Loving Portland Like Water

by Maria Theresa Maggi on July 30, 2015

Water's Edge by Maria Theresa Maggi

When I was first beginning my search for a new home in Portland late last Spring, Mike and Kelly took me out to a secret spot beyond the Portland area they like to hike and swim. It was a hard hike for me on a hot day, complete with walking across a log bridge with only one rail. At one point I simply had to stop and lay down on the moss at the edge of the trail because I couldn’t go any farther without resting. But on the way back, after a little lunch and some time off my feet, we came upon this view of the water’s edge in late afternoon light. Miraculously, the climb down to the water’s edge was easy, and Romeo and I went down to feel the water. I squatted and stuck my hands in, and splashed some on the back of my neck to cool off. Romeo drank from the sweet, clear water for several minutes, the first time I’d ever seen him willing to do something like that. I didn’t take a photograph, but the few moments we spent down there were so powerful that I drew what I felt and saw from memory in the little chalk pastel above.

Of course it’s been a dry summer all over the west. But there’s something about being here in Portland that reminds me how much of me is made of water. I feel more fluid here. I can drink the tap water. Indeed I drink more water than I’ve ever drank in my life and it’s easy to do. I feel the water in the air, and the power of the rivers, and beyond them the ocean. When I wake up in the morning in my new home, the cast of light reminds me of the few precious mornings in my life I woke up in San Francisco. As a child, it was as a guest at my Great Aunt Sophie and  Uncle Ralph’s house, downtown, in a house with bay windows. As a younger woman, it’s where I spent my honeymoon. And later than that, where I woke up with a man I was very much in love with during our short and passionate time together.

Portland’s not a hilly perch over the ocean like San Francisco is, but its soul still feels made of the water coursing through it. In honor of this, I decorated my bathroom sink with shells and rocks like one of my dear friends who loves the water does. They help to ground me in my new home, but they also remind me that the water running through my hands when I wash them is also part of me, intrinsically renewing and relaxing me in this city that has captured my heart.

shells, rocks, sink

The bath tub, too, is more marvelous than any other bath tub I’ve ever soaked in. It took me several baths to realize what it was. It isn’t a claw foot tub, and at first glance doesn’t seem particularly remarkable to look at. But then I realized what it was: it’s open on the side you step into it on, of course, but the back is open, too. So it’s possible to lay back in it as if were a claw foot tub. And that makes being in the water more like being a part of it somehow.

Most people who love water associate their love with water recreation: jumping into near frozen lakes, swimming in clear pools, waterskiing behind boats, running river rapids, or even going out to sea to dive in with dolphins. I’ll most likely never do many of those things, and am a mediocre swimmer at best. But I mean to articulate something quite different here, and, to me, even more essential than recreating in water; at the cell level, I am awakened to the water that makes me who I am in the body I inhabit every day. And from time to time I now remember to call it what it is: “my wonderful, miraculous, healing body.”

The water I feel within me here seems also to soften the tenor of my decisions. There’s a growing sense of less urgency to do things any one particular way–I feel drawn to let things flow within a larger pattern on a day to day basis in some new incipient way I can’t quite put my finger on–because it’s, well, like water.

The water I feel in the air here, even when it’s dry, reminds me of a love song I heard a friend play on his radio show years ago. I never forgot it, and it has come back to me on my walks around my new neighborhood. Though I couldn’t remember the artist or the exact title of the song, I went searching for it hoping I would recognize it; I felt I needed to hear it again in to write this post. And tonight I found it: “Just Like Water” by Lauryn Hill.

Regrettably, perhaps, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in love with a man; my life has given me other gifts of late.  But I’m pretty sure I am falling hard for this city. And the words of refrain from the song ring true to Portland’s effect on me:

“It’s just like the water. . .I ain’t felt this way in years. . .”

as does the end:

“. . .washing me, cleaning me, moving me around. . .and around. . .and around. . .”

It’s hot again, without a cloud in the sky. But a few evenings ago, when my son was helping me clear away boxes and hang up some art, we had a genuine Portland downpour. In the morning, the rumpled tomato  and melon plants I’d brought from Moscow bore beautiful blossoms. And the next evening when he and Kelly were taking away yet more boxes we found these growing along the embankment at the edge of the back parking lot where I live:

peach and blackberries

Back in Moscow, I learned a place I worked hard for over the last few years was finally dedicated as a park. Alongside it is a little creek that’s been cleaned up and daylighted. It was the first time I felt a body of water as part of my own body. I tried to write about it in the sonnet “Seeing Hog Creek,” which I reprinted and recounted my public reading of in the post Knowing When to Say No.

