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.