Disillusionment

Dear Liza,

I can’t believe I am sending you two sad letters in a row. I apologize and hope for more cheerful news tomorrow.

Yesterday, Auntie Bridgett was robbed at the SideStreet Gallery where she works and shows her art. She was alone in the gallery and a fellow came in and visited for a few minutes, then left.

He came back a little later and said he wanted to buy one of her collage artworks, a wonderful piece called Blue. He said it was a gift for his mom. Bridgett was excited and they chatted about the work.

The man asked that she change the hanger on the picture so it would be easier for his mom to put up. That meant a trip into the back room for hardware. Then he asked for her to gift wrap it. That meant a trip across the gallery.

All this meant that her bag, with her wallet inside, was left by itself behind the counter. When the art was wrapped, the man made an excuse to leave without the art, promising to return soon with his credit card to finish the purchase.

When he left, her wallet was in his pocket. She didn’t notice for a while, but called the police when she did, then spent the evening reporting the theft to all the banks and credit card companies. The fellow had already been charging a great deal of money, but she will not be made to pay for it.

Overall, it looks like she lost a little over two hundred dollars cash (Christmas money) and her favorite Vespa patterned wallet.

But what has been lost for good is a certain level of trust, of faith in the goodness of people. We knew that in Salinas, where we used to live, there were people who would break into houses and take things. I guess we knew there were bad people in Portland, but they were always somewhere else, not in our immediate vicinity. Now we know they can touch us.

A level of innocence that we probably didn’t have any right to is gone. And that is disillusioning.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Feeling Sad

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was a sad day for me here in Portland. I am all right. Let me explain.

Great Uncles Tim and Jim, Great Grandpa Lowell, and me in 1966

Yesterday I found out that my oldest brother, your great uncle Tim, has had a heart attack. He is in a hospital in San Diego, and the people there are trying to get him better.

He was in the Marine Corps and spent many years in Viet Nam during the war there. He has been hit by hand grande shrapnel, had Malaria a few times, and lived on what he could hunt when he got separated from his unit for a few days. He has been a tough guy.

But he seventy years old, has smoked for most of his life, and doesn’t take care of himself. So it is not a surprise that he is sick. But you can see something coming and it still hurts.

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Great Uncle Tim at his wedding

My nephew Wade, Tim’s son, has come out from New York to visit his dad and see what can be done to put him on the road to recovery. Tim’s memory is affected and he is having trouble placing people. I am hoping for a happy resolution, recovery and a return home for Tim. But, like for Momma and Dad and our brother Jim before him, I will most likely live to mourn the brother who taught me how to climb trees and clean fish.

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Great Uncle Tim, Great Grandma Billie, and Grandpa Nelson, the last time we were all together, about 2010

And this makes me sad.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hoyt Arboretum, Part 2

Dear Liza,

The Hoyt Arboretum kept showing us things we didn’t expect.

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It’s Cold!!

Coming out of the forest, we saw a grove full of lacy bamboo with something…odd…hanging in it. We headed down stone steps and past a Japanese style gate to where we found this sculpture, called Basket of Air, by Ivan McClean. The sphere  is about 6 feet in diameter, and it is suspended over a creek by cables attached to three bamboo poles. The “basket” is made of steel but looks as light as a soap bubble. It was so surprising, I laughed out loud! I want to visit it at other seasons, to see how it looks different.

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          Basket of Air by Ivan McClean                                              Photo Credit Bridgett Spicer

We headed off to The Holly Loop, where all sorts of holly bushes are growing. From the top of the loop we could see Mt. St. Helens, a volcano only sixty four miles away from Portland. Maybe we will go visit it sometime.

When we had seen all the forest we wanted, we started back down.

But wait! There’s the Veteran’s Memorial! Grandpa Nelson and I hadn’t seen it, but Auntie Bridgett had. She sat down to draw while We walked around.

The memorial is in a large ‘bowl’ in the shape of a spiral, and near the top are plaques remembering the Oregonians who died in the Viet Nam War. The war went from the 1950s to 1973, when Grandpa Nelson and I were growing up. My brother Tim was in the war, and Grandpa Nelson would have been if his draft number had come up. This war always feels more personal than others.

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Viet Nam Veteran’s Memorial

The cold started to creep through our coats and gloves, and the sun on the moss was chillier. We picked up a very shivery Auntie Bridgett and headed home, for sure this time. Tea and hot cocoa, a rest, and then dinner, put us right.

