"Carry it with me like everything that matters..." These are the words I read on my flight back to Boston on Friday. They were just one line in Cheryl Strayed's gift of a book Tiny Beautiful Things (page 134). They echoed in my ears and traveled down my throat and expanded across my chest like water when you really need it.
They made me think of standing at the window at Salt and Straw , a much hyped ice cream shop in Portland, Oregon. That city loves a theme and Salt and Straw was a well executed one: small batch shop sourcing speciality ingredients from farms across the country. The Husband got a cone, probably some touchingly childlike flavor per his usual. I tried four or five samples off real vintage spoons before tasting the black walnut and gamay noir jam. That was the one. Cones in hand (well, I had a float with Dry Rhubarb Soda because why the hell not) we stood by the window and looked under the tree canopy. There were so many trees in Portland, with every color and size of leaves. The Japanese maples were my favorite, especially the ones with tiny intricate leaves (like peering out from under a quilt).
One of these leaves started to fall slowly, circling elegantly down to the ground. When It landed I wanted to run outside and pick it up before anyone stepped on it but hesitated because that's a silly thing for an adult woman to do. Instead someone came around the corner, crushing the leaf. The moment passed- I reached for my phone and Husband did the same, little blue screens reminding us where we intended to go before we even knew how we felt when we'd get there.
Travel is an interesting thing. It opens you up but can also drive you back to whatever came before. It can be exhausting, a challenge to feel of a place and not just in a place.
Portland and Seattle were interesting. Seattle had this calm about it. The landscape was beautiful- all those mountains and shades of green. The days were clear for our whole trip and while walking across the bridge near the Seattle Public Library we saw Mt. Rainier off in the distance and I gasped and learned what "majestic" means.
There wasn't as much good coffee as we'd hoped, though the service at Bedlam was gracious and Top Pot Donuts offered an Ovaltine latte I'm bummed I didn't order (though the best donuts of my life were a consolation). There was also Rob Roy, a gem of a bar in Seattle decorated by old records, vintage cocktail signs, and an antler leg lamp (they've had five stolen already so now the baby is nailed down). Everything at that little place was cushioned: the stools, the bar ridge, the footrests. Why not more of that?
Portland was interesting in a different way and not in the one we expected. There really weren't that many hipsters or bikes, but there was an overwhelming amount of good eating and drinking in a very spread out city. We drove from the SE to the SW to the NE and back again, passing the same landmarks many times but always from a different direction. It was a tough place to grasp.
Pieces of it I was immediately grateful for: lots of food carts offering cheap food of every kind imaginable and not, the evening spent at Hale Pele (a tiki bar) with the kind of staff that sends you out the door a nicer person than when you came in, whenever my husband suggested we take a side street because he knows I love architecture but won't remember to seek it out, and meeting people who made that city their home with an admirable intent and clarity. Other pieces, like watching the Red Sox win the World Series at a crowded sports bar far from home with polite nice people, left me unexpectedly nostalgic for a thing I don't generally pay much attention to (sports) in a place where I often question I belong (Boston). Travel, I learned on this trip, is just as much about the search to find meaning or interest or delight or belonging as it's about doing the work that will allow you to appreciate all those things when they find you.
As we pulled into the airport our cab driver, a quiet guy listening to jazz, said, "Get home safe and in one piece. Each of us are billions of tiny pieces."