Places: Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My history with Portland:

August-December, 2007 -- I attended school in Portland while officially living in Hillsboro (a suburb of Portland).

2008-2011 -- I longed to go back to Portland and talked about it frequently. I sporadically looked for jobs and apartments/houses in the Portland area, wishfully thinking my way into a future there. My younger brother did missionary work in Portland for two years, and I was very jealous of him.

December 6th, 2011 -- I went back to Portland (with my husband) and stayed there for all of five hours. And that was enough.

Craig at Powell's City of Books, an enormous and fantastic bookstore in Portland

on campus at Portland State University

When Craig and I booked our trip to Cannon Beach (see here), most of my primary excitement came from knowing how close we'd be to Portland. "We have to spend an entire day in the city!" I proclaimed. "No, two! TWO days! And even then it won't be enough!" In the interest of spending some of our vacation actually relaxing rather than sightseeing, we decided to devote just one day to Portland. It will have to do, I thought. To me, Portland is the ultimate. It is the destination. It is the trumpet that calls me home. It's where I always want to be.

But here's the thing: we drove to Portland (the drive was beautiful, by the way), parked the car, and set off for our adventure. Our adventure didn't last all that long. A few hours after our arrival, we were both ready to leave. And so we did. It was anti-climactic, to say the least.

Here are some factors that contributed to the day's lackluster-ness:

I didn't plan activities. When I lived in Portland, nothing was planned; every new experience was a surprise. Or at least that's how I remember it. And so I was sure that this city just had fun around every corner, waiting to be discovered. But when you only have one day to explore, as opposed to several months, you should decide beforehand a few things you want to fit in and how you'll go about doing that. And you should know the parking/walking situation.

I didn't buy any books/wander around aimlessly at Powell's. Major oversight.

We were cold. The weather was yucky, which is fine and not much of a turn-off at all, provided one is dressed appropriately. I wasn't. So Craig lent me one of his sweater-y things, meaning that both of us were still mildly cold, and we didn't have gloves or beanies, and it was windy, and etc. It's not much fun to go exploring by foot when you are very, very cold and ducking into storefronts just to get your shivering under control.

Finally: My expectations were high, unfounded, and unrealistic. Because the city of Portland was only part of the reason I loved "Portland."
When I lived there in 2007, here are some of the reasons I loved Portland.

a beautiful day at The Chinese Gardens

fire escapes in sunlight

jogging at a tiny park with life-size friends

putting on life jackets, though the boat was not in danger of sinking

morning hair with lovely Chelsea and lovely Brittany

calls to repentance, on Post-It Notes

reading books in the leaves

Stumptown drinks and scones, artfully done

volunteering at a book festival in order to meet a graphic novelist

The fall of 2007 was maybe the most wonderful, happiest season of my entire life. I was in school, and let me be clear about at least this one thing: I love school. My classes were thought-provoking and new. I was living with my best friend. I was getting to know a new best friend, one whom I would eventually marry, and I had a faint sense of how important and magical our relationship would be in my life. At the same time, I was in love with someone else, and being in love is a wondrous thing, so it contributed hugely to my overall happiness. And, yes, I was living in Portland. It's a great place. I had never lived someplace so diverse in its population or its options. I had never lived someplace so green. I was on my first life adventure, and Portland was its location. I wasn't married, I didn't have a degree, I was living on small and rapidly-diminishing savings, I didn't have cool clothes or listen to cool music, but ... man, I was happy.

What I'm saying is this: I've never experienced a more well-rounded happiness than the happiness I had in Portland, and I'm realizing now that it wasn't because Portland is a magical place; it was because I was living in a magical season of my youth.

Nothing against Portland itself. Portland, you are still my favorite city. I will come to see you again. I will plan ahead, dress warmly, and take my time in the bookstore. I'll remember to visit Everyday Music and the Rose Garden. I'll get a henna tattoo at Saturday Market. I'll sip hot cocoa at Mill Ends Park, the smallest park in the world. I'll close the day at Pittock Mansion. Maybe I'll even venture out of the SW quadrant. But more than that, I'll pay tribute to you -- my charming, rosy city of bridges -- by seeking to replicate the joyful serenity that I'm still reminded of whenever I hear your name.

Events: We Took a Mini-Vacation to Cannon Beach

Since we moved to Seattle, Craig has been working at a bank and I've been working at a secondhand clothing store. While my hours are pretty sporadic and flexible, Craig's are consistent and non-negotiable. Banks have to be open, and bank employees need to be there when they are. "You want some time off? Great! But it will have to be when none of your co-workers are taking their well-deserved vacations."

Ergo, our vacation time for the Christmas season actually took place from December 5th-8th. It was sort of an early anniversary gift to ourselves (our three-year anniversary is on December 27th). We had Brian and Natalie (brother- and sister-in-law) babysit the kitty while we headed to Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Cannon Beach is this amazing coastal town in northern Oregon, just off the Pacific Coast Highway and about an hour and a half away from Portland. I took a day trip there in 2007 while I was attending Portland State University, and with some killer off-season deals for lodging, we decided it might be a nice place to relax.

Oh, it was.

That enormous rock you see in almost every picture is Haystack Rock. You may recognize it from The Goonies. It's tremendous.

We stayed at Blue Gull Inn, which is managed by a company that has quite a few properties on the coast. They were fantastic, and the prices in the off-season are seriously cheeeeeap. We'll definitely be back.

My favorite memory from the trip took place on our last morning. We woke up as early as we could make ourselves, grabbed some beach chairs and books, and headed down to the water. Craig had this thing the whole time we were there about "tempting the ocean," getting as close as possible to the waterline without actually getting wet. We placed our chairs strategically so that the higher tides would go right past us, forcing us to lift up our feet while the legs of our chairs sunk lower and lower into the watery sand. We stayed there for an hour or so, reading and laughing and sinking and taking pictures. Whenever we were on the beach, at any point during our trip, I got a sense of earthly majesty. It was pretty overwhelming, but in a good way, in a wonderful way.
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