Vita Incantatum (Enchanted Life)

Well, HELLO FALL! In all your glorious color and whirling leaves! The west hills are dotted with crimson and gold, the sidewalks of Laurelhurst are tunnels of yellow, orange and bronze. The top of Mt. Tabor is swept by clean wind and the whistles of pine trees! Portland makes me wax poetic!

I've been away, living a bit of life, but have missed chronicling the beauty that I encounter every single day here in this incredible city. I think Portland must be one of the world's most beautiful places, even if it is like living in a college dorm sometimes.

Since I left Powell's books last March, I have reveled in my new life, away from customers, away from oppressive work schedules, and writing every day. I love my new job at Melange, it is creative and super-fun. I get to photoshop fashionable inventory onto their website which is like playing a clothing video game. I get to describe each beautiful piece in a quick, powerful little vignette...a fashion fantasy woven to create the perfect context for each item. When I used to work in a vintage clothing store -- the legendary "Old Friends" in Eugene, Oregon, I bought a lot of clothing for myself based on this very concept. I would imagine the perfect environment or event where I could wear each piece. For instance, that yellow silk sheath dress would be perfect at an afternoon cotillion by the lake! Or, that sheer hippy blouse would be just the thing for a walk at the rose garden on a spring day! The trouble was, I never went to any cotillions by the lake, but NOW I can live in my fashion fantasies for a living. You've just gotta' love that!

 At Melange, I also get to help people coordinate their wardrobes. I am an online stylist! A personal shopper! Because I've spent practically my entire life searching for things that would flatter my own rather difficult figure, I have to say, I am a bit of an expert when it comes to fit, proportion and wearability! And I love sharing that knowledge with other women. I wish someone had shared it with me!
And last but not least, I blog for Melange. And we all know how much I like to blog!

It's been quite a transition.
 In fact,the last 4 years have been amazingly transformative! Getting the job at Powell's in the first place was a bit of magic, I believe. There were 1200 applicants for 8 positions!
I remember waiting for my interview, sitting on a bench outside Henry Weinhard's at 12th and Couch in the sun, feeling....lucky. Expectant. Like I knew it would happen and become an amazing new chapter. And it did, and it was!

Working at Powell's on Burnside will be one of my most treasured memories of my life. A dream-come-true for a bookish girl from Eugene who visited Powell's every single time she came to Portland over the decades. Working there, I finally got to live out my bookstore fantasies and Portland dreams! There were so many incredible moments from the start of my day to the end. My commute to work first by bike from Southeast to Old Town,, later by car into historic northwest, and then a long walk through the Pearl District-- it was a crash course in Portland, and its many characters. Biking and walking through a place day after day you discover secrets, and see things change before your eyes. I had special moments with a secret Portland all the time!

I remember one freezing December night, walking back to my car at 11:15pm, tired and numb from cold, when I walked over a grate in the sidewalk. Looking down I saw twinkling white xmas lights lying below the street in some dead leaves. They glowed so cozily, there under the grate, in a hole. I almost cried it was so comforting. Like the cold street was saying, merry christmas Diane! There is beauty even in the dark. Right beside the grate there was a small fogged window, and then-- the most wonderful, delicious and unexpected aroma of baking cookies and croissants. It was an underground bakery, working into the night.  I stood there warming myself, inhaling that heavenly smell and bluring my eyes so the xmas lights make a beautiful movie. I visited that grate again from time to time, but most often the lights were off and the bakery closed. That first discovery was the best. And there were all kinds of discoveries like that! Portland is amazing!

Then, there were all the unique and wonderful moments in Powell's, working as a Generalist. Most employees at Powell's work in one room, and in one section. It's set up like many little bookstores in one big place. I was lucky enough to work EVERYWHERE! A Generalist works wherever they need you, whenever they need you. So on a daily basis I might shelve fantasy books in the Gold room, cook books in the Orange room, Collectible children's books in the Rose Room, Dog books, nature studies, sports, travel, small press, zines, graphic novels, erotica!!! Literature, reference, paranormal romance!!! I got to know subsections and sub sub sections! I got to handle ancient tomes and bright and shiny new best sellers! I got to work at all of the info stations, from the top floor in Art to the Purple room info by the bathrooms, to the crazy Burnside entrance Green Room Info --or "The Doughnut", as it's called. (How many customers have been mystified over the years to hear a page over the speakers saying "MOD to the Doughnut, at your convenience, MOD to the Doughnut please.") I even got to help Annie Leibowitz sign books, and she took a picture of us together! I mean, come on!

