Saturday, January 31, 2015

Freewrites Borne Out Of Portland, Oregon

Last week I returned from a visit to Portland, a city where I spent my college years. My purpose was multi-pronged: to see friends, connect with professors and to sniff out a hunch that now is a good time to return. I didn't know what I was hoping to find out but I felt I could learn something. But, we'll get to that.

There is nothing much better than seeing friends. Being able to regard them in person rather than through a computer or telephone is important for the health of your friendship. We hold a certain mental image of a person in our memory when we are apart and over time that image loses its accuracy. As people change, the more necessary an update so your understanding of them stays relevant. I zig-zagged all over town pretty much every day to see as many people as possible. I tried to have a quiet moment with everyone so that we could talk about what's real in their life. Some are graduating soon. Others are working jobs they acquired after college. At times, I thought I detected a degree of uncertainty in them that they were grappling with.

And I wanted to tell them it was a good thing. I wanted to bolster them, to say that life happens all around and inside them, regardless of place or purpose. Wherever we are, there is a way to be the person we want to be. "Patience achieves everything." The pace of growth is always so much slower than we crave. We worry and malign ourselves because we always seem further behind than we expect. But ultimately it's an artificial ruler we're applying to ourselves because no one can really say how long it's supposed to take to fulfill the aim of a life. It's kind of supposed to take years and years. So, if we work at shaping ourselves in our own peculiar corner, in our own days, we are already learning how life works. We should trust ourselves to know what to do, even when we are suspended in uncertainty. No, especially when we are uncertain. Not knowing what to do doesn't mean we won't ever know. It simply means we don't know now and, in the meantime, we attempting to discern a reasonably suitable option from the universe of available options. But in the end, my point is that no course can really be a mistake as long as you are listening to yourself. Even if it's a wrong turn, doesn't matter, had knowledge.

I had the pleasure of seeing my old accapella group, Momo and The Coop, and dropping in on one of their rehearsals. It's amazing to see people who were once freshmen/sophomores in the group now in the position of leaders leading their own underclassmen. I was heartened to see the younger crowd was in love with accapella, just as I and all my other classmates were. They speak their minds freely and forcefully, shaping the State of Momo. The same framework of democracy and freedom of speech that was present in my time is still in place. There are some differences though. I had the honor of singing with them in rehearsal and I experienced first hand their new sound. It's cool, crisp and clean, more bass than in the past. And their arrangement choices showed off the direction their taste and preferences are going.

I spent a day as a ghost on my old campus, walking the grounds a younger version of me once explored as a new frontier. I dropped in at the English Department to see my professors. Ostensibly I was there for advice but what I really needed was just to see and hear them. I had forgotten the power of the particular brand of intelligence that comes from writing and reading literature. Experiencing the presence of my professors again was a touchstone, a reminder of why I had wandered down this way.

One of my professors, Susan, invited me to dinner with her. It was a lovely evening of conversation accompanied by wine, cheeses, and a roast. Over the course of 4 hours, I described to her all that the walk involved. It was great fun investigating various elements of the walk with her, alternately lapsing into contemplative silence and thinking aloud. Most importantly, we approached the walk from the same angle: how to write about it. And together we arrived at a framework, a vessel to hold a story in. In my mind now there exists a mental structure that wasn't there before and I felt a distinct sense that this is why I had wanted to come to Portland.

We'll see what comes of it.


  1. Thanks for this post. Hope so that I will also be able to visit this beautiful place. I had never been there so I m pretty much excited to do so. This would help me in gaining some more amazing experience.
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