We struggled, even argued, about where to go on vacation this year. If you’ve been reading, you might remember that we originally planned a family trip to Tuscany and Amalfi for April, but an atom bomb went off in the middle of our lives, and, now, we’re not even on speaking terms with his mother and one of his older sisters (a story I’ve been reluctant to share, perhaps for another time). Hawaii, Iceland, Alaska, Bermuda, and Costa Rica were all dissected at the proverbial round table for degrees of inconvenience, travel hassle, rudeness quotient of the natives, and the balance between adventure and relaxation. We felt so desperate to get away after all we had weathered this spring, but feeling so frayed made the prospect of travel a little daunting. I sort of felt, for example, that if some snarky European pushed me in line or made a nasty quip about Americans (as they are wont to do, frankly) I might just punch him in the face, which is clearly not ideal. You see our dilemma?
I was sitting in the English department office grading my finals toward the end of the year, and a colleague started pontificating about Willamette valley pinots and corrected the room on the widespread mispronunciation of this region: “It’s Wil*lam*ette,” he directed with a snort, “but most people think it’s Wil*lam*ette.” And I thought – Thank you, Professor Windbag, you just reminded me of something! Many moons ago, when I started this blog, I had planned a pretty sweet little adventure to distract from the fact that we were about to become “fertility tourists” at Oregon Reproductive Medicine in Portland. Then there was a surprise pregnancy and loss to delay my whole summer calendar, so we had to switch gears and head to Colorado. The rest is a history of miracle embryos and open enmity between me and the illustrious Dr. Spock. I was disappointed at the time about the missed chance at Cannon Beach, the temperate rainforest, wine-tasting, and so forth. This trip was a recuped opportunity, rendering it, therefore, essentially pre-planned and mindless to arrange. And the people are nice, American, speak English, and drive on the right side of the road – perfection.
We celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary here in wine country this past weekend, and we leave tomorrow for that tortuous but breathtaking route down the Oregon coast for the second time in our lives together. In fact, I spent my first night as ‘fiancée’ at a grimy Motel 6 in Humboldt county after plans to camp among the redwoods were thwarted by weather and sheer exhaustion. The next night, we partied in Portland at a rock club serving downright flammable vodka-sodas, a dubious blur of pop punk, reckless dancing, meandering conversations with a Brooklyn native working the t-shirt counter, and the kind of drunken sex that makes it hard to look each other in the eye the next morning. There’s something poetic about returning to this place, which is cast in the rosy glow of that innocent joy and promise I associate with starting our married lives together.
And the beauty of it is spellbinding. We moved from a bungalow in downtown Newberg yesterday to The Allison, and the only other time I’ve ever steeped in hotel luxury like this was at The Four Seasons in Maui (our honeymoon) which we could not afford at that time, a product or haggling on the phone during the post-crash recession of 2009, when hotels were desperate to fill rooms. This hotel is tucked in the back roads among the wineries, and every path is exploding with blooming daisies and fragrant lavender, so pastoral and fecund I almost feel I might get pregnant from having sex, you know, like some of it could rub off on me.
As we looped around the countryside yesterday, I remember how pretty it is to just drive out here – tall grasses flank the winding roadside, dappled with Queen Ann’s lace and purple wildflowers, metric rows of grape vines stretching up thatched hillsides and capped with red rose bushes bobbing merrily in the warm breeze, all amid a backdrop of the evergreen mountain ridge with its 200′ trees and the dry sunshine so unique to the West. ‘Round one turn, the scenery smacks of Sonoma and another the vast blue skies of Colorado. We sat on the sloping hillside at Stoller yesterday drinking a bottle of buttery chardonnay with some Mt. Tam (from Cowgirl Creamery in California, also nostalgic for me) and let the sun warm my skin while white butterflies danced in our midst. All this after the most delightful couple’s massage melted away much of what I’m looking to unload here in this place of memory and unfettered beginnings. Tomorrow we head down the coast in search of oysters, eventually landing at our campsite on Humbug Mountain to play in the dirt and wrestle stubborn sea creatures for dinner over the wood fire. It’s everything because it’s nothing so heavy, and I can feel the deep gashes of loss knitting themselves together with every sumptuous mouthful of salmon, cheese, just-picked strawberry; with every turn that opens out onto another postcard vista.