Sightseeing in Portland
After all, I've got to endure the plane all the same...

I took a redeye home, and this image doesn't do justice to the colors I actually saw. And, thankfully, no-one has attempted to copyright the sky. Or ban cameras as carryons. Yet.

It finally dawned on me that since Gathering is generally held in interesting cities—Oakland, CA, Boulder CO, Alexandria VA—that maybe I should stay an extra day or two and check these towns out. Last year I stayed in Lowell one extra day, Monday, but of course all the museums are closed on Mondays. Moreover, I didn't feel comfortable traveling from Lowell to Boston, where all the really cool stuff was. This year, however, Portland featured proximity to relatives and outdoor goodies, most notably gardens. And, since I stayed two extra days, I was able to check out the Portland Museum of Art as well. Besides an absolutely splendid collection of American Indian beadwork, a nice little collection of ‘Ethiopian crosses’ and a wonderful life-sized mixed media piece called something like Western Motel (which the volunteer docent didn't like because it “was messy” but I just loved—it was a diorama of a sleazy hotel office, with chair, pipe, book, window, neon, etc.) I also went through the RAU collection, a sort of mishmash of five centuries of European art, mostly paintings that nevertheless included some beautiful stuff. And the mosaic magnets were half off (I collect ’em—so useful for displaying postcards and the like on my various metal cabinets.)

Click on the images below for 512 pixel wide versions.

The Asian sensibilty is very attuned to the idea of ‘framing’ one's view; this shot from the block sized Chinese garden, located in Chinatown, (downtown Portland) illustrates the counterintuitive view that smaller, or subdivided windows, are sometimes better than a single large one.


I should note that, in addition to the best public tranportation I've ever encountered (not that I've encountered all that many, but this one was so head and shoulders above anything else I've ever experienced) Portland is also the most bike friendly town of my knowledge. In fact, some of the traffic signals are bike specific, (for bike turns) with little bicycle logos on the red, amber, and green lights. I was so sorry not to get a picture of the one I encountered, nor of the steel bridge, though that is documented elsewhere on the web.

Portland generally has mild and relatively rainy weather, which makes it great for gardeners (not to mention many homeless), though I was lucky to just miss an unusual 105 degree heat wave. Portland is the ‘City of Roses’ not least because the International Rose Test Garden is located there. They have three big waves of blooms, the first and most dramatic being mid-June; the second was just coming off its peak when I visited at the end of July; and the third is in September. The vivid pleasure I felt among those roses isn't something I can really describe—not joy precisely, but revved up serenity, perhaps.


I would've enjoyed seeing some of the stained glass for which Portland churches are supposed to be famous, but haven't really worked out the etiquette for touring sacred spaces—I did ask at one, and the guy told me they were closing the upstairs. For several months. Maybe I should practice on the Ypsi churches; we have several, one with a Tiffany window. I didn't do much shopping, even though a couple of places featuring buttons and ribbons sounded interesting (the magnets mentioned above, two more from the rose garden, along with a pair of really cool olive green and orange rose socks constituted the whole of my souvenirs, because as it was I had to ship 22# of crap home, tell the clerk a sob story about my overweight luggage—2-1/2 pounds, she let it pass, thank you, thank you, thank you, I promise to weigh it at home in the future now that I know the rules). Now, if only we could rev up the A2-ypsi bike-friendly mass-transit approach to Portland levels...