Thinking about Evacuation

Dear Liza,

Let me start by reassuring you. We DID NOT have to evacuate. The nearest low level evacuation zone was ten miles south of us. But we have been breathing smoke for days, and seeing the fires advance, so … it was on our minds.

Miles away, but still terrifying…

We saw news photos of families living rough, using their car hoods for dinner tables in soot-covered parking lots. They had taken food and water, and were grateful to be getting by. But evacuation is more than just, “What do I need for a few days on the road?”

Evacuation is also, “If my house were completely destroyed, what do I want to save? What is worthy of space in my vehicle? What possession is AS IMPORTANT to me as food or water?” Ah, now you see. It’s about trade-offs.

The important things

Each other, of course, and dear Mouse the kitten. Important papers, insurance, passports, the things that prove you exist, have rights, and own stuff. Food, water, sanitation things, especially in a Covid flavored time, are vital. Clothes, of course. But then what?

Computers? Probably, as much of our information and family memories are stored in them. Family heirlooms? Yes, but which ones? Photo albums? Stuffed dog Sammy, or the WWI German helmet? The three volume Shakespeare collection or the twenty pound Picasso book?

Sammy and the Dude

For us, one thing that we knew would be in the car was a painting by our neighbor, David Gettman, more than forty years ago. This oil painting of a bicyclist has been a centerpiece of our houses ever since, and a new place never feels like home without it. We all agreed it was worthy of space. It is art and friends, history and beauty, all at once.

The Bicyclist in our Salinas house

Looking forward, we are expecting rain. The fires are becoming controlled and our air more breathable. But the climate, even in mossy Oregon, is changing for the drier, and we may well be in this situation again.

We can’t carry the fear of evacuation in our hearts every day. But maybe we will be more prepared, mentally, for next time.


Grandma Judy

A Smokey Birthday

Dear Liza,

All our birthdays this year have been affected by the corona virus shutdown. But Auntie Bridgett’s had the added Barbecue flavor of the horrendous fires that are raging in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Bears say Happy Birthday!!

Because of the smoke, Portland is experiencing Hazardous air. Yep. Lately, it hasn’t been safe to go into a restaurant, or store, without a mask. Now, it’s not safe to go out, period. Our regular masks won’t help.

New technology holder…

So Auntie Bridgett’s birthday was a stay-inside affair. Presents were opened, including a giant book of everything from the Picasso museum in Paris, a fabulous bag, and a new doo-hickey to help her film her how-to videos.

Giant Picasso Book!

French Cooking radio played as we had a two woman painting party, inspired by “Ball Players on the Beach” by Picasso. We have such different styles, but we sure had fun!

The inspiration….


My take…
Auntie Bridgett’s take…

A quiet afternoon gave way to dinner plans. Since Paris was on our minds, we put it on the menu by ordering delivery from La Moule, a French place down on Clinton. A giant bowl of mussels in white wine, crusty baguettes, pate, and a nice red wine made for a filling, French-feeling meal.

French dinner….

A game of Scrabble, a Giants loss, and a Baking show, and it was time to say goodnight to this weirdest (so far) birthday.

Bears and cats make it all okay….


Grandma Judy

Downtown and a Surprise Visit!

Dear Liza,

Wednesday was a very busy day! First there was the planned busy, then the surprise busy. Both were wonderful and exhausting.

Cool mural by the Hawthorne Bridge

I wanted to walk downtown to pick up the litter grabbers we had ordered through so we can help clean up our neighborhood. The weather was predicted to be hot by the afternoon, but at least the winds had shifted and the smoke from the fires to the East wasn’t hanging around. I left the house before 9 so I could get there and back before the heat set in.

Smoke from the fires south and East of the city

This time I crossed west on the Hawthorne Bridge, enjoying the long, slightly smoky views of the river and some murals.

Our new grabbers!

The Solve office is three miles from home, so I was pretty pooped by the time I had met John at the door and picked the grabbers up. I found a spot in the shade and ate a cookie and my apple, thinking how nice it was to be out in the daylight, free to walk where I pleased.

Sunny, sparkly Willamette

I walked back East across the Morrison Bridge, which has better pedestrian walkways but drops you into a scary area below the freeways. I scooted up the hill, sitting in the shade when I needed to. Once I got home, I had walked six miles, and felt pretty good about it…. once I had cooled down and drunk two pints of water.

During this long walk I had been getting texts from Auntie Katie. Our dear friend Darcy and her daughter and grandson would be in town this afternoon! Could we meet them Auntie Katie’s shop? Well, yeah!

