If, as your rich friends say, there are no gods, and the skies are dark above us, what should a man fight for, but the place where he had the Eden of childhood and the short heaven of first love? If no temples and no scriptures are sacred, what is sacred if a man’s own youth is not sacred? — The Napoleon of Notting Hill
There’s something about place. Who hasn’t wanted to smoke peacefully in the Shire or been horrified by Sharkey’s industrialization of it? Why do we care so much about locations in literature? Diana has touched on this with her great post on favorite places in the Sandman. Personally, whenever I read Beowulf, I feel this strange joy at the mention of hidden Geatland when he comes dripping from the sea. And I am drawn to the way that Cavafy expands Odysseus’ Ithaka to our own childhood Ithakas.
There’s a monastic concept tied up with vows of stability that there’s a formative nature to space. As the monk changes the land owned by the monastery through agriculture, that very land changes him over the decades of his monastic observance. Most intimately, the cell, at first structured by the monk, eventually forms him in its communal solitude.
I think something similar happens to all of us during our childhood. As we grow up, we internalize the logic of the language spoken at home. Then when we learn another language, we unconsciously apply that internalized logic to the new system. I wonder if we do the same thing with place. I’ve internalized Oregon. I’m surprised when people ask about how I can stand the rain. Oregon is rainy? You mean that isn’t the norm? Instead, I think about how we seem to be having less rain. Or how farmers outside the Willamette (Wil-la[a as in cat]-met, not Willah-met-ee) Valley are struggling with drought.
As I’m preparing for the move, I’ve been thinking about how Oregon has changed me and what I will miss about the Beaver State
Hair of the Dog Brewing Company
They have this old style ale, Adam, and it is my absolute favorite beer. There are hints of figs and leather and it changes with every sip. I thought it couldn’t get any better, but then they included a barrel aged version in the taproom that had this amazing warming quality.
Portlandia hitting a little too close to home.
Will we still be able to recognize where they’re from by how they dress? Will we forget that Agent Cooper isn’t really the mayor or that the storybook sunny weather is done on purpose?
Feeling superior to the driver in front of me with the “Keep (somewhere other than Portland) Weird” bumper sticker
On second thought, I’m carrying that with me to the South.
When we went there last, a storm started rolling in. That was the closest I have ever been to lightning.
Mount Angel Abbey
Every August, you can watch from the hilltop as the sun rises just above Mount Hood. This is the place where I first read O’Connor and my wife first read Balzac.
This may not make the list for many, but we see rain differently here. I’ll miss those overcast November days when the trees reach upward amidst the remains of their leaves. Wordsworth’s line, “I wandered lonely as a cloud,” doesn’t really work with an Oregonian’s experience. You mean that inversion-causing sheet above?
Not just the stereotypes of Portlandia, but the people I’ve grown up with. There’s something to being formed by the same place, the same rural schools.
My childhood home
How could I open with the Chesterton quote above and not talk about this. I grew up on a small hobby farm where we could always see the Oregon sunsets and hear the lowing of cows every day.
There’s this delightful place in central Oregon where peacocks roam wild amidst a magical landscape of canals and castles.
The place where I met my wife
There’s the bar where we had Guinness on our first date, the Parkade where I proposed to her (I know, such as romantic), and that moment when we first talked. How am I going to find a new florist who gets what I mean when I say I want to get her a Grey Gardens-esque bouquet?
Next time, we’ll take a look at the ten things I’m looking forward to about Georgia.