Over the weekend, on a very normal dog walk with Remi and Cedar, I discovered something small and wonderful. It lifted me and changed my whole day around. Here's what happened. I hadn’t slept well Thursday night, then stayed out too late on Friday, then went with my sisters and our dear friend Lilly to a series of garage sales (one of the most exhausting activities known to man). I’d broken a temporary crown earlier in the day, at brunch, and it kept irritating my tongue and was making it difficult to eat (plus, I think we can all agree, it’s hard to have something wrong with you—it makes even simple tasks feel complicated). And I was looking down the barrel of another night out with a big group of people, and I knew I had to do something (anything) to shake myself awake and feel a little more enthusiastic about the looming night of loud bars I had in front of me. So I took the dogs for a walk, no headphones, for a change in perspective. That’s when I found them.
At first I just thought it was something to do with Reed, some kind of advertisement for a student group event. They do it a lot there, or else they hang earnest and handmade encouragement: you are loved, you can do it, etc. Sometimes they paint rocks or write in chalk. It’s a very supportive campus, as far as I can tell. But when I came across the first one I saw, I knew they were something different. They sparked a little bubble of wonder and joy in the center of my chest when I least expected it. Dangling from a tree just past the bridge was a Kraft piece of brown paper, held on with a piece of kitchen twine. On the front was a line of poetry in perfect calligraphy, still legible even where rain had splotched or the paper had wrinkled. I looked up from the first one and saw another, hanging from a different tree. I assumed it would say the same thing, but then—no, a new line of poetry—which was the case for the next one, and the next one. I dragged the dogs all over campus, chasing them down, trying to hold all the lines together as a poem.
All the worries of the day were forgotten. Here was magic for me, the kind of scavenger hunt I couldn’t even have dreamed up if I’d tried. I learned later it was a project by the Portland Calligraphy Society, something they created in the 70s called “weather grams.” They were meant to interact with the environment, to deteriorate and change with the weather. To me that made it even better, one person leaving art to surprise and delight another. It was the burst of energy I needed, the kind of discovery that makes you buoyant. I carried it with me all day, and now I go back and visit to see how they’ve changed.