Darcy and McKenzie, shining souls

Auntie Bridgett is totally booked with work for her show, so Grandpa Nelson and I walked (I felt fine by then) the two miles to Books with Pictures, where we had ice cream and conversation. Auntie Katie brought out a huge umbrella for the table and we ate and exchanged stories. It was amazing and wonderful, feeling almost like old times.

Auntie Katie and the cousins, always up for ice cream

Cousins Jasper and Kestrel came over for ice cream and hugs, photos and smiles, and then headed back to their dad’s house.

Heading back to dad’s

By then, we all started feeling the wind changing, and the sky was getting that weird apocalyptic orange of forest smoke. We could see the grayish orange sky moving up the river, and knew we wanted to get home. Darcy and family returned to their friends’ house, Auntie Katie went back to a very busy day doing inventory, and we walked the two miles back up the hill.

The wind shifts, the smoke returns, and it’s time to head back home…

Needless to say, ten miles in one day is more than I’m used to, and (maybe) more than was a good idea. But it was a marvelous day and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!


Grandma Judy

Distant Fires, Local Winds

Dear Liza,

Most of the West has been very dry and hot, and Oregon is no exception. Our Labor Day weekend saw hot weather, high winds coming down the Columbia Gorge, and forest fires. These all combined for a Monday afternoon and evening closed up in the house, watching orange skies and whipping trees, wondering what would happen next.

Lots of conkers got shaken loose!

We were supposed to meet Auntie Katie and the Cousins at Laurelhurst Park for a picnic, but the winds were so strong we were afraid of being hit by falling branches, and the air tasted like the windy side of a campfire. We had to put it off until a better time.

Laurelhurst paths strewn with bits and twigs

Tuesday morning, I got out early to see what the night had brought. In our neighborhood, all the trees were still standing. There were lots of chestnuts (we call them cookers because they can conk you on the head!) down that weren’t there the day before. It must have been awful noisy when they were hitting the cars and trash cans.

Wasp’s nest with unhappy inhabitants

In the park, the paths were strewn with leaves, needles and twigs shaken from the trees. A few branches were down, but the biggest was just a few inches in diameter and about six feet long. It was light enough for me to drag off the path so no one would trip over it.

Small branches down

The air had cleared up, as well. The winds had died down and the smoke had shifted.

Clear air here, but trouble elsewhere

But the fires are still burning places we know and love. Silverton, where we went to the Homer Davenport Festival, is being evacuated. The Santiam Highway by Sisters, where hundreds of artists make beautiful things, is ablaze. Medford, where dear friends’ families live, are going up in smoke, their livelihoods gone. Thousands of acres of ancient, beautiful forest are being destroyed by wind and fire and the humans dedicated to saving it seem powerless.

All this makes me very sad. The trees will grow back as they were, but not in my lifetime, or even yours. I will miss them.


Grandma Judy

Momma’s Journals

Dear Liza,

Your great-grandma Billie and Great-Grandpa Lowell loved to go camping. They took us kids out to the mountains or desert, or even the seaside, every weekend of our lives until brother Tim went off to the Marines, Jim got work, and I went to college. We slept on the ground in a tent, hauled water from the tap, and used whatever toilet facilities happened to be available.

The freedom to explore or fish or just do nothing, the excitement of making a fire and watching the stars come out, was one of the joys of my childhood.

The joys of camping

As we kids grew up and the folks got older, Momma decided that sleeping on the ground was “for the birds”. They combined their skills and built a trailer from the ground up, so they could keep camping and not sleep on the ground. And when they went away for their first long haul trip, I gave Momma this Journal to write in. “Oh, I won’t have anything to say,” she said, but I nudged her a little, and she did.

An invitation to write

The other day, I got it out. I’ve had it for years, holding on until I “had time” to read it. Well, I figured, I have time now.

Day by day by day

It is the daily record of their trip from July 1st to the end of September, 1985. They drove up the coasts of California and Oregon, even walking out on the beach by Astoria, Oregon, to the wreck of the Peter Iredale.

The wreck of the Peter Iredale

This place is special to me because it is where, just a few years ago, our family got together to place both Momma and Dad’s ashes into a sand castle, to be carried out to sea. That was the end of their journey.

The folks’ last visit

In 1985, however, they continued north to the Olympic Peninsula, across to Glacier National Park, then south through the Rockies and into Colorado, then turning back west to head home. They visited with Dad’s family in Washington and Momma’s in Colorado. They visited every tiny museum and national Monument in their path. They had a really good time.

