Monday, June 10, 2013

Grow Write Guild #6 Landscapes

Grow Write Guild

For gardeners, spring is about getting back outside and planting, tending, weeding, and watering. I have a stack of really interesting gardening books and a pile of gardening information on my desk that have been abandoned since the first weeks of nice weather a month ago.

For me, reading and writing about the garden is easier to do in the off season. I had intended to write this post about a week ago. But I still had planting to do, and weeding, and watering. Every year I have mild amnesia about the amount of time I spend watering.

So when I went to read the other posts for this prompt, I really wasn't all that surprised to see only one comment after two weeks. It's not that it is uninteresting, these prompts are a fun exercise, it's just that we are busier now doing what we love. I live in the Portland, OR metro area and we've had a week of sunny warm weather. I just want to be outside in it with the plants.

Prompt #6 is about Landscapes. This prompt is fitting for me in two ways. 1) I have lived in several types of landscapes and believe that where I am, the Pacific Northwest, is an ideal landscape. 2) A trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico last fall had us reconsidering staying in a wet, rainy, but very green landscape.

First are the places I've lived, in order, and can remember even as a child:
Phoenix, Arizona
San Diego, California
Vancouver, Washington
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Vancouver, Washington

You can see that I returned to a landscape that I grew up in. I moved to the northwest when my mom remarried. I spent most of my elementary school days here. We later moved to a desert environment in southern Oregon and there was no comparison.  I chose to live in an evergreen environment when I came here to go to college. I left behind a dry, desert landscape with few trees and very little green. I wanted to move back to this area because it is always green here (usually gray too).  When all those deciduous trees drop their leaves, we fall back on evergreens (conifers) until spring. Washington State is "The Evergreen State".

If it's an ideal landscape, why would we even consider leaving? The gray. In a climate that is rainy about 9 months out of the year we will have heavy, gray cloud cover that will last all day, sometimes all week. This can result in Seasonal Depression. I've determined that what gets to me is the lack of progression throughout the day. Look out the window at 9 am and it could be 3 pm - looks the same. There's no sunrise or sunset. It can be so dark inside the house that you have to turn on a light to see inside a cupboard. Now if this were occasional, that would be ok. But there are stretches of "gunmetal gray" days, usually in January, that last for a week or more.

That's the thing about seeing photos of landscapes vs. being in one. Gayla from You Grow Girl is on a trip to the desert southwest. It's beautiful, but until you are in the heat and the light you really haven't experienced it. Much the same way I've never experienced a Canadian winter.

Last fall Chris and I went to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a few days for his work. It was not a vacation and to be honest, I was not interested in it and did no research. I was thinking about seeing Colorado afterward. It came as a surprise to both of us how much we liked Santa Fe, which to me was a tourist town (and one to avoid). I stayed at the hotel and roamed the downtown area while he attended a workshop across town. He would  walk back in the afternoon. We each were having separate experiences and both absolutely loved it.

We still are trying to nail down exactly what it was that captivated us. Was it the landscape? Obviously, it was like a vacation, we had a hotel, ate at restaurants, nothing like a mundane work week at home. But for me, it was sunny and warm in October and the sky was an intense blue. The landscape is dry, desert, one that never appealed to me before. Despite vowing to not take pictures like a tourist I was snapping photos of gorgeous plants and fences. The use of native materials could be found almost anywhere.

See my blog posts on Santa Fe:

One thing that's a factor in two of the southwest landscapes I've visited is elevation. I live at sea level and on visits to the Grand Canyon, north rim and the trip to Santa Fe I've experienced headaches and earaches that impacted my experience. Again it's more than seeing photos of a landscape it's about your physical (and mental) perception of a place.


  1. I think our climates are quite similar and I sympathise with the ready for sun now please sentiment.

    I love your description of falling for a place you didn't expect to.

  2. I wrote my post on the non-evergreen half of Washington State. :)

    I enjoy visiting the cooler Seattle area in summer for a refreshing break from the heat, but winter does sound brutal.

  3. Clare - thanks for using the word sentiment. Yes, I imagine that we live in similar climates. As for the gray, there's a reason Starbucks originated in Seattle.

  4. Evee - yes, the Evergreen State is not entirely evergreen. Your photos are beautiful, I like that you are still discovering flowers.

  5. It's fascinating that you're drawn to two vastly different landscapes, that are each so extreme in their ways! It sounds like you have an opportunity to travel more to figure out what it is you like about the desert :)

    1. Paula- you're right. I know what I like and don't like about the northwest, but the attraction to the southwest is still a mystery.

  6. I really enjoyed your post! I also live in the PNW, which has many advantages, but sunshine isn't one of them! Like you, I have really been drawn to other landscapes. So interesting how we choose the one we do.

  7. Thanks Louise - it's true that I chose the northwest landscape over 20 years ago, and I still love the green. But, trips to the southwest have been intriguing.