Life in a Northern Town

Today, my wife and I celebrate thirteen years of happy marriage. We’ve been through a lot together, and every year on this day, I reflect on how much we’ve both grown and how our years of shared experience have deepened our intimacy and mutual understanding.

This past year has been a particularly challenging one. Selling our house and moving across the country in the middle of a pandemic was never on my bucket list! Without Maya’s partnership I would not have done it, But I am so much happier here than I was in New Jersey that I am really grateful for her commitment to getting us out here.

If I said this was in my back yard, would you believe me? Yeah, neither would I.

And certainly, both our lives are better here. We are finally relaxing and settling in as the dust of the last year settles and we start to realize that yes, we actually DO live here now.

A couple people reached out to ask if I’d given up on this blog and I had to respond with some embarrassment that I hadn’t. Why haven’t I written lately? It’s not being “too busy” — I make time for writing every day. It’s more that my day-to-day has changed from a single-minded “mission” (Get To Oregon) to a shifting set of small events and activities. Does anyone want to read about the ninety minutes we spent discussing sofa colors? I’m thinking not.

There are some big things though. The roads here are very different. They are not built for the high traffic volumes that are unavoidable in more built-up places. You really get the sense, especially up in the mountains, that you are on your own. Heavily graded roads with no shoulder, no guard rail, and an eighty foot drop on one side are fairly common. To avoid them, I’ve stopped trusting google’s route planner. I don’t mind negotiating these roads at my own pace, but the locals want to go much faster than that (after all they know the roads well) and on a two-lane road on a mountain side pull-off and passing options just don’t exist for long stretches. And people here think tail gating is “cool”.

I’m adjusting, but it’s going to take some time. We are doing a lot of driving as we round up used furniture, much of it from folks who are living well off the beaten path. Our last adventure took us several miles down gravel roads on grades of better (or worse, really) than 6%. We were in our Chevy Bolt, a lightweight car that I’ve never taken off a paved road before. It was fine and I got a nice scroll saw (with a table, not a jig saw) for $50, but I was pretty nervous!

Medium really likes large images, don’t they?

We’ve also learned a lot about the peacocks. Apparently, about a year ago, there was a guy in the neighborhood who did not like them and was campaigning for their removal. Fortunately he has moved away, but this prompted us to buy a peacock lawn ornament to proclaim our support for our feathery neighbors. We are FOPs (Friends of the Peafowl) and have joined the inevitable FB support group.

The birds will start mating soon, a process I gather is quite noisy.

Our yard backs up to an easement which Maya describes as “a riparian area surrounding the local creek”. Our back fence, which is cinder block, has a gate that, once upon a time, allowed access to the riparia (?). This hasn’t been kept up, and over the last few years has become overgrown with Russian blackberry. Yesterday afternoon, we cut all this away and will eventually hack a trail down to the creek. Right now, we can now open the gate onto a thicket of utterly impassable and very thorny blackberries. There’s still a lot of work to do.

Before…
…after!

The pink tree to the left smells like heaven and is full of very chill bees. Maya loves bees and was as thrilled by their steady humming as she was by the aroma of the flowers. I hope I’m correct in saying that they were honey bees. I’m no expert but from the little I know they seemed the right sort. In any case, there were not at all aggressive and we worked right next to their harvesting operation for over an hour with no issues.

Maybe the best way to contrast living here with living in New Jersey is to compare the two community FB groups. Back in Lindenwold, the chat group asked questions like “Who else heard that explosion?” and “Was that gunfire?” and “What were all those sirens just now?” Out here it’s more, “A cat has wandered into my yard. Here’s a picture. Is it yours?” Though my favorite, earlier this week, was “There is a herd of cows wandering along Riddel Road. Please come get them.” When I saw this I turned to Maya and asked, “Want some cows?” but apparently that’s not how it works. Also, she said “No.”, to my surprise.

And lastly, for today, the coffee and beer out here are simply phenomenal. I had a chocolate cherry porter yesterday that was slightly sour and perfectly balanced. I also had a few sips of Maya’s excellent peanut butter stout. Yum! This is some serious small-batch, artisanal, hipster brew over here. God bless the annoying little hipsters that make it!

I am a bear living among humans, and have gotten so good at it that people rarely notice. I am a husband, step-father, author, musician, and much else.