6.12.2010

The 10 Things I'll Really Miss in the Pacific Northwest

As we get ready to hit the road for new adventures and a new life in the Midwest, and as my dismantled home makes war-torn Afghanistan look like a Martha Stewart Living cover, it still hasn't quite hit me yet that in less than a week, I'll be bidding adieu to the part of the world I've called home for the last ten years. It occurs to me as I write this that I've lived my life in thirds. 10 years in Michigan, 10 years in Ohio (combined time), 10 years in Washington. And now that we're returning to Ohio, I wonder--will it be another 10 years before we pick up and move again? Who knows. All I do know is I'll likely be zooming through Montana before reality finally hits that this is for real. I'm going home. I'm elated for the future, even if there are many things I fear and lament. The following is a list of things (other than my wonderful friends and family) that I will be sad to leave behind.

1. The Mountains: It's easy to take for granted that looming snow-capped beast of Mt. Rainier on the horizon (when it decides to show itself) or the craggy spine of the Olympics to the north, or the accessibility of the rest of the Cascade range to the east and southeast, but there is no denying that I'll notice when they are no longer there. Coming from a relatively flat part of the world, I first set foot in Washington (and later Oregon) and my mind was officially blown. It will be weird not using the visibility of those peaks as a barometer for how beautiful a day it is or how clear the air.

2. The Water: When it comes to terrain, this region has it all. One could head eastward for the rocky stuff or west for some waves. Of course, living here on the Puget Sound offers its own brand of beauty. I'll miss the marinas of downtown Olympia, or having such quick and easy access to a waterfront, Salmon, and local seafood. While the beaches in this part of the world are cold and best suited for hoodies and jeans than shorts and tanktops, they are beautiful and invigorating. Especially the Oregon beaches, which I'll especially miss. Our regular trips to the coast hold a very special place in my heart and really made me love calling this place home.

3. The Beer: The Pacific Northwest knows its brew, and the tons of microbreweries in this region attest to that. While I would never call myself a connoisseur of the beverage, I can't help but admire a culture that reveres hops and barley like they do here. Sadly, Olympia closed its big brewery several years ago, but there are a few local hot spots here and enough different types of beer on tap at most local pubs to keep you drinking a new beer every day for a year.


4. The Coffee: Similar to the beer, I am no expert on the subject, and I am an occasional coffee drinker at best, but if I ever wanted a cup, I took pleasure in one being no more than two minutes away. And good coffee at that. Not just that Starbucks stuff.

5. The Lack of Humidity: Oh sure, you might think such a rainy climate would boast all sorts of swampy weather, but on the contrary, this part of the country has a remarkably low dew point, which means that while there might be a high relative humidity, you don't actually feel it. And trust me, I know my humidity. It's the one part of our location change I'm going to dread most. There are so many times I've returned from a Midwest vacation to the temperate summer climate of the Northwest and breathed a sigh of relief. Granted, air conditioning goes without saying in Ohio. Out here, it's optional at best, so when it is hot, you suffer almost more. So at least there is that.

6. The Clean Air: Plenty of air currents from the mountain ranges and the oceans do a great job of keeping the smog away. Granted, you will see some in the later months of the year when the drought season kicks in and the dust starts blowing over from the deserts east of the Cascades, but overall, the air quality is tops compared to other places I've lived, even when the Scotch Broom is in full bloom.



7. The Rhododendrons: Back where I grew up, Rhodies were a rarity. They had them at nurseries and I remember always wishing my mom would plant them, but I never expected the sheer ubiquity of them that I got out here. The shrubs are in nearly every yard and no commercial landscape is complete without them. Every June welcomes their lush pink, purple, and white blossoms. While I wish they had a longer blooming season, I can't deny that my favorite time of year is when the Rhodie buds start opening.



8. The Culture: There's a rugged wholesome hippie vibe here that is hard to come by in other parts of the country. It's not just that it's more liberal politically. It's that across the board there is a certain reverence for nature that I have always appreciated. I like that I can stop at an intersection and see some chick with purple hair, striped knee-socks, a ripped skirt and military jacket, and a face full of metal standing next to a regular Joe in jeans and a tee-shirt, and no one really seems to care. I'll miss driving by the regular war protest groups on Fridays, where they gather rain or shine down on the boardwalk, or the abundance of locally-grown food and all of the pride that seems to go along with that. Also, every spring people dress up like plants and animals and do an amazing Procession of the Species parade.


9. The Capitol: I'll miss seeing that beautiful, majestic dome peeking out from the trees when I round the bend on I-5. Living in a state capital is also convenient should you ever decide to become active in the civic sense. An education in how state government works is right at your fingertips here. And you're also first to hear funny stories about how your governor got carded at a bar and then turned away because she didn't have her I.D. on her.

10. The Green: They don't call it the Evergreen State for nothing. As much as I have complained about fir needles and resin over the years, I know I'll be pining (haha...) for all that greenery come December in Ohio, when all of the deciduous trees are bare and the grass is dead and the dominant color is brown or dirty white.


Still, it isn't like we're trading in our Rolls Royce for a clunker. While living in Washington always invites more curious interest than living Ohio does, there is a lot to boast about in the Buckeye State. For whatever reason, the it has a reputation for being flat, bland, and boring, but I actually relish in proving the naysayers wrong. Similar to the Northwest, Ohio is a state that has it all. There are the Great Lakes to the north, and if you go far enough east, you even run into mountains. Canada is also relatively nearby. There are gorgeous deciduous forests, great hiking, and awe-inspiring thunderstorms. There are also great theme parks and festivals, beautiful big cities, a ton of shopping, and a million and one places you can go and hide away for a weekend. Finally, it has the Touchdown Jesus. And when it comes to finding a great place to live, that my friends is a dealmaker.



The thing is, the Northwest has always been an "experience" for me rather than a true home, and I have a feeling now that the tables will be turned with my husband and I, as he leaves his native homeland for a Midwest "experience" of his own, but I hope he can find a sense of contentment in our new community. Luckily for both of us, he's a pretty worldly fella, and I'm so grateful that he's open to this new chapter in our lives. 

But I'm not going to lie. I'm really going to miss my Northwest hideaway, and those precious moments when its famous ubiquitous clouds part for a spell, and the sun, water, and gorgeous terrain all remind me why it's such a wonderful place to live.

3 comments:

  1. A beautiful tribute, Allie. I've never been to this area of the US but your entry certainly makes it look tempting. Even for an agoraphobic;)If I had friends who lived out here I would want to share this blog with them. It's clear how much you loved it here. I admire how you appreciate life in all it's details with a writer's eyes. Good luck on your move!

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  2. I guess I procrastinated long enough it was about time to read this. I couldn't bring myself to do it before you left. Sad to see you all pick up and move, but very happy for you at the same time. Thank you for your Midwesterner's perspective of some things we might all take for granted out here.

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  3. Bill -- I just re-read this and got a little choked up. I'm really gonna miss it there. :(

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