Snapshots

From the honeymoon period of my new life in Portland there are plenty of moments to remember. I take mental snapshots of them as they happen—even small everyday things, which are important in their own way.

A weekday, after work: Since I have to switch buses downtown in order to get home, I decide to stop at Pioneer Square, a huge brick courtyard, to have a snack and watch people. It’s warm outside but not hot enough to keep dozens and dozens of people from enjoying the sunshine. I sit on the wide, curving steps among business people, friends, couples, kids, shirtless hacky sack players, and one cat on a leash. Light and shadow chase each other across the bricks as the sun disappears behind sky-high rooftops. A man with a clipboard approaches me to ask for my signature on a petition for state ballot reform. Violating my own principles, I sign without really understanding the issue. People in this town are always trying to get you to join up with one cause or another. He asks about the book I’m reading, then wishes me a good evening. I take the train home because it is more fun than the bus.

Midday, Saturday: I take my first bicycle trip downtown, crossing the river at the Burnside Bridge. Everything looks different from this perspective, when I’m used to being on foot or on the bus. The landscape seems a little bit more human in scale. Without being encumbered by a car I can move around efficiently and stop on a whim to check things out. I enjoy getting oriented to the city this way. Unfortunately I’m wearing a tank top and have neglected to put on sunscreen. Long before I start heading home I notice a deep red on my shoulders. It’s a small price to pay—I feel rather accomplished for riding so many miles in one day. I’m not used to long distances or inclines, and the uphill part of my ride home is miserable. After I’m done, though, I feel fantastic.

A Sunday night: I stay up past my bedtime on this beautiful summer evening. My housemate and his parents have spent the day building a new patio adjacent to the driveway, and they’re breaking it in with a barbecue. The small dining room table has been moved outside and set with wine glasses and plates of food. Although it’s after 10:00, we are still watching the last shades of blue disappear from the sky. The soft blanket of the night is punctuated by a few fireworks set off in belated celebration of Independence Day. I sleepwalk to bed, feeling tipsy and satisfied.

Midday, Sunday: I’m crossing the pedestrian bridge over the freeway, carrying some groceries home. Usually I take my bike on these shopping trips, and because it’s a busy street I can’t turn my head to look around much. Now, where the highway creates a break through the trees and neighborhoods, I have a chance to see the horizon that lies beyond. I know about the spectacular mountains that reside near the city, and I’ve seen them, but sometimes they’re easy to forget. I glance toward the west and am surprised to see Mt. St. Helens in picturesque view, surrounded by puffy clouds that look like still white smoke. I feel fortunate.

Early morning, every day: I walk a few blocks downtown while I wait for my connecting bus. Generally I hate getting up early, but even as I struggle to stay awake I feel energized in the city. I love the tall buildings and the cool breeze and the empty spaces and quiet activity of people going to work. Pausing for a few minutes at the Ira Keller Fountain, before it’s overrun by bathers, is not a bad way to start off a day. (Google it.)

People: I love that new people are being added to my universe. Matt, Kyle, Susan and friends from Meetin.org, neighbors, new co-workers who have made me feel at home, even the transit operators and people who ride my bus every morning. They’re all part of this story in one way or another.

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