Quiet spots help relaxation

Amid the hustle and hectic pace of university life, it’s therapeutic to find a quiet spot and relax, but it’s not necessarily easy on an urban campus.

There are a few places close by. Occasionally, it’s worthwhile to travel a little to find serenity. The most natural places, like the Park Blocks, are only too convenient and frequently find themselves much overpopulated to provide any really quiet contemplation.

There are opportunities, some of them surprisingly close. Walk east on Southwest Market Street, and at Second Avenue you find the street ends and becomes a quiet walkway extending south among the buildings.

This entire walkway has been planned for serenity, with shrubbery, trees, ponds, steps and other amenities lining the passage.

Along the walkway, extending south for several blocks, lies two pretty retreats, Pettygrove Park and Lovejoy Fountain. Of these, the Pettygrove provides the quietest and most natural environment. It is designed with walkways among giant mounds of dirt covered with grass and sprouting huge trees. Convenient benches abound. At lunchtime, it tends to draw people, but most of the time one can find adequate solitude there.

A block south of Pettygrove Park is the Lovejoy Fountain. When the water is flowing (which it currently is not, due to wintry temperatures), the environment provides a soothing background to contemplation. High on a bank above the fountain’s flow, a covered area offers shelter for when the weather turns rainy.

An unlikely neighborhood in which to find quiet and solitude is the Chapel of St. Vincent de Paul at Southwest Third Avenue and Burnside Street. When mass isn’t being said, the chapel encloses an atmosphere of calming peace, with the flickering votive candles adding an almost hypnotic fascination. Sometimes, when things get rough around Burnside, the chapel may curtail its open hours.

For those who need a soaring viewpoint to liberate the spirit, there is a secluded nook high atop Terwilliger hill, which can provide a bracing walk from the campus if one feels up to it. Close to the pinnacle of the hill, but before it spreads out in all those medical buildings, there exists a tiny park at Elk Point Viewpoint.

The viewpoint affords a sweeping view of the city below. The unique feature is a tall totem pole carved by the late American Indian artist, Lelooska.

Some of Portland’s most spacious parks, like Washington park near the west side of the campus, should be ideal, but they’re not. They’re too ideal, and it’s hard to find solitude due to all the crowds.

However, this general territory does have some geography conducive to calming the spirit. One is the Vietnam memorial, close to the zoo. This area is named the Garden of Solace. The memorial features provide a backdrop to serenity rather than the intense focal point provided by the famed memorial wall in Washington, D.C. A spiraling ascending walk encloses a large and comforting grassy area. The whole park nestles among stately trees.

Also in this area lies Hoyt Arboretum. Its trails furnish many quiet places where one can stop and contemplate the vastness of the universe.

Laurelhurst Park, on Southwest 39th Avenue, just south of E. Burnside, is another example of peace among activity. Although it’s often populated, there are grassy areas between the trees and along the pond where one can find a sense of isolation from the bustle of civilization.

The same can be said of Mt. Tabor Park. Its vastness can provide solitude even when numerous people are drifting through. The park is bounded by S.E. Belmont Street and Division Street, 60th Avenue and 72nd Avenue. An especially soothing activity is to sit on a grassy bank and gaze across one of the vast open reservoirs. Better hurry, though, the city wants to mask these beautiful bodies of water under roofs.

When people mention relaxation in nature, they often mention Forest Park, in extreme northwest Portland, but Forest Park has its drawbacks. In spite of its vastness, one only too often encounters persons and vehicles one would prefer to avoid.

For those who appreciate a more Zen-like atmosphere for contemplation, there lies a much-underused opportunity on S.E. Bybee Boulevard, where Bybee curves into Southeast 13th Avenue. It is the Portland Memorial, a combination chapel, crematorium and mausoleum.

Far from being depressing, the atmosphere of the oldest section of the mausoleum imparts a comforting sense of the continuity of existence.

The most effective entrance lies through a door pointing to the chapel. This door opens into a room that appears truly ancient, a circular room lined with vaults and urns dating back to the 19th century. A narrow staircase leads down a small shaft lined with funeral urns. The feeling of tranquility encountered in this descent can become unbelievably soothing.

There are numerous chairs and benches in the labyrinth of hallways below to provide restful repose. Occasional stained glass windows lend an additional feeling of timelessness.

Getting away from it all can require some effort, but even a few minutes spent in a natural setting or in a safe interior of peace can heal the spirit and revitalize the energy.