We’ve just returned from the first leg of the move to our Oregon property. The trip was a whirlwind, filled with the ups and downs that were mostly expected, some less so. We had some weather-related surprises, and I broke my finger on day-2.
When we drove up mid-day on the 28th, the highway wound along rivers and creeks so full and brown and powerful, they were washing into people’s yards and lapping at homes and outbuildings. Each of us was imagining the worst– that our bridge would be consumed, the buildings threatened, that our innocent, chortling creek might have grown into a wintertime monster.
We were relieved to discover that our creek was still blue-gray and not particularly full, even with streams across the property feeding steadily into it. If our creek ever flooded its banks, the towns below would have long since been washed away by the larger waterways.
Over the next few days, the rain stopped and temperatures plummeted into the teens. Moisture was sucked from the clay soil into towering ice formations. I spent hours each day photographing the land, the forest, the crystalized grasses and frosted leaves.
The entire place was quiet but for occasional rooster crows from a distant neighbor’s and birds in the cedar and redwood trees. We explored the outbuildings. Two small shacks were a surprise to us, clinging to the bank of the creek and buried in blackberry brambles. They appear to be cabins of the early 1900s. A large tree had crushed the one most accessible, and it and its contents had been abandoned. A chest with a broken lock contained photographs and hand-written letters with postmarks from the ’60s.
I documented everything.
One of our dogs got into a snarling scuffle with my dad’s on the second day after their breakfast. I lunged into the mix to separate them, which everyone should know (and I better than anyone thanks to prior related injuries) you never do. The dogs were both fine, not a scratch on either. I, however, did not come out unscathed: my ring finger was obviously broken between the last joint and the tip. I didn’t feel it then, thanks to the pulsing adrenaline, but I could see it clearly and I felt it soon enough! I was hindered by acute pain and a splint for the remainder of the trip.
We set the house up to be comfortable, sparsely furnished with the essentials, except for a stove since we have yet to install a gas line. We cooked on the smoker, induction burner and toaster oven: spaghetti the first night, then smoked ribs and mashed potatoes, chili, and refried bean burritos (we used the recipe I posted prior, but in lieu of water I made a broth from the rib bones, so they were not vegetarian but especially delicious!).
Every day I gathered wild greens for fresh salads: dandelion leaves, buds and blossoms, chickweed, dock, and cat’s ear, dressed lightly with olive oil and vinegar.
While we did not get any new fencing up as I’d hoped, I did get a small plot of garden turned, amended and planted with garlic and shallots. I mulched it thickly with leaves from the Norway maple, and laid branches across it (unattractively) to prevent the wind from carrying the leaves away.
On the last full day I cut immense, years-dead broken limbs from a plum tree near the house. It felt like a great accomplishment to begin restoring a tree in such poor health. I saved a beautiful abandoned bird’s nest from the snarl.
When I photographed the end result, my memory card showed an error. But I didn’t know until I began to upload on our drive home that the malfunction had deleted every file but the last eight: thousands of photos, none of which from the past ten days had been backed up.
So the second, far more painful lesson I had to relearn: back up precious work often and use multiple memory cards.
I’ve been consoling myself that my photos were not of a one-time event, no cherished memory left behind. I can take new pictures on our next trip. There may not be the unique frozen earth. The wreath I made of ivy, yellow-tipped cedar and holly and hung on our new front door may have withered. But there will be scenes and wreathes to replace those; many. There’s an entire future to play out there. A home to be built, and life to create. And plenty of time for new photographs soon enough.
Happy New Year, everyone!