Looking for Oregon

Updated 1/5/22

Photo metadata tells me that a little over two years and a month ago, I went up to Oregon and stayed with my grandma. I wouldn’t remember the date otherwise, nor would I remember the scenery if it weren’t for the photos. Visiting Oregon for the second time was a unique experience because of the change of place, but like many other moments in my life, the uniqueness did little to counter the fog that eventually settled over it. The little memory I have left is something reconstructed and corroborated by visual cues, textual evidence, and keywords I left in an old draft of this post in which I remember anchoring a weak promise to myself that I would start writing.

In April, 2015, I would have been in my junior year. Memory murmurs of emotional and mental dis-ease during this time. One sensible reason for which I would not have been in school would be due to Spring break. Given the regularity with which the FIRST robotics world championship occurred annually in April during our break, this would imply that the robotics team I was involved in either didn’t qualify, or they did and I did not go. It was the latter. In a drive to a home from an hydroelectric plant set on a river, I took a picture of myself to send to my then girlfriend, meanwhile, texting a teammate to ask about how the team was doing. If it weren’t for a photo and texts I would not remember. I did not go that year because I was frequently truant from the club and from school.

In Oregon, there is a rather large river near Beaverton, the city in which my grandma resides. I didn’t know until recently, but it is the Columbia River. From Portland, with a drive of about an hour and a half, beyond Multnomah Falls, one will reach the Bonneville dam of Columbia River. For those who live in sunny and dry Southern California, the scattering of evergreens, the chill of the air, and the wideness of rivers may be an unfamiliar but welcome experience.

My memories of Oregon are both delightful and painful. I was nearing what I think of as the one of the worst times in my life. I must shelve these pages of my life into oblivion due to regret and embarrassment. I have no other explanation I can think of. I must put them away. These words too are looked upon regretfully as I write. They are too melodramatic, too disorganized. Or they are too scatterbrained, too wordy. At least, that is what I feel and tell myself.

At Multnomah Falls, I remember my Great Aunt, my mother, and I taking some pictures. It was either on the bridge where we stood, or a terraced area closer to the falls that we could feel a fine mist descend. I wouldn’t know which, if we did not take photos together.

After a short stop at the Multnomah gift shop, we continued until we arrived at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery, a short ways away from the dam and its visiting center. With rectangular walkways of gridded steel set between rows of fish, one can peer over into the clear, green-tinted water to see them, numerous and wiggling. Do fish feel the magnetic field of the earth? I forget why I thought that, but it was a note, so I share it. There was some beautiful foliage, bright green set on dark wood with the sky peeking through. I was charmed.

Eventually, we made our way to the visiting center at the dam. I remember most the facilities at the Bradford Visitor center because of the several displays that piqued my recognition for things mathematical and physical. In a place far away from home, the modest slide rules, planimeters, and pantographs used by engineers and surveyors was a brief retreat from the novel and unfamiliar. A fish ladder could be seen. I saw electric coils as tall as twice my height and thicker than my torso. There was also a rather large propeller out on display outside the visiting center. And I remember faintly, a long time ago, enjoying some spaghetti with a church deacon and his family. His carpet was firm and rough, and I remember closing my laptop out of panic for looking at things I wasn’t supposed to as a child.

I remember contemplating in Oregon the social function of eating a meal with family. Perhaps it was because my grandmother spoke of it, she, old and fatigued, yet able to enjoy even a simple meal with my mother and I. When coming home, on the drive from the airport my mom was quite lively with her friend who’s experience in a cancer ward met my mom’s worry over my grandma’s difficulty eating. Some such moments I want to cherish, because they are innocent and without regret. I think most regretful is to stop at regretting every passing moment. Instead of forgetting, I will try to search for what I can remember. I will be looking for Oregon.