After an already successful morning, with a day-long TriMet pass in pocket, I went to Facebook and asked those I have already met in Portland what adventures I should consider embarking on.
One friend suggested I check out a place called The Grotto and linked to the website. Another supported this suggestion, so it was off to Google Maps to find directions. I looked at the website long enough to see that it was a Catholic Shrine and there were lots of tall evergreen trees. I like tall evergreen trees. And Jesus. Maybe Jesus more than tall evergreen trees, but it is a close call.
I should pause to mention that sometimes when I plan adventures I plan how to get out there but not necessarily how to get back. In many more urban parts of Portland, this works out decently. If there is a bus going one way, often there is generally one going the other. I do not really look up the schedule returning, because I know that if I wait long enough, it will come.
So I embark on my adventure, headphones in. A MAX train takes me to Pioneer Square where I walk to a stop in front of the delicious and tempting coco donuts. One of the most tempting things about coco donuts is their cost – some donuts are only $0.90 or $1.o0!
On my bus I immerse myself in the second installment of Joelle Charbonneau’s The Testing series which I recieved an ARC of in the mail, until I sense I am getting close to my destination. I put the book away and turn my music back on, quietly so I do not miss the stop announcements, and watch out the window. Just in time too, for I see a sign that says The Grotto. I stop the bus, disembark and walk the three or four blocks back.
Some worship music has come on my iPod, which is probably good. It would be weird to be in nature and looking at stone carvings of Jesus and saints while 50 Cent sings In Da Club, or Jay-Z and Linkin Park make a list of 99 reasons…
So I am walking through, listening to this awesome worship playlist, and I follow the paths. I can go left or right. There are lots of people to the left. So I go right. I can go up or down. I go up. After about a minute and a half, I realize I am walking by carvings of The Stations Of The Cross. Backwards. Which somehow always ends up happening to me. I think it almost creates a much more meaningful story. We see the sacrifice Christ made not in the order that he made it, but in descending order of pain, each step becomes closer to the life he lived. Each station is a point where the story could have changed from what it is to something new. Each station is a chance for Jesus to change his mind and go a different path. And the options become more plentiful each time, going backwards. Like, who gives up their life when they have all of the power of heaven and earth at their fingertips? Who does that?
I meander on, the giant trees hugging me close, and come to the feature – a giant grotto set up with candles and statues and all kinds of awesomeness. All at once I feel happy and sad and joyful and hopeful and in pain. This blender of emotions brings me to my knees at a – I do not know what the term is, but the kneeling area-thingy. And I find myself praying. Not a organized, dainty prayer, but a giant sloppy prayer. Prayers for my hopes and dreams and fears. Prayers for the future and the past and the present.
I stand by the candles and feel their warmth. Some have names written on, which I read. some are simply put in place and lit. I know that each candle was left with some hope and some joy and some sorrow. Each candle is the symbol of love lost, of movement forward, of fear of the future. Each shimmering light, a hopeful soul that could not be in that place at that time, some may have in the past, some may never in this life.
I find myself in a chapel. Well, the anteroom. I reach out, grabbing a glass door handle, and draw a new breath as I open it, stepping slowly into hollowed ground. Peace and clarity washing over me. The beautiful reliefs painted throughout the chapel. More stations of the cross. I remember Southwark Cathedral in London. This is a little bit like that. Not as old. or as fancy, or as made by stone, or holding famous poets and stuff. But. Candles, beautiful art, a sense of calm and peace.
I slowly leave The Grotto, but I know I will be back. Soon.