Umatilla River in Echo

The Umatilla River flows between pastures near Echo.

I had to walk. It had been a long week and I needed the spring air to brush up against me and the breeze to blow over me — maybe even through me. I needed the first calf heifers to watch me make my way down the road from home to them. I needed to see the view from a different angle. Don’t we all need to see the view from a different perspective at least once a day?

They were at one of my favorite places. The place that I can stand and see the river, the train tracks, the foothills covered with 13 shades of green, and when I remember to turn around, I can see home. Home being the highest point on the hill I was walking down, yet often the place I can’t see past.

The feed ground with grass, wildflowers, and cow trails to follow gives me a different perspective. It’s the place I can go and forget about my floors that need to be mopped, or the piles of sweatshirts and jeans that need to be washed, the yard that needs to be mowed, or the grocery list to make. It’s the space that my heart usually needs on the days where the to-do list doesn’t seem to get shorter, but increases with each tick of the second hand.

And so I walk. I keep my distance from the cattle, but smile to myself as I mentally compare myself to them. I watch the protective mamas guard their babies with every ounce of strength they have. I watch them nudge their calves in the direction they want them to go, seeing that some do just what they want and others butt right back. I laugh out loud watching what I have experienced with my two children repeatedly, as well as in the classrooms of students I have had the privilege of teaching for the past 20 years.

I continue to make my way toward my favorite cluster of rocks as the herd watches me and I watch them. It seems we have mutual admiration for each other — for all that it takes to be the mama that we all want to be. The brave one. The careful one. The one with the right words and the right nods of approval. The one that is just enough and never too much.

I sit down in the brush on the rock I’ve called mine for nearly a decade, and as the shadows grow longer and the temperatures drop a bit, my soul quietly waits.

I’m never sure how much time passes while I’m there, but it’s always the perfect amount. My feet push against the dirt. I stand up with a sigh and a stretch, and then turn my body in a full circle before heading north, soaking in the view that probably knows more about me than I know about myself. I carefully climb through the barbed wire, whisper “see you soon,” and head toward home.

Yes, when the shadows lengthen to the point that shadows are all there are, I head for home. I make my way back to my calling. The place I’m needed most, and the place I need most as well.

The fresh air and different angles did their job. The sun sets, and I step back into my role as mom, wife, coach, master’s student, and housekeeper extraordinaire with a refreshed spirit, a full heart, and a few miles of steps taken.

I’m made for this. There’s no doubt about it.

Lindsay Murdock lives in Echo and teaches in Hermiston.

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