Seasonal Poetry

Dear Liza,

I went out for a walk the other day to enjoy the colors and clear my head. Sitting with a cat on your lap, watching the fire burn, though very pleasant, makes me a bit fuzzy headed.

I bundled up, headed out, and got inspired. Here is my take on the seasons.

For The Leaves

The Spring brought us colors of blossom and bloom,

The beginnings of life, bursting forth, making room.

The summer brought jewel-colored fruits of the vine

Apples for a pie and grapes for some wine.

In Autumn the world became darker and cold,

The youth of the spring has grown up and grown old.

No longer bursting, it no longer glows

It flashes an instant before the storm blows

But just for this moment, the wind holds its peace

And leaves us to contemplate

This lovely release.

I hope you enjoy the Fall!


Grandma Judy

Halloween in the Sunnyside

Dear Liza,

This yard, with metal cutouts of dragons and Bigfoot on its fence, has been a favorite for while. But now, their fantastical critters are joined by witty headstones. “Hamlet…. not to be” and ”Elphaba… It isn’t easy being green” cracked me up. I admit, I had to look up who Elphaba was. According to the Broadway show WICKED, Elphaba is the given name of the Wicked Witch of the West in ”The Wizard of Oz” stories.

Down the street from the headstones was this entertaining scene. On one side of the yard, several skeletons were working very hard to keep make sure whatever was in a coffin stayed in that coffin.

And on the other side of the yard, two of Hamlet’s Weird Sisters were hard at work, stirring a cauldron. I can imagine that on Halloween night it will be properly lit up and have dry ice bubbling out of the cauldron!

Our house is getting sort of Halloweened up, too. Our biggest decoration, The Assistant, is sitting at the table, wearing a witch’s hat and, of course, a mask. He is enjoying some properly Halloween colored flowers.


Grandma Judy


Dear Liza,

Having lived most of my life in Southern and Central California, home of evergreen landscaping, I am dumfounded every Fall by our colors. The intense yellows of the ginkoes, gold of the birches, the red of quince and the flaming maples, just knock me out.

Laurelhurst Park, of course, is acres of loveliness. But our neighborhood trees, some of which are a hundred years old, also make me understand why people who move from elsewhere to Southern California say “they miss the seasons”.

I guess I get sort of goofy in the Fall. Summer’s flowers and sunshine are so bright, it is almost blinding. In Fall, it is grayer, darker, and… wetter. The bright leaves are our last hurrah of color until spring, and I don’t want to miss it.

So, while I go walking and leaf-peeping whenever I feel sad or restless, I hope these pictures let you see why I love our Fall so much.


Grandma Judy

A Fine Fall Day with the Dead People

Dear Liza,

It has been so pretty this Fall! The air is cool and fresh and the leaves are a million different colors. It was time for a walk to Lone Fir Cemetery.

Auntie Bridgett had a new friend she wanted me to meet, so we went there first. This narrow grave stone marks the grave of Emma Hawthorne. She was our famous Dr. Hawthorne’s first wife. She was twenty years younger than Dr. Hawthorne and died in 1862 after only two weeks of marriage. There are a scant two lines about her death in the Oregonian, which seems weird, since she was the bride of such an important doctor and businessman.

Why was no more said about her, her life or her funeral arrangements, in the local newspapers of the time? Why is she buried in a sloping corner of the cemetery while the rest of the family (including the doctor’s second wife) have large monuments on a sunny hill?

We have heard rumors that she died by suicide, which at the time was considered a sin against God. While we have no proof, that would be one explanation for what seems like shabby treatment.

While we were thinking about young Emma and her lonely fate, we sat on a low wall and listened to the chestnuts rattle through the branches and thump to the ground. It is Conker season, for sure. The squirrels and Auntie Bridgett dashed about, collecting them, and I just love being part of it.

Further on, we found another new friend. Several years ago I wrote about a local drummer named Andrew Loomis who had a wonderfully down to earth epitaph on his headstone (Life is good sept the parts that suck). Now, it seems his younger brother Matthew has passed away, and has joined Andrew in his space.

There were more graves, which I’m sure have their own stories, but my eyes were so full of the beautiful leaves!

This time of year has a quiet, lovely melancholy which I find comforting. The nearness of death is not scary, somehow, but peaceful.


Grandma Judy

Letting Serendipity Steer

Dear Liza,

Saturday was predicted to be our last warm, dry day for a while, so we went out for a drive. We headed for Sauvie Island, where we always enjoy mazes, roasted corn, and lots of fun folks and farm animals.

