This quilt wasn’t made by the women at the Historical Village. It was actually created by Patty, another wonderful quilter, who lives here in the valley. She must have quilting in her blood as she gets second hand clothes from various places, figures out a pattern that she likes, cuts up the clothing and begins to sew. I am always amazed at what she comes up with. This particular quilt she made as a donation to help refugees. Each time it was taken out to be shown at a fundraising effort, people sighed with delight.
The last time I took it out of a bag, it was to box it up at the post office. The quilt was about to be sent off to its new home and for whatever reason I always seem to do my boxing up at the post office on their counter. Two women in line watched me and when I shook the quilt out to fold it up as small as possible (a trick with a double bed quilt), they exclaimed simultaneously how beautiful it was. I agreed. One woman lamented that she always wanted to learn to quilt but had never had the chance to try. I pointed out she could easily join the Friday quilters at the Historical Village. They would be happy to teach her the joys of hand quilting. There are other quilt guilds in town that would be glad to mentor her along as well. But she had reasons – Friday’s weren’t the best day and she didn’t know if her sewing machine worked and besides where could she spread out a project like a quilt in her house.
There are always reasons aren’t there? Reasons why we can’t study Spanish or call up that older friend we think about. Reasons why we aren’t able to volunteer or clean out the top of the closet. Of course sometimes the reason makes sense. But often times we find ourselves justifying why we can’t do something that part of us really would like to do.
Rather than focus on all the reasons one can’t do something, this quilt made me aware of what we can do. Patty finds the used fabric and inspiration to make quilts. This particular one helped support a family who had the gumption to come to a new country. There is a friend in town who decided to learn Spanish so he bought some CDs, a bilingual dictionary and some books. I must admit I had my doubts about this self-teaching method until a few years later when I heard him converse in Spanish with a musician visiting from Mexico. There’s Bernice Ende, another friend from the valley, who has been a long rider for years now. She rides a horse across to all parts of the US. She tells me she can’t keep track of all the people who say they would like to do what she does. But they don’t. Sometimes their reasons make sense. They have young children at home or need to be available for aging parents. But sometime their reasons are downright flimsy.
So when you hear someone say with sincerity that he or she really wants to do something, tell them – you can! Push aside all the thin reasons they might offer up as to why they can’t. Encourage them to climb on that horse or pick up CDs to learn Russian or walk into the Historical Village on a Friday ready to learn how to quilt. Our world needs people who follow their dreams. Turn those dreams into realities. Yes, you can.
This time of year in northwest Montana, any glimpse of blue sky has everyone smiling. Even while focused on stitching, the women look up in unison when light through the old school house windows gets slightly brighter with a break in the clouds. January not only brought us a few snatches of sun, but also three new Tobacco Valley Board of History volunteers. Not quite enough for all that needs to be done but certainly a good start. Magdalena is new to the area and a great fit for helping with displays as she wants to learn more about local history. Michelle has the energy to help out with the grounds and the shrubbery once we get into spring. Ya’aqov, a retired librarian, is learning to maintain the archives from Cathryn. And having these three awesome individuals step up, encourages us to think there just might be others in the community who want to help maintain our local heritage.
Perhaps though people have other ideas about what to do with their spare time? Maybe they see maintaining artifacts, photographs and historical buildings from the Tobacco Valley as frivolous. Why think about the past when there are sufficient worries for the present? And don’t even mention the future! But our past has a lot to offer, not only to school children who come each spring to visit the exhibits or the tourists who pass through on summer afternoons, but to all of us.
Some locals lament about lack of business in the area and how the town is going to dry up. The old newspapers in the Historical Village files tell of the same sentiment numerous times throughout the town’s history. But there has always been something new that came along. Eureka was once the Christmas tree capital and there was logging. There were the years when the Libby dam and the train tunnel were built that brought many new people and jobs to this area. There were opportunities and change and dry spells and then new opportunities appeared.
The files show how the Tobacco Valley News, our local newspaper that still comes out weekly, got started. There are articles telling about how the valley first got internet and the volunteers who helped set it up. A computer shop now occupies the building where the office supply store used to be (a business now farther up the road in a larger space), and the same building that used to house the newspaper (which moved behind the bank). Things change for sure but there are things to be learned from the changes. How can we make transitions easier? Where do new ideas for our town come from? How have great additions to the valley come about in the past? What can we use from those experiences to continue to make this a place where we want to be?