I’ve been quiet and you probably think I fell into the ocean or got blown away by coastal storms. But no, I’m still here, learning all I can about my new home.
The reason I’ve been silent is that I’ve been busy. For a tiny dot on the map between Yachats and Lincoln City, Newport’s population is about the same as the town I left in Idaho. If you want a Costco or a Lowe’s you have to drive several miles, just like I did in Idaho. But unlike the town I left behind, there is so much more to do here I barely have time to read, let alone write.
Check out the latest issue of Oregon Coast Today and you will see there is always something going on. Add to that everything happening in The Valley between here and Portland and there is no time to be bored. Ever.
Take for instance last weekend. Since I don’t like to drive Portland traffic my son quietly obliged, taking me to Portland’s annual book festival Wordstock. I was so revitalized I’m still vibrating. My favorite author, Alice Hoffman, was in town and spoke about her new book Faithful. She even signed my copy and thanked me for stopping by. So many other talented writers attended, not to mention many Oregon presses including Ooligan Press, Tin House, and my favorite, Laura Stanfill from Forest Avenue Press. If that wasn’t great enough, admission to the event included admittance to the Portland Art Museum and the Andy Warhol exhibit. Now my son was vibrating, snapping pictures and studying one-of-a-kind art. Yes, it was raining. But in spite of the rain, it was a positive, energizing day.
That evening my family took in The Drowsy Chaperone, a musical put on by my grandson Dante’s high school class. The students were top notch, high energy, and amazing. The day ended with dinner at The Ram and a glass of wine. Perfect.
Many people told me I was crazy to move to Oregon. Several said I’d get depressed and miss the sun. And even though I miss my friends in Idaho, and sometimes I do miss the sun, mostly I love it here. Even when it’s raining.
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.
When we were contemplating a move to Oregon, we were warned about wind and rain. “Stay away if you don’t like the rain,” we were told. “It rains there every day.”
Well, not really. It doesn’t rain every day, but yes, it does rain a lot. In southern Idaho rain is scarce. We were lucky to see ten inches of rain a year. In Oregon we see that much rain in one month. Idaho weathermen talk about wind and drought. Oregon weathermen talk about rain and showers.
“What is it?” my husband asked me the other day. “Rain or showers?”
Thus began the debate. Was it raining, or was this a shower? We asked our resident son. “It’s raining,” he said.
“No,” his wife said. “It’s a shower.”
Which sent me to the Internet and dictionary. What should be easy to differentiate appears to be tricky. Even though “showers” are indeed rain, there’s a subtle difference as far as weather forecasts go.
This is what I learned.
“Rain” as in “a rainy day” or “occasional rain” is more widespread. Most, if not all, of the area will see rain and it will last for a while. Unlike rain “showers” the duration of rain is steady and prolonged. Rain tends to be light to moderate in intensity and generally comes from stratus clouds. Rain usually lasts longer than showers.
“Showers,” on the other hand, are more scattered. It could be raining in Lincoln City, but dry in South Beach. Showers tend to be shorter in duration, while rain could last all day. “Showers,” also known as “rain showers,” tend to be quick and come in bursts. Showers come from puffy clouds or cumuliform clouds like cumulus or cumulonimbus. Compared to rain, showers cover a smaller area but can be more intense. Conversely, showers are more dispersed than rain. Isolated showers are those that are divided during a certain time frame. Local showers is rain that happens in a much smaller area of coverage. There are also patchy showers, which happen irregularly within a specific area. Showers often start and end more abruptly compared to rains.
Yesterday we drove to Lincoln City and it started to rain. “So,” I said. “Is this rain or showers?”
My husband turned on the windshield wipers. “Showers,” he said. “Anything over three clicks on the wiper switch is showers, not rain.”
So there you have it, if you ever get caught in a debate about rain or showers. Either way you’ll need an umbrella.
December 31, 2015
While everyone is celebrating New Year’s Eve I’m taking a moment to reflect on the last twelve months. In one short year so much has happened. Weddings. Graduations. Illnesses. Deaths. Loss. Relocation. I might be tempted to write a sappy blog about the highs and lows of a hellish year, but all I feel is gratitude.
Tonight as I tip my champagne glass at the television, I say to my husband, “Just once I’d like to do that.”
He stares blankly at the TV. “What?”
“Watch the ball drop at Times Square.”
He turns toward me. “Really.”
No, I guess not. That’s a lot of people. Over a million, the commentator claims. People yelling and pushing and probably exhausted from standing in line for thirteen hours to save a spot. But there really was a time when I would have stayed up all night to join that crowd and welcome in the New Year, to dance and sing with Frank Sinatra, “New York, New York.”
But not anymore. If I were to make that trip today I would be jet-lagged and ill. The change in altitude would rev up my Meniere’s disease sending my head spinning. Nonetheless, it would have been an exciting way to welcome in 2016.
