It’s hard to go home again, or is it?

By Laura Grimes

The Small Large Smelly Boy and I have been on the road for a while, bravely negotiating a clogged highway along a lavender festival, fording a large body of water by ferry, climbing mountains, and gingerly making our way through Sasquatch Country.

JoJo can prove it. Our parenting thinking is so warped that we brought along a buddy to keep him company. Meet Bog. We’re hoping he will keep JoJo’s insatiable appetite for making friends in check. (After the whole embarrassing episode with the Stumptown Tart, we decided we better do something.)

JoJo and Bog hobknob with Sasquatch

We gladly travel through hill and dale for good reason. Now we’re in Eastern Washington, where the family roots run deep and the surrounding hills stay shaved and tan all summer long. Growing up, I played softball in these parts and got horribly sick on irrigation water (I was the stupid kid from the city who didn’t know any better). Good times.

Grandma’s house is long gone. Great-grandma’s house is long burned. But the place still has the beck and tug of an invisible rubber band. Family. I’ve mostly lived in other parts of the Pacific Northwest, but Wenatchee has always been heart and home.

Long ago, I envied the large brood of cousins who could see Grandma whenever they wanted, and I looked forward to every summer when I would spend large chunks of time here, climbing cherry trees and whispering secrets deep into the night. I hopped from relative house to relative house, so many to choose from.

Much of the family is scattered now and the streets have long seemed foreign, but one trip to the cemetery and all the familiar names and I’m reminded otherwise. The town is at once distant and immediate. I have so little in common with it. My memories are so old. I will never truly feel at home here, always the city kid getting sick on irrigation water. I always want more green than these hills can possibly offer. But a good dose of my aunt’s teasing and her warm coffee, and I’m completely relaxed, totally welcomed and know I will find it hard to leave. I’ve left behind different houses in different parts of the region with hardly a glance back — places where I’ve lived and loved — but I still look forward to coming back to this dining table in this town.

Ohme Gardens/Photo from Ohme GardensI thought I knew these hills and rivers and parks and orchards. Imagine my surprise last summer when my mom mentioned Ohme Gardens, a beautiful alpine landscape that was created decades before I was born. It sits on a ridge overlooking Wenatchee, noticeably marked by a tall crown of firs and cedars so different from the surrounding barren brown hills. How is it possible I had never heard of this place?

My mom insisted we go there. And I write about it. So last year we trekked up the mountain, and I dutifully took photos with The Wimpy Camera and took lots of notes. But it was 103 degrees and we melted. I couldn’t hear a story if I tried. Every time I tried to conjure one up all I could see was shimmering heat waves, distorting any true tale that wanted to come out.

It was memorable enough, though, that this week that’s the first place the SLSB and I headed the first morning we had a chance. Our mission: To find the Hobbit Bench. It’s marked on the online site’s map, but not on the laminated maps handed out at the admission booth. Last time, with the printed online map, it was like a treasure hunt. This time, without it, it was simply a bumbling hunt. Luckily, this time the temperature was bearable and the breeze sweet.

The SLSB scampered up and back the stone pathways like a happily herding corgi, insisting I go faster. He waved the map. “I’m leading the expedition!”

“I think I remember it being this way.”

“No! I’m sure it’s this way.”

The narrow twisty steps that test agility are more suitable for a mountain goat. A monarch butterfly landed on a flowering sedum and systematically poked into each flower.

A young teen stumbled. “Arrrgh! I hate these flip-flops!” Her friend snickered with her and waited.

The SLSB, still corgiing back and forth, had no patience for butterflies. He disappeared around a corner, came back and pulled me along.

“Where’s your hat and the map?”


“Where are they? Did you put them in the back of your pants?”

He turned around to prove he didn’t have them, but he only gave me a mischievous smile.

I was getting a bit exasperated. “Quit it. Go get them!”

We reached a little bend and turned. The SLSB looked ahead and grinned. I followed his gaze. We could see into a tiny opening just big enough to squeeze through. Long branches of a pine wept low, propped up by a gnarly log covered with burls. In the little canopy cave the map and his hat were on the Hobbit Bench, a stone seat for two.

We crawled in and sat a spell, pretended to smoke from long-stem pipes, and secretly looked out over the Columbia River valley and the hills beyond.

I could tell about the ferns and the ponds and the hostas and the vistas and the guest book signed by people from Wisconsin, Russia, Kentucky and Texas. I could tell about the woodpecker and the waterfalls. I could tell about the wedding area and the couple who bought this land in 1929 and imagined a pretty garden for their family, a place reminiscent of their homeland. I think it was Switzerland, but the online site tells only so much and my more detailed information, gathered last year, is at home. I hadn’t intended to write so much so soon (or so much so late, take your pick).

But, really, Bertha Whitley Graham, tells it much better. She obviously knew this place as home. Her words are written on a large plaque in the Ox Yoke Lodge near the entrance.


High under the dome of heaven
Where jewel fingered stars
Caress the Earth in blessing,
The moon smiles through filmy bars.

On a spot akin to Eden —
So ethereal it seems;
Where one man stopped to ponder
And fashion his dearest dreams,

There’s a flower bordered stairway
Where the strains of “Oh promise me”
Are made holy by the presence
You can feel but cannot see.

There are shady nooks, moss covered stones,
A pool and a wishing well.
A vista house on the highest point
With pictures no one may sell.

This spot of joy and beauty,
The loveliest in the land,
Is the handiwork of a mortal —
But it’s God that guides the hand.

–Bertha Whitley Graham
presented by O.K. Kane, Memorials.