How many watches had it been,
when I first caught sight of Paradise?
Seven – or is that the first digit
to come to mind?
Regardless, I would have kept kissing the dry land,
until it soaked in my sins,
had you not been
standing at my bower,
and parrot flowers.
The ship was splintered,
worse that any storm
or winter could do;
my lips, too.
Yet, I was fixed
on the mountains in the distance,
skirted in Doug Fir forest,
and decked with heavy fruits
(pear, apple, persimmon,
perpetually in season),
suspended in mist.
Never had I encountered a landscape,
as hard as it was soft,
particularly at the edges,
where rocky bluffs
terminate to sand,
and primrose grows
in mats that prick,
rather than provide respite
for the sick.
Yet, I was fixed
of the pain I had long-held,
from believing myself unhomeable
outside of childhood.
Or, perhaps, restored
to original condition:
an only daughter of an only parent,
(for which the treatment is
and absolute understanding).
How many men had it been,
when I first washed up on Paradise?
Seven – or is that the first digit
to come to mind?
Regardless, I would have kept gripping the shore,
until I was born into safety,
and then trained out of it again,
had you not offered more:
Your hand, a surrogate for my father.
Your land, for my Fatherland.
When the pencil skirt fits, but doesn’t sit at the hips, as does the cyclist, who would rather be caught dead than with a bulge, even if it’s just an extra bunch of fabric; and so she walks, in measured steps, passing where the sidewalk ends, and then, drops off into dirt, until the final block, where precision goes to posture, and so go the toes – over the lip – and then, the heals, and then, one palm, one knee, and the stack of crepes planned to be for everyone.
When the rice is simmering, and asks for stirring, just occasionally, and so she drops the wooden spoon, takes up the sword, and decides, right then, and there, to prepare kimchi for winter, which is yet months away, unlike the hand on the timer, which begets a ten-second countdown, “Oh shit,” and the other on the blade, “Oh shit,” there is salt in a wound, and it is time to move back to the pot, with rice searing to its bottom.
When the appetite, stirs the night, she slips to the cupboard, looks in, up, top, middle, bottom, but sees nothing with nearsighted eyes,
which is why, her past self put out the one-half cocoa-carob energy bar, on the counter,
where apparently it is heir apparent for ants play, because something tastes like plus two grams of protein, and feels like
soda, “Fizz, boom,
on her tongue.
When she arrives, at last, not merely late
but also hungry,
like a band aid,
a courtesy call,
a chance to sit,
it might be
a sign of immaturity,
or being irresponsible,
or at the end
of a misguided hike,
but more likely,
of the universal struggle,
of learning to live
outside the bubble,
are new types
on the air,
in the floor,
to tune out
the sink of dirty dishes,
empty the mind,
get back to work.
When the Old Man fell, it interrupted all scheduled programs,
including Britney’s 10th birthday party, where I was one minute feeling,
to pin the tail on a donkey,
and then waiting,
to hear the sound
of a pin falling. Falling, like ashes, ashes from the sky in Oregon. Fifteen years later,
children circle around me, as if I were campfire,
to tell stories of their favorite hikes, as if they happened yesterday.
I circle around what happened yesterday.
Pollute the Air, Make People Sick.
74 Acres, and Counting, Burning.”
The air thickens.
Upwards, the sky is gone.
We, too, are clouded
by emotion – Pride
in place, Resolve.
Quietly, I close my eyes.
I try to access
interrupted, as they may be
(the freeze and thaw)
and by choices (to leave,
to have adventure, to participate in activities that exacerbate the change). These may have occurred several times per year, until the breaking point, or in one dramatic season; but, what difference does it make?
I have stopped trying, to look through smoke, to find the answer to:
“What is really happening?”
or even forecast
through the weekend. Instead, I navigate
with the nose,
toward a little bit of sense,
smelling for what the present has to offer, by way of remembrance. When the Old Man fell, it fell on our plates,
Houses. Families. Friends. Pets. Trees. Flowers. Shops. These were the most common responses by the 2nd and 3rd grade students of Trillium Charter School, at the beginning of an 8-week Geography unit centered on this question.
When I was their age, my teachers posed more straightforward questions like “What are the 50 states and their capitals?” AL – Montgomery, AK – Juneau, AZ – Phoenix. Yet, I did not have the frame of reference to comprehend the totality of a city, let alone a whole state or nation.
