A guest post by Loran Hills of Loran’s Heart.
(Joanna’s note: I am fascinated by the ways that people love the Places they call home, and I love hearing their stories. Here’s one by my friend Loran.)
I raise my arms and greet the east:
In my youth I dreamed of living in the country. Eventually my dream came true. My husband and I live on twenty acres in the alpine desert of northeastern Utah. Surrounded by sagebrush, cedars and juniper trees, our house sits at 6800’ (2072m). Cactus, sego lilies and Indian paintbrush bloom in the spring. The Uinta (you-in-tah) mountain range is the only one in the US that runs east – west.
Today I walked east on a gravel road to the mailbox. Bridgid’s Day is in the past but it’s not yet Spring Equinox. The days are getting longer.
Spring weather is unpredictable. “If you don’t like it, wait five minutes.” We can experience snow, rain, sun, and hail all in one day.
My two children were young maidens when we moved here and, although they could roam free, they often preferred to play inside. I never understood this. As a city kid I longed to play outside in the woods.
I raise my arms and greet the south:
Castle Cove is magical. It’s a stunning blend of rock formations and pine trees. Fog and snowstorms arrive over the top of the mountain and swirl around the rocks. The play between sun and clouds, weather and terrain is enchanting.
We live at the end of a dead end road. Visitors from the city comment how quiet it is. Today I heard the wind and the birds.
Summer weather is dry, windy and hot, but not unbearably so. Sometimes there are large and dangerous fires.
As teenagers my daughters couldn’t easily sneak in and out of the house. They couldn’t get cell service then either. It was a good thing.
I raise my arms and greet the west:
Pine Ridge is covered in Ponderosa pines; they are large, old, magnificent trees. One of them is my special friend. I visit when I can but it’s a steep, treacherous climb up. After a back injury last year I climbed down from the road to visit instead but it wasn’t the same.
There is a two-hour hike from the house to a cow pond at the bottom of Sawtooth Ridge where once I saw a coyote. We frequently hear them at night. I’ve seen fox too. The jackrabbit and cottontail populations ebb and flow.
Fall is usually the most beautiful season of the year with its balmy days and chilly nights.
My children are in college and my nest is empty now except for the holidays and summer.
I raise my arms and greet the north:
Dry Fork Canyon is well known to tourists who travel the Red Cloud Loop Road to behold the sandstone cliffs and wildlife. I’ve traveled to many exotic places in the world, but the Flume Trail remains one my favorite places to hike. Every excursion on the trail is unique to the time of day and season.
Winter can be harsh, extremely cold and filled with snowy days. It lasts a long time; sometimes it feels eternal. Although it’s not good for the water table, this winter has been quite mild.
We live with animals, both wild and domestic. Every evening a flock of wild turkeys peck and scratch under our birdfeeders looking for seeds before they roost at night in the cottonwood trees. Deer raid the bird feeders too and eat my columbines and day lilies. Blue jays hop into the duck coop looking for scratch. Occasionally, in winter, a goshawk will come down from the pines and scout its prey.
Driving home one night a mountain lion crossed the road in front of me. I was so thrilled I almost stopped breathing. Some time ago a moose met me on the Flume Trail. I’ve seen traces of bear on the trail too. Our llamas sound their alarm when there are intruders. The dogs are friendlier when they greet new arrivals. Skunks, raccoons and magpies enjoy the cat food.
Because we have no light pollution, on a clear night the Milky Way gleams in the sky. It’s easy to follow the cycles of the moon, the sun, the planets and the constellations. I love to gaze at the Pleiades in winter’s heavenly vault.
The circle is cast.
I grew up on the east coast where it’s congested with people and vegetation. When I first moved “out west,” the terrain was vast beyond my comprehension. Now I adore the open space.
Little Mountain is red in color and sits above the Dry Fork Cemetery, an old settlement graveyard. Although it’s not groomed, there are a lot of quirky decorations, stone benches and well-seasoned headstones. I felt inexplicably happy when I bought my burial plot a few years ago.
With camera in hand, I’ve increased my awareness of minute changes in light and season. My connection to the Earth nourishes my spirit daily. I have become native to this land that I love wholeheartedly.