Springtime with the Dead People

Dear Liza,

I hadn’t visited our Lone Fir Cemetery in a while, and was missing the sense of perspective that going there always gives me. I was not disappointed.

Mr. And Mrs. Stephens, the original residents, seen just beyond a toppled stone

The dandelions and tiny belladonna daisies are everywhere, bringing a sense of beauty and renewal to the uneven rows of headstones.

The tall willow by the east entrance towers over the graves, as if sheltering them from too much sun.

Odd things caught my eye, as well. This years-old stump has been decorated with crow feathers and flower petals, and seems to bring some older spirits to the place.

And, as part of the newly installed section marking stones, I get to learn the name of the narrow area of graves along the west fence. Am I crazy, or does “Westside Singles” sound more like a dating website than part of a cemetery?

And there you go. Perspective restored.


Grandma Judy

Things You See in Portland

Dear Liza,

Portland, like any big city, has some problems. Too much traffic, people sometimes stealing cars and things, and sometimes, very loud motorcycles. But Portland is also a lot of fun.

Portland is famous as a bicycling city. We have greenways that have low car traffic and work like highways for bikes. We have bridges that are only for bicycles, people, and trains… no cars! But I’ve lived here almost four years and I’ve never seen this……

One answer to the parking problem!

This is a tiny old house just across the road from the entrance to our Lone Fir Cemetery. It has been fixed up by the young family that just moved in, and I’m guessing they let the kids choose the stickers on the new planter!

And, even as some businesses are closing because of the pandemic, some are opening!!

This is a new shop in Belmont, just down the block. It sells all sorts of ‘spooky’ things…. dolls with scary eyes, jewelry that looks like bats and skulls, and Ouija boards. There are posters of Vincent Price that Auntie Bridgett really likes, because of his spooky movies.

This is someone’s delightful outdoor shelter, down on Market Street. It has seating, a small fireplace and delightful shade, all made of cement, mosaic, tree branches, and old wine bottles. It is a work of art you can sit in! I love coming across these jewels. They are just part of what makes Portland special.

I can’t wait until you can come visit and see all our nifty things!


Grandma Judy

Farewell to Sweet Pixel

Dear Liza,

I am sorry to say, Cousins Jasper and Kestrel have lost their dear cat Pixel. She was sixteen and a half years old and had cancer. She died on Monday. We are all very sad.

Pixel, as a kitten in 2005

Auntie Katie and Uncle Dave found Pixel at an animal shelter outside of Ithaca, New York in 2005. Pixel was so excited about her new owners that she climbed up their jeans! During her first summer, she learned to catch frogs and birds from their older cat, Kink.

She accompanied the family to Portland and over the years became Cousin Kestrel’s best friend.

She made the transition to bookshop cat this past year. At first she was nervous about it, but eventually would go down into the shop late at night to remind Auntie Katie to come upstairs and sleep.

Pixel last year

Pixel developed oral cancer this year. It became inoperable and would eventually kill Pixel by stopping her from eating and breathing. Not wanting to cause her dear kitten such suffering, Auntie Katie decided to have her put to sleep. Dr. Wilson, a very gentle veterinarian, came right to the house. She explained what would happen, and gave Pixel a shot to help her relax.

Auntie Katie held Pixel in her lap on the couch as the heavier sedative was given by IV. Over the next few minutes, Pixel stopped breathing and her heart stopped. Katie held her for a long time as I saw Doctor Wilson out.

My last picture of Pixel, as we waited for the doctor

When Katie was ready, we wrapped Pixel’s body in a pillow case and placed her in a box, putting her in the fridge until her funeral can be planned.

Auntie Katie and I walked around the small garden behind the shop and found a good spot to bury her dear friend. It is between two logs against the far fence. Easy to find, but private enough that one can have a quiet graveside visit. I hope the cousins can help make a nice ceremony to say goodbye. Maybe they will say this poem, by Sarah Henderson Hay.

To a Dead Kitten

Put the rubber mouse away,
Pick the spools up from the floor,
What was velvet shod, and gay,
Will not want them, any more.

What was warm, is strangely cold.
Whence dissolved the little breath?
How could this small body hold
So immense a thing as Death?

Missing our furry friend already.


Grandma Judy

Grandma Judy

A Very Happy Mother’s Day

Dear Liza,

Sunday was Mother’s Day, and it just about wore me out! It started with a huge box of wines delivered from our weirdest local wine shop, “Pairings”. Your Daddy David had asked Jeff, the owner, to send us some wines. His directions were “light-ish reds, and interesting labels are a bonus”. And boy, did Jeff deliver!

A delightful collection

We set the wines aside for the moment, and did FaceTime with Auntie Bridgett’s family. Her niece Madilyn had had her first communion, and between that, moving into their new house, and Mother’s Day, there was a lot of happy energy on that call!

