BootsnAll Travel Network

Articles Tagged ‘Portland’

More articles about ‘Portland’
« Home

Portland Reads

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Here’s a shocker, taken directly from Your Library, a publication of the Portland (Multnomah County) Library: “The only library in the U.S. with higher annual circulation than your library, Queens Library in New York, serves a population more than three times the size of Multnomah County….” But I shouldn’t be surprised. One of the joys of living here is that everywhere I go, I see people reading (and not just on their laptops). In coffee shops. On the trolley or bus. Standing in line at the grocery store or the bank. Sitting in the park. And of course at the library and at Powell’s. I finished Julia Cameron’s memoir, a disappointment. Too much name-dropping. Too many cliches. The best thing she does is describe her manic episodes leading to psychotic breaks (which she calls breakthroughs). Apart from that, the general flabbiness of the language suggests to me that she relies too heavily on her Morning Pages (stream of consciousness writing) and too little on careful and caring word-craft. I feel mean (or as Bob says, cranky) saying this, but it appears to me that she suffers from a compulsion to be productive, something from which I hope I’m in recovery right now. She frightens me. I don’t want to write like she does, not for any amount of money. Reading her memoir is a good reminder to me to slow down, write less, and take more care with what I write. Jose Saramago and Proust are the antidote to her flaccid prose, and Italo Calvino’s Mr. Palomar just arrived today (thanks for the recommendation, Nacho).

More reasons to sing

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

This has been a day of reading (Julia Cameron’s memoir, a new Saramago novel, some Naomi Nye poems, and of course, Proust). As I cook my simple meals, I’ve been listening to Mavis Staples. And late this afternoon I went for a stroll in Forest Park, up to the stone house (the graffiti has been scrubbed off and the stones stand gray and clean, glistening, wet). The whole park is wet, fecund, succulent with the frenetic self-replicating rhythms of spring: the walls of the forest drip, little waterfalls run down rivulets in the moss, drops trickle off unfurling fiddlehead ferns, and the creek beside the trail splashes over rocks, whirls in deep eddies, and hurls itself over cliff-edges. Trillium is abloom everywhere: hundreds of thousands of blossoms flutter among the mosses and the ferns, white blossoms trembling in the afternoon chill. There are runners puffing up hill, lovers nuzzling under bright green new-leaf canopies; a young man is training his Rottweiler pup (“Ouch! No, Max, don’t bite my ankles, Max! Good Max!”); and a thirty-something man walks patiently beside (I suppose) his father who’s recovering from a stroke. The elder man holds a cane in his right hand, his left hand loose at his side and his left leg dragging just slightly, half of his face smiling wildly: walking again, that miracle.

The Bearable Lightness of Being

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

The Stars Have Not Dealt

by A.E. Housman

The stars have not dealt me the worst they could do:

My pleasures are plenty, my troubles are two.

But oh, my two troubles they reave me of rest,

The brains in my head and the heart in my breast.

O grant me the ease that is granted so free,

The birthright of multitudes, give it to me,

That relish their victuals and rest on their bed

With flint in the bosom and guts in the head. 

That comes from W.H. Auden’s Oxford Book of Light Verse, about which more in a moment. Since my last post I have taken more time alone, more time to be silent, time to walk, time to play fetch with my doggish little Abyssinian cat, and best of all, time to read. The result is a definite lightness of being, an easing up, a falling-away of tension and striving. Is that all it takes?  [read on]

Yuppie-land Farmer’s Market, Reflections on Living Single

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

It’s a halcyon day in Portland: sunny, blue-skied, a patter of flower petals falling off the trees with each breeze. Portland people with their dogs and kids are out in force. One weather report promises it will go up to 80 degrees F today, and I’m just back from my first trip to the Portland Farmer’s Market (a farmer’s market with its own website–that should have given me a clue). A few photos are here. At this market, one can purchase goat cheese for $15 a pound, a bouquet of flowers for $20, a mound of fresh multi-grain bread for $10, a pound of locally-grown nuts for $16, a dollop of vegan pesto for $9, and mixed lettuces for $8 a pound. [read on]


Friday, March 28th, 2008

Nothing like a few good juxtapositions to get a person going in the morning, like the big fat lazy snowflakes drifting through the Portland sky at this moment, falling on cherry blossoms and melting instantly. Eating breakfast at the table by the window, I saw a jogger in shorts, a long-sleeved T-shirt and tennis shoes, carrying an umbrella to fend off snowflakes. Or how about this news? My new home town has the world’s first vegan strip club. Or as a local newspaper put it, “Boobs with a Side of Soy.” Will this business be able to overcome the economic doldrums besetting the rest of the country? Only time will tell.

