It's early here on the Bluff, but the cyclists are already streaming by alongWillamette Drive, a river of color and metal. The rest of the staff here at El Casa del Peeper is still asleep, and I'm surfing the Web to find out what other disasters have occured while we slept.
On their way around the Bridge Pedal today our 15,000-or-so visitors will glide past one of the lesser-known treasures of North Portland; the Secret Dog Place.
Back when Quinn the dog could still actually walk further than the end of the living room, we used to take him here to run about and sniff and lay his dog's eggs - all the things, in effect, that make a dog's life worth living. Well, except humping, and that's more of an indoor sport (ahem).
This little hollow bowl is tucked between the warehouse-and-railhead bustle of Swan Island and the quiet streets of Overlook. When we brought Quinn there it was a tiny open space in a tangle of berry bushes - it burned over in the Summer of the Great Bluff Fire and since then has been a tawny savanna in the summer, a sort of Serengeti-on-the-Bluff only with used Alpo nodules instead of wildebeeste turds. Insects buzz, butterflies wheel, the noise of the city fades and you can lay back (carefully!) in the yellow grass and absorb the brief, hot summer sun of Portland in August. For all it's utility as a dog run, it's often a very peaceful spot.
Standing over this quiet bowl is a great mahogany-trunked madrone. I love madrones; their rich red-brown bark, their twistiness, like a bonsai grown out of the bowl. They only grow on the sunniest slopes in Portland.
The little portion of Willamette Drive between Portland Boulevard and Killingsworth is one of the most peaceful and beautiful rides in all of Portland. You sail along the quiet street with the vista of the river and the mountains (and the FedEx warehouse and the cargo cranes and the UP railyard...okay, okay, it's still in the city, dammit! Where was I..?) ...on your right hand and the pretty little houses and gardens in the Overlook neighborhood on your left. It's very...calming.
So next time, stop your bike and walk out to the Lone Madrone. Close your eyes. Feel the hot weight of the sunlight on your face, smell the dusty grass in thebowl below, take in the blue sky and the clouds above and the cool soil below, the day and the night and the turning Earth.
Find the secret heart. Of the Secret Dog Place...