Portland, Oregon: Bridge Town

The problem with tuning in and turning up the still voice inside is that it comes with a mind of its own and rarely supplies explanations. It’s easy to talk about wanting to be on your path, to flow with inner guidance, to travel with trust—it’s something else entirely to act on it.


It was the spring of 2007 and I dreamt about another bridge. I was at the mid-point of a long expanse. The sky was a gorgeous, clear, warm blue and sunlight sparkled and danced on the surface of a wide, beautiful river. There were sailboats and the scene filled me with a sense of deep contentment. I was headed toward a brilliant green shore—every shade of green and teaming with life. It felt like traveling toward a land of bounty and I felt purposeful and calm. At this point in my dream I took note of the bridge itself, its structure lay just below the the waterline so as not to obstruct the spectacular view. For a moment I thought how genius—that’s crazy and cool! Then instantly my awe yielded to panic: how do I know the bridge continues?


It did, I reached the other side and in my dream I knew that I was arriving in Oregon. The dream was clear and powerful—another bridge; another message. This time, my response was no thank you. I had no intention of moving to Oregon. None.


Since the message didn’t achieve its desired effect, it continued. Two friends announced they were moving to Portland and began a serious campaign to convince me to come with them. A third friend announced she was moving to Eugene and invited me to come visit. Someone began calling my mobile phone with a Portland area code and continued to for more than two months without leaving a message. Firmly opposed to the barrage of persuasion, I refused to answer. When the caller finally left a message, it turned out to be an old friend inviting me to his wedding in Portland. It had been nine years since we’d seen one another or even spoken, and I could not help but appreciate the irony of his timing—or his last name, Fortune.


Finally, I agreed to move and planned a scouting trip. I started with a visit to Eugene, then continued on to Portland where I met up with a friend in town for business. I gave myself two days to get the lay of the land and choose a neighborhood. The first morning I hopped in my car and hit the streets. Terrible with directions, I promptly got lost and overwhelmed. I still lived in Sebastopol in the country with my chickens, garden, orchard—hawks soaring overhead. The thought of moving to a congested city felt entirely wrong. I’d been through a lot the past two years and I prized my solitude and the calming simplicity of my routine.


Nerves frazzled and scared, I abandoned my search and headed instead for Portland’s Forest Park Conservancy—a lush forest on the edge of the city with miles of hiking trails. I spent my afternoon exploring the woods and returned again the next day. I decided that if I had to move to the city, I would search for a house near the park. At the end of the second day—my last day—I stopped in at the Audubon Society, and acting on an impulse, I wrote a donation check and took one final walk into the woods, praying to the birds to please help me find the right place to live.


That evening my friend had plans to dine with clients at one of Portland’s hot new restaurants: Le Pigeon. Somewhat reluctant, I went along. Her clients were frequent patrons of the restaurant and as a surprise the chef joined us for dinner. Midway through the evening he turned to me and asked what neighborhood I was planning to move to. I answered that I wasn’t really sure, but that I’d spent the past two days in the park. With an intense earnestness he gripped my arm with both hands and staring into my eyes told me that he understood, it looks like Shangri-La over there, but he insisted that I don’t want to live on that side of the city. He then looked me over, took a moment to consider, and suggested two neighborhoods that would suit me. I looked down to see that his arm, all the way up to his neck, was tattooed in birds. I had my answer.


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