Tag Archives: EXPLOREGON!

On the Frontier

I remarked to Robert this week that Oregon will always be the frontier of America– wild, lawless, not quite part of the Union and not quite foreign, where cultures collide and there’s still far more natural than human on the horizon.

That Oregon is a refuge of weirdness is well-known.  There’s a whole television show about the quirkiness of Portland, which, believe it or not, is the actually the most Americanized, most assimilated place out here.  In the small towns, composed of farmers, ranchers, fruit-pickers, teachers, nurses, midwives, distillers, and store clerks, things are downright eccentric.

People are a little bit skeptical of strangers, like in all small towns, but they make an effort to be friendly.  When you are introduced to someone, you lean far, far out of your personal space, feet firmly planted, to extend an overbalanced handshake.  When you greet a friend, you raise your left hand and hug them across the shoulder blades from your right side, and the pair of you briefly create two cache-coeurs around each other with your arms.

We celebrate weird, here.

We go to the drive-in, and we shop at the farmer’s market.  We have a parade to celebrate flowers, and we drive 50 miles on the freeway as if it’s nothing.  We walk home in the rain and we travel to seek out snow and surf.  We know that the best watermelons come from Hermiston and the best strawberries from Hood River.  We watch the fields stream by out of the windows of cars and trains and buses and we know: that’s barley, that’s hops, that’s rye, that’s cabbage, that’s grapes, that’s green beans.  We speak Spanish and Chinook jargon and French.  We chop wood and haul wood and mill wood and burn wood and plant saplings and listen to the forest sighing in the wind and count the rings on our Christmas trees and always seem to have some pitch on our hands.  We are Facebook fans of that hideous airport carpet, that, ugly as it is, means “home.”  We vote by mail to protect the salmon, and we hold nothing more sacred than our own self-determination.

I’ve lived all over this state, and traveled even more of it.  I’ve tracked deer in the Wallowas, I’ve boogie boarded in Pacific City, and I’ve stared up at the stars on the Nevada border.  I know the sharp smell of an approaching thunderstorm in the high desert, and the gentle susurration of ocean waves on a sunny afternoon, and the chill of dew on prairie grass under my bare feet.

And I can’t imagine raising my children anywhere else.

Today is the third anniversary of the day we bought our plane tickets home.  My eyes sting with tears as I think about that– how long it’s been, how we’re starting to take Oregon for granted again, how Númenor and Ithilien don’t really remember living anywhere else.

The fact is, back east was too much for us.  Too much in our business.  Too much snow.  Too much traffic.  Too much crowding.  Too much America.  Too much pollution.  Too much conformity.  Too much erosion of the mountains.  Too much lime in the drinking water.  Too much fuss to vote.  Too much fear.  Too much civilization.

When I stepped off that plane and saw that hideous windmill carpet in PDX, I could breathe again.  As we drove through rainy, nighttime Portland, trying to find the food we’d promised our beleaguered toddlers who had just endured a three-layover cross-country flight, it all came back to me.  How to navigate Portland, and that we should be looking for a Plaid Pantry, and what it felt like to know you belonged somewhere.

The state of Oregon will be turning 147 years old this month.  But somehow, it still feels like a territory.  It’s a place of changes and contradictions and clashing cultures and weirdness, where the rules don’t fully apply.  And it is my home.

So thank you, Oregon, for flying with your own wings.  And thank you, fellow Oregonians, for keeping this place a weird and wild exception to the rules.

Life on the frontier is a perfect fit for me.

Last Days of Summer

This space has gone a bit quiet lately because we’ve all been so busy making ready: ready for the last fleeting moments of summer, for the coming academic year, for the new baby, for the building and practicing and learning we will occupy ourselves with when the rains move in.

So many baby things are flying off my needles these days, for our newbie and for others.  Robert has been working on our crib, and giving the chicken yard and henhouse some desperately-needed updates.  The smalls have been doing everything and nothing in that fantastic way peculiar to children in the summer.

