A Wall

March 19, 2013 § 2 Comments

Last week I couldn’t stop thinking about everything I hadn’t accomplished since I arrived in Portland. Here I was, still unemployed, living under another person’s roof, friendless, and losing money with each passing day.

I hit a wall. Or as my mother likes to say a “two-month wall.”

I hit a “two-month wall” in Europe. That’s when I realized I wasn’t happy with how my volunteer posts were working out. I was exhausted  from the demands of farm work and fed up with living a nomadic existence. Then I decided it was time to come home. To really start living.

I thought about leaving Portland for a short period of time, but I fear that to return to the Midwest, even briefly, would reverse the progress I’ve made since relocating. Portland is where I need to be.

I’m feeling better now, though I’m still working through some difficult emotions. I know that I’ll probably hit another wall later on, and perhaps another one after that.

Here’s the thing. I don’t want to be one of those people who only writes when they’re confused or depressed (or both). I don’t want to offer a narrow view of my life. Resettling hasn’t been easy for me, but I love it here. I’ve thought long and hard about how to convey Portland’s simple, unfussy beauty and lovable quirkiness. How exactly does one evoke the sights, sounds, smells, and, especially in Portland’s case, tastes, of a place?

I’m going to try to make you see why I want to stay.

It rains constantly in Portland, right up until summer arrives. But I’ve experienced a few unbroken stretches of perfect weather. These are the days when I’m absolutely grateful to be here. When I wake up the sunlight that filters in through the drawn blinds is enough to brighten my entire bedroom. I step outside outside and squint. The sky is a piercing shade of blue. I take long walks on these sorts of days, if for no other reason to get a coffee. I pass camellia and bushes and trees teeming with fragrant cherry blossoms everywhere I go. Now I’m beginning to see dandelions and rhododendrons.

I often walk by houses with small vegetable gardens out front. I’ve also seen swings; little shrine-like displays of plastic toys; Christmas lights; ornately decorated vintage VW buses parked in the street; and little window boxes offering poems or affirmations. It’s also not unusual to spot a chicken or two. Some chickens are free to roam wherever they please.

People love their dogs in Portland. I know this because I see at least one person at any given time taking their adorable dog out for a walk. I see dogs tied up outside of cafes and coffee shops, eagerly awaiting the return of their owners. I once spotted a giant Bernese Mountain Dog sprawled out on the pavement outside of an Alberta Avenue restaurant, looking as though there was no where else he’d rather be at that moment.

My estimate is that nine out of every ten coffee shops in Portland are converted, refurbished auto garages. On good days, some of these places will open up the garage doors that were left behind. One of my favorite coffee places shares a space with a bamboo workshop.

While walking in Southeast Portland one day, I came upon goats playing in a giant vacant lot closed off by chain link fence. This was the “urban goat project.” It was on the way to the “vegan strip mall.”

When I walk to the nearest transit center, I pass two hypnosis clinics and an aquarium shop that never seems to be open…or closed for that matter.

If I’m lucky, I can see Mt. Hood from the overpass along Sandy Boulevard or, better yet, from a window on the MAX.

Some of these anecdotes are easy to write off as Portlandia fodder. To be perfectly honest, at times I feel as though I’m living in an ongoing Portlandia sketch. I don’t care. I take Portland as it is.


§ 2 Responses to A Wall

  • Ann Ramsay says:

    Hi Emma, Ilovereading about your new life…wish I could go out for coffee with you. It sounds like you know all of the best places. I think there are some wine bars as well. Not much going on here. My apartment is back in shape after the flood. I hope it doesn’t happen again to anyone! Take care…one of these days a job of somesort will turn up…may not be the perfect one, but go for it and keep looking for the dream job. Lots of Love, Anna


  • awrams says:

    Hang in there Em!!! You are so strong and creative and resourceful. You will figure this out!

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