As we headed north out of town, though, the traffic got very slow. Grandpa Nelson looked at the road directions on his phone and realized that all those cars were headed to the same place we were! No crowds for us, thanks.

We turned right around and headed back the way we had come, but we didn’t want to go home. Grandpa Nelson said “Well, we’ve never been on Germantown Road, let’s turn there.” And we did.

The Germantown Road goes right up into the west hills, twisting and turning and going up and up. We drove through shady forest with the afternoon sun lighting up the trees in the distance, looking just like the landscape paintings I have been learning to paint. It was so pretty!

From there, we navigated by Serendipity, which means randomly turning at various corners and seeing where we end up. We were driving through a very expensive neighborhood with fancy houses and big yards, called Oak Hills.

Then all of a sudden, we saw groups of kids with band uniforms, playing marching band music. Turns out, we had stumbled upon the 32nd Annual Sunset Classic, a band competition, being held at Sunset High School. Eight High School ‘show bands’ from Grants Pass, Tigard, and other schools near and far were performing their combinations of music, marching, flag work, dance, and stagecraft. After some parking snafus, we bought tickets and found seats in the sunny bleachers.

We sat there, totally impressed by the level of playing and choreography.
The first piece we saw all the way through was performed by local Century Marching Band, from Hillsborough. The title was “Per aspera ad astra”, or “Through Hardships to the Stars.” Besides really interesting dance moves and great, modulated playing, this number featured a giant inflatable moon!

The sun was beating down on us, (who thinks to bring sun hats in October?) but we were determined to see a few more. The next really memorable piece was performed by Kamiak High School of Mukilteo, Washington. They performed with backdrops of famous Banksy street paintings and their graphic design was really good.

I wish I could let you hear the music! The drum cadences were strong and fast, made more interesting by half a dozen marimbas, gongs, and other instruments you don’t usually see with a marching band.

After the last band played, there was an intermission before the evening’s awards and more performances, but the sun had done us in. We got back to the car and talked about music, dance, and High School all the way home!

Serendipity had done well for us today.


Grandma Judy

New Art On-Line

Dear Liza,

A dear friend, Lynn Huff, referred me to an artist who does videos. The teacher is Karen Rice. She has many, many followers, a lovely British accent, and a fine hand at watercolors. I decided to give it a try, as Ruthie Inman says, ”for practice”.

Here is the picture Karen Rice was having us paint:

She used quinacridome gold, burnt sienna, and ultramarine. I have the sienna and ultramarine, but no gold. I used a yellow ochre instead.

I did one picture yesterday, but was so busy trying to follow the directions that I forgot to take pictures as I went along! Here is that first painting, all finished:

Doing another one today, I gained from my practice, but watercolor is such a chancy medium that I never know how it’s going to come out. Today, I followed the directions carefully…

I sketched the main parts of the picture with a pencil, then wetted the paper and laid down the wet-in-wet background.

I sprinkled salt in some of the wet paint to give it texture, then let it all dry.

Next, I borrowed a sea sponge from Auntie Bridgett to dab in colors for the foliage. This part is hard because if the paint is too wet, it runs together and doesn’t look leafy. The tricks seems to be to add thousands of tiny, separate flecks without getting them too close together.

Once the foliage was dry, I put in the trunks of the trees. This made the whole forest make sense, tying all the leaves together. I kept adding more blue to make it more moody and contrast with the bright background. I know my picture is more BLUE than Karen Rice’s, but I’m okay with that.

This lesson has taught me how to make this sort of picture, but also a more important lesson: If you think you ‘can’t get’ something, keep trying! Keep looking and dabbing and …. who knows what might happen?


Grandma Judy

Putting the Garden to Bed

Dear Liza,

After a whirlwind summer of watering and harvesting, the garden is suddenly, sadly, done.

Our shorter days and colder nights have put an end to further ripening. These tomatoes and tiny pumpkin are the last of the bunch. My garden neighbors are hauling their plants out as well, not wanting to be caught with ”slime”. Apparently, once the plant dies and the rain hits, things get ugly quickly.

So, I took the wagon over to the plot and pulled my gigantic zucchini plant out by the roots. I had to cut it into smaller bits to fit into the buckets! I lay down some burlap coffee sacks to slow the weeds and erosion during the winter.

Then, with all the hardware stacked on the top of the burlap and just the catnip and lavender sticking up, it was time to say Goodbye to the Garden until March of 2022, when I’ll give it a nice dose of compost and we get to play again.


