Monday, July 17, 2006

Published July 15 in the Newberg Graphic

This is a rework of the article that was in the Sentinel. The Newberg Graphic published it yesterday….hang in there, there are differences in the body…

Grandchildren have a curious effect on the older generation. They possess the ability to charm and enchant and make you do some very impractical things. Ours caused us to move 2500 miles from Michigan, our home for 34 years, across the country with all our possessions in a rented truck.

While conceptually our friends understood our move, I don’t think they felt we were making a practical decision. However impractical our move was, it yielded a real bonus. Not only are we within four blocks of two little boys ages 5 and 1 ½, but we also now live in the wonderful Pacific Northwest.

My wife and I visited Oregon many times in the ten years since our daughter moved here. We came to understand the climate.  For example, while it does rain frequently in Oregon, it is not nearly as much as Midwesterners think. The annual rainfall in the Willamette Valley is not much different than Holland, Michigan our former home. However, experiencing a long string of drizzly winter and spring days with periodic “sun breaks” has required some getting used to. But we will gladly trade the rain for not having shovel another flake of snow (we hope.)

While the 45th Parallel runs through Oregon near here, it crosses Michigan 50 miles south of the Straits of Mackinac where it snows over 150 inches a year and winter temperatures frequently dip well below zero.  In most places in Michigan the ground freezes to a depth of three or four feet. Think of the implications. It impacts how houses are built, heated, and cooled. It also affects roads. My observation is that there are far fewer pot holes in Oregon.

Agriculturally, Michigan grows fruits and berries along the coast of Lake Michigan in great quantities. However, it is far from the diversity of crops that grow here in the valley. There are more wineries around Dundee than there are in all of Michigan. And even though both my wife and I were reared on farms, we had never seen hops grow before.

Politically, like Oregon, Michigan is “blue,” but West Michigan is quite conservative. It is never a good idea to make generalizations when you consider political attitudes of a state. For example, it would be a mistake to judge Michigan’s politics after visiting only Ann Arbor or Grand Rapids. They are as different as left and right.

Michigan’s governor made a point of identifying and funding “cool cities” projects to attract upscale young adults. That created and instant debate on how cool is defined. I have not figured out what cool means here in the valley, but we are beginning to get a few clues after trying to count all the places to buy coffee around Newberg.

So far, I have not detected any tell-tale linguistic tones or colloquial sayings that identify Oregon speakers as I have in other areas where we have lived (e.g., “you’ins,” Pennsylvania; “you betcha,” Minnesota; “…you too?” Michigan.) But we have not been here that long and I am sure we will hear some unfamiliar word patterns in time. My unscientific theory is that very few Oregonians were born here. At a recent men’s breakfast, I discovered only one of eight sitting at my table was born in Oregon. Most were from the Midwest and none were from the south. That same sample revealed three of the eight had moved here for the same reason I had: to be close to family.

Whether it is the Rose Garden in Portland, the Columbia River Gorge, the volcanoes of the Cascades, the ruggedly beautiful coast of the Pacific, or the all the wineries near us, we have found Oregon is a great place to live. We enjoy the fact that there is no sales tax (sweet), that car insurance is significantly less expensive (yes!), and we don’t have to pump our own gas. But then we have not filed our first income tax form.

However, if you are like us, none of that would enter into the decision to strap all your belongings on your back and travel the Oregon Trail. No, all we needed to entice us to head west was the vision of smiles on two little boy’s faces when “Grammy and Pappy” appear at the back door. That vision is now a reality…every day.

No comments: