I‘m not a native Oregonian. I came to Salem 10 years ago from Illinois to work at the Capital Press, a newspaper that covers agriculture and natural resource issues in the Pacific Northwest.
The prairie from where I came is beautiful in a subtle way, and does not provide the scenic sensory overload I experienced with each mile I drove between Ontario and Salem. There is nothing at home that compares to Mount Hood or the Columbia Gorge. There is no city in Illinois that is anything like Portland.
I quickly discovered that there is something else different about Oregon.
Midwesterners are a taciturn people who keep their feelings to themselves. Our pride in our states goes without saying, as does just about everything else. But Oregonians talk freely about the “Oregon way” and “Oregon values.” A sensory overload.
Oregon is as much a state of mind as it is a physical place. But it is a state of mind that is very much in the eye of the beholder.
Therein, I think, lies the urban-rural divide.
Oregon doesn’t have one way, or one set of values. It has 4 million people, each with their own perception of these things. These feelings hang on perspective. Perspective is shaped by context — the circumstances that form one’s view.
Urban Oregon is different than rural Oregon. The perspective of the people who live in each place is different. But the view on either side of the divide is anything but monolithic. There is no single urban way, no single rural way.
I’m not a native Oregonian. But I do recognize there is something special about this place.
I hope The Other Oregon is able to give everyone a little perspective.