My sanctuary is where I travel to be free of the routine and tedium of everyday life. For me, a lot of that in Portland has to do with the growing pains of a pronounced in-migration of new arrivals. Traffic congestion worsens. But traffic is only one reason to take a break from the city.
Portland tries to keep urban sprawl in check, so a mountain top, river, island, forest, or small town is usually sixty minutes or less away. What I found interesting, however, was how often I take Interstate 5 and head south a half hour or so.
My destination invariably is Woodburn, which for me has had several distinctions. A sand-greens golf course where I'd play for three bucks all day. Or Oregon's first WalMart.
But what I like about Woodburn is the main street. The dominant language--spoken and on signs--is Spanish, not English. For me, that Hispanic richness means Mexican food.
Coming from Southern California, one of the first deficiencies I found in Portland was the Mexican food. What one takes for granted across the Southwest, from Southern California, through Arizona and New Mexico, to Texas doesn't happen in Portland “Mexican-styled” restaurants.
This might seem a bit harsh for Portland's vaunted "culinary scene," but I would respond Woodburn's Mexican food offering by Mexicans, for Mexicans, and of Mexicans who, with their forebears, came to work agriculture in Oregon's Willamette Valley easily bests what in Portland is often overpriced or a food poisoning risk [yes, I've been to a few nameless places in North Portland searching for cheap & authentic]. In Woodburn, the savvy audience and culinary finesse make the magic happen.
So food attracts me to Woodburn when I seek solace from the big city. But seeking sanctuary, I want to benefit both body and soul. If the former needs Woodburn's Mexican food, the latter finds respite nearby at the Mt. Angel Abbey, home to a Benedictine monastery and seminaries with a famous Alvar Aalto library.
The abbey sits on a hilltop with a commanding view of the Willamette Valley farmland. Aalto was so impressed with the site for a library that he likened it to an Italian hilltop town.
But it is there, walking the grounds of the abbey, possibly hearing conversation from renunciants by an open dormitory window, that I find my spirit gains new perspectives. Things slow down.
Soon enough, I drive home, trekking back Interstate 5, or possibly the gentler Highway 99-E, to home. Always, the body and soul are stronger for taking a time-out for sanctuary.
Image credit: google images: luisstacqueria.com
Read Charlie Dickinson's
story collection [and feel free to share with a friend] The Cat
at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)
Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.
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