Monday, December 8, 2008

Eugene Sunlight

Crystal clear day, Eugene, OR. Sidewalks have a rough texture; rocks and pebbles wedged in solid sand cast small shadows. Empty lots become beaches soaking sunlight. Graffiti on pealing plaster walls is a metropolitan art show. The fairgrounds of Jefferson Westside lie between Amazon Creek to the south and 13 avenue to the north, a reservoir of sunlight.

A number of buildings make up the grounds; the most prominent is rectangular. Its primary doors open to the west- average sized glass doors under a broad awning. Far above is a large cube shaped glass skylight. If the fairgrounds has a tower, a rotunda, a sparkling dome, this is it. Notably, this one is translucent and, today, heaven's light spills into the exhibition hall. This hall is, usually, where the Holiday farmer's market is- lively stalls, free samples, friendly smiles, and brightly colored produce. In front of the main building is a large plot paved with black asphalt. Closest to the building, tall trunked maples in square plots lined with yellow paint stud the asphalt.

If Eugene has a broad plaza, this "parking lot" is it. In many old cities there is a former palace, converted into a modern civic space. The Fairgrounds in Eugene would be that palace. Over the last 160 years the ancient landed people lost much of their land and history tells of the free-for-all that followed. Whomever could cut and process the most timber, grain, grass seed, these people became wealthy. But today, at the fairgrounds I encountered a different kind of wealth.

Under that great big glass skylight, the merchants are accountable. As they invest time and energy living here, they are slowly taking what the landscape gives them- milk, cheese, wood, beets, inspiration- and they offer these gifts to me with a smile. By talking to these people, I learn where they live, where their animals live, where their trees live. Someday, perhaps, I can even visit. What I'm buying here, albeit transformed into different shapes, is a little piece of Eugene, OR, sunlight.

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