A Game of Tetris

I like climbing out of the city and up into the hills. It’s a bit of a grind to get to the Instagrammable overlook, but the trail itself is a good one. Views come early and often.


It’s quiet at this time of day, even for a weekend. For a little while, I lose myself in what’s still my primary objective: to get up, get out, get moving. But eventually I remember to lift my nose up from the ground, and there it is: the little surge of wonder that suggests my viewfinder has suddenly been stretched.


There was a road before — with a food cart, a few trees, a stop sign, a couple of newly erected condos, a series of storefronts, and what my dad would call a questionable apartment building. (I don’t live in that one; don’t worry Dad.) Then there was an intersection and another road, this one a dead end dotted with McMansions, each so stunning they almost distracted from the real gem: the wisp of a way into the woods, waiting just a little further down the line.

But now there is a maze. Where there was once just a road, now there is a maze to look at. 

It’s heady to be up so high. Intoxicating to see the sky open up and the city start to fan out below. The high-rise buildings and umbrella-toting people who move between them feel a million miles away. If I were to take a picture here, I would be tempted to title it Tetris.


I resume my ascent (at a much more enjoyable pace), and watch as the trees start to fill in the gaps between city and sky. It was clear when I left, but off to the right, Portland’s signature gray smudges have begun to dilute the more vivid shades of green. All of a sudden there are layers to what I’m seeing. Something’s in the foreground; something else is in the background.


I can think up here. Without feeling like I’m in the hot seat. Without having to screw my eyes shut and try very hard. Without knowing I’m liable to burst into tears if someone so much as smiles at me. (It’s always the too-nice people, isn’t it?)


For some reason I think of my nephew Noah. Of the first time I held him, and, okay, the first time I handed him back, so that my brother could take over the hushing and shushing and what’s the matter little man, why so fussy. I remember watching Doug dance around the living room with him, a natural after only three months, and hearing him croon softly, if a smidge sarcastically: I know, I know. Eating and sleeping, sleeping and eating — life is tough, isn’t it Noah? Life is so tough.  


I remember looking at the two of them, Noah all cried out at that point and back to snuggling contentedly against his daddy’s chest, and I remember thinking: I know what you mean, Noah. Growing [just plain growing] is hard work.

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“You, of all people, deserve a happy ending. Despite everything that happened to you, you aren’t bitter. You aren’t cold. You’ve just retreated a little and been shy, and that’s okay. If I were a fairy godmother, I would give you your heart’s desire in an instant. And I would wipe away your tears and tell you not to cry.” -Sylvain Reynard


“This is why people touch. Sometimes words are just not enough.” -Nicola Yoon

“Letting go. Everyone talks about it like it’s the easiest thing. Unfurl your fingers one by one until your hand is open.” -Gayle Forman

“I hate technology. It provides so many different channels of loneliness. Every time you check your email and don’t see a new message, you know that, even though people have the ability to contact you at any time of the day from anywhere on the planet, no one is interested in doing so. Phones are constant reminders that 160 people you know fairly well have nothing to say to you most of the time.” -Adi Alsaid


“Life just swallows you up, doesn’t it? Just swallows you up with its everyday things.” -Simon Van Booy

“You are the alchemist
 of your loneliness. 
You can create anything 
in its place.” -Warsan Shire

“Courage gives you joy, and joy gives you hope. Always move forward with courage and hope.” -Pope Francis


“Inside her pulses something huge, something full of longing, something unafraid.” -Anthony Doerr

“The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches.” -E.E. Cummings


“We define ourselves by comparing ourselves to the things around us. But what if all those things against which you compare yourself weren’t there. How tall would you be then?” -Danny Scheinmann

“It’s true the people we meet shape us. But the people we don’t meet shape us also, often more because we have imagined them so vividly. There are people we yearn for but never seem to meet.” -Simon Van Booy


“I think that sometimes love gets in the way of itself — you know, love interrupts itself. We want things so much that we sabotage them.” -Jack White

“I wasn’t looking for anything at all when I met you. Actually, I wasn’t planning on falling for anyone so soon. But then I met you, and that was it. It was simple. Easy. And I think that’s how the best relationships begin. You’re not looking for anything and then suddenly you realize; you have something.” -Unknown

“There is little joy in those first moments of recognition, for the reality is that most first glances come to nothing. And while the sincerity of that rare moment when your heart is bursting should be the signal to fling yourself on the ground in the path of this stranger, it’s the depth of such sincerity that paralyzes you, holds you back from such simple phrases like ‘hello’ and ‘good morning.’ And so the person passes, granting only single, torturous details like fingers upon the handle of an umbrella, or a hairpin bearing the weight of a twist, or a wool collar beaded with pearls of rain. Next time, you think to yourself. Next time.” -Simon Van Booy


“You can build a whole world around the tiniest of touches.” -Carol Rifka Brunt

“Everything’s a risk. Not doing anything is a risk. It’s up to you.” -Nicola Yoon


“I was happy before I met him. But I’m alive now, and those are not the same thing.” -Nicola Yoon

“Love traveled, it ran, it covered ground, eager to see more, do more. It was two people keeping pace with each other.” -Adi Alsaid

“Nobody’s going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things befall you. Self-pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or turn around and drive out.” -Cheryl Strayed


{Skyscraper via @pdxnatives, golden hour via @jeff_portland, Mt. Hood via @ilangenhuysen, foggy forest via @maurice, t-shirt via @hallithbates, cookies via @jamesransom_nyc, little lake via @griffinlamb, lone tree via @dllln, starry night via @nicholaspeterwilson, St. John’s bridge via @pdxnatives, Crater Lake winter via @christiannschaffer, skinny trees via @franzfromfrance, Morrison Street via @megan.ell, wooden bridge via @nicholaspeterwilson, deciding trail via @northwestcreatives — all on Instagram.}


6 thoughts on “A Game of Tetris

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