News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Places Warm & Creative

Not long ago, I sat on a beach. I was warm - too warm, actually, quite hot - so I took a dip in the wide, thunderous ocean.

With my family, I navigated the cobbled streets of a beautiful Spanish colonial city center. The trip was a wedding gift to me and my husband, offered long ago. Finally here we were, in a place we love: Oaxaca, México.

Incredible architecture divided rooms and corridors with brightly painted walls and black wrought iron. Shaded, cool hallways created archways, framing the bright, sunlit courtyards beyond. Flowers burst forth from green plants, cacti, succulents. And there was art, everywhere.

The old colonial stuff was often breathtaking: grand architecture, extravagant Catholic cathedrals. Underneath it rumbled the constant thrum of contemporary work and street art, much of it asking for justice and equality, or featuring indigenous people.

In the Zócalo (town square) musicians in traditional garb played Simon and Garfunkel along with traditional songs. One night a symphony played in front of the cathedral, free for all to hear.

A stunning outdoor exhibit displayed large-scale photographs celebrating the indigenous traditions and people. If only my photos hadn't gone missing, if only Google would cough up some decent search results, I'd tell you the photographer's name.

The quality of the graffiti had gone down since we were last here nearly 20 years ago. On the plus side, more women's issues were mentioned, and there was still a spray-painted "Gringo Go Home" to use as a selfie spot. And the new, intricate, wheat-pasted street art was phenomenal.

Soaking up the sun, basking in the art and intense bustle of Semana Santa, delighting in the region's distinctive food, I began to wonder: why not move to warm, creative, abundant Mexico? Why stay in my beloved forest, on the edge of a small town in Central Oregon, where the wildflowers are tiny and sparse, present for mere days or weeks? Where the architecture is recent and often unremarkable? Where costs are high and getting higher?

Maybe I take for granted just how much heart and art are packed into this small town and its outlying areas. "Sisters Country" is less an official geographical location than a marketing invention; as a sometimes-worker in the trenches of branding and marketing, I must say it's a good one.

Warmth and creativity are baked into Sisters Country, along with horses and pines, rodeos and quilts. I was reminded of this one morning at Angeline's, where ingredients are baked into bagels and brownies. (Said ingredients include vegan and gluten-free options. Though I'm a grass-fed meat eater to my core, I gotta say the vegan brownies are mind-blowing.)

Outside, it was not at all like Oaxaca. I felt disoriented by the cutting wind, the snow on the ground, when just a few days before I'd been sweltering, climbing the steps of an ancient Zapotec pyramid.

I stepped from the cold into Angeline's. It was literally warm inside. (I'm using the word "literally" quite literally here; the time has passed for writing a column about how certain generations have transformed the word "literally" so that it now means both "literally" and "figuratively." Arggh!)

Also warm were the people and the atmosphere. A friendly counter person I'd never met genially accepted my possibly unreasonable request for my occasional-usual, a bagel sandwich with the bagel toasted just so, but with no cheese and the egg-thingy on the side and oh can I have a handful of greens on that?

Maybe I should've asked for a dollop of caviar with yuzu foam while I was at it. Anyway, pain in the butt or no, I was treated with cheery respect.

The coffee was warm too. I drank it from a gorgeous, hand-thrown ceramic mug that looked like home, like Sisters, like Oregon. I sipped from a Canyon Creek pottery masterpiece, hefty yet elegant in my hand. Bonus internal warmth arose from the knowledge that it wouldn't be thrown away at the end of the meal.

Colorful but not overwhelming were the painted walls and throw pillows of the café. Upon the walls I saw solid evidence of Sisters Country creativity: the current show features works by members of Studio 6000, a local printmaking studio. The work was intriguing, colorful, compelling.

An Angeline's worker started talking about the songs of Billy Joel; we chatted about the impeccable songcraft of "Piano Man" (regardless of whether it's been overplayed to death and considered corny by some) and he recommended "Pressure," which I'll revisit with an open ear and open mind.

Warm. Creative. That was my morning at Angeline's. I might've welcomed a sunny beach or the intense energy that swells through ancient ruins and 16th-century abbeys. But Sisters Country is warm and creative in its own ways. And it has one big advantage over hot, artistic Oaxaca.

Sisters Country is home.


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