I needed something different to sustain me, something not found on a phone.

Photo of male Anna’s Hummingbird, courtesy of Ayla Priller.

Note: Previously published in Oregon Humanities magazine. Reposted here with permission.

Hummingbirds appear dainty — little bitty feet perched on a feeder, sipping sugar water through needle-like beaks.

But these aerial jewels, they fool us. They are neither sweet nor delicate. They are loud for their size and defensive. They claim territory and fight off other hummingbirds who try to encroach. They will dive-bomb a human who gets in the way of their goal, which is always the same: to eat.

Hummingbirds are hungry.

When you are…

On lockdown, a rinky-dink event feels anything but small.

In Portland, waiting to feel a part of something.

Four weeks into Oregon’s stay-at-home order, as a contagious and yet-incurable virus stalked the globe, I did what any still-sane person should do if hoping to hang onto her sanity. I took my youngest daughter to a parade.

Not an elbow-to-elbow event with floats and marching bands. Not Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or Portland’s Grand Floral Parade, which happens each June, although not this June. The parade I attended was nothing compared to those. It was nothing like any parade I’d attended before.

We waited for it at the crest of…

High Pony

The power of a hairstyle you can no longer pull off

The bodies of the college girls staggered me. Long sculpted legs, passing on my left. Smooth honey-colored skin, not a ding or divot visible anywhere, not on their arms or faces or thighs.

Maybe you would have lingered on their legs or chests, exposed in sports bras and extra-short racing shorts, as the girls ­strode up the hill together, breathing evenly and talking fast, conducting air with their hands. …

Jesus Loves the Hell Out of You

or Reason #26 to avoid driving in Portland

Photo by Anya Vasilieva from Pexels

I’m in the right lane, trying to avoid squishing a cyclist. She is threading her way up Fourth Avenue on the sliver of roadway between my car and the row of parked cars on her right, and I am thinking: This cannot be legal. Not even in Portland.

This woman is creating her own lane. She is supposed to “take the lane,” not make her own imaginary lane. That’s what I was taught when I bike-commuted to work. For two months, eight years ago.


This Lozenge Will Save Your Life

dispatch from the #54 to downtown Portland

Image by Brandon Nickerson from Pexels

Allergy: a damaging response by the body to a substance. Also: a synonym for antipathy, a deep-seated feeling of dislike.

By any measure, the woman with the lozenges is the nicest person on the bus. She sits across the aisle from me, so close I could touch her. But I don’t notice her until she speaks, softly, to the man standing in the aisle between us.

To me, this man is an aggravation, as a lot of men are these days. Just another big, broad-shouldered guy, bumping…

Your Kids Are Animals

and other things I learn from my barista

Image by hbieser via Pixabay

I am fond of a barista at the Starbucks near my office. I’ll call him Devon. He is around 25, with thick, dark brown hair swept to one side and a light beard. In a friendly group of baristas he’s one of the friendliest, always asking me questions that go beyond “how’s your morning going?” but not in a creepy way.

Once in a while he’ll tell me that he likes my earrings; once he said, “you always look so put together.” I don’t usually feel put together…

What Blackberries Mean to Oregon Girls

a summer micro-essay

Some see only invasive weeds. To my girls, this blackberry patch on the side of the road is their summer nights, at ages 7 and 10.

Overgrown from a neighbor’s yard, spilling into the street in front of the middle school. I know these bushes are a destructive pest, the bane of gardeners.

To my girls, they are the reason for an after-dinner walk, a way to forestall bedtime, a Tupperware bowl full of tomorrow’s breakfast.

In the evening sun of an Oregon summer, it feels light-years from November, when the…

Shelby Oppel Wood

Writer/editor in Portland, OR. Runner. Still a reporter, deep in my heart. I love: real country music, eavesdropping, any thesaurus. shelbyoppelwood.com

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