I really love Portland.
Last night Will picked me up on his motorcycle; the temperature was perfectly not-too-cold, the skies clear. When we hit the OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) exit off of I-5, I saw an image similar to this:
I took a deep breath in and fell in love with Portland again. (This happens all the time, btw). The main reason Will picked me up was so I could run here in the morning. Let me just say, this is NOT something I typically do. BUT I got so wrapped up in reorganizing the studio yesterday, that I missed my gym window. Perfect alternative: run to work the next day. Wait...wait a minute...what? WHAT!?!! ...really, betsy?
I live in the SE and for those of you who aren't familiar with Portland, the river splits the east side from the west; Burnside street separates the north from the south. My studio resides in the NW. My favorite way to travel here from my house is by bicycle.
I've lived here for just over 2.25 years, but it was just a few months ago when I discovered the eastbank esplanade. There is nothing like riding my bike on the esplanade to begin my day. There is nothing like ending my day with a bike ride home on the esplanade. The awesome guy who I bought my bike from said that commuting by bike might change the way I start my day. No question. If my day has started a little rough and tumble--drool caked on my face when I've just barely fallen out of bed onto the pile of clothes that are begging for me to clean them--feeling like I want to curse the skies before they curse me, riding my bike to work will always always cure me.
Today I commuted to work by leg. As I was running, I remembered an exercise introduced by an amazing woman, Alicia Martinez Alvarez. She joined us for some time in my second year of Dell' Arte. Her project was to find a new kind of performance with old mexican traditional wooden masks. She lead us through a traning series to "empty" ourselves so that we might take on our masked characters without preconcieved ideas. One exercise has stuck with me and I've used it many times in my teachings. I don't even really know what it's called, but it has to do with awareness and emptiness.
We would walk for hours as an ensemble. We had only one task: to use our senses one at a time and experience our surroundings as they came to us. For example, walking on the levee, if a cow mooed, we'd hear that moo and face the cow and let ourselves experience that moment until the next one grabbed us...trying (but not too much) to only focus on one thing at a time while emptying our busy minds. Quite often, the moments really made us laugh, and then we would have to give the laughing a moment, etc. I think the first time we did this exercise, nearly everyone found tears at some moment. It's almost achingly simple, yet so profound that you'd have to be trying not to feel something from it.
On my run this morning, after the 10th rhetorical question that my brain asked itself, I decided I would do the exercise. I varied the exercise to keep up with my cardiovascular momentum; i.e. I didn't stop every time I sensed something new, I just recognized that thing and let my mind move on to the next. I have to say though, I became aware of many things I had never thought of while traveling on the esplanade today, like:
1) The large red neon OMSI sign sounds like it's about to burn out right now. It sizzzzzled as I passed by it.
2) I am generally a slow runner, but I tend to speed up when passing by another person or dog. I probably feel a sense of competition or pride creeping in.
3) I felt rain and sweat dripping down my face and took a moment to notice the difference between the two.
4) The cool layered door-like structure underneath the Morrison bridge is WAY cooler than I thought.
5) When my brain is clear, people tend to smile and wave hello to me more frequently (maybe it's because I'm actually seeing them). I like that a lot.
6) The cars driving on the streets above me collectively sound like an ocean.
7) I noticed the ground/river seconds below me on the metal grated section of the path. That freaks me out a little.
8) I saw multiple puddles and jumped in them. hard. My feet then became uncomfortably wet.
9) Those pillar things on the floating part of the esplanade remind me of massive white crayons with brown wrapping. Or those random chocolate crisp things that tend to show up around the holidays, this time with a creamy filling.
10) Then I noticed all the graffiti places on the pillars that they've tried to cover up with a terrible match in paint color.
9) The MAX rail running across the upper part of the steel bridge while I was running on the lower part made me feel like I was underneath a landing strip.
10) Then there was the sight of the Willamette river... and Portland on the other side. (sigh).
11) Then I saw 3 dudes cleaning windows high on the outside of some semi-tall building. It made me think of ninjas. They were wearing black and hanging by very thin rope from the very top of the building and sitting on little orange buckets.
(wish I had a picture of THAT one)
12) There were piles and piles of brightly colored yellow leaves.
13) I felt a sense of pride and joy when pushing my goal just a little further every time (okay...run to the end of the bridge now, wait you made it, you're already PAST your goal...just keep going...go past the next block...wait, you've already passed by two...until I had run alllll the way here, to the studio).
15) The soft smell of food coming from one of my favorite coffee shops, sydney's.
16) The perfect taste of salt on the inside of my rain jacket collar.
16) My breathing. I heard my breath like a drum, the entire way here. Today, that was my favorite sound.
(I have made links out of the pictures if you want to connect to Jay's site. I'm really glad I found such beautiful images to embellish my post today).
***Song of the moment: silence***