September 24, 2010


Peace. Tranquility. Rocking chairs and chocolate. Those are some of the images that came to mind when--rarely--I once thought about being a “golden ager”. That isn’t exactly how it is turning out so far. As if writing two books isn’t enough to keep me busy, I’m adding more turmoil to my life by deciding to move nearer some of the family in Portland.

There are so many pluses! Portland is a lively, artistic city, long proud of its reputation as being a city of readers. It’s a nice size--the small blocks make it very walkable. When I was writing the first edition of Walking Portland some years ago, I was delighted to find out why. The canny settlers who were laying out the town found corner lots were more desirable, and thus worth more money. Ergo! Small blocks have more corners. Today the small downtown blocks offer more breaks for the eye, more chances for the sun to slant down the east-west streets, and more opportunities for wonderful downtown art.

My family points out there will be more places to go, and things to do. My windows will have views of the busy Willamette River and also of Mt. St. Helens. Ever since I saw a picture of Mount McKinley in junior high school, I have always wanted to live within sight of a snow-capped mountain. Now that long ago dream is coming true.

There are also a lot of minuses. I’ve lived here in this small city of Roseburg, surrounded by friendly and wonderful people, longer than anywhere else. I remember when we first came I was stunned to be offered help when I walked into the old Miller’s Department store. In the big suburban Chicago stores one usually had to hunt up a salesperson--they were too busy talking to one another to notice a customer.

Here people wait for you to pull out from a parking lot, sometimes wash the window when filling up my car, and generally take time to make the day a little brighter. Yesterday I lost a crown, drove two blocks to the dentist’s office, and had it replaced and reglued in under an hour. That immediate attention has never happened to me before.

Surprising as it is, there are more things to do here than time to do them. The local paper has a “What’s Happening” column every day, and even this dull non-holiday week has several events scheduled in the next couple of days--a lecture that sounds interesting, a wine walk at Wildlife Safari, an exhibit at a new gallery in town, the opening of a new play, The Curious Savages, and a concert by the Eugene Symphony in addition to the usual meetings and errands. And running errands is time-consuming fun--there’s no way to get out of any store without seeing at least one friend I haven’t seen for ages. It’s a great place for keeping up on a casual basis.

Downsizing still seems threatening, but it’s time. I come from a family that lived in the same house since the Civil War and never threw anything away. Furniture cycled up and down the attic stairs when a new generation took over. The biography I’m writing depends on the fact that the Haders saved everything too. I’m grateful they didn’t, but realistically no one is going to want old curriculum materials, recipes, and running t shirts. So I’ve straightened up my closet, filled up some boxes for the church rummage sale next week, and, after a few surprising discoveries in odd places, I now know where most of my possessions are located. There’s a realtor sign in the front yard and a lockbox on the door. It’s happening.

What’s next?