Summer in sight. Tomatoes on their way. Time to slow down some, and here this afternoon, time to think about a few places on this planet that mean a lot to me.
That makes this a thank you note.
The mountain near my hometown of Portland, Oregon. The one now most often called Hood. The trails and rivers and woods up there, they’re part of me. They’ve been a part of me since I was a kid. In my imaginings here at the desk, I often find myself returning to that land up there, the mossy paths and the high country as well, those long views from the Timberline Trail.
The Oregon Coast. Several beaches come to mind, but I’ll go with the dunes at Nehalem Bay State Park near Manzanita. Those walks southward on that wild stretch of beach, and when you turn around, there’s Neahkahnie Mountain in the distance, the ocean on your left. Time dissipates, there’s warm starlight on the back of your neck, and for a long string of moments the madness of twenty-first century America subsides and your sense of ancient reality returns. You’re walking on a small planet that’s orbiting a middle aged star in one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe as we know it. There are more stars out there than all the grains of sand on all of Earth’s beaches. Imagine that.
New York City: thanks to you, also, for your unique gifts. For your people from all over the world, for your swagger, and for your pockets of tenacious character and clever resistance to big-moneyed players who seem addicted to homogeneity.
Salzburg, where as a young man I walked and walked the pathways to bier halls and cafes and mountains nearby. From where I caught trains and traveled in each direction, eyes open, hair wild, rail pass in pocket. Where I came to love reading books and studying and writing in a journal. At night sometimes we would stroll to the nearby lake and sit on a bench and talk, or walk through one of the Mönchsberg tunnels and into the old town where we’d grab a bier and then talk some more. Those days and nights of trying on new ideas, stretching our minds into the world and beyond, starting to become who we wanted to be.
I could name more places. Like most of central Oregon. The Annapurna range. The dunes of the Namib Desert. But what about my neighborhood, which isn’t far from the neighborhoods where I grew up? I should say thanks to it, too. And why does that seem harder? These sidewalks that I take each day, trees that I pass by and under, these houses and cats and shops. Yesterday while walking I even saw an enormous raccoon crossing 25th Avenue. It was late afternoon, sunny, and the raccoon was loping along in full daylight. When my dog and I stopped and stared, the raccoon stopped and stared, as if to say, “Yes? And?”
It’s here, this neighborhood in northeast Portland, that my eyes take in almost every day. And it’s here, of course, where vision can go dull or die away. So today, I say thanks to this place for being home in this beautiful, scarred world. For being a place from which I can go out and explore, and to which I can return, slow down, and fill up again.