For lunch, Auntie Bridgett and I walked to Suzette, just down on Belmont. We thought we’d get take out, but there was only one other customer in the cafe, so we took a table by the door and enjoyed wonderful, interesting, Nicoise Salads.

Ahi tuna, eggs, asparagus, potatoes, arugula, and teeny tiny cornichons!

The salad was a surprising balance of flavors and textures, and so filling, we saved the other half for dinner. The owner, Jen, has done a good job of redecorating during the Covid shutdown, and we enjoyed looking at walls that were not our own.

We watched the Giants lose to the Padres, did some drawing, and then Auntie Katie came! She had taken the afternoon off from her bookshop and walked up to bring me my Mother’s Day present, a wonderful mug by Michael Grubar at Stark Street Studios.

And then it was time to head to the Jazz concert.

Gordon Lee and his small jazz band were putting on one of their free Front Porch concerts down at Alder and 32nd. About fifty folks brought folding chairs, wine, and snacks to enjoy fellas on piano, drums, a stand up bass, and both an alto and a tenor saxophone play music. Jazz Standards, like “Nature Boy”, as well as new pieces like Gordon’s ode to the former President, “Sulking on the Golf Course”, were delightful, as was the parade of kids, dogs, bikes and regular folks. It was pure Portland.

We enjoyed some of the wine your daddy had sent, a light red wine called “Syrahcha”, a combination of Syrah and Shiraz grapes, found right near here in the Columbia River Gorge. It was tasty and went well with the cheese, apple, and blue corns chips we had for snacks.

We were pretty worn out by the time we got home, and there was still Art with Liza time! I am glad we mostly just chatted, and I hope you got your werewolf drawn. Mine is still just a twinkle in my eye. We got to visit with your Momma Olga and Daddy David and hear their plans for summer trips to Denmark and Russia.

As the last entertainment of the day, we snuggled down in the couch to watch Escape to the Chateau, with Dick and Angel Strawbridge building their business at Chateau Le Motte Husson.

This morning I used Auntie Katie’s gift for my morning cuppa, and it is perfect!

What a life, right?


Grandma Judy

First Harvest

Dear Liza,

I stopped by the garden plot yesterday, to pull tiny weeds and remove the camellia blossoms. I noticed that some of the radishes were looking weird… the soil around the leaves was lumpy and tilted.


And then I saw why!! Some of them have actual radishes below the leaves. Taking a clue from my friend Shawn Quione in Salinas, I chose the biggest ones to thin out, so the others would have more room. Each one was about the size of the end of my thumb.

Once I got them home, I washed them gently and put them away like fine jewelry, to have with supper. And while I was waiting for Auntie Bridgett to get home, I celebrated with a portrait of the harvest. It is my favorite page in my garden journal so far.

The latest page in my garden journal

I know it is only May, and summer goes until September, but I don’t know if I will be as excited about anything I pull from my dirt as I am about these four radishes. The newness of this sort of creation is just wonderful.


Grandma Judy

A Pretty, Chilly, Birthday Part 2

Dear Liza,
The waterfalls and green forests of the Gorge were very pretty, but Grandpa Nelson’s back started bothering him, so we said good-bye to the drive and headed for home.

Plumbing based arbor at McMenamin’s

“I should at least feed you both lunch,” he mumbled as we drove along, feeling badly about cutting the day short. “There’s Edgefield! Let’s go there!”

So Auntie Bridgett pulled off the freeway and we headed to McMenamin’s wonderful country retreat. This is such a unique place!

Art everywhere you look!

In 1980, Mike and Brian, the McMenamin brothers, bought the land and buildings of the abandoned Multnomah County Poor Farm. The Poor Farm had operated from 1911 to 1982 as a place of refuge for folks who had nowhere else to go. It provided room and board, work, training, medical care, and companionship for hundreds of people over the years.

Recycled metal decorations

The grounds have been delightfully landscaped and the buildings repurposed into a hotel, a spa, and a dozen bars and restaurants. There is also a golf course, a brewery, herb garden, wine tasting room, and a large outdoor music venue. And, like all of their properties, there is art everywhere you look.

And of course….

We ate a delicious lunch in the courtyard of the Loading Dock Grill and watched other people’s dogs play. Then we walked around, marveling at the good work the landscapers have done, creating intimate spaces enclosed by trees and rhododendrons connected by neatly paved paths opening onto amazing views. It was easy to imagine, sitting at a table and looking out through the trees, that we were the only people on the property.

A peaceful place to rest

We visited the gift shop, getting some Black Rabbit wine and Herbal Liqueur Number 7, a special favorite of Auntie Bridgett. And then at last we headed home, where Grandpa could stretch out and recover from his birthday.

It felt like sitting inside a painting…

Now that we are almost all vaccinated and the world is opening up, we will certainly return to Edgefield and enjoy another day.


Grandma Judy

A Pretty, Chilly, Birthday Part 1

Dear Liza,

Grandpa Nelson’s birthday was Monday, and we had a nice day.

