An Enchanted Forest

It is not every day that I find magic in the city. No, that's not quite right. I'll try again...

It is not every day that I allow time to find magic in the city. As I rush from point A to B, I award very little attention for the slow moving pace of nymphs and creatures everlasting. But they are here regardless of my notice, hidden in the cracks of sidewalks and the limbs of painted trees. I was given a short break in my otherwise task filled day to meander a park and forget the city. I found an enchanted forest among the populated hills and concrete blocked buildings. Magic jumped from a crevice, shook off the sluggishness of eternity and said, "Yes, life is worth living. I will show you."

I was led, hand in hand with Eternity, to see the gift of Autumn.

We walked first through the ravine floor- black with mud and fertile from years of vegetation falling in on itself. The warmth of a spring sun encouraging trees to reach and stretch toward the bluing sky, grow large with maturing green, sour at the retreating day and collapse heartbroken and happy to the earth below. The sun will leave the trees here, sleeping quietly while hearts mend, courage builds and life erupts once again from the false graves of decay and mud. Among the trunks and roots of giants, I felt the tension of this delicate dance outside myself; my own yearning sundial assuaged by the cyclical nature of this and all seasons.

From the ground, we climbed out of the mud and to the skies, mimicking yawn and stretch of spring while surrounded by a restive dying. The beauty swept my breath away as hills of golden tree tops spread out in every direction. Where had the city gone, less than half a mile away? I watched leafy bodies bigger than my two hands give themselves up and float gracefully to the ground far, far below. The wind they disturbed whispered from the ravine, Goodbye now, until we meet again. Here, in the enchantment of this forest, I was flying. I could watch leaves and let them fall without feeling the familiar pull on my own body to glide with them. Goodbye for now. Sleep sweet until we meet again.

In the fall, I feel driven to the brink of sanity by a nervous fear. I watch as the world grows more and more beautiful with the break of every new dawn and every waning evening. I panic, knowing that this moment is the most beautiful I have ever seen- no other moment in my life will surpass the glowing reds and burning yellows completely filling my vision. Life takes on an urgency to live- and to live to the fullest, instantly, for tomorrow we die. But how can I gather my rosebuds, I think desperately when the world is conjuring up the biggest grand finale I have ever seen? How can I forgive myself if I miss the standing ovation and chance of encore? So instead I watch, entranced in the dance of the dying world without realizing that I am not myself dancing and dying. The line between performer and audience becomes hopelessly blurred.

From my perch at tree canopy tops, I am momentarily gifted with sight usually reserved for gods and immortals- Eternity introduces me to the strength and perseverance of an endless cycle between sky and earth and tree and light. Tomorrow the beauty may be gone, but only dead for a season before returning once again. The natural world has a strength to push past death to rebirth that I am not meant to follow lest it destroy me and I collapse on myself in one fatal breath. Perhaps we experience rebirth in the end, but my strength comes in moving through rather than up and down and up again. Returning to the city from the park, I am finally ready to let go and whisper with the approaching night, "Yes, life is very much worth living."


Nothing Gold Can Stay

Something is in the air. It spins around my head and makes me dizzy. It fills my lungs and the weight of it allows breath, but only so and laboriously. This strange and intoxicating air passes into my veins and bewitches my blood, speeding up my heart and making the surrounding world feel crowded and small- the box top sky begins to drop down and the sides of tree limbs spread their arms to grasp and hold. Everything is suddenly overwhelming and I feel the need to run. Change drives my racing heart like an engine and a voice whispers with the wind nothing, nothing gold can stay.

I shuffle papers on a desk that doesn't belong to me but someone with more permanence. I advert my eyes down to the fake wood surface and pretend that this morning is like every previous morning. I try to breath deep and calm the whisper's intensity: then leaf subsides to leaf/ and Eden sinks to grief,/ so dawn goes down to day/ nothing gold can stay. Blaring on the radio, the falsetto voices of middle class white acoustic guitarists- wedding music, I have come to call it as I continue to lose friends and family to happy ever after- doesn't help the situation. No, they only make this crawling, itching feeling worse as they spew promises of love that I don't believe exists.

