Leaving home and coming home

“Coming and going and going and coming, and always too soon,” sings Lili von Schtupp in her Wild West barroom show in Blazing Saddles. When I began to call the series of essays describing this move “Moving in Time,” part of what I meant was that neither the coming or the going was “too soon.”

auxin 1Since Bette and I decided to leave our Hayhurst Neighborhood and move to a good retirement center somewhere, we have been thinking about the going part. How can it be done thoughtfully and gently, honoring all the neighborhood has been for us? And now that we have bought an apartment at Holladay Park Plaza, our choice of retirement centers, it is time to think about the coming part—coming to a new home. [1] HPP is actually in the Sullivan’s Gulch Neighborhood, as Portland counts neighborhoods [2], but I think it would be better for Bette and me to think of HPP itself as our neighborhood.

How will we go about that? I do like “thoughtfully and gently.” Plans that fail that auxin 2standard are very likely to be rejected at the outset, even though there are other values that also need to be considered. If it isn’t thoughtful and gentle, I don’t want to consider it. I was shopping for a metaphor that would help me think through the process and in the middle of my search, I stumbled on the metaphor I used last January for leaving the neighborhood: it is “the abscission layer.” As soon as I saw that, I knew that I wanted to go around to the other end of the process, which is grafting. Bette and I want to be grafted in to our new neighborhood.

There are four parts of this process I want to think about further; four parts that are implicit in the grafting metaphor.

Nourishment (Resources)

First, we want to take on part of the responsibility for the process by which energy is produauxin 5ced by sunlight and magic and sent to wherever in the tree it is needed. I don’t understand photosynthesis, really, but I know it involves an interaction at a part of the tree whose principal responsibility is to make nutrients and put them into a transportation system that will bring them to the right place.

When I think of how many different kinds of things nourish me—and what different ones nourish Bette—I know that some people at HPP will count new projects as nourishment; others will count peace and quiet as nourishment. [4] I am hoping to find people who are nourished by reading books and seeing movies and talking about them because I often find those things nourishing. There may be a good ongoing Bible study at HPP and if there is not, maybe there should be. Nourishment, don’t you know. [5]

Distribution of Resources

Second, we want to join the distribution system by which the whole tree and all its parts are provided with nutrition. Being one of the sites that produces energy for the whole tree—being, that is, a leaf—is one thing, but getting that energy to where it needs to be is something else. Plants are equipped with cells that do that, but neighborhoods have cultures and some cultures are wonderfully adept at distributing energy; others not so much.

Structural Integrity

Third, we want to be part of the structure of our new tree, although being grafted in, we will never be as securely attached as the original parts of the tree. [6] I know that some people wait to move until they can no longer manage at home and when they have to move to a retirement center—are “put in a retirement center”—they have nothing left to give. They will never be securely attached to the structure. Bette and I hope to be there in time to be part of the structure of the place, whether that involves interaction with our part of the city, or helping to raise and consider new questions, or just serving on the boards and committees that, somehow, need to be served on. I get the notion of “becoming part of the structure” abstractly. Just what it will mean particularly we will soon begin to discover.


Fourth, and finally, we want to be a part of the highly interactive process by which a tree “governs itself.” Organizations, like trees, for instance, or retirement centers, are forced to engage in triage. [7] Some needs are more urgent or maybe just more important than others, so the less important will have to be dropped. I know that in societies, there are some people whose interests are more important than others. That’s true in trees too. The hormones that control growth and reproduction have the best interests of the tree in mind, and I think that is a good model for us at Holladay Park Plaza.

auxin 4Not everyone would call the action of hormones like auxins, cytokinins, and gibberellins “politics,” but I would. The production and inhibition of growth and the distribution of resources to one place rather than another sound like the ordinary work of the legislature to me. We’ll see.

So there’s my metaphor. Bette and I want to become a part of the active and living tissue at Holladay Park Plaza. That will require that they cut into a branch of the living tree (the root stock) to expose the cambium layer, which is the nutrition highway. It will require of us (the scion) that our own cambium layer be exposed as well. And the two need to be joined together so that they become part of a single plant and therefore of a single system of nutrition and distribution and communication.

I am just a little leery that someone will read that and think that it is asking too much, but I don’t think so. I think it is quite modest and realistic. The process is not very often described analytically, at least I haven’t seen it, or placed into formal categories like nutrition and governance. I think it is the words that make the process seem daunting. But it is with words like that that I take hold of the situation and try to think my way into it.

Bette says I make it sound harder than it is, but I say that describing it this way gives me a better chance to know what I am doing and maybe even to do it better.

[1] Holladay Park Plaza is a lot to write, but Holladay Park is…well…a park. So I refer to it sometimes as HPP, sometimes as Ben’s Place (for Ben Holladay, the namesake), and sometimes as the Holladay Inn. I have a special fondness for “Ben’s place” because Ben was my father’s name, so I began my life at Ben’s place.  I like the symmetry.
[2] The valley, through which Interstate 84 now runs, was originally on the property of Tim Sullivan, who bought the land in the mid-1850s.
[3] And sometimes, circumstances allow you to do even better. We will be taking the buyers of our house to the neighborhood picnic as our guests and we are passing that word around in advance as a way of increasing turnout. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that would be possible.
[4[ See, for instance, Susan Cain (in her book Quiet) on what enables introverts to be so productive.
[5] The hormone auxin is centrally involved in stimulating growth here and preventing it there. I think that auxin might be directly involved in whether there is a Bible study and, if so, what kind it is.
[6] So it’s not a perfect metaphor. A retirement center doesn’t have any original parts. It does have a structure, however; a physical structure (that’s why they did a seismic retrofit), a social structure, and a distinct culture.
[7] Thank you all for noticing that I did not pop “tree-azh” into the text. That’s what footnotes are for.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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