One of the many wonderful things about winning this award is being officially reminded that I now belong to the Pacific Northwest. It has been five years since we moved to Portland, my wife’s hometown, and my extended family spent the first several years worrying that I wouldn’t be happy here. I grew up in blue-skied Denver, hiking and running and skiing through our 300 annual days of sunshine, and my in-laws did everything they could to inoculate me against the Portland rain. My birthday each year resulted in a deluge of outdoor gear, every gift more specified and bizarre than the last: rain-resistant socks, outdoor “mist” goggles, headlamps to see through the fog, five pairs of fluorescent rain pants. In our master bedroom, we now have two dressers – one for clothes and the other for rain gear.
My in-laws said I’d eventually develop webbed feet, like a true Oregonian. They said I could buy a light box if the grey skies started to affect my mood. They said, again and again, that the only way to deal with the rain was to accept it, and then to embrace it and go outside.
What they never told me was how perfect it would feel to write a book here, hunkered in front of my laptop on another soggy day. Where better to embrace the lonely quiet of a writing day than in a city defined by its iconic bookstores and its endless array of cozy coffee shops? I wrote most of this book from a quiet corner of the Reed College library in southeast Portland, in a chair with tattered upholstery and a view across the quad. In between sentences, I could listen to the rain pounding against the roof, or I could look out at the Douglas Firs bordering the quad and the moss crawling up the library walls– at our endless shades of green.
If we had still been living in Denver, I imagine it would have taken me twice as long to finish this book, against the sun and all of its temptations. Instead, the rainiest days during this last year became the ones I valued most, when the Reed campus went quiet and the spring colors popped against the grey sky. On those days, the rain became my writing soundtrack, rhythmic and peaceful, helping me anchor my attention to the sentences on the screen. I could write uninterrupted for hours on those days before I felt the need for a break. And when I finally stepped away from the screen, I had all the necessary gear to venture back outside.