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batteries & blooms.

This past week has been a hard one for me. Along with feeling a pervasive sense of fatigue, whether from stress, autoimmune issues, allergies, or fluctuating spring weather, I've started feeling the truly intense pangs of homesickness and even heartsickness. I believe that a big part of it is finally settling into my new reality, and starting to have more time and space to process this whole experience. It's led to some really challenging emotions. So much of the first part of my travels were packed with adventures and a smorgasbord of experiences and people, and I rode high on the thrill of excitement and adrenaline. Now that my path here is entirely up to me to decide, I find myself choosing down time over socializing, being a homebody over trying a new restaurant or going to a show, leaving me with more time to reflect, to ponder, and feel.

A sunny day at the Rhododendron Gardens in southeast Portland.

Because ultimately, I'm an introvert, friends. And so, though the past couple months have been incredibly exciting and full, my battery needs a bit of a recharge. Boy, am I feelin' it. But I'm also feeling how good it is to experience that bittersweet pull of separation, of wanting to embrace those I love at the end of the day and not being able to. Semi-instant gratification in terms of intimacy feels like such a distant concept, and I can feel my heart muscle stretching out to meet another, and, not finding them, retreating into its own deepness and sinking into the resulting ache. It's like I've just had a workout but the dopamine rush and sense of release and relief at the end got left out. Like that feeling you have when you really like someone and want to tell them but are scared that they won't feel the same so you just keep it to yourself and the ache grows deeper and more persistent and unyielding. It can be a really beautiful feeling when we accept the tension and discomfort that are part of this pulling. What usually messes it up is the mind; it questions, it doubts, it shames my body and spirit for the ache, it sees discomfort and attempts to protect, to build walls to keep out the uncertainty, to maintain control, to find solutions instead of choosing wonder and asking questions. This is when anxiety comes into the picture. And that's the not-so-fun part of the whole debacle.

My lil' altar.

But it's all part of the process, as my dear partner Alex reminds me. Of growing, of experiencing, of processing and integration. And the only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once, as some people say. And I'm learning to be more okay with that. To lean into what I feel like doing or not doing. Relearning what my body needs vs what it wants. I would imagine that this is not an uncommon experience to those who have experienced some form of chronic pain or health issues and are currently rediscovering what it means to have a functioning human body in this world. It can be really confusing at times, and my heart goes out to anyone who has gone through this journey themselves. This rediscovery process is so precious though, and I am trying my best to trust in myself and my body, and to uphold a beginner's mind as I explore my own boundaries and push myself without going too far. And also, to not take it too seriously. Because that's equally if not more exhausting.

There's catnip everywhere right now because Bo rolled around in a whole bag's worth of the stuff on the rug right outside my bedroom. He beelined for the window above my bed when I opened the door this morning. Purr meow.

Anyways, despite the hard feels and lower energy, I've also had some really sweet times. I've continued to meander through a variety of parks and neighborhoods within the city. The spring blooms are truly pulling out all the stops out here like it's nothing, and I find comfort in the ease and grace of their beauty. The sun started coming out midweek last week, and I found myself melting into it as one does when they haven't felt its persistent warmth since September. I dressed up for the weather because she dressed up for me. It's only fair. I've continued finding solace in my writing and drawing projects. Continuing to pick at my first knitting project (a scarf for my mama for Mother's Day!) has been really meditative and therapeutic. Even if I miss a stitch here and there, that's okay; it's part of the learning process. Don't worry, I've asked my mom and she's cool with it.

All dressed up for a hot date with de sun.

An unexpected blessing the past couple weeks has been getting to know the Goldblatt family. David Goldblatt is my Dad's cousin, and him, his son Jordan, his wife Kimmer, and Kimmer's mother Sherry, all live just a 15 minute walk from where I'm living in Multnomah Village. What a difference it makes to have family in a place so far away from home; I've felt so welcomed and embraced by them, even though I just met them for the first time last week. David and Jordan are musicians, and it's been such a blessing and pleasure to pull out my fiddle and jam with them, David on piano and Jordan on drums. The other day, Jordan's buddy and family friend Quinn came over and joined in with his tenor sax. Between music, delicious food, good conversation, and a hike in Tyron State Park, I feel truly grateful to my Uncle Mark for connecting us, and am excited to see how my relationship blossoms with my newly discovered family while I'm out here.

Some blooms and foliage from the Rhododendron Gardens last Saturday.

Saturday was the warmest it's been this week (mid-80s and full sun), so I endeavored to be outside as much as possible. I visited the Rhododendron Gardens in southeast Portland to see some really gorgeous blooms and soaked up the sweet scents of sun-warmed, wind-tossed pollen, mixed with the occasional whiff of the season's first sunscreen applications. I walked slow. I sat on benches periodically. I watched ducklings speed after their mothers in the shallow, crystal clear ponds, minnow shadows darting underneath their feathered, water-slicked bodies. I'd packed a lunch, and after my stroll amongst the Rhodies (Portlandian for "Rhododendrons") I found a nearby park, laid out a blanket, and between bites sketched some of the flowers from the garden, attempting to capture at least a small essence of their beauty.

I ventured into the Sellwood neighborhood nearby afterwards, treating myself to some licks of overpriced ice cream and a bout of people watching. I spotted six or seven people in Posse Mode, each wearing a wig that was a different color of the rainbow. I watched them giggle hysterically and in sync as teenagers do when they know they are Toeing the Line of Acceptable Societal Standards but are getting away with it because they are doing it In Good Company. I continued walking.

I stopped into Wallace's bookstore, my favorite bookstore in Portland so far besides Powells. Picture a yellow and purple house with books spilling out of the door onto a table on the curb advertising $1 books. Picture walking in and being in bibliophile heaven. Books crammed everywhere, but with a handpicked, high quality selection. I saw some of my favorite titles lining the walls, sprinkled among other reads that grasped my curiosity. Used and new books alike adorned every possible nook and cranny. Where a kitchen might once have been were Thrillers/Mysteries, Philosophy, Travel and Nature books shoved into the bedroom, a huge living room-like space devoted entirely to kids books... I could've spent all day there, but it was already 5:30pm, and I grabbed a copy of The Vagina Monologues and vowed to return sometime soon.

More lushness from neighborhood walks this past week.

I've committed to staying in Portland till the end of June now, and couldn't be more excited to see what adventures come my way, even the ones that I don't expect or plan for. Because sometimes, those are the ones that lead to the greatest opportunities for growth and self-discovery.

I hope you all know how much I miss you at this point!! Love and hugs from PDX (Portlandian for "Portland").

xoxo grace

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