Monday’s Meanders: Portland, Momentarily Subdued

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.

A huge fountain is usually spraying up and over the cement right above these steps and kids and dogs run in and out of the water, adults coming and going.

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.

This is where half of the popular Saturday Market (also open on Sundays) is set up every week-end in more normal times from March until end of December. It has been closed for a year.
The other half, across the street, began here and, below, continued through the 2nd and 3rd sets of columns and beyond. Strange to see no one stirring.
The wonderful train ran through the city and to many points beyond. We hopped on for dec ades all year long to get to great destinations. There are very few running now, if any–and rather few buses in use.
Normally, of course, there would be scads of people lounging, talking with friends, eating on the vast lawn along the river.
We are the City of Roses and of vast ingenuity. We will come back, in time.

Monday’s Meanders: “Wishbone” Island

Mary S Young State Park

A major wind storm is stirred up– no rain, just warm, parched winds off the Cascade Mountains east of here. This is really not the usual. This high wind warning may last for a couple of days. A red flag warning is also up for fire danger, which is usual at this time. The gusts might reach 45-65 mph. An acrid haze of smoke from fires in our many forests covers all–the fires ar not close and we hope to keep it that way. I had to shut windows before writing, as my throat was getting sore, eyes burning. We live among very tall trees, near the top of an extinct volcano; here’s hoping nothing topples!

On a cheerier note, here is an array of photos from a recent day jaunt to Mary S. Young State Park, 128 peaceful acres along the Willamette River–and rather close to our place. I love the color in these, as the day was bright and hot. Many people were enjoying family water fun. The island was something we stumbled upon as we followed a path farther than usual on our mini-hike.

We were greeted with an abundance of flowers that favor bees and butterflies as we entered.

As we headed out, someone’ small dog, at left, seemed keen to follow.

It took only about 10-15 minutes to spot water and we followed a mostly rocky shoreline. The happy voices of folks big and small were sweet to the ears–and nature’s music, as well, of birds. There were small skittering creatures, four-legged and no-legged–a snake, slugs, fish–and so many birds and dragonflies and other bugs.

Leaving this stretch of river, a family skirted us as we moved away. (Many were not wearing mass–when near water they seem to abandon them, but we place our back on whenever we note people coming close. Rather safe than sorry…)

We followed a path we hadn’t taken before when visiting and were surprised where it led.

A very small, wishbone-shaped island! We do have many in the Willamette River, just have not been to this one. More sunbathers and swimmers lounged and gallivanted–and kids romped! There was a canal, I would guess to call it, around the island.

We crossed the metal bridge to find a ramshackle sign admonishing us to follow all rules. Then we continued to the other side, a quick trip through woods and brush.

Flip through the slide show to see more of what I saw as we checked things out and headed back to the other side again.

It was another very hot day in the 90s (Fahrenheit) so it was time to head home after an hour and a half exploring.

The way back was steeper at times but mostly flatter–still good exercise as we kept the pace up.

A satisfying day in the state park! I will end with another shot of that curious pop–this was a dog run area, it turns out. We all enjoy our outings as summer comes to a slow closing in the Pacific Northwest. But when these smoky winds and fires ease up, it will be much better again…Have a good week, everyone!

Monday’s Meander: Elk Rock Garden of Bishop’s Close

Once or twice a year I post about this graceful, fully accessible garden spread over 13 acres. It changes wonderfully over seasons and displays a fascinating mix of botanical life. The house was built in 1914 by a Scottish businessman, Peter Kerr, to resemble a Scottish manor. It was built along the Willamette River to also give a good view of Mt. Hood in the distance. At his death in 1957, his daughters decided to give it to the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon, with a provisory clause that the garden be open to visitors.

Wandering there gives rise to deep peace. Join Marc and me as we stroll about on a recent visit.

Outdoor altar for the Holy Eucharist, for staff at the Diocese ; it is covered in kiwi vine.