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).

 

Valley Walks

While we await Kishore’s South Africa visa, we have been biding our time taking walks in and around Kathmandu valley. It is still quite hazy, but it gets us out of the hustle of the city for a time.  Please enjoy a few views from this past week.

The Fields outside the village of Khokana, Kathmandu Valley

 

Views from Chobar and the Aadinath Temple

 

 

Chobar resident watching construction at the temple

 

I Was Doing so Well…

…keeping up with my blog while we were in Nepal. We are into week 3 of our month long tour in India. We have already toured the golden deserts, palace forts and temples of Rajasthan, walked and swam on the beaches of Mararikulum and boated the backwaters of Kerala. We’ve watched traditional Kathakali dance and martial arts performances in Fort Cochi and explored the tea and spice plantations outside of Thekkady. Not to mention, sampling the local delicacies along the way. Whew! Makes me tired just thinking of it all. It has been amazing and exhausting, chaotic and tranquil.

It is Christmas Eve as I write this from our shabby hotel room in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. It is the first day we are without activities and the kids are happily watching a English dubbed Jackie Chan movie, set in all places, India.

I am so overwhelmed with post processing, I’ll just share a smattering of images from our trip so far. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Love from India!

Dawn

New Delhi

Jaisalmer

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Jodhpur

Kerala Kathakali Cultural Center – Fort Cochin

 

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Mararikulum

 Fisherman at Marari Beach

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Sights along the Kerala Backwaters from a houseboat

Our Gang (minus a few) and hosts in Mararikulum

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Roses and Thorns

Our family adopted a tradition from some dear friends a few years back entitled Roses and Thorns. Before tucking in for the night, we all join together to reflect on our favorite and least favorite events from the day. In all the chaos of daily life, it has become an enjoyable respite and a way for us to all connect and reflect as a family. Before we embarked on our big trip, it was also a means to tease out what the kids were up to while at school or other various activities. Now that we are together 24/7, it is a time to check in to see how we are all doing and reminisce about our adventures big or small. I started to log these roses and thorns in a notebook to keep a diary of our trip. Yesterday, was the first time, my daughter really couldn’t think of a thorn.  Yes!

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My tribe in Patan

We have now been in Nepal for just over a month. Aside from our trek out of the valley, we have stayed entirely in Kathmandu. The hustle and bustle of the city can at times be over stimulating, with the pollution, traffic and constant noise, but I have to admit I love it. I think this is the first time that I have not let the negatives get to me and just embraced it all. We have been going on short excursions to temples, stupas, and walks into the old section of the city. In just a mere 15 minute jaunt across the Basmati foot bridge from my in-law’s house in Chhauni, we can be in Jhhonchen (Old Freak Street), Asan, Durbar Square or New Road. This old section of Kathmandu is so full of life and color and hustle it is a joy to take it all in. Below are a some images from the last few weeks. Thank you for following us on our journey!

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Young child in Asan
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One of the thousands of dogs on the streets of Kathmandu
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Ceremony on the streets of Patan near the old Durbar Square

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Evanan waiting for our visa photos in Chhauni

We Already Are Where We Are

As we were leaving the Muktinath temple on our way back to the village of Kagbeni, my daughter reached the entrance gate and said, “We already are where we are.” Certainly, she meant that we had returned back to where we started but I was so charmed by this statement. It has become a mantra in a way. Each time we reached a place we had been before, I found myself saying it. We are where we are and we keep coming back. A metaphor of sorts.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I went on the Annapurna trek exactly 20 years ago. We did it in reverse this time, flying into Jomsom and walking back to Ghasa. It was my goal to make it up to Muktinath since we were unable to reach there the last time due to the all too common traveler’s sickness. It was wonderful to be back here with our children despite some of the challenges with the road. Development in the area has certainly had a negative impact for trekkers, but we were able to find alternative trails that avoided the dusty and often times dangerous road.

Rather than bore you dear readers, with a full trip report, I offer these visuals. I did spend some extra time to caption the images if you are so inclined.

 

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Queue for the next flight.
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The village of Jomsom

 

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Carrying water to make Chaang

 

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Donkey transport
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Mother and child along the roadside between Kagbeni and Jharkot.

 

 

 

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Don’t follow the herd