Saturday, April 14, 2007

Being Oregonian

I've lived in Oregon virtually all my life. I was born in Boise, Idaho but we only lived there a few months before my parents relocated to a small town in Eastern Oregon.

I never did like the small town life much and was always a restless soul during my childhood. I found the constraints of our geography to often be suffocating in its authoritarian reach. In other words, you couldn't scratch your butt without half the town knowing about it and the other half weighing in on how you were doing it wrong.

Every three years or so, my father would pack us all up in the car for a trip to his native Arkansas. He loved to drive and would spend weeks mapping the route in advance of our departure. Each time we'd take a different 6 day (3 days there, 3 days back) route--seeing the amazing landscape of the United States. By the time I was 17, I'd seen all of the states west of the Mississippi by car except for Alaska and Hawaii.

I always appreciated coming home at the end of those trips, even with the constant oversight of locals. It was great to be away and see new things--but there's no place like home.

When I left my parent's nest and went to college at age 18, I left Eastern Oregon and never really looked back. Once I landed in the Willamette Valley--I knew I'd never return to live in that small town. I was never a small town girl. But later I discovered that I could never not be an Oregonian.

Not long after college graduation, I moved to the peninsula of Washington State. Its a truly gorgeous place. But the people tend to be much different. Many are nomads--with the cache of military installations in the region a lot of the people aren't really Washingtonians. Lots of the people I met were there tolerating their existence, unhappy with the weather and the living conditions. I longed to return to Oregon.

So in 1995 I came home. Not to the small town where I grew up but to the west side of the mountains that I love. I realize that Oregon is my Tara--as Rhett tells Scarlett in Gone With The Wind: "You get your strength from this red earth of Tara, Scarlett. You're a part of it. It's a part of you." I completely understand what that means. I get my strength from the clay earth of Oregon. Its a part of me, I'm a part of it.

I did all that traveling around the US as a child. If I make it to Vermont, Georgia, New Hampshire,Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana I'll have been to every state. And given that I'm still missing a few, maybe there is a place in the US that I could love more than Oregon. But so far, every other state pales for me in comparison.

Some might say that makes me an elitist. But I think that just makes me an Oregonian.