my heart and home

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -
When I learned in February that our By Invitation Only writing assignment for March was “tell us about your home town” what immediately sprang to mind was not only where I come from, but who I come from.

Though no words can adequately describe them, I lovingly dedicate this to my Grandpa and Grandma Harris who lived and loved so well in the picturesque valley in Idaho where I was born and raised.
"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -
"my heart and home" by LeAnn of - (3)
The three images above are of Goodenough Canyon in the area 

where I grew up and where many of my relatives still live. 

My Grandma and Grandpa raised four childrenincluding my lovely mom, Anitain a cozy home with views of mountain ranges all around, situated in a small town in the center of the valley. Within just 7 minutes or so, you can be in the canyon pictured above where my family still heads for an impromptu picnic among the quaking aspen trees and alongside a gurgling mountain stream or “creek” as we call it.   

When I was growing up, these outings were one of my favorite things to do and some of my fondest memories are of our family gathered around a campfire in the evenings reminiscing…laughing until our sides ached at the hilarious stories my Grandpa told so well.

Grandpa was always coming up with funny sayings and just generally good at being silly. His genuine love and affection for his family was evident in all his interactions with us. He always welcomed us into his home and thoroughly enjoyed entertaining and being with his grandchildren.

I don’t know how it started, but  a favorite activity for me, as well as other grand-kids on down-the-line, was to play barbershop with him. This entailed a glass of water and a comb and climbing up on the sofa behind Grandpa as he patiently endured us dipping the comb in the glass of water and running it through his hair (what little bit he had, that is.)  

There’s a story about one of my cousins, Liz, who in the midst of one such session, bopped Grandpa on the head with the comb and sternly told him in her tiny voice, “Hold still!”  Every time the story was relayed, it would set Grandma to giggling as she relived the scene.  She said she didn’t want to encourage her, but couldn’t help be tickled.   Of course, big old patient Grandpa just endured the treatment, laughing and saying  “Hey, you little hooligan!”

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -
Grandma and Grandpa’s property – “the ditch.”   From their own children down to their great-great grandchildren of today-  all of us have spent hours and hours playing in the irrigation stream that runs through their property. 
"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

In his youth, Grandpa was an all-around, all-star athlete, excelling in football, basketball and track. His physical strength was legendary and we were proud to hear the stories people relayed to us about his extraordinary feats.

Grandpa worked as a carpenter building homes and even as young children, we thoroughly enjoyed long drives through the surrounding towns and countryside with him pointing out the homes he had built. I vividly recall many years ago when my mom and dad were expanding their kitchen, watching in amazement as Grandpa put his shoulder to a wall to push it over like a human bulldozer.

For as big and tough as he was, he had a very tender heart, a person who would gladly give you his last dollar if you needed it. He enjoyed getting to know others and would strike up a conversation as he stood in line at the store or anywhere he happened to be, making people feel at ease and as if they had known him a lifetime.

Grandpa was a gifted singer and along with his three brothers, the quality of their harmony was on par with the likes of The Sons of the Pioneers, one of his favorite groups. They performed at various community events in the area and when we were lucky, we would persuade them to sing a song or two at our family reunions.  I can still hear “Cool Water” and “Blue Shadows on the Trail,” the latter being Grandpa’s favorite.  

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

He lived by the early-to-bed, early-to-rise maxim and would be up at 5:00 am even after he retired.  I remember when Alex was just 4 and we were staying with Grandma and Grandpa.  We slept in until after 8:00 that morning and found Grandpa on the sofa waiting eagerly for us like a big kid, ready to play.  He had already eaten breakfast, had taken a drive out to the café for coffee with his friends and had accomplished half his day’s errands and yard work and was back sitting in the living room waiting to greet us.  

As usual, Grandma had a beautiful breakfast table all set for us and was firing up the stove to start the eggs.  When she asked Grandpa if he wanted anything, he said (all in the same breath and as he was walking to the table with us),  “No.  I’ve already had breakfast, well, I guess I could have something if you’ve got it.”  And then Alex and Grandpa and I sat down together to enjoy eggs, bacon, fresh orange juice and Grandma’s homemade bread and jam.

Grandpa could cook quite well too and sometimes did, but mostly Grandma was the chef in the house and Grandpa would wash the dishes. One summer day after we finished a meal outside, we looked over and Grandpa had lined up the dishes on the lawn and was spraying them off with a hose (much to the delight of all the children.)  