This time last year I was sitting with family in a vacation rental near Moolack Beach. We call it our Griswold Family Christmas. Most of us were sick. To make matters worse a valve in the holding tank was broken. Baby Ellie was sick. So were her parents. There was an ocean full of water outside but inside there was not a drop to drink. Twice we drove into Newport for water. We bought all the bottled water Thriftway carried, then hit up Safeway and Fred Meyer’s. In more ways than one it was the Christmas from hell. We tried to laugh, but we were miserable and ready to go home. By 10 p.m. we were all in bed, our plans to celebrate the New Year abandoned.
Fast forward a year and once again I have an opportunity to welcome in the New Year on the Oregon Coast. But this time I’m eating fresh crab and sipping champagne. There is no vacation rental; there is no broken valve. There is plenty of fresh water. This year our family Christmas was awesome instead of a disaster. Celebrating with our son and family in Happy Valley we baked cookies, beaded snowflakes, and drove into Portland to see the lights at Peacock Lane as well as the red and green lights on the bridge. We celebrated the Winter Solstice at Milwaukie’s Riverfront Park, sang carols, drank hot chocolate around a huge bonfire, and watched the fire reflect in the water. Everything was magical; it truly felt like Christmas.
That Griswold Christmas seems a long time ago. So much has changed. Now when I open my front door I hear the ocean instead of traffic. While friends in Idaho bundle up against single digit temperatures and inches of snow, the ground in my front yard has yet to freeze.
“Happy New Year.” I clink my husband’s glass as he heads off to bed. It’s 9 p.m. We’re not going to make it to midnight.
Welcome to Newport I hum as Kathy Griffin and Cooper Anderson razz each other at Times Square. I laugh at one of their jokes. The camera zooms in on the ball. The crowd behind them cheers.
I tip my glass toward the TV and finish my champagne. I am warm. I am happy. I am safe.
I turn off the television and put Emily, Riley, and Boo to bed. “Happy New Year,” I pat them on their heads as I retire. They waggle their tails. I turn out the lights.
I am filled with gratitude.
I am filled with awe.
I am humbled.
When I moved from Idaho to Oregon my biggest fear was how well I would adapt to the wet climate. I’m a sunshine girl. I’ve spent most of my life living on a high desert plain. I know about wind. I know about dry air. But I knew nothing about wet and gray. That nagging voice in my head kept harping, You’re not going to like it. You’re not going to like it.
But this week as I watch the temperatures in Jerome, Idaho, drop to below zero, I’m not so sure. Here in South Beach it’s a misty 52°. Last night temperatures dipped to 45, not 18. This week I didn’t have to wake to -1°. And yesterday I was able to get outdoors and take a walk between raindrops without snow boots and gloves. The air was fresh; the roads were wet, but not icy. And this is December.
Idaho Decembers can be treacherous, especially the first snowfall and freeze. Cars run off the freeway, pileups happen, summoning a parade of tow trucks until people slow down. December in Oregon is also dangerous. There may not be snow on the road, but there is plenty of freezing rain. You can drive along at normal speed and then bam! you round a corner and hit ice. I’ve had my share of driving winter roads. I know how to maneuver. But between you and me, I prefer snow-covered to ice. Ice is impossible, even with chains.
So though some thing’s change, some things stay the same. It’s winter, and time to take it easy. Maybe it’s nature’s way of telling us to slow down and enjoy the season.
Yesterday I received an email from my brother. So, it said, do you still like it there?
Let me think.
I’m headed into the third month in my new house. The boxes are unpacked. Everything has been put away or donated to Goodwill. Most of the pictures are on the wall, with the remaining three in a dining room chair waiting for me to find the perfect place. Finally there is time to take a walk through the wooded neighborhood or sit in front of the window and sip coffee. Finally there is time to take in some community events, which are many.
In spite of the loud clothes my husband sports, we are quiet people. We don’t like a lot of hustle and bustle or big crowds. Newport is anything but quiet during the summer months, but come September vacationers return to their homes and things settle down here. But not too much. In fact, not at all. We’ve discovered there is always something to do on the Oregon Coast. From Lincoln City to Florence, there is always something going on: farmer’s markets, mushroom walks, kite festivals, writing workshops, woodworking classes. This is not a community of old people. This town is very active.
Newport isn’t as big as Jerome, Idaho, which boasts approximately eleven thousand people. Newport has a population of about ten thousand after tourist season. Newport has a great medical facility and the library is awesome for such a small town. Just this week the Newport Public Library Foundation sponsored author Marja Mills, who spent her day talking to Newport students and then, that night, read from her book and shared with the community what it was like to live next door to Alice and Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama. The evening was interesting, and it was free.
Today the sun is shining. Outdoors it’s a balmy 50 degrees. There is no wind. There is no snow. There is no freeway traffic.
