CANNON BEACH — When Barbara Drake and her husband left Portland and moved to a small farm in western Oregon’s Yamhill Valley in the late l980s, they saw it as a temporary relocation. But as the couple’s experiences on the farm multiplied — training herding dogs, enlisting a pair of traveling dowsers to help them find a well, and stargazing in the nightime darkness — they decided to hang onto their rural life as long as possible.
Drake articulates the lessons she has learned from her long years of country living in her latest memoir, “Morning Light: Wildflowers, Night Skies and Other Ordinary Joys of Oregon Country Life.”
Drake will speak about her book on Saturday, Feb. 11 as the February speaker for the Cannon Beach Library’s Northwest Author Series. The event will be held at 2 p.m., admission is free and the public is welcome.
Born in Kansas in l939, Drake moved to Oregon in l941, grew up in Coos Bay, and earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees from the University of Oregon. After teaching at Michigan State University, she returned to Oregon in l983 to develop the creative writing major at Linfield College, where she taught until 2007.
Drake writes nonfiction, fiction and poetry. She is the author of “Writing Poetry,” a college textbook, in print since 1983. Her earlier memoir, “Peace at Heart: on Oregon Country Life,” was a l999 Oregon Book Award finalist. “Peace at Heart” describes her early year on the small sheep ranch/vineyard outside of Yamhill and conveys her deep love of the quiet lifestyle and her joy in little things, whether describing the successes and travails of the beginning farmer or the savoring of their homegrown wines.
“Morning Light” was published by Oregon State University Press in 2014. Replete with records of native wildflowers, an encounter with an elderly man who lived on her farm 80 years ago, and an old family recipe for wild blackberry pudding, “Morning Light” is an appreciation and exploration of the landscape of western Oregon.
In nearly 30 years of small farm living, Drake has trained her eye on the natural world sharing her beloved place. The mosses thriving on the forest floor, or the quick work a couple of coyotes can make of sheep or chickens, the anxiety of well-drilling, her satisfaction in recognizing constellations in the night sky — this is the stuff of Drake’s life and it fills her latest book.
As entertaining and instructive as it is personal and reflective, Drake’s writing will resonate with anyone who has experienced a convergence of family history with natural history, considered their place in the historical continuum, or wondered if their lifestyle can be sustained with age.
In a world where even “the country” is becoming increasingly citified, “Morning Light” reminds us why we should care for rural landscapes — while we still can.