Sometimes I become overwhelmed by a vast sense of loneliness. It invades me at times I least expect it or at times when I'm feeling a little weak to begin with. It's not a loneliness for any person I know--it's a loneliness for small living things and for tall trees and the sound of rain hitting the ferns. I suppose it's homesickness.
I love living in Portland. It's a charming city, full of all the things that are good about a larger community. There's a great library system, fantastic restaurants, art, music and, most important of all, a good coffee shop on every corner. But it's not home.
Home gets a little mixed up in my head. Mostly, it's Ash Valley, with its narrow canyons and second-growth trees. I spent most of my childhood exploring a space the size of three city blocks: a wonderful expanse of swamp, stream and forest. I can remember a few hikes with Jan Tetrault, who took us kids out of our backyards and up into the hills (they'd be mountains in Pennsylvania). She told us the names of plants. What a gift.
Sometimes, home is the even smaller stretch of Gardiner that I walked with Fiona in her baby pouch. Throughout the cemetery were old garden classics like grape hyacinth and hydrangea and plum trees that were the children of the pioneers' orchards. Then there were the tenacious weed-fields that were slowly taking back the old mills.
Further afield but equally loved was the beach and the spruce forests abutting the shore. I can think of no place more enchanted than the woods behind Haceta Head. The forest spans no fewer than 4 microclimates with varying guilds of plants and lichens, and the duff is so thick that your feet spring up on every step.
And of course home has never been home without the animals. My first real memories include the lambs, butting up against smell and all milky-smelling. After that, there were the cats, so many I can hardly count. Squirrels and deer and rescued baby bats and ducks and snakes and horses. And chickens. And donkeys. The city can feel a little lonely with all the pets just hidden away.
That loneliness is always there. Most of the time, it slumbers, held under the surface by the distractions of city life. But sometimes, when things get quiet, it wakes up. And I am homesick again.