We were high school sweethearts, Portland, Oregon and I. My first boyfriend lived on the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway, so I would visit him once a year or so. The gorge was where I came alive, carting a bag with journals and sketchbooks and fantasy novels to the hiking paths by the abundant waterfalls and staying there all day, imagining, dreaming, and coming to understand my personal beliefs and spirituality.
But like many high school sweethearts, we drifted apart. The last time I visited Portland was thirteen years ago. However, when I had a year of major upheaval this last year, one devastating situation and loss after another, a little voice in my head told me to come back...go back to Portland.
The plan was to find out for sure if my sentimental feelings about Oregon and Portland were made golden-toned by memory and bias, or if I still loved it. The goal was to "get it out of my system."
I failed miserably.
I packed late for my trip...not finishing until the day I was leaving (Friday). Baby Ella decided she wanted to go with me. Sorry, little one, not this time!
My flight didn't depart until 4:30p.m. that day, so I had plenty of time to lounge around.
On the trip there, I ended up sitting in the second row back on the plane, with another gentleman in the aisle seat, and no one in the middle. The plane was newly renovated, and it was a wonderful way to spend the flight. I had movies and tv shows downloaded on my iPad, so I watched those, read a bit of a good book, and napped. Before I knew it we landed in my layover city, Oakland California. I grabbed some dinner, and finished the last hour hop up to Portland.
The first hurdle was getting my luggage, which went smoothly. I'm always nervous on long flights with a layover that they might lose my luggage, but so far Southwest hasn't. The second hurdle, however, was a doozy...getting my rental car.
I've actually never rented a car on my own before, just once before with Tom. So I was extra precautious when inspecting it to make sure there was no existing damage I might be blamed for. Next hurdle: the car was a keyless start vehicle. I couldn't figure out how to start it! And when it did start, it was so quiet, I wasn't sure if it was on or not! Finally after an embarrassingly long time, I figured it out and drove to my AirBnB...first time staying at one of those too!
The hostess had left a front door key in a key locker by the door, which had a passcode. I knew the passcode, but I couldn't figure out how to get the darn key locker open! Finally got it, and then I couldn't get the cover back on and closed. Meanwhile I was tripping over my luggage, it was about 11:15 their time, and 2:15 my time back home, so I was exhausted.
Oh dear, I thought to myself...what have I gotten myself into? I finally made my way back to my room, which was lovely and warmly decorated, with a soft and comfortable bed (and virtually no wall outlets! Ack!!). My brain absolutely wouldn't let me sleep that night though. I was keyed up from the trip, and I also worried about whether I'd gotten the right sort of insurance on the rental car.
I wound up getting up at about 4:30 in the morning, which was 7:30 my time, later than I normally wake up, but very early for Portland. I got dressed and ready for the day, since I wasn't about to get back to sleep. Packed up the car, and headed out on the road for the main reason why I rented the car in the first place: a trip to the coast.
As I drove out of the city (on 55mph roads, an easy drive), I started to relax a bit more. The sun rose in the sky, mists obscured parts of the evergreen forests, and at one point a rainbow shone in the clouds.
You can do this, I thought to myself. An hour and a half later, I arrived at Cannon Beach on the coast. I was starving by this point, and wanted a big breakfast, but when I took a wrong turn and wound up in a parking lot for the beach, I couldn't say no.
I stumbled on this rock tower someone had made, which beautifully mimicked the hill of the famous Haystack Rock on the beach.
And as I input the address of the breakfast diner of my choice into my phone, and turned out of the parking lot, these wild rabbits (who looked quite a bit like domestic rabbits??) cheered me on.
Breakfast was at the Pig and Pancake, recommended from a Google search. The splendid thing was, as soon as I walked in, I recognized it as somewhere I'd eaten before, years ago, when I came to the coast with a close friend.
Once I was fed, I hopped back into my car (I was starting to like this keyless entry, keyless start system!) and drove back out of town. Cannon Beach is lovely, but it's a tourist spot, and it was a Saturday. My destination was further South...to Oswald State Park, a place I had gone 13 years ago with friends, camping in an old-growth forest and walking down to the beach. I wasn't the one who drove the last time I was there, so I didn't remember the name of the place, but I had done some Google research, and had a good suspicion Oswald was where I wanted to go.
On my way from Cannon Beach to Oswald, the skies absolutely opened up, and it started pouring rain. I simply shrugged and pulled the hood of my sweater up, tucking an umbrella in my bag in case I needed it. Rain wasn't about to stop me from seeing the ocean and exploring the magical forests I remembered.
Would the forests be as magical as I remembered they were?
Let's just say it's about an ten minute walk to the beach, and it took me almost an hour.
I was taking this photo of a gorgeous portal in a tree's roots, when an older couple came up behind me and the guy said "you look like a fairy, in these woods! You should take a picture in that hollow." "Would you mind?" I asked him. He graciously obliged.
