Month: November 2018

Embracing Inefficiency

I left at 7:25 am, walked against the flow morning traffic along the gravel edge of my street and hopped onto 32nd after crossing Capitol Hwy. It’s peaceful now, just neighborhood houses with luminous pumpkins glowing in the thick fog alongside outrageous spider webs, comedic skeletons and other Halloween bric-a-brac. Thirty-second street jogs around at Florida then crosses Vermont into a part of the neighborhood I’ve never been in. I descend into the dark greens, glowing yellows and oranges of Autumn admiring the quaint homes of an old woodsy neighborhood. I take a staircase in and out of a little gully to Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy and cross to a path through Hillsdale Park which spans Trillium Creek on a narrow, chain-link covered bridge. The fencing has collected an impressive crown of maple leaves under the dark forest along the creek making it into the kind of tunnel where one would expect to find trolls or woodland sprites.

The terrain steepens and I note that this will not be the same low-key bit of exercise as my amble through Gabriel Park the other day. I climb the railroad tie steps through a narrow passage between one-off homes in Southwest Hills, stop to check my notes to the map, and continue upward to Council Crest. The trees at the crest are layered by distance and fog in a stately veil of gray. I walk through them along a leaf covered path to the Hilltop intersection then plunge into another swath of urban forest on the Marquam trail, traffic noise steadily picking up as I get closer to Sunset Hwy.

I have to admit that I’m tired and this might not be the most realistic way to get to the Arboretum on a regular basis. That wasn’t the hope but it would be nice to never have to drive. It’s 20 minutes by car to Hoyt from my house but it feels like a harrowing trek with all the traffic and impatience. This walk is far more enjoyable. In part, I planned to do this as an experiment in not being so captured by time. So often on my walks I feel hurried to get back to the studio to work.

The last couple walks I took after embracing inefficiency were so luxurious and relaxing I know that I need to do this regularly even if I can’t exactly sell my car. I cross Hwy 26 and step into the Arboretum 2 hours and 10 minutes after leaving home. A little farther to the meadow behind the Forestry Center I stop to take a rest under a maple. Juncos flit about overheard, yellow leaves dart from their branches into the unknown spaces below, filtering through the limbs then landing on the ground.

When I start walking again I am suddenly unable to absorb the beauty spilling out of every inch, so many textures, lines and colors; dark seed pods creating dense rhythms against the embers of glowing leaves on an intricate lace of limbs, everything soft in the damp air. The black Walnut stops me in my tracks; just the leaves on the tips of the branches remain, a delicate, earthy yellow, gracefully arced and sparse like a Phillip Glass composition. Each main branch makes it’s own angled pane in the sky in differing shades of gray. Fog is a much better painter than I will ever be.

The tupelo trees have shed most of their leaves, just a week ago they were full and red and brilliant.

The gerding maple, with yellow leaves so pale they look erased, feels to be halfway between here and eternity, juncos camouflaged on the trail dart into the grass as I approach. They seem to be everywhere in the park at once.

When I am too tired to wander anymore I take the MAX train to my favorite coffee shop and draw what I can remember of the walk but mostly I want to do it all over again.

A week later I do. This time the sun comes out as I arrive at Hoyt. I lay down in the grass under the London Plane trees, sinking deeper into a day with no agenda. To rest, to have nowhere to go at any specific time is a mind-altering experience with no unwanted side-effects. Each junco and robin sailing above, each leaf twirling wildly in the breeze are like fables of lost truths generously stitching themselves back into my being where I lay, half-erased like the leaves of the gerding. The manuscript of everything I want to do with my life fades into eternity, each ambitious plot erased into one line of a richly questionable poem.



Three Walks

Gabriel Park

Today I wander out into the day with a singular desire to immerse myself in beauty. I leave in the mist and walk to Spring Garden Park mostly preoccupied with my thoughts but walking along the soft trail of cedar chips though the grey-green landscape feels quaint—of some other, better century. I head to the Village, stop by the restaurant to pick up my paycheck and deposit it in the ATM a block away then wander towards Gabriel Park feeling even more quaint for having accomplished a necessary errand by foot.

Gabriel Park is majestic The wooded area along the creek holds layers of colors and textures that are especially thrilling in Autumn when the canopy rusts down and bares the rough branches, the dark air of the wood, the diligent generation of soil from leaves and twigs.

Fall is so lovely I want to walk along every path of the park. I plot out the best course from the end of Nevada street and immediately begin ignoring my surroundings in favor of mentally arranging my life so I can do this all the time.


Occasionally I notice my transgression and focus instead on the grace of the hills sweeping the skyline,  a crow’s silhouette slipping overhead in its usual poetry. The sun breaks loose right at the edge of the cedar grove where the chickadees and cedar waxwings talk among themselves above the tiny trace of a creek flowing through the lowest point of the park.

Back in the streets, the cacophony of starlings on the electric lines, juncos hopping along a stone wall chipping in the company of a single crow while robins chuckle loudly across the street.


Woods Memorial

I didn’t mean to walk to Woods Memorial. It seemed a good day to be unambitious but Dolph street found me not ready to go home, “I may as well walk to Woods Memorial.” I think.

It’s not as far as I’d imagined so I descend into the park towards the creek and walk up the Staircase Trail to the empty, forest-lined street on the other side. I’ve never walked this trail to its end before and I’m enchanted with this empty street. The dense forest on the other side, the little grassy area near the trailhead.

The Little Trail takes me back to the creek to head home while the sun comes out over the houses on Marigold Street and lights up the yellow leaves in the tops of the big-leaf maples.

It is not a small thing to me to be out in the soft grey day, the Autumn sun breaking lose in a splendor of green and gold with silvery edges where the rain lays. I live for these moments as though collecting tokens in a game. Each one leveling up my existence from a struggle with a jerry-rigged psychology to a human element entwined with the weather, geologic history, paths of deer and every being’s song.

Multnomah Village

I don’t notice the day turn to dusk out the giant windows of the restaurant as I stretch my multi-tasking ability past it’s fullest capacity, orchestrating people’s food and beverage consumption in a giant obstacle course of dishes, sharp objects, scalding liquids, and elaborate requests that need to be typed into a computer designed to be a cash register—all timed by at least 13 different people’s sense of patience and need.

Mostly it goes well but there are always moments that try me. It goes best when I make an effort not to judge people according to my own, very personal, set of pet peeves and deflect the same directed at me, but I am no Buddha.

Tonight I tried to stifle a sneeze while taking an order and it came out sounding like a very purposeful and exaggerated clown fart. The lovely, put-together woman at the table gave me a long, icy look of disbelief which seemed to say, you are too gouache to be in my existence, I’m filing a complaint with God immediately. Even absurd moments like this take energy to let slide so I am pretty wound up by the end of each meal.

At the end of this shift, in which I failed to notice the day slip into night, it is soothing to walk out into the black air of the rainy neighborhood, the gentle cadence of water meeting the street and roofs, big wet drops plopping out of trees in a melodic timbre. There is no challenge to be in this song as I walk the narrow streets under trees in the damp night before I make it home.