Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Portland Journey: The Grotto

Bill and I were not sure what to expect when we set out to find The Grotto located a bit northeast of Portland City Center. Built by Servite Father Ambrose Mayer in fulfillment of a boyhood promise to do something special for God in return for his mothers life, it could have been another Necedah,* save that the description of The Grotto’s botanical gardens with reflecting ponds and over 1100 varieties of plants and trees sounded alluring.

The Grotto is not listed as one of the top “things to see” in Portland which is perhaps just as well, for without crowds of tourists it remains an oasis of beauty, peace and tranquility midst the city’s busy environs.

The shrine consists of two levels. The lower level built at the base of a towering cliff is the site of the Grotto moss-laden cave itself, 30 feet wide, 30 feet deep and almost 50 feet high with a Carrara marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta as the focal point. Also on that level is a visitors’ complex and conference center and a lovely chapel. Bill and I arrived in time to visit the Grotto, warm up with some hot coffee in the visitors’ center and attend a noon Mass with a scattering of other religious: 4 priests and one Servite brother in his religious habit on the altar, and a few nuns.

The upper level is reached by taking an elevator 110 feet upward to the second level where the monastery, the botanical gardens, and the meditation chapel with a glass wall facing the panorama of the Columbia River and snow covered mountains. Bill and I spent several hours wandering the beautifully groomed trails and snapping photos of the exquisite flowers and shrubs (many in full bloom) growing midst towering redwoods. One of the reflective pools fed by running streams and small waterfalls held a mallard couple, heads tucked into their wings on a moss covered rock. Were they real, we wondered? One of the mallards answered our questions when it lifted its head and stretched it skyward. The restful companionship of those mallards a lovely metaphor for our experience at the shrine which lifted our hearts and opened our spirits.

*Necedah, Wisconsin, is the site where Our Lady is said to have appeared to a local woman. Perhaps it was the overcast day or the gaudily painted statues of Jesus and Mary dripping with blood that were responsible but rather than inspiring devotion this shrine depressed my husband and me.


Jo said...

Lovely, transporting writing, Beryl.

tinker said...

Your description and photos, paint such a lovely and serene picture of the grotto.