So, to answer my brother. Yes, I still like it here. No, wait, that’s wrong. I not only like it here, I think I’m in love.
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.
August 8, 2015
The dutiful son and I leave Happy Valley and merge with traffic heading south on I-5. It’s early enough roads aren’t crowded, and no one is tired and enacting road rage. I’ve driven this road before, several times, and the good thing about I-5 is that it’s a straight shot to Salem, no twisty turns to slow the pace.
We take exit 228 toward Lebanon and Corvallis and begin the windy drive toward the coast. According to mapquest, the trip to Newport is 139 miles. By comparison, a trip from Jerome to Boise, Idaho, a 120-mile drive, would take less than two hours. But here the trip takes almost three as the single-lane road winds at a slow 50, 55-mile pace. Idaho recently raised the freeway speed limit to 80 miles an hour, which makes sense in southern Idaho where there isn’t anything to destroy but desert. Here you couldn’t drive 80 miles an hour if you wanted to, not when curves warn “slow down,” and there are almost as many curves as trees. But the drive is beautiful, and every time I make it I think of Lewis and Clark and how primeval everything must have been 200 years ago. Even now, if road crews didn’t trim back foliage, the blackberries, deer fern, and juniper mistletoe would devour the road, and I would be searching for a way through the forest.
I roll down my window and enjoy the pine-scented air. Back in Idaho temperatures are three digits, here it is cooler, and where I am going the average daily temperature is 64 degrees. That’s part of the reason for this move: no more harsh winters and no more blistering summers. But that’s a lie. The reason for this move is simple. I love the ocean. I want to live on the coast.
It seems like fall, and I’m surprised at how the colors are already changing to red and yellow. It’s the drought my son says when I comment. It’s hard to believe this lush land is experiencing a drought, not with all the green around me. But there are signs everywhere with dead trees and straw-colored grass. And I understand drought. In Idaho, everything is brown and much of the terrain is on fire.
I have a lot to learn about this state that supports the right to die, medicinal marijuana, and mandatory recycling. This green state meshes with my personality. I believe in leaving a light footprint, if I must leave one at all. And I love to play in the dirt. My Idaho friends have placed bets. How long will it be before I put my nose in a nursery? Surprisingly, my list is small: star jasmine, blue hydrangea, peace lilies, and a white magnolia, none of which survive harsh Idaho winters.
Even before I pull into Newport, I smell the salt air. I inhale. It’s comforting, and welcoming, and feels like home.
August 6, 2015
Papers signed, money spent, and I’m headed to Oregon. At 6:30 a.m. I drive down the lane that leads away from my home in Jerome, Idaho, and try to focus my sleep-blurred eyes. Even though I’ve been awake most of the night waiting for the minutes to pass, I’m sleepy, and reluctant to go. I kiss my husband goodbye and wish that he could come along on this journey. But he has to stay in Idaho to tend the ten acres we call Pauly’s Folly until it sells, and I have to establish our new home in Oregon. This isn’t a new story; many couples commute long distance, but it is a new story for us. In forty-five years of marriage, this is the longest time we will spend apart.
Driving slowly, I attempt to take it all in. Goodbye linden and lilacs. So long walnuts and apples. The squirrels and magpies get to enjoy you this year without interference from me. I let my eyes scan the ten acres. If all goes as planned this is the last time I will drive down this lane.
Once I leave Pauly’s Folly, I pack away my reminiscences and get down to business. I have an 8:40 appointment with the Boise Airport. My son is flying in to help drive the many miles toward my new home.
There is no word for what I’m feeling. Not bittersweet, not lost. Not even afraid. More apprehensive than excited, a little bit void like an abandoned chrysalis. This trip might feel different if I weren’t making it alone, and technically I’m not alone; I have my three rescue dogs riding in the back seat. But they can’t sing to pass the time, and they can’t tell me that I’m doing the right thing, so I flip on a CD and sing as loud as I can with Taylor Swift as I head toward the ocean.
I know the road to the Boise Airport better than I know my own name and with any luck I won’t have to travel across this high desert plain again any time soon. I won’t miss the dusty miles of sagebrush, or the wash-boardy road between Mountain Home and Boise. I won’t miss the semis zooming by, or the giant windmills scarring the landscape. But I might miss the Snake River and Three Island Crossing near Glenns Ferry. And maybe the rock shop my friend had in King Hill where we dreamed of holding writing workshops in one of the rooms upstairs.
My son waves when I pull up to the terminal, and says, “Get over.” I happily relinquish the driver’s seat.
“Ready?” he asks as we leave the terminal and take I-84 to Ontario. We are lucky this morning. Yesterday this highway was closed due to the many wildfires between here and Washington.
“Yup,” I say, as the darkness that has edged my heart lifts a little. Today we will have to take no detours, today is good. Today we fly.