Years ago the tree across the way was huge, green, shimmering in the evening breeze. But it was nearly obliterating my accustomed view of Mt. Hood, that magnificent snow-covered vision riding on top of a residential plain and a band of silhouetted foothills due east from the metropolis of Portland, Oregon.
Between me and my mountain touchstone were some two hundred thousands souls, and in the entire area were a million more. But the density was different from either East Coast or Southern California. Here we were far more dispersed over a vast and varied countryside, some in citified high rises but the majority in single family homes of one or two stories, two to four bedrooms with garages, back yards, front yards, even some side yard.
Here space had never been scarce — ever since original settlement by homesteaders, we had been encouraged to spread out on the abundant land. Many of us encouraged this land to grow whatever it inclined towards. Cash crops like strawberries, lettuce, wine grapes and nuts being the exceptions, but far more prevalent were vast expanses of native shrubs and trees.
During the many years I was away I professed not to miss my funky hometown, mocking, “Once you’ve seen a million Douglas firs you don’t need to see another.” Ah, but now back as a semi-retiree, I find myself amazed at the seeming never-ending quantity and variety of plants, shrubs, trees with seasonally-changing colors and textures. Natural beauty surrounds me in my 8th floor apartment, and I love it even though I have to walk a block to see my Mt. Hood.