written by Maiah Miller
The love I feel for Oregon grows in my life much like the native pine tree. I have a delicate version inked on my wrist as a constant reminder of the Pacific Northwest, and each flash of the boughs peeking from my sleeve reminds me of home.
As a military spouse, I move often, seemingly farther away from my birthplace of Eugene with each duty station. I carry this love for my home state like a security blanket. It is something I can reach for and cling to in times of homesickness. Oregon invades my thoughts when daydreaming, like the fog along the coast. I find ways to weave my love of the state into my life, even when I’m physically far from the valley I grew up in.
When I first left the state to move with my twin to Texas, we followed the only car with Oregon license plates we had seen in the vast state and eagerly accosted them when they parked, excitedly asking them where they were from. After much confusion, we realized they were driving a rental car and had no idea their license plates were Oregon plates. When my husband deployed for the second time to Afghanistan, going home was my lifesaver. I loaded up my car with running shoes and our newly adopted puppy and drove sixteen hours straight to Eugene. Eugene was my refuge for those long months of separation, and it was only the safe return of my Marine that made me travel back to San Diego. Our next duty station was Monterey, and this time the drive to Oregon was shorter.
In nine hours I could be home, running the Amazon trail, sipping coffee with my mother at Noisette bakery, dancing at Ballet Fantastique or simply roaming the aisles of Market of Choice. Eugene made my heart beat faster. The cleaner air, the greener trees and abundant organic and healthier food invigorated me. Even having twins didn’t slow me down. Becoming a new mother released a maternal longing for my native home, so I counted down the days until I could bring my new family to Oregon. After my girls were born (while my husband was on assignment), I convinced my friend in Portland to fly down and drive me back with my tiny infants. The twins made their first trip to Oregon at six months, with a joyful whoop from me when crossing the state line (instantly regretted when I remembered the little babies sleeping in the backseat).
Even if they wouldn’t remember their first Oregon trip, I wanted my girls to be immersed in the love I have for Oregon. When my husband was finally on leave and able to travel with us, I delighted in navigating my favorite trails and coffee shops as a family. It was a wonderful experience to introduce him to “all things Oregon”, and show him the beauty of my state. Now I am almost the farthest away I could be while still remaining in the U.S., and I have to bite my tongue to keep from critically comparing everything to my beloved Oregon. (It’s not this humid in Oregon! We have scenic running trails in Oregon. In Oregon you can actually find vegan restaurants. Oregon doesn’t have these terrible spider-cricket hybrids. And so on.)
When I force myself to stay in the present, I appreciate my current community. I’m meeting new friends and exploring the state we temporarily call home. But the pine tree on my wrist reminds me of where my heart is and I find myself dreaming of the day we load up the car and head west to Oregon—this time for good.