While Robert took a rest by himself this afternoon, the smalls and I talked about what we absolutely MUST still do:

— visit our friends up in Seattle

— go to OMSI

— have Walla Walla Sweet Onion Rings and marionberry lemonade at least once more

— go to the drive-in again, IF they ever show anything decent again

— dip our toes in the pacific one last time before it’s too cold

— put up as many tomatoes as possible

— clean the sun room (there *may* have been some eye-rolling and but-why-ing about this one)

— finish stripping the bark off the logs for the crib

There are just four weeks left in summer 2015.  What will you be doing?



WIP Wednesday

knitting on baby blanket WIPstart date: 25 May 2015
time elapsed: 1 month, 6 days
completeness: 50%

Once upon a time, I received a big skein of yarn as a gift.  It was cotton and the colors reminded me of fruit stripe gum.  I wanted to use it, but wasn’t sure how.

Then I discovered the super-sized-doily-as-blanket phenomenon.  I quickly knitted up the offending yarn into a Hemlock Ring baby blanket, and I LOVED it.  A round baby blanket!  Could there be anything more perfect?

I was an instant convert.  With a round blanket, using it as a decorative throw after your baby outgrows it is effortless.  A round blanket makes a superior nursing shawl, the perfect ground cover, and a more convenient sunshade.  To wrap a tiny newbie, fold the blanket in half and swaddle as usual.  To cover an older baby, use in a single layer and NEVER worry about baby’s feet sticking out of the bottom or baby’s hands getting entangled.

So when i was looking for a gorgeous, timeless, lacy baby blanket pattern, I was drawn inexorably toward round shawls and oversized doilies.  I finally settled on Leaves of Grass by Jared Flood.

center of blanket I'm knitting showing flowery motif from the first lace chart

This is my first pi construction project.  In pi construction, rather than trying to knit a circle by making constant small increases at greater and greater distance from each other, you knit a long flat-topped tube: sections are worked totally straight with no increases or decreases, and between sections you work an increase row that doubles the number of stitches.  The magic happens when you block it– what was a long tube blooms into a perfectly flat circle thanks to the elasticity of the lace.  But I haven’t gotten to that part yet.

me still knitting along with Númenor's legs in the background

In fact, my progress has been achingly slow, due in part to the heat (when it’s 101 F outside, it’s NOT a great time to have a big pile of wool in your lap), but also to some minor difficulties in the pattern.  I’m about halfway through the third lace chart now (of five total), and completely in love with what’s taking shape on my needles, but happy to go slow and make a row or two of headway here and there.

showing the middle chart of the blanket with lacy zigzag or branching pattern

This project has been my companion on road trips and park benches since the weather turned summery.  I’ve knit on it in the car as we cruised down the coast, and while waiting for a movie to start at the drive-in, and on the back deck in the afternoon shade.

And when blanket-knitting weather comes again in the fall, I will be happy to sit in my favorite spot in our library and finish this up.  Not only will I be glad of a lap full of wool then, but I will also have the memories of sun on my skin and warm breezes and long summer evenings and days at the beach in every stitch.

And probably some sand and some dust, too.

Númenor holding the yarn cone I'm knitting from with my lap (and the WIP in it) in the background

The yarn is Jagger Spun 4/8 Waxed Lambswool in Umber— technically a weaving yarn,  but a very economical (not to mention beautiful, durable, and soft) choice for knitting and crochet.  Some people find that it works up at DK weight, but I am pretty satisfied with calling it worsted.

My fingernails were painted last week with Piggy Paint in Midnight Pansy (purple) and Ice Cream Dream (sparkly teal).  I highly recommend this brand; it is truly odorless, but it’s also long-lasting and bright.  Their marketing patter and some of their shade names make it pretty clear that they believe painted nails are gendered, so I can’t give them full points, but they make a great product.

