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29 March . 2022

What is a cairn?

A quick search states a cairn can be one of two things:

  1. A mound of rough stones built as a landmark or;
  2. a small terrier of a breed with short legs, a longish body, and a shaggy coat.

Within Tehaleh you may find that both definitions reign true in this little land of cairns. While we’ll be talking more about those furry cairns (aka dogs) in a future blog, the more applicable definition is the stackable, pathfinding ones we’ve seen around Tehaleh (and even in the logo.)

Origins of cairns.

You can find cairns at campsites, along hiking trails, and if you’re spending a summer bagging peaks – you’ll see plenty up there. This alignment between human and nature is a major aspect of these towering rocks. While the word originates from Gaelic (meaning heap of stones) these eye-catching structures have been seen around the world in different ways for thousands of years.

  • Indigenous groups in America would use them as a fencelike boundary to capture or drive bison in a hunt.
  • They were also used as protruding markers to warn seafarers of land or danger in the water, much like a lighthouse.
  • There are many instances around Europe where cairns show burial sites and memorials to those who have passed.
  • In Scotland their complexity can vary from a small pile of rocks to giant slabs of stone that are constructed into mausoleum-like caverns.

What they all have in common? They’re a way to establish and commemorate community. Paying respects, providing sustenance, and helping to navigate a tricky world.

What about Tehaleh and its cairns?

In Tehaleh lore the cairn continues on in a similar tradition: representing your home. You may not be driving bison or setting sail on rough waters, but after a busy day at work or even after a monster hike around Mt. Rainier…you might find yourself ‘returning back to the cairns.’ Back to your community, family, and your sense of peace.

Tehaleh, like a trusty cairn, can give you that sense of balance. We’ve all had weeks where we take on a thousand new tasks and wonder if we’ll manage to get it all done or if we’re doing it the way we ought to. Spinning all those plates, hoping it all lands perfectly at the end of the day. All those different layers lead back to the good things because just like a home, you have to build a cairn on steady ground.

Whether it be a way finder, a sense of community, a symbol, or some PNW spirit lingering around like bigfoot: the cairn has its place in Tehaleh.

As we find longer days, bluer skies, and new breathtaking views of our mountain we may notice a few more cairns here and there. Even around the house. Birthday cakes, a stack of library books, the pile of clean laundry, a skyscraping Lego construction, or the Tehaleh cairn you see on your daily walks or drives. Signs of community and family.

Get to know Tehaleh’s well-balanced cairns and see if you can find them all. Reach out to us and we’d be more than happy to set up a time to meet the newest familiar faces.