Grandma Judy

The Rose Queen of 1941

Dear Liza,

Walking around Portland, we always learn something new. This past Saturday, on our way to see a new pedestrian bridge get installed, we passed the DaVinci Middle School, in the old, classy Irvington/Kerns neighborhood. This school has been here since 1928, and used to be called the Girls Polytechnic High School. The name was changed to Madison High School, then to Da Vinci.

In front of the school is a giant magnolia tree and flower beds with an oval brass memorial. We stopped to see what it was about.

The words say “These rose beds and memorial tree are affectionately dedicated to the memory of Betty Jane Harding, 1923 to 1943, who as princess from Girls Polytechnic High School became Queen of the Rose Festival and so graciously reigned in the year nineteen hundred forty one.”

I was curious, and a little sad. Being elected Rose Queen, this young woman had obviously been smart, pretty, and active in her community. Why had she only lived twenty years?

I returned to my old friend, The Historic Oregonian newspaper, via the Multnomah County Library website. Looking in the newspapers from 1941, I found lots of articles about Betty Jane and her fellow Rose Princesses.

One girl was chosen from each of the 9 public high schools in town (at the time, there are 12 now), and one was chosen as Queen. I am not sure what the criteria were.

Miss Harding, as Rose Queen Betty Jane I, had all sorts of civic duties. She spoke with girls’ groups, posed with celebrities, and encouraged girls to always do their best. She traveled to meet other make-believe Royalty, like King Borealis of St. Paul, Minnesota, to smile for the cameras.

But all this publicity had a real benefit, as well. Betty Jane earned a full scholarship to The University of Oregon, down in Eugene. She pledged to the Pi Beta Phi Sorority and began studying Art.

Betty Jane became ill in 1943 and came back to Portland, where there was better medical care and to be closer to her family. She had surgery for her liver trouble, but sadly, did not recover.

Betty Jane is buried in the Lincoln Memorial Park, which is a few miles south of here. At her funeral, her fellow princesses walked as an honor guard and volunteer Rosarians acted as pallbearers. Everyone who had admired Betty Jane as Rose queen was saddened by her early death.

I guess if I insist on learning new things, some of them are going to be sad. But I am happy to know more about the folks who have lived, and died, in this city.


Grandma Judy

Our House Is a Very Fine House…

Dear Liza,

When people say they buy a house, it usually means that they have borrowed the money for the house from a bank. They pay the bank a fee, called ’interest’ every month so they can continue to use that money to pay for the house while they are living in it.

Grandpa Nelson and I have done this three times before. In 1975 we bought a little California bungalow for $32,000. It had been built in the 1920s and needed a lot of care. The three years we lived there, the value of the house soared to $50,000. We sold the house, paid the bank what we still owed, and moved on.

Our Eugene house

Eugene was the perfect spot for us to start a family, and our California home’s sale allowed us to buy a nice place with a big yard. Like before, we borrowed money from the bank. Your Daddy David and Auntie Katie spent the first months of their lives there. When the business Grandpa Nelson worked for went out of business, we had to give the house back to the bank and move to Salinas.

Once I started teaching, we were able to buy a home in Salinas. Another loan, more interest. We lived there for 28 years! We raised our kids and welcomed our grandkids. It was a good house, but we only paid it off when we sold it.

When I retired from teaching, we had the option of living anywhere we wanted.

This was a new, sort of scary idea, but after researching many cities, we decided on Portland, Oregon. We sold our Salinas home, packed up the stuff and the cat, got another loan from another bank, and bought a nice, modern condominium.

And today, we finally put that cycle of buying and owing and paying interest to an end! We gave the bank all the money we owed and we don’t have to pay any more. It feels good!

All ours!!

And, since we aren’t paying that money to the bank every month, we can do something else with it.

Any ideas?


Grandma Judy

Kitten in a Cone

Dear Liza,

Our cat, whose name is Mouse, is an adorable, fluffy ball of joy.

She also has allergies. Sometimes her skin gets so itchy that she scratches herself sore, and she looks like she’s been in a fight!

These aren’t new allergies; she sometimes looked like this in Salinas, but she was an indoor/outdoor cat then, and we assumed she was getting into tiffs with the neighbors.

But Mouse is strictly an indoor cat here in Portland, so we took her to the vet. She gave her some medicine to help with the Itchies. But it isn’t very effective, and is hard on her kidneys, so we can’t give her too much of it.

The Vet also gave us a cone. The cone is more effective than the medicine at keeping her from scratching herself, but she hates it. It is heavy and makes her clumsy.

She looks like a table lamp or a dish antennae. So, whenever we can, we take the cone off and snuggle.

Snuggles are good for everybody.


Grandma Judy