Morning Magic

It would have been another sleepy morning on my normal bus commute, except for the words that caught my eye on an orange construction fence atop a bluff overlooking the river and Cascade mountains.  I couldn’t quite read all the blocky stenciled letters, but this was no advertisement, nor was it construction related.  I was intrigued.

My return route from work doesn’t pass this fence, so I made a mental note to check it out the next day.  Sure enough, with a little preparedness, I caught the whole phrase:  “BEHIND THE VEIL OF MORNING FOG MT HOOD.”


I found it to be inspirational, mildly informative, and directive.  It says to me: you might not see it, but there is beauty, and you should look for this mountain on a clear day.  It took nearly two weeks, but eventually I did catch a glimpse of Mt. Hood silhouetted by the morning sun amidst the fog.  I wondered how many motorists did the same.

I am an art and design fan anyway, but guerrilla art is even better.  The unexpected and creative nature of “unapproved” art makes for an added level of joy over traditional art in expected locations.  I was intrigued about the method the person used to stencil the fence.  When did they do it?  What was their motivation?  Was the phrase part of a famous poem of which I was unaware?  I asked around, but no one had heard of it, so I turned to the internet.

The answer came swiftly via a website called the Orange Lining (clear photo above is theirs).  I soon discovered it to be the public art portal for a new light rail line here in Portland.  The phrase, written by a citizen, was part of a larger public art project paid for by my tax dollars.  This was definitively not guerrilla art at all.

The appeal of the phrase, and even the view seemed momentarily dulled by this revelation.  I was looking at something manufactured.  For a few days I felt disappointed that this was officially sanctioned, but as the weeks went by I came to appreciate that the thousands of commuters passing by each day had no clue.

For them, it was a dose of morning magic.


    1. And you didn’t stop to see me? (I forgive you this time.)

      That tower, besides being an obstruction in the river, is the first of two towers that will hold up a pedestrian (yes!) and light rail bridge. Read: no cars.

      For the moment, it is fun to watch, though it severely hampers one of my favorite wide sailing spots on the river.


  1. I seem to remember seeing something similar (same block letters on an orange banner) near the S waterfront a couple months back. I forget exactly what it said but it caused me to pause and wonder how/why it was there. I too assumed guerrilla art, but never followed up.

  2. Hi, I noticed your post about Orange Lining and thought I’d say hello and respond to your disappointment about the art not being done by guerrillas. I’d say, it’s the next best thing – it’s done by humans and Trimet actually approved a project that contains unknowns. Trimet tends to be very cautious about what kind of art they allow, and this project has pushed their boundaries in multiple ways. On the whole, the locations of the lines of text are not curated, they end up wherever erosion control is needed. There werefive sites that we painted ‘in the field’ because that fencing was already installed when we started the project, four are on the west side of the river and one is in Milwaukie. Other than those, it’s been a serendipitous process. Most of the lines at this point are installed along McLoughlin Blvd. Anyway, thanks for commenting… all the best, Peg

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