There is a distinct feeling of passing through an evolution of consciousness as you drive from southern California to Oregon. Tension melts as LA fades in the rearview mirror. Deep breathing matches the expansive landscape of the Central Valley, with rolling hills, almond groves, fruit stands, and grape vines becoming more regular as you travel northbound.
Of the ten or so times I’ve been to Ashland, Oregon, I’ve never flown in, as I did this time. Dropped suddenly into a town of what I affectionately see as hicks, hippies and intellectuals with all of them driving slow and everyone looks directly into your eyes, paying attention to what you say. The eclectic mix of down to earth people smile without giving you the once over (the up and down disdainful look) before they deem you are worthy of a smile.
There is a comfort in their gait that comes from not being judged. There is funky dreadlocked folk in homespun garb, good ole boys and girls in their Western plaid, outdoor enthusiasts wearing Patagonia or The North Face. Hardly anyone wears makeup.
It takes me awhile to get used to it. Sometimes it’s like a dream that you only dare to look at sideways, as if by staring at it face-to-face, the scene in front of you would disappear all together. But, though my moment here is fleeting, I drop in.