Temperance Creek, by Pamela Royes (Review)

Nearly 13 years ago my husband I and spent part of our honeymoon camping trip to Wallowas, Eagle Cap, Imnaha Valley and Hells Canyon. There’s something unique and special there and I couldn’t ever describe it in a way that did it justice – that turned out to be Royes’ job. She describes the land in a way that engages all 5 of your senses – just like you’re there. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I reached for the cider jug too (you’ll know EXACTLY what I mean when you read Temperance Creek).  Two things about her book have had immediate effect on my life – I made a batch of sourdough starter and I regularly order a biscuit with “a tidal wave of butter and jam” in restaurants. I also mentally checked out of my livingroom each time I sat to read leaving my husband and 2 boys to fend for themselves – I was busy herding sheep with Pam and Skip.

Royes’ memoir is about her life as she trusted herself, the land to provide, the people around her (or wisely not trusting them in some cases) and accepting that life is a journey. Her life was a result of her willingness to make decisions about what felt right, listening to her heart and then forging forth accepting the good with the bad in the scope of the bigger picture. It blew me away.  Royes’ knew she was bucking against her upbringing, her faith and maybe her better judgment – but she wanted what she wanted (Skip) and went for it. When it got tough, she hung in there knowing not everything always goes the way you want it – but you can decide in large what you want and accept the pitfalls along the way. She tells of an observation that Skip made early on in their relationship – that with all the interrupted time they’ve spent together – no distractions like phones, cars or job – their relationship is further along than most. That’s compelling – that people who are together and depending on each other nonstop for basic needs and survival (honestly – it was that dire in some cases in their life in the canyon) form a life lasting bond in a rather short period of time. Perhaps that rang a little bit also in when Skip talks about his service in Vietnam and some of the men he was with, I know I’ve heard my dad say similar things about the men he was with there.

Temperance Creek is also about how people, animals and land work together. There’s obvious gripes in here about government land management and I briefly (very briefly) thought maybe there was some insight here into why the Bundy’s helped organize a standoff with federal lands in Southern Oregon. After all, some of Pam and Skip’s friend’s lost their lifestyle because of government land leases and regulations. I’ll just say that the Bundy’s made poor choices how to handle it – no need to get into Malheur here.

What makes Royes’ memoir special and unique is that while her journey and life in the canyon with Skip was an amazing adventure – it is her and Skip’ spirit, not the land, that makes everything special.

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