Living the Good Life, PDX-Style

Homing in on what it means to be healthy in the City of Roses, from good wine to great hikes.

By Zach Dundas July 15, 2014 Published in the Health Annual: Summer 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Shutterstock

Health—like personality, or freedom, or good taste—tends to be one of those elusive concepts that everyone desires but no one can define, at least to any other person’s satisfaction. For my grandfather, being well meant regular sessions of golf and horse-racing. My wife, a self-made collegiate athlete from a previously unsporty family, gets a caged-animal look in her eyes when she can’t make it to the gym. I know people who act like gluten is radioactive. And I know people (some perhaps in this very office) who practically did backflips over a recent rumor that downing a whole bottle of red wine per day might be beneficial. In some cases, these were the same people. 

As we started work on our annual Portland Monthly Health, we tried to devise a definition of the subject broad enough to work for Portland. As one might expect in a city renowned for both its embrace of organic food and its prodigious beer consumption, our version of the concept holds ample room to roam. 

In the pages that follow, you’ll find reporting on groundbreaking genetics research—and the use of llamas to help people feel better. We look at the story behind a lifesaving military medical device, and into the somewhat arcane secrets of popular yoga poses. Our story about a new alliance between hospital doctors and home-birth midwives explores Portland’s fraught dual identity as a center for top-flight traditional care and a hotbed of alternative thinking. A pioneer of “ecopsychology” tells us why stepping outside may be the key to mental health, while one of our most innovative senior-living projects sounds like a place one might never want to leave.

But for my money, this issue’s coverage of food and the outdoors really captures Portland’s brand of wholesome living. In both realms, we fear no experiments, but also savor our creature comforts. Our feature celebrating 10 improbably healthy, impossibly beautiful restaurant dishes lights up Portland’s collective neurons. So too does our funky inventory of fermented, probiotic culinary exotica. If you want to scale the Northwest’s most legendary peaks or walk all the way around Mount Hood’s majestic slopes, stories here will tell you how. On the other hand, if you want a splash-free afternoon kayaking expedition or a slow-rolling country bike ride, you’ll find those as well.

In the pages that follow, “health” means physical well-being, but also other qualities of life: intellectual curiosity, robust engagement with the world, great yogurt. Hopefully, it all adds up to a Portland-size interpretation of the concept—from the microscopic code that creates our bodies to our bursting farmers markets to our breathtaking mountains. At our city’s best, by any definition, living here means living well.

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