From the Editor: Generosity

Summer arrives to the Northern Rockies with its own kind of relief. There should be a word for it. That long, long exhalation. February, March, April. Then … whew. You’ve had your skiing at Big Sky or Jackson Hole, sure, ice-fishing, maybe a few days spent slinging brassies on the Madison, but even the most ardent fan of winter starts getting twitchy after being sideswiped by yet another spring snowstorm. Around about May, the longer days feel a little bit like accelerating out of the canyon after being caught behind a semi. Or maybe pulling on the sweatpants after 10 hours of business meetings. It’s like diving into the Yellowstone River after a hot day spent stringing wire. It’s like…

Well, enough of that. It’s also just itself. Summer. More than anything else, it feels like a gift. Regardless of religion, creed, or knee-jerk cynicism, you come out of winter with an urge to say thank you. To somebody. The mixed blessing of social media, the poisonous tenor of American politics, we live in a complicated, jaded time. Increasingly, Montana feels like some kind of refuge. The season’s first campfire at tree line. Fishing hoppers on the Yellowstone. Thank you, somebody.

For my part, the same sort of gratitude knuckles up when I find myself spending time with an exceptional work of art. Writing or photography, painting or poetry, there are as many reasons to create as there are creators, but at heart they all share the same impulse toward generosity: Here is a piece of myself I’d like to share with you. If this issue of Big Sky Journal has a theme, perhaps it lies here. Generosity. William Kittredge has made it an ongoing concern in his work, and you can see aspects of it in our excerpt from his memoir in progress. Will Brewster’s photographs of the annual Crow Fair Powwow demonstrate the willingness of the Apsalooka tribe to share in one of the touchstone events of their traditions. And poet Chris Dombrowski spends time fishing with his kids, a reciprocal gift exchange if there ever was one.

The flip side of giving, of course, is taking, grabbing what you can at someone else’s expense. Rick Bass’ piece on a possible mine in Montana’s Paradise Valley, just north of Yellowstone National Park, highlights a potential calamity. There are those who would literally tear apart a mountain for the sake of the gold inside, permanently destroying a common resource in the interests of their own short-term profit. The mining law of 1872 and its amendments still allow for this kind of taking. It’s worth paying attention to. Indeed, it’s a necessity.

For my part, I’m grateful to be back at this desk. It’s been 16 years since I last edited an issue of Big Sky Journal, and in the meantime so much has changed: about publishing (35 mm slides are a thing of the past), about Montana (we’ve been discovered), about myself (marriage, a five-year-old little boy), and yet a great deal is the same. This magazine was founded on the idea that we might provide an outlet for the extraordinary writers, photographers, and artists who call this region home. And that hasn’t changed a bit.

To all those who have contributed to this issue, and most of all to you, our steady readers … thank you.

– Allen Jones

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