Pioneering Spirit

13 May

I’m in Hood River this weekend, staying at the historic Hood River Hotel, built in 1911.

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My room, which has a four-poster bed, overlooks the Mount Hood Railway and the Columbia River. This morning, I watched the sun rise over the hills on the other side of the river. It gets me thinking of the Lewis and Clark expedition traveling down the river and pioneers making their way to Oregon. Hood River is the heart or Oregon’s orchard industry and I am especially enjoying being here because I just finished reading Tracy Chevalier’s At the Edge of the Orchard. The story of a pioneering family is told in alternating voices and  moves back and forth in time between the Black Swamp of northeastern Ohio to California’s redwood forests.

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Publisher’s Summary: 1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.

1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.

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