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

 "my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

Grandpa was always praising Grandma and it was obvious to everyone who knew them just how much he loved, admired and respected her.

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

Grandpa departed from this earth in 1997 and Grandma slipped away to be with him in 2009.  As the first grand-daughter it was my honor to speak at both of their memorial services and what follows is the tribute I gave at Grandma’s which I hope serves to illuminate a little bit about her:

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

There is a rose in my garden with the sweetest scent that has always made me think of her. Actually, many different flowers remind me of her–lilacs are another and really most any wildflower. . .Indian Paintbrush, Johnny Jump-Ups and Buttercups come to mind. These evoke memories of her and Grandpa taking us for a ride in the country–”the loop” as the route is known–to scout for the first blooms of spring to make their appearance. 

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -
"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -
"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -
lilacs at Grandma and Grandpa’s house                                           (15)

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

I am sitting here at my desk as I write this, looking out at my garden and trying to come up with the words to describe her…all she meant to her family and so many other lives she touched while she was living on this earth.

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

She was many things
fabulous in the kitcheneverything she produced was wonderful; her homemade bread and warm rolls fresh-out-of-the-oven are probably her signature achievements, though. I wondered today how many loaves of bread came out of that cozy kitchen of hers?–Thousands, I’m sure.  Almost daily –even at 88 years of age–she was making bread or some delectable dish for someone. Sometimes because there was a death or an illness; other times to contribute to some family celebration; but most often just to give. Giving was as natural to her as the air she breathed.

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

One thing I learned early on was to be cautious about admiring anything in her home, for if you did she would very often insist on giving it to you. Once when visiting her I commented that a trio of angel figurines were pretty and the next thing I knew she had wrapped them up and was insisting I take them. (And no amount of protesting on my part was getting through to her.)  Most of the time she was the sweetest most demure lady, but when she made her mind up about something like that–well, there was really nothing you could do about it (as anyone in our family can attest.)

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

I think about my grandma and I can see her sitting (with one leg tucked up under her), engrossed in her latest novel. An insatiable reader, she traveled the world without leaving her home. I was always amazed at how many books she could go through in a week. 

When I was younger, I used to call her from time-to-time to ask her the meaning of a word and she never failed me. Although I could have looked it up, it was always fun to call and give her the challenge.  No matter how obscure it was, she always knew it. Granted, she might pause for just a moment and muse about it. . .“Hmmm.  It sounds like it might be derived from. . .”  but then she would invariably come up with the right answer. (Actually, she probably knew right away but she was never one to boast.  She was modest like that–about everything.)

My mom told me that when Grandma was just a young girl, she used to read from the dictionary and memorize words “for fun”–if you can imagine that!  This explained her ability to work a crossword puzzle, too.  I think of her and I see her sitting at her kitchen table doing her crossword for the day or sketching up her latest idea for renovating her charming home.

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -
Grandma and Grandpa’s apple orchard                                                        (20)

Letters or cards from Grandma were always a treat. Often, they were only a few lines but always very poetic and always a mention of something in nature. She would eloquently describe how the fall leaves were changing or how she was planting this or that in her garden. 

Eventually, the grandkids and great-grandkids reached such a number that she wasn’t always able to include the monetary birthday gift that had been her tradition.  According to my mom, this really troubled her, but she needn’t have worried.  We loved seeing a card in the mail “From Grandma” with some lovely message that always made you feel as though you were right there with her. . .enjoying a stroll across her lawn tending to the flowers or taking a drive up through the mountains to enjoy the quaking aspen trees.—Imparting her love of nature to all of us was more than gift enough.

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

I think of my grandma and I think of when I used to go stay with her and Grandpa. It was always such a treat to sleep there. . .Slipping into sheets that smelled so crisp and clean–fresh in from the line. She always made you feel like an extra special guest with a room prepared just for you.

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -
I loved curling up in the big wooden bed of hers piled with extra blankets and pillows she had artfully arranged.  I often visit that little room in my dreams–the windows draped with white polka-dot sheers and the sunbeams dancing across the hardwood floors.

