The filbert orchards around Newberg are starting to turn rusty gold. Often I wake in the night to hear rain through our open bedroom window, but by mid morning the sky is blue and the sun warm. Autumn comes gradually here in Oregon, and I’m glad. I want to enjoy every red leaf and raindrop and Indian summer day of it, until cold November takes the stage and the rain begins.
A year ago I was in North Texas, polishing my book proposal for Through the Veil when I wasn’t accompanying my mother-in-law to doctor appointments and increasingly frequent emergency room visits. In October 2008 Todd’s mom chose to receive hospice care in our home, and she died in early November, before the deciduous trees as far south as Texas had dropped their leaves.
Todd and I flew with the girls to Oregon for Thanksgiving just two weeks after his mom died. A few scarlet and orange leaves still clung to gray branches, but most of the glorious colors of autumn lay piled in wet heaps by the side of the road.
We came to spend the holiday with Grandma and Grandpa Ohlen, but Todd also arranged for an informal meeting with the headmaster of a classical school in Newberg. After dropping him off, the girls and I drove our rental car through the rain to The Coffee Cottage, where I ordered hot chocolates and, of course, coffee.
My older girls settled in with books, while the younger two played in the toy corner. I pulled a random literary journal off the shelf and opened to a poem—written by a friend of mine! Perhaps this artsy northwest town would be just the place for our family.
Now—nearly a year later—we are home. The town seems a perfect fit for us, but I know that doesn’t mean we’ll live happily ever after. No matter how sweet this life, we will also face hardship and loss.
I remember my last autumn in Oregon. Fall of 1988 and I was just a few credits shy of graduating from Oregon State. I took lingering October walks out past the sheep barns to the west of campus, between maples hung with red and orange. I savored the crisp breeze against my cheeks and the brilliant colors all around; I knew I was saying goodbye to the Oregon changing seasons, maybe for good.
This first autumn back in the northwest, as the tips of the maples on my street blush red and the morning clouds hang low on the hills, I look to the east and greet the future with a long hello.