Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spring is the most capricious of seasons

4/14/10 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Spring is the most capricious of seasons

As I write this, in addition to the usual wind and rain, my rooftop is frosty white and yesterday we had hail. Nevertheless, the Rhodies are in bloom and other brave flowers are poking their heads out of the ground. It must be spring!

My first experience with an Oregon spring season was March 1989. That month it rained 11-inches and the grass seemed to grow a foot overnight. Running through the meadow, Heidi, our Dachshund, was swallowed in a sea of yellow wildflowers and blanketed in mud.

As a newcomer to the area, if I complained about the rain, the most common response was, “Oh, but we need it.” That was closely followed by curious concern: “So, what brought you to Cottage Grove?”

Well, at that time, I was beginning to wonder what had brought us to Cottage Grove. Our first day here, the moving van sank into the mud and had to be hauled out by a tow truck; the pipes in the house had frozen; we couldn’t build a fire in the fireplace and neither the water heater nor furnace worked.

So my answer to the “why did you move here?” question varied according to the complexity and expense of our house’s current money pit problem and the weather forecast.

“Insanity” was my first response to the plumber we called in an emergency. We had not only broken pipes but also massive dry rot in the kitchen, under the toilets and behind the bathtub where every tile on the wall had collapsed.

“Stupidity” was my answer to the electrician who kept finding wires that went to nowhere while spending three days rebuilding our non-working furnace. He was shocked. “You didn’t know this?” he said.

“I have no idea,” I told the industrious chimney sweep when he informed us that flue fires had collapsed the chimney liners in both fireplaces.

My husband, of course, was the real reason we moved here.

Now it is true that my whole life I had envisioned living the country lifestyle by a lake, enjoying the outdoors and entertaining guests on the deck. I just didn’t expect to be living 1000 miles away from my children in a house where nothing worked.

I also had fantasized that living somewhere with changing seasons would be delightful. I was especially ready for a change from California’s relentlessly sunny and rainless days. So my charming husband badgered me into believing that a new life and a home at Cottage Grove Lake was the answer to both of our dreams.

Twenty-one years later, the Money Pit sign is still up but I am pleased that we took a risk and moved out of our comfort zone. Our lifestyle is a dream come true. There’s just one thing that I’m still battling — springtime weather.

Prior to moving, I had mentally divided the four seasons into equal parts, each lasting three months. I expected bright sunny days in summer; crisp sunny days and cool fall evenings; wet and dreary winter days but spring would be showery interspersed with glorious sunshine.

Ha! Any Oregonian worth their salt would have told me that spring is the most capricious of all Oregon’s seasons. It is the season of surprises and can be more wintry than winter.

Last month, my husband and I had a “senior moment” and forgot all that we learned about Oregon springtime. After being cooped up all winter we decided to go whale watching and celebrate spring at the coast. The weather forecast looked good: “showers with sun breaks” heralded the experts. “It should be beautiful!” we chorused.

So we headed north to spend some time on the Colombia River in those sporadic showers and sun breaks that the meteorologists predicted. A few days later, the weather turned wet and gloomy as we approached Cannon Beach. The weather forecasts, however, were cheerful. After all, it was spring.

Hoping for warmer weather we decided to head south, stopping along the way at whale watching spots. We arrived at Winchester Bay but saw nary a whale. Salmon Harbor or “Windy Bay,” as it is also known, however, was about to live up to its name and reputation.

The nearly empty RV Resort gave us its premier parking spot on the point, facing the harbor. We were completely exposed on all four sides and had one day of reprieve before an unpredicted storm hit. Then, Mother Nature — despite the weather forecast — did what only she can do: the wind blew, the rain came down in sheets and the ocean raged over the seawall. For three days our motor home rocked and rolled. We thought we were going to take flight!

To entertain ourselves as the surf pounded and the wind whistled, we ate too much, played cards and got caught up on our reading. Watching the water roil, Chuck soon started reminiscing about his sailing days and recounted his favorite springtime, it-could-have-been-fatal sailing experience:

He and a couple of buddies were in a race around the Channel Islands in a 28-ft. Pearson Deep Water Racing Sailboat. The weather started out fine but as the spring morning wore on, wind gusts of 40-50 knots kicked up. In fact, the boat was heeled over nearly flat on its side when they saw what looked like a submarine straight ahead. Instead, it was a 50 ft. whale across the bow.

They quickly changed course and the whale swiftly moved on. Seamlessly, they got back on course, breathed a sigh of relief, and won the race. As they headed home after the race, the seas calmed down and all was well. But that wind and the whale had sure gotten their adrenalin going.

Looking back, I’ve decided that spring is just like life. It can be wild and exciting and challenging. Or it can be depressing and weigh me down. The key to coping is to focus on the coming summer sunshine. Then we can all complain about the lack of rain!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart,
published weekly in the Cottage Grove Sentinel

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