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My No 9 Dream in 1978: A second chance at life and adventures in Oregon

My No 9 Dream in 1978: A second chance at life and adventures in Oregon

By Rick Hinton

So long ago … was it in a dream? Was it in a dream? I know, yes I know. It seemed so very real … seemed so real to me!”

John Lennon — No 9 Dream 1974

I almost died in 1978. The Great Blizzard had just happened. Who knew what was to come after that? A staph infection landed me in Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. I had no insurance; as a result, the staff, in their infinite wisdom, promptly shipped me off to Wishard Hospital to die quietly.

Our front porch view. (Photos by Rick Hinton)

For a week, I lay in a delirium of blood draws, knee taps and then spinal taps. Doctors couldn’t diagnosis what was wrong with me. In between reality, and some semblance of sleep, I dreamed and had visions. Some were nice and comforting. Some were not so nice. I said my goodbyes to not only my parents and grandparents, but also the few friends that visited me. I figured I had lived a good life — painfully short by my estimation — yet, still a good one. I’d found peace with what was to come. It was my fate. But then … I got better. A second chance? God does offer those!

My friend Kim Benz visited me as I recovered, lying prone in my hospital bed. “Nancy and I are moving to Oregon. Come with us,” he said. “We’re going to be caretakers of a house on an island. You need to come!” Yes, and I did. Leaving Indianapolis, my job, family and friends was not an easy decision, yet it was a necessary one. A second chance doesn’t always mean you ease back into a former existence, but rather … make bold strides to a new frontier!

The house emerged out of the shadows of the woods.

Sauvie Island is one of the largest river islands in the United States. Located along the Columbia River and just a short distance from downtown Portland, Oregon, thrives with farmland, gardens, nurseries and wildlife refuges. In the late 1970s it was a world within a world. A gentle separation from urban sprawl and a wilderness existence. It became our world! Gillihan Road halted at a graveled parking lot. A 3-mile hike brought us to the northern tip of the island and our house. An automated lighthouse stood guard upon the point. Mount St. Helens, across the Multnomah Channel, had yet to erupt, and greeted us each morning upon awakening. It was a good year!

The lighthouse at the northern tip of the island.

Our duty … our caretakers’ responsibility for free rent: putting a roof on the house. Shingles were delivered by boat. The rest of the time was ours. There was no electricity (oil lamps to see), no heat (a wood burning furnace in the basement to warm) and a wood stove in the kitchen. Being vegetarians, we took advantage of the farm markets on the island, chopped wood, did laundry the old-fashioned way, looked for evidence of the former Chinook Tribe villages (never found), wrote, played music, went to sleep as the lighthouse beacon circulated throughout the evening hours and occasionally worked on the roof. A good premise for a second chance!

“Dream … dream away … magic in the air. Was magic in the air?”

The author in his island home, reading one of his favorite books by author, Edward Abbey: The Monkey Wrench Gang. Reading is what we did!

It changed … it had to. Nancy became pregnant. My girlfriend grew tired of being consistently dirty. We shut the door on our island home and transitioned into Portland. It became another chapter. Mount St. Helens blew, my girlfriend left me and Kim and Nancy grew apart. And that second chance and thoughts of mortality? I still think on them daily.

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14 NASB)

The Columbia River & Mount St. Helens were just across from us in Washington.

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