I drove the Columbia River Gorge from eastern Washington to Portland, Oregon. An exquisitely beautiful drive. I forgot about green. I forgot about tall trees that compete to reach the sky. Moss that covers everything in sight forming a wall of green. A wall of green and thick, humid air. Water does amazing things for the earth. I stop at Multnomah Falls on the way – from about 500 feet up it plunges down to the pool below & spills over another 100 foot drop. I press on toward Portland and almost stop several times on the side of the road when I spy some good-looking fiddleheads. All of this taking me back to my time in Maine where I learned to spot good fiddleheads on the side of the road. The green fills me and reminds me.
I meet Cedric in Portland & we seem to find some of the best food the city has to offer. We discover Ken’s Artisan Bakery, so much fine dining, the most amazingly fresh, local ingredients, an incredible Cheese Bar where we score a full POUND of cheese for lunch for our hike back up the gorge. You’ve got to do some serious exercise to indulge in all the yumminess Portland has to offer. And Portland has just the backyard for it.
We find a great hike up 1800 ft that promises 360-degree-views. It turns out to be a perfect day – cool, a little wind, & even some sun. I forgot how lovely it is to walk through humid forest. Life abounds. Green drips off trees & covers everything that’s not maintained on the trail. I sweat & sweat & clear my skin. I’m happy on the earth. I take it in and remember my spirit. I remember what fills me. Blackness recedes as green overcomes.
We take turns carrying a baguette all the way. You can’t have cheese without a baguette!!! We get about 3/4 the way to the top and see the first of only a few people we will see. A group of 3. The woman sees me, scaling up a rocky incline with baguette, and exclaims “Is that a baguette?!?” Why yes, I tell her. I point to Cedric – and say “French.” She laughs and says that they have been poking fun at their French friend who brought cheese, on a hike, up the mountain! Then up the trail comes woman with baguette! Too funny. The baguette was my Frenchman’s idea, but the cheese was all me! Cedric & I exclaim “Is that a baguette?!?!” all the rest of the way up.
One last pull to the top and we have a decadent and well-deserved, lunch of exquisite cheeses and baguette. Food tastes better when you work hard for it.
I enjoy cheese and wonderful company from a high perch in the gorge. I look out onto the earth. The top of the earth, from my perspective. I take it in and feel my tentacles running deep through green and green and green. Through pungent dirt, through rock and into the hot, molten core of the earth. Things melt away. Everything melts away. I’m left with my core. I sit in wonder of this. I sit in wonder looking at myself. At my core. Everything stripped away and it’s just me. It’s me! It’s me! It solidifies. I feel it as if a steel rod suddenly runs the length of me grounding me in truth. I feel exquisitely comfortable in my own skin. I have pulled myself free from the depths. Up through the surface I come. Not like the whale’s breach as I anticipated. Instead like a gull who dives under for a fish, then quietly pops up onto the surface of the water and floats there. Pops up quietly and shakes off water. Content to be carried by the ocean. Quiet and still. Grounded somehow on tumbling waves. I let the waves carry me. Close my eyes and feel strength build and coarse through me after so long struggling. I am here. I look out over the Columbia gorge and see how far I’ve come up already. Cedric & I enjoy fine cheese and cool air.
That’s just the first day. We have more incredible food and hit the coast the next day. Hike down to the beach and I freeze my feet off in the Pacific. I had to! I plunge my feet in sand afterward and take in cool, ocean air. Mmmmm. Nothing more grounding than ocean and sand.
We eat oysters and drink beer. Hold hands and walk the coast. We hike up and wonder at Oregon’s largest Sitka Spruce. Trees that grow all the way up to the top of the sky. This tree was 15 feet in diameter and reaching 144 feet high. That’s about 14 stories! Some 800 years old. This tree has been here on this spot on the earth for 800 years. It grew from a seed to this.
We drive back to Portland and plan our next wonderful meal. I don’t know now if it was Park Kitchen or Paley’s Place. We ate at both and I don’t know if I could tell you which was better. Wonderfully prepared, beautifully presented, warmly hosted, local fare. All I can say is YUM and when do we go back? When Cedric?!
Out the next day to hike around wine country in Willamette Valley all day. We find some dirt roads to trek out through fields of vines and take in Oregon Spring. Stumble upon one of about 100 wineries and go in for a tasting.
Back to Portland to see family that knows no bounds, no passage of time. Joseph, my cousin, and partner Ruby whom I’ve seen now 3 times in 10 years. Years and distance fall away. Their children plop down easily right into my heart.
I am happy to re-connect with these folks. Earthy and family that’s easy. Perfect excuse to visit Portland again and again….see you soon Jules & Josie!