Well, not a secret, exactly. More like something I’m trying to talk myself out of, like an illicit vice or lust. And lust is probably the most apt description, though there’s nothing illicit about it. You see, I am in love with the Okanogan and Columbia Highlands areas of Washington State. I have lust in my heart for these areas, and don’t quite know what to do about it.
First, let me describe, if I can, why these lands make me giddy… Okay, forget it, I can’t. The descriptors that come to mind seem tired and trite, and wholly inadequate. Stunningly gorgeous? In spades. Next. Breathtakingly beautiful? Check. Next. Glorious? Um, yeah. Like, a chorus of angels singing glorious. Like, so pretty it will bring tears to your eyes and a lump to your throat. Like, something here speaks to me, at some visceral, elemental level, and the vistas are so achingly beautiful they make me want to cry. On a September afternoon, with the sun warm and the breeze blowing, the giant, fluffy clouds sailing overhead like clipper ships, you want to yelp with joy for being alive and able to appreciate this. And this is the “ugly” time of year, according to a local. Can you imagine how perfectly glorious this scene would be with my bird crazy bird dog quartering the field a couple hundred yards out?
While much of the eastern part of Washington State is essentially high desert–dry and unforgiving, with sagebrush as the most abundant vegetation (aside from the multi-dammed Columbia River irrigation and the miles of apples, cherries, peaches, and more apples)–if you head far enough north and east, you find this wonderland. It has just the right combination of wide open, big sky vistas and evergreen forests, of rolling hills you want to snuggle up into, with puffy white clouds dotting the oh-so-blue skies, snow covered mountains, and verdant green valleys. And land is affordable. I scan the real estate sites and find parcels with decent homes on 10 and 20 acres, and, be-still-my-heart, sometimes even more acres, that fits in my budget. Why acres of land should make my heart beat faster is beyond me, but the idea of settling on a chunk of this heaven on earth beauty is thrilling to me.
And the wildlife! Not only do you have all the usual players of western Washington State (deer, elk, black bear, cougar, bald eagle, hawks, etc.) but you also have the most recent confirmed sighting of a Grizzly bear in the state (Chesaw) and the Lookout Mountain wolf pack, the first confirmed wolf pack in the state in 50 years. I mean really, does it get any better than this? Imagine stepping outside on a brisk spring evening, the stars a canopy of lights above you, and hearing the sounds of wolf howls in the distance. Sure, your hair would stand on end, but you would know you were alive, and the Earth was singing.
So why haven’t I packed up and left for the hills to satisfy my yearning, my lust for this country? Ah, yes. That. Just a handful of reasons I can’t seem to get around. While my heart sings, the head says, whoa Nellie! Can we talk snow and cold? Like feet of snow and temps in the teens. For weeks. Have you heard of remote? Well, this is north of that. Like Ted Kazynski north. Like “The Shining” remote. Like, no jobs to go to even if you could get there during the winter. Okay so I’m exaggerating a bit. But there are a million little and not so little reasons for my heart’s “cold shower” (good vet care for Cutter is one). And the thought of moving to a place where I know no one, where I, as tree hugging, Obama-loving liberal, single woman, (again) don’t fit the demographics (I’m not anti-hunting or guns, just to set the record straight there), and the winters are below freezing cold (but it’s still blue-sky sunny gorgeous) for weeks on end…well, I’m just not quite ready for that leap. So I lust. And yearn.