What strikes me most about their adventure was how ordinary most of it was. They cooked breakfast, went for long walks, did laundry and shopping, wrote letters to grownups and post cards to grandkids. They ate out and played Scrabble and fed the ducks at parks. They rarely stayed up past ten and were usually up and about by six. They were living their normal life…. except when they took a cogwheel train to the top of Pike’s Peak or walked through the millions year old petrified forest.


In reading the Journal, I can hear Momma’s voice telling about her day. She is calm and accurate, and doesn’t get irritated (she doesn’t write about it, anyway) or frightened or worried. Her most emotional writing is saved for seeing her dear sister Hazel and describing a stunning hailstorm that caught them out on a walk.

It has been a nostalgic few days, traveling with Momma on her first long road trip. I will read some of her later Journals, and let you know if I find anything interesting.


Grandma Judy

Leaves and Seeds

Dear Liza,

Fall is the time for endings and beginnings. The trees teach us that, and here in our neighborhood I have lots of teachers!

It’s Conker season!

The huge oaks and chestnut trees are shedding their leaves, which have danced all summer long.

Sweet chestnuts and acorns

They are casting their collective futures to the wind as seeds come clonking to the ground. Acorns, chestnuts, fir cones, and tiny maple helicopters fall and fly and eventually pile up, hoping to find just the right place to take root.

Golden Rain tree with its maraca-seed pods

I think it is fitting that our human institutions are tied to this idea of endings and beginnings. Summer ends, school starts. Elections allow for new directions for our city and country.

Time for a change!

Happy Fall!


Grandma Judy

About Bridges

Dear Liza,

I was doing some remembering about bridges the other day, after my lovely walk across the Tilikum Crossing and Hawthorne Bridges here in Portland. I hunted through my photos and found the most beautiful bridges from our travels.

Big cities tend to be built on rivers, so they need bridges. The Thames is crossed by 35 bridges inside London’s city limits. It is such an old city, the first bridge was built 2000 years ago!

Millennium Pedestrian Bridge, London, built in 2000

When William Shakespeare was born in Stratford on Avon, the lovely Clopton bridge was already 80 years old. It was built when King Henry VII was in charge, in 1487. And we got to row a boat under it!

Clopton Bridge across the Avon, Stratford-on-Avon

The city of Cambridge, England, was founded in 1120, and is literally where the River Cam has a bridge over it. I didn’t see that old bridge, but this beauty was built much later, as part of the University. It is called the Bridge of Sighs and was built in 1831. Queen Victoria said it was the prettiest part of the city.

Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge

Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, is built on the River Amstel and lots of canals. It has about 2,500 bridges!! Most of them don’t have names, just numbers used to keep track for repair work. I took this picture at sunset one evening in 2008. It still makes me smile.

Anonymous Bridge in Amsterdam…

Paris’s Pont Neuf (which means New Bridge) was actually built in 1578, and is now the OLDEST bridge in the city. It was a completely new type of bridge, because it didn’t have buildings on it, and gave long views up and down the River Seine. It became a popular meeting place for people of all ages and classes, and helped turn Paris into the interesting city it is.

Paris’s 450 year old “New Bridge”

Well, that’s all for today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about our own bridges here in Portland .


Grandma Judy

Helping the City, Helping Ourselves

Dear Liza,

On Thursday we got a chance to do good work for Portland. Grandpa Nelson got us signed up with a group called SolveOregon, who use volunteers to cleanup and repair around the state.

Our group downtown

We got up early and drove downtown to help with litter clean up. Except in the area just around the Federal Building, (where the protests and conflicts with police have been happening every night for three months), most of the storefronts are fine and businesses are open.

A whole bunch of people, patiently waiting to help!

Our check-in location was at the Mark Spencer Hotel, where ninety masked but friendly people waited in line to get directions and equipment. We collected our long handled grabbers, gloves, and plastic bags, and headed off.

It was slow going, because most of the litter we were picking up were small, like bottle caps or cigarette butts. It took us a while to get the hang of handling the grabbers. We walked along, heads down, focusing on the sidewalk. About every fifteen minutes we would look up and check in with each other and figure out where we were.

I am sorry for the lack of photos to tell this story, but it was difficult to use my phone while wearing gloves, a mask, and carrying a bag and grabbers. I made a choice to do the work well instead of photo-documenting.

As we walked along, we were pleasantly surprised by folks’s reactions. People would roll down the window of their cars and holler “Thank you!!”. A postal worker stopped us and told us how much he appreciated our help to make the city better. Auntie Bridgett made sure he knew that we appreciated his work, too.

