The Grotto: An Inward Journey Near PDX International Airport

August 4, 2011

I do love the Portland Airport.

It’s been a spot of promise all my life. Growing up, an hour long drive from the country led me to the city’s portal to other lands. My first commercial plane ride: Oregon to California. (Family wedding flower girl duties called.)  Then later, Oregon to France. Oregon to Italy. Oregon to New Zealand.

Little did I know, all those years of driving up I-205, that I’d eventually be living in a neighborhood just ten minutes from PDX International. Since moving to Montavilla in 2007, I’ve joked with my husband about taking me on dates to the airport, just to watch the planes come and go.

Nearby the airport stands another Portland portal: a connection to calm and quiet.

A week and a half ago, my brother left Oregon to return to his job and home in Southern California, and I met him for a farewell up near the airport. On the return drive, I stopped on whimsey at The Grotto, just off the intersection of NE Sandy and NE 82nd Avenue.

It seemed a good idea. In between the recent hustle and bustle of juggling work and trip planning and life obligations, I’d been feeling scattered, distracted, out of touch.

I’m not Catholic, but the peaceful, contemplative setting yielded just the pause I hoped for, allowing time to pray and journal and walk the grounds.

A $4.00 elevator ride reveals space of peace and solitude and calm sitting high above the 110 foot cliff at the north face of Rocky Butte.

The Elevator Shaft

The View North from the Meditation Chapel toward the Portland Airport

Details from the Peace Garden’s
Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous Mysteries Bronze Sculpture Series

This trip planning process alternates between soaring hopes and agonizing heartache. The goodbyes, the chances traded…the pausing on other pursuits. All this balanced out by promise of adventure and trust that our steps are not aimless but ordered.

 “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” -Psalm 37:23-24

In all, I spent nearly two hours in the Upper Gardens, passing time and sinking deep in thought.

I wandered along the marked routes, and stopped at the private paths. I wondered about the Monastery and the rhythms and calendars and seasons of an alternate way of life.

I walked the prayer labyrinth up on the top of the butte: I let myself trust the path.

In a few months more, we’ll head to the Portland Airport, tickets in hand. Between now and then, I hope to return to The Grotto as I travel the inward journey unfolding in tandem with our Trip.

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  • Reply RenegadePilgrim August 18, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    The Grotto is one of my favorite places for reflection in Portland….glad it has been a help to you as you prepare for your journey!

    • Reply twoOregonians August 19, 2011 at 1:11 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Heather! I’m amazed it’s taken me so long to discover the beautiful upper gardens. I’ll be glad to return more often now that I know it’s such a special spot…

    What say you?