I am feeling a bit impatient about tulips–how much longer…? It should be enough that there are vincus, cherry blossoms, daffodils, hyacinths, azaleas, rhoddies, camellias, magnolias, daphne, pansies and several more showing off their colorful designs. I even saw my first wild trilliums over the weekend, a small but distinctive joy I get every Pacific Northwest spring. But it’s tulips I start thinking of…perhaps because my mother told me as a child that tulips bloom in April, the month I was born–so it must be my flower.
Or maybe it’s because my sister, Marinell, liked them and I miss her–she died around my birthday a few years ago. Plus, a happy memory is how much we enjoyed a three-sisters trip to a tulip festival in Washington in 2013. From my oldest sister’s home in Issaquah, WA., it was an easy drive and we made a day outing of it. It was one of the last Sisters’ Trips that Allanya, Marinell, and I took. So, it is only natural that I think of her and spring rambles with pleasure.
I hold tulips in high regard. I appreciate their ubiquitousness, their commonness; they have few frills, less fragrance. Sturdy, with three petals and three sepals to make it seem as if six petals, the tulip is a brightly hued, rather humble bloom that nonetheless looks pleased with its elegant simplicity. They seem easy to grow. Tulips traditionally symbolize love and spring’s arrival–entirely apt, in my opinion. Apparently in the 1600s they were considered extremely valuable and cost a fortune. Another factoid: there are almost 150 various species, and over 3000 naturally derived and cultivated varieties in the world. And they are related to a flower I do consider more fancy while also attractive (but often smellier)–the lily.
But enough talk. Here are photos from our trip in 2013, a cloudy day that was bursting with color and smiles. This might hold me until they show themselves in my neighborhood!
In late February I left our quiet, wooded suburb to set off for a walk around Portland’s riverfront area. My spouse was not thrilled with the idea–there were many months of protests and even riots in 2020 decrying racial injustices around the country and other sociopolitical issues. Things have settled down a lot, but it has all changed our home city–perhaps, hopefully, making way for needed, better changes. Yet all is not well in some ways. Additionally, COVID-19 has emptied city streets to a startling degree.
I have always loved downtown Portland. I lived a few blocks away for two decades and was very much an urban person. I didn’t want to lose that connection but the pandemic took over. I still miss “close-in” Portland and do drive over to visit the streets, the parks, other family.
It has been a long habit to go the huge outdoor Farmer’s Market, for example, on the campus green of Portland State University. And to roam the city for local shops–for clothing and jewelry and gifts for people. And to purchase too many books at used bookstores. And dine at excellent restaurants 2-3 times a month. My friends and I would meet for lunch and a movie on weekends. I would meet other family to attend the famed Saturday Market where dozens of arts and crafts were represented, and afterwards we’d eat Himalayan or Japanese or Bolivian meals from the line of food carts (we’ve had dozens of tasty menus from which to choose). The swirls of activity and throngs of people were part of the pleasure. I felt safe downton, with or without my husband, or with a friend as dusk arrived and things got even livelier.
Now–where are the people? At home, yes. Some became too ill and did not make it through… And too many are huddling under a bridge, an overpass, in a lean-to made of a grocery cart and plastic bags and cardboard. Likely others are working in some of the sky-swiping buildings, as some necessary businesses stay afloat. Others, like myself, come and go, wondering what’s next for Portland, aka Rose City. It was all a stark contrast to the southwest hills area I live in now, where there tends to be activity going on despite people social distancing, wearing their masks–parks are fairly busy, stores are partly re-opened, people are active.
The walk had a strong effect on me. The unprecedented stillness other than cars honking and roaring here and there along less congested streets. This has always been a vibrant and fascinating city in which to live in or near to, and walking down the riverwalk was almost eerie despite the beautiful day. It was as if there remained an undercurrent of anxiety. At times, an energy of forlornness. There are many, many more homeless encampments, and people who, perhaps recently became suddenly jobless, now wandering around, seeming unsure where to land, what to do next. But there were a handful of joggers, a few cyclists, too, and walkers. I still felt glad to view the Willamette River and fondly revisited spots along the way we’ve long enjoyed. The sky was so radiantly blue, buildings gleaned. I kept snapping away but was aware of people’s need of privacy in these times–after surveillance by the FBI due to demonstrations/riots, and arrests made by police.
