As everyone who has fallen in love knows, there are few experiences which match the intensity of the early days of a love affair. The world is suddenly very much alive. Music takes on special meaning. Sunrises and sunsets become transcendent experiences. And the most common everyday activities like going for a walk, having a picnic at String Lake or sharing a meal are infused with new energy and happiness. Life seems very simple and its possibilities limitless.
Even more fortunate are those who learn that love evolves from the giddiness and exhilaration of its early moments and deepens as it is confronted and challenged by the responsibilities and complications of life, and that enduring love not only provides a sanctuary in difficult times but a source of inspiration to create live of distinction. Amen to that!
Our relationship with Jackson Hole has paralleled and indeed nurtured our relationship with one another. It began with an overwhelming attraction to the physical things: to the clear and cool streams that run next to forested trails, the towering peaks whose tips turn pink with the arrival of the morning sun, the wide valley with its long vistas, and the vivid yet gentle light which seems to cast the entire valley into a perpetual dawn; to night skies so dark, and full of stars that bands of the Milky Way appear within reach; to the rugged beauty of the residents with faces flushed from a recent decent from a mountain top or lined with years of outfitting; and, of course, to the spectacular food ranging from simple chuck wagon fare, curried lamp stew or a Kurobuta Pork Chop and a glass of Brunello. Dining in Jackson Hole is small town world class dining.
Our early infatuation with Jackson Hole soon evolved into something much deeper and more profound as we got to know the people who were born in the valley or have chosen to make it their home. It is said that the world can be divided into two camps: those who live to work and those who work to live. The residents of Jackson Hole are definitely of the latter variety, but it would be incorrect to conclude that this means they are not committed to what they do. To the contrary, creating a mountain paradise on the stony floor and granite buttes devoid of agricultural resources is no easy task. And yet the people in Jackson Hole have figured out how to take their work seriously, and they never seem to lose sight of why they chose to live their lives here in the first place and how lucky they are to have succeeded in doing so.
To a person, they are determined to live life by the rules of their own making. Many have left their homes across the country and followed their hearts to Jackson Hole even when it was contrary to common sense and conventional wisdom to do so. They smile and laugh easily and often. They cherish not only the physical beauty of their surroundings but the cleanliness and safety of their community and neighborhoods. It is thus fitting and not at all surprising that the gentle and peaceful residents of Jackson Hole, to a person, tell the visitor who is inquiring about what it takes to make a living in Jackson Hole so special to look no further than the happy and unconcerned faces of school children as they ride bikes on the Pathways and who are blessed to grow up in an environment free of crime and fear and where seeing a moose in the backyard is an everyday joy.
Nowhere are the special qualities of Jackson Hole more apparent than in the more than 80 restaurants scattered throughout the Jackson Hole valley and the people who own and work in them as well as the private chefs who invent creative fare for their guests served up with a personal touch. Unlike most of the United States, which has become overrun by restaurant chains and where even independent restaurants are frequently owned by anonymous investors and partnerships, restaurants in Jackson Hole are often family affairs or collaborations formed by a few friends, and the owners are present and working in the restuarants every day. Within no time at all, the visitor feels a personal connection to particular restaurants and the people who own them as well as to the landscape and wildlife.
Philip and I have lived in Jackson Hole through good times and bad times in our lives. In the former, Jackson Hole always brings us closer together; in the latter, it repairs the jagged edges and resets our emotional and spiritual compass. The feeling is best described by the Irish poet my grandparents loved so much, William Butler Yeats in “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”:
And I shall have some peace
there, for peace comes dropping
Dropping from the veils of
the morning to where the cricket
There midnight’s all a
glimmer, and noon a purple
And evening full of the linnet’s
I will arise and go now, for
always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with
low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway,
or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
After living in Jackson Hole for 10 years, coming here first as a child myself and then summers spent on ranches, trails, painting rocks in streams and in the warm embrace of the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole, I finally understand the source of this phenomenon: it is, of course, the people who live here, and they are the real focus of the upcoming blogs. To be sure, over the next few weeks, the blog will be filled with wonderful recipes which our chefs graciously shared as well as beautiful photographs of Jackson Hole, its restaurants, chefs, families and food, but the enduring magic and allure of Jackson Hole lies in its prople and their stories which follow. We feel very fortunate to have gotten to know these people and count them among our friends. They center us and ground us in what is important and good. And by living their lives creatively, passionately and joyfully, and sharing those lives with us, they have rekindled our faith born many years ago that life in indeed very simple and its possibilities limitless. We owe them more than they will ever know, and dedicate these upcoming blogs to them with gratitude and affection.
P.S. As always many thanks to my photographer buddies. This time, David Agnello, Catherine Coe, Gordon Gregory, Mary Catherine Groome and Morgan Bruemmer. Great pics and cherished memories.