People of the Palouse: Landscape architecture professor admires Palouse

Former Miami resident Jolie Kaytes learned to love her home at WSU; wild spaces influence her teaching, life



Jolie B. Kaytes, associate professor of landscape architecture at the WSU School of Design and Construction, says she enjoys the landscapes and climates most closely resembling tropical and balmy places. Kaytes says since she arrived in Pullman, it has transformed her perception and she is growing fonder of the area.

ANNA YOUNG, Evergreen reporter

Sparsely decorated shelves line the walls of Jolie Kaytes’ office, though the items laid there are no mere trinkets. One such shelf holds a construction level her grandfather used for woodworking projects. Another, a shriveled apple resembling a shrunken head — a memento of Kaytes’ arrival at WSU.

“[It was] from the Hort department in 2002 that they grew at Tukey Orchard,” Kaytes said. “I am not sure why it’s still here … I think it was a Red Delicious.”

While this and the other objects draw the eye, more demanding of attention is the warm, spicy scent of ylang-ylang emanating from a diffuser in the corner. Kaytes said her parents back home have a ylang-ylang tree in their backyard.

And “back home” is 3,000 miles away for her. Once a resident of Miami, Florida, Kaytes has lived in Moscow for 17 years now. She said her memories of growing up in Miami are fond now, tinged with a certain kind of nostalgia.

One cluster of memories involves watching the sunrise on the beach. Her mother would make a day of it with Kaytes and her brother, packing breakfast food and heading out early. Kaytes and her brother would shake sea creatures out of seaweed. Kaytes’ mother would prepare for the bar exam.

“She would do her studying,” Kaytes said. “She read her notes to herself and recorded them, and she would listen to her notes while she was on the sand.”

Kaytes said perhaps this was the start of her love for natural places and a desire to create spaces where humans can interact with, and care for, nature. An instructor of landscape architecture at WSU, Kaytes encourages her students to consider the wild spaces when making both their practical and creative decisions.

Student projects have included redesigning High Street Mall and creating a “learning garden” for Jefferson Elementary School. Kaytes said she wants her students to often work with real-world problems.

But before she was an instructor, Kaytes was a student, and many of her interests stem from early inspiration. In high school, she worked for the Department of Environmental Resources Management in Miami-Dade County.

She’s even been something of a director. When she was 16 or 17 years old, she and her fellow interns at the department wrote and recorded a video they called “Adventures of the Cosmic Ranger.” The storyline? Discussing invasive species and native plants.

“I still have the VHS tape … you can imagine the technology was different,” Kaytes said. “At the time it was so innovative to do a video.”

She did not confirm whether a reboot was in the making, but did not seem to be opposed to the idea either. “Adventures of the Cosmic Ranger: 2019,” if it ever happened, might include some of the things Kaytes encounters on the Palouse — the still-novel moose sightings, perhaps, or strange run-ins at the farmers’ market.

“There always seem to be coincidences at the farmers market,” she said. “[You find] where the circles just continue to overlap inclusively.”

Or maybe the show would remain focused on nature. Kaytes said she regularly commutes by bike on the Bill Chipman Trail, which offers frequent opportunities for wildlife sightings. She’s seen three beaver in Paradise Creek, along with otters, mink, kingfishers and a heron.

The old arboretum at University of Idaho Arboretum and Botanical Garden, she said, is one of her favorite places to go. And though she harbors a “deep longing” for subtropical climates, Kaytes said she’s learned to admire the wild spaces of the Palouse.

“[I’ve learned to love] these rolling hills and winds and creeks that are ultimately bound for the ocean,” she said. “So in a way that connects me back.”