A Walk in the Woods

I drove down to Portland from Seattle to watch my brother’s cat while he is on vacation.  Today I decided to take a walk after spending some time in a cafe responding to thoughtful comments on the blog.  A wonderful aspect of Portland is that one can walk from the city up to the quiet forest within thirty minutes.

I ascended the steep roads and once I passed the last mansion and entered into a typical Northwest forest, I experienced a sense of peace.  I heard the wind breathing through the tops of the towering pines.  The air I took into my lungs was pure and full laden with airborne mist from the pacific ocean waves.  Trees swayed and groaned.  I observed trees that had fallen and died — their massive roots finally gave up their grip on life and tore up the surrounding earth.  I could hear a small creek meandering down a fern-lined crevice.  And I thought how long it had been since I last walked in such a noble place.  The thick fog in my head slightly thinned.  As I continued on the path I noticed a nice bench with a small plaque screwed into the back-rest.  It read, “Man never has designed a structure as beautiful as the trees.”  The quote was from a famous architect.  Several thoughts emerged from this short walk amongst beauty.

I reflected on the concept of beauty as it relates to architecture.  I recalled the beautiful architecture I observed throughout Europe representing different periods in time, including the ruins of ancient Greece and Rome.  My thoughts then turned to American architecture and I grew melancholy.  I imagined suburban sprawl, strip malls, mega shopping centers and sky scrapers.  Our architecture is not concerned with beauty; rather our architecture is concerned with economics, practicality, convenience, and comfort.  I concede the city is a beautiful scene from afar at night or on a partly cloudy day when the beams of sunlight illuminate and splash shadows here and there.  I enjoy the activity of the city and the great restaurants, cafes,  and bountiful grocery stores.  I enjoy observing the pretty women with their shopping bags and high-heels.  And I too enjoy convenience, practicality, and comfort, but I miss beauty.  One cannot find to many examples of beauty in our everyday architecture.

I also began to think about my attraction to photography and what I enjoy about this semi-art form.  I like where photography leads me — to beauty and away from humanity.  And an important idea popped into my foggy head.  Ever since I had returned to the Northwest I had no energy or will to go off into the beauty for I don’t have my camera or the resources to buy and develop film and prints.  But, today I realized that I don’t need a camera right now or the resources for film and prints.  All I need is to let beauty pull me away from the comforts, amusements, and burdens of humanity.  There is no excuse or obstacle preventing me from going into the mountains to admire the Cascade volcanoes and the rivers that gush down from the glaciers and carve their way amongst rock and towering pines.  There exists no road block obstructing me from long walks along the mighty pacific and observing the waves crashing upon the rocky headlands.  Money and resources don’t prevent me from seeing the sun sparkling on the expansive ocean or the birds soaring in the ocean breeze thermals above.  All I need is a pen and paper to write my thoughts and observations and note areas of interest for future photographic images.  These free excursions into beauty are the way back to my mental and physical health.

On my way back down the mountain several more thoughts emerged.  Upon leaving the forest I walked among the large nice homes where the people enjoy space, relative quiet, and the close proximity to beauty.  It was these types of neighborhoods I enjoyed in my youth.  Beauty was always near and just a few steps away.  As I continued further down structures began to lose space, cars drowned out the silence, and beauty began to disappear.  Humanity began to close in upon itself losing perspective.  I listened to the cars drive by and continue on down the road.  There is no more lonely sound, in my opinion, than that of an automobile passing by and driving off into distance.