If you’ve been watching the news, you know that Portland has had a hard time of it over the past months. Our downtown, once an eclectic hub, is now a dystopian pantomime. There appears to be conflict everywhere. A lot of us are homeless and others unemployed, writing our futures not in pencil but in sidewalk chalk that fades fast with the rain.
I have a powerful friend, and no it’s not because she’s wealthy or well connected. I knew Rachel was powerful the day I met her. She has that cheeky, sharp, purple kind of power that some women have running through their veins.
She sat across the table at the little Russian restaurant where we were having dinner and radiated her power, beaming it at me like some kind of 40s movie star. Her boyfriend (at the time) sat next to her, doing his best to dominate the conversation. And Rachel just let him try, such was her assurance in her power of connection.
On nice evenings the park two blocks away fills up with people enjoying the outdoors. They circle with their dogs, sit on benches, and spread out their picnics. It’s essentially a Norman Rockwell scene with every turn of the path. Or as close to Rockwell as gritty Portland, Oregon, will ever get.
There are daredevils at the skate park and high schoolers playing a pick-up game of sand volleyball. I sit on the hill above them to watch these youngsters fly up concrete walls and fling themselves into volleyball nets, reminding the rest of us what it is to inhabit a body so new it can still forget its edges.
I believe that as humans we are built for all things. All feelings. All experiences. I believe this with the fervor of someone who has swung the pendulum of experience pretty wildly for most of my 40 or so years.
Joy. Passion. Victimhood. Oppressive control. Hilarity. Co-dependency. Murderous rage. Apathy. Profound, spine-tickling inspiration. The range of experience here on earth is enormous, and we are wired for all of it.
These boys were playing on Salmon Creek Beach and so I took their picture. It wasn’t a particularly nice day… cloudy, and the Pacific currents their usual frigid temperatures. I roamed the beach for hours shooting birds and sand patterns and seaweed, and the boys played the whole time.
This image brings me a certain softer insight right now. In this time of struggle to come out from under the white male gaze, it helps me to remember that everyone at some point was a kid who loved nothing more than to play.
I first heard this poem about the cow that eats all day, only to starve at night on her fear, when I was in my mid-twenties and searching.
A man read it aloud on a CD in that lilting, irregular way Rumi is often performed. I hated the poem when I first heard it. The stanzas made me ache with self-recrimination. How often had I been this cow? Safe when I trusted, but oh when I fed on doubt…
I looked at this photo the other day (taken about four years ago) and thought how something about it both encapsulates this time we all share right now and defies it. Bare faced. Close. The people in it are lost in their own realities as much as they are connected. And even the way she is circling the spoon around in that cup looks subversive.
I used to be late for work all the time, or late coming home. I blamed it on the cats (one of them threw up again, can you believe it?) or on a demanding work project. But really I was having an affair with the Sonoma County landscape by way of my new handheld camera. To and from work I sought the light, swell of hills, dance of trees. The surest way to fall into rapture.
The world of woo has changed pretty radically in the past 10-20 years. Slowly, surely the occult has become less other, and today we have influencers and celebrities freely endorsing their preferred mediums and shamans. CEOs now take vision quests and share these experiences with their leadership teams. Certain astrologers and their kin have even become celebrities themselves. Practices that were once strictly supernatural have become… well, kinda super regular.