From Stumbling to Stepping: Making Our Way in Portland

Before we knew our way around Portland, before the rain stuttered and summer passed and the rain returned in tsunamic downpours; before we had jobs and a mattress and a toilet of our own, Taylor and I sat on a bench in the Vancouver, Washington public library, a phone pressed to my ear as a reluctant voice told me we didn’t get the jobs we’d driven across the country for.

Three thousand miles from home in the middle of January, neither of us knew what to do. We didn’t want to drive back and we didn’t know where to go. We’d been living in a car. I was tired of driving and tired of fighting my tiredness. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to forget the whole trip happened, curl up in my warm, childhood bed and abandon adulthood.
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Camp Lake to Middle Sister

If there’s one thing I’ve learned how to do in the past seven years it’s how to pack for a backpacking trip. I’m always packing that extra layer, thinking of everything, because I hate wishing I had something on the trail or forgetting something important. And yet that’s exactly what happened when I arrived at the Pole Creek trail head in Sisters, Oregon last weekend. I was all packed and ready to go, with the exception of one crucial item—boots. My boots were no where to be found. I swore I had them in my hand when I left, how could I forget something like boots? But it didn’t matter how much I swore, how much I repeated, “I put them right there!” They were not right there. They were no where. They were at home, three hours away, in our one room apartment. Luckily I had my Chacos. If I were to hike in anything else, it would be my Chacos.

The first eight miles of trail was a mix of flat and gentle ascent, consisting of soft dirt and sand. I was thankful for that. Beautiful surroundings of the North, Middle, and South Sister volcanoes. The trail came to an end at Camp Lake, where we’d spend a night. I wanted to sleep right next to the lake so we could watch the sun set and look up at the stars. Once our tent was up, we left everything but a water bottle and headed for the summit of Middle Sister.

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The Phish Fest at The Gorge

“We’re like on a big hill right now!” Taylor says, referring to the thousands of people grooving on a grassy hill overlooking the Gorge amphitheater, the band Phish inducing musical waves upon us, the sea of heads drowning in dopamine. “We’re all being pulled towards the sound! No one is in the same place that they were before!” Taylor continues, in awe of the obvious.
“Gravity, dude!” I say, lightheartedly mocking the absurd pot-friendly hippie world we entered two days ago, like an alternate reality soaked in tie dye. Despite our state of mind, Taylor is right. No one in the crowd is in the same place they were before. Before the song, before the set, before the weekend. A weekend I can only describe as spectacular and extreme, from sweltering white heat to chilly darkness, relaxed bum-nothing days to sensory explosive nights, from who we are outside the Phish fest to who we are during. It’s the fourth and last set, and with the cotton candy sunset swallowed by nightfall, all I see are stage lights, blinking and twirling, stunning me into slack jawed amazement.

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Checking In, Stretching Out

It has been a while since I last posted, sorry about that. Not that anyone cares except my guilt and ego. Anyway, it will be a short post because I don’t have a lot to say. Actually, that’s a lie, I have so much to say but nothing that applies to the theme of my blog. I simply want to check in with the blogging muscles, like doing yoga after a long time without. My muscles might be tight, my breath shallow and unsteady, but we’ll work it out. The reason I haven’t been blogging, well, there are a few. One is that I am doing so much writing in other genres (yay!) This is good. Working in the evenings gives me all day to write in the solitude of my one room apartment or read in the sun at the park.

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The Homeless Man on 20th

It used to be much bigger, his tent. A month ago it was impossible to walk on the sidewalk. Five gallon buckets, shoes, sleeping bags, bottles, trash cans, a broom, a grocery cart, clothes, kitchen appliances, items collected from the street. Then one day it all disappeared, and so did the man. Only a dark, mysterious stain remained. Gradually items reappeared on the sidewalk. A tarp. A cart. A bucket. Then one day blended into the litter, I almost didn’t notice him sitting in a plaid button up shirt, cleaning his toes, red bites on his shins. He looked like something that shouldn’t be in sunlight. I saw him but didn’t really see him, reeled in by curiosity, deterred by fear and the social rule that it’s rude to stare.
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