There were parts of the store I especially loved. Upstairs in the employee-only area there are corner rooms and windows that have incredible views of downtown Portland. The small rooftop garden of Powell's is eye-level with the surrounding condos, and an amazing spot to eat lunch. The beautiful, quiet rare book room was always a joy to work in. Sitting at the big wooden desk under the green-shaded lamps and old prints, surrounded by first editions and ephemera of the most amazing writers in the world was an incredible gift for me!

I was privy to all of the different work spaces in each room, and they were all awesome in their own ways. The "Grotto" in the red room (so-called because the Red Room houses "Spirituality and Religion"), the "Lit Pit" in the Blue Room (with cookies on wednesdays and conversations about cute cats and Melville), and the "Cave" in the Gold, lined floor to ceiling with Sci Fi, Mystery, Romance and Horror. Sigh. I miss those cozy, book-lined spaces! I miss sweating it out shelving carts and carts of sci fi books while Queen is blasting out of the stereo! I even miss the sound of my lanyard, clinking against my chest as I ran up and down those three flights of stairs!
  Plus, working at Powell's forced me to stay up late. They don't close until 11pm, so I really amazed myself by working till close and biking home at 11:15 pm, sometimes through rain and snow. That was pretty kick-ass, if I do say so myself! I'll never forget the night I biked across the Burnside bridge, and had to wait to it to open for a boat. While I'm sitting there, at the top of the ramp, on my bike in the moonlight, it started to snow. It was so quiet, and so magical. It started to snow harder and harder, and was a blizzard by the time I got home. Amazing!

The people I worked with at Powell's are the world's smartest, funniest, most stylish people I've ever met. Coming from a hippy culture in Eugene, that's saying something! I love my friends I made there, I admire their prodigious talents and good looks so much!!! We've had so many hilarious and touching times, people!!! And I miss you!

But I had to go, when I went. It wasn't because of unstable work conditions, layoffs, or the economy, thank goodness. It was just about me needing to get away from the giant retail environment. Although I had some of my favorite times there, I was also wearing out from the relentless nature of such a huge store in downtown Portland. Thousands and thousands of customers, every day! And a lot of them homeless, mentally ill, and in need of help I could not give them. Downtown Portland is crowded with people in need. Sad, cold, hungry, addicted, and often with sad dogs and cats in tow, it broke my heart, and depressed the hell out of me! I biked around for weeks with a ten pound bag of dog food in my paniers to give to someone with a skinny dog. After three years, I had enough, and I needed to change it up and move on. So, as I commuted to and from work I would sort of ask the universe for an option.

 I got an email from an old friend and employer in Eugene. My dear friend Martha who runs Melange boutique, a store in Eugene that I used to work for, told me about a fashion show they were having and invited me to visit. Well, god knows I love a fashion show, and I hadn't seen Martha since I moved to Portland, so I went! And I had a great time! Martha is a wonderful person, someone I used to LOVE working with, and we had so much fun. I missed working for Melange, and thought of their website. As it turned out, they needed someone to help online, and voila! An opening in the universe appeared!

After I left Powell's and began my new life at home, I stopped blogging. I stopped making art. I also deleted my email from every single extraneous, unnecessary site I could. I even stopped socializing for the most part. (And I hope I'm forgiven for my absence)  I wanted to create a clean slate, a fresh canvas. I needed to air out my brain! I had been working so hard for so long at my day job, and also on the book "Dizzy's Dream" which culminated in the trip to New York last year to see the editors at Penguin and Hyperion. After those experiences wrapped up, I needed to get a fresh perspective to decide where I want to go. I wanted to change old patterns, and open space for new opportunities. And so....I have!