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -
"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -
I think about my grandma and I can’t imagine a more kind, generous and humble person.—To know her, was to know love. 
Buddha said:  “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” 

I look at the rose in my garden and I think how fortunate I am. I am awed and honored to have shared these earthly years with this uncommon spirit who I knew simply—and radiantly—as  Grandma Harris. ~

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -
the walk to Grandma and Grandpa’s house                                                                                                                     (26)

I am enchanted by the images Henry Wadsworth Longfellow evokes in the following poem,“The Spirit of Poetry” and lovingly dedicate it here to both Grandma and Grandpa Harris who lived and loved surrounded by the beauty of nature;  wisely bestowing its treasures on all of us who had the good fortune to know them.

There is a quiet spirit in these woods, 

That dwells where’er the gentle south-wind blows; 
Where, underneath the white-thorn, in the glade, 
The wild flowers bloom, or, kissing the soft air, 
The leaves above their sunny palms outspread. 
With what a tender and impassioned voice 
It fills the nice and delicate ear of thought, 
When the fast ushering star of morning comes 
O’er-riding the gray hills with golden scarf; 
Or when the cowled and dusky-sandaled Eve, 
In mourning weeds, from out the western gate, 
Departs with silent pace!  That spirit moves 
In the green valley, where the silver brook, 
From its full laver, pours the white cascade; 
And, babbling low amid the tangled woods, 
Slips down through moss-grown stones with endless laughter. 
And frequent, on the everlasting hills, 
Its feet go forth, when it doth wrap itself 
In all the dark embroidery of the storm, 
And shouts the stern, strong wind. And here, amid 
The silent majesty of these deep woods, 
Its presence shall uplift thy thoughts from earth, 
As to the sunshine and the pure, bright air 
Their tops the green trees lift.  Hence gifted bards 
Have ever loved the calm and quiet shades. 
For them there was an eloquent voice in all 
The sylvan pomp of woods, the golden sun, 
The flowers, the leaves, the river on its way, 
Blue skies, and silver clouds, and gentle winds, 
The swelling upland, where the sidelong sun 
Aslant the wooded slope, at evening, goes, 
Groves, through whose broken roof the sky looks in,
Mountain, and shattered cliff, and sunny vale, 
The distant lake, fountains, and mighty trees, 
In many a lazy syllable, repeating 
Their old poetic legends to the wind. 
And this is the sweet spirit, that doth fill 
The world; and, in these wayward days of youth, 
My busy fancy oft embodies it, 
As a bright image of the light and beauty 
That dwell in nature; of the heavenly forms 
We worship in our dreams, and the soft hues 
That stain the wild bird’s wing, and flush the clouds 
When the sun sets.  Within her tender eye 
The heaven of April, with its changing light, 
And when it wears the blue of May, is hung, 
And on her lip the rich, red rose.  Her hair 
Is like the summer tresses of the trees, 
When twilight makes them brown, and on her cheek 
Blushes the richness of an autumn sky, 
With ever-shifting beauty.  Then her breath, 
It is so like the gentle air of Spring, 
As, front the morning’s dewy flowers, it comes 
Full of their fragrance, that it is a joy 
To have it round us, and her silver voice 
Is the rich music of a summer bird, 
Heard in the still night, with its passionate cadence. 
"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

And, finally, a few lines borrowed from E.E. Cummings:

…here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -

Grandma and Grandpa, you are who I come from and ultimately, everything I could ever hope to be.   I am so grateful.  No matter where I go in the world, 
you are my heart and home.  

image credits:
1-Ralph Maughn: 2-J.F. Hobbs; 3-Shane Christiansen; 4-16 by LeAnn; 17-House Magazine; 18-Household Wisdom; 19-Natural Home; 20-LeAnn; 21-Linens and Lace; 22-Bedrooms; 23-LeAnn; 24-White on White; 25-28-LeAnn; 29-Shane Christiansen

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"my heart and home" by LeAnn of -


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  1. LeAnn, this is one of the most beautiful tributes I've ever read. What a magnificent place to grow up. Your images capture the essence of what you said perfectly. I am so happy I know you. Sending love….

  2. Your writing is so heartfelt. Lovely tribute. I, too, grew up in Idaho on the Salmon River. Not many people write about it. I have been to Bannock County a few times in the late 60's to Idaho State University but mostly passed through on the highway. My Great-great grandparents came to Lemhi County in 1871 to ranch. I lived in Salmon and Moscow until I was 22 and have only been back a few times. It is truly beautiful country – unusually beautiful country — but not an easy place to live. You must have a solid pioneer spirit in your inherited blood to live/thrive/survive.

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