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Two years ago we moved into this house. This morning, as I was drinking coffee, I realized this and thought it would make a good blog post. All sorts of ideas and connections ran through my mind.

They’re all gone now.

It was a long day. Ilsa was home sick, and I came home to check on her and somehow took about 3 hours off this afternoon and was sick with her. After a nap, I find myself feeling better. The headache is mostly gone. I guess rest is actually good for us after all! This is a brilliant concept and one I find myself hoping to explore more.

They say, these experts on international moves and third-culture-kids and people like that, that is takes 2 full years to really adjust and settle. They’re right. The first year everything is new; the second year you look for patterns. After that, you’re okay.

I spent the summer picking berries as often as possible, although the selection in our freezer is still paltry as we head into winter. I adore fresh berries–especially blueberry, raspberry, and any form of blackberry (i.e. marionberry, loganberry, etc) We live in the boring suburbs in a cookie-cutter house, but thanks to the brilliance of Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary, we live about 10 minutes from rural farmland, acres and acres of farms stretching out along the contours of the rolling hills to the west of us, blue with distance and sun. I would snatch a free hour, run out to a farm, come back with 5 pounds of raspberries for jam, or blueberries for cobbler, always with the idea of freezing for winter, but somehow not always achieving that goal.

It was a gorgeous summer–the days long and light-filled. We haven’t had rain for months now, very unusual for the Portland area. Fall has been filled with hot afternoons and crisp mornings and nights that are downright cold, so that it’s pretty much impossible to dress appropriately.

My Iraqi friends call this “Mountain Hood.” Locals say Mt. Hood.

If you are wondering, these are the things that help me adjust to a place. I need to know the patterns of afternoon sunlight in a room, or where the maples glow on sunny days, or the way to take to the mechanic that takes me through farmland and green hills and vines stretching up them into the distance. I need a riot of sunflowers and dahlias planted by the road, or the tangle of roses at all the freeway exits. I need the feel of the rain, of the heat, of the clattering moths outside a front door or the glow of a firepit giving a rather ugly and neglected backyard a certain allure. The place I had the hardest time adjusting to was Mauritania, because it took me years to see the beauty of it. Even now, I feel that if they could just turn the sun down by about 20%, it would be so much nicer.

I grew daffs and tulips and roses and cosmos. I planted a dogwood.

We bought that vase in France. It’s been all over with us. It’s very unsteady and I’m happy it’s survived.

Elliot had a deadline for the outline for his Extended Essay (I put it in caps cuz that’s how he refers to it. It’s a 4000-word essay that he’s doing on the Battle of Stalingrad. I think he’s already smarter than I am, but don’t tell him. It’d go right to his head) and needed to go to the big library, the one downtown that takes up a city block. I didn’t let myself even go in because I knew I would see a few books that I really really wanted to read and frankly, I already have a stack I need to read for 5 Minutes for Books. Instead I dropped him off, parked the car, and sat in the Park Blocks for a lovely, lonely hour. The Park Blocks are a block wide and run right through the center of downtown, from Portland State on the heights down past Burnside at the bottom of a long sloping hill. They are planted with elms and lined with benches and statues to various notable people, and when I was a student I used to do most of my reading homework out there (except when it was raining. This is Portland). I was utterly content, sitting in the sun with the occasional golden leaf dropping like a gift, reading a very good book. I turned off my phone and enjoyed it.

 this phone camera has no depth of field….

Two years ago, I had no idea I would be in this place. But here I am. I’m doing fine. How are you doing where you’re at? Is it at all what you pictured? I’m guessing no, because it never is.

On Saturday, along with pretty much everyone else in Oregon, I decided to go to the tulip fields. Ok this isn’t entirely accurate. For weeks now, I’ve been telling Beka about them. “We will go in two cars,” I tell her. “One for all the men and one for all the women. We’ll take a picnic! You won’t believe your eyes—a whole field of flowers!” I gesture broadly. “Purple! Pink! Yellow! White! Red!” She smiles but I can tell she doesn’t picture it.

After several weeks of her being sick, or me having plans, not to mention how SOPPING WET our “spring” has been, finally Saturday was the day. We had reduced the two cars to one, and invited the artist’s wife, who cancelled at the last minute. So on the first bright hot sunny weekend in a very long time, Ilsa and I and Beka and Hana drove off.

We got onto the freeway and parked. Did I mention that everyone in all of Portland had decided that nothing would be better than to spend their rare and beautiful sunny afternoon polluting the air and driving at $4/gallon? Apparently. Traffic was horrific. Eventually the freeway cleared out, but about 3 miles before our exit I thought there was another accident. As I drove on and on, past stopped car after stopped car, I realized that no, it was just that All! These! Cars! were exiting to go see the tulips.

I executed a fine move, cutting right in at the last moment and proving that yes, I did learn some mad skillz during all those years driving in Morocco and Mauritania. No one even honked. We joined the long line of cars driving through Woodburn, and eventually made it out of town, although not before I had to cut back in to a long line of cars I had cut. (It was an honest mistake! I thought I was in the right lane, although I did wonder why it was so empty)

As we neared the tulip fields, we passed fields edged with multi-coloured blooms. “WOW!” exclaimed Beka. “Oh that’s nothing; just wait,” I told her.

We wandered around and admired the flowers and ate our picnic lunch and posed and took about a million pictures, which I will spare you. Just a few then…



I have to admit that there are few things more beautiful than the western Oregon countryside on a sunny April day. The earth was clothed in vivid greens and deep chocolate browns, with splashes of pink, purple and white on trees and bushes; the sky was piled with clouds in grey and white and deep deep blue. Beka has been unhappy here, stuck day after day in a maze of culture shock, in a drab apartment under drab grey skies throughout the long winter, and she gasped in amazement at the colourful world I was driving her through. “I love this,” she said as we passed an old farm with ancient oaks and thick grass. “What is the name here?”

It was the day before Easter. I still had to boil and decorate eggs, make hot cross buns (the second batch), make pastry for the strawberry-rhubarb crumble pie we were planning to share with friends next day. When I dropped them off, it was after 6:00 and I didn’t even go in for tea, just got out and kissed them goodbye, and raced home to put my tulips in water (I bought a bunch) and tell everyone to fend for themselves for supper. (My kids love it when I do this.)  Ilsa decorated her hands and legs with henna in celebration. I had the brilliant idea of decorating eggs in henna patterns, but it didn’t work as planned, so we decorated our eggs with food colouring and crayons, like we always did overseas. They were beautiful, but I didn’t photograph them. You can’t always be photographing. Now most of them are eaten.

December 2022

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