Here’s one more reason why I love Portland.
Almost everyone I meet here is passionate about some kind of creativity or philanthropic work in their lives; it may be what they do for a living, but just as often it’s something they do outside their day job.
My friend Elona pointed this out to me last year, and ever since it feels like I’m seeing more and more examples of this.
They’re the stay-at-home moms who are more apt to tell you about Poetry Slams or a manuscript they are working on than bore your booty off by bragging about their kids.
Husbands of friends of mine get amped up talking about home-brewing beer and making furniture.
People all around are donating time to the Oregon Food Bank, children’s literacy projects, Meals on Wheels and dyslexia groups — that is when they aren’t sewing, painting or doing some other creative exploit.
Baking and cooking count as creative work, right?
And when I’m able to give most of my Salted Caramel Bars away, that’s Grade A philanthropy right there.
I was thinking about this marriage of creativity and doing good for the community when I started coming across these little libraries around my neighborhood in the last two years.
I saw all these interesting little structures and thought — this is so Portland.
Turns out the Little Free Libraries program was started by Todd Bol and Rick Brooks in Wisconsin. The former built the first one (it was shaped like a schoolhouse, an homage to his mother, a former teacher) and once he met up with Rick at a seminar on green practices, they teamed up and started building these all over Wisconsin.
Now these little libraries have been put up all over the world– by some count, over 100,000 of them.
The idea is not a new one; coffee shops and libraries have long been a bastion of “take one, leave one” book economics.
What’s new is that these libraries are free-standing and in the hands of a creative individuals, the results are amazing — and fantastically fun to stumble across in the midst of an afternoon walk.
I love anything that involves a shared economy and fosters community — and these little guys do both.
I wrote a note on Nextdoor (an on-line bulletin board) about these Little Free Libraries and asked people if they knew of a good one I should check out — or if people would share their opinions about how theirs is working out.
I read so many interesting stories about Little Free Libraries.
I heard from people who created a little library to honor a Dad or a cousin who’d passed.
Or how much one little box had united a street.
And the delight some owners get when they spy a stranger taking a moment out and finding a new treasure they want to adopt as their own.
And this post also connected me with Mark McClure, a fantastic amateur photographer in town.
He reached out to me on Nextdoor to let me know he’s taken almost five hundred pictures of both these little libraries and inspiration/poetry posts in town and I should check out his Flickr feed.
Turns out this guy (an IT consultant by day) has taken over thirteen thousand pictures of Portland and he walks everywhere — over bridges, through parks, and all over many of the intriguing neighborhoods throughout Portland.
We emailed each other a bit, and he graciously allowed me to share these images with all of you.
Mark is another Portlander who’s more interesting not by how he makes a living, but how his interests make his life.
I read some things he wrote on his Flickr page about why he walks so much during his free time.
“I’ve discovered that when you travel at a slower pace, the world comes closer to you. Even on a bike, you may tend to speed along, but when I walk, I have the rich experience of hearing, seeing and smelling things that I wouldn’t otherwise.”
“Because I pass some of the same sights, I get to watch a house or a cut stone wall being built over a period of weeks which is a fascinating thing to watch. Many days I say to myself: I’ve experienced something today that people who left in their cars did not.”
I couldn’t have said it better, Mark.
Thanks for sharing your passion for the little sights around town with all of us — I’ve since looked at thousands of your photos and they’ve made me fall in love with Portland all over again.
And another big shout out to all those who’ve built these little houses and kept them supplied with not just books and magazines, but other treats as well.
I’ve seen dog biscuits, outerwear, and the occasional toy, too.
So next time you’re walking around the neighborhood, keep an eye out — perhaps not just a new book but some well-loved kicks might await you as well.
Every Little Free Library I saw and nearly every comment I heard makes me want to put up one of my own little libraries.
Look at this one — it’s a dollhouse converted to a book depository.
Perhaps my Little Free Library can be a place I can put out magazines, the odd book, perhaps even an old treasure I’d like to give to a new home.
The trick will be to get my hubby on board — he loves his yard and every time I make noise about wanting to leave free stuff out near the sidewalk for people to take (a lot of people walk by our house daily), he starts humming the theme song to Sanford and Son.
Perhaps I can argue that a little box of our own will not only free up some on-going clutter issues we have going on here, it’ll also save us a ton of gas.
You see, instead of driving all over town to deliver food I’ve made– I can just leave extra soup, muffins and cookies just outside the door.
I’ll keep you posted.