Saturday, March 09, 2013

Growing Up Eyre – the Wilderness of Oregon

My dad is (strongly) encouraging us all to document some of the adventures we had growing up.   Each week he sends us an email, and a reminder email, and another email encouraging us to submit our memories on certain topics.  And many of us have obliged and I have loved reading the funny memoires and sharing them with my kids.  Boy, growing up Eyre was quite a ride. 

So, since I’m pretty much on the hook to write something once a week about my childhood I thought I might as well post it up here on the blog for family history sake. 

Starting with, my personal favorite crazy Eyre adventure, Oregon.  One summer, when I was 11 my dad had the crazy idea that it would be really fun to go and spend 5 weeks in the wilderness of Oregon and try our hand at building a log cabin.  And then, since we didn’t quit finish this “cabin” we went back for another summer adventure two years later.

Though this idea felt like a whim to my little 11 year old mind, looking back I realize that of course my parents planned it purposefully.  I’m sure went with the desire to open our eyes and teach us about real work and increase our awareness. They must have longed to push back to simple, bond us together, build our characters and lay a solid foundation.  Don’t we all long for that stuff for our children and our families? 

And I think this little adventure did just that.  It was powerful.  So powerful that I feel like I have to pull off something similar to go down in the  Boston Shumway family story one day.

One day when I’m magically brave and crazy and courageous as my parents were.  Because, this character building experience must have been a LOT of work to pull off. 

Anyway, here’s what I submitted to my dad about my scattered memories and thoughts about our Oregon adventure. 

In my  opinion, Oregon was one of our very best family adventures.  I brag about it all the time.  I mean seriously, what 10 year old kid wouldn't love going to survive in the wilderness for a month in the summer.  The whole idea felt like something out of a novel to me, so packed with adventure and romance.  I remember really enjoying it at the time, but I think I've derived even more joy out of it as time has gone on.  I think our adventures in Oregon really shaped a lot of who I am now.  I'm not afraid of the outdoors, in fact, a big part of my heart is captured by wilderness.  I still crave to go and be alone in with nature, to see great vistas, to wake up with dew on my forehead, to try to push back into time, to a simpler life.  I've told my kids so many stories of Oregon that they all crave to go and try to brave the wilderness and simpler life too. 

Here are some things that come to mind when I think of Oregon.  I'm not sure which ones happened on which trip, they're all sort of muddled together into one big adventure.

  • The way we made things work without the modern world.  The awesome "fridge" we made piping in spring water with pvc pipe to drain into a big rectangular hole in the ground.  I loved scooping up our milk from that cold pool and taking a drink.  I remember trying to wash my hair quite a few times with that spring water, boy did that make your head feel hollow.  I remember the first thing we did was to dig the outhouse hole. I thought it was so great how dad built up a little potty with a real seat for us to sit on.  Mom fashioned a great little tarp around the potty and put in a real toilet paper dispenser.  I remember being so interested in how it all worked, how we had to get Lie for the outhouse to keep the flies out maybe?  I loved how we set up our tents.  Girls tent, boys tent, van for little babies and then the Teepee for mom and dad.  Seriously, that was weird.  Why did they get a Tepee?  I can just see dad getting that in his mind, that it would be cool to live in a Tepee and then going for it.  Gotta love that Dad. 
  • I loved the way we ate there. The campfire dinners, cooking over that old wood burning stove, trying our best to make things that we'd make at home with such different tools.  Something about having to make do with what we had and get creative really stuck with me.  I still feel like I'm pretty good at doing that.  We made cookies and cakes and bread in that wood burning stove.  Mom made some delicious tin foil surprises over the fire.  I remember learning to boil an egg over a fire and trying to cook things in the ground and on sticks and in our own little tin foil ovens.  
  • I love the little adventures mom and dad let us go on all by ourselves.  I remember that Saren and Shawni and I got to go and camp overnight by ourselves on the Grassy Knoll. I don't think it was too far from the main campsite, but it felt like such an adventure.  We made Mac and Chess over a Coleman stove and pitched our own tent and had a great time, feeling all big and tough.
  • I remember mom took us each on our own nature discovery walk.  I remember her pointing out different animal foot prints.  That's about all I can remember, but I'm sure she tried to engage me in all kinds of conversation as we walked.  I remember feeling so excited that I got to go with her all by myself.
  • The only real work I remember doing was stripping logs.  It seems like Shawni and Saren and I did a lot of stripping bark off logs and I remember we always did it in our swimming suits so that we could get a nice dark tan.  Saren says I did a lot more work, especially on the second trip, but I don’t remember that too much.  I guess just living away from all of my taken for granted luxuries was work in and of itself.  I know someone must have been doing a lot of work, because when we got there it was wilderness and nine screaming kids and when we left it was an organized campsite with a little log cabin and dirty, seasoned kids (who were probably still screaming).  2009-07-17 untitled 35407
  • I remember the tent that Saren and Shawni and I shared.  We’d talk late and read in there and write in our journals all by candle light.  I loved that they had to sleep in the same tent as me because I so often got lumped with the little kids and felt left out by the cool big girls.  2013-03-08 misc 71019
  • I remember being so excited to go into town and swim.  I remember being a little worried that all 9 of us were showing up as dirty as we were at the public pool, but feeling so relieved to be clean!  I also remember taking quite a few solar shower showers.  That little black bag didn't heat up the water too well, and the water pressure was severely lacking.   I tried washing my hair in the spring water a few times, and boy, does that make your head feel hollow.
  • I remember playing a lot in the woods. Climbing around on the alder trees and swinging in our pocket hammocks.   2009-07-17 untitled 35393
  • The second time we went I had to wear a neck gear and I remember being so happy that I didn't have to see any of my friends and trying to wear it as often as I could to get those teeth moving before we got back home .
  • I remember swinging with little Charity in the hammocks and singing her songs and teaching her all kinds of things.  I spent a lot of time with Charity in those woods. 
  • I loved all the names we gave to the little places we discovered: The Grassy Knoll, The Looking Glass Gorge, the Hollow tree.  
  • I remember sitting by the campfire when it was dark and having mom read to us.   I remember loving that.

