I took my River Forest Road walk this afternoon, enjoying the warm sun and a chapter of The Far Side of the World. At one point, I rounded a corner and was brought up short. Before me stood the most gorgeous blossoming tree. (A cherry?) I wished I had taken my camera.

A sunny Sunday in March means yard work, and that’s just what Kris and I did yesterday. Kris did lots of little things, many of which escape me; she was busy all day long. In the mid-afternoon, she planted the asparagus. She dug a foot-deep trench one-foot wide, and buried nine asparagus crowns. They’ll live for eight to ten years, producing their first edible stalks a couple of years from now.


While Kris worked on the asparagus, I edged the entire length of the garden, ripping out sod and hauling it back to the compost heap. Back next to the rotting eggshells and coffee grounds, I met another neighbor.

Harvey is the first black man I’ve met in Oak Grove. He and his wife moved into the house behind ours nearly thirty years ago. They’ve been married for thirty-three years and have eleven children, one of whom (Joshua, approximately eight years old) sat and listened to us as we talked.

Harvey’s a good guy. When he moved to Oregon from North Carolina, Harvey worked as a chef. Since then he’s gone into business for himself, installing refrigeration units for restaurants. His wife Becky is actually the daughter of Tom’s first wife. (Tom being the neighbor we know best, the friendly guy next door who, at nearly eighty years old, is building his dream home.) When the former owners of our house installed their high fence with barbed wire, they placed a gate between Harvey’s yard and our yard. When the former owners died, Harvey chained it off. Yesterday, he got out his bold cutters and he cut it the chain off. He installed a new lock and gave us a key, re-establishing open communication between the two yards. I think this was primarily a symbolic act, but I liked it.

We’ve now established contact with nearly all of the neighbors. (We still haven’t met the other backyard neighbors, the ones wholly hidden from us by the laurel hedge.) We know Tom and Roberta best, and are grateful for the kindness they’ve shown us since we moved in. (They’re the source of our grapes and blueberries, for example.)

John from across the road is a character: gruff and frank, but generous. (He invited us to glean his Concord grapes, and he donated lumber for us to construct our own grape trellises.) John spends most of his time in Alaska and New Zealand, so mostly his house is occupied by a series of housesitters.

Kurt and Tammy next door are friendly, too; they greeted us on our first day in the house. They’re closest to our age, and easiest to talk to. They live across from Cyril and Helen, an older couple who moved into their house in 1948. Cyril’s great: he has an opinion on everything and is not afraid to share it. He reminds me of Jeremy.

It’s strange that after nine months we already know most of our neighbors. In Canby, we barely knew the people around us, and we rarely had any interaction with them. It’s not like we spend all our time with our new neighbors, but at least we’ve met them, and we carry on conversations with them when we see them. With Tom and Roberta, especially, I’ve had a lot of talks.

It’s nice.

Last night I woke from a truly terrifying dream:

I am standing in a bus shelter with Mac and Andrew. Outside it is stormy in a wintry kind of way. Looking through a window into a coffee shop, I see Joel, all wild arms and crazy faces, telling a story to some stranger. I keep meaning to tell Mac and Andrew that Joel’s here, but they’re engrossed in conversation, and I do not want to interrupt. Eventually, Joel sees us and comes outside and plants a great big juicy kiss on Mac’s lips. “You gonna give me a ride home?” he asks Mac. Mac is hesitant because he’s promised to drive me home, but Joel goads him until he agrees to go. Andrew goes with them.

I take off by myself, in a car, driving to our new house, which is apparently now located on a hillside, up a winding, narrow road. The road is more icy than slushy, but I’m managing.

And here’s a strange part. For a short time, the dream changes scenes and I am no longer in the action. I cannot recall this ever happening before. Instead, Joel and Mac have arrived at their destination, and Joel is all wild arms and crazy faces, telling a story, but Mac is morose. “I should have taken J.D. home,” he says. “He hates to drive in this stuff. He’s no good at it.”

Indeed, I’m not (at least in the dream). I’m driving up the winding, narrow roads, only no longer in a car but in my pajamas. (WTF?) I take great long runs and then skid on my stomach. And this all seems perfectly natural in Misty Dreamland.

At one point, I accidentally turn onto a logging road. I can’t tell at first because it, too, is a winding, narrow road. Eventually, however, I realize that it is too winding and too narrow. In fact, the trees and shrubs have squeezed in all around so that I am only crawling now. I am very scared. Very scared.

I think of wolves. I think of bears. “This isn’t right,” I think to myself. “My house is on a big road.” And so I turn around and begin to retrace my path, but this time I’m panicked, believing I will be eaten by snowsharks. (WTF?)

My dream ends when I wake, in a fair state of terror, to go to the bathroom at 11:16.

At least there’s this: if I was dreaming — which I did all night long — I was not snoring!


On 14 March 2005 (09:53 PM),
Kris said:

While Jd was on his walk, I made a feeble attempt to give the camellias their semi-annual feeding. We think we have twenty-three beautiful camellia bushes here at Rosings Park, but it’s hard to be sure, since some of them blend together into one long hedge and others are so tall (15 feet?) they may be several intertwined. Anyway, the fertilizer instructions read: “drench soil around bush’s dripline. In general, 1 gallon (of dilute fertilizer solution) will be sufficient for 1 plant.” Somehow, I do not think they had our camellias in mind when they wrote those. In the end, I filled the two-gallon bucket up 16 times before I ran out of fertilizer granules, and I’m sure I’ve just whetted their appetites.

On 14 March 2005 (11:16 PM),
tammy said:

Hmm, Kris, maybe I need to fertilize my camelia. I hadn’t even thought of it. That’s exactly what I’ll do tomorrow. Greg bought a new mower. It’s self propelled. I’ve never had a self propelled mower. I’ve always had to strong arm my mower through thick stands of clover in our spare lot. I’m not sure how a self propelled mower will do in that sort of situation but we shall see. I’m looking forward to working outside tomorrow.

By the way is there anything we’re suppose to be doing to those roses this time of year? Pruning? fertilizer? Anything? Mine have all leafed out beautifully! I can’t wait to see them blooming!

On 15 March 2005 (06:44 AM),
Joel said:

I think Mac did the right thing in that dream. Between the two of us, I’d probably be more of a danger to the public if I had to drive on those icy roads. Attaboy, Mac, you’re a great kisser!

On 15 March 2005 (08:02 AM),
Steve said:

We must be neighbors. One of our favorite bike rides is down Oak Grove Blvd. and down River Forest Road. (We’re on Laurie Ave.)
If we can ever scrape together enough money, we’d love to live on the river. I grew up on a river in NH, and I miss being that close to the water. I think in the meantime I will just have to buy a boat so I can take advantage of my proximity to the boat launch at the end of Oak Grove Blvd.
There is a 5 acre lot w/ river front for sale right now at the end of Laurie Ave. (I posted some pictures on my Blog.) It used to be some kind of greenhouse/nursery, but everything is in ruins now. I think the property is listed with Windemere, but I haven’t seen how much they want.
Well, I’ve babbled on for long enough; time to chase the children off to school.

On 15 March 2005 (11:55 AM),
Courtney said:

I had a bad dream the other night. To make a long story short, I witnessed a murder and ended up in some sort of warehouse. Joel was there, too, and we hid in a dumpster full of cardboard. Why does Joel show up in these weird dreams I wonder?

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