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.
We’ve always been explorers, enjoying the back roads of Idaho and now Oregon. We’re not cityites who like to stare at window displays or order lattes. We like to travel back roads, sip home-brewed coffee, and enjoy the scenery.
Knowing we liked quiet places for our dogs to run, a neighbor told us to check out the road from Beaver Creek to Toledo. “It’s mostly gravel,” he said, “and it’s easy to get lost. There isn’t much traffic. Nice drive, though.”
Enjoying a challenge, we filled our coffee mugs, gathered our dogs, headed south on 101, and turned east toward Beaver Creek. We turned left where the road teed and stopped at the Beaver Creek Welcome Center, hoping they’d have a map of the area.
No maps, just a volunteer. “Follow that road,” he said. “Stay left.” He pondered a moment. “Turns to gravel. Think it’s twenty or thirty miles. Been a while since I drove it. If you get lost, you can always turn around and come back.”
We looked at each other. Turning back was rarely an option. Not when we wanted to see something new.
After considerable conversation, we waved a cheerful goodbye and followed the road. Within minutes we stopped at a small park with a picnic table and a large area for the dogs to run. While the dogs sniffed bushes, we picked blackberries and chomped on half-ripe apples from a nearby tree.
“Yuk.” I spit out the bitter fruit.
“Just right,” my husband said happily.
We rounded up the dogs, got back in the truck, and continued on.
No cars tried to pass us. No trucks met us head-on. The only vehicle on the road, we traveled slowly enjoying the drive, heavy with vegetation on both sides of the road.
“Reminds me of the road to Fall Creek,” I said, commenting on the dense undergrowth. But instead of seeing obelisks of mullein and ponderosa pine, the shoulders of these roads were thick with evening primrose, foxglove, and purple loosestrife. I gawked out the window trying to identify the plants: Queen Anne’s Lace, mountain ash, ocean spray, and wild rose. Many more varieties than I would see traveling the gravel road from Fall Creek to Featherville, which held mostly fern and pine.
“Look,” my husband said as two velveted buck dashed in front of us. He hit the brakes and we watched them dart into the trees. We knew they were watching us, waiting for us to leave. But try as we might, we couldn’t spy an eye or an antler.
Moving on, it wasn’t long before we hit gravel. The vegetation grew thicker, canopying the narrow road. Blackberry vines reached toward the truck, each branch heavy with green berries. We were driving into a jungle, secluded and uninhabited, with no signs to guide us.
“Wonder if we should turn around?” my husband said, recalling the words of the Beaver Creek volunteer. Unwilling to give up, we moved forward, deeper into the forest.
“Must be on the right road,” my husband said when we finally spotted a mile marker that looked lost on the gravel road.
“How many miles did he say?” I asked.
“Twenty or thirty.”
We’d been driving almost an hour, but I couldn’t judge mileage. We were moving slow, sometimes five miles an hour, up, then down, wind around a corner. Wind around another corner so dark with shade we couldn’t see the sun.
Climbing again, we broke out onto a sunny hilltop. The panorama of the valley was jaw-dropping, worth the worry of getting lost.
“I know where we are now,” my husband said. “Toledo is right over there.”
Leaving the forest behind, we headed down. Minutes later we were on familiar asphalt again.
“Not even twenty miles,” my husband said.
“Not bad at all,” I said. “Perfect way to spend an afternoon.”
And the very best part of the drive was that we didn’t once have to turn around.
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.
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.