Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The colors of fall in Portland

Fall is a time of year that I've never really taken time for before.

In Alaska's interior, it was a hurried explosion of color, soon dampened by snow. In Ukraine I was too busy looking at people and signs to pay much attention to something as commonplace as a season. But now the changing face of nature has captured me completely.

I think part of this fascination is the hyper-awareness we have of the holiday season in America... as in Halloween- load up on candy! costume thyself! Thanksgiving- buy! consume! Black Friday! Christmas- decorate! shop! eat! Here, it's impossible to forget that this is fall time. Holiday-scent candles, autumn-inspired teas, gift sets, anything and everything with a seasonal theme is for sale. I got the aforementioned tea collection about two weeks ago: pumpkin spice, caramel apple, chocolate truffle, cranberry bliss. And then what should appear at the store yesterday but the winter edition already ; )

The over-commercialism of the holidays is always a popular rallying cry but I'm not going to join in this time. This year it's a consolation prize for exchanging Ukraine for the U.S. So, that limited-time-only deal? Yes, please. Plus all the advertising for pumpkin spice lattes and "spooky cookie dough for only $2 extra" has actually directed my attention back where it should be- outside.

On a non-money-related note, I'd like to bring more conscious tradition into my life and create a few rituals as in Every year we do [insert something funny or cool] on Holiday X. Recently I've noticed that this is one of my weak points, getting stupidly surprised at things that happen on a regular basis. This could be a big thing, as in looking at the calender and realizing Halloween is in two days, but to be really honest, it happens with the most predictable things too. For example, knowing that I need to leave for work at 8 AM but still finding myself in a panicked scramble for housekeys and brain at 7:53 AM. Every single morning.

Thus it's no big shock we missed out on celebrating Halloween. I'll blame it on moving in and the new job. My parents [did I tell you how WEIRD it is to live in the same state?!] fulfilled their civic duty of handing out sugar to small children. 160 of them, phew! Even the dog, in her Halloween costume, eventually stopped running over to investigate at the sound of the doorbell!

How they do Halloween.
Now all the sweets and horror makeup are marked down and Thanksgiving is taking up the end caps and displays. For the past 3 years this day meant sorting through my stack of holiday lesson plans and choosing something fun. One year there was a special dinner, a hodgepodge of Peace Corps and Ukrainian friends and whatever dishes people could scramble up. 365 days later- and it's super bittersweet to write this- the news was filled with talk of "the revolution!" and we had a small, sober gathering around our glass coffee table.

Our last Thanksgiving stateside was in 2010. It was snowing that day and we stomped through tiny snowdrifts on a nearly-empty campus to attend the sorry you had nowhere else to go free cafeteria meal offered by University of Alaska. Later we drove the 60 miles out to where D's parents lived. As grumbling as I was at times, I miss those days now. Days we sat down to an odd mix of Ukrainian, Tatar, and American foods washed down by cognac and vodka. Days his father spent much of using Russian to curse the chaos that is the English language. Now that we're in Portland, perhaps we'll share the day with my family, an event that hasn't happened in probably a decade.

As for the biggies- Christmas and New Years- who knows. I need to reprogram my brain back to Christmas getting priority and New Years being more of an afterthought or a time to set unreasonable goals for the coming year. Last year we were both at home sick on New Years, crawling off the couch at midnight to watch fireworks from the balcony and hear our friends drunkenly cheering from their balcony across the road, so at least it'll be a pretty easy occasion to beat this year : )

But for now it's only November 3rd. Nature looks like the end of a long sunset, the moment when all the colors are the brightest. Leaves on the trees are school-bus yellow and pomegranate red. Wet leaves imprint a copy of themselves onto the sidewalk, remaining even after the guys with the deafening leaf-blowers hustle them out of view.

The temperature is just chilly enough to make a jacket feel good over my arms. Endless grayness and drizzle wait outside of the window, a constant background for all the bright leaves. The plink plink plink of raindrops against the panes is comforting.

For now I'm not really thinking about the holidays or winter but rather sipping that fall tea collection and trying for once to be more present as the world changes her colors.


  1. You should one day come to New England to see the REAL colors of autumn.

    1. Haha, I'd love to, Sergey : ) You should post a few pics on the FB page!