Monday, March 14, 2011

columbia river dreams

gray blurs on the other side of the glass as the city slips away from us in numerals. 48th. 64th. 82nd. gresham. the columbia. and we're outside portland. we are driving toward the gorge. and below the flash, below the blur, beyond the car, clinging to the unmoving momentum of the interior, a small green strip of algae or mold, some water loving plant highlights the window pane. life does just keep going, even here in the crack between glass and plastic life reaches up tentative fingers to the light.

carpeted. that's what the woods here at eagle creek in the columbia river gorge looks like. green moss and algae and lichen. green fir trees and green moss on alders and green lichen on rock beneath falling water. emerald; sea foam; carbon-based verdigris. not a yellow smog, a yellow smoke, but a white mist that licks the skin, that obscures the tops of hills, that moves and shifts and hides. even mid-winter, the pacific northwest is green and moving and alive.

joseph has taken me hiking with his friends, almost miles out and back, past little waterfalls, a stream, woods, and rock. a stendhal affect from nature, a natural synaesthetic experience. i love portland, but in the winter i find it sleepy and gray, hibernating, alcoholic, demure. but out here a quiet life covers everything hibernating, a slow energy, and i think, "why would anyone live in any other part of the country."

and i wish i knew what it is like to live in san francisco. portland is safe, practical, well-designed, efficient; portland's citizens are driven, quiet, polite, idealistic, sometimes quirky. but san francisco is vibrant, lively, irrational, colorful, beautiful. i love the mission with the chinese shopkeepers hocking cheap imports pushed next to mexican taquerias below hipsters walking to bars tucked in between it all. there's great art and music and crazy people. a whole mad city; a city i've been drawn to since i turned 15.

fun and beautiful and mad: san francisco would be amazing. and perhaps i could live there for years, struggle and be poor and crazy and drunk, but would that be me? or i am the practical but quirky, polite but cold, well-designed but still boring pacific northwesterner?

back at asfa, when i was eighteen, my friend antonio would say, "uzbeki boys smell of oranges and baking bread." we learned this from a picture in a book. and everything in the world seemed possible. there was so much to discover. from asfa we would go where we wanted for whatever reason we wanted. we would find ourselves in difficult places and yet the possibilities for life seemed endless. and now my perception is different. the trajectory of my future is still uncertain, but its arch more directed, more predictable. my tastes and attitudes are predictable. my daily actions are predictable. my desires and goals are predictable.

and in the end, or in this present, i want to define more parameters to that trajectory. i want to find myself secure: secure in working toward a career, in building a family, to coming home everyday and finding my cat in the garden, to planning a garden, to planning dinners with friends and having nights off, nights at home, nights reading and watching movies and reading and waking up early to coffee and the new york times, a bagel and a banana, the vitamins there on the plate. something planned and safe.

all this is what i want. it isn't bad, but at twenty-six, it is surprising that this is what i want from my life. so in the end, does that mean i start to nest down now, prepare for what could make me happy, or because there are so many years separating me from that pioneered existence, should i continue to live on the edge, without planning, drunk, mad, constantly in trouble, collapsing, and getting up half dead but wiser perhaps satisfied in the morning to do it all over again?

the emerald city that is the columbia river gorge is beautiful and one could live close to this beauty in portland forever, but there are some of us who need to see that mad light before we die, in san francisco and new york and tokyo and paris. what sort of temperament in the end do i want to own, for what sort of future arch do i push?

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