The end of a pandemic is sure as hell just as weird as the pandemic itself. I naively used to think that one day, it would be all over, people would open their windows, screaming and laughing and dancing in the street for days. Instead, freedom has crept in gradually, with the first vaccination, figures going down, and suddenly one realizes, one could attempt travel the world again, at least in parts. And once realized, that feeling for me became so strong it required some sort of manifestation. An expression of that sense of awakening, like a packing of bags or a decampment – and yet one stays put. At most there is a plan for a little holiday, same as one used to do before. An excited voice inside my head tells me it is a brave new world out there, it tells me so when I make breakfast, when I write e-mails at work and when I walk the dog at night. Sometimes it sounds almost out of breath from all the jumping up and down. And yet, it is back to the old ways at best. Meh.
And when I then sit on my couch for a night cap (still waiting for spring in May, because this is Germany), emotional and full of expectations, I get nostalgic. I find myself thinking back, to those days where I actually did pack my bags and opened a new chapter of my life. I wander in my mind through all the places I travelled to, that left an impression on me.
And from all those memories, I most often return to a trip to Portland during my Sabbatical year. I attended a writer’s conference for just a few days, and unexpectedly fell in love with the vibe of the place. Without wanting to idolize it, for a moment it felt like being amongst people who are setting up camp to create a brave new world of their own. Just from seeing so many same-sex couples kiss openly on the street, down to people wearing unicorn hair in all colors of the rainbow and whatever style of dress came to their mind and still get a job. To restaurants experimenting with food, coming up with new styles of bowls and smoothies and burgers as you go. It was liberating to see people so honestly crave all the good things in life. The good food, the breweries and coffee roasteries, the parks and gardens in cherry blossom – we all like those better than our offices, and still we only allow ourselves to go there for short breaks. People here were at least attempting a more honest way to spend their time, in the way most people actually want to. With things that make them feel good.
It was certainly also easy to ridicule all that. The green hair, the hippies that seemed to have fallen out of a time capsule, in self-knitted sweaters, dragging their children to kids yoga and blasting Bob Marley from their porch. That did not save the world in the seventies, and cursing capitalism and smoking pot probably won’t do the trick this time. But despite all the failures and aberrations their journey entailed, I envied them for getting that kind of space.
And I can’t help to wonder what the pandemic did to places like Portland, that were still young and not yet set in their ways when the pandemic hit. What do they get back to, after having been suspended for so long in their prime? Did the energy get lost or has the hunger for change even increased? Did that energy come from the inside of the place or did it need the travelers and outsiders, admiring that energy and thereby fueling it?
So for this weekend I wrote a funny little poem, a homage to decampments, to traveling and to Portland. Enjoy the read 😊:
Portlandia is a settlement,
Just recently set up,
Bridges span the river wild,
The restaurant ‘s a truck.
Risen from the ashes,
The new land of the free,
With colored hair in blue and green –
Their rainbow ‘s meant to be.
A choice was made for love and joy
Over suburbia perfection,
If something looks a little broke –
It’s patina – no need for resurrection.
Here, every day is 7th day,
And one deserves to rest.
When smoking on their porches,
Washington’s far at best.
Bearded man by the fireside,
Vegan bowls on thy knees,
Washed down with a golden drink
Made at local breweries.
Portlandia is a settlement
and if you come by one day,
breathe in deep and brace yourself,
Cause you might want to stay 😊