The reason Sherman thought war was hell was he hadn't moved in a while. Hell is a strange house full of boxes with birth certificates and old college papers popping up but this month's bills nowhere to be found.
Yup, moving sucks, no two ways about it.
After moving from Ashland to Medford in 1989, I lived in two houses in two decades. Now I've moved twice in two years. That's life. Sometimes it throws you curve balls. Other times it throws the high, hard one under the chin.
Neruda said when you move the new place has nothing to say to you. He was wrong. Moving is a process in which something is always being said. Sometimes it's subtle and other times it slaps you upside the head. Often, it's about your community.
The house dates from 1946. It has a reassuring solidity. Details like a big brass mail slot for all the junk mail undreamt of in the '40s. I thought when I found it the same day it hit Zillow it had a rustic, cabin-in-the-woods feeling. A friend who came by for lunch said nothing to dispel the notion. "It has a rustic, cabin-in-the-woods feeling," she said.
Older neighborhoods hint at the past. The big, old Oregon white oak out front is a reminder of the oak chaparral that was our valley when people of European roots began settling here and changing things.
And all these oaks mean acorns. After dark on Moving Day I collapsed into a chair to commune with the house. Cue up pregnant silence. Then from above came a thunk, then skittering. I thought rat, or opossum.
I went outside. Oaks mean acorns, and this one was having a bumper crop, examples of which it was hurling at the house. An acorn carpet covered yard and driveway.
When I back out now it sounds like popcorn. I've heard that ground acorns were a staple of the valley's original inhabitants, and I wonder if I could just keep driving on them and eventually scoop up the meal for a giant pancake.
All these oaks also mean woodpeckers. Especially acorn woodpeckers with their clownish faces and raucous laughter. Their call is usually rendered WAKE-up WAKE-up, or RACK-it RACK-it, but you can hear it as HEH-uh HEH-uh HEH-uh, mirthful bordering on the maniacal.
You'd be merry, too, if your world were erupting with the holy of holies. That would be acorns. And around here acorns rain down day and night. If you're an acorn woodpecker it's like it's raining pizzas, $20 bills and Roth IRAs, all at once.
The latter is because your acorn woodpecker casts an eye on the future and prepares for it. Woodpecker families use their bills to chisel acorn-size holes in trees (power poles, etc.), into which they wedge their bounty so tight it's squirrel-proof and ready for a rainy day. It's an act which sets them apart from a large share of humanity, but I digress.
The noisy scrub jays have other plans for the oak's gifts. They bury them by the thousand. And actually find the great majority later, a feat of memory so prodigious it's embarrassing.
Hangers under the eaves suggest the former presence of a bird feeder, and I live amid the hooting of owls, the croakings of Eurasian ring-necked doves and the annoying chattering of starlings, whose warbles and rattles and whistles always make me think of a troop of KIingons.
But moving, like birds, also puts you in touch with the wider world. Even the world economy, in the form of those call centers in Third World countries where you picture all these young women speaking English as a second language chained to their desks by their corporate taskmasters.
When I couldn't quickly find a carpet guy I rented a Rug Doctor to clean one room in the house I left. It didn't work. The tech support woman, obviously reading from an if/then logic tree, had me get down on the floor and insert and remove a hose in and out of a brass coupling 10 times. Really. It didn't work. I returned it along with the overpriced soap that's probably the key feature of the business model.
Charter sent a guy who hooked up my Internet. It worked for 10 seconds during the test. It hasn't worked since. I called Charter. Their English-as-a-second-language person had me get down on the floor — this seems to be a trend with these women — and plug and unplug things for 10 seconds at a crack. Eventually came the dreaded verdict: "The problem is on your end."
You feel the anger rising hotly. You want to yell. But you realize it's not her fault. Nobody said this was going to be fun. Neruda said that to enjoy moving is a disease. And anyway it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, HEH-uh HEH-uh HEH-uh.
Bill Varble is a freelance writer living in Medford. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.