Sled Dogs

A Christmas lights display of two dogs and a dogsled on a snowy Christmas Eve in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

I felt as though I had stepped into a Jack London novel as I walked my neighborhood on a snowy Christmas Eve. Ellie normally wants to greet every dog she meets so I was surprised she was uninterested in these two, but probably for the best, so focused were they on the task at hand.


A house with Chritmas lights on a snowy Christmas Eve in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

I lived in small towns and cities growing up so the only urban neighborhoods I saw were the ones I saw on TV, which tended to be a sea of concrete and asphalt. So I was surprised when we started looking at houses in Portland years ago and found established neighborhoods full of unique old houses and old trees. This is our neighborhood of Irvington, covered in a light dusting of snow on Christmas Eve. I’m going to miss how walkable this neighborhood is, I’m going to miss these old houses, and I’m certainly going to miss these old trees. People talk about the heat in Arizona but the thing that struck me when I visited on a cooler day was both the dry air and the lack of shade due to the lack of trees.

It’s not just that it will be hot in the summer, but that you can’t escape the sun. I have an old bottle of sunscreen, I can’t even tell you how old it is, because I only use it when I’m up above the tree line or when I travel. Normally I hike in long sleeves, long pants, and a brimmed hat, and since I’m usually hiking in the forest I don’t have to worry about the sun. That’s about to change, but lest I sound too negative, I am genuinely excited about exploring the desert and photographing the completely different landscapes, plants, and animals.

My hunch and my hope is that I will love both places, my old home and my new home, and that I’ll appreciate each for what they are.

Exit Strategy

A home in the Irvington neighborhood is covered in Christmas lights and snow in Portland, Oregon

After we leave the dog park at Irving Park, I let Ellie choose which of the four exits we take to launch back into the neighborhood and the main part of our walk. This house abuts the park at the east side of the tennis courts, and although she usually prefers to walk down the eastern side of the street, lately she’s been choosing the western side where this house sits. She wasn’t with me on this walk, she didn’t want to go out last night or this morning. I wouldn’t have let her go this morning even had she wanted to, a thin layer of ice built up overnight atop the snow and the roads and sidewalks were mostly ice altogether, too treacherous for an elderly pup who isn’t that confident in her footing.

This is from the evening before, Christmas Eve, as the snow still fell and the light rapidly faded. I love how varied the sizes and shapes and colors of the houses are in this old neighborhood and took advantage of the Christmas lights to photograph some of them. There are benefits to a modern house if we have to move, and maybe we’ll end up somewhere with a more photogenic place to photograph backyard wildlife, but I love our house and I love our neighborhood. It’s going to be hard to leave.