Outside, the world is suffering through another death, another autumn. Like every year, I don't have the strength to stand by, passive, and watch the beauty fade while my heart breaks again and again. The leaves of every tree, in a blushing but morose swansong, put on their evening gowns and throw themselves from their heights, catching wind before gravity pulls their bodies to the screaming rocks below. Crippled and broken- splayed on rock, pavement and trapped in gutter and drain- the brilliant red fades to brown fragile skeletons.

From somewhere within a well adjusted me, a voice calls into the void that justice can't be so- this dying, screaming, pulling fight and the blackness of the dreadful night- surely there must be beauty that centers and grounds the otherwise fraying horizons of my sanity. A normal me doesn't feel suicidal, but this thing in the air causes me to pause at high places and wonder if my body would fall as gracefully to the rock below. Do not go gentle into that good night No. No, I mustn't give into the the yawning pull of the cliff's edge and the warm embrace of insanity. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I used to chase the sun. While I was out playing in the woods, I would suddenly notice the golden light of a nearly departed day. In near panic, I would turn myself west and start running full speed toward the fading light. If I can only make it to the crest of this hill, I would think hopefully, then day not need leave me here. I can extend it on. Something beautiful was leaving me behind and it was my own weakness, my inability to keep a fast enough pace, that would strand me in the loneliness of the approaching night. The branches of thick, darkening underbrush would tear at my arms and legs. Cold stream water would soak through my shoes and make my socks feel slimy. Sometimes I would make it to the top of the hill before collapsing to cry, realizing that the sun would go on setting and so much land still stood between myself and that lofty brilliant orb. Dirty earth bound and disheartened, I would turn from the last glowing beams of the day and resign myself to await the coming dawn. I never liked the darkness and the night.

To fight the approaching season of winter, I will not stand by passively. I will go adventuring into this good night. Perhaps somewhere among the dancing, dying leaves I will find enough beauty to get me through til dawn.

Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.


"Keep Portland Weird"

I took a trip to Portland recently to visit some friends. Portland has a battle cry, of sorts, that you find posted on bumpers, bikes and random local businesses around the city: "Keep Portland Weird." I think street festivals are designed and attended with this goal in mind. While walking the Alberta Street Festival, I was lucky to capture a few moments and interactions that endear me to this city and keep me coming back.

Portland is the land of bikes. There are big bikes, kiddie bikes, bikes with one really large front wheel, pile bikes, bike-cart food vendors... the list goes on and on. If you live in Portland and don't own a fixed gear, vintage, or custom bike, you are a minority.

A cute dog, but not really living up to the spirit inflicted upon her by her owners.

Very nearly every barista and waiter/waitress in Portland is a struggling artist. This explains why restaurant service is consistently terrible and something as simple as a crosswalk bears some mark of expression. I can't figure out if this is a dragon shooting fire or the Candy Land Chocolate Swamp Monster sneering at a misbehaving hand. That Chocolate Swamp Monster used to terrify my six year old self.

I ran into a guy that was super excited about Organic Cotton Candy. I didn't really understand the concept, but I guess organic refined sugar is better than not organic refined sugar?

T.Nice and his college fund. This kid rocked out on a bucket for hours collecting money for college. He is a drum master prodigy and will more than likely get a full ride to the university of his choice.

Snotty little kids with ice cream, balloons and filthy mouths. Luckily, their jests were turned more toward each other than strangers who happened upon them. However, I did get a look after taking this picture telling me they were not pleased.

Autumn is my favorite season in Portland. This is a beautiful restaurant kitchen garden.

Ignoring the distressed cries from below, this balloon made to escape but got stuck in the trees, inadvertently taunting the teary-faced former owner.

My friend was taken in by the brightly colored sugar ice. I could only guess at the color of her urine the next day.

Portland also houses a very large subculture of belly dancers. I once showed up for a belly dancing lesson but the weekly class was canceled. Part of me was relieved, as I didn't have the make-up or bangles necessary to make the experience authentic and my mid-section tends to do better shrouded in clothes.

Last but not least, the Green Gym that provides live music while you work out!! I would say this is the strangest thing ever, but after much contemplation, I would have to give that title to Portland and all its quirkiness.