The drive over the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State is breathtaking, and even in May there is snow alongside the highway. This year we caravanned from Western Washington with my son; two vehicles pulling trailers with all our possessions to settle in northeastern Washington near the Columbia River not far from the Canadian border. The last time I lived here for any length of time was over three decades ago when my 2nd born daughter was a little girl. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the cabin nestled among the pine trees, felt the serenity of this land and witnessed the majesty of the Columbia River. Now I am here at my daughter’s house, the one she and my son in law built several years ago. This is where my husband and I will stay while we are building our home.
There are few distractions here; one is graced with the essence of simplicity. To be near the river and surrounded by the Ponderosa Pines is a gift that frees my spirit and I cherish my time here. While I look forward to the future the past is my treasure, for the discovery of this sanctuary all those years ago fulfilled a dream.
I have so many memories of the early days; summer afternoons with the children swimming in the river, hiking up to the apple orchards, and the “berry walks” harvesting the mulberries and abundant serviceberries. I remember the rattlesnakes and the bears, (I saw a young bear close up in an apple tree one year) and the osprey’s nest across the river. I remember hitchhiking into town for groceries; giving birth to my youngest son in the deep, quiet winter of a January morning. These were times of faith, simple times, deep times.
Nature was all around us so each day was a learning experience for us all, both adults and children. At one point there were three households on the land and between us we schooled our children, teaching them math, reading, and art. My daughter tells me these were some of the happiest days of her childhood. There was always plenty of excitement like the stump fire that broke out behind the cabin one summer which took us all day to put out. Exhausted as we were by the end of the day we still had to deal with a wild dog that attacked our chickens as we were sitting down to dinner. There was the day my daughter broke her arm and we had to go all the way to the hospital in Spokane.
We had few possessions in those days. The kitchen was furnished with wooden apple crates for cupboards and we kept our perishables in the spring box up the road behind the cabin. We had electricity but cooked with a wood cook stove and did laundry outside the cabin in standing washtubs and hung our clothes on clotheslines. We baked bread and grew our vegetables which we canned, froze, or stored in a root cellar.
Every now and again there was a day when I was alone on the land and it was these days that are some of my most precious memories. I was complete in stillness within, with the sun on my face, the trees singing in the wind, and the chirping of cicadas. Many years later I am again granted this peaceful feeling as I gaze at meadow that unfolds in front of the house. There, in the middle of the field is Angel’s tree, the tree beneath which lay the ashes of my grandson who was stillborn almost two decades ago. I can’t think of a better place for him to rest.