ode to portland
Portland, Oregon (2022)
hello & welcome ✩
It’s the end of September, and I’m happy to be writing to you from a lush beach town in New Zealand. Rain pours into the clam-filled tide pools and the mountains are blanketed with clouds. As the comforts of fall approach the Northern hemisphere, New Zealand begins its journey into spring.
To be honest, I haven’t thought of home very much during my first two weeks here. But I knew I wanted to start this blog off with an ode to Portland. Throughout my 28 years, I’ve only called one city home. Up until adulthood, I only ever lived in one house, which my parents still inhabit today—the girlish screams of me and my sisters now replaced with those of my two nieces.
This past summer brought on various feelings of belonging and identity as I came to terms with moving to the other side of the world. I’ve always known that Portland is a special place, but the role it’s played in forming who I am has always been an afterthought.
One particular day in August comes to mind when the essence of Portland really hit me. I was taking the MAX train North into downtown; as I passed Portland State University, fond memories of my college years and the bitter-sweetness of my late teens/early 20s overtook me to the point of tearing up.
Before Trump took office in 2016, my college years were some of the safest and most stable years in Portland (there are reports on this)—think 2012-2015. As I passed through campus on the train, I was overjoyed to see some semblance of life and peace as students busied about getting settled into their new apartments and partaking in campus activities.
On this same August day, I took the train line the other way after my shift at the photo gallery. I was struck with remorse as I looked at the same downtown as on the way in, just one block down. Here in the most central part of town, I took in the empty buildings, boarded-up walls, and quiet corners where businesses used to thrive.
The Pioneer Place mall and Apple Store are still standing, but in shame. On that day, only a single shop window at the mall bore the appearance of any effort with a meager display of a few Marc Jacobs hats and gloves.
The Apple Store was a capitalistic nightmare from the get-go, with its glass infrastructure arrogantly showing off the expensive merchandise within. Now, the glass walls sit surrounded by a 30-foot steel wall and cement blocks; any sense of superiority squashed by the realities of a struggling city.
All of this to say; Portland is a complex place to call home. It has its flaws, and no matter what side of the political scale you sit on, you probably have valid concerns regarding the city’s prejudiced past (and present), and its uncertain future.
Yet, Portland has shown me what true tenderness looks like; when the shiny veil of America has been whisked away, and all you have left are people with the will to progress and move forward. Even during the stable years of my time at university, Portland taught me resilience and reasoning—qualities that have aided me in our shakey, explosive world.
city of roses forever ♡