A New Age in Portland

We’ve been here for 26 days and I love it. The rain has been frequent and yet I find it comforting. I see the massive mossy trees and the vibrant lushness that surrounds me and I feel thankful for the rain – it is what makes the landscape here such a fairytale to me. It’s also my birthday today and I’m remembering how much of a mental milestone this was for me – I wanted to be reasonable, but I’d long-hoped I’d be planted here before another birthday passed.

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In case you haven’t been following along on Instagram: me and my family (so that’s me + the husband + the daughter + two dogs) have just relocated our entire lives to Portland, Oregon. This is the first place I’ve lived where my intention has been to stay … forever. That permanency has historically been a little frightening to me. I spent 10 years total in New York City, but it probably wouldn’t have been that long if I hadn’t gotten away so often. But here I am, throwing down some roots on purpose. I think a lot of us get to a place in life where that feels like the good thing to do, not just for practical reasons – like raising a child who can grow up with her friends – but also for the kind of specific soul development that occurs when a person really commits to and invests in a community. I’m looking forward to that.

We bought a house here. It’s our first time owning a house and the entire process has been frightening and thrilling at once. It’s also been many other mundane things in between, like mathematically maddening (interest rates went up right after the election, which was right when we were finally getting an offer accepted on a house that could pass inspections after six weeks of disappointments). For a while there, I thought I was going to lose a piece of my mind amid the uncertainties. Maybe I did. We knew we were moving to Portland, but we didn’t know which house we’d buy. Issues would arise with our favorites and in one case, I took a couple days off from even thinking about any of it so that I could mourn the loss of a house we’d been dreaming about, which is so small and privileged of me, but emotional exhaustion is real and usually pretty subjective, right?

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Once we found the house we would buy, things were still pretty up in the air. Lots of work had to be done to make the house sale-ready and arranging for all of that was headache-inducing (but fortunately, our agent was amazing and she spearheaded all of the tough stuff: Rachel Day at Urban Nest Realty if you need her). Even once the repairs were completed, we ran into stupid road bumps with the rest of the process up until the bitter end. One of the looming uncertainties that was leaving me anxious and melancholy was just the question of when we would move. We didn’t have a lease ending since we were renting from Ben’s parents and they were in no rush to kick us out or anything, quite the opposite, but we did have sky-high electricity bills (some of the highest in the country – what’s happening to residents in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan should not be legal – our last month’s bill was around $1,000 and we are mindful of our use and efficiency) and electric heating and I did want to plant us in our new home sooner than later. Because living in flux is sort of a nightmare. It was a weird time, that whole period between deciding we would move to Portland and actually arriving here, but it was at its weirdest between house-hunting in early October (we put our first offer in on a house on October 9th) and finally closing on the house we got on January 19th. Suffice it to say: Portland is a tough market right now.

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But it did finally work and I can recognize that my own stubborn obsession with making it work is no small part of the reason why it came to be. I will give myself that – the credit of being determined and resilient – and I will feel proud of that (I do feel proud of that). We did finally pack up our belongings, which had accumulated beyond any point of reason and we did make our way across the country with us sardined between our most valued things. We stayed at La Quinta Inns every stop along the way (there were five) because they accept dogs without an additional fee and that was enough for us to not think through it any further than that. We did actually do it, we did it all. We made it happen. I’m repeating this refrain so much because there’s a little shadowy part of me who is still a bit stunned and sitting in disbelief. Despite my perseverance, there were moments where all felt lost, moments that made me feel like we weren’t going to be able to pull it off. But we did. 

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(If there’s anything you’re dreaming of for your future, large or small, please obsess over it. Commit to it. Envision it. Inch toward it becoming your reality. As for me, I will use this experience to inspire other parts of my life – like the songs I really want to record and share with you.)

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We rolled up here in our new neighborhood in the dark one Tuesday night and we let ourselves into our house which should have been locked, but actually wasn’t, but all’s well that ends well, right. And even though there weren’t any squatters present, when you’ve been on the road for six days and unpack just your air mattresses and realize you’ve forgotten to bring any pillows at all, maybe you feel a little bit like you don’t belong in your own home.

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That first night in the house was an emotional ride for me. I was excited, but scared. I couldn’t wait to see our yard in the morning, but after having spent nearly three years living in the middle of a beautiful forest, I was also dreading receiving the visuals on what would now be our only private land and trees. The master bathroom toilet made eerie sounds all night long and I had to readjust back to what it’s like to sleep with the thundering of a train nearby. I tossed and turned and worried about the costs of repairing this place alongside the looming mortgage payments – a brand new reality for us.

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But when we woke up (super early, I think it was 4:30 am that first morning and we’re still sort of on EST), I took Ever outside and we explored the yard. It’s big for a city yard at nearly a third of an acre. We discovered rose bushes and admired our towering trees. (I don’t know enough about conifers to identify them yet. Maybe they are Western Hemlock, but maybe they are Western Larch or something else. I’ll figure it out or maybe you’ll let me know.)

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Then I put Ever in her stroller and with the mile-away grocery store as our aim, we went for our first paved walk in a long time. There’s a muscle memory for me in walking like that. I lived in New York City for 10 years and for much of that time, I lived nearly a mile from the train and a bit farther than that from the music store where I worked for a couple of years. New York teaches you how to walk as transportation and I’d been out of habit for a few years, but that first day here, with Ever in tow, my body began to remember. And so we started our process of settling in and now, 26 days later, I feel significantly more adapted and look forward to the deepening adaptation, though we’re not at all “settled in” (we have to mud and prime and paint our walls, we have to tear out all of our carpeting and install new floors, and we can’t really get any furniture until we do these things).

But I’d like to say something to the version of me who first fell in love with this region a decade ago and could never shake the idea of one day planting forever roots here: thank you. Thank you for holding onto the dream. It’s beautiful here. I’ll try my best to build the life here you imagined. 

My next post will walk you through our house as it is and our plans for it. Vision with me!

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Elizabeth Seward is a writer and songwriter, among other things. Read a full bio on the ABOUT page.

2 thoughts on “A New Age in Portland

  1. Your story is so inspiring! Props to you for making it happen for yourself and your family. It must feel so amazing to finally be there! I live in Michigan and as much as I like the Midwest I also can’t wait to get out. I’m going to make a trip to Portland this summer as I’ve heard amazing things from so many people and can’t wait to see it. I wanted to ask you what you love about Portland so far and what made you make the trek accoss the US to be there!

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