The Essence of Ashland, Oregon

Guest Opinion: What I like about Ashland

By Dennis Read

Like so many others, my wife and I deliberately chose to move to Ashland. We came in 2015 from Ohio and have not regretted it for a minute. I know that I’m joining a very large chorus when I say this. Each of us can list our reasons. Here are mine:

Hula dancers in the Fourth of July parade.
A cellist playing Bach’s Suite Number 1 in G Major in Lithia Park. The neon signs of the Varsity Theater, Omar’s, and Palm Cottages. The many drinking establishments that have weekly trivia contests. The water bowl for dogs outside the Ashland Springs Hotel. Wandering on a trail high above the city.
The locally written haiku in the Daily Tidings.
The incredible breadth of OLLI courses.
Drivers stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks. (Almost without fail.) The morning fog enveloping the Siskiyou Mountains.
The Tuesday Farmer’s Market, complete with live spontaneous music.

The ubiquitous Buddhas on lawns and porches, in windows and corners, anywhere and everywhere. You come upon Buddha where you least expect to find him.

The kids in costume coming to our door and trick-or-treating on Halloween night — with their parents also in costume.

The abundance of performing arts, of course spearheaded by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. (Ashland should nominate Angus Bowmer for sainthood.)

The thousands upon thousands of hours local volunteers put in each year to make organizations function. Ashland would come to a halt without their contribution.

The numerous small vineyards and wineries in the area, all coming of age. This must have been what the Napa Valley was like some 60 or 70 years ago.

The clerk at the Oregon DMV who, after I flunked the written test for a driver’s license, said to me very gently, “You came really close.” (I passed on my next try.)

These are little things. Here’s another little thing that’s really a big thing. It’s an adult son in the YMCA swimming pool singing show tunes with his very old father. They are singing a bit off-key but with great gusto. It’s clear that they do this often. His father’s wheelchair is by the side of the pool. His father is wearing a flotation vest. He is holding his father from the back, his arms circling his father, and they slowly twirl around in the water as they sing one show tune after another. It’s as if they are waltzing. Their singing resounds off the walls. They are lost in the moment, moment after moment, song after song. There is so much caring, so much feeling, so much love in their water duet.

I assume they are father and son. Maybe they aren’t. It doesn’t matter, finally. What does matter is the sharing. It seems to come more easily in Ashland than in all the other places I’ve been. It is the city at its best and it is what I like best about living in Ashland.

— Dennis Read lives in Ashland.