Where We’ve Been

We traveled the state, learning to spell all the important words and breathing the sea air and feeling the cool dappled forest shade and biking unsteadily along the rivers.

We played in the rain.

Ithilien plays in the rain

We got haircuts.

We spoke the most important words in the world daily, hourly, sometimes more than once a minute: love, you, have, eat, hold, go, kind, wash, sweet, listen, look, yes, gentle.

We learned about cell division, human reproduction, essential vitamins and minerals, volcanoes, colonial encounters, death, weather, sharks, sea lions, shipwrecks, and salmon.

Númenor and Ithilien looking up at an exhibit at the aquarium

We sat in the sun and laughed with friends.

We celebrated the end of a teaching year, and witnessed the beginning of a marriage.

We played music with our speakers and made music with our voices, our hands, our hearts.

We ate strawberries and asparagus, brie and mustard, chocolate and almonds.  We drank hibiscus tea and lemonade and milkshakes and mead and plenty of cold water.

We heard the cicadas.

We told stories late into the night.

We went to the drive-in.

We danced in the car, and on the deck, and in the kitchen, and at the beach, and while pulling weeds, and to music we were hearing for the first time, and to songs we know by heart.

Númenor sifting sand at the beach

We boiled salt.

We scrubbed socks.

We compared tan lines.

sparse clouds in a blue sky with some fir tree branches

We read books and magazines and blogs and Wikipedia, and we read aloud and read along and laughed and cried and were transported.

We saw a coyote, and a falcon, and a snake, and dozens of butterflies.

We baked bread and we bought bread and we ate bread and we fed bread to the chickens.

We treated our wounds and checked on their progress in healing.

We made popsicles and transplanted seedlings, we smeared ourselves with lemon balm and watched spiders, we fixed things long-broken and made new starts.

In short, we made, we learned, and we lived.

Where have you been these past few weeks?

Catchweed Bedstraw

flowers and tall grasses in my yard

Since we moved home to Oregon, I’ve been brushing up on my plant ID.

Our backyard in Hillsboro, in a late-90s HOA-administered cookie cutter neighborhood, was pretty boring:  Grass, some broadleaf plantain, more grass, dandelion, grass, moss, Russian thistle, grass.

But here?  Here it’s chaos.  There are things I still haven’t identified.  Things that were deliberately planted here by some previous tenants unknown, invasive foreign specimens, wild native plants I’ve never seen before.

Things with names that the smalls can’t render and I revel in, like catchweed bedstraw, Siberian bugloss, red dead nettle, snow-in-summer.

Things I was ecstatic to discover, like yarrow and violet, oxalis and lemon balm.

Things that are good to eat, like miner’s lettuce and dandelion and dwarf black cherry.

Things that make good pollinator habitat, like butterfly bush, white clover, black medic.

Things that the chickens are welcome to destroy, like English ivy and Himalayan blackberry.

Things that are useful to my apothecary cabinet, like pineapple weed, broad-leaf plantain, Oregon manroot, and wild madder.

Things that perfume the evenings and are a balm to my soul, like lilac and rose.

When I was a small child, we had a picture book called Grindle Lamfoon and the Procurnious Fleekers.

If you know it, you already know why I brought it up– looking at a backyard full of wild-growing, escaped and never-tamed possibilities reminds me of the moon and its tune.

If you don’t know it, it’s basically a hippie allegory from the first back-to-the-earth movement: the protagonist can’t afford a fancy storebought costume for the big party, and while he’s moping about this, the moon sings him a song about the beauty of wildflowers and the DIY ethos, and he is so inspired that he makes his own fancy costume for the party, staying up all the night to do it, thus starting a DIY revolution in his community and making a stand for individualism and creativity.

“These things from the woods
are much greater by far
than expensive made costumes
and Fleeker-made cars.”

Grindle Lamfoon and the Procurnious Fleekers

red poppy and various grasses in my chaotic yard

So go on out there and look around this week, people.  See what there is.