Places that Hold Us


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There will always be those places that hold a piece of our past, whether because of the new experiences we had there, the losses we tallied, or the dreams that set us on a new course. Wallowa County, Oregon is such a place for me, and readers of this blog who followed my three years on the road, in particular, will know that each time I return to these mountains, I reminisce about love, writing, sacrifice, and change.

This return trip is no exception. A little over a week ago, my husband Brad and I set off on a much-needed 2-week vacation. It’s our last big trip for a while, partly a celebration of his graduation and partly a professional need of my own. He’s never seen the state that made me who I am, though I’ve shared many of my memories with him through photos and stories. (Which stories? Which photos? Here’s a post that recaps the “best of” my Wallowas writings from previous years, including musings on landscape and writing, craft and matters of the heart. Scroll to the final paragraph on this page.)

There was a time when I’d grown certain my choice to live frugally, live simply, and support myself as a writer meant I’d never find a life partner. I came to peace with that feeling, for the most part, and along with that peace came a decision to make space for others in my life by allowing for unscheduled blocks of time from week to week. Determined I’d be alone forever, the last thing I wanted was to become inflexible and crotchedy. And of course, allowing for unscheduled time–hard for a type-A self-employed obsessive like myself–ultimately brought me to Brad. Marrying him was the one of the most natural and fitting decisions I have ever made. All those years I spent thinking someone as wonderful as he would never “synch” with someone with a lifestyle and career like mine, simply became the ground beneath our feet. For three years, we’ve been building our lives on it. For three years, I’ve been growing and loving in ways more deeply than I ever imagined.

So to share this place with him–a place where so much seemed on the line for me, a place where I finally accepted myself and my life’s choices despite what I thought it meant I was giving up–feels like coming full circle. Yesterday, we walked a loop trail locals call Tick Hill (pictured above). There, the high prairie announces itself with interruptions of rock and scree, draws and fenceposts. Tomorrow, we’ll walk into the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, headed toward the peaks that top 10K feet. This landscape can hold so much–the Nez Perce history, the cattle ranchers’ ambitions, the young basketball player’s aspirations to “win state,” and even a writer’s dream to live life fully–no matter how much unseen territory lies ahead. It feels good to be back.

Showing 2 comments
  • William Schultz

    Beautifully written. Makes me want to go back there soon. I am so happy that you and Brad are able to spend time together out there.

  • Mary Beach


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