Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mazes & Ruby Slippers

What is it about Portland that throws my semi-working sense of direction into total and complete chaos? It started about 10 years ago, staying at a friend's house with my husband and son (then about 18 months.) It was 7pm and I really, really wanted to go to what I'd heard was an amazing new/used bookstore (Powell's) before it closed. Nobody else wanted to go. So I dragged my son out in his PJs and set off in our borrowed (father-in-law's) motorhome on an adventure into downtown.

Crossing the river, I was instantly assaulted by one-way streets (my first problem.) Eventually, I passed Powell's (Burnside and 11th.) Nowhere to park. It was dark. So I traveled down alternate streets, looking to turn around, to find 11th again. I needed to stop for directions, but my son had crashed out in his car seat. Couldn't wake him (he was NOT a good sleeper.) My persistence paid off, and I passed Powell's again. Again. And again. I was clammy. Stressed. Lost. Just wanted to click my ruby slippers together three times. Finally, after hours of "Powell-drive-bys," I made it back across the river and found my way home, swearing never to drive into Portland again.

So it's 1o years later, and I've got a few hours to kill. I'm dying to experience an infamous Portland farmer's market. I get directions. No problem. I can do this. I can go back into the maze (call 911 if I'm not back in 3 hours.)

From Vancouver, I cross the bridge into Oregon. Go toward City Center onto Broadway. A fork in the road. Humm...the Robert Frost poem comes to mind (you know the one.) Which way is N. Broadway? I take the path definitely more traveled. Go left. Straight into downtown. Restaurants. Traffic. Pedestrians. Pedestrians. Pedestrians. I wait at red light after red light. My remaining 30 minutes (before I pick up my husband at the airport) dwindles. Ah! What's this? I'm on SW Broadway? Ah! I get back to the bridge, cross over. Back to the freeway? No I can do this! I can fight the maze.

I'm not stressed, just challenged. Back to Broadway. Turn around. Cross the bridge. Go right. Turns into Lovejoy Rd. Not Broadway. Back across the bridge (see a theme here?) I'm passing intersections. Ask a woman at a red light. 240 N. Broadway? "I don't know." Then I think I see the street. Three U-turns. 305 N. Broadway. 210 N. Broadway. Reverse. An anonymous brick building: address 2_0 N. Broadway. Middle number missing. I'm laughing now. Time almost up. I'm in a maze again. Downtown Portland maze.

I don't find berries. Tomatoes. Or spinach. But I do find a tiny Starbucks on the corner of one of my repeated intersections. Ah, chai latte. That's what I need. Pull in and order. The barista doesn't know where the market is either. She's an ex-Californian, totally nice, and takes public transit everywhere. OK, I don't feel so bad.

My chai is perfect. Cinnamon tickles my nose. Soothing warmth on my throat. Ahh, now that's peace! A beautiful mural is painted on the wall of the building next door. "Hope is Vital: It takes a planet to save a village." A Portland-Zimbabwe connection. And I suddenly realize that it's all about hope and possibility. Whether lost in another continent or in the maze of a cool, big city, full of one-way, non-existent streets. I long for adventure, and there's something so right about being lost. Out of our comfort zone. It brings a sense of calmness and excitement to me all at once. I am not defeated, but invigorated.

I get lost going to the airport (surprise, surprise.) But I do find a "Pita Pit" for lunch and I'm reminded of the little place that I found at midnight after walking for hours in Madrid last year. I order up my favorite falafel, and I'm happy.

The hope. The challenge. The open doors. It's in each of us.

Finally heading the right way, I notice once again the tiny, fuzzy white seed pods that have been raining down on us since we arrived in Oregon. I think of each one as a dandelion wish--blowing across the sky. Over trees. Across rivers. And down into the city. Just like us.

A sky full of wishes. A maze full of wishes. Round each turn, and take a peek.

I cross the bridge for the last time. I don't need to click my ruby slippers.
I am already here.

PS: Later, after re-checking Google maps, I realized the building with the number missing was the address I looking for! LOL

Powell's website:
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Saturday, June 6, 2009


Peter's Canyon: spring through summer

With my love of high-elevations, I'm judgmental about Orange County hikes. I love it when I'm proven wrong.

We started hiking again in Peter's Canyon Regional Park, just off Jamboree and Chapman here in Orange.  The 2.5 mile loop is perfect for the kids and dogs. The entire park itself is 354 acres of coastal scrub, freshwater marsh, and grassland. You'll find lots of migrating waterfowl amongst the willow, sycamore, and black cottonwoods (and eucalyptus along the Lower Trail) the grow along the creek and reservoir. 

Wildlife includes: mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, and maybe a mountain lion (if you're lucky! Gulp.) Amphibians and reptiles (saw our first rattler stalking a cottontail a few years back,) and birds galore: cactus wrens, gnatcatchers, sparrows, Cooper's, redtail, and red-shouldered hawks. 

The kids enjoy counting the small mammals, reptiles and birds. Lots of lizards, chipmunks, and cottontails. Swallows, hawks, and the gift of a roadrunner at the end of the trail! Reminds me of my favorite childhood poem, the one I've remembered by heart (after I read a book called SECRET OF THE SEVEN CROWS by Wylly Folk St. John in 4th grade!)   

A Gathering of Crows

One crow for sorrow,
Two crows for joy,
Three crows for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five crows for silver,
Six crows for gold,

Seven crows for a secret never to be told.

Except there's no sorrow out in Peter's Canyon. Every animal we see equals joy, silver & gold. Counting animals out here connects us to this place. Makes us see how wild things truly do share our urban space. Makes us want to protect it all. 

In spring, the reservoir is full, glossy gray and blue. The hills are velvety green, and the kids run through clover fields. The striking contrast of the sunny, yellow flowers with the lime-colored clover leaves is heavenly. It seems as if we can pick 1000 flowers and make no dent. It is a field of dreams. Of happiness. 

Summer approaches, and the clovers disappear. Transformation of color.  Texture. Feeling. Green to beige, rusty brown. The water in reservoir decreases, and it greens up to a shiny emerald. Along the trail, cactus flowers burst open, taking the sunshiny place of the clover flower. Purple, prickly thistles. Welcoming sunflowers. Paper-thin, delicate poppies.

We share the trail with horses, and a mountain biker or two. But people are pleasant. Orange County can be a happy place. And along the trail, I am happy to transform as well.

Adventure in your own backyard.