Saturday, September 23, 2006

Totally Portland

Vaux Swifts
Originally uploaded by oregon.
Jim and I have been in Portland for eight years now. Before living here, I lived in New Jersey and Denver, and Jim had lived in Colorado and Wyoming. In all that time, neither one of us can remember something happening -- something organic and moving and almost other-worldly -- that we would describe as "Very Colorado" or "Very New Jersey." (Well, I can think of a lot of things that were very New Jersey but most of them were neither organic nor moving.)

At least once a week here in Portland we find ourselves in the midst of an experience here that can only be described as "A Portland moment." Last week it was the female gas station attendant (yep, we pump our own out here) who was extremely cheery and chatty and giddy over the arrival of Portland's first rainy day of the season. In the 3 minutes it took to fill my $53 tank, she told me her entire life story.

Tonight, it was the swifts and the crowd who came to watch them. Each year since we have lived here, a flock of migrating Vaux Swifts has stopped in Portland for awhile on its journey south. I don't know whether they stay for days or weeks, but each night while they're here they shack up in the chimney stack of a local elementary school.

And each night, about a thousand people gather on the lawn of the elementary school to say goodnight to the swifts. This is Portland's idea of spectator sport. In fact, I bet more people show up to watch the swifts than the Blazers.

Families bring picnic dinners. Kids play kickball and slide down the hill on cardboard boxes. The crowd murmers as the swarm of birds finally appears. People ooh and ahh as the birds swoop for an hour or so around the chimeny's mouth. They cheer when the flock gangs up to chase away a predator falcon who's hanging around looking for dinner. (In the end, the falcon got what he was after.)

And finally, just as the last rays of sunlight fade from the sky, the birds nosedive into the smokestack -- THOUSANDS of them. It's impossible to imagine how they all fit. It's magic to watch. And when the last bird is tucked away for the night, the crowd applauds and makes its way home.

Totally Portland.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and son and I are planning relocate to the Portland area in a few years. I love hearing things like that about Portland, it sounds great!!

3:26 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

Hey Carrie:

I saw your note on my blog and don't know how to contact you. I don't know if you'll check the comments but if you do please contact me at lahamlt @ gmail . com and I'd love to talk about the mitred square bag. Thanks for visiting my blog!

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, Carolyn, here's a little friendly prompting to encourage you to get back to least so we can see what you're working on for Christmas!

9:13 AM  

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