What's Tony Thinking

From the Wallowas: Seasons Change


The rhythm of the seasons, I receive gratefully as a sign of God’s providence. When so much else seems out of whack, summer giving way to fall here as it is now, is reassuring. Here’s a lovely springtime photo of the Lake, Wallowa Lake, Linda took back in May.

This summer in the Wallowas has been unusually warm and dry. Not since February have we had a month when rainfall was near “normal.” But August, oddly, has already exceeded annual average rainfall for the month. Not the torrential rains of New Jersey or Tennessee, thank goodness. Just a cooling, greening half inch plus.

And the temperatures have dropped by twenty degrees on both ends, the highs and lows. From the 90’s to the 70’s daytime. From the 50’s to the 30’s at night. You forget how quickly it can all change. And of course, the nights are growing longer, the days shorter. I am less eager to get into the Lake for a swim than I have been throughout the summer.

Our nearest (cabin) and oldest neighbor, Mary Burtis, died this past weekend at her home in Portland. For the first time in many years, she did not make it to her cabin this summer. We thought she was coming in July, but that didn’t happen.

Mary, who was 94, was the last of her generation, the generation of my own parents. She was a contemporary of my mother’s younger sister, my aunt Margaret. Mary not only knew my aunt and her partner, Muriel, she knew all my grandparents. She was the last living link to that era, a different time here at the Lake.

She embodied many of the qualities of people of this county and her generation. A certain toughness and a matter of fact approach to life. Not sentimental. A nurse, she delivered a baby deer maybe fifteen years ago, when its mother was having a hard time one night near her cabin. She seemed to know everyone and how they were connected. “Oh, he’s a (fill in a last name), or “she was married to (fill in the blank).” She was a careful observer of humanity, peppering her observations with anecdotes and wry comments. Thrifty too. When we would do her shopping for her, she would reimburse us to the penny.

In recent summers Mary’s time at her cabin had gotten difficult. She preferred to be on her own here, but as happens, that was getting harder and at times worrisome. But she persisted. Another characteristic of people here.

Seasons change. Lives end. Others begin. If it didn’t seem so normal it would be astounding. Take that back, it is. My sister, Regan, died seven years ago tomorrow.

One more photo. Laura and me at a music evening at Wallowa Lake Lodge earlier this summer. Taken by granddaughter, Lila, age 6.

So we ease into autumn. “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to gather what was planted . . . a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 2, 4) Grace and peace be with you all.



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