Kids these days aren’t much different, because comprehension of size, scale, and spatial relations is more developmental than generational. At ages 7-9, our world’s center is the place where we live, while its outermost limit is about a 1 mile radius, or the length of the route from home to school. Studying national or global geography, then, means matching unfamiliar names to unfamiliar flags, flowers, and animals.
By centering our curriculum on the neighborhood, I was able to teach concepts rather than facts, guiding students into the weeds of new urbanism. Examples of transit-oriented development, mixed-use development, creative placemaking, and urban farming lay just outside our doors, and so we went. Enter – the Overlook neighborhood. The best case study we could have asked for. No membership to Oregon Historical Society or Nat Geo required.
What made the unit all the more appropriate was the coincidence of its timing with May Bike/Walk to School Month. It kicked off with a pedestrian safety assembly with prizes provided by PBOT. Each of 3 classes took five walking field trips in Overlook, themed on Infrastructure, Green Space, Goods, Services, and Arts & Entertainment. At the end of the unit, students had identified 30 points of interest within walking distance of Trillium.
During the Infrastructure themed week, I instructed students to keep a tally of hazards specific to heavy congestion areas, such as cars parked on the sidewalk, construction zones, and any other factor that they felt threatened their safety. Ultimately, the most noted offender was litter, particularly broken glass and cigarette butts.
This prompted an in-class discussion about public health and a brainstorm of ways to take it into our own hands. In partnership with the high school Leadership class, we organized Trillium Cleanup Day, timed to benefit attendees of the Vanport Mosaic Festival, hosted by our neighbor, the IFCC.
From our Green Space themed week, emerged the distinction between public and private land, thanks to Overlook residents Marci Macfarlane and Jan-Marc Baker. Marci described the process of transforming Portland Water Bureau property to park space, through a commitment to stewardship by artists in residence, herself included; which planted seeds of a Patton Square HydoPark in our minds. Jan Marc explained why he puts as much effort into tending the right of way as his
front yard – because it provides public and environmental benefits, inviting hungry passersby and pollinators rather than let it lay dormant.
Students identified Hobbies Unlimited and Patton Maryland as the best businesses for families. Gree, who lives in the neighborhood, goes to Hobbies Unlimited all the time. In his final reflection, he wrote: “I once got an agate rock that is from the Columbia River. It is really big and has flat parts.”
After a long career driving for Trimet, Hobbies’ new owner, Rick, was glad to step in at a critical moment in its eighty year history. He used to visit when he was a child, and knows that community engagement, particularly with youth groups, will be key to keeping the lights on for the decades to come.
Molly, Irma and Mihai wrote about Patton Maryland. “It is not one of those big restaurants like McDonald’s. They have food for all eaters, vegans, and vegetarians. The menu is inspired by the foods the manager
remembers his mom making when he was a kid. He gave us each a pork sandwich and chocolate milk to try. We rated it five stars.” General Manager, Mark Hernandez, was kind enough to send students back with coupons for staff. Now, I can say that I rate it five stars, too!
In the absence of theaters and music venues, our Arts & Entertainment themed week focused on public art. Pascale, who lives in the neighborhood, reflected “My neighborhood has a lot of public art, which is great, because it brings community together. People sometimes need a reason to come together.” I sent one group North on Interstate, to view pieces in the Trimet Public Art Program at Killingsworth Station, Ockley Green Middle School, and Rosa Parks Station.
On their way, the once community hub now construction zone, Interstate Lanes, stopped everyone in their [Max] tracks. Many had had birthday parties and other family memories at the lanes. We looked at the NO TRESPASSING signs and couldn’t help but chuckle at where someone had written I LOVE BOWLING. Back in class, a debate on the differences between graffiti and public art would ensue. It would not be the last. At the end of the unit, I divided students into groups and asked them to design their own “great” neighborhoods.
Just like a real neighborhood association, they were asked to strike a balance between what their community members would need and what they would want, before making final development decisions. Ultimately, there were still a handful of candy and toy stores. What makes a great neighborhood? Tiny House. Biketown Station. Community Square. Weird Stuff. Can you tell they go to school in Overlook? Stay tuned for the release of our Guide to the Overlook Neighborhood for Youth & Families and this article in Overlook Views.