Today is our 15th anniversary, and it seemed a special one to celebrate, especially because we moved less than a year ago to the very area we fell in love with on our honeymoon. My husband worked in his office this morning; I worked on some projects for our stormwater allies, and we reserved the afternoon for a road trip to Palouse, Washington, a small town — a very small town — about 50 miles away.
Before deciding on Palouse, we considered going to Pomeroy for coffee. Pomeroy is about 40 miles away, but we have been there several times, and have never been to Palouse that we could recall. I had asked a friend who is actually from Pomeroy if there was a place there he would recommend for coffee. The only place he could think of was Myers Hardware, but he said their coffee was very good. Since we left in the mid-afternoon, coffee no longer seemed like much of a priority, and seeing Palouse for the first time did. We drove up through Pullman, and came home through Moscow.
College towns have become dull: they are full of chain stores, chain restaurants, chain architecture. Moscow and Pullman look just like Bozeman did in the 80s.
Our conversation along the way spanned all sorts of topics, from social engineering to soil chemistry. We noted a marked shift in soil color to a redder tone as we headed north of Moscow, due probably to red shale present in the parent material of the soil. We noted also, as we proceeded to a slightly higher altitude, that the winter wheat was not as far along as the wheat in the Lewis-Clark Valley, where farmers were able to plant earlier in the fall.
It was an extremely relaxing time, away from computers and away from duties to which we are called through our computers. The colors, the contours of the hills, the productivity of the farms, all enveloped us in a homey comfort, while the sight of the blunt edge of decrepitude in the towns made us thankful for our Valley’s resilience and beauty.
We were as attentive to colors of houses and roofs as we were to the colors of the hills, the wheat, and the soil. While virtually every combination of roof and house colors seemed pleasingly compatible — whether or not it was considered correct on decorator websites — we found that we indeed favored red roofs with houses in the buff-to-brown range, and reaffirmed our decision to roof and paint our house accordingly.
Palouse itself had little going on; one café was open, but the window sign announced that it had music, and we concur with Hemingway, that a good café must not have music. It’s just a thing with us. The world is full of noise and there are no limits on conversation-diluting interruptions, and a café should of all things at least be quiet. Our preference for a clean, well lighted place, quiet and with good coffee, means we generally stay home. Palouse has a couple of rows of pastel-gingerbread businesses: yellow, green, lavender with a cliché Victorian flair, but most of them are for sale or rent. A few antique shops attempt weakly to lure tourists.
I took no pictures; I looked without incentive to capture; and what I would have enjoyed photographing, I knew was beyond the limits of my camera, and I simply didn’t care to be disappointed.
As we crossed over the Red Wolf Crossing Bridge into Clarkston to head home, my husband wanted to look around the marina at an RV park. We walked around, and saw a man piling up driftwood that had washed up during all the storms of the season on the beach, and burning the wood in a grand bonfire. He turned out to be Jock, the park’s owner, and we chatted a while, discovering in him a kindred political and maybe poetic spirit.
So now we have seen Palouse. Palouse is ponderosa pine country. I like trees, but I prefer the open country. The wheat around Clarkston is very green now, and the hills are becoming emerald. Somehow the town is as vibrant as the hills. We chose the right place.