Everyone Looking Up at the Sky Together

I woke up bright and early, peed, and went back to sleep until 11. How nice it was not to have class on the Fourth of July. Last week in Gearhart, our mentor Phil told us all about how the Fourth of July in Portland was “nuts.” Parties, music, tons of traffic, fireworks—we experienced it all.

I cooked breakfast and then hopped on the MAX to begin my commute from North Portland to downtown. My host’s condo is near the last stop on the yellow line, just about as far north as you can go before hitting the Columbia River. It's not a long ride, however, and I spent a good portion of it enjoying the fantastic view of Mount Hood from the train.

I wanted to use my day off to go see the Portland Japanese Garden, one of the things that had been on my list of touristy things to do while I’m here. The Garden was beautiful, with colorful flowers, peaceful waterfalls and ponds, and an even better view of Mt. Hood than from the train. It was an interesting contrast, seeing this Garden, which looked like it had been sliced out of a Japanese compound, situated in the middle of a forest of Douglas Firs, a trademark tree of the Pacific Northwest.

After seeing the Garden, I met up with some fellow students who were celebrating at a house near Reed College. It was really fun, but I didn’t stay for long, as I was eager to see the fireworks from the Hawthorne Bridge.

Three of us left the party and got on a bus, making it to the Bridge just minutes before the fireworks were to be set off. The ramp to the bridge was closed off to vehicles, so the bus let us off about a half mile from the bridge. We walked swiftly on the dark overpass, and as our eyes adjusted to the artificial twilight, we could see a bunch of people partying on the rooftops of the buildings next to us.

As soon as we got to the crowd on the bridge, the first firework went into the air. The three of us stood on the bridge together with the rest of Portland and watched. Someone I talked to about it later summed it up quite well: “There is something about everyone looking up at the sky together that makes me feel really good.” I totally understood what they meant. For the first time in a while, I felt like I had so much in common with a bunch of people I had never met. And it wasn’t because of race or where we grew up. It was because we all liked fireworks. If only the whole world would celebrate America’s birthday (just kidding)!

–Theo Morris