Columbia River Gorge Waterfall Tour
Elders and the Unfriendly Skies

Oregon Journey – A Course Change

category_bug_journal2.gif On another day of my visit with my brother in Oregon, we drove to Astoria which is at the northwest corner of the state where the Columbia River – five miles wide there – flows into the Pacific Ocean.

Like Multnomah Falls, the Astor Column – named for John Jacob Astor – was a regular stop on family forays around Oregon when I was a kid. My mother made us stop to read every historical marker we passed (“hysterical marker” to Mom) and who knows; I probably learned a lot of the history that way.


But the high point of the day was visiting my brother’s sailboat, Ingenue, for the first time. He has sent photos over the years, but it’s not the same thing as being there. I’m pretty sure he spends more time working on her than sailing, but she is a beauty.


I have no knowledge of sailing, but I like boats. God knows I’m no neat freak, but the necessity of order on a boat pleases my sense of tidiness and I am always intrigued at the ingenuity in the use of small spaces on boats.


After an hour or so at the Ingenue, we stopped into the Cannery Café for lunch which had been, in the past – obviously – a fish cannery. The Dungeness crab cakes were excellent, the weather was glorious and it was good to be in an old haunt from my childhood.


Yes, I understand they are just rats with wings but seagulls are, I suppose, my favorite bird. I never tire of the perfection of their proportions when they are soaring – wings set just so and just the right size for their bodies. This one was resting and isn’t it amazing that west coast seagulls look like east coast seagulls.


Back in Portland a day or two later, we had lunch at the Dan and Louis Oyster Bar. The clam chowder (New England variety; I don’t believe in the red, Manhattan clam chowder) was excellent.


So excellent, in fact, that we returned that night for dinner. The fried oysters were not as good as the chowder had been, but everything else was good and the important part was being with my brother.


The sun had almost set as we drove through downtown Portland after dinner. I have no photos to show, but it was as lively, busy and colorful on a weekday evening, as Manhattan is without the crush of the crowds and the never-ending noise.

Restaurant tables spilled out onto sidewalks, neon lit the streets without being garish, people were out and about laughing and talking with one another and there was a sense of place as strong as in New York City. The emotional pull to be there for more than a visit was enormous.

Have I told you how I chose Portland, Maine, when I needed to sell my apartment in New York and move to a less expensive town? Probably, but I’m going to do it again anyway to explain this…

It broke my heart to leave New York. I’d been there for 37 years. It was home. My town. I know every inch, every building, all the history of Greenwich Village where I lived for most of that time. I wept for three days when I finally made the financially-necessary decision to sell and leave my beloved city.

I may moan and wail for awhile when confronted with hard choices but it doesn’t last long and once finished, I get down to business.

Where to go was the question. My choices were limitless, so I did it by elimination.

  1. I don’t like hot weather – humid or dry - and for that reason, dismissed the entire southern half of the U.S.
  2. I do like oceans, so that took care of every place in the northern middle of the country
  3. I’m a city girl leaving the choices of Seattle, Boston and the two Portlands, Maine and Oregon
  4. After all those years in New York and visiting Boston and Seattle from time to time, those two towns seem to have all the disadvantages of big cities and none of the advantages

Either Portland, then, would work and in the end I chose Maine because I thought I had a better chance of New York friends visiting me here than in Oregon. And there have been a goodly number of house guests who have made the trek north.

But now, after these past days in Oregon, I know: poor decision made for a frivolous reason.

I felt it while I was in Oregon, but wanted some time at home before taking it seriously. Back in Maine now for several days, I don’t need to think about it more.

Some people love the desert. Others like mountains. Some prefer suburbia or even rural areas. There are even those who need no place, who are wanderers. Most of us, I think, have affinities for certain weather, geology, flora and fauna and mine, I know now, is for northwest Oregon where I grew up. And who can say how much of that is, in old age, about the emotional draw of one’s beginnings. Perhaps, in my case, it is partly a need to round out a life, to complete the circle.

