Friday, March 30, 2007


Portland: Today I woke up and the skies were blue. Now a fine line of clouds is moving in from the west. They pause for a moment, gathering above the West Hills, before, like a full glass of water breaking past the point of surface tension, they spill into the valley and over the city.

This week is the first week that the trees are truly starting to green. It was 66 degrees out yesterday. Next weekend is Easter. Last weekend I went snowshoeing. It’s that amazing, adolescent time of year. It’s not still winter, but it’s not quite yet full-blown spring. There’s still snow in the mountains, and the ski areas are still flooded with recreationalists, but the trees in the valleys are growing leaves, the daffodils are just about over, and a teenager was too hot yesterday so he tried to swim across a local river. The river was too cold and the water too strong. He died.

Like people growing up, the world grows up into and out of spring.

I went out with a friend last night. We sat outside at the Amnesia Brewing Company on N. Mississippi, slowing nursing a pair of micro-brews. It was warm enough to sit outside until almost 10pm wearing just a sweatshirt. We certainly weren’t the only ones there—the place was packed. Portland doesn’t have enough patio bars. The ones it does have are attacked by roving bands of beer-drinkers and bench-sitters as soon as the weather turns nice. Like locusts, we drank their beer and occupied their tables until the night got cold and we realized that we had to get up and go to work in the morning.

Is it that atmosphere of community that makes me want to break out of my shell, see people again, and have long conversations about the virtues of a practical profession versus those of an artistic profession? Or is it just the beer and the warm weather?

Either way, I’m looking forward to more of it this summer.

* * *

So, snowshoeing! I tagged along last weekend with C’s family up to Mt. Baker. We took Friday off of work and drove up to Bellingham. It was a long drive, but we broke it up into a few short segments that made it entirely tolerable.

After a comedy of errors in attempting to get into our weekend lodging, we had a wonderful stay. It poured all day on Saturday, so we didn’t get to ski (I was going to take my first ski lesson on this trip), but we took a nice wet walk to Nooksak Falls (click link to see picture, beautiful!) instead. The river was on the verge of flooding all weekend, so it was a very spectacular sight. The water was roiling and slightly brown, and you could feel the rumbling of the falls deep inside your ribcage as you stood on the sheer rock cliffs overlooking the vista. I feel somewhat morbid focusing on this, but the information sign in the parking lot described the number of lives that had been lost trying to achieve a better view of the cascade. Not a single person over 30. Having the names and the ages of these people in my mind as we overlooked the waterfall made it so real. My brain crafted scenarios, imagining people tumbling over the rocks and disappearing into the water below. I imagined being the other people in the group—those not lost to the river, but instead left behind to try and cope with what they’d just seen. It was just eerie, especially with the river so powerful and wild looking in the pouring, wintry rain.

We spent the rest of the day poking around the Snow-water resort area. C and I went for another walk in the rain, and checked out the river banks. The place we stayed was right on top of the Nooksack River. We could see it, just 30 or 40 feet away from our condo.

On Sunday, the sun came out (perfect, right? Sunshine on Sunday?), and we got up to the mountain itself. Our day was a little protracted, due in large part to the imposing 8-hour drive in front of us, and so we didn’t get out on skis. We did, however, rent some snowshoes and made our way up to the upper ski area and then tromped a ways up a creek basin. It was a lovely walk, and it was great to get into an environment that was so far removed from my day-to-day life. It’s amazing how alien a good layer of snow can make a place feel.

Now I get a weekend off from traveling around (more or less, C. is on duty, so I can anticipate a great deal of time spent in Forest Grove!), and some time to breathe and remember what it’s like to stay put for a little while. I’m looking forward to doing some cooking and watching lots of my new favorite object of entertainment…. DEADWOOD!

On the cooking agenda this weekend:

Tonight = homemade pizza. I’m not sure yet what the toppings will be, C’s on grocery duty.

Brunch tomorrow = a big Dutch Baby. I’m going to swing by New Seasons today and see what their strawberries look like. Mmm… fresh strawberries.

Dinner = I found this recipe for a soy-maple-ginger dressing that would make an awesome glaze or marinade… we’ll see!

Friday, March 9, 2007

“Ah, the world is sweet and the world is wide…”

I’ve been on the move lately. Driving, walking—a body in motion wants to stay in motion.

Two weekends ago it was to the Oregon Coast. We drove down to Yachats and stayed at the Ocean Haven hotel. It was such a compelling little place. Five rooms, and run (presumably) by a couple (we only met the man, but read mention of the proprietress in the guestbook), it was a hotel on its own rather peculiar terms. No Hummers. Mandatory composting and recycling. Quiet hours strictly enforced. Occupancy numbers strictly enforced.

You have to be a particular type, I think, to appreciate a vacation spot with such potentially restrictive rules. We loved it. The quiet, the earth-friendly atmosphere, the proximity to such spectacular natural beauty (Cape Perpetua is remarkable…)—these things were just up our alley. Weeks later, I still find myself inspired to commune with my compost bin and wash and re-use my plastic bread bags and zip-locs. My mother would be proud.

The Oregon coast south of Yachats has a distinctly rugged feel that other, more “settled” parts of the coast lack. Perhaps our timing had some influence on that—the edges of a storm blown down from Alaska were rolling in during our stay. On Sunday, there were National Weather Alert warnings advising us to steer clear of the beaches unless we wanted to be swept away by the pounding, churning, crashing, and smashing 30-foot MONSTER WAVES. It seemed a little extreme, but the waves were awfully large, and there were a number of beach-front waysides temporarily closed due to high surf advisories. Hooray for ruggedness and the great outdoors.

Since that blustery weekend—torrential rain, gusty winds, several inches of snow in the usually mild Oregon Coast Range—we’ve been gifted with glorious weather. Getting up is only half as difficult when the sun is streaming through the gaps in the curtains. The daffodils are blooming around town and the grass-seed farms are sprouting acre upon acre of glowing green lusciousness out in the valleys. Oh, and it is 65 degrees outside.

The sun is warm and the soft winds ride
On a willow tree by the riverside

* * *

In other news, the hawks that were frequenting the roof of my office building (just above my window) have been replaced by a flock of large black crows. I miss the hawks. They were more spectacular to watch. As smart as they are, crows flying just don’t really compare.

* * *

There is a Catholic church across the street from my office building. The church bells chime every day at noon, and it’s been an excellent means by which to gauge the progression of my day. Today they started ringing early—at 10:45. I was a little thrown off, especially when they kept chiming and chiming with a slow, morose cadence. Curious, I walked over to a window with a view in that direction, and saw individuals dressed formally in black, several priests, a coffin and a hearse. Members of the funeral procession draped an American flag over the casket. I can only assume that means the deceased was in the military or a public service employee.

While a funeral in and of itself isn’t too terribly remarkable (we all will die eventually, right), I somehow didn’t expect to see one in the middle of the city with people in office buildings crowded all around, looking down on the event. It seems like funerals should happen out in green, wide-open spaces where everyone in the near proximity pauses to reflect and respect. There seems to be something sacrilegious about holding a service when people are reading snarky e-mails and forwarding pictures of the presidents dressed up like ladies in the tall office buildings nearby. I guess we aren’t allowed to choose, though, exactly when and where we go.

The other aspect of this moment that struck me as photographically “fitting” was the arrival of 10 school busses packed with children. Off to see a mid-day play at the nearby Keller Auditorium, as the casket was being carried to the hearse, the long yellow busses were overflowing and spilling hundreds of children from their doors. Church bells on one side of the street, screams and laughter on the other. The metaphors, imagery, and sense of circular completion was quite intellectually satisfying.