Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

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A Monolithic Mausoleum

Long walk this afternoon: a couple of hours in a park south of my neighborhood. I got out a pair of Heavy Hands that Mom let me have -- giving the arm muscles some exertion, every bit helps -- and made my way down into the calmness and quiet of Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. The only exception to the quiet was a train engine pulling four cars along the railroad through the park -- not a frequently-used rail route (it's only the second time I've seen trains running on it; here's the first) -- and with that one exception, I was in a peaceful place.

I then came upon another peaceful place.

On one of the bluffs lining the east side of Oaks Bottom is the Portland Memorial Funeral Home, a mausoleum and crematory rising monolithically out of the earth. I approached it, knowing it should be near and then seeing glimpses of its bulk between the leaf-heavy trees, and finally I had a clear view. Approached that way, on this wavering (not quite winding) dirt path with occasional muddy patches, made me feel like I was approaching a ruin from a Planet of the Apes film. It's about six stories high at that point, built into the bluff. The north side, which I saw first, is unadorned, but on part of the west-facing wall is a treat: a mural of a blue heron among the marsh water and grass of Oaks Bottom. (Here is a view of just the photo.)

The ashes of my relative Vesta Dunger -- born 1895, died 1990 -- are interred in that building, as are those of her husband Max (pronounced "Mocks"). It was a setting in a Chuck Palahniuk novel. And -- in a touch I'm sure Vesta appreciated -- it not only overlooks the marshland, it also overlooks Oaks Park Amusement Park. You can hear the visitors and the rides, not obtrusive but reminding you that life's going on.

I paused at the place. I'm glad I did. And I'm glad I got out for that walk.
Tags: peregrinations, portland

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