The word for when: the pull of the pioneer cemetery

There has to be a word for when….you’ve been thinking about something for weeks, can’t get it out of your mind…then just as you’ve forgotten all about it, it reappears in your life again.

Do our thoughts pull it back into our lives as though it were magnetized? Does our subconscious guide us to it? Both?

“I’d love to see that view again,” I thought, recalling the expanse of the Columbia River as seen from a small pioneer cemetery I visited long ago. From time to time I get a hunch or intuition to go someplace in particular. Usually the subconscious urging nudges me toward a thrift store where I miraculously find clothes that fit!

View of the Columbia River from Martins Bluff Cemetery near Kalama WA. Photo by the author.

There was no urgent reason to return to the cemetery. Yet it kept popping up in my conscious mind. I could remember the view, and the small steeply sloped patch of grass outside the fence, and the overbuilt red gate on the driveway. I couldn’t remember the name of the cemetery, nor could I locate it again on Google Maps. I knew I could search online, but there was no pressing need.

Weeks passed. Eventually the place dropped out of my consciousness.

In early November 2020 I went for a sunny day drive up Interstate 5 and Highway 411 for no better reason than to cure cabin fever, find the Rose Valley Cemetery and go for a short hike. I had a fine time exploring new places and revisiting a couple favorite ones. One of those is the Old Pacific Highway S (Old 99) which meanders just east of I5 before joining up with other local roads. I took it homeward on a whim, although it was starting to get dark and chilly and I5 would have been faster. As I curved south on Cloverdale Road, I spotted a familiar sign: Martins Bluff Cemetery. Boom! I knew that was the one.

I was running out of daylight, but I had to make a brief visit. The gate, the fence, the grass were all familiar. And the view. Ahhhh, the view. That’s what I’d been jonesing for.

View of the Columbia River from Martins Bluff Cemetery near Kalama WA. Photo by the author.

Why this place? Why now? Was someone going to chase me out at dusk? I put aside those concerns for a moment and allowed myself a few minutes just to take in the view. I felt relieved, like a weight had dropped off my shoulders, like I’d completed something, like I’d scratched an itch. Brain tickle had been soothed!

I quickly snapped a few photos for Google Maps and Findagrave before the light faded. Ironically, my photos of the view itself aren’t great. Another reason to return again someday!

I’m still not sure why I felt drawn to revisit this tiny cemetery, or why I felt such relief when I did. In this awful year of 2020, I suppose we are all looking for soothing and comfort where we can find it. If I go there again, will I feel the same way? If I don’t, at least I can enjoy the view.

Learn more about Martin’s Bluff here.

Stump and Lamb explores personal growth and meaning via travels to pioneer cemeteries of the West.

This post was originally published at

Comments are closed.

Website Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: