Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Roots Are Showing

When someone asks me “where are you from?” my mind is flooded with thoughts. Douglas fir trees, cold oceans, snow capped mountains, roses, the smell of fresh ground coffee, wet Labrador, pine, and rain, and the feeling of cozy flannel, puffy vests and comfy boots.  However, if someone were to ask more specifically “where is your family from?” my mind would wander east, toward rolling wheat fields and broken down barns and travel all the way down to the sunny clear skies of California. This past weekend I headed out for the open road, and found myself winding through the countryside of Eastern Oregon and Washington–the very same stretch of land that generations before me had walked so many miles to discover (and eventually settle). While I have always said “you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl,” there was something really peaceful about zig zaging through the open valley of my ancestors.

Our family ranch is located in the small town of Pomeroy. The old house and barn, while falling apart, are tucked in the folds of golden wheat fields. As I stood in (what felt like) the skeleton of the barn, and looked out over the open valley, I thought about what it must have felt like to discover this place after traveling so far. While I never met my grandmothers, my great grandparents, or my great, great, grandparents, the creaky wood of the barn beneath my feet, the cool breeze on my face and the sunrays hitting the wheat fields connected the past to the present.  I knew they were there.

While I am used to the hustle and bustle of city life, the country is a nice change of scenery. During the day, sheep dot the skyline, working their way across the land. Farmers are early to bed, early to rise, and if you keep your eyes peeled, you can spot coyotes, blue birds and barn owls. At night, the stars light the sky as far as the eye can see and it is so quiet that you can hear your own heartbeat. As I took in the landscape, and listened to old family stories, I was reminded that this (too) is part of my genetic makeup–my DNA– and is (also) where I am from.

This cup is for the Houser’s (because this land was made for you and me)

by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me


As I was walkin'  -  I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side  .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

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