My olive-green stocking cap hugged wet curls. I was showered, fed, and ready for the day. I pulled on my jacket and slipped my camera into my purse. My hands found my pockets as I stepped outside my door to see what I could find. It’s Sunday and I don’t have any other plans, so why not be a traveler in my own neighborhood?
As a new transplant in Portland, OR, I’m determined to connect with this new place I’m living in. The rain had let up and it was the perfect timing for a stroll. I walked with eyes attuned to small details and opened my mind to a state of wonder.
Before my walk, I was thinking of backpacking through Europe and the way things – people, synchronicities, purposes – seemed to find their way to me ease-fully. It was affirming to feel the spirit of adventure still well and alive in me as I set out in my own neighborhood, and to realize that the world provides endless discoveries for those who want to discover, regardless of how far – or how close – you travel.
In a tree just a block away from my front door, I was thrilled to find a bird’s nest and nearby that, an unpaved alley with large puddles, currently doubling as a local bird spa. A few blocks further, I found an adorable Patisserie and was brought back to Belgium when I took a bite of a chocolate macaroon that melted as soon as it touched my tongue. Mmmm, I closed my eyes and savored the rich, smooth texture of one of my favorite European treats. Past the bicycle shop and several bars, I stumbled into a coffee/pie shop, curious to try their espresso, clueless that I was about to make a new friend in a very special way.
As I stood waiting for my latte, leaning against a lacquered wooden bar and breathing in sweet scents of berry baked goods, a wrinkled New York Times next to me caught my eye. Then two large hands picked it up. I glanced up and saw a tiny blue spiral tattooed on his left earlobe. That’s interesting. As his face came into focus, my gaze was met with two green eyes, smiling at me. “Hello,” the stranger said. “Hi,” I said with a shy nod. We started chatting about the crossword puzzle and then about the status of the world. I sat down next to him and sipped my hot drink as we moved from topic to topic, eventually landing on travel.
It turns out he has also traveled through Europe and he commiserated with me over the less-than-comfortable transition from backpacking freely to working and having a steady routine again. Berlin came up, and then Spain, and we laughed at the fact that we had been to many of the same places, equally impacted in a profound way through our experiences there. I learned other things too, like he has an eight-year-old who he describes as the anchor in his life. The same swirl on his left earlobe is also tattooed on his right one. When his fancy drink came, he offered me a sip, and it didn’t feel strange at all to take him up on it.
What was meant to be a quick stop at the coffee shop had turned into a nice conversation, and unknowingly, I had stayed until my cup was empty. Then it was time to go. He opened his arms and hugged me like an old friend. We didn’t exchange numbers, but decided we’d run into each other again. After all, we live in the same neighborhood.
I walked off, smiling, headed to explore the cooperative grocery store up the street. I grabbed a planner that caught my eye in the section where calendars and candles were on display. By chance, I flipped to a page with a very fitting poem on it. Huh! Life never ceases to amaze me…
Here are some of my favorite shots from my wanderings today: