Friday, July 17, 2009

Oregon - Portland

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My experience in Oregon was essentially a day trip to the city of Portland, and later a day where I was passing through. I had met up with a friend from back home who was also traveling across America. I would have gladly spent days in that wonderful, friendly, eclectic city, but that wasn't possible at the time. Though traffic is abysmal given how small Portland really is, it's something that I would happily deal with if I ever find myself in that area for any extended period of time again (and I hope I do). The important thing in Oregon was that it was the second time for me--the first being South Dakota--that traveling had transcended the act of physically moving.

Oregon was gorgeous, thanks to the abundant scenery offered up via the Pacific coastal highway. The high frequency of summer vacation bullshit towns I had to crawl through repeatedly at 25 miles per hour on my way south on highway 101 was wearing on me tremendously, but just as I was getting fed up with my route, I was blessed with views captured in the pictures above; big rolling sheets of fog slid over impossible blueness, rubbing right up against the cliffs and windswept trees like a tattered cotton blanket being pulled up over the coast by an invisible hand.

These big lonely beautiful views rolled by for hours, and heat didn't exist in Oregon when I was driving; I rolled down my windows and didn't give a damn when the cold damp fog wisped into my car as I was driving too fast through the cliffside parts of the road. My vehicle was no longer a car, but simply a container designed to capture the sea-born fog. I was moving in the sense that the wheels were spinning, but I felt stationary and timeless; no place to be except where the clouds were. I drove over two hundred miles without ever feeling like I left the first perfect vision of the coast, and yet I knew every other such instance of visual wholeness just as intimately; it all blended together into one dramatic landscape, the consummation of all the flawless little parts being perfection.

When the timing was right, I found access to a beach and pulled off alongside the ocean to watch the sunset. The wild fragments of clouds made the horizon one massive continuous piece of stained glass, some sort of cathedral window filtering all the light coming in millions of miles away. There are churches, temples, and mosques that can't attain that kind of divinity no matter how much money they have or how blessed the grounds are.

So I sat on an immense piece of wet driftwood--a tree, actually, one warped and twisted from maybe centuries of incoming tides, a tree that looked like it had grown from the ground sideways and protruded into the dune behind it for god knows how far, like the beach had formed around it--and that's all. I sat.
A perfect moment of golden silence, a silence I've been yearning for but could only find then and there at the end of the continent and under those conditions. I thought about nothing and did nothing for fifteen quiet holy minutes as the sun went down. It was worth everything.

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