Evelyn and her husband David had what the
outside world regards as good careers, Evelyn with the University of Oregon and
David as an architect. The expected
procedure for an educated couple in their position would be to work until
retirement and collect as much “stuff” as possible along the way. Evelyn and David stepped off that path,
turned their backs on the expectation of commercial comforts, and moved into a
tiny trailer on twenty one acres in the Coast Range. Living off the grid, without running water,
or electricity, they fashioned a life in harmony with nature. Their passion for landscape became their
career as they found work gardening. In the
summer plants grown on their little piece of paradise could be sold to bring in
some needed income. They lived simply,
respectful of the nature. To
The Woods is a celebration of that life.
Hess seeks and finds a deep connection with the
natural world on her 21 acres. She
revels in the change of seasons, the colorful leaves in the fall, the explosion
of brilliantly colored flowers in the spring, the warmth of summer. The book is full of encounters with
wildlife; a tawny mother deer and her little fawn, a dog food eating bear, and
marauding rodents. Her dogs approve heartily of living in such a rural setting,
where they can run and play. Hess has a
full and rewarding life making kind choices in quiet seclusion on her land.
As I read about her efforts to save rain water
in a pond and reuse her dishwater, I thought about how much we take things for
granted. Living in the city I used to
have rain water collection barrels under our house’s downspouts. They pretty much took care of most of my
watering needs during the summer. It was
a painless way to use something that just goes to waste. Here in Sunriver I have a sprinkler system
that comes on automatically via a timer
and drenches the ground. Easier for
sure, but not nearly as rewarding as those rain barrels.
Hess goes farther than most would find
comfortable in living a very simple lifestyle.
It can sound harsh and uncomfortable. Yet much of the world lives in such
simple conditions and this book does an excellent job of making you think about
lifestyle choices. Does not having a new car, or new clothes or top of the line
appliances diminish Hess’s pleasure in the light reflected on her pond, or the
scent of rosemary in her garden? Taking
a walk with her dogs or working in her garden are simpler things that keep her
more connected with life than any electronic gadget or acquisition.
There are many challenges to be surmounted by
Hess; both David and Evelyn faced life threatening health issues. David suffered an aneurysm and went from the
high tech world of brain surgery and hospitals back to his little trailer
without any modern technology at all.
The tiny trailer was never meant to be their
abode for so long, they always intended to build a home. But finance and setbacks kept them from
realizing that dream. They are still
working toward having a home built in harmony with the landscape.
But the heart and soul of the book is Evelyn
Hess’s love for nature and her decision to live gently on the land.