A Version of Paradise

We have been back in Portland eleven days and I can’t help but think it is going to be a very long winter in the Pacific Northwest. I do not know at what point I started feeling affected by the many months of grey, dreary days, endless drizzle, and countless summer days that barely seem to reach 70 degrees. Maybe it was last summer when we had the rainiest June on record and it never even warmed up enough for the produce to ripen to palatable. It is mid-July and it has rained pretty consistently most of the last four days. The late afternoons have dried up, mostly. I guess that means it is summer since that rarely happens other times of the year. Hard to believe this is the time of year when Portland is at its loveliest. Maybe August will be better.

For a few weeks in south India I did not feel like a walking ball of tissue paper. It was wonderful. I wish I would have taken the time to appreciate how well I felt. In recent years my skin and my sinuses have become hypersensitive to the world around me, regardless of the weather. Normally, my hands are so dry and painful I have given up paper newspapers so I do not have to handle the newsprint. For three full weeks my hands quit hurting, though I scarcely noticed until my second day in Portland when my hands were back to their normal level of pain that I had to learn to tolerate again. Ordinarily, my face is red and blotchy with dark eyes and wrinkles to deceive my age by at least ten or fifteen years. For nearly a month my face looked healthier and more beautiful than it had ever been. My childhood freckles returned almost instantly, but the wrinkles faded, the black circles under my eyes softened, and my cheeks glowed an even tone, all with very little lotion. Not even a single blemish tried to sneak up in a month. By now, my face feels like elephant leather.

In Portland, I get so cold I keep a blanket at my desk year round. I often get blisters on my fingertips and toes and even my nose from the cold, damp weather. My fingers and toes get such poor circulation they are ice cold most of the time, even on the occasional warm days. I take supplements to help, but they cannot make up for my surroundings. For a blissful three weeks I did not take a single supplement, but for the first time in recent memory I had adequate circulation to my fingers and toes. They were never once icy cold. The only chills I experienced were in over air conditioned rooms and cars. To my surprise, even my fingernails were healthy and beautiful, and my nose dripped less frequently than it does in the cold, damp of Portland. Nine fingernails broke or tore by the time we reached Portland. My toes have been damp and cold for so long I cannot remember what day it started.

It is sometimes unbelievable that I grew up on the north Oregon coast, where it is even damper, colder, and grayer than in Portland. My very northern European genetics should help me stay well adapted to cold and damp for many months on end. I try to see the silver lining, such as how lush and green it is twelve months a year in a chilly, urban rainforest. The rain and grey means with the volcanic foundations we have rich soil for crisp and scrumptious greens, sugary sweet tomatoes, ultra juicy berries, honey kissed peaches, and decadent winter squash. Of course that only happens when there are enough days that are sufficiently sunny and warm to coax the sugars into their best display. The region’s mushrooms and truffles are better than the best France has to offer, nurtured by the same cold and damp environment that send so many into seasonal depression. The dozens of streams and waterfalls so close and accessible are simply breathtaking, especially when highlighted by a fluorescent green, mossy backdrop that can only be produced through continual showers. Even the urban architecture in Portland is at its best on a day of drizzle and dark skies. It is easy to fall in love with everything the frigid rain makes possible.

I’d like to believe I never realized life could or should be any different than in the Pacific Northwest’s chilly, grey drizzle, but in truth, I really enjoyed living in a semi-arid region years ago. Portland will be a miserable place to spend winters when I am 80 years old and my skin is fragile. Physically, it will be difficult to tolerate the chilblains blisters, the dry and cracked skin that occasionally seeps and bleeds when the thermometer drops with the seasons, the constant chills, and icy fingers and toes from poor circulation. Psychologically, the little nuisances are already getting old. Less than a month in Karnataka might as well have been a taste of paradise.

Karnataka is certainly not the end-all-be-all. No place is. It was, however, a real-life fantasy to experience nearly a month when the little annoyances that sometimes dare to make me miserable simply disappeared. I imagine the tropical, warm, mild, sunny days on Karnataka’s plateau come with their own bothers, but we were not there long enough to learn what they were, or whether the down side changes with the seasons. Regardless of the season, no one in Karnataka is vitamin D deprived, or suffers seasonal affective disorder. I could not be certain, but I’d guess no one has perpetually blue fingernails either. There are things I do not miss about Karnataka, but by November I may be willing to exchange a little pollution and traffic for blood that flows all the way to the tips of my toes.

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