Tuesday, February 15, 2011

View from the Bluff

Just finished a couple of cold, rainy days drilling on something called "Oaks Bluff" down in Sellwood.I like Sellwood, one of Portland's older "inner suburbs", much like my own St. Johns. Like St. Johns, Sellwood was a pioneer town in the Portland basin, founded by one John Sellwood, an Episcopalian divine who wandered here in the Earlies and got himself a Donation Land Claim, one of those nifty deals that let you grab up a couple hundred acres or three of rich Oregon bottomland if you got here ahead of everyone else.

Well, except this pesky injuns, but the smallpox and forty-rod'll see them sorted.

Anyway, Sellwood has been absorbed by Portland...
(just as an aside here, I often wonder why the City of Portland doesn't simply move out to the northwest and swallow up the remainder of Multnomah County that lies down the Columbia from the city. As you can see from the map Portland - the red bit - sits smack in the middle with the bulk of unincorporated Multnomah County lies east of the Sandy River, predominantly the Cascade foothills and the western Columbia Gorge along with various little towns such as Dodson, Cascade Locks, and Corbett. The west County is scraps and bits, with the largest single piece the eastern half of Sauvie Island but nost of the rest tiny assarts in Forest Park and oddball little cul-de-sacs between the City and Washington County to the southwest. The City could annex the west County and become the City and County of Portland, and Multnomah County would consist of the eastern part, all the countrified parts. If I was the mayor, I'd go for it. Perhaps it's just as well I'm not, then...)
...and become a pleasant little neighborhood, partly residential and partly semi-trendy little shops in a very Portland-y sort of locals-only kind of way.Mojo's Valentine's present, for example, was a gift card from "Sock Dreams"; only in Portland, and especially in Sellwood, do you get a funky little shop that sells only footwear, from toe socks through cashmere all the way to flirty stockings.

So it wasn't a bad thing, working along the bluff overlooking Oaks Bottom. It's not often that you get to work and watch a bald eagle worrying away at the carp it hooked out of the pond nearby.The days were an amalgam of a Portland February, going from a dim overcast to driving rain and wind, back to high clouds broken by a sunny ten minute springtime, before returning to the mizzling rain. The weather kept the crowds indoors but Portland in winter means rain, and Portlanders still venture out in it, layered in fleece and gore-tex in pairs and alone.

And their dogs, do, too. One of the less pleasant aspects of the trail down Oaks Bluff was the quantity and distribution of used dog food. I once thought that I lived near the Pacific Northwest Strategic Dogshit Reserve, but after two days observing the carelessness with which Sellwood deals with its dog's eggs I'm tempted to race out to McKenna Park up here and roll about in the fetid grass in apology to North Portland's dogs and dog owners. We are paragons by comparison.So the dog plop, and the irking unconcern with which the owners let their dumb chums race about the wildlife area; whilst I'm sure that every doggie mommy and daddy think that they and their furbaby are Portland's Speshul Snowflakes there's about a fucking bajillion mutts running around the Rose City - our parks overflow with them - and only about a dozen bald eagles. You get the rest of the parks, nature preserves, and soccer fields. Oaks Bottom is supposed to be for the wild things.

The wild things were out and about, too, even in the rain. Busy flocks of bushtits, chickadees, and kinglets - the small canopy skulkers that band together in the winter to forage - rioted through the treetops which, given the steep slope, were at eye level with us. Comorants and herons hunted the pond, geese browsed the fields. Even the park squirrels seemed a little more untamed than our NoPo powerline wire-walkers.Another Portlander was out for a walk today, dressed in the usual layers of warm and waterproof, noticible only by her somewhat odd and deliberate pace. Her movement caught my eye but I couldn't see anything to explain the careful way she moved until her path turned along the base of the bluff and she came close enough that I could tell that whilst from the ankles up she was well-protected against the cold rain below that she was completely naked.

It takes a rare and hardy soul to stroll barefoot about Portland in February; inside my insulated, steel-toed boots and wool socks my feet were cold just looking at hers. But she trod along, placing her bare soles down in a manner appropriately cautious in a public place known to contain broken bottle-glass, metal bits, and discarded junkies' works along with the more common if more odiferous unscooped poop. She seemed very confident that her barefoot march would not end badly, and I was fascinated enough to watch her out of sight; she walked unscathed out of my view.We finished our work, wrestled the small drilling rig, the power generator, augers, buckets, the wheelbarrow full of tools and wherewithal down the switchbacks at the end of the trail and out onto the flat, loaded the truck, and the drillers drove off down the muddy track to leave me to climb slowly back up to Sellwood in the early-gathering dark.

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