(Note: this was written April 4th, 2014, when we were still in Portland. We made the move the 18th, but It’s taken me this long to find time to edit the photos and insert them into the text. The moment is long gone-by, but I still feel the pang; so here’s my thinking at the time, when the approaching departure loomed.)
It was supposed to be a slow and orderly process. My wife would retire sometime this summer. Then we’d begin looking around Oregon for a smaller and maybe less urban place to live and play. It looked to be a relatively low pressure series of events. We vowed to take our time with the process. We figured it might take a year or two to completely make the change. But in February a bouncing baby boy showed up in Olympia. Overnight, everything changed. Suddenly on the table was the idea of moving to the area so we could be just down the street from him and his five year old sister and seven year old cousin.
As appealing as the idea was, I struggled with it. I’ve connected at a very deep and visceral level with Oregon and its people. I’ve also involved myself pretty deeply in the everyday affairs of Fanno Creek. For seven of the last fourteen years we’ve lived in Portland, I’ve made the creek the central focus of my personal and professional activities. Walking away from it now seemed almost an act of abandonment; not just abandonment of the creek, but also of the many Watershed Folk who will continue to work so hard on its behalf. However, the move would also put us two hours closer to my son and his two children in Edmonds, a fact that ultimately clinched the deal for me.
There was still hope we might be able to make the transition in a relatively slow and easy-going manner. But the house in Portland sold in three days, which caught us almost completely by surprise. Luckily we had been researching the Olympia market for a few months and were able to find a dandy new house less than a week later. All that took place in the first two weeks of March. Since then it’s been a mad-scramble to get everything sewn up so we could be ready for the movers by end of this week.
So there it is. In a few days we will be pulling up stakes in Portland and replanting them in Olympia, Washington.
The reality and magnitude of the change didn’t hit me until last Thursday, when I developed an overwhelming urge to get away from the packing and cleaning and reconnect with the urban bush. I snuck off to a spot you won’t find on most maps of the Fanno Creek watershed, a place I named Lost Creek when I wrote about it in my book. It took a little bushwhacking and scrambling to get to my favorite sitting spot. On the way in I encountered dozens of these little violas.
Once I reached my perch, I pulled out a pack of peanut butter crackers, opened up my thermos of coffee, and settled in for a half hour or so of simply being there. Whenever I caught myself drifting into a reflective mode I would focus instead on a simple sensory detail and force myself to describe in my mind the shapes, colors, sounds and scents I experioenced in those few private moments - the epiphytes that feathered the trunk of a leaning tree; the perfume of a nearby cottonwood; the tangy odor of Doug fir needles crushed by my passage; and a million other bits of real information.
When it was time to leave I made my way down to the bed of the creek and then downstream to my point of entry. It seemed only fitting that I stumbled across this trillium-nettle combination just as I was hauling myself out of the creek.
As I stepped out of the bushes and onto the sidewalk, I felt more than a little raw. “Farwell Fanno Creek,” I muttered, and struck off toward a new watershed.