The last 6 months have been truly amazing. After deciding to stop making art, blogging, etc, I boiled it all down to the basics, and thrived. I walk miles twice a day with my beautiful dog Faye, all over this glorious town! I know every single trail on Mt. Tabor! We also visit Sellwood, Reed College, northwest Portland, the waterfront, and inner northeast all the time! Belmont street, Division st, Clinton Street! Yamhill, Ash, and Taylor! Glisan and Flanders! Quimby, Savier, and Raleigh!
 I eat well, and work out every day. My poor injured back has been doing very well (all those blueberries!) and I ride my little stationary bike like crazy in the basement while I watch movies. And I've seen the most amazing movies! "Bill Cunningham: New York", "The Boys: the Sherman Brother's Story", "A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Leibrandt",  "Smoke Signals"(remember that?), "Autism, the Musical"! And many more. Email me for more recommendations!

I've been cooking and cooking and cooking (and washing a lot of dishes)!! I shelved a lot of books at Powell's in the "Vegetarian/Vegan" section in the Orange room, and my collection is bursting with options. I find it so therapeutic to cook, so calming to shop for, and create a delicious, healthy meal! Greg has been the lucky beneficiary of gourmet vegan meals like "Bresse Mushroom Soup with Rosemary and White Wine", "Walnut Tofu Balls", "Vegan Beef Stroganoff", "Lentil and Vegan Chicken Fricasee" and "Pepperoni and (No-Dairy) Mozerella Calzones with Caesar salad". And there are more! I've been cooking all kinds of things! Love it!

  Instead of making "art", I started crafting. I love the holidays, people, that's no lie! Santa is my special bud! (on a side note, try putting "Bing Crosby Holiday" into your Pandora radio, you will be launched into Christmas in the best possible way. When not listening to Led Zeppelin, or Crosby Stills & Nash, I listen to Bing Crosby and Dean Martin sing christmas songs while I walk the dog. It is such an innocent sound, and from a time before technology. They're not making any more it, that's for sure!)

I also decided to try out some of those incredible craft books I bought while working at Powell's and made these copper candle lanterns. They are beyond lovely at night, throwing designs of light on the walls. And, I labored hard over these pretty, but somewhat ridiculous beaded birds. They are nice, but very difficult to make and they take for-freaking-ever! You have to use invisible thread to make them, and believe it or not, IT'S VERY HARD TO SEE!

And....I'm writing. After I cleared the stage of my creative life, this story came to me. It just poured into my head, and now it's my new project. It's a fantasy middle-reader story called "The Magic of Fairfax, Oregon". and it's about a girl named Clothilde who is stolen by her uncle and sold to the forest gypsies. She finds a special magic to help her return to her mother and save her small Oregon town from the clutches of an evil hospital run by crazed doctors. It's about Oregon, it's about the magic of friendship,and it's about a profound love of nature. Stay tuned for more!

It's funny, but right after I stopped making art, I got a call from the art editor at Willamette Week, offering me the cover if I could make an illustration in a weekend. I shook off the cobwebs and got right to work, and last week I had the thrill of seeing my work looking at me from newspaper boxes all over town. There was even another of my illustrations, a full-page portrait, inside! A real thrill, and a reminder that the universe is working for you, whether you know it or not!


We're having a stunningly beautiful fall, Oregon is turning on all of its considerable charms! Cora is a long-legged 13 year-old beauty with a great sense of a humor, a terrible temper and wonderful friends, Greg is commuting by bike to his downtown office at the Department of Justice where he continues to carry out his many official duties including arguing cases in the Oregon Supreme Court (Go Greg, go Greg!), and I am blogging and writing and cooking away in our little yellow nest in Southeast Portland.
  And sending love to all of my peeps! Happy fall!!!  xoxoxo



noelle said…
So nice to read this wonderful entry. Hope to see you soon!
Stephilius said…
Lovely. So nice to get a catch-up. Love those little lanterns!
Diane said…
Bonjour, mes amis! I would love to see all of you, have a chat over coffee somewhere? xox