The world is so full of a number of things/ I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings. –Robert Louis Stevenson

I doubt there is a king in the world as happy as I am with my life. The work on the book goes well. Chloe is curled warmly on the top of my chair. And nothing in the world is dependable but change. As Faust said, thereby damning himself to hell, “Linger a while, thou art so fair.”


Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.”–Jorge Luis Borges

This is the inscription over the main door to the Portland library. I set out today to get to the river park, but I failed. I passed the Bearing Service Company, its walls lined with small compartments full of bearings of every conceivable size. If anyone wants to find their bearings, I know where to send them. I got as far as the library, wandered in, and ended up spending a couple of hours in it, enjoying the architecture, the proportions, the light, the long wooden tables and rather stern wooden chairs, the friendly librarians, the books on display, the arrangement of rooms, the bustle and joy. First there is that inscription, which made me smile, and then I stepped into the main lobby, with its large white-streaked-with-garnet marble columns and its grand art deco staircase, black stone stairs wonderfully etched with natural motifs (foliage, a trout, a bear, a monkey [?],  intermingled with a violin, a rolling pin, an envelope, an inkstand, with words woven into the design: CREATE, DISCOVER, HOPE, SEEK). The main reading rooms are two stories high, with fifteen-foot windows to let in the light.  I climbed the broad staircase to the third floor (domed, beautifully lit) past all the look-alike portraits of white men in black suits, to a colorful portrait of Dorothy D. Hirsch, a gray-haired woman surrounded by books and greenery, a woman who looks like everybody’s favorite well-informed, well-read, civilized librarian–someone you would expect to make outrageous, irreverent, hilarious observations. In the painting there’s a book by Ursula LeGuin on the table by Dorothy. [read on]

Portland by camera

Friday, March 21st, 2008

I make absolutely no claim to being a photographer, but this city is so gorgeous I can’t help pointing and shooting, and everywhere I aim the camera there is more beauty. So here is what I saw this afternoon. I uploaded everything to Flickr, including pictures of Chloe and one picture of the outside of this high-rise I now live in. Sadly, my little cheap digital camera cannot do justice to the shades of gray in the sky. The skies in the pictures just look white, but they are not white. They are at least a hundred shades of gray, rolling clouds and cloud-banks constantly changing like the sea. Every picture in this set was made within a ten-block radius of my new home. Don’t you wish you lived here?

Making commitments

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

OK, the newness has worn off. I live in Portland now. It’s time to clean the bathroom, do laundry, buy groceries, and get on with it. I did the new-girl-in-town thing, pushing past my native shyness to thrust myself into social situations (Chinese aerobics, the UU church, a writing workshop, a reading, a writer’s group, meetings with some splendid local women I found online, a kindly tax man, and a playful and worldly barber who cut my hair). I’ve met a fascinating array of people, some of whom may become real friends, given time and circumstance, so I feel I can now back off, quit pushing myself, and wait to see what comes. I’m a little more than halfway through the second volume of Proust, and because Proust’s angst-ridden introspection is so much like my own that when it doesn’t make me laugh it wears me out, I’ve also picked up Snow, by Orhan Pamuk. I rekindled my Netflix subscription and have a few good films to look at. But what do I want to commit to, other than my own writing and the self-indulgent pleasures of life beyond employment? Now that I have no excuse NOT to walk my talk, how do I want to contribute to the world in this place? That is the question. [read on]


Thursday, February 28th, 2008

 This comes from Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, which I enjoyed watching last night: “The best moments in reading are when you come across something–a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things–that you’d thought special–particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met. Maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” I can’t agree that those are the best moments in reading (there is also much to be said for the pleasure of encountering inner and outer realms one has never seen or imagined, for knowledge of the unknown, and for ideas one has never had), but I do relish that hand Bennett speaks of, and it seems to have been the theme of the day yesterday. [read on]

A book, Chinese aerobics, a garden

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

 Portland continues to uncurl to me. I’m discovering what it’s like to be free of wage-earning employment, moving forward on my current writing project. Yesterday I received a copy of a book of poetry written by homeless women in Seattle. Monday and Tuesday I attended the Chinese Aerobics, and this afternoon a new friend took me to the Japanese Gardens. [read on]