Half of our neighborhood’s haul

After two hours, we had a satisfying amount of garbage in our bags, and were pretty much done in, and turned in our grabbers. We chatted with Sarah, our group leader, who let us know we could help in other ways, and directed us to the website to check it out.


We had a wonderful, filling lunch at the Zeus Cafe, a McMeniman’s restaurant just a block from where we were working. I hadn’t realized how hungry or tired I was! By the time we got home, I could hardly walk up the stairs.

A nice thought for the day. And maybe, the year.

I am happy that we spent a few hours doing something to help our city. We have had recent problems, caused by the pandemic and social unrest, but we are also just a big city with millions of people smoking, doing business, and eating. It takes maintenance to keep it up.

And today I got to help.


Grandma Judy

…And Back Again

Dear Liza,

Once I got to the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, I had intended to head right back home, but my Dad’s voice whispered “Go home a different way, so you see something different.”

Art made with cables and sky

So I continued across the bridge to the Westside. The pedestrian walkway has recently been finished and makes for a very pleasant, if warm, walk between the bridges. There were more adventurers out and about.

Kayakers out and about

I found Poet’s Beach, a side path lined with stones that are carved with poetry written by students, years ago.

Thanks, Phoebe!

It is loud, because it is right under the double decker Marquam Bridge, but worth a read and a visit.

The extremely loud Marquam Bridge

By this time, my feet and my phone batteries were telling me it was time to head home. I decided to cross back over the Hawthorne Bridge. I love the views of bridges from other bridges!

The Marquam, Tilikum, and Ross Island Bridges… from the Hawthorne.

Of course, political statements are everywhere. I liked this re-purposed public service message.

You can see a lot of Portland from bridges, too. Joggers, cyclists, the Burnside Bridge and the Convention Center are all in these shots.

Once I was back on the Eastside, I realized I was hungry, and came upon Asylum, a food Court on the site of Dr. Hawthorne’s Oregon State Hospital for the Insane. This much-respected institution stood from 1862 to 1883. It closed when the good Doctor died and burned to the ground a few years later.

The space has a steampunk cartoony vibe, with trash containers that made me laugh and really tasty food.

I had pot stickers from the Thai place and enjoyed some people and art watching.

The Asylum gates ….

Once I was fed, I still had a mile walk, all uphill, to get home. I paced myself, admiring gardens, appreciating shade, and visiting with nice folks. I had done what I had intended to do, walked a total of 6.2 miles, and it felt good.

By the way, as you can tell, Portland is not “in flames”. We are fine. The protests are being exploited by the President and his allies who want to use Portland as an excuse to use strong arm tactics against his political enemies. He is lying.

Took the words out of my mouth!

Stay alert, stay well, and remember I love you.

Grandma Judy

Long Walk to the River….

Dear Liza,

I woke up Tuesday feeling the need to take charge of something, to get out and DO.The weather was predicted to be cool in the morning and get really warm by noon, so whatever I was going to do had to happen early.

Bright changing leaves dazzle the eye…

So, right after coffee and before Grandpa Nelson was out of bed, I headed off for a long walk through the Fall sunshine. I headed toward the river. This is sort of cheating because it is all down hill, but the neighborhood is wonderful.

I found this poem by Jellaludin Rumi framed in a safe place. I liked the sentiment, but also the way my reflection got into the picture. It made this idea of “being human” even more human!

“This Being Human” by Rumi

I continued through Ladd’s Addition and into the more industrial part of the Southeast. This fabulous mural, with live plants for hair, was painted by Fin DAC and is called “Attitude of Gratitude.” The building houses a fancy Cuban restaurant on the ground floor and apartments above, and the main office of Solterra, a company that makes vertical planters like the lady’s hair.

Attitude of Gratitude

The area by the railroad tracks and warehouses is a bit run down, but in the bright sunshine, with the river and West Hills just beyond, everything looked pretty.

A bit cluttered, but very pretty…

After about an hour of solid walking, I found the Willamette River! On this sunny day, it was busy with kayakers, jet skis, and motorboats, all dancing on the sparkling water.

The mighty Willamette River

Tilikum Crossing Bridge is the newest bridge in the city and my absolute favorite. It was built in 2015 just for transit and pedestrians.The blue of the sky and the white cables made for a lovely sight. Mount Hood, just sixty miles away, was barely visible through the haze to the East.

Not so far away Mt. Hood

I spent quite a lot of time on the bridge, soaking up the breeze and the sunshine.

Built with no right angles, to let the wind spill off

But where to go next? I’ll tell you tomorrow!

Happy me!


Grandma Judy