In Celebration of My Mother—and Seminary Hill Natural Area

A bit of straightening up the home my mother lived in for 58 years uncovered several things she wrote. Her creative writing—and to-do lists—was on scraps of paper, stationery, the first few pages of notebooks, in the middle of otherwise empty spiral pads. She loved to write, but for whatever reason (probably lack of self-confidence) she didn’t share it. Except for notes on cards to friends in need of cheering, which she did beautifully up to the end when she had to dictate them.

She died one year ago today. She left behind her writing and her championing of what is now Seminary Hill Natural Area. In 1980 she conceived of and led the march to save the hill she lived on from the loggers’ chainsaws. (I’ve written about it here and for the local newspaper many times, and you can read a column in the Chronicle here about the history, written by then mayor, Bill Moeller and a post by me last year about my mother’s love for the natural world is here. A search of her name at Chronline.com will bring up more. She is locally world famous.)

But before that she spent hours walking the trails, leading Girl Scout day camps there, paying attention to the seasonal changes in the forest, and getting dirty.

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Here is a poem she wrote (with apologies, she writes, to Helen Hoyt, who penned a version of the quoted lines):

Seminary Hill Natural Area

“Little park that I pass thru
I carry back a part of you.”
To make a cloudy day less drear
the memory of you more dear.

I took “some of your cleanness
some of your shade
some of your sky
some of your calm
as I passed by.”

I took some of your sweet vanilla leaf,
tasted your grapes
your green salal
I heard your busy little wren
—Lost track of time
under your spell.

Little park!
I’m glad you were there
when I passed by.

Stellajoe E. Staebler
    December 22, 1979

The park is still here because you passed by. Thank you, Mama. Thank you.

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My sister and I are at two of the other places she loved, to honor her on this anniversary: Lake Quinault Historic Lodge on the Olympic Peninsula where we sat in front of the fireplace last night and toasted her memory, and later today at Kalaloch Beach, where we will scatter some of her ashes. She is with us.


The annual Seminary Hill Natural Area clean-up, usually on Earth Day, which is tomorrow, will be held this year on May 4 from 10-12. Meet at the Barner Drive entrance. All are welcome.

4 thoughts on “In Celebration of My Mother—and Seminary Hill Natural Area

  1. So glad to know where you are. Today is 6 months since my father died… so am thinking of these passages. Becky and I were keeping vigil: you and Rebecca…. I love this shared synchronicity. Blessings on your journey to the sea.

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  2. Beautifully written and expressed. I understand your Mother’s feelings about her writing. I love to write and same about sharing ME to the world in the writerly way. I hope my children will read my attempts in the future as you do your Mothers.

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