When I embarked on this writing adventure in 2016, I didn’t know where it would take me. At the start, I had a knack for finding humanist themes I could weave together with local stories. I covered subjects ranging from six degrees of separation, free-range dogs, regret, patriotism, to modern parenting in the Methow.
I offered reflections of the seasons and observations of nature. Some columns read like a personal journal, revealing my inner voice to the world. Others were more pragmatic, providing details for upcoming events or recounts of weekend outings. I sprinkled poetry amidst the prose and took liberty to tell others’ stories when time allowed.
Ah, time. Many are surprised to learn my average column was written in two hours, start to finish. Deadlines are midday Monday, and I often woke up Monday with no idea what I’d write about. But once I started, the words just flowed.
I believe this to be a gift. A gift I would not have been able to harness without the excellent and rigorous writing instruction from my high school English teachers Barb Slaughter, Jeff Norton, and Sally Pieper at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane. But I won’t miss the deadlines; they were getting harder to meet.
With nearly 400 columns under my belt, I can admit I got a little sloppy. Like anything with age, you must work harder to keep in shape and I admit I didn’t push myself to improve. I never took a writing clinic, attended a retreat, or even had anyone proofread my work. All things serious writers would do to stay crisp — I did nothing.
When people asked me what I write about, I would say, “the un-newsworthy news.” This is true, but the best part about this job is that I could write about whatever I wanted. Thanks Don, for the freedom to share whatever seemed poignant, fresh and relevant. I tried to stay neutral on most topics, but as a columnist we are allowed to have opinions. Staying neutral has gotten harder in recent years, and you’ll likely see me submitting “My Turn” columns in the future.
A handful of other reasons provoke my goodbye, the least of which is that my husband, who I rarely name in my column, will soon be mayor of Twisp. Our house already feels like a vortex of Twisp hot-button issues swirling around it, so it just doesn’t feel right to be the one with a mouthpiece. There’s no rule against it and Don would gladly keep me on the back page, but like I said, I’ve gotten sloppy, the deadlines, and ugh … now mayoral insights. It’s just too much.
The primary reason I am leaving though is, after waiting in the wings, I am now four weeks into a new position as a landscape architect for the U.S. Forest Service here in central and in western Washington. It’s a huge territory, a new job, and I have a lot to learn. I am maxed out on cerebral endeavors; something had to give.
What does a landscape architect do for the Forest Service, you are wondering? “Why does the Forest needs landscaping?” someone asked me recently. It doesn’t, per se. But it does need scenic protection, improved accessibility at trailheads and campgrounds, and planning and design upgrades to visitor areas. All of these are things landscape architects do and I just so happen to have a master’s degree in landscape architecture and now I get to use it.
Before parting, there’s one thing I need to say to my readers. Thank you. I have been so very touched by those of you who took the time to tell me you appreciated my words over the years. When you stopped me on the street, introduced yourself, and shared with me that you liked a piece. When you dropped me a note to tell me that I made you laugh, or that you learned something, it felt like a warm hug. This column brought me closer to strangers and stitched me into this community in such a unique and blessed way, for this I am eternally grateful. I will miss speaking to you all each week. I already do.
And so, to quote Shakespeare, “parting is such sweet sorrow.” Leaving that which brings true joy begets morose and so it’s with a bittersweet heartache I bid you adieu, my faithful readers.