I try to think ahead. To be smart, make right choices. I canât take the terrycloth robe, itâs too fluffy to pack. I canât wear the lace-up boots to the airport. They would prove problematic to remove with any expedience and grace in the X-Ray line, like the time I couldnât get the Ugg boot off and had to sit down. So, at the last minute I rethink the footwear. All paperwork needs to be in order; information about the parking structure where we leave the car, ID, boarding pass on cell phone as well as printed paper copies. I have to leave my blow-dryer behind, (one piece of technology I know how to use), trusting the magical lodgings to which we are going will provide such an indispensable appliance. Do I need both the coat and jacket? All this rethinking, chaotic juggling, is taking place at 6:30 in the morning, not my best time. Now and then the Beleaguered Husband calls out meekly, âIs there anything I can do to help?â
But he knows his frenzied wife is beyond his help. And it is time for her to face the elephant in the room. The elephant is not really an elephant but a cat, granted a large cat, orange in color. It is because we must leave him for a few days that I am so at sixes and sevens. Yes, our good neighbor will tend to him, so I bless him and walk out the door.
We are not well-appointed travelers, obvious to anyone seeing us struggling along, carrying our bags instead of manipulating them easily on wheels as does everyone else. While trying to find our boarding gate weâre staggering, stumbling, shifting our baggage, starting to pant and sweat. Yet, I am buoyed knowing weâre on our way to Portland Oregon in late October to visit our daughter, Miranda Bell in her 25th year of life on this planet. She even offered me the loan of a blow-dryer if I need it; thatâs the kind of girl she is.
Before the plane lands I can see the trees, red and gold and orange, orange, orange! An excitement flows through me. This is another city, not our own, it is a city graced, enhanced, and embraced by trees with autumn foliage. Miranda drives us past Victorian and Craftsman homes, canopied by colored branches, porches decked with pumpkins and Halloween decorations, creating a feeling like something I remember from long ago, for once I knew the Autumns of Ohio. I start collecting fallen leaves; every few steps I gasp excitedly like a crazy woman, âOh look at this one, itâs red and black. Oh, I canât believe this one has all the colors of candy corn!!! This oneâs striped with gold and brown. Someone must have designed them. They canât just be random; they are the work of an artist.â
By then no one is really listening as I prattle on in my revelry. Then I realize something and speak softly just to myself, âI guess God must be an artist.â Amen.
We attend a regatta at a lake where costumed people actually paddle about racing in gigantic hollowed out pumpkins, like something out of a fairy tale. It is splendidly ridiculous.
We check into our hotel, The Kennedy School, which was once an actual school that had opened in 1915, then closed sitting abandoned until a talented, visionary team of Portland designers and artists, The McMenamins, renovated the property, turning it into a hotel yet retaining a school theme. One of its bars is called, the Detention Room and another is the Honor Roll. The place is filled with eclectic art, magical touches, murals and hanging lights like floating globes. There are long mahogany hallways, where portraits look down, as do photos of long-ago former students.
This being Halloween, a delightful, haunted atmosphere, prevails. However, I am not delighted with our room in the English Section which has rooms named after authors and painted headboards in tribute to the writerâs work. I choose The Crow Room being enamored of ravens and crows. The headboard depicts a fine handsome big crow, beneath which I would be so happy to sleep. It seems it should be the Edger Allen Poe room, but it is something called the, Jayber Crow Room, an author with whom I am not acquainted. Upon entering the room, Iâm excited to see the magnificent crow above the bed. But it is not there!!!
In its stead is nothing but an abstract splatter of blue and white swirls. My disappointment is great. I call the desk but no one can tell me to where the bird has flown and the only other room available has a western theme, so we stay in the Crow Room sans crow, yet with a blowdryer. Itâs only later I glance at a framed, poster wall. It includes sized notification on the quotes from a fictional book titled, Jayber Crow, as if written by himself. As I read the passages I am stunned at the writing. It is poetic and flowing about a river in Kentucky and the people who lived there spanning multi-generations beginning in the 1930s. Itâs Mark Twain and Thornton Wilder and its true author, Wendell Berry.
The river itself leaves marks but bears none. It is only water flowing in a path that other water has worn. Or is that other water really âotherâ or is it the same water always running and returning again, flowing always toward the gathering of all waters, rising and returning again? I knew this river first when I was a young boy, and I know it now when I am an old man and always I have watched it, entranced and mystified. I did not know then but know now the surface of the river is like a living soul, easy to disturb, is often disturbed, but growing calm, shows what it is and what it will be.
It is then I understand what the headboard painting is! Itâs a river! A blue and white flowing river. And a crow would not be the right symbol to capture the book, because it is only the last name of the main character. And there in our room is the book itself. I am so grateful to have been drawn here, yes, lured by a crow, and being given the gift of Wendell Berry. And I learned, sometimes you just need to get out of your own way and let the river flow. Hope I make the Honor Roll.
The next day Miranda takes us to the Columbia River