I set my alarm for 5AM, to get up and capture dawn pictures over the painted hills, but slid out of sleep at 4. I drifted awhile, snuggled in my cozy old fashioned bed in the Sky Hook Hotel I was staying in, in the little town of Mitchell Oregon. I pick up my phone and check the time. Time...my thoughts immediately turn to my little sister, gone now from this earth, 2 years past. Has it been that long? It feels like days. I open messenger, choose her name and read through our last months of communication. Her very last post to me was a symbol of a clock. She had struggled to text me...garbled words then the clock symbol. I knew she was telling me it was "time". I wrote that I loved her and I booked a flight to her.
I dragged myself out of my cozy bed and dressed, packed my things, wrote a thank you note to the Hotel owner Denny and headed out into the early morning.
It was surprisingly light out and I worried that I had missed my chance to capture the light of dawn cresting over the painted hills. I raced along the Ochoco Hwy keeping a nervous eye out on the sides of the road for deer that might leap out at my car. "Please no deer, please no deer" I chanted.
I pulled into the exit for the John Day Painted Hills. The sky was alarmingly light now but a huge moon still hung brightly. "Please let me make it on time, please let me make it on time!" I chanted.
I zoomed along the dirt road keeping an eye on the moon and another on the road for rogue deer. The moon came and went behind rolling hills seeming to dance. In between my chants I thought, "I should really get a shot of that" but zoomed along focused on getting to the painted hills. Suddenly there was a clearing and the moon stood huge and bright against a giant hillside. I slammed on my brakes, rolled down my window and took the shot.
How could I not take that shot?! I slid my window back up and continued on picking up my chant "no deer...please let me make it....no deer".
I turned the final corner towards the entrance to the painted hills and yelped, slamming on my brakes as 3 deer galloped in front of my car. Heart pounding, I stuck my camera out my window and took the shot as they stared at this wild eyed crazy woman who interrupted their morning walk.
The sky was light as I pulled into the observation parking lot but the painted hills below were still bathed in night time shadows. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had made it. There was one lone man hunkered down on a distant hill with his photography paraphernalia. I wandered around taking test shots to adjust my camera to the lighting. The wind blew softly but briskly and I had to alternate tucking my hands in my pocket to warm them. I sat down on a bed of wild grasses and waited for dawn to break. I blew warm air on my hands and listened to the sounds of the world around me waking up. I whispered the names of those whom I have lost into the valley below me. Their time was gone. No longer here to see these wonders. I rubbed a cold hand against an ache in my chest then smiled. "I am here" I whispered.
I am here.