Kermit the Frog may lament, “It’s not that easy being green.” And yet, green has the distinct advantage of being the color that people can see and appreciate more hues of than any other. Furthermore, it has a soothing, refreshing, almost revitalizing effect.
Oregon is extraordinarily fortunate. The state ranks at or near the top when it comes to being green. This color dominates the countryside, mountains, towns and cities. It’s particularly vivid along Portland’s tree-lined streets and throughout her forested hills.
The place I’ve discovered in the Rose City that showcases the largest palette of greens is Washington Park. Name any shade and it’s here. Mother Nature, plus a mini army of professional landscape architects and gardeners, have created this stunning 413-acre oasis that includes grassy fields for playing, woodland trails for hiking and manicured gardens for strolling. Three of my favorite areas in this multi-faceted haven of green are dedicated to culture, courage and conifers.
Portland Japanese Garden
When physicians advise patients to lower their blood pressure, perhaps that prescription should include a visit to the Portland Japanese Garden. After taking only a few steps inside the gates, a sense of calm begins to wash over me.
This exquisite garden perched above the city is in fact five separate gardens: Sand and Stone, Tea, Strolling Pond, Natural and Flat. Each one flows gracefully into the next, taking full advantage of the natural terrain. Visitors meander through the immaculate grounds. Many have a contemplative look as they cross the wooden bridge to admire the azaleas and wild iris. And we all are mesmerized by the waterfall, or shishi-odoshi, a bamboo fountain that gently rocks back and forth as it fills and empties.
One of the most serene views is from the pavilion’s veranda overlooking the Flat Garden. There, pristine white rocks are expertly raked into perfect patterns and set against a lush backdrop. Conversations become whispers. Tranquility. Just what the doctor ordered.
Oregon Veterans Vietnam Memorial
Flames of a different kind burn brightly in the Oregon Veterans Vietnam Memorial. This is autumn’s tribute to the 57,000 brave young Oregonians who fought in a war many didn’t understand or agree with. Yet, they left friends, family and their futures behind to serve their country.
The names of the 800 who died during the conflict are engraved on curved marble memorial walls. It’s impossible for me to walk by without pausing to read the names and wonder how different theirs and all of our lives would’ve been had peace prevailed.
This winding memorial’s path leads me around the landscaped bowl that was once a par-3 golf course down to the Garden of Solace. Much care and planning went into the spiral design that represents birth, life, death and rebirth. Hoyt Arboretum is the ideal location for this tribute because it annually illustrates this theme. It’s particularly poignant on a warm autumn day with the trees’ leaves aglow, just before they tumble and join the others that have fallen.
There’s something innate about recording what we see. Some choose to do it in the blink of an eye. Literally. They simply close their eyes and attempt to etch a scene in their minds to remember.
Others prefer to use a compact camera or smartphone. In a matter of seconds, a dozen photos are snapped, only to be scrolled through later and shared.
Then there are the en plein air artists who refuse to be rushed to record how they see the world. They take a much more patient approach, packing up a suitcase chock-full of paints, brushes and various accoutrements before trudging off in search of the perfect vantage point.
I’m not alone on the long zig-zagging Wildwood Trail. Several others have also skipped out of work on this late October day to savor the woods’ spectacular array of colors dotting the trees’ branches and peppering the ground. All of us try to hold onto autumn’s glory in our own way — choosing different subjects and angles to capture the moment before the winter rains wash it away.