Diversions

Dear Liza,

it is still rainy here in Portland. If it isn’t raining at any given minute, it has just stopped or will soon start. Such is winter here.

The neighborhood is full of things to see…like this tiny frozen pond up on Ankeny.

Fishing frog and his frozen plastic friends

We get out every day for a walk. But these aren’t the five mile leisurely strolls of summer. Yesterday I put on four layers plus a coat, gloves and fuzzy hat to walk to the market. Grandpa Nelson bundled up to get a haircut. Auntie Bridgett shivered to and from the gallery.

Inspiration and direction

But I keep busy. I am falling back in love with my story. I am making Gingernuts from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible for a brunch at the SideStreet Arts Gallery.

And yesterday I played a Scrabble game all by myself. Not a regular game, but one where I set out to make a pattern on the board. It was inspired by our accidental, real-game situation where we used only HALF the board. “What other patterns could I make?” I asked.

Our real-game accidental pattern…

Each turn is a legal turn and the words are all real words. I had to shift a few letters, but otherwise played by the rules. And I got this .

My solo game, planned pattern.

Like I said, the fun never stops.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Progress is still Progressing

Dear Liza,

Now that you are almost seven, you can read real words all by yourself. Yesterday I wrote you some stories that are based on our time together…. cooking, building a playhouse, and going on an adventure with the stone Panther at Hartnell College. I hope you like them.

You and your Panther

In my bigger story, the story I have been working on for more than two years now, I have been frustrated. I was having doubts. It felt like it had gotten too big, too complicated, that I had tried to show too much about Portland in 1903.

How much detail is too much?

I set it aside and started a lighter version, one that leaves out the broader context of the city, its history, and its people. It was just about a little girl. But I don’t like it. So I am walking it back.

Do all writers go through this? Writing is something I’ve always enjoyed, but never done anything with, because when I get to this point, I give up and put the story in a box. It’s too hard. It feels pointless. I should do something else with my time. The self-doubt and backtracking are exhausting.

Part of the process

For support, I went back and read Anne Lamott’s essays on the difficulty of writing, of pulling her novel apart and laying it on the floor, bit by bit, and re-organizing it to make it better. Yes, this is something writers DO. Maybe this is what writing IS, after all.

I’ll keep you posted.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Snow! Well, Sort of…

Dear Liza,
Yesterday afternoon, after many false predictions, it snowed!!

One of our gnomes

Well, it was precipitation and it wasn’t rain, so we will call it snow. It bounced when it hit, making steep pitched roofs and driveways look like Pachinko games. And of course, Grandpa Nelson and I walked out in it! (He said we were really going down to Zach’s Shack for lunch, but I know better).

Before we got to Zach’s, there was quite a crunchy layer of little ice balls (okay, it was hail) on the sidewalk and covering roofs. It lay on hoods and hatchbacks and surrounded fearless daffodils.

Brave early daffodils

It was cold and lovely, like all winter beauty is when you have a warm, dry place waiting for you. Which we did. At Zach’s we ate some fries and watched the weather change, from heavy hail to damp grey skies to blinding sunshine. Then it was time to head home!

Squirrel checking the weather…

Love,

Grandma Judy

Winter Fibonacci

Dear Liza,

Snow has been predicted a few times this month, and we always end up with rain instead. Don’t get me wrong, I like our rain. After years in Salinas with just barely enough, our raging downpours make me very happy.

But snow would be special. This morning we saw a few flakes, and I bundled up to go out….by the time I had my pants on, it was over. Sigh.

Chilly reflections

Still, I am still having fun with Fibonacci syllables. Here’s the latest:

Cold

Wet

Outside

Not for me

I can hibernate

Discover my inner grizzley

Nap with the cat, eat bread with jam

Until spring makes good

Her promise

Of sun,

Warmth,

Light

Love,

Grandma Judy

Grey Skies

Dear Liza,

Jonquils, jumping the gun

January is always a hard month here in Portland. The bright, food-and family filled holidays are past, but spring is months away, and it can feel like a very long road.

Bergenias love the rain and cold

We had a thumping rain storm the other night. It actually woke me up! But come morning the rain had stopped. Since I am mostly over my cold, I got bundled up and went to the park.

Camellia, having a peek

I wasn’t alone! There were dozens of folks walking around….some with their big fluffy dogs, some with kids on tiny bikes or babies in strollers, some tossing handfuls of frozen peas to the ducks. Everyone was chatty and seemed to be celebrating being OUT among their fellow humans. January can feel a bit like a jail sentence to be waited out.

The fellows who seemed to be enjoying the day most were these two, working on their j’ai alai moves. The older fellow stood pretty still, flinging the ball in all directions, while the younger played the part of a Labrador retriever, dashing and catching. It seemed the perfect cure for the January blues.

I spent an hour at the park, looking for bits of color. I found a few of these signs of the coming spring, but I am not fooled. It will be a long, wet, chilly haul. We will have to make our own sunshine.

Forsythia, I think…

Love,

Grandma Judy

Political Poetry

Dear Liza,

The basis for Fibonacci Poetry

This post has some poetry in it, but also some comments about our President and (therefore) some bad words.

Thinking about the Fibonacci Poetry sequence I learned the other day, I started writing about world events that are on my mind. I like the way the syllables in the lines can get longer and longer, then shorter and shorter, making a sort of thunderstorm of words, starting slow, building to a crescendo, then tapering off.

I like how the number of syllables make me concentrate on finding exactly the right word for the space.

Auntie Bridgett’s cartoon from Election Day 2016

Here is my new poem:

Fat

Trump’s

Shitstorm

Continues

Bringing us closer

To a future we saw coming

When he bluffed his way to power

How can he be stopped?

We must vote

Him out

Vote
Him

Out

Sending you hope for a better, fairer world for when you grow up.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Fibonacci Poetry

Dear Liza,

You know I love learning new things. Today, walking to the bank, I did!

A teeny tiny library, last summer


I stopped at one of the Teeny Tiny Libraries in the neighborhood, just to see what was there, and I found two small poetry books called “Fifty Fibonacci Poems,” numbered X and XI, by Walter O. Beaton. This means there are at least nine other little books out there somewhere.

Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician in the 11th Century. Back then, mathematicians were looking for ways to explain God’s Perfection in numbers. Galileo even wrote “Mathematics is the language in which God has written the Universe.” Fibonacci came up with a sequence of numbers that related to The Golden Mean, or the Perfect Spiral, a way of showing perfect proportions. It is the shape found in seashells, flowers, and other natural things.

Fibonacci and the Golden Spiral

This sequence of numbers begins with 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13….. You can see that one and one make two, then one and two make three, and two and three make five. I especially enjoyed how this translated into poetry.

Mr. Beaton uses this pattern of numbers to decide the syllables on each line of the poem. The first line has one, the second line has one, the third line has two, and so forth. It makes poems that start slow, so to speak. Here is an example from Mr. Beaton’s book:

she

was

talking

quite calmly

to someone in front

of her who simply wasn’t there

As you can see, these aren’t rhyming poems, but are more like a haiku, a small observation of a small thing, with words chosen carefully to both describe the situation and fit the pattern.
I think I will try one!

my

cat

kitten

fills my lap

a puddle of warmth

convincing me I can be loved.

Yep, this is fun! I’m going to do some more and get back to you.

Love,

Grandma Judy