photo(9)Since moving to Portland less than a year ago, I’m still in awe of the nearly constant presence of water. It falls from the sky, though not nearly as much as I expected, and it pools up in small ponds around town, and some wetlands a bit farther out. But water’s real presence can mostly be found in the rivers. As an inner Southeast Portland dweller, that mostly means the Willamette, and occasionally the Columbia.

Portland is decidedly West Coast, but it’s not really coastal. In its relationship to the ocean, it’s actually 85 miles inland. It is a seaport, albeit more like to those of Sacramento or Stockton than to San Francisco or Seattle.  Yet the climate is highly influenced by coastal weather patterns. And many seabirds find their way here. It’s not unusual to hear the cries of gulls right in town. And you’ll frequently see international cargo ships down on the banks of the Willamette, loading up with American grain or offloading cars bound for Hyundai dealerships.

After years living in parched, high elevation places like Flagstaff, Arizona and outside Boulder, Colorado, the moisture is soothing in the literal sense. My hands and face are less dry, and my nose seldom bleeds. But more importantly it nourishes that inner part of me that had for too long learned to live without the presence of water.  Now I’m regularly walking along the Willamette and swimming and the gym, and even thinking about rowing and boating groups I might join when I’m feeling better (I’m dealing with some slow-to-heal back and hip issues).