Our dog Ellie rests on tile in front of the sliding glass door of our rental house in March 2018

We are home even if it doesn’t yet feel like it. We arrived at our rental house in Arizona in the late afternoon, the pets are a little stressed but did well all things considered. Ellie has adapted the quickest, here resting on the tile near the backyard door. You can’t see it from this angle but there’s a big pool behind her and some citrus trees further back. A rabbit ran out of the bushes when we arrived and four Gambel’s quail sauntered through the backyard right after sunset, a nice welcome. Thankfully I have tomorrow to recuperate as I am wiped out, on Monday I start the new job.

Getting There

Our cats Sam and Boo sleep on a hotel bed in Redding, California

Today is the last day of our three day drive to Arizona, we should be in our rental house this evening. The pets have done far better than I expected but it’s clearly been stressful for them, particularly the cats. Both hotels have a 2 pet per room limit, so my wife and I have gotten separate rooms and split the pets, she’s had Ellie and Trixie while I’ve had Sam and Boo. The first night we stayed at the La Quinta in Reddng, CA, and enjoyed the hotel. Although the brothers fell asleep after the stress of a long car ride, Boo woke me up at 4 a.m. and kept mewing, so I tried to comfort him and keep him quiet. I’d get him settled when Sam started up and this continued for the next hour and a half. So I didn’t get the best night’s sleep but that was no fault of the hotel, and the next night we gave them a mild sedative in the evenings and I had a wonderful night’s sleep. The sedative has also kept their stress levels down during the car ride but still left them alert.

The Last Picture I Took in Portland

Our three cats in their cat carriers, waiting to be loaded into the car, as our dog Ellie sleeps in the background, taken in Portland, Oregon in March 2018

This is the last picture I took before leaving Portland, the three cats crated up, the last thing to be packed into the car. I love how Ellie snuck into the picture. I thought today was going to be more emotional than it was, leaving the house for the last time after 16 years, leaving Portland, leaving Oregon. Maybe it’s because the past month has been a slow-motion move, maybe it’s because I just want the move to be over with, maybe it’s because I’m more than ready to start my life anew in Arizona.

Goodbye House, I Love You

Our cat Boo gives our cat Trixie the side-eye

I’ve saved my last goodbye for the house that has been our home for sixteen years. Built in 1925, old homes have their charms and their challenges. This one has charmed me and it’s hard to say goodbye but it is time. The movers are packing our belongings and loading it onto the truck. Tomorrow we leave for Arizona.

It’s funny what you fall in love with, sometimes it’s the little things. I’ll always remember the wooden grate over the heating vent that attracted the cats like a watering hole in a dry savannah. Trixie loves it, as have many of our cats, including Boo who was already occupying it and wondering about his sister’s intentions as he gave her the side-eye on her approach.

The mover’s were surprised we aren’t taking the stained glass windows with us, which hang just inside of the real windows. They were here when we bought the house, home-made I would guess, but do a lovely job of providing privacy while letting in light.

These old houses have their challenges too. I won’t miss the tiny one car garage. You get used to contractors coming out to fix what seems like a simple problem and hearing them say “I’ve never seen this before”. We had an electrician out recently who based on my description of the problem thought it would be an easy fix, as it had been a long day and he was ready for home. Two hours later …

When I think of home I think of this house. I’ve never lived anywhere nearly as long as we’ve lived here. It will still be a home, just not ours. I hope it protects and delights its new owners as well it has us. Goodbye, I love you.

A stained-glass window that sits inside of the real window in an old house in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

Goodbye Washington, I Love You

A hoary marmot rests on a rock in the late afternoon on the Summerland Trail in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park

Washington lies across the Columbia River just to our north. I’ve spent a lot of time at Ridgefield and I’ve written about my love for that little refuge but there are two more parks that are near and dear to my heart: Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park. The Olympics literally go from the rugged coast (and tide pools) to rain forests to the snow-capped Olympic mountain range, along with plants and animals endemic to the Olympic peninsula. Rainier has its massive namesake where you can easily hike trails from the lodges and within minutes see pikas and marmots. There are many other trails too, such as the Summerland Trail in the Sunrise area where I met this hoary marmot sunning itself on the rocks. Sometimes I saw bears in both parks, sometimes quite close, sharing the trail with me. Deer and elk, birds, ground squirrels, so much wonderful wildlife living in such breathtaking scenery.

Washington has many other wonders I never explored, I never even visited Seattle for that matter apart from one quick business trip. But I could have explored these parks alone for the rest of my life and never gotten bored. Goodbye, I love you.

Goodbye Oregon, I Love You

A harbor seal watches from the surf near Cobble Beach on a rainy day at Yaquine Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport, Oregon

I discovered right away during my interview trip 21 years ago that Oregon was where I belonged. One of the managers found out I liked to hike and took me hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, then the other students and I had the weekend to go out the coast and explore whatever we wanted.

That wonderful Gorge is a half hour drive to the east. My beloved Ridgefield National Wildlife is half an hour to the north (across the river in Washington). Snow-capped Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens are visible from Portland and an easy drive too. Well known for its waterfalls and wetlands and lush forests and rugged coast, all of which I dearly love, there are also high deserts and sand dunes and even redwoods all the way south.

Scenes like this, a curious harbor seal poking up out of the surf at Yaquina Head on a rainy day at the coast, gave me as much pause about moving to Arizona as the summer heat. Oregon has so much to offer, so much that delights me, so much I will miss. Goodbye, I love you.

Goodbye Portland, I Love You

The Tom Bihn ID messenger bag on a MAX train in Portland, Oregon

Leaving Portland means leaving a way of life. In our old neighborhood of Irvington I can walk to shops and restaurants. For most of our years here I’ve slung my Tom Bihn laptop bag over my shoulder and walked to the light rail station to take the train to work. I only drive about 1000 to 3000 miles a year, depending on how many long hiking trips I take, so I’ll drive as many miles on our way to Arizona as I might do in a year. It was obvious on my interview trip that life in Arizona will be centered around the car, so I’m going to have to get used to driving to work again. One of the things I’ll figure out during the year we’re renting is how long of a commute I can tolerate, which will dictate what neighborhoods we will consider when it is time to buy.

There is more about Portland I’ve loved, from its progressive ideals (if not always progressive policies) to its eccentricities, such as the day I met someone walking a pig at the dog park. Not a little pot-belled pig, a full-grown pig. People practicing Shakespeare in the park, even our little Irving park. The old neighborhoods. The light rail. The downtown. The city parks. The duck ponds with not just mallards and Canada geese but wood ducks, bufflehead, wigeon, scaup. On and on.

The ever-worsening traffic I won’t miss but we are heading to a much larger city so perhaps we will trade one type of traffic for another. Neither will I miss the ice storms, we’ll see if the misery of desert summers are a fair trade for wonder of desert winters.

It was the lure of Portland that led me to interview with the company where I worked for two decades, the loss of that job is forcing me to leave. I will always treasure our time in Portland, it’s been a wonderful place to call home. Goodbye, I love you.