Reflections on the Land

I have only known this land “after the fire.” I never experienced the fear and devastation over the loss of what was once a flourishing forest. Nearly four years have passed since those fires ravaged this area, and while no one resided here permanently at the time, nearly everyone lost whatever structures they had. Only remnants from the oak cabin that once stood on our land, a burned and rusted metal chair and an old terra-cotta pot are all that are left. Charred and blackened trees still dominate the landscape interspersed among the living in a mosaic pattern only fire knows.

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The largest of the Ponderosa Pines resides just on the shore of the lake, standing stoically even in death. I am struck by how beautiful this tree is, quite possibly more striking in black with her bare and twisted branches held frozen in time. There will undoubtedly come a time when she can no longer bear the weight of her own crown, and will crack or collapse entirely into the lake. Oh how even the mighty can fall.

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Despite all that was lost, signs of recovery are everywhere here. And while I will likely not witness the return to its full glory during my lifetime, I am so grateful for the opportunity to steward this land and watch nature find its way forward. There is joy and wonder to see the pine and larch saplings coming up under the seemingly watchful eyes of their dead sentinel mothers, the spindly young aspen trees cropping up everywhere readying the soil for future generations of larger trees, the deer trails crisscrossing through the fire weed between the lakes, and the osprey screeching high in the hills. The plants and animals have come home and have so much to teach us about hope, resilience, and the healing that comes with time.

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Stewarding on…

Life certainly moves in weird and occasionally wonderful ways. Last year at this time, we were in the initial stages of packing up our home to set off on a world wide “adventure.” Fast forward to today, August 17th, 2018, (which happens to be my late father’s birthday) we are now the proud owners of a 46 acre lake and forest property in what is known as the Lime Belt in Okanogan County. Even I can’t really fathom this shift over such a short period of time. How have we gone from languishing in the dusty haze of Kathmandu to stewarding forest land under the currently smokey summer skies of rural Washington State? How did we get here? Are we crazy? Those are questions that have crossed my mind, many, many times.

I realize that this all sounds a bit drastic, perhaps more so because my blog has suffered considerable neglect over the last several months. I just couldn’t bring myself to write. We stayed far too long in Kathmandu, drowning in family drama, and due to circumstances beyond our control, were unable to continue on to South Africa as we had hoped. Rather defeated, we chose our path home, a good 2 months earlier than we had anticipated. That was hard. It was hard to accept, and even harder to discuss with folks back home. So I did what any good introvert would do, I retreated into myself and in the company of good friends, those that knew our story and understood our hardship. Because I do ascribe to the “everything happens for a reason,” outlook on life, I truly believe we were meant to come home early so we could heal and begin on this next journey.

None of this would have happened if it weren’t for our dear friend Matt, who introduced us to this amazing land, as well as opened his cabin to us repeatedly over the last few months. We are also so grateful to Emily, our agent, who is a rare gem, and one of only a few agents who really knows and loves this area. Her enthusiasm and eagerness to tromp over downed trees and wade through the undergrowth of newly formed animal trails in 90 degree heat is truly remarkable. She even hauled our kids up on the roof of her trusty ’90’s 4Runner (same year as ours) to marvel at a baby fawn hiding in the bushes. I love that!

Over the next few months, we will be working with a professional forester to develop an integrated forest management plan. Since our property was one of the many in the area that was impacted by the devastating 2015 fires, much of the focus will be on forest restoration and regeneration. I know we will learn a huge amount from this process and are looking forward to stewarding this land, not only for our enjoyment but to the future benefit of the forest and wildlife. I have the best intentions to document our experiences and education here, but who knows. In any case, stay tuned.

(Just to clarify, we won’t be relocating here full time, it will be a home away from home).