Portland, OR, is the darling of the moment. Everyone wants to live here, and with good reason. It’s a beautiful city. Every season has something to love, but the spring and summer are particularly glorious. Oh wait, also fall. Winter can be hard, of course, but not hard as in many places – it all depends on your constitution. I love the rain, I love the cool. Climate & ecology considered – nearly perfect.
It’s a place with lots of possibility. A strong creative and entrepreneurial class, lots of educated people, plenty of educational opportunities. If you have a restricted diet, if you just love food, if you enjoy a pub crawl every now and again – Portland has you covered. There are restaurants and neighborhoods I dearly love. The city is walkable, full of bike friendly aspects, and great public transportation abounds. Starting in late spring, there is always something free to do outdoors – theater and concerts in the park, cultural events, whatever.
I can talk almost anybody into moving to Portland without a hint of regret. If I could go back 11 years to before I moved here, I would do so again without any hesitation. The city has been incredibly good to me and my family, and I will always love it. In fact, even with the move that is happening for us in the next couple of weeks, we will be returning to Portland often. We’re moving only two hours away, and we’re maintaining our clinic (strong as ever) and I will continue teaching at NCNM. We’ll likely be back every week, at least for a while. Portland will still be a strong presence in our lives.
So, why leave? Moving, buying and selling homes, uprooting our lives, moving farther from our established communities of friends, colleagues and friends… it’s all a big pain. Why?
For once in my life, I’m not moving to GET AWAY FROM, but to move towards something I desire. Now, to be fair, that was more or less true for our move to Portland. We moved here so I could go to medical school. But, even in that, there was something about escape. I wasn’t really SURE I wanted to be an acupuncturist. It was a from the hip decision based on the fact that I didn’t feel adequate to the task of becoming an academic philosopher – my prior dream. I knew we had to get out of Eugene (a city I still really just don’t like very much) and I knew we were at risk to drift. I don’t like drifting.
So, though we were moving TOWARDS a kind of life we chose, and we were excited about it, it still wasn’t like this time. This time we’re leaving a situation that, for all objective observations, looks ideal. Getting better all the time, really. We could stay here forever and probably be fine.
That said, there are cracks in the façade. I deal poorly with traffic, and if you’re going to be driving a car in Portland, traffic is gonna be a thing. I’m also just not well disposed to being surrounded by lots of people and their stuff (physical and beyond). I get irritable, I take on too much, I forget myself. It has been eroding me, bit by bit. That’s been enhanced by some other life choices and situations that increased my stress level to unhealthy highs. A toxic soup of lifestyle factors that make it difficult for me to find the love for my city.
(I’m going to leave aside now – because I can – the other difficult realities of Portland. Gentrification, the racism that fuels it, passive aggression, spiraling costs, homogeneity of culture, etc… I recognize my privilege in not having to make that a major part of my narrative.)
But, that’s not really why we’re leaving. We’re leaving because there’s a life we want to live, and this city isn’t consistent with that life. In fact, no city could be. We’re leaving because we want our daily reality to be wind, water, trees. We would rather spend most of our time around fewer people and more wildness, and visit the city when we want to bathe in the roil of humanity. Not the other way around – as we do now.
There’s something about space. About not being surrounded by human beings. And there’s something about Astoria, OR. I’ve never been so entranced by a town. I can’t really explain it. Sometimes, you go to a place, and it just feels like home – right? Portland felt that way from an intellectual perspective. It was the right “fit” and I enjoyed certain aspects of it. But, this is different. It feels like home in my bones. Everything relaxes. But everything becomes piqued as well. I want to know it, in that long, slow, lifelong romance sort of way.
It’s a perfect balance for me, for us. Despite the seeming suddenness of our decision, and how intensely the process has moved – it feels absolutely right, ok, perfect, even. That’s terrifying, of course, but… not really. It’s that kind of, “Oh yeah, this is how it’s supposed to be,” that usually only happens for me in dreams.
There’s so much to say about this – and so much to come (for Watershed as well as us personally). But for now, a photo, and goodbye.