During the last couple weeks, the rains have begun. Oregon is known for its rainy weather but only half of the state fits that description—the western half. The eastern half is high desert and much drier—more snow than rain and much lower humidity.
Those of us who live in western Oregon jokingly say that moss grows on our backs and our toes are webbed. And that we have only two seasons—“rainy” October through April and “less rainy” May through September.“ The only months that usually have no rain are July and August, and then not always. This past summer I used my hose to water the entire yard only four times, and I have no sprinkler system. Four times––that was it. Plants in pots and planters on the decks get regular watering, but not the rest of the yard. It rains or drizzles enough that we don’t need to.
There is moss growing on the ground, up the base of the trees, and coating the branches of trees and large shrubs. Bright green moss lines the edge of the 40+ foot long drain in front of the garages, and on almost anything that is outside during the winter. And lichen grows on anything that has been in the yard for 10 years or more—even wood patio furniture left outside. My maple that I planted back in the late 1980s, lost all its beautiful leaves that had turned yellow this past week. But it didn’t look bare, the branches are covered with lichen. And ferns will simply grow anywhere.
Those of us who live at the coast like to say that we live on the edge. And we are on the edge––the edge of Oregon and the edge of the entire continent. The coast is more humid than the rest of western Oregon all year, cool even in summer, and rainier and more stormy in winter. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
I remember one September when someone called from Portland asking me if we were going to cancel the Florence Festival of Books because a storm was forecast for that day with wind speeds reaching 30 to 40 miles an hour. I told him, “No way! At the coast, that’s just a normal summer afternoon.”
We might cancel something during a major winter storm when winds get to be 50-70 miles per hour at the headlands and beaches and only slightly less in the Florence area. That’s when the weather person says “High wind warnings!” and means it! And that’s when we stow the stuff that could blow around and hunker down. I live on a ridge a few miles north of town, and it can get mighty windy. Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, our power would go out on a regular basis—sometimes for days, even a week a time or two. Not so much anymore, and when it does, it’s usually just for a few hours.
The towns are small on the coast. The smaller ones have a couple thousand population and the larger ones have close to 10,000. And the largest population area, Oregon’s Bay Area, where North Bend and Coos Bay blend into each other has a combined population of about 26,000. Living in small towns is not always convenient. Not too many “big-box” stores on the coast where you can stock up on basics at lower prices, and for major medical situations, you generally have to go to one of the larger cities inland.
But nobody misses shoveling snow or having to have air-conditioning. We do have snow, but most years, if you sleep in, you miss it. Every so often, we have a whopper. I remember several inches and icicles forming everywhere in November of 1985, about 11 inches with icicles from the roof that looked like spears back in February 1989 and that time the snow lasted for weeks, and eight inches in March 2012 that lasted about a week. And there were a few storms that had 100 mile-per-hour winds—maybe three in the 37 years I’ve lived here.
So, those of us who live at the coast enjoy the small towns that have no smog, much less traffic, and cool temps. And we’ve learned to accept having to make the occasional trips to a large city to stock up or for medical reasons. And we’ve learned to live with the rain and winter storms. Most of us enjoy living at the Oregon coast, living on the edge, and we wouldn’t live anywhere else.