I think that experience of  feeling tiny Hog Creek like a vein in the arm of the Palouse was the precursor for this feeling of being near, of and in love with the water in me that I feel here in Portland.  So far, I really do love each and every little taste of this place I take in . . .like water.

Maria (moonwatcher)




Leave a Comment

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lynn July 31, 2015 at 10:24 am

I’m so happy to hear you’re settling in well, Maria, and loving it too! What a special gift it is to have Mike and Kelly so close. I too have an appreciation for the water living on Canada’s east coast. I tried living in Toronto once and I felt like a fish out of water!


2 Maria Theresa Maggi July 31, 2015 at 4:07 pm

Thank you Lynn! I feel very lucky.It must be beautiful where you live. I’ve never seen that part of the world. Here’s to all the beautiful water everywhere. 🙂


3 Alix July 31, 2015 at 1:59 pm

How lovely your hike turned out to be. I love the picture you drew as I can see the surrounding green and blue waters. I grew up on the east coast surrounded by beautiful water. I now live in Marana AZ which doesn’t have any water…but if I drive a few hours I can be near or in….Portland sounds like the good life. -:)


4 Maria Theresa Maggi July 31, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Thank you Alix! I’m so happy you loved the picture I drew. The desert has its own kind of beauty–glad you can appreciate it and get to water not too far away as well. And yes, Portland is a pretty special place. 🙂


5 Pam August 1, 2015 at 9:59 am

I love hearing about how you are settling in, and all the water references. I’m a water person as well, and am much happier when I’m near water, whether a river, lake, ocean or bay. Continued good wishes for you as you continue to settle in and fall in love with Portland! <3


6 Maria Theresa Maggi August 1, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Thank you Pam! I’m a little surprised this is what I’ve noticed in such a pronounced way, even in the heat of summer. Just really wanted to capture it so I’m glad it resonated with you. And I so appreciate the continued well wishes as I continue to settle in!


7 Gena August 1, 2015 at 2:56 pm


So wonderful to read this post in juxtaposition with your last! I love how you pay homage the two elements, earth and water, and what they evoke: feeling grounded and supportive in the case of earth, and being able to move fluidly and adapt in the case of water.

As with so many things in life, I think that there’s a crucial balance between feeling grounded and also feeling flexible enough to adjust to life’s ever-changing circumstances. Your posts give us a vivid demonstration of how your move to the Portland area has summoned up both of those qualities, groundedness and fluidity.

Glad you’re settling in so well to your wonderful new home!

Gena XO


8 Maria Theresa Maggi August 1, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Thank you so much, Gena, for pointing this earth and water juxtaposition out to me! I was just going with my gut and hadn’t actually noticed–I love your words about this so much!! I certainly have needed, and continue to need, both groundedness and fluidity, as I continue to make my “new” way here. I so appreciate the insights and the well wishes both!


9 Veronica August 6, 2015 at 10:57 am

This post makes me happy. 🙂 There really, truly is something special about water. We are lucky to be able to view the Bay from our windows, looking at the water whenever I need to reconnect to the earth. Our hikes go by a small lake in the park. All our vacations are tied to water somehow- I love swimming in and immersing myself in water. It’s a calm peacefulness, even when the water is swirling and rough, there’s always a calm and innate joy.
I’m so glad you’re loving Portland and your new home, and finding little things that make it that much better. Your chalk drawling is lovely! xo


10 Maria Theresa Maggi August 6, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Thanks Veronica!! It makes ME happy to know this post made YOU happy!! 🙂 Lots lots to get used to, but oh these little (and big) things make all the difference. Thank you for the kind words about the drawing too–I so appreciate your faithful readership. xoxo ps–you are lucky to be able to see the bay from yo your windows!! <3


11 Veronica August 7, 2015 at 10:38 am

BTW- I nominated you for favorite blog on VegNews’ annual poll. 🙂 Yours is the blog I always read (the other being the Bloggess), and I hope you get a nod in the magazine!


12 Maria Theresa Maggi August 7, 2015 at 11:53 am

OMG Veronica, WOW, THANK YOU!! Never been nominated for anything like that before. Your fabulous kindness came at the exact right moment, too. You are a blessing. 🙂 xoxo 🙂


13 Lee at Veggie Quest August 10, 2015 at 7:13 am

Hi Maria, what a lovely post. I too have been letting things flow more, trying to cling less, and when I can accomplish this, everything works better. Thanks for the gentle reminder! And glad you’re loving Portland!


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