Bend, Oregon, is one of those towns that shows up with maddening consistency on “Top 10 Mountain Town” lists. You read about it in magazines hell-bent on making you evaluate your life, decide it sucks, and move to a place like Bend.
And why not? Bend is charming. A river runs through it, and volcanoes dominate the horizon, casting their shadows over the pine forests that were once the lifeblood of the community. The town is home to Olympians, craft brewers, and artists. The eccentric and non-conforming Bendites strike an enviable balance between living life to its fullest and not taking themselves to seriously.
You should move there.
I actually did move there, years ago, and I was miserable confused and unrooted. I moved to Bend from Jackson Hole in 2001 when I was very single, very lonely, and everyone I met in Bend was not. People were coupled up right and left, and they were so pleased with themselves—their partnerships, the houses they bought “for a steal,” and their uber mountain lifestyle.
Contrarian (a.k.a. immature jerk) that I can be, I didn’t buy into the Bend hype. I raved about the Tetons and Wyoming and “real mountain towns.” Miraculously I managed to make some really good friends who accepted me even though I was grumpy about living in Bend. (Thanks, friends!)
It was these friendships that drew me back to Bend this weekend. When I made my travel plans, I did not realize that I’d be sending myself out of town on Mother’s Day (to visit other mothers, no less….it’s sort of like the house guest equivalent of photo bombing your friends’ personal lives). And then when Jeff broke his leg, I thought I’d have to cancel my trip.
Thanks to my very generous mother in law who flew out from Vermont to make sure the house didn’t burn down and the kids got fed, I didn’t have to.
And now I’m like those magazines banging the Bend love drum.
Bend is gorgeous. And friendly. And hipster but not super smug.
On Friday, we went to 900 Wall for cocktails and appetizers: tempura style green beans, fresh Caesar salad, thin crust pizza with arugula. On Saturday, we ignored the winter storm warning and logged 10 miles on trails on Horse Butte, and as we ran among the sage plants and dodged the sideways snow, I nursed a small regret that I didn’t ever give Bend the chance to become home. Brunch at Chow added to my musings. Picture an eggs benedict served on thick, crusty toast with fresh grilled salmon, and a light, lemony hollandaise sauce, bottomless cups of rich coffee, and free-range bacon (at least I think that’s what it’s called), and you’ve got my meal. Yum.
An outdoors picnic at Shevlin Park with all of my friends followed that evening. These people were nuts (in a good way) when I lived in Bend over a decade ago. Dance parties, late and wild nights. Now they have kids of their own and heartily willing to bundle up and brave the chill in the name of good beer, good company, and good food.
The weekend included more running, more eating (if you go, check out Spork for a food cart cum restaurant), some margarita drinking on a sunny deck and nose piercing (more on that in a separate post).
At one point I missed my kids and felt guilty for being gone on Mother’s Day. And then I felt guilty for moving from Bend. And then I felt confused about where I should live, and then I just tried to quiet the competing voices in my head and simply enjoy the amazing women I am lucky enough to call my friends.
We all met Monday morning for a final run together (for me—they run weekly and have forever…jealous!) on the Deschutes River Trail. As we padded along in the early morning light, I had the urge to scoop them all up in a hug and thank them, not just for their hospitality this weekend, but for giving me a complete retreat from my life.
I need that now (as a mom of two young kids) more than ever. I didn’t even realize how much I needed it until I landed in Denver and realized I hadn’t picked up a child, changed a diaper or strapped on shoes for anyone in the past four days.
I know a lot of you spent Mother’s Day basking in the love of your family. You probably got flowers or a nice brunch or chocolate filled with liqueur (hopefully that). Inevitably someone told you they appreciated you.
Normally that’s how I, too, like to spend mother’s day. But this year it was different. Waking up in a guest room in a lovely little town several states away from my family was a delicious treat. I was filled with love—for everything and everyone, most of all for Henry and Silas and Jeff. File it under: distance makes the heart grow fonder, and in more ways than one.
We’re not planning a move to Bend (or anywhere, for that matter). And I’m not planning on a girls trip anytime in the near future. The next holiday to fall on our radar will be Father’s Day, and between now and then life is certain to get a little hectic.
So I just want to take a moment and appreciate the little things—the places and the people—that bring peace and light into my life. The things that make my heart grow fond and fonder.
I did not appreciate Bend when I lived there, but that’s because I was in an odd place in my life and on the cusp of making some big life changes. My itchy feet had nothing to do with Bend itself. This town and surrounding area really does deserve the hype. It’s full of interesting people, natural adventures, and creativity. I love going there to visit and I’d even contemplate a move back—if it would work for my family.
I’m glad I’ve come around to appreciate Bend. After all, so many magazines and people and my friends can’t be wrong, right?