Magazine article Sunset

Sisters Act: In Central Oregon, a Writer Finds Everything a Person Could Want: Comfort, Solitude, and Revered Silence

Magazine article Sunset

Sisters Act: In Central Oregon, a Writer Finds Everything a Person Could Want: Comfort, Solitude, and Revered Silence

Article excerpt

THEY WILL BURY ME here one day, by God. They will toss my ashes by the heaping fistful into this high desert wind, sending great gray swirls of marrow to dust the ponderosa pines. Coyotes will whine, an eagle will scream, and the eight towering peaks that rim this tiny town of Sisters, Oregon, like some Tolkien crown, will nod in approval. Good job, man. Roll credits.

I suppose you can blame a youth warmed by Southern gospel for this preoccupation with one's eternal reward. I always figured that when the time came, I'd have somebody spike my urn on the 50-yard line at Razorback Stadium and do a silly touchdown dance. And then, seven years ago, I moved to Portland. And then I met my wife, Marli: funny, beautiful, lover of dogs, and the rare Portlander who was actually born here.

And then I met her father. Bob was mildly standoffish, sweet when he wanted to be, surly when he'd rather; he loved his family of girls fiercely, and whether filing legal briefs or chasing off the deer trying to eat his aspen trees, Bob worked himself down to the nub. That, and he drove a pickup. I was smitten.

Then I traveled to the family cabin in Sisters, a place Bob built mostly with his own hands. Was it really possible to fall in love with a wooden structure, a town, and a man all at the same time? Soon enough I learned to tune out the admittedly confusing emotions. To surrender to the Technicolor flights of fancy that overload the senses when I get clear of my real life running a bar in Portland and hole up in the isolation of Sisters. Because this nugget of mountains and pines and sinewy rivers and endless sky near the Deschutes National Forest--this place is heaven. Even for the nonbeliever.

In the seven years I've known my wife, every important moment of our relationship has happened here. This is where we first exchanged "I love yous"; where we got married in a sweet-smelling halo of Russian sage; where we first traveled as a threesome after the birth of our daughter, Emmylou. And in between the milestones, this secret parcel of Central Oregon magic has provided everything a person could want: comfort, solitude, and revered silence.

There are many roads to nowhere in Central Oregon. It's just that in Sisters, you can get to nowhere faster.

BY ALL RIGHTS, SISTERS should be a blip on the map, a blink-and-you-miss-it potty break for bikers, adventure tourists, and graying hippies strung out between the cultural and camping meccas of Portland and Bend. The town isn't exactly shimmying up its skirt to lure in passing motorists.

A lumber town until 50 years ago, Sisters requires that businesses on the strip adhere to 1880s-style storefronts, and the two marquee events of the summer remain a small-scale rodeo and a quilting festival that leaves every hitching post in town literally draped in fabric.

It's hard not to get sucked into the charm of Sisters' main drag. If we're feeling jaunty, Marli and I will hit Jen's Garden for a fancy-as-it-gets-around-here prix fixe dinner in a living room setting, though a burger at the closet-size Sno Cap Drive In remains the prototypical Sisters meal. You might have to wait behind what seems like the whole of the populace to order, but by the time grease is pouring from your chin, you'll be too rapturous to care.

Across Cascade Avenue is The Gallery Bar. Five years after the smoking ban went into effect, the smell of stale cigarettes still lingers. The Gallery was my first stop in Sisters in 2007. With no cable at the cabin, Marli and I had to promise the bartender we'd drink our body weight in Maker's Mark in order for her to let us watch Arkansas play Alabama.

Lonesome Water Books has densely packed canyons of used novels, ratty sci-fi paperbacks, travel guides, and woefully outdated maps. It's also where I managed to re-create my childhood by completing my collection of leather-bound Time-Life Old West books. …

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