I chose Oak Grove because it was near
but had a distinct rural, rather than suburban, look and feel to it. When
looking for a home I fell in love with the picture on the MLS listing, not
for the house, but the trees. When I visited the property I thought the
house was fine, but for me it was the oak and holly trees on a quarter
acre that won my heart.
Over the years Iíve observed beautiful
celestial events from my porch, from gorgeous sunsets to the appearance of
the evening stars, and lunar phases. My first Christmas morning here I was
going to get the newspaper. When I opened the door there before me was the
full moon hanging in the sky like a Christmas ornament. It took my breath
away. I took a picture of it, but it looks like a dot in the darkness. One
of my greatest wishes is to learn how to photograph the night sky. I think
proper equipment is part of the answer.
Having come from the land of eternal
summer where seasonal change is subtle, it was quite an adjustment dealing
with the extremes that the seasons bring here. Winter is most difficult,
not merely for the cold and the rain, but also for the darkness from the
shorter days and the perpetual cloud cover.
Twilights that last and linger are the
best part of summer. After the vibrant golds, roses, and purples of sunset
fade, the sky deepens into beautiful twilight blue that surrenders gently
to the star studded night.
Autumn was my favorite season, with warm
days, cool evenings, and vivid colors as earth yields her last harvest
before resting for the winter. Now spring has earned a place in my heart,
not only as a relief from winter, but also for her festive attire as she
celebrates new life. Crocuses are the first harbingers of spring, usually
in February, a bright spot of color just when I think I canít take the
gloom another minute. And then the violets bloom. I love their delicate
flowers and sweet fragrance. I was shocked recently when a horticulturist
told me that violets are weeds! This weed is welcome in my garden. Here
spring is fanciful from beginning to end with forsythia, flowering fruit
trees, tulips, blue bells, azaleas, rhododendron, magnolia, dogwood, and
But the best part of
living here is touching the earth and caring for the garden. I consider
myself a haphazard gardener, nurturing whatever happens to appearógifts
from the squirrels and birds-- or plants Iíve found in free boxes, or
received from friends. Most of the time I spend in the yard is fighting
invasive plants. The biggest mistake I made was
not to heed the words of my dear friend
Janice Brown who warned me when I first moved in to not allow blackberries
in the yard.
The first year they appeared they looked
so cute with their cheery little white flowers. They even bore a good
amount of tasty berries. I love blackberries. Whatís not to like? If I
let them theyíd take over the yard, grow over the house, and consume it.
Between the blackberries and the ivy, oy, the ivy, Iím fighting a losing
battle to keep them at bay. I can almost hear them laugh at me when I
spend an afternoon uprooting a section of them, knowing theyíll be back,
if not next week, then next season.
There were surprises along the way, such
as finding wild Oregon Iris in the yard the second spring I was here.
Their colors are subtle and if you donít look closely you wouldnít
know they were there until autumn when their stalks produce bright red
One year I was going through a difficult
time and tiny pansy like flowers volunteered. A friend said they were
heartsease. I looked forward to seeing these cheery little flowers in my
garden. One spring they didnít return. I realized that my difficulties
had passed and they had uplifted me when I needed comfort.
Two years ago I cleared away a hidden
corner of the yard and grew tomatoes. They were delicious. I no longer
enjoy tomatoes from the grocery store. Iíve saved seeds and started new
plants from them. This year I added peppers, zucchini, and butternut
squash. The sun gold has already given one ripe tomato that I let my
granddaughter, Lauren, pick and eat. She loves tomatoes.
When I first moved in,
there was a park like lot next door with pine trees, a walnut and fig
tree. It felt like an oasis of peace. About a year or so later there was a
housing boom, the lot was sold, split, and built on. The trees were
knocked down in favor of four houses and a triplex. The day the bulldozers
came in I sat on my porch and wept for the trees as they fought the
bumping and pulling of the machinery. Their roots were deep and they
didnít give way easily. The real estate market bottomed out quickly
after that, but a few years ago, it amped up again, and with it another
building frenzy. All over Oak Grove, lots were being split and trees, oak
trees, the very name sake of the area, were bullied out of the ground for
cookie cutter houses on zero lot lines.
But the trees on my property thrive: an
white oak, which is one of the three in the triangle around which Oak
Grove was built, the holly, a Norwegian red leaf maple, an apple tree, and
a cherry tree that acts as a screen for the development next door.
These trees have brought me great pleasure
over the years: shade in the summer, color and fruit in the fall. They
have also been a source of viewing pleasure. In the morning when I have my
first sips of coffee, I watch the birds in the apple tree from the kitchen
window. In winter itís Ďlittle finches that flit from limb to limb. In
the evening when I wash the dishes, itís the blue jays who rule the tree
top. Over the years Iíve seen the occasional robin red breast in the
And then there are the rascally squirrels.
They are quite entertaining, scampering up and down and all around the oak
tree. They run across the roof, hop on the electric line, across to
another tree all day long. Do they ever tire? I have tried to feed the
birds, but they steal whatever offerings I leave. They also dig up bulbs
that I plant in order to stash the peanuts and walnuts kind neighbors
leave for them. Rascals.
There have always been crows around, two
or three, usually in the fall, but recently a murder of crows has
overtaken the oak tree, and with their occupation I havenít seen the
squirrels, jays, or any other bird. When they first arrived they dive
bombed any bird that came near the property. Now they squabble amongst
themselves Iíve come to the conclusion that crows are bullies.
I was spoiled all the years I lived in
having the beach nearby, ready to walk on any time, sending its cool
breezes and fresh sea air. It is difficult being hours away from the ocean
. I was thrilled when I realized that I am walking distance to the
. It doesnít have the power of the ocean, but it is running water that
creates a soothing energy that my soul needs to thrive.
The trees and river create a pleasant
micro climate of cooler summers and warmer winters than other areas.
Locals refer to it as the banana belt. With the destruction of trees,
increased asphalt for roads, more traffic, and climate change in general,
changes in the weather patterns here. We used to have gentle breezes, now
there are winds that are as fierce as any in the Gorge, winters are longer
and colder, summer hotter, and spring and autumn are brief.
The passage of time
has seemed imperceptible, one day after another, season after season,
until it is thirteen years later and my oldest grandchildren are teenagers
beginning to take their first steps into the adult world, and the younger
ones have left their baby days behind, Life has been full of changes. Some
just happened, like my haphazard garden, and like that garden. Iíve come
to love and live with them. Theyíve helped me grow in unexpected ways. I
still have dreams that I pursue, and know that if I am as steadfast as
that oak in my front yard they will come to fruition.