Plants have always been my passion. You’re more likely to find me outside playing in the dirt instead of indoors sitting in front of the TV or holding a book. For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in plants. What is it? Does it have medicinal purposes? Can you eat it? Moving to the Oregon Coast, then, has been this gardener’s dream. Here, if you want something to grow, just toss it on the ground, forget about it and a week later it will be an established plant. In southern Idaho if you tossed a plant on the ground, it was destined to die.
As an Idaho Master Gardener I know a lot about plants. But here in Oregon I feel like I’ve dropped down the rabbit hole. My head bobs at every step as I try to identify plants I’ve never seen before. Like the large bush that attracts birds and borders my yard on the north. The plant is prolific; I see it everywhere. But it took a trip to the county extension office to learn that the plant is a wax myrtle. I didn’t know that the pretty yellow plant along the side of the road is scotch broom and that it’s invasive. I was familiar with perennial geraniums but didn’t know that Herb Robert was not the same as cranesbill geranium even though they look alike. Is it an azalea or a rhododendron? What makes them different?
My yard is a wonderland of new discoveries. I knew I had a lot of blackberries bordering my lawn, but I didn’t know that I also had salmonberry, thimbleberry and evergreen huckleberries, not to mention the salal that grows like trees.
A walk through my neighborhood is truly a walk in the forest. Trilliums. Yellow skunk cabbage. English daisies and woodland strawberries that cover the ground instead of grass. Western buttercups and lewisia. Each forward step offers a mystery to be solved.
Moving to Oregon has been a grand adventure and I’ve enjoyed getting to know all about the plants that grow in my yard and neighborhood. With the ocean just down the road, I’m eager to start learning the names of the interesting treasures I find on the beach.
The boxes have arrived and I’ve started the daunting task of putting things away. This is the third major move for me, and by far, feels like the hardest. At the Idaho house, I knew where everything was. If I needed a jar of peaches, all I had to do was walk outside to the pantry in the three-bay shop. If I needed a roll of string or a nail, I knew they were in the bottom drawer in the laundry room. Easy peasy. Here, in Oregon, not so much.
Here there is no pantry in the shop. Here the shop consists of a one-car garage crammed with my husband’s yet to be situated table saws, hammers, and routers. Here there is no bottom drawer in the laundry room. In fact, there are no drawers in the laundry room, which is half the size of the laundry room left behind in Idaho.
True, the house in Oregon is larger, a triple wide modular home instead of a double. With vaulted ceilings and an extra living room I can convert into an office, freeing up one of the bedrooms so the grandkids don’t have to sleep on the floor. The Oregon house sits on half an acre instead of ten, and it’s three minutes from the ocean instead of a noisy freeway. In Idaho, I could hear the din of traffic twenty-four hours a day. Here it is the ocean, which is a sound I recorded to fall asleep, and a sound I listen to to write. One “white noise” replaces another, but this white noise is nicer, and here I don’t mind being outside.
It isn’t the outside that is tricky though. It’s the inside, and the cupboards, and where to put everything. The bedrooms and bathrooms aren’t too hard, towels and sheets go in closets, as do the clothes. We were ruthless in downsizing, and here everything fits. No extra blankets to store under the bed. No extra shoes taking up space. Our packing motto, “use it or lose it,” paid off. There isn’t a lot of extra stuff looking for a home.
But it’s the kitchen that’s giving me fits. Yes, I have more cupboards in this kitchen. But they are arranged differently than those in Idaho. There’s a long floor to ceiling cupboard I can use as a pantry. But it’s so deep I have to be careful what I put in the back. And there’s a small cupboard by the stove instead of the double one I am used to that held all my spices.
Moving is like being on an adventure. Open this door, what will you find? And that’s what I’ve been doing for weeks as I adapt to my new home. What doesn’t work so well in one cupboard gets moved to another. What doesn’t get used every day gets moved off the kitchen counter. As I move things around, I feel like I’m spinning, and I’ll be glad when this “moving” part ends.
Moving at any age is hard, but it takes a toll on someone in their sixties. At times I feel like I am playing hide and seek. Like today. It’s time for lunch and I have no idea where I put the salt. I see I put the butter in the cupboard. Hopefully I won’t find the salt in the refrigerator.
Facebook asks, “What’s on your mind” and my first reaction is, “What mind?” Because there have been times in the last month that I feel like I’ve lost my mind, or rather left it in the gutter somewhere between Newport, Oregon, and Jerome, Idaho.
Sixty-five is a golden age, right? Sixty-five is when you retire and take it easy. That’s what I say to the stranger looking back at me in the mirror. The one who decided sixty-five was the perfect age to take on a new adventure.
This mind-blowing escapade wasn’t planned, but a trip to Oregon to celebrate my grandson’s high school graduation turned into a life-altering event. Tack on two extra days to visit the Oregon Coast and thirty days later I’ve signed an offer on a house, and I’m moving to Oregon.
“What?” my friends say in surprise. My closest friend shakes her head in disbelief, and no one is more surprised than I am.
The last time we moved, we moved to be closer to my husband’s work. We bought a place on ten acres, planted fruit trees, and made our home. Everything here has a place. Here everything is comfortable and settled. Apples and peaches are ripening, and soon squirrels will fight over walnuts and filberts. I should be relaxing with a book, or having coffee with friends. Instead, I’m facing mountains of boxes as I plan my move.
Taping a box of dishes shut, I catch myself singing, “Hurry up old pioneer, keep a-movin’, your gallant little band must never fail. Riding side by side ‘cross the great divide, down the Oregon Trail.”
As I sing, I think about the women who made the trek to Oregon over a hundred years ago and how they had to narrow their life into a covered wagon. It’s hard, heart-wrenching work. What to take? What to leave? The task is daunting and often I have to walk away from the packing. I have to take a deep breath and practice meditation to calm my anxiety. Or play a couple hands of spider solitaire, brew a cup of calming tea, and consider a tall gin and tonic.
Moving at any age is scary. But moving at sixty-five feels like nothing I’ve ever done before. Questions ricochet in my head. Am I making the right choice? What about doctors? What about medical insurance? Will I miss Idaho? Will I like the rain?
There is a bright side to my madness. Now, when I want to see my grandkids, I only have to drive two hours instead of ten. Now, when I want to attend a conference in Portland, I don’t have to hassle with airport security. When I want to have a dinner with my son and daughter-in-law, or take in a Broadway musical, I can without having to justify the cost of a two-day trip. And best of all, no more holiday dinners on Skype.
Yesterday a picture came across my Facebook page that said: Stress is two forces moving in opposite directions. Sit still.
I’m going to keep that in mind the next time I feel my head exploding. I’ll take a deep breath, sip a gin and tonic, and try to sit still. But I’ll also be humming, down the Oregon Trail.
Wagon train go rollin’ cross the prairie
Winding onward through the storm and gale
Towards the land of dreams trudge the old ox teams
Down the Oregon Trail
Through the night the Lord is in the saddle
Riding herd beneath the moon so pale
Watching o’er ach stray till the break of day
Down the Oregon Trail
There’ll be cattle on each ranch in Oregon
There’ll be valleys filled with golden grain
There’l be apples on each branch in Oregon
For there’ll be plenty sun and rain
Hurry up old pioneer, keep movin’
Your gallant little band must never fail
Riding side by side ‘cross the great divide
Down the Oregon Trail
-Down the Oregon Trail by Burl Ives