Photo by Joseph Bobrow

“The lifespan of a particular plant or animal appears, not as drama complete in itself, but only as a brief interlude in a panorama of endless change.”

I thought of Rachel Carson’s words when I visited the Rose Garden in Washington Park in Portland, Oregon. The cloud cover had given way for just a few hours of sun, and we went from row to row, peering carefully at the flavors of each flower, watching as some shed petals down to the ground while others held raindrops like necklace beads. Not that they needed necklaces.

We also bent carefully to sniff their scent. What you do is you get closer, bend your head, get even closer, and when you stand back up, you’re no longer the same.

My friend took a reluctant photo of me (I’m always reluctant around cameras), and when I looked at it, to my surprise, one of the roses lay on top of my shoulder like a corsage a young boyfriend misplaced from bumbling enthusiasm, or perhaps like some giant earring that dangles too far down.

Rachel Carson speaks of things not being just themselves, but brief interludes of change. She might have added that things aren’t just themselves but beads of an endless necklace that connects all beings. It wasn’t just me bending towards the flowers, the flowers bent towards me. Not because I was the sun and not because I was a propagating bee, but because I was their sangha, their community of a sort.

They bent towards me, and I bent towards them. Did we meet anywhere? Does it matter? It’s the inclination towards, the aspiration, the longing met or unmet, that counts. That, and the dropping petals, the passing clouds overhead, the wet, brisk wind that talked not of satisfaction or disappointment but of the endlessness of it all.

Why smell roses in Portland? I live out in nature, with flowers growing at my Kwan-yin’s feet in the back. Why go to a garden in a different city? Maybe because I don’t have enough sun to grow roses by my house. But even if I did, Portland roses smell differently from New England roses.

In my last post I wrote that every time I travel, I wake up that morning and ask myself: Why exactly am I leaving home? Tell me, is there a better reason for leaving home than to smell roses in Portland?

I’ve begun my drive down to San Francisco. Hundreds of miles, 300 today, passing Cannon Beach, Newport, the Siuslaw Forest, with a motel stop in Florence overnight. Maybe I’ll stop at a cave to see sea lions, depending on the time.

Driving west from Portland towards the ocean, a coyote ran on the road and I braked hard to let him cross.

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