Are you ever so awestruck by the beauty in the things surrounding you that you feel overwhelmed?
I was walking the streets tonight in my neighborhood and so many things were singing out to me that I feel I have to write about them. One of the reasons I love NE Portland – especially the Hollywood district v. Laurelhurst or Alameda – is that the houses share so many similarities. There is an architectural style referred to as the “Portland Bungalow”, of which our home is one. As is the house across the street, the house next door, the one on the block behind us and so forth – you catch my drift. Peering into windows I chuckled softly at those things we all have in common: books and photos in the built-in bookshelves lining the living and dining rooms, a piano in the front room, beautiful hardwood floors, family portraits displayed proudly on the walls, and in the background you can see the glint of the kitchen counters under the dim light of the bulb in the “nook”. Sometimes the floor plans are identical to yours, causing you to pause when you see a picture and say “Wait, is that my house?”
At 6:30pm, as I was walking home, a man was own mowing his lawn – assumedly after he raked about 20 pounds of dead leaves from it. Sunday signals the unofficial beginning of winter: the changing of the clocks. We gain an hour of day (or sleep, in my case) but it means the sun will set justthatmuch earlier and there will be no more soft light filtering through the almost-dormant trees after 5:30pm. The disadvantages of living so far north, I tell ya.
I was walking about the neighborhood tonight to do something I have been meaning to do for nine years. Someone I grew up with, from first to twelfth grade, was killed almost nine years ago. He was the passenger in a car that hit a tree while speeding southbound down NE 33rd Ave. when the driver, who had been drinking, lost control. This was a person that most of us have at least one story or memory about; he was active in theatre and choir; he was the class clown; he was a good friend. We were never what you would consider to be close friends, but we grew up together. We attended the same school for grades 1-3, and there were less than thirty of us from that grade and school that went on to graduate high school together. So there is a bond between us. My dad used to even joke that we would grow up and get married someday, mainly because it irked me, but also because he always said that the person who drives you the most insane when you’re young is the one you fall in love with when you get older. Well there was never any falling in love, but it doesn’t mean that he wasn’t missed when I heard about the accident.
Anyway, I decided it was time to do what I’d been meaning to do, and that was make prints from some negatives of pictures I took back in the spring of ’99. We were juniors in high school and the school choir took a bus trip to San Francisco. He turned up in a few photos, and after the accident I wanted to give his parents a copy. Nine years later I was on the journey to do just that. It occurred to me that I didn’t even know where his house was, which made me feel a bit embarrassed. Imagine, after all those years! I knew it had to be close, and lucky for me it was in the phone book.
The walk to the house took me down the once-familiar street towards our elementary school. I was instantly struck with memories of horse-chestnut wars while walking to school in the crisp autumn air, leaves rustling underfoot, with the boys in the area. Plodding through rain puddles, saving worms, getting drenched in the cold rain, throwing things at each other and jumping in the piles of leaves on the corners that some childless homeowner took the time and effort to neatly rake off their lawn and surrounding sidewalk – sometimes I miss being a kid.
And those memories took me back to the warmth and comfort of my neighborhood. I remember once, when I was about 7 or 8, I took a corner too fast on my bike and skidded out in some gravel, scraping my knee. The nearest neighbor came out and took me (and my bike) inside and cleaned me up. There were no worries about going into a stranger’s house or fear that something terrible would happen; they lived close by and that meant that they were most likely good. Another time, on my way to high school, someone stopped me and complimented me in a play I had been in. This person had kids that went to my school but weren’t in my grade, however she recognized me from over the years and took the time to comment. These tiny incidents, separated by years, are only a sliver of the examples I’m sure most people have experienced in their time living in Hollywood. This neighborhood truly is a community, and a beautiful one at that.
These are the thoughts floating through my mind as I imagine the kind of place Matt and I will someday inhabit together. Will there be leaves on the ground or cockatoos in the trees? Cold, crisp evenings or languid, humid days? No matter where we are or what kind of neighborhood Samara grows us in, I sure hope that she can hold onto as beautiful of memories as I have in my heart, and a love of her hometown as much as strong as mine and Matt’s. A sense of community, of support, of passion for your surroundings and the people nearby is important to me and something I feel is essential to instill in a child. Some place s/he can feel the love around them, both inside the home as well as out.
Now I sound old and nostalgic, but I encourage you all to take a look at your surroundings and find the beauty in them. Is it the red and yellow leaves softly floating to the street, or the bright sun in a blue sky that signals the freezing cold you will have to face outside? Is it a grey but humid day – the perfect beer drinking weather? Or is it simply the comfort of a hot cup of cocoa when the darkness falls? Either way, I can’t wait to share this feeling with my love.
Happy PORTLAND fall, everyone!
Much love and many hugs,