Today is Mother's day, but the weather was gorgeous yesterday so we took a little hike at Multnomah Falls. It was packed. We weren't sure we'd get a parking spot. And it was packed with tourists. We heard all kinds of different languages. People in every shade of cream to brown, and people of every kind. There were motorcycle gang members, a boy pulling himself up the trail in his four-wheeled walker, Muslim women in full body coverings, teenage girls dressed more for the mall than the trail, wearing slingback peeptoe 4 inch heels completely covered in glitter. I don't remember there being such diversity the last time we went a few years ago. Maybe we were there on a weekday, or something.
The last time we were there, everyone was very properly Northwestern, in their hiking gear and red cheeks, expensive backpacks and shoes, never ever stepping one toe off the path. We got fussed at by an angry bee of a park ranger for letting our kids take their shoes off and put their feet in the creek. He ranted about how they were killing baby fish. There were no signs, and this was a public area. We were the only ones trying to touch the water. I remember thinking how unfriendly it all was. How can creek water be off limits to children?
We've been in a few situations here where the kids got reprimanded for "touching" nature. At the state park where we like to camp, a ranger tried to shoo them out of a tree one year.
They might get hurt.
I'm watching them.
But they might damage a tree.
I will make sure they won't. They've been in it all day. We are very respectful to trees.
But if everyone climbed the tree, it would be ruined.
He wasn't really worried about my kids' bones or the branches. He wanted the park to look perfect, like an RV commerical, and he wanted everyone to be quiet and calm and sit around their campfire in chairs. I eventually asked him if there was a specific rule against tree climbing in a state park. There isn't. I asked him if maybe state parks weren't created precisely so children could have a place to climb a tree or a rock if they didn't have those things in the city. He left us, but he was annoyed, and he drove past our camp in his little golf cart every half hour, giving me a look. I still feel uncomfortable whenever we are at that park. I keep looking around thinking someone is going to run over and tell us to get our kids off that log or that rock. I don't feel like we are totally welcome. It's as if the nature areas are only for looking, not for touching.
This time at the falls, everything was different. The park rangers stood around watching people, but maybe just looking for problematic dogs or smokers, or waiting for some idiot to lean over the big bridge. The creek was full of kids and no one was complaining. The only new sign I could see asked people not to throw money or debris into the water.
So we let the kids get in. Rick took them upriver a little while I watched the pile of shoes and a big group of Korean teenagers in front of me. They were having a great time, whooping loudly and pushing each other in.
When we first moved to this town, I realized one day that I never saw any men with their shirts off. Nor did I see people without shoes. It does get hot here, but not very often. Yet it seems less like a weather thing and more like a pretense of class thing. The PacNW has a lot of pretense of class. It's in pockets, though. I bet most of the Keep Portland Weird thing is a direct affront to that. Yesterday at Multnomah Falls all pretense of class was gone.
Family Portrait Project month 41, taken by a nice woman who had never operated an SLR before but was very gracious to accept my mini-lesson: