It’s been well over eight months since I moved to Portland from Southern California. I drove up here right before Christmas and settled into one of the brand new apartments in Central East Portland. For those of you who are not familiar with Portland, the city is generally organized in directional quadrants – Willamette River divides east and west; Burnside Street divides north and south. My studio was on East Burnside Street.
Top priority for picking a place to live was walkability. I knew I was going to be alone a lot in a foreign city, and thought the best way to manage my sanity would be to be in a lively neighborhood. I found exactly that.
I had frequently stepped out from my tiny yet efficiently laid out studio with all the amenities one could possibly hope for, onto the restaurant row of NW 28th. The loneliness that would hover over me like a dense cloud would diffuse almost instantaneously as I made my way through this pretty little strip to a charming gelato shop at the end for a child-sized-single-scoop sweetness. By the time I got back, I would be in a completely different frame of mind. I had a lot of gelato this year.
Portland as a city is like one big secret garden where every turn promises a new discovery. Or maybe I think that way because I’m still relatively new here. Lone Fir Cemetery was one of those discoveries.
My main form of exercise is running. And it was one of those mornings out for a run that I came upon this historic site. Many of the city’s original key players are buried here. What made it novel for me wasn’t just the history, but was also the trees — the old, old trees that have witnessed way more than my imagination could conjure up from both six feet under and many above. I ran through this grave yard almost every morning during the flowering season of March and April, just to see the towering bare trees of many different varieties filling up with budding leaves and blossoms. I found profound comfort and even healing from my recent losses as I wove through rows of love-lost, grief and tears that were now muddied dust under my feet and heartbreakingly beautiful spring glory over my head.
After making about a half mile in Lone Fir, I would run further east to Laurelhurst Park. I call it my mini-Central-Park. It is just as beautiful with winding running paths along spacious grass patches and imposing Oregon firs. There’s a decent sized pond that attracts all kinds of water fowls, a lot of them mallards. One morning, I saw a bunch of ducks and Canadian geese floating about together as one big group. I looked up to find a bald eagle circling above. That’s Portland for ya.
If I wanted a three mile run, I’d turn back toward home from Laurelhurst Park. If I felt up for more, I’d run further south to Belmont, Hawthorne and Division. By running through these hip neighborhoods, I realized that there is so much more that the east side has to offer than the west, contrary to what I once had thought before the move.
Oh, and for a while there, I was obsessed with this silhouette of crows on winter trees. Portland drivers are patient, rarely ever honks just to show you that they are annoyed, but I got them to honk at me a number of times by slowing down my car drastically just to get a good look at the sight of this. I still don’t know why this visual captivates me so much.
So, let’s talk about this little fantasy that I had before moving to Portland. It was one of those “I wish I could…” or “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” sorta things. I had this little wishful thought, a vision even, of me living in the dense woods where I could work hours and days in isolated silence (I LOVE silence) that’s remote yet easily accessible from the city center. A place where I can ride my mountain bike on real mountain trails and run every morning in the forest. As my eight-month lease expired, an artist retreat in the woods somewhat magically appeared. Well, I saw an ad, and responded (haha), but the timing of it and how smoothly everything worked out felt like a dream-come-true of sort.
I’m hoping to accomplish much out of this new place. I feel very lucky and can’t wait to get working. I am also somewhat fearful that things might not work out here as I have never lived in an environment like this. I guess only time will tell.
Life on Burnside definitely felt like urban living with my loft style apartment windows opening up to nerve-scraping noises of semi trucks negotiating their way into the Coca Cola plant loading dock. I pretty much lived on the shipping yard this year. However, it also felt rural in comparison to Los Angeles, because it is a smaller city after all, with quaint, covered outdoor basketball courts and community gardens sprinkled through out the town. This picture below in particular shows both.
This summer, I took a lot of “little walks” along the walls of these gardens sampling varieties of berries and cherry tomatoes that hung over the fences.
Moving is tiring and stressful, to do it in the frequency that I have done in these three years can also feel a little traumatic. Truthfully, I’m getting tired of nomadding about. Being alone a lot has gotten me in the habit of just letting myself cry. Sometimes I let myself completely fall apart for hours. Who cares, no one’s watching, right? Then I’d consciously tell myself to get a grip and carry on. And that I do. And I’m okay and goofy again for another few months.
So there you have it. A lot of work came out of this little space. That corner over there is a bedroom-nook. After cleaning up on the last night here, I cried a little. I’m going to miss living here, this neighborhood – the random jaunts to Wholefoods across the street in the middle of the night and the charming coffee shops in just about every corner. I’m going to miss my next door neighbor Sarah, another SoCal transplant. She’s become an awesome friend and she’s already on my calendar to come over and hang out in my new place, but you know, there’s nothing like just walking over and knocking on the door. Take a bottle of wine to the rooftop lounge to talk away the night – mostly about LA. A couple of “snooty Angelenos.” If you’re a wine drinker and a good conversationist, you have a huge potential for becoming dear to my heart. Sarah’s more of a beer person but is also a good sport and allowed me to pour some wine for her on many beautiful Portland summer nights on the Eastside.
Goodbye~ I will be in touch from the woods.