“Oh, it was so miserable! Falling down into pig shit and being zapped by that damn electric fence!” Doris howled at her memory, tears of laughter gullying down her cheeks.
Doris and Mike were our introduction to southern Oregon: the hallowed haven for misfits, hippies, and enthusiasts of the great outdoors. They’d built their dream home in Roseburg—a quaint town known as the “Timber Capital of the Nation”—and had several rooms posted on AirBnB. I was struck immediately by the amount of art in the home—walls covered in landscape oil paintings, a Japanese-style heron mural with cherry blossoms, Iraqi onyx countertops, abundant tile mosaics, expertly painted plaster leaves and fruit along the trim of each room—and I discovered that lifelong painter Doris had made everything herself. Mike was a master carpenter and builder, and this mid-60s couple had created everything in their home apart from the basic framing. It had been an empty canvas for their combined talent, and it was beautiful. They’d built a scenic chicken coop, and a large garden with peppers, corn, tomatoes, various lettuces, and marijuana. (FYI: Oregon is one of four states to have legalized recreational pot. Bless them.) As longtime hosts for international guests, they’d accumulated a large collection of delicious wines and cordials from around the world, which they shared on the night Doris told her tragicomic story about falling into ankle-deep pig shit. She even brought out her delicious pot-infused, chocolate chip cookies, which had been cross-hatched for dosing purposes. She explained that a quarter was perfect to combat pain, a half to feel slightly euphoric, and a whole to have a good night. We stayed up late conversing with Mike, Doris, and a pediatric cardiologist from Nicaragua living in Portland. We even played with Mike’s handmade gas-can guitar with brilliantly colored designs, and finally fell into a restful sleep induced by good company and cheer.
The next morning, Doris made omelettes from her coop’s fresh eggs and vegetables from the garden. The delicious eggs had shells of seemingly unnatural hues, light blue and speckled creamsicle, colors which had been obscured by the tradition of their boring white or brown supermarket counterparts. It was then that I really fell hard for this state and decided to come out of the closet to my family: I’m an Oregonian trapped inside the body of a Californian. For those of you unfamiliar with my life’s trajectory, I’ve lived all over the world—six months in London, two-and-a-half years in Japan, nine months in southeast Asia, six months in Brazil, ten months in Argentina, and plenty of shorter trips and adventures in between—and it’s miraculous to have traveled the globe several times over in search of a home, and to return to the Pacific Northwest to find it. Yes, it’s crunchy as fuck here. Yes, it’s rained a fair amount since we arrived, especially for summer. And yes, according to my friend Patrick of “The Van Bun” fame, the Tinder pickings are slim—I’ll take his word for it—but this is the closest to Eden that I’ve come in 32 years, and I’m not about to let it go.