In the movie “Out of Africa,” the central character Isak Dineson often says, with a sigh, “I have a farm in Africa,” as if it were her lover.
I have the same love-feelings about the hot springs in central Oregon, once owned by my adoptive parents Dr. and Mrs. F.B. Freeland, and where I spent memorable parts of my childhood and adult years.
Because I could still feel my spirit roaming those hills, valleys and streams many years later, I knew I needed to reconnect with that part of myself and to rekindle the spirit of my youth. So, at age 55, I traveled from my home in southern California back to Oregon. I was visiting for my daughter Dorothy’s birthday, but I felt an inner urge, a pulling, back to Kah-Nee-Ta. With my son Marquam, I took advantage of this perfect opportunity back to a place sacred in my memory.
I’ve enshrined this desert place where childhood joy and freedom eventually succumbed to adulthood — and even where I had my first kiss. At Kah-Nee-Ta I met Randal, my first husband, who was there with his parents on vacation. We married and eventually had three children. When our daughter Dottie was only a month old, we moved from Portland to Kah-Nee-Ta. It was a challenge to be living 10 miles from the nearest doctor, store or phone. We only stayed there six months before returning to Portland.
It was in this place where I saw dreams come true, and dreams destroyed. When I began my pilgrimage back to Oregon, I had lost something of my journey in life, and I sought to find it as I allowed the past and present to merge for this one day.
Where it began
My memories of that long-ago past began at the tender age of 2, when my world, as I knew it, collapsed. After giving birth to my little brother, my mother had a schizophrenic episode and was placed in a mental institution. This was 1934 and other alternatives were not known, or at least practiced.
With my mother gone, my baby brother was placed in a nursery at Albertina Kerr and I was briefly placed with an aunt and uncle. However, upon hearing the plight of our family, my paternal grandfather, F.B. Freeland, and his second wife Gladys, rescued me and brought me to live with them. He was the doctor for the Confederated Tribe at the Warm Springs Indian Agency.
Dr. Freeland was the first doctor for the tribe, first working out of a wood-frame building and then in the new hospital.
He actually came to work for the Warm Springs tribe because of its close access to Kah-Nee-Ta Hot Springs, a somewhat primitive resort 10 miles away along the Warm Springs River. My adoptive parents had purchased it so Mom Freeland could take hot mineral baths as a relief for her arthritis.
In time, her health was restored, but through the years, the stress of operating the resort, managing the employees, cooking and other activities simply wore her out.
On Feb. 12, 1961, they sold the hot springs to the Confederate Tribes of the Warm Springs, who sought to make an investment. With assistance from the federal government, the tribe built a multi-million-dollar resort.
And so it was in 1991 when my pilgrimage back to the hot springs wove the present with the past. I recalled those magical days of my childhood, wandering the hillsides with my dogs, playing in my playhouse and swimming in the mud-bottomed swimming pool. I also remember wading in the algae-covered warm water ditches, chasing water snakes in the pool run-off, and floating down the river on an inner tube.
Perhaps we can return home again if we’re able to see with clear vision the realization that that was then, and this is now. We can enjoy the present moment as it is now. ☸
The second edition of “Pilgrimage to Kah-Neet-Ta” by Joyanna Freeland is published by Capturing Your Life Stories and can be purchased at amazon.com or capturingyourlifestories.com. The first edition is available at keepsakeFTV@aol.com.