Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

When the pilot announced as we were landing in Portland that the temperature was 48°, many of us passengers incoming from heat-weary Los Angeles gasped in delight.  Since Wednesday, I have reveled in the alternating clear crispness and drizzle of the Northwest fall.

Around the edges of my conference schedule, I reveled in exploring downtown Portland, in general.  How could I not like a city which claims an independent bookstore as its number one tourist attraction?  Throw in its Czech streetcar system and food cart “pod” on my hotel block, and I didn’t want to leave.

With each passing year, I’ve found myself more involved in the national association which gives me an annual autumnal chance to visit a new city or return to a favorite one.  As of this meeting, I’m now the vice president/president-elect; with this appointment, I felt the obligation to show up for all of the breakfast hours, meet new people during the breaks, and move association business forward during the receptions.   

Fortunately, this association membership is comprised of mostly humanities and social sciences professors and dean types, other folks like me who are often high-performing introverts: people who have learned how to command attention to run a workshop, or give a decent conference address, but who, after only so much of being “on,” need to retreat for some solitary time. 

So when I ran into one of my best friends on the board at Powell’s bookstore during the late Friday afternoon concurrent session time, we did not feel the need to justify to one another why we both were playing hooky.  As she said, she needed to read a book by that point, rather than listen to other people talking about them.  Instead, we traded notes on where we had already been, and what other destinations we thought we could get in before the rain and evening program closed in on us.

I made it over to the Lan Su Chinese Garden, built on a parking lot by merchants in Portland’s small Chinatown in 2000.  Sixty-five artisans from Suzhou worked with rock and other materials imported from China to create what is considered the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China.  The 16th-century gardens, scenery, and artisan crafts made Suzhou my favorite city when Bing and I visited China in1992, and I could have sworn I was back in China.  I hope to come back to this garden to eat dumplings in the tea house. 

Our Reed College conference hosts arranged for a post-conference excursion through the Columbia River Gorge area.  At the helm of my van was a Reed biology professor who is an expert on many topics, including Lewis and Clark.  As we stopped to see salmon hatcheries and spawning areas, waterfall vistas, and forest trails, he read from their observations at those places or areas.  He was so fascinating and the area so beautiful that we didn’t mind being out at some points in the rain.  Just as we were returning to downtown Portland, a double rainbow broke out in the setting sun. 

As I was saying my goodbyes to my fellow officers last night before heading to the airport, the ones I know best commented on how they were glad to see the “old me” again.  They who see me at six-month intervals said they could tell I was running out of steam at the past board meetings and conferences and that they were buoyed to see me back at my energetic self.  It’s always nice to have the change of pace which the association business brings, and this year especially it was nice to daydream about an urban life in Portland.

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