Here is our new view, or one of them. It's water though not the John Day River. You can't see it well, but there's a waterfall that has a soothing sound not unlike the ripples of the river over rocks. We'll hang the wind chimes soon too and then we'll feel at home here. Well, it's already home because PB the cat climbed onto Bo's back and went to sleep so we know they've adapted.
This is called High Desert Country and we left it 26 years ago. But the weekend before Thanksgiving, we returned. I'm posting a letter we sent via a community list serve to the people who have been our neighbors these past 26 years of our living on the homestead. I thought you might like to read it too.
Some of you may have heard the rumor that we've moved from our homestead on Starvation Lane. The rumor is true. We've returned to the area we left 26 years ago near Bend, OR though we haven't come back to the Bend we left! All things change. A friend of ours said we hadn't given Sherman County people much time to say good-bye; nor have we really said good-bye to each of you. So we hope you'll indulge us on this list serve.
First, thank you. Our years with you have been the grandest adventure of our lives. I began writing for other people to read on our homestead along the river; people from around the world have discovered the kindnesses, innovation, care of the landscape of Sherman County people through my stories; and the Sherar Family and Donald von Borstel 's telling of his ancestors all those years ago resulted in A Sweetness to the Soul a book that garnered awards beyond my wildest imagination and began my career as a novelist. You are all a part of that accomplishment. You've inspired and supported our lives on the river from grading roads to watermelon, hay, grass-fed beef and book purchases, to fighting range fires and saving our home and barn to being available through the Moro Clinic and ambulance services for various sundry things we brought to you via airplanes in the streets of Wasco, Jerry's cancer and tuberculosis, his different emergency surgeries and injury on the ranch. Those encounters were life-saving, live-giving and we are grateful.
Our church family at Moro Presbyterian stays in our hearts in ways we can't describe supporting our faith lives and reaching out to the community in everyday ways that speaks to the grace and love we believe in. We will miss your company the most. Our volunteering with the museum and the library have allowed us in small ways to give back to a people and a place that has given so much to us. Through your care of history at the museum and your understanding of the power and importance of education through the building of the library, we have had a place to express our own values in affirming ways and we are grateful for the opportunities.
Second, we still have the ranch. We'll be coming back and forth for some time finishing things up. My brothers says we should have an auction next summer and have people come and carry off a part of the story but we're not sure how willing people would be to come down the reptile road! The distance and weather conditions are one of the primary reasons we decided to move when we did bringing us closer to health care, an airport and paved roads. (And Jerry did turn 80 this year!) We do have an offer on the ranch and we'll keep you posted about if or when it's sold.
We purchased a single-story home on 2.3 acres between Bend and Redmond earlier this year thinking one day we might finally retire there. Jerry's only brother lives in Bend, Jerry's surgeries have all been at St. Charles and his cancer follow-up occurs there. My nephew and nieces live near Sisters and it's where my sister and all of our parents are buried. When the people who were living in the house we purchased moved in the first part of November and the forecast was for a rough winter (that was like the wet and wild one in 1984-85 the year we were building our home) we decided rather than rent the house out, we should just move here now. And to avoid the big storm predicted before Thanksgiving, we moved all that we could on that weekend. Our friends the Gants who helped us build those years previous came down to help again along with Jerry's son Matt who works for us and Ken and Arla Melzer and some hired help and we drove out before the icy rain arrived.
Our new home is on a cul de sac with a street name of Casa Court (Casa means "home" in Spanish) between Redmond and Bend. The home was built in 1994 and includes a labyrinth for prayerful walking along with a view of high desert juniper and sage, all very different from the meandering river and rimrocks of our past quarter century. The dogs and cat are adjusting. I have a Facebook page, a website, blog and newsletter so hopefully we can keep in touch.
There is a time for all things and this was our time. It was our time to come to Sherman County where we discovered more of who we were and more of why community is so important. And it was our time to enter the next stage of our lives and move to new adventures. Jerry's son and wife still live in Sherman County as does our granddaughter, Mariah, so our ties remain close. We already plan to be back in Moro for a writer's event in March, the annual Read Aloud at the Library in April and for a Sherman County Historical Society fund-raising Twilight Tea in May. So we are not out of your lives just as you will never be completely out of ours.
Coming back will never be the same as I realized when we stopped with our caravan at the top of the ridge on moving day and looked back at the river savoring that view of the water, the mature trees we'd planted around the house, the hundreds of trees we planted along the river. I saw cleared fields where sagebrush once stood. Memories of planting, harvesting, hunting and fishing practically from our doorstep will never fade. Many beloved pets are buried there. The history of those who loved the land before us flashed through my mind: the Slack family, homesteaders long years before; Con Davis whose cabin burned in a range fire; and Bob and Marion Boynton who didn't live there but from whom we purchased the property more than thirty years ago. We took a risk in 1979 buying property we couldn't really afford but we were drawn to and we were rewarded with some of the happiest times of our lives. We would not replace our years in Sherman County for anything. And when the time was right, we risked again to leave, trusting that we have never been alone on this journey.
My friend Mary Anne Radmacher writes, "Live as if this is all there is." And so we have tried to; and hope to continue to; and wish the same blessing for each of you. May this good-bye be just a new beginning.
Warmly, Jerry and Jane Kirkpatrick