Puzzles, cards, and candy… for the big kid

It was cool and brightly overcast, the perfect day for a day trip. We loaded up the car with snacks and headed up the Columbia River Gorge.

Posing in front of the view downriver

We were surprised at how many folks were out, since it was a weekday! But most everyone was masked and kept their distance, so we were fine. We took the “Old Columbia Highway”, which was built in the 1910s and offers spectacular views of the Gorge.

The Vista House was built in 1918 as a visitors center, and is referred to as The Crown Jewel of the Highway, but is closed during Covid. Still, you can’t beat the perspectives.

Looking up the Columbia through an arch in the wall

We continued up the Gorge to Latourell Falls. This is one of many beautiful pieces of land along the Highway that was donated by folks who wanted to see the beauty of the Gorge protected from mining or other development.

I was delighted to see that the scars from the horrible fires of 2017 have mostly healed, and spring growth is exuberant. At Latourell Falls, the 1920 era wooden bridge, damaged by the fire, was re-built in its original style.

Beautiful old style bridge

I will tell you more about our adventure tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

Animal Complications

Dear Liza,

We have been extra busy this week, keeping up with the needs of our fellow critters.

Mouse, before her allergy problems kicked in…

Mouse, our cat, has skin allergies which make her itch. When she was an indoor-outdoor cat in Salinas, we saw the scratches in her face, but assumed she had been fighting with local cats. But now that she is exclusively indoors, it is clear the scratches are self-inflicted. The vet tells us that she is allergic…. to cats?

Slightly scruffier….

She is on medication that soothes the itch, but it’s hard on her liver, and can only be given in small doses. So, for a week, poor Mousie wore the collar of shame to try and let her damaged nose heal. She was not happy. She walked around like a depressed lampshade.

A sad, resentful kitten

Finally, her nose had healed enough we felt it was time to lose the collar. She is so much happier! Now, if we can just keep her from hurting herself.

Meanwhile, Cousin Kestrel has finally gotten her pet snake!

The happy face of a girl with her snake

Kestrel has always been very sympathetic to animals. When she learned about hog nosed snakes, she became fascinated. She did hours of research to learn how to care for one, and worked with Auntie Katie to develop a vivarium for it to live in.

Sir Isaac Snooten in situ

The vivarium has plants, insects, and sandy soil for snakey to tunnel into. It has a warming mat to protect against Portland’s chill and a humidity monitor to keep him comfy.

The snake’s name is Sir Issac Snooten. He passes his time underground, teaching celestial mechanics and gravitational laws to the isopods who eat his poop.

Ready for his close-up


Grandma Judy

Cake Walk

Dear Liza,

Our spring has been alternating between rain and sun, so when the weather is nice, we get out in it! Grandpa Nelson and I headed out in Friday, with not much idea of where to go.

All sorts of flowers are blooming! The tulips are starting to fade, but azaleas and irises are going berserk. The colors are eye-smashing.

We continued south west, sort of in the direction of Ladd’s Addition, where Auntie Katie’s book shop, “Books with Pictures” is. The rose gardens had a few early bloomers looking good, with dozens more in bud, just biding their time.

Palio, a delightfully tasty and pleasant bakery/coffee shop on the Ladd’s Circle Park, has set tables and chairs out on the sidewalk. We ordered some delicious lemon custard cake and texted Katie with an offer. “Yes, please!”

Auntie Katie just her second vaccine just the day before and is on her way to being able to run her shop more easily. The business is doing well, mostly because she works hard to make sure she gets books to her customers. She has been driving to deliver all over the city for more than a year now. Exhausting, yes, but that’s what it took.

After a lovely chat and snacks, Grandpa Nelson and I headed back home through the Richmond neighborhood. It is full of craftsman style houses from the turn of the 20th century and hundreds of majestic trees and flowers bushes.

Portland is a cakewalk!


Grandma Judy

A Sunny Afternoon Out

Dear Liza,

The other day, Grandpa Nelson offered us lunch out at Monster Smash. It is a pleasant mile’s walk away and has yummy burgers and fries.
Belmont Station, the tavern just in front of the food truck, sells good beers and ciders. They also have a bright breezy patio with windows that open all the way up, making for a pleasant airy environment, more eating outside than inside!

The breezy patio at Belmont Station

We enjoyed the yummy burgers and such, and Grandpa Nelson had an English Reveille’s Cider, which is actually made in Astoria, Oregon, just about 90 miles from here.

When we had eaten ourselves silly, we headed down Belmont towards home, and along the way we found a new food truck pod, The Bite on Belmont. Auntie Bridgett found the coffee she was needing from Kind Coffee. It was tasty and the service was very friendly.

We made a quick stop for a six pack of Guinness at the Belmont Market and a to order a book at Belmont Books, and headed for home. We put our feet up and rested up for the Giants ball game later this evening.

I love that we manage to keep each other entertained!


Grandma Judy