Smells like “pioneer spirit”


airstreamMy husband, Adam, has a since developed a shorthand we use whenever someone asks us why we dropped everything and moved to Oregon.

“Pioneer spirit,” he says.

For him, these two words hold everything you need to know.  We chose adventure. Not cut-your-arm-off-while-trapped-under-a-rock-adventure, more like: Let’s-go-find-a-place-that’s-green-all-year-round adventure.

The trail ends in Oregon.  It’s the oasis you find after crawling through the desert, the light at the end of the tunnel, the Eden you live in fear of being thrown out of.

Oregon was this idea for me before it was ever a place.

Oregon – with its fewer rules, its less established social structures, its lingering Wild West essence keeping everyone from stepping over the line. People out there made their own yogurt. They repurposed old barns into yurts. They cut their Christmas trees from the National Forest with their rough, hairy hands. They held memorial services for honeybees who died from colony collapse disorder.

These people who live in Oregon – they weren’t just doctors, or account managers, or dentists; they were bicycle-messaging barista assemblage artists or kombucha fermenting fire-poi spinning moms of four. Everyone in Oregon comes with a subtitle.

I had this idea that people living in Oregon ingested so many free radicals from the blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries they were eating that they were all out there on the edge of the Pacific, aging backwards. I wanted that, too.

Me?  As a young person I always felt like an 85-year-old woman trapped in a pinup girl’s body. By the time we decided to move to Oregon, I was getting tired of moving every year or two, so so tired of creating a new village every single time only to drop it all and move on. I was ready to add a few subtitles.

In Oregon, you could be anything you want to be. You could craft your life in such a way that it resembled exactly what you were meant to become. It was a place so fertile in the imagination it was as if your very spirit, this thing inside you, went out and carved mountains, dug out valleys, swept its hand across the earth and left a hillside covered in prairie flax. In Oregon, anything seemed possible and everything seemed doable. The only barriers to happiness were you you you.

You have to be a little crazy to drop everything and chase an idea like this. But I am the kind of person who believes in imagining the thing before I feel it, in sensing something before I smell it, someone who gets caught up in the myth of things.

Pioneer Spirit? Sure. But the real answer was we had no idea what the hell we were doing.