Portland, Oregon – First Impressions of Home

Sometimes best intentions run away, unnoticed and unseen. In my case, a packed week of family, friends, and filling my waking hours with as much Oregon, Portland, and soccer as I could meant this content, if sleep-deprived, Chronic Traveler found herself on a plane back to the Midwest without composing a single line for this blog.

Time is a slippery beast.

So I intend to make up for my writing absence with a series of vignettes – snapshots really – of a week back home in the embrace of my Oregonian roots.

Starting with first impressions.

As my plane descended from the blinding suspension of reality that is the unrealness of flying thousands of miles across the Earth in a few short hours enclosed in metal and plastic and glass, I sat up in anticipation, nose pressed to glass, anxious for my first glimpse of the Cascade Mountains and the mighty Columbia. I can be embarrassingly sentimental. I tear up at the familiar silhouettes of Mt. Hood or Mt. St. Helens as we glide down the Gorge. But this time I gazed in wonderment. The infamously lopsided bowl of St. Helens, gouged out by a sideways explosion of gas and heat only 32 years ago, and the spritely peaks of Adams and Rainer were cloaked in a fine gray haze, no more than shadows. Below, sandbars gashed across the churning Columbia and polka dot fields of brown and tan clothed the countryside.

I was not gazing upon a typically lush world of greens and blues, but a drought-stricken Oregon, the river much too low even for October, and the choking smoke of forest fires obscuring the horizon in Los Angeles-style smog.

The unseasonal warmth and dryness does hold pleasant surprises, however small. Bursts of color in the still-blooming roses painted the City of Roses in vibrant yellows, pinks, and reds. The leaves on city sidewalks ground into a dusty aroma with a satisfying crunch. We strolled in short sleeves, basking in sunlight, vainly ignoring the anxious trees and shrubs that begged for moisture, green leaves brittle and dry, often skipping their colorful flash dance before falling to the ground. The extreme low water level of the Willamette was shocking, but provided a photographer’s dream, with rainbow bracelets on every pier, bridge, and concrete wall along the river, exposed to air and my clicking shutter. Graceful cranes pirouetted across mud flats and exposed driftwood beneath the Hawthorne Bridge. Yes, mud flats on the Willamette.

It’s an odd turn of season for Portland. May the impending rains inundate her parched soils to muddy satisfaction.


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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