Portland’s finest, Washington Park is a complicated set of areas, covering almost 130 acres. Let’s take a few days and closely examine a dozen or so pieces of artwork in the park.

The formal entrance to the park is at the peak of SW Park Place (not to be confused with SW Park Avenue downtown). There is a monument to memorialize the travails of the Corps of Discovery. Henry Walton Goode and Henry Corbett, presidents of the Lewis & Clark exposition both have memorial plaques. The monument includes a single pedestal with four circular bronze plaques marking the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. There’s not much of a scorch mark left.

Portland’s parks department allows any citizen to make a recommendation – to essentially buy – a piece of park furnishing or to place a suitable RACC-friendly piece of art in our parks. It’s an ingenious notion which seems mostly to be made up of memorial benches.

Visit the Portland Parks Washington Park web site.
Visit the Portland Parks Citizen Initiated Projects site.

None are more thought provoking than the memorial to Wesley Hewitt, a simple wood and iron bench, symbolically surrounded by irises. I am very glad to see the original bulbs have bloomed again this season.

Wes had been mad for a while, but 1997 was all about running. Yes he had been a bright prospect – admitted to Reed at 16, a musician, a martial artist, a spiritual seeker. In 1997 music didn’t mean anything anymore. Family was far far away. A divine spirit burned fiercely inside him, and blocked out everything else. He flitted about all over the nation, a dream in the daylight.

Tired. He must have been tired. It’s such a battle – and Wes was full of battle. On his final night, after being rejected and then ejected by the ER staff at Good Samaritan Hospital, Wes somehow clambered up to the brick plaza of the Lewis & Clark Memorial, drank gasoline, poured the rest over his head, and lit a match.

There isn’t an explanation or anyway to understand why. There just isn’t. Margie Boule wrote a wonderful article. Advocates for people with mental illness came together for a emotional memorial. A civil trial vs. Good Sam went nowhere. What can you do?

You can remember him as he would want to be remembered – at his best. So when you trundle through to smell the roses, stop for a moment and consider the irises and sit on Wes’ bench. I imagine he would appreciate it.

Map of Washington Park (PDF file)