Wonderful Portland


Wow. It’s been more than two weeks already that I’ve been back here. It has been a jam-packed time so far, and the next week (my last week here, at least for a bit) promises to be the same. So unfortunately, I don’t have time to write much here—I need my sleep!—but I wanted to check in and share some photos.

I have found it much less surreal than I had imagined to be back. Everywhere I go, places seem so familiar that I feel like I’ve barely been gone at all. It feels like, “oh yeah, this place—I think I was here last week…?”

Surprising, but cool.

The weather has been spectacular. We’ve had two coolish and drizzly days, but all other days so far have had highs in the 70s and 80s, with warm sunshine. (Some people here are freaking out about global warming, but my recollection from my 31 years here is that the first two weeks of October always tends to be warm and dry, albeit usually less than 80. The second half of the month is when it gets much cooler and rainier.) I am racing that western-Oregon clock! After my time here in Portland, I plan to spend a few days each in Salem and Eugene; it will be a miracle for me if it’s not cool and rainy by the time I get there.

I have seen sooooo many people since I’ve returned! I haven’t taken too many photos/selfies with folks, so if I’ve spent time with you and your photo isn’t here, please don’t be hurt. But it’s been wonderful to see so many friends in person, and also to have the downtime (thanks to a wonderful house-/cat-sit for my friend Sandi) to do several Zooms with others all around the world.

The other day, I was sitting at a picnic table in the park across the street from my house-sit, when I saw a woman with a bike helmet out of the corner of my eye. As she approached, I heard her say, “Is that the world-traveling Maren Souders??” It was Jeana!! We had worked together in the OSPIRG canvass office, 30 summers ago! I hadn’t seen her in person in quite a few years.
It was great to catch up with Laurie over brunch!

These kinds of connections—in-person and virtual—are a big part of what I want my life to be about, so although it’s a bit overwhelming, I am loving it.

And there has been so much magic in these connections! Once again—as happened so many times on the road this past year—I have had many connections with people who are only here very briefly, as am I. We are like two ships almost passing in the night… but we do get to connect. This has been the case with several different people these past two weeks.

I’ve also bicycled a lot, in beautiful urban as well as wooded places. I have attended a number of doctor/dentist appointments, in various suburban locales, and doing so has allowed me the opportunity to take some beautiful bike rides.

And I’ve eaten so much delicious food! Many friends have treated me to meals (thank you all!) and I’ve gotten to experience some new-to-me restaurants as well as old favorites. Meanwhile, it’s been a blessing to have access to a kitchen and enough time to buy some healthy groceries and make some simple meals for myself.

Mis Tacones!

On the flip side of that, I will end with yet another example of magic, from today:

I had a dental appointment down south in Oak Grove, on the southern edge of Milwaukie. I took the bus down there (and even went all the way through Oregon City on the way there, going by Google’s transit directions) and then hopped back on a bus to the Milwaukie transit center afterward. From there, I decided to have lunch at Uncle Tsang’s, a vegetarian food cart in Sellwood. (My second visit there since being back!) I decided to bicycle there from Milwaukie, to enjoy the beautiful day.

On the way to the cart pod, I passed Piece of Cake bakery. This is a classic Portland bakery (since 1978!) and they make the most amazing vegan red velvet cake I’ve ever had. I normally get it in cupcake form. It’s rich and dense and sweet, and even contains chocolate chips!

The problem is, both today and the last time I passed it on the way back from the dentist (let’s ignore any irony about eating sweets right after the dentist, shall we?) I was on my way to lunch, and I knew that the lunch at Uncle Tsang’s would be way too filling to allow room for dessert, especially a decadent one like this. And it’s awkward to carry things with me when I’m out on my bike, especially on a hot day when a cupcake might melt.

So in both cases, I very reluctantly decided to forgo the cupcake.

I pedaled over to the cart pod. I surveyed the extensive menu, and made my selection. (Eggplant with black bean sauce, add tofu.) They told me it would be a 30-minute wait. This felt a bit edgy for me, because I had somewhere to be in about an hour and a half, and it would take me at least half an hour to get there. But I decided to go for it.

No sooner had I turned around to find a table where I could sit and wait, than I saw my friend Jarmila! She was there with a friend of hers, and they had just ordered from a different cart. We talked for the next half-hour, catching up on each other’s lives.

Another case of wonderful serendipity.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

I texted my next friend, Chris, that I was running late, and he replied that my timing was perfect.


I finished up my meal, and headed north on another beautiful bike path.

I arrived at Chris’s place just at the right time, and he and his girlfriend showed me the ropes of how I would cat-sit for their kitty Killian in a few days.

Then it was time to meet up with my friend Brad. I had run into Brad at brunch yesterday at local vegan hotspot Fermenter—he had been dining with our mutual friends Vivek and Lynn, and I was sharing the meal with my extreme-cyclist-OMG-I-can’t-believe-the-tours-he-does friend Michael—and Brad had told me then that he’d like to meet up for coffee to help brainstorm some fundraising ideas for me for the next year, since he is a freelance grant writer.


So this afternoon, after getting the key from Chris, I biked down to meet up with Brad at a frozen-yogurt place, Eb & Bean, that has great vegan options. As soon as I pulled up, he told me he had a little gift for me.

As we sat down, he handed over a paper bag containing the treasure, which he cautioned me not to eat all at once, because it was outrageously rich and might make me sick.

Do you know what it was?

That’s right. A slice of Piece of Cake’s vegan red velvet. (He had had no idea of my history with this particular confection.)

If that doesn’t symbolize my life right now, I don’t know what does.

I’m so grateful.

And I’ve ended up writing a novella here again, despite my best intentions.

I’m going to sleep now! I hope you all are thriving!

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