Encounter Portland’s Soul – A Rainy Day Itinerary

I am back in the embrace of Portland and my hometown must be overwhelmed to see me – the tears of jubilation continue to pour from the sky, day after day.

It’s a cliché, of course. I tell people I’m from Portland and without fail I answer some variation of “Isn’t it really rainy there?” Yes, but without the rain, Portland would not be Portland, Oregon would not be Oregon, and my favorite hiking spots would fade into muted mediocrity. I try to imagine the Gorge without the moss, without the ferns, without the waterfalls.

It’s a depressing thought.

Portland native that I am, I take full advantage of the rain. We hop the MAX to Washington Park. The misty vistas of the city laid out below are gorgeous, so different from the dry, stark beauty of summer. Now the hills, flush with evergreens, fade into the barest trace amidst the clouds and mist. We join the scant crowds wandering through the Oregon Zoo. The weather’s cool touch meant the monkeys and big cats and elephants were active, bellowing and screeching, swinging and playing. The cougar’s whine sends shivers down my spine.

Next stop the Japanese Gardens, one of the most authentic outside of Japan and perfect for Portland’s climate. Rain makes the gardens. The stone paths and steps gleam, the moss and lush plants glow. The rain steadily pours until I am soaked and chilled. But I don’t care. Raincatchers tilt and tip, a graceful dance of slender bamboo. The rock gardens shimmer in a slick blanket. The sheen is beautiful.

We braved more of the rain to walk the city streets. I stop at a food cart for a sumptuous, hot strawberry crepe. When the damp becomes overwhelming, we duck into Powell’s Books, Portland’s huge independent bookstore that requires a map to navigate the warehouse-sized rooms. The damp enhances the cozy stacks of books inside. A visit to Powell’s is always dangerous. I leave with three used books, including a Richard Scary children’s book in Icelandic. Yes, Icelandic. You can find anything there.

Back outside. Rain illuminates every surface until the streets and sidewalks become perfect mirrors. The antique street lamps glow in the murk, like a Dickens’ novel without the gritty realism.

Of course, all this pervasive wet has its drawbacks. We took the Amtrak train up to the Seattle area for an overnight visit with my sisters. As the rain pounded Snohomish, a rural area north of the city, a pond began to grow in my sister’s yard. We heard reports of houses washing into the Snohomish River. A mudslide delayed our train back to Portland.

But just when you think you’re tired of the rain, an olive branch. We pulled into Union Station to a rainbow arched across the Steel Bridge, the city bathed in a swathe of light through the rainy gloom. Welcome home.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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