The Elusive Mountain
The first time I came to Portland was in 1999, to attend a conference. The flight was late getting in so I saw little that night but the airport, the lobby of the chain hotel and my bed. I slept well and was up in time for breakfast before the meetings began.
I did my face and hair and dressed for the day. Then I opened the drapes and, Behold! There was Mount Hood, all stark and beautiful, looming out of the landscape and riveting my eyes. I was enthralled. It was love at first sight. It was July and the sun was out, glinting off the snow-capped slopes. The sky was a deep Madonna blue and what clouds there were, were small and bright-white. It was majestic and enchanting and I was lost. For the five days I was there, I saw the mountain daily and I envied the people who lived here and saw it all the time.
[Small, eight-year intervention by life]
Followed by a second trip to Oregon, to see if my favorable impressions would be reinforced. I flew into Portland Airport, where I had reserved a car. It was the 26th of October, and though cloudy, the day was dry. I made the 177-mile drive up to Bend, where I would stay for a week just to unwind and enjoy the peace and the natural beauty. I took the northern route and looked at my favorite mountain to my heart’s content.
I enjoyed my stay in Bend. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and it was lovely there, but my real destination was Portland. I took the southern route and drove for what felt like days through Willamette National Forest. There was one town whose sign proclaimed “Population 15!” I don’t remember the name, but I remember thinking that it could have been 2007 or 1512, there among those giant trunks.
As luck would have it, the roads through the mountains had been perfectly clear, and I’d encountered only remnants of snow on my journey west and north.
I stayed at the charming Everett Street Guesthouse in NE Portland, run by the equally charming Terry Rusinow. Her cat, Sophie (for whom “Sophie’s Room” is named), deigned to sit in my lap and purr as I drank a cup of herbal tea and recovered from my drive. I was very comfortable in the “Wellfleet Room”, where I stayed during my time in the city.
The weather in Bend had been gorgeous and Portland showed me its beautiful, sunny Autumn face for most of my visit. I was shown around the town by two very kindly friends of friends, and once again I fell deeply in love, with Portland and with beautiful Mount Hood.
It took me a little over a year, but in the end the move was made with rather amazing speed. The decision was made, an opportunity arose, and before you could say, “I’ve rented my condo, sold my car and my furniture, given away carloads of stuff and stored the rest!” I and one cat were on one plane and my son, who wanted to see Portland and help me settle in, and the other cat, were on another plane. For some reason they wouldn’t let us have both cats on the same plane, since they were traveling in carriers and stowed under the seats.
The rest, as they say, is history. I’ve lived here in Portland for over three years, and if you’re into irony, it might amuse you to know how rarely I see the beautiful mountain which lured me here, to this place of clean, clear air and forest primeval, literally 20 minutes from the heart of the city. So often it is cloudy, or if it is clear, there is a haze of clouds that hangs right at the horizon, obscuring my view, though I know just where on the horizon it lies. I know from which vantage points on which trains or buses a glimpse will be granted; I’ve become an expert. Yesterday I cheated. I took the Max Train, the Red Line to the Airport, because I know that the mountain can be seen between two stops. I was eager to see the beautiful and elusive Mount Hood once more and I was in luck. Who would have thought something so large and incapable of movement would be so hard to track down!