Mini Trips Diary: Save the Date (International Rose Test Garden, Portland)

Six months ago, I celebrated my birthday, marking what I hoped was the end of a pretty thorny year-and the beginning of what astrology and my own gut promised was a reawakening of sorts on the way. With almost shocking symbolism, My boyfriend (who was definitely on the same rollercoaster I had been) took me to a rose garden where (unbeknownst to him while he made plans) not a single rose was in bloom at that time of year. You can see funny-ish evidence here: Date Fail: Dead Roses.

I just realized the title implies a proposal happened this time-but no. I’m talking about resuscitation our romantic life after that birthday fail. Saving that date has been on the unwritten list of things to do since spring…but I’ve found all “dates” sort of getting away from me between flare ups and trying to be as productive as possible when I wasn’t flaring (which seems rare lately). While I had the reprieve of a relaxing trip to Sedona, my other trips were quick and wrought with tight schedules and work-and my home days were spent trying to crawl up the stairs on all fours. I even lost the will to document, Instagram posts decreasing and my journal lying unopened in totes and drawers as it bounced around flailing its arms for my attention when it couldn’t scream-like it was in a bad dream where I can’t hold a pen anymore, which isn’t too far off.

The spring flew by and summer was floating away from me despite the promise of waterfalls, rivers, and trails. I ached to hike more after Sedona, but I literally ached because I did hike in Sedona-even weeks later. After a bad flare the last couple of weeks, having a friend move here and another friend stay here while escaping the fires in REDDING put a pep in my step. Coincidentally, the first day I was ready to take initiative and get outdoors despite the pain was the least sunny day since the rainy season ended. Just as Portland was being enveloped by its usual security blanket (grey skies), I was emerging from my own actual blanket, waking up from an unexpected summer hibernation. When my friend canceled on waterfall plans and Nick was somehow off of work, I decided it was time to cease the day-and save our date. Save that day’s date from the foreboding of what were, in the end, just clouds. Save all of the remaining dates of the year from a calendar falling apart before my eyes. It was time to go back to the rose garden before it began shriveling again.

Portland’s International Rose Test Garden boasts over 10,000 rose bushes and 650 plus varieties in colors, sizes, and scents not indicated in the typical bouquet. Aside from $2.00 parking (which is relatively easy, though spaces are limited and sometimes occupied by tennis players practicing at the adjacent courts), the rose garden happens to be free. It’s situated across from the not-free Japanese Gardens (pre-purchase adult admission costs 16.95 with senior, student, and youth pricing available), and you can easily do both in a day if you don’t plan on plopping on a bench to draft a novel or read Alice and Wonderland in the perfect setting (which I totally want to do now).

Those buds look a little scary still. Like little Venus FlyTraps.

It’s hard to explain to a healthy person, but I’m so proud I took the chance to grasp an afternoon where my willpower overpowered the pain-despite the weather not being the “best”, the sky not shouting that it was the kind of day that most Portlanders know better than to miss. Much like going to Muir Woods near San Francisco right before dusk, the surreal, tranquil feeling of being in the gardens in dimmed light is something I wouldn’t replace. The aesthetic filled me with such peace that I was overcome with gratitude-just when I needed it. I soaked in the distinctive rays of sunlight when they briefly peaked through the clouds. I admired the way the hue of a typical Portland sky kept the colors and intricacies saturated when they didn’t. The weather inspired a certain quiet and reverie amongst the patrons. Even speech and laughter seemed perfectly placed or distant, like balls of light bouncing gracefully off of the surrounding dome in slow motion-the first, leisurely round of a game that keeps your mind off of troubles.

On our way out for the first time, the nerds in us couldn’t help but stop at the sign to learn more about the process of creating rose hybrids. The sign listed some of the winning flower’s names, disease resistance levels, and…scents.

I ridiculously realized…despite walking and even skipping through the rows of varied colors and height, I’d hardly stopped to even smell ONE rose. We decided to go back not only to see what was described as a “black rose” (though it ended up being more deep red to black), but to take in the roses in a different way.

This rose makes the emo kid in me want to cry.

They smelled like everything from cinnamon to Disney World, with many others perfectly exemplifying the sweet yet green clover smell that roses are known for. The second journey through each row yielded a whole other experience. We were even lucky enough to see some rabbits-and just enough to save one from a dog. There were dogs there too, guys. I didn’t want to leave.

Catching the garden while in bloom seemed parallel to the place I’m in now…a sort of mid season upswing overall despite the ups and downs and constancy of thorns and clouds. I remembered where I was when the rose bushes were empty, and I was just as ready as they were to bloom again and start over. Now it was a time to own the burst of petals and stretch. Growth is beautiful, but so is allowing oneself to understand how far you’ve come and just be. In making up for one date where we supposedly “failed” but actually got a good laugh, I realized the importance of making every “date” count. Rain or shine, pain or not-if I could, I should. I literally woke up and smelled the roses.

Nearby Food recommendation: Elephants Delicatessen

Watch the YouTube video from our day trip: Mini Trip Diary: Save the Date

For more information: International Rose Test Garden at Portland’s city website


Cold-shoulder with frills top in a blush tone: Express

High-waist shorts with appropriate floral appliqué: Abercrombie & Fitch

(I’ve worn these two blogs in a row, so they must be awesome!)

Maroon Boots: Steve Madden, found at Nordstrom Rack

Dual-tones hoop earrings with cut out shapes: Lucky, found at Nordstrom Rack


Green eyeliner: NYX

Lipstick: MAC in “Blankety”


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