For the last few weeks I have been wandering around Portland, feeling lost and far from home most of the time, but trying amidst my culture shock to jump into city life here with both feet; to immerse myself in Portland culture. Eating at local food carts (something I’d never dare attempt in L.A.), venturing into the multifaceted world of public transportation, and even trying to wrap my head around the whole “live local” concept that seems to permeate this city, because lets be real people, I am a Target girl to my core. There is so much to learn and adapt to. But what I’ve found to be one of the most challenging aspects of life to adjust to here is the rhythmn that this peculiar little city hums along to. Just imagine- everyone on the street is a Sunday driver (walker, biker, whathaveyou) every day of the week… Now there are many contributing factors, but from my observations thus far, it is life by way of public transit that makes everything slooow.waaaay.dooown.
Okay sure, the public transportation system here has a great reputation. Apparently it’s said to be one of the best in the nation. And after just a week of exploring it, I could see why. But for an L.A. girl like myself who is used to jumping in her car on a whim whenever I need something, and knowing I can get right to where I need to go when I need to get there, it’s been rather strange trying to adjust to a lifestyle which requires so much, well, waiting! At first glance, it seems crazy to me how much longer the most menial things take when you are forced to rely on public transit. Even if you would like to drive, generally you will find it’s entirely impractical because there simply isn’t any free parking (not to mention this city, while easily navigated as a pedestrian or cyclist, is abnoxiously frustrating to try and navigate by motorvehicle due to obstinant one ways and “no turns permitted” signs on practically every street. Ummm… I’m sorry, what?). Consider this: you want to go out to eat? Pay for parking. You need to go grocery shopping? Feed the meter. You want to go to the gym? Swipe it. You want to go to church on Sunday? You guessed it, cough it up. I mean honestly people- it’s legitimately more difficult to park in Portland, a small city in a state with more undeveloped land than almost anywhere else I can think of, than it is to park in Los Angeles (maybe you’ve heard of it?) Anyway, it didn’t take me long to realize that driving to work everyday just wasn’t going to happen. And so I learned quickly what the Max was and what a Transit Center is, and that there is indeed an app for that.
Over the past few weeks I have observed the life of one of my roommates, and I am constantly amazed at how she gets by. She doesn’t have a car, a smart phone, a computer, or basically anything that I would dub a necessity from my privileged perspective. Most astonishing to me though is that when she recounts her day, it seems that most of it was spent traveling. Walk a mile to the bus stop, catch the max, connect to another bus, catch a street car, all to finally end up where you needed to be 45 minutes to an hour later (and that’s if you’re staying in the city), a drive that would have taken me 10 minutes… maybe. It seems very inconvenient to me to say the least, but what is most surprising to me I think, is that people here generally just don’t mind. It’s just part of the rhythm of daily life. And so it dawned on me, that the very ability to slow down is in fact an art form: The Art of Slowing as I call it. And so I take a moment and pause, close my eyes, breathe in deep (because the air is clean here and when you take a moment to pause, you notice such things), and remind myself that life is not a destination so much as it is a journey. And as cliché and hackneyed as I know that sounds, I legitimately need reminding of this. I am a very destination oriented individual by nature, and as frustrated as it makes me sometimes, I am clinging to the truth that this is a valuable lesson/art form to learn & perfect. And so I bought a monthly transit pass, and I listen to funny converstations on the bus and catch up on some reading, and I crowd in next to quirky people on the Max, and I have walked this city up and down, six ways to Sunday, and I’m buying a bike, and I haven’t filled up my gas tank in over two weeks, and you know what? I’m beginning to be okay with it. I might even start to like it.
This morning I got invited to a Happy Hour Bike Ride with some people at work that’s taking place next week. It’s some big organized thing some people in our office are doing with a client of ours or something of the such. We are all hopping on our bikes after work and riding 8+ miles to our destination- some brewery somewhere. And it’s funny, because I would have laughed if someone asked me to do this in L.A., who has time for something like that? But here, it’s entirely commonplace for a group of strangers to come together like this as a community who share a common interest. And one of the beautiful things about moving to a new city is, chances are, you know very few people. So when you get depressed looking at your usually over-booked social calendar to find a row of empty squares on a page, you tend to say yes to things you never would have before. And of course, this is how you make new friends and discover new hidden gems and create new social circles. And so even though I have never been a bike rider (except for my morning spin classes of course), and even though I can’t drink beer because of my gluten alergy, and even though I probably won’t know anyone, I’m saying yes. Yes to a little adventure. Yes to new opportunities and the possibility of new friends. Yes to the potential of discovering new passions & hobbies. And ultimately, yes to whatever surprises the Good Lord has in store.
So in the spirit of community, I hope you can find your own little way to join me on this journey toward the Art of Slowing. Maybe just today, for an hour, or maybe for a week or month. Who knows, we might just discover through the practice of this discipline that the spirit of slowing begins seep into our pours causing our souls to expand a bit to make room for all the beauty and colour in the world surrounding us that we so often overlook on the way to our next destination. Or maybe that’s just me…