The last two weeks have been bizarre. Not in any negative way, but in the surreal, unforgettable, “how is this my life?” style. I attended the Tin House Writer’s Workshop at Reed College, workshopping with a writer I’ve idolized all through my MFA, THE Jo Ann Beard. There were spectacular new people to meet and those who are becoming old friends to catch up with (four years is getting up there, right? Preschool-aged friendships?). What would have been an overwhelming, amazing week was made exponentially stranger by the fact that while I was listening to stories by the river and exploring the power of imagery and metaphor, I knew that Matt was packing up all of my belongings and driving 1,500 miles up to drop me off into our indeterminate future apart.
Every feeling of being out of my element grew exponentially–a fleeting thought of Hmm, this isn’t my bed was punctuated by the question And who knows when I’ll see mine again? And the cafeteria food, though better than anything offered back in my day of Sysco Plastic-Wrapped Specials, made me miss my pans and perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet and Penzey’s spice hoard and Shun knives, none of which were on the packing list meticulously checked off by my needs-more-credit-than-I-can-possibly-give husband.
On Monday I started my new job at Rogue in Portland, a writer job at a brewery–I know, I have no margin for complaint at all. I know. My office is around the corner from a meandering goat herd, for god’s sake. Lunch at Bunk Sandwiches, The Green Dragon, Lardo… again, not complaining, but something was missing. In the flurry of sudden change and essential adaptation, I was off.
After another week of bizarreness-in-the-best-way, I was rewarded with a coveted Portland weekend to do whatever I missed very most about being in Arizona for a year and a half. This is the time of year we live for, when the sun isn’t (usually) fickle and the event calendars are crammed with double-bookings. The world was a Puget Sound morning-catch oyster.
I got in my car on Saturday morning, and I headed for what my soul needed the most.
The Portland Farmer’s Market is Essential Portland. Skip the fucking Voodoo Doughnut line and Keep Portland Weird mural selfie. Come in the summertime and head straight for the Park Blocks, where dozens of tents shelter the freshest, most creative produce and beyondness you will ever witness.
The first thing I smelled were berries. Strawberries are waning, blueberries have just peaked, raspberries are in a constant state of swan song, and blackberries are, like their vines, ready to take over the whole damn show.
I could smell them from outside the tent, which seems like such a small thing, right? The sweet, sticky, sugarsong smell of heaping pints.
I teared up. Like a crazy person.
You don’t smell berries in Arizona. Berries are available all year in clear plastic coffins shipped in from California and Peru. Raspberries are dead on arrival. Blueberries are all right, but turn fast. Blackberries are all tart and no candy. I would hold these shells up to my nose in Costco and Whole Foods, and inhale the faint smell of dirt and juice. Like craving a steak and gnawing on beef jerky instead.
I missed berries.
I missed pies.
I missed jam and my canning jars.
I missed my mom.
All of the worries over whether I would succeed at this new job and how we would finalize our move back home to Oregon and what I could afford and couldn’t or whatever suspended here, in one of my favorite spots on Earth, tracing through the producers I remembered and the new ones appearing in my absence. I am home, and I am happy.
Passing Pearl Bakery, my eyes met a tower of purple-and-orange macaroons under a glass cloche. “What’s that?” I asked.
“This? It’s our marionberry-and-orange macaroon.”
“I’ll take one, please.
“It’s very fragile,” the baker warned, sliding it like a Fabrege egg into a paper envelope.
“Don’t worry. I’m eating it now.” There is no better moment.