I am in my happy place, and it was nothing short of a serendipitous find. We have been considering coming out to explore this area for years, and finally decided that it would be our family trip this year. We did some preliminary research and thought we might stay out at Wallowa Lake, at the lodge, that seemed quite nice online. When I mentioned this to a new friend, it just so happened she had just returned from that very lake and that very lodge. And her description made me thankful that we hadn’t yet booked it. Then I met a Wallowa rancher by chance in Portland who, after hearing that we were considering a trip out this way in the fall, suggested a place I probably never would have found. Or at least a place whose website didn’t do it enough justice to merit a strong interest. I may not even name it here, though, because I want to come back here year after year and never have it change one inch. The “close the doors after I get here” philosophy of protecting wild spaces.
Not that it’s wild, really. We’re on a ranch, so it is comparatively wild, only with fences. Every morning we watch curlicued quail totter across the gravel road. We’re serenaded by the lowing of cows nearby and at a distance. We hear red tailed hawks screech at us as we wander too close to their nest. I save the baby’s half-eaten apples and peanut butter sandwiches to feed to the ever-willing-to-eat goats.
We fell easily and willingly into new patterns here – rising early and pulling on our boots to circle the creek in search of pheasants, mule deer, and Great Horned owls. Ronin pretends to drive the tractor, reciting the story of how on our first day here, the owner’s son in law let him sit on his lap while he operated the fork lifts (fuklifs) to lift, then lower a log. We go into town, attempt hikes (hoping for better luck with those in a year or two), sit under the giant firs and willows and are dumbfounded by the sheer multitude and volume of the birds.
Ronin, not quite two, turned to me with his deep, serious eyes and said, “I love farm.”
Me too, sweetie.
It’s about exactly the reaction I was looking for. This place reminds me so much of the little farm I was once so lucky to live on, and also of the living history farm where I once, a million years ago, worked. I had never felt so at peace as I did at those two places. And now I got to spend time at a farm reminicient of those, only with a vastly more breathtaking backdrop. And not only did I get to re-experience that feeling of bliss, but I also got to see that bliss mirrored back to me in my son’s eyes. He and I are like peas in a pod in so many ways; I am so happy to learn that we also share a love of wide open spaces, wildlife, and farm animals as well.
Is it something he inherited from me, or is it a more universal human characteristic? If, given the chance, would anyone – any city dweller, suburban soccer mom, obsessive teenaged gamer express the same sentiment?
I am really only just beginning to question this, but I am finding out that others have been hard at work to uncover the benefits of a life closer to nature. I’ve been reading The Last Child in the Woods while out here watching my son flourish in an environment that allows him to explore without the usual constraints in our more urban existence. In my own little case study, the results are clear, and they’re strengthening my resolve. Whatever I can do to help encourage parents and kids alike to put an outdoor experience back into their learning process, I’ll do. Because I believe that it will not only create happier, better adjusted, and contientious children, but it will also be what saves the natural world – which is the ONLY world in which we can live – from extinction.
Heavy thoughts, I know. But my contribution to the cause will be anything but. Think rhyming couplets about animal sounds, raccoon antics, and a boy who worries that gardening is for girls. My hope is to create relatable and fun poetry for kids to open up discussions about conservation, respect for nature, and finding peace in quiet spaces. And then pair them with the incomparably delightful drawings of Miss Catherine Odell.
Tomorrow we have to leave. I know Ronin will be talking about it for a long time, and I’ve taken enough photos that we’re sure to remember it well. We’ll be sad to go, but Catherine has promised me that finished drawings, in color, will be ready for viewing. I could almost stay here in this beautiful place forever, but I know I can’t. I’ve got work to do, and it really can’t wait.