Here I am, again in foreign lands. It seems that every 7 years I must make a change. Usually a drastic one in my life, to my life. After nearly 7 decades I've learned to accept this about myself.
Raised in a medium sized country town in the Pacific Northwest; country folk considered it a City, I think more suburbia. More pavement, middle class homes, only domestic pets and shopping centers, etc. I remained there for nearly 11 years of my childhood. During this time I read and watched and listened of stories of "other" places. Some exotic, some romantic and some just plain. I wanted to see them all. Experience them all.
I left home filled with stories of adventures and travel. My first foray into a foreign land was just east of my home by about 200 miles. Where home had been wet, humid with fields of tall green grass, clover, trees and creeks; this new land was so foreign to me. It was dry. Hundreds and hundreds of acres parched and punctuated by dry sage brush. No humidity to speak of. No green. A few scraggly trees dotted the land.
The people from whence I came were business people, University professors, staff and store workers who usually dressed in suits, dresses and such. The people here were mostly ranchers with herds of cattle or sheep and horses to manage. This was their livelihood, their lives.
Lots of hard work, sweat, mud and manure on their boots, jeans, and in their trucks; calloused hands, sunburned faces, arms and necks. Cowboy hats crushed, well used and crusted with sweat and salt from their sweat. Laughter. Lots of food, incredible meals with tables never sparse of meats, poultry, breads, vegetables and desserts along with pots of strong coffee. All produced by themselves. They lived off the land and the fruits of their labor.
Friday and Saturday night were for fights, blowing off steam and drinking. They played as hard as they worked.
I often felt that I was in an old west movie set.
After three or more years it was back to suburbia. Now I'd lived two very different lives.
I hadn't yet noticed my cyclical propensity for change every 7 years. That came in my 30s after I'd moved to San Francisco. I found what I felt was home in a small bedroom community of San Mateo, California, Foster City, in 1972. Just about 30 miles south of San Francisco on the Peninsula, I fell in love with this place and called it home for the next 10 years.
It was a community of homes built around little lagoons that fed into the San Francisco Bay which abutted the edge of Foster City on its north side. Water everywhere, flowing under the bridges and backing up to many of the homes. Sail boats, blue skies, sunshine and quiet. Walking space. Swimming pools and tennis courts abounded along with green carpeted parks surrounding lagoons of blue water.
Just thirty minutes or so and one would be in San Francisco basking in the sun on the Wharf, drinking espresso in North Beach and people watching to operatic arias as background music or pushing through throngs of people in Chinatown or Union Square. Jump on a cable car and ride to the top of California Street. Eat in one of the many incredible restaurants. Authentic ethnic popuri.
Cosmopolitan vs Country
Values differ greatly from City life to Country living. I carried both sets of values within my being. Often during the years I lived in the San Francisco Bay area I would long for the country, the look, sound, feel of it and the people. Simple folk in their needs and wants. Making "things do" rather than throwing away and buying new. Reusing everything. Wise, down to earth folk. Quiet, a sky in which the stars brightly shone; clean, fresh air. The feel of grass between my toes. The river cooling my feet.
Living in the country I longed for the cosmopolitan way of life. Theaters, culture, incredible food, access to most anything one would want and the refined, educated, sophisticated people who dressed for occasions. The lights of the city, the sounds of the city.
By far San Francisco and the southern peninsula - San Mateo, Foster City, and Palo Alto remain my favorite places to live. Close enough to the ocean and the mountains that I could run to when I ached for the country or coast side life.
Other places that I've lived and enjoyed were Warner Robbins, Georgia near Macon, Georgia. I loved the land there and the culture of the people. So genteel. It was a pleasure to be greeted by strangers on the street or in the stores. Lots of unwritten :laws" to learn. A shock at first and than a joy. The proximity to Atlanta and the ocean was wonderful.
Mukilteo, Washington just north of Seattle, Washington was incredible. The Sound to cross by ferry to the islands, the lush green and trees. By far the best artist community I've enjoyed. The proximity to Seattle. I loved the super markets for groceries. Such wonderful quality and variety.
Kansas City, Kansas was delightful. The square downtown was a favorite destination to soak up some culture. Kansas City was clean, lots of culture, great Hallmark Theater and down home folk mixed with sophisticated. The people hooted that I was from California and ate the likes of artichoke and other unknown foods to them such as the likes of sushi. They were strictly meat and potatoes folk.
St Petersburg, Florida wasn't my favorite for weather, however, the flowers there were incredible as were the beaches and the vistas. The Gulf of Mexico is so beautiful with white sandy beaches to enjoy. Great eating places with sea food abundant and affordable. Easy to get around the state up to the Crystal Lake or over to the Keys in little time. People were interesting with a huge mix of retirees and Canadians who wintered there. It seemed more city type folk but I saw some ranches as well.
Eugene, Oregon a very contemporary, "happening," place with the University of Oregon sitting in the middle. A great theater life with the Holt Center and a mix of country and city people. The University bringing in a fabulous cultural mix of people from all nations. The outskirts still farmed and a great escape from the middle of the city.
Bend, Oregon an ideal for me. Incredible vistas and country with rivers and lakes abundant. Dry, high desert weather and a sky to cry for day or night. The smell of sage brush. Culture with a blend of country and city folk coexisting.
Richmond, England was a dream. The landscape, the river Thames, the winding, ancient, narrow brick, tree lined streets leading down to the city square from the manse in which I had a room and lived. History. Food. Culture. It has it all and just a short distance into London or to Heathrow airport. The people, reserved and quiet. Simply delightful.
For now, I reside in a small farm community just south of Salem, Oregon, the state capitol of Oregon. This was a bit of a shock to my system as it has been years since I've been in this environment. It is beautiful. Green everywhere since grass seed and Christmas trees are the main industry. Acres and acres and acres running over hills and down dales of green grass or Christmas trees and now grapes.
It is a small, quiet community in which I now reside reminiscent of 1950 America where the kids run barefoot and free in the neighborhoods. People here love the out of doors and are outside most of the day. Unfortunately, many don't read so knowledge is gained either word of mouth or via television reports.
I am the foreign one here. They smile when they speak of my "cultured" way and manner. Or when I ask if they have read such and such a book or article. I don't ask anymore.
Another adventure for me. How long before I ache for my city life? Perhaps I'll move to Portland, Oregon next.
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