Thicket

Thicket, Portland, Oregon

I didn’t grow up in the kind of family that went hiking. But my college boyfriend loved it, and all things outdoorsy.

The diplomatic way to describe myself back then is out of shape. Although there is some debate about whether I had been in shape before that. The bottom line? I didn’t have a lot of endurance, a lot of dexterity or a lot of experience hiking. But Eric didn’t know this, and suggested we hit a nearby trail for the day. I agreed.

Colonel Bob, in the Quinault Rainforest, is not what you would call “a beginner’s hike.” It’s steep, it’s long and it’s not for chubby girls who don’t work out. We arrived at the trailhead, my stomach churning with dread and anticipation, and we started to hike. We hiked down into a valley, down further.

“Isn’t this supposed to be an uphill hike?” I asked Eric, after about 30 minutes of steep downhill. We paused, we looked ahead and around, and we finally discovered that were were going the wrong way. By the time we got back to the trailhead, I was exhausted. And we hadn’t even started the hike. I had an elevation gain of 4,492 feet ahead of me. I wanted to cry.

I did not cry though — not right then. The crying happened later — a couple of hours later, when I was completely sapped of energy, my legs burned and my lungs burned and Eric had been carrying my backpack for at least a mile. I wanted to make it to the top so badly, so that he would see that I could be a good sport. But I just couldn’t keep going. I slumped down onto a stump and started to cry, a little over halfway up the hill.

“We have to go back,” I said. “I can’t hike anymore. I’m done.”

Thicket, Portland, Oregon

I’ve since made peace with hiking and I love it, but this was not a great place to start. I now love to appreciate the nature along the way, and my legs and lungs are usually up to the task (although I still haven’t been back up that particular peak).

Nature can be overwhelming or nature can be the perfect oasis from our daily lives. At Thicket, it’s an oasis. This hidden gem is just a half-block off Alberta on NE 23rd, and it’s a garden supply shop that’s set in what I wish my yard looked like.

It’s green and lush but it’s also a place to sit for a moment and be inspired. All the plants inside look like they were chosen individually and cared for. The whole place thrives, and I turned bright green with envy when I saw the overhead canopies and the vintage-inspired potting shed. This place is worth a peek, a stroll and a few deep breaths. You’ll be hooked.

Thicket, Portland, Oregon

Thicket, 4933 NE 23rd Ave. in the Alberta Arts District of NE Portland. Thicket also has an inspiring garden blog.

Canoe

Canoe, Portland, Oregon

It was way too late to still be at school, but we sat in the pickup truck together in the parking lot, under the glow of buzzing lights, as he told me that he didn’t like me in that way.

The day before is when I let my affections be known, through a note (which I thought of as romantic, but was really a way to tell him without getting up the nerve to look right at him). That day after our rehearsal, he asked if we could talk. We went out and sat in his truck until the sun set and it was just us in the parking lot.

A year younger than me, he seemed to be wise beyond his years and more compassionate than most high school boys. He looked me in the eye, and he told me the things he loved about me. He told me the traits I have that make me a great friend, and then — softly — he told me that he just didn’t want to date me. And he was sorry about that — I could tell how sorry he actually was.

As time wore on and our conversation bubbled into laugher, stretched into long silences and ended in a hug, I made my way from the truck back to my car and then home. The boy that I had in my sights for more than a year had said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and I somehow didn’t feel heartbroken. All because he was so classy about it. It was the classiest gesture I’d ever experienced, and that thoughtfulness hasn’t been matched many times in my life in the 12 years since it happened.

Canoe, Portland, Oregon

Classy and thoughtful, through and through — which is exactly how I’d describe Canoe.

Everything inside is lovely, purposefully arranged and accompanied by a little note that tells you about its origins. If you’re in the market for a thoughtful gift, this is absolutely the place to go. The staff tenderly wraps purchases, slips a little treat inside and provides care instructions for your gift. This kind of care is rare — appreciate it, like I did my friend who let me down so gently all those years ago.

Canoe, Portland, Oregon

Canoe, 1136 SW Alder Street, in downtown’s West End district. For more impeccable taste and curation, check them out on Twitter and Pinterest.

