There's a game of tag going around the blogosphere and I want to play too, even though I haven't been tagged because I don't have a blog. So instead of writing about perfect holiday gifts for kids (buy them a kid-friendly cookbook that has healthy recipes and colorful photos, along with a bamboo spoon and a set of measuring cups; throw in a chef's hat and an apron if Santa's in a really cheery mood), I'm going to write seven observations about living in southern Oregon.




1) Ashlanders swallow their E's or pronounce them as I's especially in the middle of a word. "My name's Ginny," I thought my daughter's friend's mom said, and that's what I started calling her. When the class list came out I saw her name was actually Jenny. "I'm 'Mree" my son's preschool classmate's dad told me. I had to ask him his name three times until I finally got that it was Emery.




2) People in Ashland are friendly, even the teenagers (who strike outsiders as decidedly lacking in dysfunction and existential angst). People make eye contact when you pass them on the street and give you a half smile. Not a full smile, mind you, and usually no hello (that would be taking things too far), but a half smile is to be expected.




3) The five (well, there were supposed to be only five but the mail carrier tells us at one point there were seven names on the mailbox"&

166; hmmm) SOU college kids who rented our house last year often moaned about how broke they were. They left behind four enormous boxes full of clothes for Goodwill, most of it brand name (now you know where my new Patagonia and Esprit stuff comes from). Ashlanders in their 20s all wear their jeans too long, their shirts too short and shorts with the word PINK on the derri&

232;re. Oh right, this is a nationwide thing.




4) Although a lot of people in Ashland are transplants (last week I met a woman from Australia who moved here with her family from Geneva, Switzerland and another family that came to Ashland fleeing northern Idaho), the people who founded this area came in covered wagons bringing hope, smarts and spirit with them. The families I know who trace their roots back several generations &

or all the way to Lewis and Clark &

are proud to be counted among America's pioneers.




5) There are only a few segues in town and one surrey that I've seen but Ashland has a surfeit of both hybrids and SUVs. I've never seen so many of both coexist in one place and I often wonder how the drivers find the money to buy them. Whatever they're driving, a cell phone to the ear is the requisite accessory.




6) The mountain lions are legendary and when my kids run ahead of me on the paths in the mountains I imagine they would taste sweet and juicy in the jaws of a mountain lion. Still, I'm still not really sure what they are or what they look like. But ask anyone in Ashland and he's likely to tell you a really good story about a near-death experience involving a mountain lion.




7) What are marionberries anyway? My spell check puts a squiggly red line under the word. We have scrumptious food here that is as tasty as it's hard to spell &

like marionberries and Dungeness crab &

and you won't find it anywhere else in the world.




In the blogosphere you tag seven others to post local observations to their blogs. I invite readers who live elsewhere (you know who you are) to leave links to their blogs and share their local observations online at , in the comment section at the end of this column.