Citizen's View: My springtime love affair with Portland
Im having an affair. But its OK, because I think my husband approves of my lover and may be falling for her, too. I want to be with her day and night. Her perfume drives me wild. Shes the most beautiful thing Ive ever seen.
Its Portland in the springtime.
How can anyone go to work and sit inside all day? How can they not walk down the street and walk into trash cans or power poles because theyre staring at fluffy pink and white trees?
Im passionately in love with the jasmine vine for its intoxicating sweetness and the roses I know are coming in the front of my house. I understand now what inspires the need to make perfume. I keep thinking Ill see rabbits in waistcoats at my patio door waiting for their dinner. How can people live with this without dancing in the streets every day?
Ive always loved spring, but around here its in Technicolor and it lasts longer than where I grew up. Minneapolis is on the 45th parallel, just like Portland, but has such a different climate. Its really the prairie of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Winters, of course, are harsh, and the mild seasons are much shorter than they are here.
I was accustomed to tulips and other springtime bulbs blooming in late April and lilacs blooming in mid-May. I lived for 25 years on a lake in northern Minnesota, on the 50th parallel, where tulips arrived in late May and lilacs bloomed in early June. I do miss the fragile, delicate nature of that brief season.
Our lake was surrounded by red and white pine, not nearly as tall and grand as the brooding woods of Oregon and Washington, but achingly sweet and more attuned to the human scale. The first wildflowers of spring bloomed around our yard and along the road wood anemone, pussy willows, wild ginger, tiny violets. Later would come the thimble-sized yellow Ladys slipper and the pink, showy Ladyss slipper, both of which bloomed in surprisingly large bunches in the ditches.
Some people planted flowering crabapple trees, but it was the pale green leaves of the crispy white birch trees that lifted our spirits in the way that the pink and white trees do here.
The only other placed Ive lived where spring rivals the one in Portland is in Oxford, England, where I spent many springs with my college students. When we stepped off the plane, we were in the land of Oz. It was those tulip trees that blew their undergraduate minds. They promptly went out and got drunk on Guinness after first getting drunk on color, form and smell. They became different people. They left behind their Midwestern grey, linty selves and flowered into alert bluebirds, chirping and flying to new heights.
It was easy to love Oxford, even during the rainy winter, which is much like it is here. The quirkiness of Portland actually reminds me of Oxford, along with its culture revolving around pubs, pedestrians and pedals. I spent endless spring evenings sitting in aromatic pub gardens, attending indoor concerts in ancient academic buildings with open windows that allowed the spring smell to waft into the musical sounds, and visiting palaces with what seemed like acres of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths.
But none of it compares with springtime here.
I admit it Im consumed by my love of spring. Im powerless over its allure. Im a Portland spring addict, and I never want to recover.
Louise Mengelkoch is a retired journalism professor who lives in the Evergreen neighborhood.