Lodekka

Lodekka, North Portland, Oregon

I went to a lot of church camp while I was growing up, and I have to come clean — my favorite part of church camp was the boys. I was what Hall & Oates might have affectionately called a Maneater.

So imagine my delight when we loaded up the bus to head to the coast for a long weekend in sixth grade — they called it Winter Beach Camp — and my friend from school had brought his best friend for the weekend. A new one that I hadn’t met! Excellent.

As another song goes (well, kinda), he walked out of my dreams and into that yellow school bus. He was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. And I had a two-hour bus ride to convince him that I was the girl of his dreams, too. I used my time well, trapping him in his seat and forcing him to talk to me. I somehow (coercively and aggressively, I’m sure) convinced him by the time we arrived at camp that we were going out. I disembarked the bus optimistic for my blossoming relationship, ready to tell all my friends and sure we’d be together forever.

Lodekka, North Portland, Oregon

The magic of that bus ride dissipated, of course, when he denied it all the next morning. He had never agreed to go out with me, he said. Could we just be friends?

That stung a little, but I didn’t give up. Everywhere he showed up that weekend, I was coincidentally stationed nearby — one of the stealth moves of a sixth-grade Maneater. We talked and laughed and had fun, but he wasn’t interested. He never came back to another of our church camps after that.

A full decade later, I saw him at a distance of 20 feet at a concert at the Gorge and couldn’t bring myself to say hello because I was so embarrassed. But for the record, he was still dashingly handsome.

Lodekka, North Portland, Oregon

It may not last forever, but magic can happen aboard a bus. Time stops. You’re in a bubble. Also true at Lodekka, an ingenious little dress and accessories shop in North Portland on an old double-decker bus named Guinevere. They carry “everything a girl needs to put together a smashing outfit” and shopping in a bus can turn a regular experience into a special one. All the inventory is thrifted by master thrifter, musician and owner Erin, who keeps the finds fresh and new.

Lodekka, North Portland, Oregon

Lodekka is a double decker bus filled with fashion, parked in the 3900 block of N. Williams Avenue between Lompoc’s Sidebar and Hopworks Bike Bar. Check out her blog and Twitter for more info.

Alder & Co.

Alder & Co., Portland Oregon

Due to a combination of overtiredness from the trip and nerves, I felt sick to my stomach as the plane landed in Barcelona. I was 17, I was going abroad for the first time, and I was about to meet the girl (and her family) that I’d be living with for the next month.

I needn’t have worried — I know that now — because that girl has been a friend to me ever since that summer. But before I knew her, her world was new and exciting and just a little scary. The next morning, Conchi came into my room to wake me up, speaking in the second language I had not yet mastered and way too fast to understand at half-asleep. I panicked. I had no idea what she was saying and I had no idea how I was going to get my bearings.

Alder & Co., Portland, Oregon

It all got better quickly from there — it was summer in Barcelona, and as high school students our job was to have fun, get to know each other and speak Spanish. Most days we’d head to the beach, or on a walk through the Barri Gòtic. I learned more in that month about the world, myself and new friendship than I ever had before, and that trip started a love affair with Spain that has seen me through five trips in 12 years and fostered a friendship with a family that treats me like one of their own.

That first summer, wherever we went, Conchi and my other Spanish friends all wore the same shoes — leather avarcas, which were worn-in, comfy and the ultimate summer sandal. On a later trip, I got my own pair, which I have long since lost, and I always have a pang of nostalgia whenever I see anyone wearing these sandals.

Alder & Co., Portland, Oregon

Seeing these avarcas for sale — imported from Spain — at Alder & Co. in downtown’s West End district, takes me back to that first summer, playing beach volleyball at Barceloneta and eating helado while “Asereje” blasted in my headphones.

Alder & Co. is a curated shop — but not like the very curated shop just a couple doors down. This place has a more accidental, even serendipitous, feeling. I love the collections, from brightly-colored books to rare finds like Swedish magazines and handcrafted housewares.

Alder & Co., Portland, Oregon

Alder & Co. is located at 616 SW 12th St. in downtown Portland’s west end district. If you’re not in Portland, you can shop online! Follow the shop on instagram for more eye candy.