Moving around the US as much as my family did when I was young, it’s not easy to come up with an answer to the question, “Where are you from?” On the one hand, I am tempted to answer “Boston,” since that’s where the Cap’n and I lived for many years before making aliyah. But despite my Vermonter mother and the fact that our ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, no one could mistake me for a New Englander. I’m no Southerner (we only lasted two years in Georgia), nor a Coloradan, nor a Californian. I was born in Seattle, but my family left before I was a year old.
That leaves Oregon, where I spent six years as a child and another twelve on and off as an adult. I worked there, made friends, and got to know the place better than any other state I’ve lived in. My friend Kathy and I would make day trips to the coast, to Astoria, to Warm Springs. I skied on Mount Hood, hiked in the Columbia Gorge, stayed on the Metolius River, visited Sisters with my family, drifted down the Deschutes River with my father, attended a play at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Portland was my stomping ground for many years, going to movies at the Movie House (an indie theater that doubled as the Portland Women’s Club, where the lobby was full of squishy armchairs, board games, and a fireplace); the opera; hiking in Forest Park and Tryon Creek State Park; visiting the zoo and the Forestry Center; strolling through the Rose Test Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and the Japanese Garden; and enjoying the wide variety of great restaurants including our family’s favorites: Swagat (south Indian, located in Beaverton), Kashmir (Pakistani), Al-Amir (Lebanese), and Mykonos (Greek).
With the cooler weather coming here in Efrat, I am reminded that there was never a bad season in Oregon. Summers were sometimes late (beginning in July some years), but warm and dry. Autumn was cool and crisp, with a dizzying variety of apples (with which my family would make homemade cider). Winter was cool and drizzly much of the time, but we got the occasional snow around New Year’s which made the place a wonderland. (When my parents moved back to Oregon my last year of college, they bought a house atop a steep hill with a panoramic view of Mount Hood out the living room window. It snowed that winter, and my entire family—Irish setter included—sledded down the steep hill in the middle of the night.) And spring was magical, with fragrant daffodils blooming, the delicate smell from the flowering crabapple tree drifting through my open window, and the “Chiddle-urp! chiddle-urp! chiddle-urp!” of robins in the morning.
While Seattle was very hip in the 1990s for its grunge scene, Starbuck’s coffee, and crunchy, flannel-wearing Northwest character, Oregon has its share of attractions. It’s always been a place where beer is beloved, with the Anheuser-Busch brewery right behind Powell’s Bookstore downtown, and microbreweries everywhere. Windsurfers flock from all over the world to surf the powerful winds of the Columbia Gorge. And those interested in natural beauty can find desert, lakes, old-grown forests, mountains, beaches, and rivers to explore. Portland has more annual rainfall than Seattle, but growing up with that much rain taught me never to be put off by it. (The Cap’n and I were once expecting Shabbat guests, but the torrential rain that day kept them at home. We, on the other hand, NEVER missed a social engagement due to rain. There is a Minnesotan expression, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”) Rain, after all, is an excellent excuse for hot chocolate.
I once heard a talk by a local rabbi who was new to Portland. He remarked on the magnificent view of Mount Hood from the city of Portland and wondered aloud when the wonder of it wears off. The audience chuckled and murmured, “Never.” I could say the same for the rest of the state. Since in the American psyche, Oregon is one of those tucked-away places, like Wyoming, Delaware, and Nebraska, I’ll share a few photos of the place (from the Web):
Japanese Gardens, Portland
The Salmon River
Rose Test Garden, Portland
My children occasionally ask me if I miss America. I can’t deny that I do sometimes, and that my yearning is not eased by the knowledge that I may never see Oregon again more than once, perhaps twice. But I hope one day, on one of our family’s rare trips to the US, to take my children to see it.
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