Our family moved to The Palouse a few weeks after a stay in Tuscany and the resemblance struck me immediately. I wasn’t the first to notice but I think this area is worthy of one more nod to its uncultured beauty before I leave it behind.
Tuscany’s natural sensuousness was cultivated into worldly beauty by men who were given to building castles and walls atop her shapely hills. Meanwhile, her twin sister, The Palouse, lolled away the days of knights and armor, under the feet of men who roamed her curves barely leaving a trace. A sheet from the same rippling canvas that was decorated into rustic sumptuousness by the Etruscans and Romans was left unadorned by the Palouse and Nez Pearce. Surely these tribes would smile in their graves if they could know how they managed to frustrate lucrative prospects for tourism by leaving no monuments for the offspring of their invaders to exploit.
Settlers with imagination left wonderful barns but they fall into ruin with a rapidity unknown to stone castles.
One catches a hint of what might have been by squinting at the turrets of Thompson Hall or the clock tower at WSU…
But, imagine the winding assent to Steptoe Butte culminating in the keep of a stately castle with dusty corners and a great hall lit through stained glass or Kamiak crowned with crenulated walls.
Picture Pullman, sporting an old city gate where a drawbridge once straddled the river or Colfax with cobblestone streets. (Certainly the speed limit is modest enough for such a surface even today.)
Such relics from the past would have given rise to bustling inns and cafés with bright awnings. Tourists with cameras strung around their necks would have flocked here had its earliest inhabitants not been so inclined to live without a footprint before it was vogue. Admittedly, Spokane doesn’t have the same compatible draw that Florence lends to Tuscany and Lewiston isn’t Rome, but these cities languish in obscurity only for the same want of ancient ambitions that has kept The Palouse from the fame her sister has acquired.
I for one am glad though that The Palouse saved herself for the unpretentious. The sister reared in simplicity has the early morning kind of beauty that her twin can no longer undress to the likeness of.
This land is supple and curvy in so many directions. It will not be farmed in flat furrows like its mid-west cousins. It lifts up and pulls down the man who would till its black soil into a golden glow and it stands ready to turn him over should his eye stray.
In the spring garlands of wildflowers are slung whimsically atop a rolling sea of green so vibrant it seems unreal. Pinks and blues are singled out for recognition as the sun cuts its eyes their direction in advance of its full summer gaze.
By July, the sun is focused with such intensity that only shades of red and gold are fully equal to meeting its gaze.
Winter brings ambling blankets of fog that veil the curves in layers of mystery, jealously forcing the sun to peek in around the edges. Snow takes on a new kind of splendor with these hills to aid in the formation of grand drifts.
The gray of winter lingers too long for my taste, but once it gives way to green at last I am smitten again. Where else do you find mile upon rolling mile of grass this green?
It doesn’t stay this this color for long though so I remain loyal at heart to the year-round greens that I grew up with in Western Oregon. Yet, it is impossible not to have your eye turned by this region especially when it is changing clothes in the spring and the fall. To leave in November or February would have been like saying farewell to a friend who has outstayed her welcome, but leaving in the splendor of spring gives me a pang of longing to come back here again before I am even gone.
But, for all that I love about the hills…
The ties I feel to this landscape pale in comparison to the bond I feel for the people I love who have roots established here. Our church family will remain after we go and they will draw me back here on Sundays whenever I visit my family in The Palouse’s answer to Florence. I will miss the distant scenery from my kitchen window, but not as much as I will miss the neighbors in the houses I have to look over to see it. The grand open views I pass on the way to Kate’s or Molly’s will fade long before the pleasant reminiscence of our hours together.
Goodbyes are the bane of the nomadic life. The last days in a joyful place produce an ache that forces me to stifle impulsive resolutions that I will never make new friends and never care about people that I will have to move away from again. But, the joys outweigh the pain and I wouldn’t trade digging deep in each new spot for the ease it might bring to the final stretch in a temporary home. To be a part of so many lives is a blessing I cherish in spite of the tears on my cheeks as I write this final paragraph.
To my friends and church family on The Palouse: I know from experience how much I will miss you. Even if we don’t keep in touch, you will come to mind in future years and bring a smile to my face. May God richly bless you in Christ!
The photos in this post were my favorites from the web mixed in with a few of my own and two taken by my dear friend Kate Gross. The ones that I found on the web will take you back to their home sites if you click on them. I heartily encourage you to check out the beautiful portfolios they come from, especially palousephoto.net and kevinmcnealphotography.com
Here are some more spectacular pictures of the Palouse that I did not include out of respect for the stated policy on the website, but they are worth the cyber field trip, not to mention the photo tips from the blog…. http://thepalouseguy.com/gallery/