WHAT STIRS IN WINTER

When I moved to the Pacific Northwest, USA from Ireland in 1995, I was enchanted with the historical significance of my new home in Vancouver, Washington State.

Fort Vancouver, as it used to be known, marked the end of the long overland migration known as The Oregon Trail, which in 1846 saw a greater number of people coming west than in former years. That, and the wide Columbia River set in the spectacular Gorge, with majestic Mt. Hood rising graciously above to the East, sparked my imagination. In my mind’s eye I saw the plucky pioneer families making their way over the hard, snowy shoulder of the mountain and west to Oregon City. Many crossed the Columbia River to come North into what is now Washington State, and found in Fort Vancouver an established settlement and a place to rest and buy supplies, before making a claim on the land. Thinking about these families, their cares and hardships and hopes, and the native peoples who often helped the pioneers on their journey, I conceived the character of Katie O’Keefe, and though she meets every adventure with great enthusiasm, her heart is not at peace. At night, she dreams of death and mourning in Ireland. Is there something the matter in Kilmaconnor Valley? And has she run away from her responsibilities to her loved ones?

But news travels slowly, and bad dreams are mostly born of a tired body and mind. Her waking hours are taken up with the trek, the work, the great scenes before her and of course the handsome wagon train guide Léon – but Katie O’Keefe has sworn off men…
copyright Maire Flannery 2012
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