Portland Update July/August - Martha Grover

For the first time this summer, I made it down to my special spot on the Sandy River. Not only that, I went three times in one weekend: once with my niece and nephew, once with a friend and once with a man I met on Tinder.


Last July, when I began this series, I wrote about going down the Sandy River with my boyfriend at the time and some of his friends. I remember being bothered by how loud and boisterous they were all being. Later I realized that I was annoyed because this spot on the Sandy is where I want my ashes spread. I had no right to be annoyed; it wasn’t their fault that I had stupidly invited them to my sacred ground. 


Now that my ex and I are, well… exes, I am dating again. Let me rephrase that: I went on two dates. The second to this spot, with a man, on a date. We pulled into the secret driveway to access the trailhead and parked his car. Right there, (next to the sign about not bringing your dog down to the beach,) was a huge pile of carpeting material. It looked as if someone had done a remodel job and then dumped a pickup-sized load of garbage in the woods. I jumped out of the car and nearly ran to the pile and just stared at it, my lips curled in disgust. There it was – another degradation. I swore and grumbled to myself. I tried to get over my outrage and disappointment as we walked down to the beach. After all, this was supposed to be a fun afternoon.


We hung out for a couple hours. The river was light green – mineral rich. It looked to be mostly glacier runoff. And the river was still quite deep considering the hot and dry summer we’ve been having. I told my date that we should enjoy this water while we can – maybe it would be the last year that the glacier would be able to feed the river through August. Maybe next year there wouldn’t be any glacier at all.


The two of us weren’t loud. We weren’t boisterous. In fact, we spent most of the time, sitting in the shade, trading facts about the end of civilization. It wasn’t that romantic, I was in a weird mood, and I basically came to the realization that I am not emotionally ready to date anyone.


The next day, I went down to the same spot with my friend Aisha and she read my tarot on a sandy blanket. The question I asked was: “how will I know when I am ready to date again?”


I expected the answer to be emotional, to paint a landscape of my heart. Instead, the spread revealed only practical answers. The bottom line is that I will know I am ready to date when I have my shit together, when I have my own place, when I am financially secure. This surprised me, but made sense at the same time; many of the fault lines in my last three relationships appeared because I wasn’t an equal in the relationship. I either was valuing myself as an unequal partner, was afraid to make waves because of dependency, or felt I didn’t have anything to offer my partner in terms of stability. So the pocket book does indeed sway our hearts, even as much as we try to deny it.

I am mostly over it. I still lie in bed some nights and miss my ex-boyfriend. It’s only natural that when you spend a year of your life building intimacy with someone that you will miss that person when they are gone. It feels a bit like someone died. But I am happy being single. Not only that, I am happy just to be myself, to not worry about dating or how I may appear to a potential partner. I don’t think I’ve felt this free since my early twenties. If I want to lose weight, it will be for my own sake. If I want to earn more money it will be for my own future. If I want to get my book published it will be because that is my own goal.

I am surprised really, at how good I feel. I just had an essay accepted into a collection. And I’m slowly working on getting a literary agent. My energy and pain levels have never been better.

In other news, Portland is in the midst of a housing crisis, and even though I have been writing about it all year, the time has finally come for me to roll up my sleeves and educate myself on housing policy and do something about it. When my mother returns from her trip to New Orleans we are going to meet with a local realtor and activist to discuss the issues. I am excited.