By this point, my fears and doubts, nervousness over solo travel (something I'm very much not used to doing) had all dulled immensely, in the light of this beautiful forest full of wonder and magic, dripping with moss and a green so vivid it grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you dizzy.
The path from the forest to the beach was just how I remembered it...one minute you're walking through trees and by a stream, and the next you round a corner and there it is in front of you: the gray and misty ocean, with rocky hills and precipices jutting down into its depths.
I walked down the beach looking for something...the right spot for me to just sit and "be" for a while. I knew it when I found it: a fallen tree that ran parallel to a freshwater stream, flowing out of a ravine and past my feet to join the ocean. It was a borderland, a space between, neither fully one thing or the other. I loved it.
As I sat here, not yet writing, not working on anything, just *being,* a crow flew past me, so close I almost felt like I could reach out and brush its wings. I started to cry, and as I blinked back my tears, a second crow flew by in the same direction, right to left, right in front of me.
I saw no other crows the whole time I was at the beach. Plenty of seagulls, but no other crows.
After a little while...probably a half hour or so...I crawled down from my perch on the fallen tree, and started exploring the rocks around me.
I found a patch of Lamium...it made me happy to see this plant that I grow by my front door here at the ocean.
I saw this rock with a heart-shaped indentation cut into the top by nature.
But there was one thing I really wanted to find. I whispered to the faeries at the ocean: "Please, I'd love to find a seeing stone. Just one. Just one seeing stone, that's all I want." For those who may not know, a seeing stone is a stone that has had a hole bored all the way through it by nature. They are especially easy to find near creeks or rivers, or bodies of water where one rock might rub repeatedly over another one, wearing it down over a long period of time.
I scoured the beach near the stream, peering down at the rocks. I'm sure I looked an odd sight to the surfers who were out that day to ride the waves. Then finally I found my seeing stone, and I started rocking with loud laughter. The faeries certainly have a sense of humor:
The rock was about twenty pounds, huge, and heavy, with the tiniest little portal hole bored into the top of it. There was absolutely no way I could take this stone with me, let alone wear it on a string around my neck as I had pictured.
But I hadn't been specific to the faeries when I made my plea. I should have known better. After almost an hour of further searching, there were no other seeing stones. The faeries had left me with a wonderful story, and had a great big laugh with me, but there would be no other seeing stones for me. Lesson learned. When you make a bargain, be specific.
I did, however, also find this rock as I was searching with a faerie footprint on it. This footprint was about the size of a silver dollar.
I left this rock for someone else to find.
Admired a beautiful fungi on the side of the fallen tree, as I hopped around the rocks in the stream.
And then, looking down at my feet the whole way back to the trail, I made my way back to the forest.
To more enchanted trees and whimsical mushrooms:
And drove back to my cozy room at my AirBnb, such a gorgeous and cozy location. I’m so glad my friend Shveta recommended I stay there after she stayed in the same room a few weeks before. I laid there for a while, still too hyped up to sleep, but too tired to do anything more just yet.
I did, by the way, take one stone back with me. While searching for a seeing stone, I found this rock with a gorgeous swirl patterns grooved into it by the flow of water. I'm not sure if it was the river or the ocean that created this pattern...maybe it was both. I like to think it was both.
The AirBnB had a cat, and the cat needed to be petted.
My friend Bryonie had texted me that she was still at The Fernie Brae setting up for the exhibition the next night, so I walked over to Hawthorne, a three block jaunt away, to see her. On the way I had to snap a photo of this...it's so perfectly Portlandian. Concrete stairs busted...make it an art feature instead of an eye-sore!
As I was getting ready to cross Hawthorne to get to the Brae, I saw Toby Froud and Bryonie's husband Eric walking into the store. What timing! I didn't take photos that evening...I wanted to soak in the atmosphere of the Brae, and meet the people who were there. I instantly felt at home, and wanted everything I saw! I asked where Grandfather was (a puppet from Toby's film Lessons Learned), and Bryonie took me down to visit him in the basement, where he was resting, taking a break from being social.
Sera Fae was there, so I was able to get Fhairy Strands woven into my hair. This time I got copper and gold both. I talked to everyone there, and when I walked into one of the rooms of the Brae tucked into the back of the store, I saw the item that would end up being my biggest souvenir from the trip. More on that later!
I had dinner at a "burger joint" right next to the Brae that serves all plant-based food (what even is Portland? I love you), and walked back to the AirBnB, where I sat on the front porch and listened to the crows call from the tree across the street as the sun set.
I walked in and met my hostess, and we ended up talking for about an hour about my year, how much I love Portland, and so on. I complimented how wonderful her house smelled, and she gave me some starter sample packs of essential oils. I used one in the hot shower that night, and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
How could day 2 of my trip get any better? Well, by including a magical event at the Brae, of course!