Abstract in Portland

Kathie GibboneyBy Kathie Gibboney      November 12, 2021

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Abstract in Portland
Kathie Gibboney went home with this piece of art, “Abstract Tree,” carved by local artist Harold Garrison, that was dispensed, instead of tobacco, from a refurbished cigarette machine.
I saw autumn! A true autumn alive, burnished and glowing. We planned a visit to Portland where our daughter, Miranda, has moved and who better than us to, as they say, “Keep Portland Weird.” We had scheduled an August trip, but while scrolling through different points of interest in the Beaver State (Big Foot tracking anyone?), I suddenly came across photos of Oregon in October. A light went on, my heart beat a bit faster, I could smell woodfires and magic. We would go in the fall. As the date of our trip approached, some secret place inside me began to feel the pull, a strong desire to be immersed in the glory of a northern autumn and the thrill of the upcoming signs of Halloween, all in three days. Arriving at the airport we were thrust into the modern world, far from Topanga into a bustling place where people negotiate travel with astounding expertise and nonchalance. They had manageable luggage, IDs at the ready, personal effects loaded into the bins, and shoes off quicker than I can say “yes” to a glass of champagne. I fumble trying to remove my driver’s license from the plastic holder in my wallet, and yes, I get one UGG boot off but the other one proves difficult to remove and I am hopping about in a rather ungraceful manner, until finally the boot comes free. I am ushered through security, feeling rather proud to have passed, as if I’ve accomplished something. On to the next phase, the airport bar. Even though still only in Los Angeles we feel sophisticated, more worldly, rubbing shoulders with international travelers, on our way, with places to go, people to see. As we line up to board, I admit to eyeing the various passengers, wondering who looks as if they might become unruly once aboard. I remember recent news coverage of a manic man secured to his seat with duct tape and reduced to barking like a wild dog. These days on airplanes it seems—perhaps due to the change in altitude or the filtered air or something in the nuts—any minor slight is enough to send one over the edge producing irrational behavior. The simplest thing could escalate into violence; not enough ice in the coke, a polite request to put on your mask, a child coughing in the seat behind you, a heated dispute in the aisle as to whose turn it is to use the bathroom. There are several who appear likely candidates for misbehavior; the guy with the bad ponytail, the woman with the big purse who looks ready to swing it, and a businessman already angry talking on his phone. It is, however, my own Beleaguered Husband who seems the prime contender, as he always seems suspicious and is frequently followed in stores and malls by security, once mistakenly accused of stealing a cheese. In that he could well snap at any time, I say a silent prayer that in the next two hours he won’t start barking. Soon we are in the clouds, a truly ethereal experience and I wonder if without the noise of the plane’s engine would all the rattle and hum of our scraping lives on the ground be left far behind? Would it be serenely quiet, otherworldly and of the stuff that produces poetry? Before we land I see them. Ridges of trees, orange, bright yellow and riotous red. Our dear daughter picks us up. I’m trying to practice composure but seeing her grown, glowing beauty as well as autumn leaves, has brought on a euphoria that makes me just want to yell out, “Whee!” as if I were a child or closer to the mark, an old lady in her dotage. My self-control is further challenged when I discover the unexpected gift of a large congress of crows ensconced in the trees directly across from our hotel balcony. There seem to be hundreds and they, in their black and gliding glory, provide an atmosphere that is the perfect background to the season. In watching them, I too take flight. That evening we visit a gothic restaurant called ‘Raven Mansion filled with fantastic Halloween décor, although the truly spooky part, unfortunately lay in the sickly sweetness of the drinks. The next day I fall under even more enchantment. Miranda takes us to see some of the original Portland mansions built at the turn of the last century and then we visit an actual forest. The light changes, the air is wet and lush. The trees are tall, old growth filled with secrets and wisdom resembling ancient guardians, faces visible in their bark, branches reaching out like arms. We are amongst the moss, lichen and mushrooms, and it’s real, all real, the leaves, the trees, the smell of earth, not a set or painted backdrop or decorated store window, but part of our planet and part of an October land I once knew in a place called Ohio, when the world and I were young. The rest of our visit speeds by, the trip to Powell’s, a bookstore so large you need a map to find your way, seeing the local citizenry sporting flannel shirts and beanies, cozy coffee shops, and a baseball miracle that put a smile on the old man’s face. The city is full of surprises, and we found them around every corner including a taxidermy shop. We host a pizza party in our hotel room for Miranda and her friends, all happy, hopeful youth, and one young man even brings a coveted box of the famous, Portland Voodoo donuts. I’ve collected fallen leaves like seashells and try to arrange them carefully for the trip home. I don’t want to leave. Our final morning, we breakfast at a unique and creative diner, the Radio Café. My husband liked the place so much I saw the old restaurateur eyes light up. Before leaving, Miranda and I purchased small souvenir pieces from what was a refurbished cigarette machine, but instead of tobacco it dispensed art. I received a magical painted Autumn tree, radiant in orange and held it to my heart. The artist wrote on the back: I would love to know where my art ends its journey. Please email me. Let me know what city you were in when you purchased my art and where you live. This piece is “Abstract Tree.” Thanks, Harold Haroldgarrison57@gmail.com I saw autumn briefly, but I knew it.
Kathie Gibboney

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