There's a beauty to the darkness in Portland. I don't fear it. Rather, I let the beauty of it sink in. Darkness doesn't cloak the city until after nine these days - but I'm not fooled. I know that evening darkness is growing, and before too long, the sun will have set by five.
We've already reached the time of year when we lose a minute of daylight each evening. It's the first sign of things to come. Soon enough, summer sounds of people driving by with the radio turned up and the windows rolled down will be replaced by the subdued winter sounds of tires on wet roads with a pitter patter of raindrops all around. And it will be beautiful.
I look back on the past two years here in Portland, and I smile. Why is autumn the season when I fall in love? Two years in a row, I found myself dating someone in the fall, and the world was bliss (thought is would be better if a relationship were to last beyond the fall - but I digress).
I can't explain it - but there's magic in the long nights here. The rain does more that serve as a life force for to keep Portland green year round. It inspires love too. It makes us huddle closer together under an umbrella during a particularly hard rain - which is the only time we use umbrellas in this city. The rest of the time, we just get wet, because any Oregonian knows that umbrellas are for the tourists.
The wetness can be wonderful and romantic. Taking a walk around town, holding the hand of someone sweet as the rain falls ever so softly. At first, you don't even notice, but eventually the wetness seeps in. Portland after dark: it's a city to enjoy - a city to explore - a city to share.
Walking home after work in Houston was always a frightening experience once darkness fell. I was often working very late those days, as work pretty much filled all of my top 5 priorities in life back then. I'd walk home silently - not even allowing my feet to make a sound if I could prevent it. My eyes would dart everywhere - scanning the distance as if I could do a damn thing about it if someone were to mug me.
Houston was a dangerous city. My neighbors used to produce a monthly list of everyone act of reported violence in my neighborhood, and they'd drop off a copy on everyone's doorstep. This was their version of neighborhood watch I suppose - but it better served as a reason to flee the neighborhood entirely. Eventually, I did.
During my first week in Houston, a Mexican gang came along and shot at a few people waiting for a bus within 50 yards of the building I worked in. At least one died. It's worth noting that I worked along one of the busiest and often upscale streets in town.
Daytona Beach after dark was frustrating. I'd step outside and my glasses would fog over immediately. It didn't matter what time of year it was. The city had a wet stale feel. Every now and then, my over enthusiastic upstairs neighbor would show up at my doorstep at 2am chanting "c'mon man! The shuttle! Launch! Soon! Gotta see it! The Shuttle!" We'd wander down to a nearby dock along the Halifax River and wait for a glimpse of a launch from Cape Canaveral some 60 miles away. But the launches never came. Delay delay delay. And we'd go home dissapointed - both with NASA and with ourselves for letting this shmuck drag us all out of bed for nothing.
Pittsburgh after dark was bitter cold and slippery. Snow could come as early as October. The ground was sheer ice from December through early March.
Dallas was such urban sprawl that it didn't matter if it was light or dark: the majority of my time was spent on the road getting from place to place - losing hours in half-hour increments.
Chicago had a bitter cold wind that would keep me indoors once autumn brought longer nights and cold weather. Winters were bitter, bitter cold.
But not Portland. This city is spectacular. I enjoy the summer well enough, but I watch the minutes fade away as nightfall begins earlier and earlier - and I dream of the seasons to come. A gray day like today only serves as a splendid reminder that the summer sunshine is nothing more than a diversion. There's plenty of time to get out and enjoy the warm weather and long days. There are hikes waiting to be hiked. There are waterfalls to explore in the gorge and kites to be flown at the coast... but fall will be here before too long. And I will love every moment of it.
But even though I enjoy the darkenss - the fall - the rain - the cool weather - I'll play a sad song while thinking about it all. And I'll enjoy that too.