It’s one of those sparkly days between rains as the sun came out again (note to self: AS IT DOES) so I walk through Hoyt Arboretum. The bright warmth cuts through the cool air and the trees approach their glory, fiery crowns dotting the hillsides, grass thick and green under my shoes. The earth smells damp in a nice clean way, not that swampy wet smell of death. Squirrels and birds celebrate as do lovers, mothers, children, dogs, old folks, and everything in between, soaking in sunlight and beauty as we gird our loins for an impending week of rain. This is Portland on those days between, the reason I never before minded the coming of Fall.
The mid-October gift of sunshine makes me feel like the Grinch as his heart grows three sizes bigger. After my mournful self-pitying September, I’m a magnet soaking in the positive ions, the delightful magic of the world, reintegrating my jagged edges into my body.
My last post about the Equinox was a bit doomy and gloomy. Once the rain slowed, the air warmed again, and the fall colors glowed, my mood improved. Perhaps, I thought, I ought to follow up with some less dire writing.
The Arboretum feels friendlier than the Tryon Creek forest of that last post, or perhaps that’s the design, a managed and well-kept woods, neatened around the borders even as things grow wild, swaths of open space and sky. The trees are harbors of safety, their healthy spreading limbs reach out protectively in an embrace, draping gracefully, wrapping, lifting, caressing.
What a difference a day makes. On the periphery I see that same death, bare branches, fallen brown leaves. But now I pass them by, face lifted upward, celebrating the magic of overarching blue with reds, yellows, greens, and oranges dotting the horizon and the ground underneath. The trees are perfect triangles, their tips fairly dancing, everything lifted and exuberant rather than drooping and tired.
How can the woods change so dramatically? Clearly it’s me and what I bring to the world and to my experience that makes or breaks how I respond and what I take in. How much power do I have over that, how much choice?
The next day I walk alongside the Willamette River. The surface is still, a sheet of glass reflecting the colors above. Nearby bushes rustle with hidden life. White, purple, and red berries flourish along the path, and Chestnut pods sprout above and explode underfoot. My health and good fortune ring in my ears, my youth and strength my guiding light.
The leaves and seeds tell me that Fall is a time of letting go and I try to listen better. I walk my neighborhood, and the barer branches make way for the sound of the distant freeway, slightly more audible than in leaf-shrouded summer. The thin shooshing sounds like persistent ocean waves rolling in the distance, but of course that’s no salty smell in the air, just wood smoke and damp pine needles.
I learned from my parents (for better or worse) that food and drink chase away the blues – at least temporarily. So I indulge in one of my favorite Portland experiences at Cacao, just around the corner from Powell’s Bookstore. What heaven to walk into this quiet café and breathe in aromas of brewing chocolate. A few patrons sit at large tables, silently tapping away on devices. Stacks of exotic chocolates from around the world line the shelves; light, dark, flavored with cinnamon, raspberry or sea salt, creatively packaged. But it’s my favorite – thick, warm, drinking chocolate with a shot of espresso (called Shot in the Dark) – that makes life worth living! Really, I’m easy to please once I open myself up to the possibilities.
I know I must pay less attention my ephemeral moods, my minor aches, my weak complaints. Better to keep my face pointed to the sky even as it greys, and add an extra layer of clothes. The backyard is on fire as leaves of the blueberry bushes turn red and yellow. I eat the berries we froze last July sprinkled into my morning yogurt. I write in my notebook, drink chocolate, sing, play and listen to good music, immerse myself in a good book, walk amongst trees and rivers, nuzzle with family members, and breathe.
What more could I really want… even as I secretly look forward to spring?
Parking lot wisdom