Summers in Oregon are marked by this insatiable longing.
You wait six months for a glimpse of the sun, and when you finally get it, it always feels both too good and not good enough. A Portland summer is the kind of perfect thing that lives as much in your imagination as it does in reality—the sun in the morning, the smell of the river, the daylight that lingers until 9 pm, when it dies in a burst of impossible orange-pink-purple incandescence. Quiet evenings drinking beer on the porch, watching traffic go by, watching the stars come out; loud evenings listening to the crowd, hoping for magic on the field. You wait six months for this, and then it comes, and then suddenly it’s gone again.
Have you ever eaten a thimbleberry?
The thimbleberry is a delicate wild fruit that grows in woods; it is one of mother earth’s most perfect creations. The redness of a thimbleberry is the reddest red that exists, and when you pick it, the velvety drupelets peel imperfectly off the stem and some of that impossible red inevitably gets on your fingers. I can’t describe what a thimbleberry tastes like, because it doesn’t really taste like any other fruit. It can’t be cultivated at scale because it is far too fragile to pick and store and ship.
This is the problem: the thimbleberry is so good, and so ephemeral, that it will always seem impossible to appreciate it enough. I only ever eat a dozen or so a year, but that far-off day in June when I get to taste one again is always in the back of my head.
A soccer game happened a week and a half ago, and I haven’t watched it since then, and I’m probably not going to for a while. There’s nothing left to analyze. The thing is done. The Thorns lost, and it wasn’t particularly close. This team was good—brilliant, at times—but at the end of the day, North Carolina was undeniable. Plenty of ink will be spilled on that subject, for years to come.
A championship is one thing. It’s a very good thing, something we’ve been blessed with three times in the last five years, and we can’t take any of that for granted, even as we dream about making constellations. Losing to this team, specifically, in the final, was always going to be hard, for a lot of reasons I don’t think I need to get into here. But really, that’s not what this is about.
Saturday afternoon, the Thorns lost, and it kind of sucked. Saturday night, standing on the patio at Kells, yell-singing “Africa” for the fifteenth time that weekend, I don’t think the loss was on anyone’s mind. The open bar, naturally, helped with that—but this wasn’t a drown-your-sorrows party. It was a genuine celebration; of this community, of this dumb sport we all love too much, of us.
A year ago in Orlando, a couple hundred Thorns fans watched their team win and then went to a party that nobody who was there will ever forget. That night was a victory celebration, obviously. It was about winning. But it was also about something else, maybe even above and before that: it was about being there, together, for that moment.
The thing about this game is that usually, you don’t win. Only one team gets to do that each year. What you do get is the chance to be there; to feel, together, the joy, pride, heartbreak, excitement, and love that come with this thing that we know doesn’t mean anything, but also means everything.
We got to be there, last weekend. We get to be there again and again and again.