I know that all of my siblings didn’t have the same rosy experience that I had, and I’m sure I’m missing a million details that maybe weren’t quite so romantic.  But really, I think it really hit at just the right age for me. 

For another perspective, and some serious humor, here’s some of the stuff that my little brother Noah (who is fantastic) thought of the whole thing (he was 6 or 7).  Dirty, crazy, funny, happy stuff.   

  • I loved heading to Ollie's pond. He had a little boat and Tal and I would have contests so see who could push it out and then jump onto it from the shore at the furthest distance.  Also Ollie's pond was where we would start out PVC pipe check. Through the woods. Each time we did this I was fascinated at how (as dad taught us) the holes had likely come from some kind of animal searching for water.
  • Alder trees. Probably the thing I most looked forward to in anticipation for each return trip to Oregon. We'd go for what seemed like hundreds of yards without touching the ground jumping from one tree to the next. Once Eli slipped and started to fall but caught himself on a branch somehow. He was safe but somehow it left him hanging there in the tree with his pants down and a nice long scrape that ended way too close to the reproductive area. Yikes I thought in my head.
  • Like Tal mentioned, We would find alder trees with two branches close together and figured they would make fantastic toilet seats so we would carve a smooth seat through the bark and poop from high in the air. Oh the joys of watching that poop drop! Certainly beats going in the stinky little outhouse.
  • I remember the older girls using that bag of water shower where it would hear up in the sun and then there was a shower head on it. I have absolutely no recollection at all of ever bathing or showering (though we did occasionally swim at Jubilee lake or Olie's pond). 2009-07-17 untitled 35403
  • I loved those pocket hammocks too. We would wrap ourselves in them and spin. Also remember challenging each other to eat dirt under the hammocks and I remember swallowing a few solid handfuls. Maybe we were trying to follow Charity's lead
  • Fridge. I loved that cold spring water fridge which as Tal mentioned was just a hole in the ground. I remember milk and apples and other things floating around in there.
  • Fire coals still hot in the morning.  I remember being fascinated with how we could use the still glowing coals in the morning to start a new fire
  • Cub's gun. I shot Cub's pistol up at the grassy knoll. and I believe I fell right over on my bum from the power of it
  • Church at the grassy knoll
  • Mac and cheese on the old stove! What excitement I had when we cooked mac and cheese on that wood fuelled stove!
  • Eli swollen eye. Yeeeesh (to be said while lowering your chin to your neck and widening the bottom lip)2009-07-17 untitled 35401
  • I remember worrying about the base on the front right of the cabin because there was some talk of it sinking in
  • Also I remember talking with the boys in he tent about Mike Tyson and how he knocked a guy out in 8 seconds.

For a more rounded picture of this crazy adventure check out Saren’s big write up here, and Shawni’s take on it here (both with awesome journal entries) and better pictures.

It certainly wasn’t quite so perfectly exciting and awesome in the moment to a teenager as it was to the “little kids”.   I’m certain there was plenty of grumbling from all of us.  But, even if we were grumbling, we were grumbling through it together and there is nothing like grumbling together to really solidify a strong sibling bond!

What I do know is that all of us now LOVE that we did this.   We love the memories, the gratitude and awareness it planted in us, the connection it gave us with simple and with beauty and surely most importantly with each other. 

(pictures all stolen from my sister Shawni’s blog.  Thanks Shawn, I’m too lazy to dig them all up myself.)

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