By Travis Ehrenstrom

For The Bulletin


Words and music by Travis Ehrenstrom

Born on a mountain

My head in the clouds

To the west was the ocean

Valleys, and farms

Raised among giants

These sisters of the land

I bathed in their waters

Slept in their hands

A howl at the moon

A wind through the trees

A fish on the end of the line

It’s all mine to gain

A simple reminder

Her secret is patience and mine is the same

If you should go

To where I am from

Remember me to my favorite haunt

The bridge by the creek

Where I lost my voice

Singing for supper and a bluebird sky

I wish I’d have known

Time’s slow decay

Lost as a memory now

Speak not sorrow Sisters of mine

You’re always with me I’ll be back in time

For a life on the road, and a home far from here

My Oregon home

My Oregon home

When you return

From the place I come from

Take only backroads

Make time to get lost

Swim naked in rivers

Put a line on the pole

Sleep under starlight

This place is your home

A person’s hometown is often dotted with special, unmarked places. In Sisters, you won’t find Eagle Rock, 360 or The Creek on a map, and a teenager would need to show you the way. The locations are passed down from seniors to freshmen at Sisters High School. The trail locations all sit semi-hidden off Three Creeks Road and each offers unobstructed views of the Three Sisters Mountains.

I grew up in Sisters, and like many of my friends, abiding by the unspoken adolescent oath to keep these holy places secret as well as reserved for Sisters’ teens, I haven’t returned as an adult.

While dreaming of a life as a musician, these isolated places are where I honed my craft of writing and singing songs.

Could there be a better audience than thousands of swaying firs and pines providing their undivided attention? If you spend enough time pouring your heart out in these places, you’ll soon find that music is everywhere in nature and nature is everywhere in music.

To this day, Sisters remains a town of no stoplights and plenty of weekend and summer traffic. While the population sign read 911 throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Sisters locals argued that number was inflated. You learn at a young age that sometimes it’s better to make a right turn, three lefts, and another right in lieu of simply taking a left. Growing up in a small town teaches you a lot of life lessons about how to coexist with others day-to-day, while the town simultaneously provides no shortage of big ideas.

The spirit of Oregon

It isn’t until you leave a place that you truly start to appreciate it for what it is.

My wife, Courtney, and I (along with our dogs Bo and Pinto and cat Nala) are setting out on a multiyear trip to write a song in every state, and Oregon’s song needed to serve as a reminder of what will be left behind.

I’ve written plenty of songs that reference my Pacific Northwest experience but never attempted to explicitly write about a place.

The definitive Oregon song is “Roll On Columbia,” written by traveling troubadour Woody Guthrie. The song highlights the Pacific Northwest’s tradition of combining natural resources with manpower to carve out a life amongst the grand trees and roaring rivers. Based on the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam (technically in Washington), the song quickly became an anthem for New Deal projects. But the subtext of this song has always been about the spirit of what it means to be an Oregonian. The goal of the new song was to capture some of that magic.

But what is it that drives the spirit of Oregon?

Borrowing a line from American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.”

Oregon is a land influenced by its surroundings, which are incredibly patient. As a state, we are progressive but cautious. This is evident even in the speed limits as you cross any state line coming or going.

It was important to approach the recording process for this song in a way that would capture the ambiance of my beloved home. This song was recorded on a small portable recorder and post up at the banks of Whychus Creek.

If you listen closely, you’ll hear the rush of the creek, the wind through the trees, and vast space. Space is the expanse of open air, which nature affords and cannot be obtained through expensive mics in a studio. Space is everything else. Space is what I love about Oregon.

— Sisters native Travis Ehrenstrom, his wife, Courtney, dogs, Bo and Pinto, and cat, Nala, are on a multiyear trip to write a song in every state.