A Place of Wind and Magic

Nights Too Beautiful to Even Think

By Barbara Morgan

Photos by Charlie Martyn

I wasn’t born in Idaho. But I’m writing a love letter to the Palouse.

Where you’re born is a matter of chance. You are shuffled by your cards. Your gene tumbler is shaken up. Probability does its dance and out you roll, pink and blinking, onto the table. From then on it’s your life. Maybe you stay in your neighborhood, maybe you go somewhere else.

I could have stayed where I was born, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But during my middle years I chose to move West. By then I had become a neurologist, another story, not the subject of this epistle.

The origin of the word “Palouse” is enshrouded in mystery. It’s a Native American word, it’s a French word. It means “green, grassy sward.” Add your own story of origin.

When I came to visit in April 1993 and drove from Lewiston to Moscow, what I saw was a plush carpet of emerald hills rolling on forever and forever. And no mosquitoes. There was an opportunity to move to the Idaho Palouse and I took it. By June, I was walking up and down Main Street in Moscow with my office manager, Gail, looking for a neurology office to rent. We found one with a window overlooking a small tree, the Gritman Hospital parking lot, and Highway 95. And on the southern horizon I could make out Paradise Ridge.

My timing was off. The town shrinks when the students leave for the summer. There weren’t enough patients to keep the lights on at Palouse Clearwater Neurology the first summer.

So I began my Idaho hiking career on Paradise Ridge. For the next twenty years, I’d start my hike at a secret location off Iverson’s Loop. I’d stump through the woods, climbing up and up. Five separate climbs up, then the ridge. It was a riot of native flowers in the spring and of thimbleberries in the summer. Towhees calling but seldom seen. Western fly catchers. Red-tailed hawks until winter, then Rough-Legged, white against white on the snowy ridge. Deer and moose and coyotes. Scat everywhere on the snow. Turkey tracks on the very top of the ridge when the snow turned into mud in March.

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