There is beauty in the Willamette Valley that awaits those of you moving here.
Last Thursday I drove north along Hwy 99 – the main north to south route from Portland to Ashland, before the interstate called I-5 was built. In some places I-5 replaced the historic roadway, but the highway survives. This route to visit fellow clergy, transplanted here as I was, in 1978, is always a homecoming as we are family, where ever we are living. When we are together there is HOME. I, being single, have most often traveled to their home, as we have served appointed by the United Methodist Church – they (and myself): Myrtle Creek (Drain); Idaho Falls ID (Sellwood PDX); Bend (Montavilla PDX); Gresham / Tigard ( Kalispell Hospital MT); Corvallis (Newport). Their two children call me ‘Aunt Brenda”; we have shared broken hearts and clergy secrets. We grieve the loss of a church that we served but have all but left as we could not reconcile the institution’s viscousness toward gay, lesbian and transgendered persons. This day I am driving up to sit, be a non-anxious presence, and reminder of love in a difficult time.
Days had recently begun with thick fog, but this dawn the visibility was fine. As the sun began to burn off patches of low clouds, above the western hills that mark the coast range. the full moon peeked out, in a pastel glow. The Moon has been my visible reminder of the Holy, my connector to God. Moon began to listen to my prayers sent along the moonlight that streamed into the bedroom I shared with my little sister, in fourth grade. Though I learned to speak proper theological language, the moon continues to be my most direct reminder of Creator and the connection to the Universe.
Today, on a computer driven errand to south Portland, I traveled on I-5, with clear, dry sky and sunshine that was warm, though the temperature was in the 40’s. I started to count the red-tailed hawks, posted in leaf-less trees along the freeway. Soon, I simply admired them: white breasts glowing in the sun or proud red-brown backsides soaking up warmth. Once, at least, an eagle soared beside then above me, and I gave voice aloud to my gratitude for their blessing.
Pastures were green. A distant semi was parked with a cluster of pickups near a scattering of sheep; dots in the distance so I invented a story of moving those sheep from there to somewhere. It was a link a childhood story from our home in Indiana where 18-35 ewes birthed lambs that were soon gathered into trucks and moved to market, year by year.
I marvel at the farm feel of I-5 and especially Hwy 99. I grew up when central Indiana had multiple small farms run by the elder neighbors in our community, while their children (my parent’s generation) worked in auto parts factories and began to convert farmland to fields of homes. I appreciate Oregonians trying to balance valuable farm land with houses.
Trees, if I knew them well, would tell me their names by the shape of their branches. Tall, bent-topped firs I guess are Douglas. A few surviving oaks grow in groves, roots networking below and mistletoe balls standing out on bare branches. Sometimes a row of tall cottonwood, marking the lane to a former farmhouse. Cedar, Redwood, and fields of the new hottest crop: hazelnuts. Some mature, some looking like bushes; all covered at the moment, with golden threads, blossoms called catkins that fertilize the tiny flowers where a cluster of hazelnuts will appear. Spring growth extend the mature vineyards and naked metal stakes mark a new planting, sketching stripes on the hillsides as I reached Salem.
On a clear day, like this one, there are snow covered volcanoes that tower to the east, behind gentle green hills at the edge of the valley. Just out of Salem, Mt. Hood dominated my attention going north. The snow visible blanketed three ridges on the mountain. I glanced often while keeping my eyes on the traffic. Traveling south, east of Corvallis, I was surprised to see three snow caped peaks- perhaps the three sisters but my geography may be off.
The sun move lower on my right (west) creating a glowing gold over everything. Pausing to use words to make pictures, I am full of gratitude. Blessed Be.