I love the weather in Maine, particularly living on the ocean side of a hill where no matter how hot a day is, I know there will be a breeze by late afternoon and the temperature will fall to the 60s or so. I like four definitive seasons; Portland, Oregon, has about three - it rarely snows there.

After 37 years in cramped apartments in New York, I relish this large apartment, newly renovated with its deck to sit on and read of an afternoon or think in an evening in the fresh air. I finally have the real library I have wanted since childhood. And I like my neighbors. I don't know what I could afford in Oregon.

But Oregon is deeply etched in my soul. And I didn’t know that until this trip. The lush greenness, the mountains always in sight and the abundance of trees – big, magnificent trees. What they call a woods or forest in the east is a giggle to anyone who grew up in the west. You can wrap your arms around the oldest trees here in Maine or Connecticut or New York. Not so with Douglas fir in Oregon. Those trees have majesty.

When I was a kid, we lived in a house where I could see Mt. Hood – more than 11,000 feet high – outside my window each morning, snow-capped year 'round. Mt. St. Helens out the other window too. Someday, there will be no one left on earth who has seen that beautiful peak before it blew up. But I did, almost every day of my childhood.

And then there is my brother. We hardly know each other really, having been split up when I was 14 and he was nine.

I felt a comfortableness, an easiness with myself in Oregon on this visit and I want to live there again.

The trick now is: can I make it happen.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz tells of her son's literal and triumphant awakening from the dark in Steve and the May Procession.]


Oh, this is exciting, and moving! What a wonderful discovery/ rediscovery of the pull of your roots. Of course you can make it happen! Of course you will!

ronni, a beautiful and moving meditation on your struggle and ours to find the next comfortable place as we age. leaving for portland soon and will be thinking of you. -naomi

Wow! What an amazing post from your beautiful photos to the surprise ending! I understand your thinking -- I often feel the pull of what I consider home also. Here's to your making it happen! By the way -- I can definitely tell that you and your brother are siblings!

I love your photos, Ronni, and I understand your dilemma. I hope you can make the transition to Oregon if that is where your heart is. It's beautiful country and the winters are milder. Your New York friends might not visit as often, but I'll bet they will find you. To have a tie with family seems to be even more important as we age. Thanks for sharing your photos and your thoughts.

Ah, Ronni, that's been my gnawing concern for my upcoming move. I know that the choice makes perfectly good sense, but is it where I need to be. Our "sense of place" may not be served by rational choice.

What gorgeous photos. I haven't been to Astoria for a few years but always love it and the drive there. Being southwest of Salem in the Coast Range, I live closer to Newport or Lincoln City for easily getting to the coast but love the northern Oregon coast towns.

And Portland, well it's just one of my favorite cities. When I was there a couple of weeks ago, it was as active, vital and alive as always with people on the streets, small shops, a very 'doing' town and Oregonians owe it to Neil Goldschmidt and Tom McCall, who each contributed to segments that have helped Portland be what it is.

I particularly like spending time on 23rd street with its eclectic mix of shops, great cafes, and the best metaphysical bookstore, New Renaissance, that I have been in anywhere.

Good luck with moving back this way. It's a wonderful place to live-- in my opinion.

As I age, I too feel a tug from places I thought I'd left behind. I don't imagine I'll ever leave California where I landed 40 years ago -- but New England feels attractive in a way it didn't in the past.

I wonder what the this pull is? As my mother aged, she talked more and more about her early life. Do we come to feel again the less complex feelings of childhood and associate them with place?

As a young person, I remember reading the novel "You Can't Go Home Again" and being somewhat mystified. You can't go back home -- but the deep associations of homeness may indeed enable us to somehow amplify our current lives.

Just musings -- best wishes for finding a way, Ronni.

