One of the stops we made on our California travels was at the home of my cousin and her husband and their six kids and the home of my aunt and uncle. It was all one stop as they live on adjoining properties in the little Sierra foothill town of Oakhurst. Just saying “We’re going to Oakhurst” brings a joy and excitement to members of my family – my siblings all know exactly what I’m talking about.
Beautiful properties that through my aunt and uncle and grandparents I grew up visiting as often as I could. It is a special place for me with many fond memories and a sense of peace.
Maybe it is made more special in that my mom, sister of my aunt, daughter of my grandparents, passed away, my dad is remarried to a wonderful woman and they have their own spot, so my sense of “home” as I knew it growing up remains only at this place.
We spent our Christmases here year after year.
As a young mom, I brought my toddler here and stayed to help care for my grandmother when my aunt and uncle needed a break to travel and see friends.
We listened to music here, watched sunsets, held kittens, petted donkeys, swam in the pool, launched backpack trips into the high sierra, all in this very special place.
It has changed over the years, trees have grown in my 40+ years of memory. Houses have been built – I still have a distinct memory of my grandfather meeting us at the property when he brought down cabinets he built at another location to install into the retirement house he was building for he and my grandmother. I was young, but I remember him telling my mom not to bring paper towels for washing windows because they left lint, but to bring old news paper instead – no streaks that way.
It has a smell of oaks – and of oak wood burning in the winter. There is a familiar buzz of bugs in the summer, and a wonderful breeze in the shady spaces.
It is a place where my cousin-in-law can have his business in a building that was first a craft room, and then a “doll house” guest room occupied by some pretty special people over the years, with wood enough to get through a winter or two stored underneath. Now two professional men can talk a bout business and professional matters while watching children at play out the open door.
Even the rake is romantic in this place.
My mom’s ashes are buried here not far from the “doll house.” My grandparents too – they are under one of the big oaks.
It is a place of inspiration for J and his budding adventure into raising chickens and ducks for their eggs just like his cousin is doing.
This place is not far from Yosemite, where my uncle worked several seasons doing repair work to a water flume (or out-right building it, I can’t remember). While there he had access to old worn out signs from the park, and the property is decorated with those, many of which are places I’ve hiked to – like Burro Pass, the location of a back pack trip with my dad and 7 boys from my church youth group during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in high school.
Even the ground in this place is beautiful – so full of life coming and going in such an expression of nature and creation wrapped into one great big opportunity to praise God for the way he makes it all work.
Sometimes you do funny things here – don’t use the power between noon and 4 because it cost more during those hours – get that laundry done early. You hang clothes on the line and they look beautiful fluttering in the wind.
Adults make bedrooms out under the oaks here – and sleep in them all year round, rain or snow. Just follow the path to the open bedroom and you will know the magic!
Patriotism is expressed with honor and excitement here – including the excitement of a good hot political discussion from time to time – free speech for all!
Food is grown right on the trees and in the garden. My grandfather used to have the biggest garden I had ever seen, and he grew enough to give it to the senior center and sell it at the farmers market – and it made him happy to be out in that garden. Once he even had a heart attack out there – went in, took a shower and drove himself down to the clinic, waving to my grandmother driving back up the mountain on his way down to town. Yep, it is a place of character!
And a place where beautiful things find their home. I don’t know how to explain it, but other people’s cast-offs and weeds just blossom into eye candy here.
Old ceramic power parts abound – my uncle once worked for the power company as a lineman, and he brought them home as he replaced them. They are pieces with stunning glazes and simple design that just fit right in among the branches and leaves.
It is the place where this summer my boy had a water balloon fight with an 89-year-old man – and the 89-year-old man got the best of it with a coffee can filled with water. It is the place where stories of printing presses from Detroit to San Francisco are legend, and cooking is an art, and money is just not necessary in order to be richly blessed and wealthy beyond measure.
Frugality rules here, and the result is joyful living without the distractions of keeping up with the Jones or anyone else.
Hymns and old 33 albums play all day long. Music has been played and sung by folks of all ages here – if you played an instrument you brought it when you came to visit because there would be a chance to share what you learned and hear what others have learned.
Sit and enjoy books, recipes, photo albums of times gone by. Apple sauce, “secret fudge recipes,” venison steaks for breakfast always hit the spot. Roosters crowing, fires crackling, finding Venus on the horizon at sunset. Lively discussion, hugs and laughter. These things all decorate this special place.
Obviously, I could go on and on, and it wouldn’t mean a thing to most of my readers, but it sure does mean a lot to my heart.