When I was in a book club way back when, I became notorious for disliking the nature-themed books we read. This eventually got boiled down to, “Katie doesn’t like nature.” And I went with it, because if that meant we did not have to read another five-page description of a tree’s shadow, or a leaf’s crackle, that was fine by me. After all, it would not be my first curmudgeonly attribute. The thing is, though, I actually really like nature. And one of the women in that book club of so long ago recently led me through some pretty big nature. And I am forever grateful.
Suzanne lived a lot of her life in the state of Oregon. And I have known her for some thirty years, but this summer I really got to see the places of her young life. This was a unique experience, a way to see someone more broadly. Like, how many of us have gone home with a friend during college break perhaps, only to find they live in a mansion/brownstone/housing project and then seen them in a whole different kind of light. It is not like my friend has kept this part of her life quiet; anyone in ear shot will have heard tales of her nature-filled Central Oregon childhood, the deep meaning of the coast to her as both mother and daughter. But this particular trip showed me the rocks the she climbed on, and the rivers she swam in, and the house she lived in… and I watched sense memory in action as she told me stories of these important places.
I may never have seen such beautiful parts of Oregon had it not been for my friend. Years ago my kids and I visited her mother’s ranch in Terrebonne, meeting up with Suzanne and family there. The vastness of the landscape wowed us. (And that’s all I’m going to write about that landscape)! Years later my daughter and I visited Suzanne at her mom’s latest abode in Newport, on the coast. It was a whole different ocean than the one Down the Shore. And then there was this trip. Well, this trip I saw some stuff that made me understand just a little bit better why folks insist on writing for pages about light glinting off wet rocks in the middle of a flowing river. (Doesn’t mean I want to read about it, but I get it)!
Briefly, our first stayover was at Smith Rock. I mean, just looking at it was enough to stir up the Holy Spirit. I mean, take a look at the thing. https://stateparks.oregon.gov/index.cfm?do=park.profile&parkId=36
We hiked the Summit Trail (an arduously exhilarating day); we floated in the Crooked River, using the rocks as our pillows; and we stared at the sunset each night as it fell behind the ancient canyon. After three beauty-filled days replete with poplar trees and deer, we headed to Yachats. (So many things along the way, but I am not going to be accused of writing some travelogue here – I have a reputation to hold on to, remember)!
Thanks once again to my friend, we were in a beautiful house on the misty coastal beach. It was grey most days which only intensified the power of the waves as they contrasted with the stillness of the sky. We walked every day, sometimes not even being able to what lay in front of us, thanks to the deep fog hanging like chintz curtains from the sky.
It was so much nature, and it was all so beautiful. I am lucky that Suzanne chose to bring me along on such a tour of her land. I saw things I had never seen and, well, the older you get, the more exciting that is. I soaked it all in, the red rock, the running water, the smell of sage, the beating sun, the lava flows, the Ponderosa Pines, the packed sand, the biting water, the salty air… My molecules rearranged and I am fuller for seeing so much of God’s creation up close. That is what nature is to me, gifts to be received, humbly, joyfully. I believe Suzanne feels similarly. And I want to be in it, that nature thing. I just don’t want to read 200 pages about it. But that’s just me; so keep it up all you nature writers out there. Because someone somewhere might never get the chances I just got, so reading about it could certainly be the next best thing.
One thought on “Only Natural”
I love this, Katie….and it’s the perfect length! Like you, I appreciate enough imagery in story-telling so that my mind can put me there and then I can finish the narrative in my head….You laid out the canvas well; I’m filling the rest in with my own colors…..thank you!
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