From Country to Cosmopolitan

It’s hard to see the sunrise in a city. A faint orange glow emanates from behind the buildings in Portland, which are thankfully low enough to allow serene views of the tree-lined hills that enwrap the city.

I am staying at the Hotel Lucia, a wonderfully European chic downtown hotel with an iPod dock alarm clock, a flat screen TV and a funky steel and glass sink. The bed is big and plush and heaped with pillows – though I was tickled to learn that guests can order the perfect pillow by pressing the Get It Now button on the room phone.

That’s what you press to order your spiritual book of choice, too, and the list is long. From the Bhagavad Gita to the Koran to the usual King James and Torah, no spiritual wanderer is left without words of rapture or just the right religious prose to guide their journey.

Somehow, the juxtaposition of Get It Now for a slow spiritual canon cracks me up.

Yesterday, I hiked through the Hoyt Arboretum down to the rose gardens, which were teeming with people and cameras. My favorite moment was a cool glimpse of a distant mountain; I couldn’t help but pull out my camera to try to capture its essence to take home with me but a wonder – the mountain did not even show up in the viewfinder. Not even an edge.

And so I have no choice but to keep it vivid and illustrated in my memory.

Earlier in the week, my sister asked me if I am lonely on this solo vacation. The answer is an emphatic no.

Admittedly, I, too, find comfort in the familiar. Just yesterday, I was a bit sad to leave Dundee and the sound of the fountain outside my inn window. What was I driving to in Portland, a city then unknown to me?

But this vacation represents exploration and a desire to keep my spirit not only alive, but thumping like my heart in my ears as I climbed the steep gravel drive at the Black Walnut Inn. The challenge to find myself amid the murk of everyday routines and tending to the needs of others. We all need that at times, and we need it more than we allow.

And so I drove along the quiet highway to my next destination, a city meant for exploring with its hills and gardens and shopping and tattoo-painted residents with so many hair colors, it puts Ferndale or Royal Oak to shame.

In minutes, Portland was no longer new to me. And I was a subtly more developed soul for having struck out on a path I didn’t know.

I’m not lonely this week. Not even for a minute.

After breakfast, I am driving to the Washington state line to climb Dog Mountain. I hear there are five waterfalls along the 6.8 mile trail. I can already hear the tumble of water over rock and feel the sun on my shoulders.


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