By JEN SLAYDEN
Us locals approach the conversation much like a familiar secret handshake.
“What do you think about this weather?”
“It is crazy this year. I haven’t seen anything like it.”
Montanans have a way of breaking the ice with strangers by talking about the weather. Missoulians, in particular, always have a conversation starter, with our constantly changing weather systems moving through the valley.
It used to bug me. I would wonder, can’t we skip the small talk?
But as I age, or perhaps as our world becomes more and more focused on what people CAN’T agree upon, I have become more fond to this idiosyncrasy of our western weather dialogue.
With the election year upon us, we are constantly being swept away in the bickering between left and right, or even within each party. We read and watch the media tell us all that we are doing wrong, and who we should elect to fix it. We are bombarded with ideas and opinions, and things are pretty black and white.
When we talk to neighbors, friends, or strangers about the weather we all have our opinions. The difference is that we can agree to like or dislike it, and we have all the shades of grey, blue and white to explore.
Rather than left or right, we are east or west of some system that will inevitably move through and give us more weather talk to banter and chatter with each other about.
The poor weatherman definitely gets the raw end of the deal. Usually, in these starter conversations, the Storm Tracker Weather or First Alert forecasts quickly become part of the conversation, because in the court of public opinion, they are invariably wrong. Unless they are right. Which, sometimes they are.
But that usually coincides with my elderly neighbors complaining that their arthritis is acting up, and predicting the storm from the aching of joints way before it is broadcast on the local news stations.
At any rate, even the weatherman (or woman) who are being talked about take it as part of the job hazard. Weather, in Montana, even when it is predicted, is predictably unpredictable.
Just as my trip to the “dark side” of Bozeman Cat Country to visit my folks over Easter Break. We were greeted with seven inches of snow. As you can imagine, we immediately had an opening line for the family we hadn’t seen for a while.
“How about that weather?”
“You are lucky to live in Missoula. I know you guys have a longer growing season than we do, and I’m itching to get my plants started.”
Yes we are.
Missoula, with your fickle seasons, winter inversions, spring snow storms, and river running through it….thank you for giving us something to talk about!
We ARE lucky. Indeed.
Jen Slayden is a Missoulian who makes her home on the outskirts of town with three outdoorsy kids, a fly-fishing guide husband, and an outdoors-loving black lab named Cody. She juggles her time teaching music, life coaching, playing music in her family bluegrass band, and taking in all the great recreational and cultural activities that Missoula has to offer. Then, she writes about it all on her own website: Find Your Harmony.