Leaving the Pacific Northwest is always a little bittersweet for me: as much as I love the Portland area with all its great places to eat, wonderful friends to hang out with, gorgeous places to walk and relax and camp, fantastic beaches to get some sand between my toes, a wide selection of independent movie theaters, amazing, amazing, amazing coffee, and the off-chance that I might be able to visit with my son a bit, the grey months of fall, winter and spring pitch me down into pits of despair that I no longer can drag myself out of.
Yes, I enjoyed the first ten years of living there – for six months there’s no lawn mowing or garden weeding, there are soups on the back of the stove and logs burning in the fireplace, and I got to wear the scarves I so dearly love – but somewhere around that tenth year, I noticed that I became so depressed when the clouds moved in, that even getting up off the sofa required huge amounts of effort, both mentally and physically, that I had trouble conjuring up. So once I was no longer working and no longer had a house to live in, I found myself migrating south to areas where the sun shines all year long.
Last winter, due to some unforeseen craziness, I “accidentally” stayed in the Northwest where, after shattering my wrist and having a body that went wacko health-wise, I went on a mission to get well and healthy. I was able to get enough of what was going on resolved to convince my doctors that it was all right for me to head south… so I did.
Heading out from the Portland area, my first stop was about 146 miles south where I stopped at the Roseburg Station Pub and Brewery for lunch and a stamp on my McMenamins Passport (one of these days, I’ll write a blog about this passport experience because I’ve had a lot of fun getting mine filled out… and now I’m on my second one 😀 ).
Having re-fueled my vehicle, and with a full tummy and a new t-shirt thanks to the McMenamins Passport, I set out in a southerly direction again (this time just about 47.8 miles) with my next stop being in Wolf Creek, Oregon at the home of a long-time friend that I hadn’t seen in about eight years.
A quick history: I’ve known Karen about 44 years, give or take a month or two. For 42 of those years, she was married to my little brother, Dan; a couple of years ago, they divorced. She still lives in the same house they moved into back in 1989, and when we were in the area recently after my mother’s memorial service, son Mark, Nick and I stopped by to see if we could re-connect with her. She wasn’t home at the time but we were able to leave phone numbers with a friend to give to her. How’s that for cramming four decades of history into a short little paragraph? 😀
We sat on her front porch, eating pizza and chicken wings with several of her friends, and I say with all honesty it was delightful to know we were beginning a new phase of our friendship, one that could start from where we both were and proceed from there. All of us told stories upon stories upon stories, laughing out loud till our sides ached, until it became too cool to be comfortable outside without a jacket, and after the friends departed, the two of us moved inside to continue our catching-up.
It was during this time with just the two of us that Karen and I decided we would no longer introduce each other with any words having to do with my brother such as “This is my ex-sister-in-law” or “This is my ex-husband’s older sister.” Instead we would say that we were long time friends who had known each other over 40 years. Since my brother’s recent behavior is a sore point for both of us, albeit for very different reasons, it made sense to both of us to cut him out of the word-picture all together.
The next morning, after spending the night in Karen’s very comfortable spare bedroom, we went out to feed her chickens and check out the garden that’s getting ready for winter’s arrival. We discovered the rooster had a bloody foot (who even knew chicken feet bled?), which was no doubt the result of a hen who was bullying him, chasing him around the enclosure, pecking at his foot’s open wound, and grabbing his comb in her beak and shaking it! Bad chicken! Stop that! Stop it right now! (I can truthfully say to you that telling a chicken to stop doing something doesn’t work. Not in the least bit. It doesn’t even help to raise your voice or shake your fist.)
I helped Karen corral the delinquent hen, and after snagging her up, she was put into a wire cage that immediately went into the back of Karen’s car. And then we did something one can only do in a very small town in which one has lived for decades: we drove the chicken “downtown” to the one and only “main intersection” in this tiny town …and let her go. Mind you, after all that, she didn’t want to get out of the wire cage and trying to dump her out wasn’t working because she was hanging on for dear life with those chicken claws of hers, so it actually took both of us to get her out – one tipping the cage up and one prodding her from the backside – but once she plopped out onto the ground, she took off like any freed prisoner would. The wayward hen acted like she was in heaven or something: scratching around in the new-to-her dirt, pecking at some bug or blade of grass or something. Little did that chicken know that someone would be coming to get her soon – because you know, being a small town in Southern Oregon meant that there would be plenty of people who’d like a hen, whether for eating or laying, it wouldn’t matter. She’d have a new home before you could shake a fist at her and tell her to stop it!
Small towns are a hoot, aren’t they?
I kind of like the idea of having a friend I’ve known for a long time; I don’t have very many of those anymore. For most of us, getting older means people around us die, because face it, we all die some day, and looking out at the world without someone around who has known us for a long time just seems kind of odd, although I didn’t know it was odd until I got to experience having one of those long-time friends for a few hours. You know what I mean? I don’t have people around me who’ve known me a long time – I haven’t spent a lot of years in one place, I changed schools several times when I was growing up, I didn’t have a decades-long career in one location, I don’t have family around me or nearby (no parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandchildren, etc.). I’ve met many people over the years and I’ve stayed in contact with some of them and become “new friends” with others, but there’s something very special about an old friend, about someone who’s known you a long time, isn’t there?
Wow. When I started writing this story, I had no idea that this was the direction it was going to head. I enjoy writing from my stream of consciousness because I never know what’s going to show up! And now I wonder how many of you out there can relate to where this story about my stop in Wolf Creek went. Am I the only one whose long-time friends are long gone, whose mentors have passed on, who has no immediate family to hang out with, who is crafting a new reality with new friends, new experiences, who is building a new tribe? Is it just me who is at this crossroads, this place between the “old” and the “new”? Or are you there, too?
I don’t think I realized what being around someone who has known me a long time would be like until I spent this first evening of my road trip south with Karen, my long-time friend that I’ve known for over four decades. To those of you who have people like this in your lives: I hope you cherish them like the treasure they are. Let them know what they mean to you. Tell them today. Life is short and we never know when it’s going to be over, so tell them right now.
Do it for me.
PS. The chicken barely lasted an hour before she was gone… someone snagged her up right quick like!