Friday, February 4, 2011


Views from Dufur Hill

I've just returned from a relaxing and productive writing retreat at a poet friend's home in Dufur Oregon. When I arrived, after two hours in the car, I was eager for some exercise. It was a cold, clear day so we climbed Dufur hill for the spectacular views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. Miles and miles of undulating hills—wheat fields in the summer months, but now dry stalks shorn to the ground. I collected tumbleweeds and a wizened sunflower from someone's yard to make a desert ikebana.

Dufur, incorporated in 1893, is a farming community of about 588 people. All of them were either inside the school building (Grades 1-12), working in The Dalles, or keeping warm inside their homes when we strolled through town walking the dog. I saw the entire town in two dog walks—crumbling Victorian houses in all shades of pastels, fire hydrants painted blue, Kramer's Store with its oak wood floors and vegetables displayed in bins, and the famous grandfather clock. This late 1800's clock adorned the clock maker's jewelry store, then the Johnson Brothers Bank. When the bank was bought out and moved to The Dalles, people in Dufur assumed that the clock would stay in town. After they heard it was to be moved, they threatened to close their accounts at the bank. So now it welcomes the townspeople as they come to pay their house taxes and water bills at City Hall. It was nearly 9:30 when my friend and I stopped by. I asked the woman behind the desk if it gonged on the half hour because I wanted to stay and hear it—imagining how beautiful the sound from that huge clock would be. "No, it doesn't gong anymore," she said sadly.

Red glass ashtrays and figurines caught the sunlight in the windows of the former bank. We pressed our faces to the window and there we saw piles and piles of deer and elk antlers. Beyond the antlers, the bank cages with their brass bars and signs saying "Teller" stood empty, the carvings on the wood panels collecting dust.

Johnson Brothers Bank Window


  1. To face such vast expanses would leave me totally without words... standing still trying to be open to such enormity. I wonder if you felt something awareness of something other?

  2. I felt enfolded by hills and mountains—and so small.