In which, for the first time in a year, a thousand firsts unfurl. Mostly, wrapping my arms around my firstborn, 1750 miles from where I spend most of my days…
It’s questionable whether sitting tucked in a dawn-lit corner in a faraway hotel, I can tap out too many hieroglyphics on this wee little keyboard, more fitting for the feet of an ant than for my fumbly fingers, but here I am, apparently so jazzed on the joy of watching my boys delight in each other’s company, not so adept at catching a night’s worth of zzzzz’s.
In this sweet swirl of days, so many frames have been packed in my brain, sleep has little room. There was the all-black-clad SWAT team rolling into downtown the night of the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death, when Portland once again exploded in protest with dumpster fires, fireworks hurled into the night, windows smashed, and graffiti strewn on block after block of marble, glass, or brick-walled storefronts. There are the endless miles of homeless camps on the sidewalks, spilling down embankments along the highways (and I mean right up to the shoulder of where cars race by at 70 mph), in the wells of dried-up public fountains, under the Chinese arch just outside this hip hotel outfitted with British soaps and sheets and “ethical organic” coffees to tuck into earthenware mugs inscribed, “99 problems. coffee ain’t one.” And, no, the juxtaposition, the cruel irony, doesn’t escape me. It’s a wrenching mix of utopia and dystopia here, and it seems to beg for answers to questions and conundrums that would vex a troop of MacArthur geniuses. But my firstborn is here for 16 months, and once my superpower shot kicked in and shielded me and all of us from the red-ringed invader, we strapped on our travel packs and made the trek to Stumptown.
Alongside the unsettling, there is wonder aplenty here, too, as the city seems to collect the curious, the kind, and the kooky. While I sip my ethical organic coffee and watch the sun come up, I’ll let my picture roll do the talking.
I’ve usually been a most reluctant traveler, a top-of-the-line homebody, one who frets in the days before departure about whether my tomato plants will survive without me, whether the pansies will droop, and in this case whether the wily skunk would move inside while we’re not watching. (Shawn the SkunkTrapper sent a text to let me know he was bringing in the infrared night-vision cameras he was borrowing from one of his fox-trapping jobs; I await word any minute now…)
But here I am, four days in, and relishing every adventure. Maybe in my doddering days, I will finally slay a few of the ghosts who’ve long vexed me. Travel can test us as much as it stretches us, and I’m in for the stretch, buoyed by the boys who animate my every heart beat.
Signing off from PDX. With love, always.
Anyone else out there a natural-born reluctant traveler? And if not, what words of enticement might you offer to those of us who’d do well to take a deep breath and put some miles on our hiking boots?
You go girl! I loved Portland and it sounds like you are loving it too, even reluctantly!
So proud of you for pushing through and seeing what lies on the other side!
Enjoy every moment!
Ellen Blum Barish
Writer and Coach
Author of Seven Springs: A Memoir (Shanti Arts)
Author, Views from the Home Office Window: On Motherhood, Family & Life (Adams Street Press)
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❤️❤️❤️ and here we go off to NikeLand!
Yay! I’m so happy for you. Enjoy your special time there. Portland is definitely a unique place.
While I would generally describe myself as a contented homebody, I do love to travel. Maybe the key is to travel more often so it becomes more comfortable. 😎
I think there’s lots of wisdom in that. Lots and lots……
Enjoy every minute of your time there! So very happy that you are there with your guys.
Bles you, thank you, me too❤️❤️❤️
BAM, so grateful you got to not only Carpe Librum, but also Carpe Willum!
Thanks for sharing your moment in time with all of us!
❤️❤️❤️ “carpe Willum!” I love that to pieces!!!!
Your book in the famous Powell’s Bookstore!!!
I recognize the shelves. As for travel, pre-internet I used to say give me my car, a full tank of gas, a credit card and my Rand McNally Road Atlas and I’m off! As I get older, I find that devil-may-care wanderlust is toned down – but only a touch. Tip: if one does not have a good sense of direction and cannot read maps, have a travel partner who does. I was born with an internal compass, hence my boldness – on the road, small towns, rural landscapes and wilderness (like national parks) – rarely big cities. 42 states, 7 Canadian provinces. Happy for you and your boys being together! That’s where HOME is.
WOW!!!!! That is a mighty excellent census. Sitting here listening to one boy give old-fashioned lessons to the other. And I don’t mean old-fashioned in nostalgia sense, but as in libation. And this wisdom wouldn’t be imparted if I’d not boarded the plane….