People who, like me, love to read about the history of the Methow Valley will likely be eager to buy a “new” book — if a volume published a century ago can be considered new — as a Christmas present to themselves. They also many be motivated to buy copies of Seven Years on the Pacific Slope for family and friends.
The book was authored in 1914 by Mrs. Hugh Fraser and her son, Hugh C. Fraser, after a seven-year stay in the valley in the days when pioneer families were still getting footholds and visionary entrepreneur Guy Waring was Winthrop’s primary mover and shaker. The Frasers were worldly aristocrats whose arrival probably baffled many hardscrabble Methowians. To learn more about why the widow Fraser and several members of her family ended up here, see the story on page A5.
Local author Peter Donahue and former Methow Grist editor Sheela McLean have collaborated (with help from many others) to republish the book, in a shortened form and with photographs added, just in time for the holidays. It is a sprightly read. Mrs. Fraser (who Donahue and McLean concluded was the primary author) was a keen and witty observer. For McLean, a fourth-generation Methow resident whose family is chronicled prominently in the book, it’s more than a history lesson — it’s genealogy with a literary twist.
As the wife of a British diplomat, Mrs. Fraser had visited and written about places like China, Japan and Chile at a time when travel to those countries was beyond the imagination of most people. What could the Methow Valley offer compared to that vivid spectrum of experience?
It seems the Methow worked its magic on Mrs. Fraser, just as it still does today for both first-time visitors and long-time residents. By the end of her stay, Fraser was able to answer a question many of us still hear today with an answer that is as powerful and insightful as any the current generation could give:
“Many a time we have been asked in these long seven years, by old friends in the populous places, ‘Why on earth do you live in the Methow?’ In answer to that question we say, ‘Because it is what its people call it, God’s Country. Because of the green glory of its summer mornings, the awesome beauty of its winter nights, the bloom of its unrifled soil; because our tired souls can breathe freely under the vast circle of the Methow sky; because every star and tree and hilltop has become a landmark on a journey of rejuvenation for minds deafened by the warring noises of the world; because (perhaps, the strongest reason of all) the mental atmosphere of the Home Valley is as untrammeled as its airs.’”
Then and now, that pretty much sums it up.
Give thanks — ‘The End’ is coming
The not-so-big secret about Christmas at the End of the Road is that it’s largely a celebration put together by locals for locals — while at the same time offering visitors and residents alike a chance to revel in feeling like part of the community.
There’s hardly a better way for our friends from outside the valley to get their “total Methow” on than hanging around this coming weekend — more so this year because, for the earliest time since Methow Trails started grooming, the valley’s Nordic trails are ready for the season. Since the worst days of last summer and even through a gorgeous fall, a common refrain in the valley has been “bring on the snow.” Well, it’s here, and for that on this Thanksgiving holiday we can be grateful.
And although “Black Friday” isn’t much of a phenomenon in the valley, it does more or less launch the holiday shopping season in earnest. This year, we again urge you to spend as many of your gifting dollars as you can with local merchants, artists and producers. Let’s be thankful for, and support, each other in what Mrs. Fraser knew 100 years ago was “God’s Country.”