Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Port of Morrow

And it is a new year.  Wholly new for me, as my birthday turns with the year's.  Standing here at the pinnacle of another year, at the port of tomorrow, I feel this tug to cast my eyes around - looking back over the Past

  • to revel, say, in life accomplishments (a short revel)
  • to ruminate (longer) over the ways I am a disappointment to certain entities,
or more progressively, turning forward toward the Future - though that would  entail
  • borrowed trouble
  • plans for ambitious self-improvement.
Evading either of these twin evils (Past/Future), a sensible creature would focus on the Now.  Gratitude, for example, for

  • small and ordinary beauties (yes, even in Home Depot parking lots)
  • and for the deeper, underlying pleasures and securities.
If I were a sensible creature.

And if the Now I were living in were not made up of

  • sleeping (or not) on the floor in an overheated house.
  • tricky interpersonal negotiations while packing up Fritz's parents to move them out to live near us.
  • long and anxious days driving through ice and snow that become day after day driving through ice and snow when the weather blocks our way and we are reduced to creeping to a standstill approaching mountain passes and finally breaking our journey halfway (though even an insensible cretin ought to have been able to sustain a week's worth of delight just in the 120 year-old Geiser Grand Hotel out on the high plains of Baker City, Oregon, and the cut-rate accomodation they gave us both coming and going).

But live in the Now I cannot this week.  Failing the Now, however, let us consider the Never.

Wrapping plates and bagging up opened boxes of tapioca, tucking cans of creamed corn and Vienna sausages into large plastic totes, hefting buckets of Henry's (the tarry matter with which leaking roofs are repaired) this birthday weekend, I entertained myself imagining fantastic and impossible gifts I will never receive (and would possibly not know what to do with, if I did).  The only rule forbids anything Worthy, viz. :
  • world peace
  • an end to hunger
  • personal enlightenment
  • faith, hope, nor charity
though those all would be fantastic and to some degree or another more impossible than they should be.  Also questionable are the potentially Useful:
  • a well-trained - also enthusiastic - and widely competent staff.
  • a language-immersion course from which I would emerge fluent in the five languages of my choice (Italian, Chinese, Hindi, Magyar, Hopi?)
and Desirables I'm not yet ready to admit are Impossible:
  • a truly versatile and endlessly appropriate, mix & match wardrobe of a dozen, or better half a dozen, essential and elegant pieces.
  • a vintage bike discovered in some shed with a frame big enough for a Long Meg like me and not just for dainty darlings like Eldest.

We shall also discount the merely Impossibly Expensive:

  • a month walking the prehistoric droveways of England (the Ridgeway passing through the  Avebury stone circle and beside the Uffington white horse, rounded out with the Thames Path, the Cotswolds WayOffa's Dyke Path . . . ), staying in inns and cottages older than the U.S. Constitution.
  • the original oil of "Fool's Confession" by Brian Kershisnik (which is a picture of my soul as I have written elsewhere).
No, these fantastical gifts must be both impossibly delightful and delightfully impossible:
  • the lost, or more likely never recorded, paper trail of the actual life of a medieval woman - who had a near-death experience and then retired to ponder over it living the rest of her life as a hermit in the wall of a stone church - ideally this paper trail would include chatty letters exchanged with her one essential other and weekly lists that her one or two allotted servants trotted off with on the morning of market day.

  • a six-month tour of Southeast Asian dance traditions, under the guidance of a handful of well-spoken, congenial experts, with accompanying film crew.
  • a silken tent and all its furniture - cot, chair, etagere -  of elegant design and curious workmanship, collapsible, retractable, and finely finished.
  • an old-fashioned canal boat, red and black with plenty of gilding, everything snugly fitted, the tiny porcelain sink with shiny fittings, the gleaming mahogany woodwork that opens out into a writing desk or encloses a cunning cupboard, sumptuous and spare at the same time.
  • a brightly painted gypsy wagon with decorated wheels and a good gray horse to pull it and a feather bed and gaudy quilts and tiny tin stove inside.
  • a day spent with my two grandmothers (both now deceased) on a roadtrip, playing cards cross-country at the table of the motor home, stopping at  every whim - peach orchard, puppet museum, paddleboats on a small lake, summer concerts under the stars.
Standing at the window of the Geiser Grand on our last morning, with no more battery power in my camera, I was going to include on my list a camera with endless batteries and memory.  Then I could get this last great shot of the mist and the snowy mountainside behind a townscape we used to call turn-of-the-century before the century turned once more - the tallest building painted over the faded red brick with an Art Nouveau script: Antler's Hotel ~ absolutely modern, and the buildings below rechristened as
coffee house with its glowing party-colored neon sign and J. Tabor Jewelers with tasteful greenstone square tiles above the door and a discreetly lettered When in hot water, apply ice.  Huge red bows of velvet ribbon adorn the top of telephone poles and at intervals along the wires looped up over the snowy road.

