Today we’ve been in Portland for four weeks; the time has gone so fast! The week after we arrived I mentioned to the nice teller at my bank that I felt like such a tourist. She told me that would wear off after awhile, and I’m slowly beginning to feel a part of things now. I started by doing the two things that have always made me feel a part of every community I’ve lived in; getting a library card and spending plenty of time getting lost so as to learn my way around. The Multnomah County Library system is a tremendous resource and source of great pleasure; it is the most well-used library system in the country, and no wonder. Portland well deserves its nickname (one of many) of “The City of Readers.”
The weather has been cooler and rainier than usual for May, so they tell me. I love it; where I came from I’d be miserably sweltering in wilting heat and humidity. How great has it been to wear my turtleneck sweaters in May? And other than a certain brief period one afternoon last week, the rain has been very light, perfect strolling weather. I realize it’ll be warm and sunny soon, with even hot temperatures some days, but I am enjoying the “now” weather very much indeed.
We’ve been getting settled and have been getting to know our general area, but we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what there is to do here in the Portland area. We’ve begun sampling the excellent coffee, incorporated some of the abundant fresh produce into our diet, been awed at seeing Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens, been surprised at how hilly it is after living so long on flat land, been delighted at the flavor of wonderful Marionberry jam, and really just been glad to wake up each morning here in the Pacific Northwest.
I’ve done a lot of observing, a lot of people-watching, and I’d say what characterizes this city and its people best is the capacity for enjoyment. Not just the “big” things; there are plenty of attractions, restaurants, festivals (such as the annual Portland Rose Festival, which is going on now), theaters, performances and entertainment for any taste, but it’s the way they enjoy the little things here that impresses me so. It’s the way they linger over cups of fresh, aromatic coffee, the way they smile and take time for intelligent conversation, the way they love spending time outdoors for picnics, walking, biking, just…being.
An example of this enjoyment came unexpectedly the other day. We had occasion to drive over the Burnside Bridge, where we were stopped on our approach as the drawbridge opened to allow boat traffic to pass underneath. Suddenly car doors flew open and adults and children, even dogs, poured out onto the bridge and everyone watched a barge with a flying bridge pass by; they all milled about laughing and talking, just enjoying the moment, and when the bridge closed again a few minutes later, everyone piled back into their cars after a good time was had by all, and off they went! I’ve lived in cities with bridges all my life, but I’d never seen being held up by a drawbridge become an occasion for fun before. There was no honking of horns, no angry outbursts or swearing; it was just, “Well, here we are, let’s enjoy the moment!” And they did; and it was wonderful!
Admittedly, no place is perfect, and eventually something here will probably annoy or aggravate me, but I can’t imagine anything that would bother me very much. Every evening I spend time standing on the deck, enjoying the cool air, feeling the breeze on my face, listening to the city sounds below, gazing at the sky and the twinkling lights in the buildings nearby, and I am thankful to be here. It’s been worth everything to get here, and a privilege to be able to live here at last. *sigh*…