As the 18th century came to a close, the British explorer George Vancouver set sail to survey the wild coast of the Pacific Northwest. Among his findings was a narrow pass at the tip of Fidalgo Island, where the tides moved with such force that Vancouver believed he had found the mouth of a great river. It wasn’t until his lieutenant, Joseph Whidbey, explored further that he realized he had discovered a second island—one that stood on the other side of this confounding Deception Pass.
It’s been a difficult few weeks here in Portland. On the afternoon of September 2, a teenage boy tossed a smoking firecracker into Eagle Creek Canyon, igniting a blaze that quickly consumed more than 35,000 acres. As firefighters worked to contain the devastation, Portlanders were left helpless as the Columbia River Gorge went up in flames and ash fell upon the city like a terrible, unwelcome snow.
There’s a great old episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine—a writer for the J. Peterman catalog—is saddled with a debilitating case of “catalog writer’s block.” The culprit? The troublesome Himalayan walking shoe. Beset with frustration, an exhausted Elaine takes to the streets of New York (to search for a houseguest who has gone missing)—only to find unexpected inspiration in the warmth and comfort around her feet.
“Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes In variegated maze of mount and glen. Ah me! What hand can pencil guide, or pen, To follow half on which the eye dilates Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken Than those whereof such things the bard relates, Who to the awe-struck world unlocked Elysium’s gates?”
On the morning of January 11, I woke to find Portland buried beneath more than a foot of snow. As skiers rejoiced, schools shuttered, and Portlanders collectively expressed their surprise, I pulled on my boots to mark this unusual occasion with a walk through Washington Park. The snow was knee-deep, the firs shrouded in winter white, and the creaking of heavy branches the only sound to be heard.