FAREWELL TO LEECHER CREEK

Most of you folks in my facebook/ blog circle know that my former home washed away in the flash flood in August. I blogged about it at the time on behalf of my neighbors Bob Elk and Janie Lewis, who’s need for recognition and support in regards to the event was much greater than my own. Having just moved out of the cabin I lived in for twelve years a hairy few weeks prior to the flood, my butt was safely up valley enjoying a potluck while the neighborhood went underwater. I haven’t said much about it since but, those unpredictable waters also ran deep.

I spent twelve delightful and blessed years on Leecher Creek on behalf of the good graces of Richard and Cheryl Wrangle who owned the land and cabin I lived in. It was in many ways a rare opportunity and a charmed life. What started as a temporary living situation while I sought a piece of Methow property for myself turned into a long term love affair. The Wrangles and I fell head over heels in love (who could blame me). They didn’t particularly want me to leave, and the more I came to know them and my new hood, the less I was inclined to. The tradeoff was that Leecher Creek offered a primitive lifestyle, without hot running water or indoor plumbing, and without any sunlight in the winter – at the bottom of that cold canyon, but it was lovely in its own right, with the creek running quietly and consistently fifteen feet outside the back door. For twelve years that was my constant sound track.

There is no longer any trace of that previous life I lived remaining. Not one speck. It was completely and entirely washed away in the flash flood that swept down our canyon last month. The blessing in that is a clean slate to completely reinvent myself. How timely. But it has been a bit haunting to think about what would have happened had I not heeded an urge to leave NOW when that call came.  
For the past year I have been planning on relocating to the Oregon Coast for a while – a change of pace. Loving the Methow as I do, I kept putting off the departure, until the fires started. It was strange, I found myself packing that day with a driven frenzy, knowing somehow this wasn’t a normal fire year: it was going to be BIG and it was suddenly and urgently time to go!
And so I have.
I’m writing this now from the comfort of my three bedroom two bath, washer/ dryer, dishwasher, (yup lots of hot running water) new home, two blocks from the roaring ocean, in Manzanita, Oregon.
The contrast is shocking.
Farewell to the life of solitude and simplicity that I chose for many years. Those circumstances created the opportunity for a rare spiritual journey.
No evidence remains of that sparse life of austerity…except what I carry forward within me.

Farewell Leecher Creek. This blogs for you!

IMG_8222The creek Herself, flowing faithfully and consistently year round, (with the occasional exception). All of the Wrangle’s, Bob and Janie’s and my domestic water came from here. It sprung out of the ground just an eighth of a mile up the canyon, so pure you could drink directly from it. I remember one year a fluffy duckling came bouncing down the creek and landed in the pool at the bottom. He hopped out and waddled around on the rocks then jumped back in and disappeared down the culvert. I’ve still no idea where he came from, or ended up.

IMG_8355A perennial beauty in one of my flower beds. This huge and drunkenly scented Asiatic Lilly is the offspring of one of Bonny Stevens bulbs – a local marvel. What does she feed them???

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 After twelve years of playing in Eden, I had the yard pretty parked out, and the cabin was nicely fluffed too: I re-did most of the interior and banished all the pack rats to the farthest reaches, intruders suffered the consequences (that was over one hundred reckless rodents in a dozen years!)

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IMG_6801Richard and I both loved to watch the light change through the seasons on the ridge across the valley from us.

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My big fire lit bathtub next to the creek. Every day I’d heat a two gallon pot of water and bucket-bathe outside. All year round, even in -20. Taking a tub was more of an event and so deliciously rewarding. It was deeply satisfying to fill the tub with gravity feed water and heat it with fallen branches and pine cones from the surrounding woods, cleaning up my yard in the process. I’d usually heat extra water and haul it aside to do a few loads of laundry too. The whole process, off the grid.

IMG_5059I believe this beauty is actually a fungus in the orchid family. Most years it would pop up in the backyard near the bathtub.

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This one would be fungus, and nibbled upon at that.

IMG_2707It was quite the fairy land.

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I enjoyed frog company every year. There were also wee cotton tail bunnies, flying squirrels, and a rare water vole that lived there too. The vole had me mystified as to its identity for quite awhile, rapidly racing across the surface of the water.

IMG_8054The top of Leecher Mountain, looking down on the foothills above our homesteads.

IMG_0804I loved stepping out the back door for a hike. Seemingly endless hills to stroll.

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IMG_2691To the big mighty Methow and all you peeps there who have touched my life, thank you, every one of you.
I will be mostly at the ocean in Oregon for awhile, until I once again return to the valley and probably my families homestead where I grew up, to nestle in.

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AND NOW A FLASH FLOOD

I’m not ashamed to admit it, I cried buckets when I bade a clinging farewell to my Leecher Creek neighbors Bob and Janie, just a few short weeks ago. For the past twelve years we’ve lived next to one another, a wee country  highway between us. Not too far to shout “Wahoo!  Good morning!” “Hey keep it down over there.” or “Cookies are out of the oven.”.

To my long and unending list of neighborly needs for a hand  (“Can I borrow your power drill?”,  “Help me move my cast iron bathtub? Umph”)  they never once said “no”. Well, Bob always said “no” and then he’d grin and amble over – his teasing way.
Our friendship surpassed “neighborly” years ago, nurtured by many cups of tea over the kitchen table and conversations that seemed to have limitless boundaries.

True to this summers theme of epic natural disasters in the Methow, an unimaginable flash flood roared down the canyon behind where I lived and through Bob and Janies  homestead late last week. In minutes, what would have been a typical summer thunderstorm gratefully drunken in, bounced off the tender, parched, exposed landscape, raindrops merging and building into a roaring mass of mud, picking up speed and debris, uprooting trees and burying everything in it’s path, or sweeping it along with it –  all the way out to the ocean.

I’m so thankful my neighbors are alive1 I’m so grateful I moved a few short weeks ago! There is nothing remaining of the cabin or the slightest trace of the peaceful parked out oasis I called home for over a decade. The devastation on my side of the road was swift and complete. I am still coming to terms with such a close call. The wreakage on Bob and Janies side of the road was equally thorough. They will be coming to terms with the destruction to their entire homestead for many long days ahead.

This loving pair, who’s kindness and playfulness has worked its way into their entire communities heart needs that community now, and it is a community that is bone weary from the past two month of relentless natural events, surpassing anything any of us could have wildly imagined; unprecedented wildfires, gale force winds, more wild fires and flash floods.
This loving couple may need help from folks beyond their community.

Walking through the aftermath and taking it all in yesterday I was unreasonably overjoyed to see that my old cast iron bath tub, they eventually traded me for a power drill, was one of a few things in their yard that hadn’t gotten washed down to the Columbia. To think that a bit of something I’d kept around for so long to put in my own future home would soon go into theirs brought  a smile through the tears.IMG_4129This is looking to the east side of highway 153. It’s what’s left of what once was my home and yard. My cabin was on the back side of the barn like structure that would have stood in the right side of this image. Said “barn” was actually the oldest gas station in our valley.

IMG_4089My old cabin is now wrapped around the front of Bob and Janie’s shop.

IMG_4086…and her car is parked inside the shop. That long pole would be a casually tossed tree.

IMG_4092This new abyss is yawning between their shop and house. Bob’s truck was swept up and washed to the bottom where this meets the river.

IMG_4132Front door of their house. The yard now rests at window level.

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The “many cups of tea” kitchen.

IMG_4103Janie’s daughter Autumn, with her husband Bill dug out several of the farms chickens that were found trapped in the mud the next morning.

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