCarter's decision was based on the right to privacy. The case had been brought by a man with terminal cancer who sued the state because he wanted to be able to make the choice as to when it would be the right time to die with dignity. BRAVO to the Judge.
It's been warm out here, with not much snow. That meant it was hard to track the deer during hunting season, which is now over. The deer take was down by 20 percent, the lowest take since 1997. (25,000 hunters with tags, 1543 deer taken, 147 elk) That means a lot of hungry deer will be munching in my yard this winter. Now if we could only get the wolves and the deer together. . . This management of large wild animals is quite the thing, and not easy. There are only about a million people here in the state, and the state is huge huge huge, and still, there can never be perfection.
The ski areas are not open yet. This is unheard of . . . the slowest snow start for over fifty years.
But. . . this weekend it is supposed to drop in temperature down to 35 degrees below zero. From 40 degrees today to there is a 75 degree drop that I don't want to be outside for. The water heaters are in the horse water, the barn is ready, I guess we are ready. Wow, Montana is really something.

Curious about Libby? Here's a good book:


Laurie said...

Hi Irene,

Congratulations on finishing your novel and getting it in the mail!!! That's very big news. I will hope for all good things and the best agent ever.

Love your photo of the Christmas trees. We went to Westport, Mass to cut down our own this year and it was the most fun I've had in a long time.

Saundra said...

Two thumbs up for the blog and the novel (what's it about, hints?). We moved from Pittsburgh to Wellfleet, Cape Cod 13 years ago and never looked back. If you get nostalgic, check out OysterCam and We are running a B&B in our house ( Sounds like you have created a good life tn the big sticks.

Saundra said...

Two thumbs up for your adventurous move into the Big Sky country and your novel (any hints about subject?). We moved the other direction from Pittsburgh to Wellfleet, Cape Cod 12 years ago and have not looked back. If you look back, check out my Wellfleet photos and video. Watch out for wolves and bears!