When I was little, I loved exploring the canyon below my house. There was a whole world out there that only I knew about! Like the tunnel under the dogwood by the pond. The pussywillow on the other side of the fence. The way the shrubs would bend but not break when you lay on them - creating the perfect "air castle." The strawberry patch down the hill. The summer sledding runs over the long dry grass. The berry patches and apple trees, and the bear scatt that let you know caution was needed. The spot where the elk liked to cross the creek. Which banks were best for picking wild irises, bachelor buttons, indian paintbrush, lupine, or yellow dog flowers.
I could tell you which abandoned homestead site had the banana and strawberry-flavored apples, and which had the best lilac bushes. I knew the reservoir pond that stayed full all summer. I knew that the trail to Pine Creek had a wild onion patch which perfectly complemented a Big Frank when roasted on the same stick. I could lead you to the coyote dens. I could take you anywhere you wanted to go within a couple miles of the house. The landscape was my stronghold, my expertise, my refuge.
If I couldn't be outside, I was reading a book about things people did outside. Clara Barton was my favorite character! She rode horses astride, was stronger than any boy, and served as a heroic nurse during the Civil War. I wanted to be as crazy and caring as that! Miss Barton and I had something else in common - I was painfully shy as a kid. At church I hid behind my mother's skirts as a toddler, hated being up front, and refused to shake men's hands until nearly in my teens. I was not an especially timid person, it just took a lot to get me out of my shell. Then there were my tomboyish ways. I preferred hockey sticks to dolls and didn't like wearing skirts, or even shoes. It's funny how some things change and some don't.....
This summer I spent the first big chunk of time at home in a while. I rode horses, cooked to my heart's content, and basked in sunsets unpolluted by rooftops. Idling in Walla Walla's fancy new restaurants was nice, but the real joys came in rediscovering the world I knew as a child. Finding that thicket with the plums so ripe you could hear them falling without so much as a breeze. Hearing the bear cubs scramble up the tree while riding by. Picking blackberries over the old cellar. "Spying" on the valley from the old dead combine out back. Reading a book in the grass with the dogs sprawled out beside me. School and the city seemed to be distant memories.
But a distant memory is still reality in many cases. And mine is back to haunt me. Well, it's not THAT bad :) School is interesting and challenging. Portland has good shopping and lots of ethnic vegetarian food. I have access to fast internet and unique cafes, and great concerts.
But even a performance by Jon Foreman can't quite measure up to the thrill of an unspoiled landscape ahead and a fast horse below.