Cloudy Daze

Enjoy a recycled post from when I was living in Spain, but on a mental rendezvous with my favorite place: the Northwest. If you look closely, you might just see, what I consider to be, a hidden lesson in backyard traveling.

FEBRUARY 4, 2012–I  have always been a strong proponent of cloudy days. Here’s why:

When the sun doesn’t come out to shine it gives you an excuse to be a little out of sorts. For example, living in Adra, Spain, a city that seems to be eternally sunny, rarely gives one the opportunity to enjoy a cloud day, so when it happens, I take advantage. When its sunny every day, life carries on as usual, but a cloudy day gives me the excuse to watch movies all day and not feel any guilt. Or, on a rare occasion, the feeling that without the light of the sun to nourish me I must hide indoors and what better to do than to spend my captivity cleaning.   Whether I use my cloudy day for good or  bad, or to catch up on some flicks, the clouds have given my mind the comforting notion that I had no choice, this is what nature gave me today.

The Steel Bridge under almost cloudless skies, by Portland standards.  Attribution: Thad Roan

The Steel Bridge under almost cloudless skies, by Portland standards. Attribution: Thad Roan

However, I come from a place where a cloudy day is a normal day. And when I say cloudy, that is a way-down-low-understatement. Portland is eternally overcast. Portland is a city where the sun only comes out to play on a special occasions, like when you have a long boring day at work or when you’ve caught the worst flu of the century. So cloudy days are the norm. Some people hate this; all right, most people hate this. But I suspect that you know you’ve met a real Oregonian when you ask them about the weather and there eyes light up and they begin to tell you about all the wonderful things about lack of light and drizzly days: well that’s why the beer is so good we spend so much time in bars, our plants couldn’t be greener, no there’s no connection between that and the high suicide rate…its just a coincidence. Well, you can see how we (I’m only speaking on behalf of myself here, but I think the word “we” adds some strength to the argument) love our cloudy city, but what I find to be the strongest argument in favor of the cloudy daze in which we live, is those days when it isn’t cloudy. I would argue that in very few cities, will you find a population bouncing in unison with pure elation just because the sun is up. If we didn’t have so many cloudy days in Portland, I don’t think we would appreciate the sun so much. On the rare occasion that the sun is out, Portland looks like this: Work is done early, people are out in the streets walking and happy just to be outside, classes of children rush outside blinded by the light and possibly shivering because often the sun produces light but no warmth in P-town, suddenly everyone in town has a bicycle-rollerblades-pedicab-dragonboat-unicycle-etc and they are out and about like this is how they roll on every other day of the year, and absolutely everyone is smiling. I think this is awesome. In Portland, the clouds are like the 364 days of the year that aren’t our birthday, so when the sun peeks out on that special day, everyone is happy.

Are you starting to see why I love cloudy days? Here are a few more reasons:

On a cloudy day…

1) It’s okay if you can’t find your sunglasses.

2) Sometimes its the best light for photography (So I hear, I really have no idea).

3) It’s nice to sleep-in, do the crossword, read a book, eat some pancakes, and/or drink coffee (or your intoxicant of choice) all day long.

4) I sometimes see a sun-break and think of those Jimmy Dean sausage commercials with the annoyingly happy man-Sun-costume, and the dark depressing rainbow…and at the end of the stupid commercial I think “Seriously? Stupid. I want one.”

Willamette Greenway Trail i. Evidence: the sun does come out in Portland, in fact its here most of the summer.

Willamette Greenway Trail i. Evidence: the sun does come out in Portland, in fact it usually sticks around here for most of the summer.

5) And best of all: occasionally, the sun will peak through the clouds in a stunning celebration of light where beams are refracted across the horizon like a hand reaching out, fingers splayed making you feel like some amazing being/spirit/figment-of-your-imagination is pointing at you-and-only-you telling you that whatever you are doing/looking-at/thinking at that exact moment is a pivotal moment of so much importance and it is now being ordained by this giant finger of light that makes you say “Wow…this is my destiny.” Usually it’s when I’m running and it makes me pick up the pace a bit, but you know what I mean.

Cloudy days put me into a cloudy daze… (punny! right?) While I hope that my perspective on clouds would help bring some sun lovers over to the dark side, I also like being one of the few  (and obviously the proud) people who can say I seriously love the rain…and I don’t mind the clouds either.

… Back to 2013, USA. So how can my love of cloudy days inspire you? The lesson isn’t seize the day (or in Portland, seize the short-lived hours of sunshine) and it isn’t just one of what you will soon discover will be my many promos to visit Portland.

The lesson in backyard travel inspiration is that you can use your own weird passion for your hometown, state, or country to inspire your travel. Is there something weird about where you live? Maybe something that everyone hates, but you secretly love? A funky building, odd habits of locals, a boring old museum? Use that love for your hometown’s quirky curiosities to inspire you to rediscover places and pastimes that you’ve forgotten. Plan your next trip or afternoon excursion around rekindling an old flame with something special about your city or state, something that only a local could love.

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