I am home. I cannot even begin to describe what about Portland, Oregon makes it home – it is unspoken, but embodied in the very air I breathe as I step out of the airport. The air has a distinct smell and feel here. Fresh, of pines and rich, wet earth. My skin eagerly drinks the moisture from the air and I suddenly discover I no longer need to use lotion. As I followed my parents out to the car, I took in a deep breath of this essence of Portland.
Having been away from my hometown for two years, I have returned primed to notice everything that makes Portland so different from my current residence in Wisconsin. Portland seems so green and vibrant in winter, with towering evergreens and mossy lawns, ferns blanketing the garden. There are even neon green clumps of moss in the deciduous trees. If anything, Portland has become more moss-covered than I remember! Yes, it rains. And is overcast. For days. But the rain is a forgiving, loving rain, caressing all the moss it nurtures. In contrast, the rain in Wisconsin is that of the vindictive, angry summer thunderstorm, threatening you in a sneak attack that leaves you drenched ten steps from your front door as you dash out to fetch the mail. Or the powdery stuff that seems so magical at Christmas but by March has become a tiresome roommate demanding you clean up after it constantly. By March I am tired of shoveling of snow.
So I am rediscovering why I first fell in love with rain. It lulls me to sleep in a steady serenade of rhythms. It freshens the air with a cleansing sweetness. I even love taking long walks in the rain, sans umbrella. Something about it is so invigorating, like turning my face up into the raindrops and feeling the caress of God’s hand in the world.
Rediscovery is really the theme of this entire vacation in Portland. Today Mark and I headed downtown on MAX, the local light-rail, to meet up with an old high school friend of mine. MAX reflects the values that growing up in Portland instilled in me. Here is a public transit system serving a diverse socio-economic and ethnic population, symbolically linking all these communities together. I heard a couple languages spoken during the 30 minute ride from Gresham into Lloyd Center, including Spanish. I saw business men, students, the homeless, people of all walks of life sharing the same train. For the central downtown area of Portland, there is a Fareless Square, and while sometimes controversal, I think it beautifully embodies the spirit of my city. Here anyone can ride MAX, regardless of their economic situation.
The whole day has been a series of rediscoveries. Ice skating under the twinkling holiday decorations to the soundtrack of buzzing shoppers at Lloyd Center. Savoring high quality sushi from the mall food court. A stranger in the mall giving us a coupon to use at a local restaurant. Marionberry pie at the local diner. Playing a borrowed piccolo up on my alma mater’s stage in the alumni band for the Sam Barlow High School holiday band concert. I have not been this content in a long while.
I am home.