Backroads in Oregon


The In-Betweens

For every thing, and every person, there is a beginning and an end. The in-betweens are endless. They are partly what we are given, what we encounter, and what we make of it.

The beginning is often referred to as 'Home'. 'Home' can be thought of, and mostly is, where you were born. "Where are you from?", we are often asked. My usual reply is "When?" I have many Homes, the least is the place where I was born. Instead, they are the places I lived and that become a major part of me. And I, them. I am from all these places.

For most people  'Home' is a place; a point of location on a map, in a small community or neighborhood in a city. I was born in a region -New England- first, then a smaller locale: New York. Why is that? Because I am more a product of the region than the exact location I was born.

A hierarchy of similarities and differences tends to group us into categories that are convenient for people to associate and relate with. That hierarchy, of course, may be different depending on the individual. Mine is like this: I am Homo sapien,  American West,  American and female. What? Where's 'Texan', 'white', 'middle-class', blah blah?? Those labels, and what they represent, are less a part of me than others.

We are products of our language: the symbols that we associate with our self-situated identity and the identity that others assign to us, those around us and those far from us. Although I live in this country, my identity changes constantly along with my beliefs, values, and desires. We are not locked into little boxes that bear labels and names. Instead we are flowing blobs  that constantly flex, shrink, expand and move around with blurred and overlapping borders. We absorb and spit out pieces of ourselves and others. We are the equivalent of complicated human amoebas.

So what does this have to do with 'Home'? I have had and still have many Homes. They are the In-Between places. Maine, Oregon and Texas are those that occupy dominant parts of me. My current home, Texas, is somewhat of a love-disgust relationship. Like two mismatched dancing partners hearing a different beat and stepping on each others' toes. Oregon, on the other foot, remains a fond Home.


When I first traveled to the western states, I caught a disease. Hitchhiking to and from Arizona with a companion in the early 1970's left me bitten by a bug which I couldn't identify. All I knew was that I had to scratch it; I had to return. Over a decade later, I did. To the Pacific Northwest: Oregon.

While enroute and camping overnight in the Dakotas, I sat on the edge of a mesa and watched the day give way to a moon-filled night in the valley below. Mesa and canyon walls glowed with an ancient wisdom that mocked our human race while antelopes bounced and sprinted in play. Something inside me fled and was replaced by the spirit of the West. I'm still trying to put words on what that is.

I finished another university degree in Oregon and conveniently slid into a faculty position with my own  research and service program. Working closely with the agricultural, academic and industry people widened my perspectives of the Pacific Northwest. All the people I met at various levels increased my fondness for the region.

My family -husband, daughter and I- bought twenty acres of farmland that was once the homestead for the surrounding 360 acres. On that, we built a house and a sheep and horse ranch. I essentially had two jobs. Active in 4-H, extramural school events and  horse activities, more than a decade slid by. It's too easy to slide into a demanding life of daily routine and chores; I chastise myself now for not taking more time to explore the many places of Oregon and neighboring areas.

All things must change. When federal and regional dollars were squeezed from education and research programs, mine was cut in half. Quality research can't be run on string budget, so it folded. At the same time, I blew a disc in my back and was at the tail-end of a divorce. It was time for a change. A big one. The ranch was sold, along with most of my household items. I loaded my truck with bare essentials, bid a tearful goodbye to a place in the Oregon foothills that had rooted me, and drove to Texas.

Twelve years later, my daughter is getting married and I am returning to what I call 'Home'. I love Oregon like I loved Maine. It's a part of me. This time, I plan on exploring those places I should have years ago.