When I walk into the house of my oldest friend, I notice that there are three wax elephants on her mantel. They’re in complimentary colors that I knew that she would like — dark and rich burgundy, maroon and gold. I don’t remember when I bought them or for what occasion. Christmas, perhaps? A birthday? But they have moved with her again and again, from Boston to her new home of Portland and, a decade later, they march across her mantel, as still as ever.
It makes me smile.
We are in Portland, Oregon, at the end of a short visit before we drive up to the San Juan Islands for a week with my family. This is a city that suits her perfectly and, although I miss being able to easily visit with her, I know she belongs here just by looking at the houses. My city is a city of apartment buildings, sophistication, grime and intensity. This city seems to be built of the American Craftsman style, with often eclectic paint jobs and overflowing rose bushes and azaleas, butterfly bushes and lilacs. It rains a lot here, which you can see in the fecundity of the suburban landscaping. Plants dominate, their growth seemingly unstoppable. It’s a beautiful place to walk around and watch the melt of nature and art. I have never been here on a rainy day, and everyone tells me how lucky I am, but I can easily imagine that this is still a beautiful place even when the skies are grey.
Yesterday, we sat on the banks of the Sandy River for most of the day. There are so many parks here that it’s easy to step into nature. We cleverly bought two large umbrellas at the local store, which meant that we spent a beautiful day with our heads in the shade and our feet in the sun, watching all the adventurous Portlanders willing to go rafting in an ice cold mountain stream. The comfort of old friends is that we slip back into each others’ lives so easily, the conversation quickly ranging from past to present to future. I love fitting into her life here and seeing her friends, some of whom have become my friends over the years, and watching as her community and her home grow into something even more beautiful every time that I visit. I am very proud of my friend and proud to be her friend. I feel this way about most of my friends, as I watch us all growing into older, wiser, slightly greyer versions of ourselves, but the geographical distance that makes our visits rare makes it so much more obvious when I do see her.
Last night, my Beloved said the most beautiful thing to me, which was that he liked Portland and would love to come back. I’m glad that he thinks so, because I miss this town already.