After some deliberation, I've decided to post a segment of a short essay I wrote years ago about the Bend area. This intro sets up the essay's main theme of place and change over the course of years, and I think it's appropriate to post it here as I begin my work on *the Bend Project,* which I hope to start telling you about in more detail soon...
Bend, OR.1979. Population: 15,000.
I’m four years old, crouched close to the sticky hardwood floor, watching my mom fill a two-quart container with honey from a wooden box sitting on an empty milk crate. I love to watch the slow process of filling the honey jar. It flows from the spigot a little differently every time depending on how fresh the honey is or how full the bulk bin is, and you need to close the spigot at the right moment before the jar is full to make sure there's room for the drizzle that squeezes through as you push the lever closed. Sitting on the floor like this, I catch a glimpse of the treetop just beyond the curtained window near the ceiling, and bask in the glow from the sun filtered through its leaves.
At our tiny, small town health food store, my mom would replenish jars of buckwheat flour from a large wooden barrel, fill satchels of dried herbs from a supply of fragrant glass jars sitting high on shelves, load up her basket with the freshest vegetables available in town, and if the weather was hot I was almost always allowed to indulge in a yogurt push-up from the old-fashioned freezer near the front of the store.
These were the days in Bend when its little cottages sat on dirt streets, and the dusty ranchers who'd lived in the area for generations graciously co-existed with the young folks who were moving up from California to lead a simple life. These were the days in Bend when there still existed a handful of eccentric characters, like the man who wore an aluminum foil hat to deflect radio waves emitted by sinister government agencies, or the couple who (I'm not making this up) were both mimes and chimney sweeps - simultaneously. These were also the days in Bend when a handful of people living in the same small area seemed to strive for the same ideals. Bartering and trading for goods or work were not uncommon among the people my parents knew. We had fresh goat’s milk from one family, and my brother and I wore moccasins hand made by another, and there was the little mom and pop health food store, residing in a boxy building with old wooden floors. Its quintessentially western storefront sat along a dirt road ending below a hill of juniper trees and volcanic rock. Its wide front porch was flanked by ponderosa pines and sunflowers sprouted from planters near the door.
I was too short to be able to see over the wooden checkout counter, but I would always ask if there were fresh coconut macaroons which I knew were often there. A miscellaneous merchandise area filled the corner near the front door - rainbow stripped candles, incense and incense burners, small wind chimes, and my favorite to look at - the colorful, translucent mylar stickers that graced the windows of any number of hippie van windows. One day I got one for my bedroom window at home - a white unicorn in front of a brilliant blue sky complete with rainbow.