Oh, Ronni, this is one of your most moving posts! I'm biased, living n the Northwest myself, and do believe it's fantastic. If I had to live in the US, I'd choose the Oregon coast or Portland. So, I wish you well in fulfilling your new dream! Maybe we shall meet yet!

Of course you can. Who ever would have thought that I would be living in my own home high on a point over both bay and beach. I believe, after the road I have traveled, that one can do almost anything. Dreams certainly do come true.

This gave me the good kind of goosebumps. I feel the same about my hometown, Hull, a small peninsula on the coast of Massachusetts. It's in my blood. But the state is too crowded and expensive to live and my sons are here in NC and VA. I'm in the mountains in a cabin with 3 acres of utter privacy and a wonderful community, but still I hear the call. Being torn between two places is a constant theme in my life. Your post makes me emotional because I can feel your love of place and it resonates in me. Maybe Maine was a first step and part of the adjustment to leaving NY.

Of course you can make it happen!

We just moved to the northwest (husband's last pre-retirement job change). When he took the job, we had been inches from buying a retirement condo in his hometown in the mid-South, but plans changed quite suddenly.

After a few months, we are just loving it here, even though we'd never thought of this part of the country before.

At this time of life more than almost any other, we just can't know a lot of things in advance because there are just too many moving parts (health, work, family, or lack thereof).

Don't beat yourself up. You can't know something for sure...until you do.

Don't worry about the cost difference--according to CNN's "Cost of Living" comparison, Portland, OR, is only $300 more expensive per year than Portland, ME.

A sense of place touches us at such an organic level. You need to go where you feel that and can have the life you want. I'm looking forward to another moving adventure with you and am ready to go!

I've considered moving where the weather suits my clothes" but suspect that I might visit other places and spend as much time as I can where the humidity is low (secret of happiness). I'm living where I grew up and taught school after living away for about 10 years a long time ago, so I'm home. I'm a Southerner and am more comfortable here than where we're misunderstood even though I hate the weather. It's a dilemma of sorts and something I consider when I travel.

There is supposed to be a quotation mark before "where" on my comment. Probably San Diego or somewhere in California or Hawaii would suit my clothes since I'd like to be able to wear sandals, shorts, t-shirts, and such as that most of the time. I don't want to live on an island out in the middle of the ocean, though, and can't afford to live in CA. I also like some cooler weather but would be happy to drive to summer and winter if I could live where there is perpetual fall and spring with temperatures between 60-85 and low humidity. Sounds like parts of CA, doesn't it? Oh well. Maybe if I win the lottery.

You can make it happen if moving again does not seem too monumental.

I lived in Paris for 25 years and really wanted to come home, which is what I did 10 years ago. I do not regret this decision at all.

My mother, at the end of her life, kept returning in her mind to New Jersey where she lived 1909-1928.

Once you have made the big move you realize that moving is not so difficult after just take it one day at a time. (Going now to pack ANOTHER box.)

A deeply moving and thoughtful post, Ronni. If you do make the move, I promise I'll come visit you: I've never been to Oregon, and this would give me a reason. (I seem to be at a point in my life where I require an excuse to go anywhere, be it across country or across the street.)

New twist on the "go where the weather suits your clothes" adage. A tenured professor gave this advice to her Ph.D. students who were launching a teaching career: what kind of shoes or sandals do you prefer to wear on a daily basis? Look for teaching posts in areas that match your favorite footwear. May I be so bold as to say your brother is a cutie...and I know how to sail... :) I love your articulation of longing for places. It reminds me of the Indian rag form "longing." Exquisite.

Make the move if at all possible. I left Oregon in 1960 and always thought I would move back. Somehow we kept making decisions that kept us away. At heart I am an Oregonian and always will be.

I remember the first time I went back to visit my old home town (and state) after having been gone many years. It hit me like a ton of bricks, as they say. I felt like I was HOME. I looked at the people on the street and felt like - these are MY people! Such a surprising and wonderful feeling!

