There is an intersection not far from my house that I pass through nearly daily. The bus I take to work goes there. It’s on the way to downtown when I want to go out. Mostly, it’s a chaotic little intersection with too many lanes going in too many directions that was never designed for the amount of traffic that uses it today. One corner has a pub. One has a coffee shop. One has a warehouse-type building. One has a gas station. Each entry point into the intersection itself has a travel lane and a turning lane for either left or right, but the roads themselves are no wider than your typical two-lane road. Add on the sidewalks, trees, mailbox, signal poles, light poles, parking signs, sandwich boards, benches, picnic tables, and assorted shrubbery, and you can see it’s got a lot going on.
Today on my run, as has become my habitual route, I hit my goal at that corner. 6.2 miles (a 10 kilometer run), ends there, and from there, I walk the remainder of the way home – about twenty-six blocks, uphill. It’s exactly one mile from my house, so it’s a good way to step down from the intensity of the run, but continue with my fitness.
It dawned on me, today, though that that corner, that specific geographical location, has held a few memories that flash through my head each time I pass by. When I was living with my ex, still unemployed, still flailing around trying to find my footing here in Portland, OR, I would take off running. One of my loops was a ten-mile one, and though it was decently challenging, it wasn’t until I got to that intersection, having turned off Cesar Chavez Boulevard and headed east on Glisan to 60th, where I’d turn and run down 60th towards Mt. Tabor and the top of Hawthorne Blvd, where I’d turn and head back into downtown and finish my run by crossing the Hawthorne bridge. It wasn’t until I hit 60th and Glisan that my head would turn off, where my footfalls would fade, and where I felt that rush of endorphins that made the rest of me seem invincible. That corner marked a real and literal turning point on my running journey.
It also, as it turns out, is a corner that is near and dear to both Ray and I. He lives not far from it. A few blocks north and east is the space he shares with his roommate. We’ve come to frequent the businesses at that intersection, and I’m a common fixture there, usually waiting for my bus to work or to home. I am good at picking up coffee surprises from the cafe, and the lady at the breakfast shop three doors east of the intersection knows our orders by heart.
It’s strange to me how I find these places of geography to latch onto and ground me. I’ve been doing this sort of thing ever since I could remember, though. These little map pinpoints are important. The give me boundaries to my kingdom. They define my world, a bit, and when I pass through them, or remain within them, I find myself developing a sense of home and of community. I think, with all of the moving and relocating I’ve done over the course of my life, finding a way to define a home, a space for me to both relax and improve myself, is vitally important.
I also think it’s kind of cool that I’d meet this really great guy who’s transformed my life near a corner that transformed my physical fitness time and time again (and still does to this day).