I am hoping against hope we get our city back–with changes that include far more justice for all and help for businesses that have been shuttered or nearly so. But I surely don’t know if it will truly come back in “full dress”–as the buoyant, open minded, easy-going, entertaining place it has been for decades before such troubles. COVID-19 impacts us all, and likely will have more trickle down effects. But I offer one view from a person who loves Portland, who at 19 decided I one day would make a home in the Pacific Northwest-I have been here 30 years now.
I plan on visiting city center returning more as warm weather returns and greater numbers are vaccinated and…well, maybe our great city center will brighten up, lively once more. I’ll then share pictures of all I did not or could not see that February day.
The marina, shops and restaurants above are usually teeming with people.
Let’s slip over to North Carolina awhile, in the Asheville area. Though mansions are not at the top of my list of things to see, I am about to showcase one. I need a break from the many water scenes that saturate (I know…sorry) my life: steady drumming of winter rain on roof, dripping off branches and leaves of bushes and my nose. The many river and ocean photos. I nearly reposted a blog piece from 2017, also about the trip to this place–it garnered 62 “likes”, to my surprise. But this time I want to focus on the palatial home rather than philosophize about beauty/art/nature and so on. Let the pictures speak…
Still, a little history. The American (of Dutch origin) Vanderbilts were industrial magnates, their wealth too much for most of us to fathom. Since visiting I sometimes muse over Anderson Cooper, television journalist and author, and his family history. I have respect for his work. Matriarchal grandparents, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, had tremendous financial prowess rooted in shipping and railroad empires. Reginald was one of the wealthiest men in the world. Anderson Cooper’s mother, Gloria Vanderbilt (his father, the writer Wyatt Cooper, died at age 50) was an heiress but became a famous artist and fashion designer. (I’m certain to have worn her jeans in young adulthood–surprisingly somewhat affordable.) The descendants are many; several became famous in their chosen fields.
The Vanderbilts had a great many houses between various successful relatives. Most have been torn down or were finally turned into museums. The Biltmore Estate is the latter though still owned by descendants. Conceived by George Washington Vanderbilt, a country gentleman due to his inheritance, it was built between 1889-1895 in the grand French Revivalist style. He purchased 125,000 acres; the estate was self-sustaining with farming and animal husbandry. The house remains the largest privately owned home in the U.S. with 250 rooms–or, put another way per Wikipedia, 4 acres of floor space. On top of all this, Vanderbilt created nearby attractive Biltmore Village for his servants to live in, handy and one would think also generous.
All this is interesting historically but the estate was a peculiar, intriguing feast for the eyes as we wove through rooms–often in the middle of a large group and usually in shadow as it is not well lit. Trying to think of dinner in the dining room, billiards in the game room, music in the music room….and how did one figure out which of countless bedrooms to slumber within? The preserved furniture, valuable objects and decorative touches were curious to observe. Much of it was heavy, dark toned. The staiurc ases were beautiful. Finally we got to wander amid a garden or two.
Marc had not wanted to go. It was later in morning so our visit would be shorter than I’d hoped; there was a pricey entrance fee and rain threatened (but held off). I wanted to explore a place so unusual as this–then fell in love with the North Carolina and estate area landscape. I did admire certain details, features of the mansion, and was struck often by its immensity–the architectural engineering of such a behemoth. I cannot, however, imagine such an extreme sort of lifestyle…and preferred to think of wandering about the rolling land, writing poems, listening to birds….riding horseback here and there, though I am not too experienced!
I’ve been thinking of California as it battles COVID-19, especially L.A., and hoping that conditions improve soon. Those thoughts led to photos taken near and on Monterey Peninsula in March 2016 when life felt carefree in most ways. We visited a daughter, then working at Sunset Center, a beautiful venue for performing arts in Carmel, and her spouse. I’m not sure when we might return. I wanted to step into those lovely areas today; perhaps you will enjoy them, also. I have so many more! I felt that the gleaming light there is one of a kind, and could not drink it in enough.
An imperturbable demeanor comes from perfect patience. Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune and misfortune at their own private pace like a clock during a thunderstorm.—Robert Louis Stevenson