You might be surprised at how easily you can make the move, Ronni. Just get out of your own way. Just do it! :) And, if it doesn't work out, move somewhere else! No problem! Love it!


I think I learned more about you from this post than any other. Your longing was palpable. Your soul is requesting a change.

I have not the slightest doubt you can make it happen.

I wanted to mention how much I LOVE historical markers. I wish there were more. I wish I stopped to read them more often. I wish my parents would have stopped at ALL. To know the stories about the place you are standing, well to me that is invaluable.

Ronni, you have obviously struck a nerve in all of us with this one!
To adapt a famous quote: "To every place there is a season". Though I am a native of England's green and glorious westcountry, London seemed like paradise when I was 18 and single. Later, a benign, Melbourne (Australia) suburb turned out to be the perfect place to bring up my kids in and after they grew up the Aussie outback accommodated beautifully my need to try my hand at back-to-the-land homesteading. Living in California in my 50s helped me discover who I really was (and wasn't). And it took moving to an intentional community in Texas to teach me that intentional communities were really not my bag. (And that even a huge lake couldn't substutute for the ocean). At 63, following a pull I could no longer ignore, I came home at last to the land of my childhood - Devon - the county where the bones of all my ancestors rest. It feels absolutely right to be here. So like the others, I say go for it. Follow your heart. (And if it turns out that there's yet another season after this one, then we'll follow our hearts again, right?)

Oh, darlin', but my heart understands.

For most of us, money is the largest obstacle standing in our way of such a big life decision.

The second is fear.

Irrational silly fears that keep us mired in a drudge sludge of our own making, but no less a real hindrance. I think this move is something you really really need to do.

Tell them sheep dogs to get a move on...

I've moved just enough, years later visited places I once lived, to know to which, if any, I wouldn't object to returning. A few places we had thought we might live and to which we wuld have welcomed moving, were Colo. and Ore. Job opportuities brought us instead to the Southwest.

I realized recently that I have lived in my community here in So. Cal. longer than anywhere else. I have come to truly feel a sense of attachment to this place, so I can appreciate your belonging feelings.

I'm glad you had time with your brother after all these years. I'm happy for you that having wrenched yourself from your beloved Greenwich Village, you have had time to adapt in Maine to such a major life change. I think you're much better equipped now to reach a sound judgement about the desirability of moving across the country.

I'm confident that whatever you set your mind to do, you will accomplish. I think it's only a matter of time before I'll read here, you're packing for Oregon. I'll certainly hope all works out for you as you want. I join the voices who will welcome you to the West Coast.

I know of an older couple, the husband in rather poor health, who were invited by his sister to move to Europe and live, very inexpensively, in a nearby home she owned. The couple had spent much time in Europe, got along well with the sister and her family, and knew that the move would have many benefits. They decided against it, however, because they have a house crammed full of possessions and they couldn't part with their stuff!

This is a perfect example of one of the primary reasons that I advocate paring down possessions: it gives you more freedom to make choices about how and where you'll live.

You seem to be a very strong, resourceful and self-sufficient woman, Ronni, so I'm certain that you'll figure out a way to make your move. Good luck!

My husband and I chose Oregon as our home state at the age of 31 and are still here (now in Salem) at 61. We visit family in our birth state (Michigan) every year, but never feel a tug to move back there. Oregon is our home. Maybe we are just not old enough yet to long for the state of our birth. Anyway, here's another Oregonian welcoming you to return to the beauties of the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps we will have a chance to meet at last.

Ronni, a friend once told me that everything is in divine order. Had you not had the past several years of upheaval, you would not be at the point you are now – making an impact for good for us elders. Once your heart gives you a desire, your head will make it happen. Your mail and magazines will catch up!

I too - am a lover of Oregon, but don't live there. I will one day.

I've been writing about this recently in my blog. I'm so glad I happened upon your journey and thoughts and photos . . .

take care and I'm wishing you a very happy day today.

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