What do you think of when a friend or family member mentions Portland, Oregon? For many, the knee jerk reaction is…. “Rain!” Other close seconds, like coffee culture, weirdos, bridges, food carts and green scenery might come to mind. Perhaps an outsdoors(wo)man thinks first of the bicycle friendliness, then Mt. Hood, the scenic Columbia Gorge, Mt. Rainer, Mt. St. Helens, Crater Lake and the proximity to the ocean and water sports. Maybe the business minded folks think of the Nike Headquarters, Intel Manufacturing Plant and the steel and logging industry. If you’re an artsy type, the local artisans and music scene might be familiar to your lifestyle. My first thoughts were of these big players as well. During my two and a half months of living here, many Portlandians have welcomed me into their beloved city and asked me , “How are you liking it here?” To their disappointment, I reply, “It’s a big transition….” Wilting smiles means they all take the time to carefully explain how they fell in love with Portland and promise that I will too. In return, I statistically deliver, “I’m coming from 320 days of sunshine to 300 days of clouds.” From here the advice flows freely, “Get outside everyday, even if its raining,” “Take trips during the winter to sunny places,” “Invest in good rain gear,” “Buy a vitamin D lamp and use it everyday.” One former Coloradan told me, “I just think of how brown and dry it looks in Colorado and how green it looks in Portland.” Problem is, I love brown… deadgrass was the color of my Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Sailor, before we got Ivyn. I’m listening Portland, and I’m grateful your friendly faces to share so willingly. Still, the answers and advice aren’t replacing my beloved native land of Denver, Colorado.
Leaning on my boyfriend, DB has a knack of many different sorts: movies, menus, physics, geology, geography and finding places to live. He did it once in Argentina, again in Denver and, for the hat trick…Portland. He wisely chose the safe and convenient area in Buenos Aires called Palermo Hollywood, in Denver we loved our location in Mayfair and now we live in the neighborhood known as “St. John’s.” Still coming out of its “hood” days, there are trendy, new shops and next to decrepit, abandoned spaces. Brand new homes (like our rental) standing next to very old homes with stray cats (our neighbors). There are still a lack of nearby restaurants and liquor is state owned out here, so only one liquor store to server an entire peninsula. We are on the peninsula of the city: 15 minutes from downtown, 30 minutes for DB to get to and from work, 45 minutes from farm/ wine country and 90 minutes from the beach. An excellent neighborhood, full of fun opportunities. DB, Ivyn and I miss Denver very, very much. However, our home is with each other, and we are in Portland.
Challenges of a new culture, new climate, new geography, uncovering the rules that go unsaid, but everyone else knows, faces me each time I step foot outside of my home. For example, the drivers out here will stop any time for pedestrians. In the middle of a busy street, the green light, the highway! The rules for driving aren’t the ones posted in street signals or traffic signs, they are unspoken and we experience frustration for not knowing the invisible rules. To maintain some balance, I began my ritual of yoga in Portland and was met with different styles, none of which matched mine. My employment applications in the education field
or the flaming rings of fire while performing a monkey dance, baffled me into a time-out. For months, my license sits in an electronic pile waiting for processing. My boyfriend from Cheyenne, Wyoming, walked into a colleague frenzy with the large capacity of employees. Small town kid grows up to be a lone researcher, then (poof!) a line worker in one of the highest producing plants in the world for a company that is “more stick than carrot.” With our work so incredibly changed, our lives seem so distant and different to what we had in Denver.
I thought I would be sampling tasty boutique beer or coffee in a pair of patterned rain boots after pedaling through some mist over a bridge. I thought every weekend would be jam packed with coastal adventures and discovery in the forest. Mostly DB and I work, making the transition to a new city with only some time to explore. Each evening DB claims his “5 hours of freedom,” with rest, dinner and time with our puppy, Ivyn. The weeks go by and the work gets done, the challenges of learning a new city and life balance and goes slower than I want.