But as always happens when I have been taking pictures, and then can't - I see more and more vividly than I ever could either with camera in hand or when not in photo-mode:
  • the rhythm of wet-blackened fence-posts
  • red berries/ crabapples? thick on a roadside tree encrusted in shining ice
  • rosy bare branches of the willows, golden orange branches, frosted at the tips
  • two hawks resting in the top of them
  • above yellow-blond cattails punching up out of the snow
  • a great flock of small waterbirds clustered thickly in a snaky curve that marks the ice-edge of a half-frozen pond
  • meandering deer tracks marked out in white snow in the brush on the steep flank beside us as we go over the mountain pass

What we lack is sometimes better than what we have.  And besides, replacing batteries is easy - not worth wasting a wish on.

And then, "What's the - Port of Morrow?" Son reads the highway sign. 

In front of us, the road and the river rejoin - our home river - water that will be flowing past our town tomorrow.  We look out over cargo cranes and ocean-going barges though we're still 250 miles inland.

Around the next curve will be the ranks of white windmills on either side of the Gorge.  Bare branches red and orange rising from a slender sand bar reflected in the water. 

Silhouette of heron on lone rock rising out of the river.

The Now improves appreciably as a barge pushes its load past us, towards the Port of Morrow which lies behind us already, leaving a herringbone wake as wide as the river.

Mist covers the tops of the cliffs on either side of the gorge, but through hazy gaps: windmills like bone-white archangels just come down from heaven.

Somewhere between Never and Whatever Comes Next.


Moria said...

FOOL and JULIAN! so close to my own heart.

[my all-caps enthusiasm an impoverished substitute for articulate expression: but my affective response to these two and to their proximity on your page WAS in ALL CAPS. GLEE. also for "essential other" and every other scrap of prose on this page. sigh.]

Mrs. Organic said...

An absolutely beautiful hotel and you captured it so well.

Magyar? Must hear more.

Emma J said...

Magyar = what they speak in Hungary. Finno-Ugaritic. And there's a whole literature I can't read written in it.

Jenny said...

I love that last picture with the train in it! I'm glad you had a safe trip! Happy New Year to you too! And happy belated birthday as well!

My Year Without said...

Hi Emma! (I just sent a comment but I don't think it went thru...)

I found your blog via your Food Politics comment and I just wanted to let you know that I LOVE your blog. Great photos, awesome bicycle references throughout and more. It makes me miss Portland, my home town, from which I just recently moved away...

I look forward to reading more here!

Emma J said...

Moria - that must be why I enjoy reading your blog so much - FOOL and JULIAN, an unbeatable combination.

Jenny - thx! :)

My Year Without - I've been hearing that the comment-function is malfunctioning - thanks for persevering!

Filigree said...

Happy Birthday and New Year!

"a truly versatile and endlessly appropriate, mix & match wardrobe of a dozen, or better half a dozen, essential and elegant pieces."

Almost as elusive as World Peace...

Emma J said...

Aww . . . don't tell me that!

Lisa B. said...

Beautiful beautiful beautiful.

I love the general locale where you live--rivery and rainy--and the images of that, plus that wonderful hotel--splendid.

The elusive NOW! Something to contemplate the year round.

>> truly versatile and endlessly appropriate, mix & match wardrobe of a dozen, or better half a dozen, essential and elegant pieces.

I would like to be a part of this quest.

suzanne said...

We stayed at the Grand! But we didn't see any ghosts and left forever bereft. I love a Fool, too.

Dottie said...

Beautiful photographs, especially the one with the bike.

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