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Cold Winter Sun Through Moss

Photo Credit Bridgett Spicer

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hoyt Arboretum, Part 1

Dear Liza,

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Heading west into town

On the first day of 2019, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I drove west across the Willamette, through downtown, and out the other side, up into Washington Park. I have been there many times, to see the Zoo, the Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Children’s Museum, even the Holocaust Memorial last summer. But this time we headed for the Hoyt Arboretum.

An arboretum is like a zoo for trees, if you think about it. The trees are planted near others like them and are labeled so you know what they are and where they are from. Of course, the trees stay where they are put, so they don’t need fences. It felt more like a forest. An icy cold, bright, sunshiny  forest.

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Frosty Lace

Grandpa Nelson had done some looking and found something labeled “The Winter Garden” in the arboretum. He knew I liked gardens, and it’s winter…. so we headed there. It was still 37 degrees F, so there was a pretty lacy edge of frost on everything. Even the weeds by the parking lot were pretty.

The trees that lose their leaves already have, leaving beautiful stark branches against the blinding blue sky. I want to capture those shapes, somehow. Maybe with some nice thin lines of embroidery somewhere.

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Squirrels, chubbing out
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Lovely delicate branches

We saw two squirrels sitting on maple branches that seemed too thin to support them, methodically eating the seeds one by one and dropping the husks. Grandpa Nelson said they should keep eating until the branch breaks, because then they will know they are fat enough!

The Winter Garden is really a very small part of the arboretum and there were some little lily sort of flowers blooming, which is unusual in January. The label was too small for me to read. The ferns were frosty and there was the tiniest creek running through by them.

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Flowers in January!

Down a hill past the Redwood Deck, where a wedding was being held, the trees got taller. Cedars, redwoods and pines towered overhead. We felt as tiny as rabbits.

I will tell you more about the arboretum tomorrow.

Love, Grandma Judy

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Feeling very small….

Paris for a Bargain

Dear Liza,

One fun thing about Portland is that there are so many wonderful places to eat!

I have had spicy Ethiopian food, luscious vegetarian burgers, and some really indulgent Portland brunches. Last night, however, I had dinner at the best French restaurant outside of France. In my humble opinion, of course.

We took a Lyft car to Bistro Agnes at the corner of 12th and Alder, downtown.

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The Wine

Grandpa Nelson only ever orders French fries (or pommes frites, on the French menu) but he made up for it by ordering a very nice bottle of wine from the Rhône Valley. It was scrumptious.

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Grandpa Nelson talking wine

Auntie Bridgett was very excited about the restaurant’s dozen or so Absinthes and got some advice from Justin, our waiter. He said that the Jade 1901 was the most authentic old-time Absinthe, since it was copied from absinthe in bottles from that time. A lady came by to do the special presentation, with ice water dripped over a sugar cube and into the glass, and it all felt very fancy. Bridgett declared it smooth and sweet, totally delicious.

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Absinthe Presentation

We had escargot and mushrooms for an appetizer, served with wonderfully crunchy bread. We were glad we shared! There was so much!

While we were eating, we were treated to the greatest show on earth, the people of Portland out and about. Bistro Agnes has large windows that let us watch umbrellas, stylish coats and wooly hats go by in the drippy evening.

For dinner I ordered the Mussels Mareniere , which are mussels served in a buttery garlic sauce with MORE crusty bread. I would take a bit, have a sip of that delicious red wine, then go in for another. Yumm!

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MMMMMMMussels

Bridgett ordered a Winter Vegetable Pithiver, which was vegetables and cheese in a beautiful puff pastry. It was so gooey and tasty, she couldn’t stop eating it, even when she was full.

But even the good wine and great food weren’t what made Bistro Agnes the best French restaurant this side of the Atlantic. It was the people, and their attention to making us comfortable, informed, and relaxed. A lady at the door took our coats and umbrellas. Justin asked about food allergies and explained the dishes, including how long Bridgett’s puff pastry would take to cook. The absinthe and dessert presentation were delicious and beautiful.

We stayed two hours, incredibly long for an American dinner, but just about right for France. We never felt rushed or awkward, because every single person there was charming and welcoming.

We won’t be going to Bistro Agnes often, of course, since it is not an inexpensive dinner. But as a stand in for a trip to our home-away-from-home country, it is cheap at twice the price!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Looking Forward

Dear Liza,

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New Beginnings

It is the New Year, when we are supposed to make resolutions and plans for the future. Last year was so unexpectedly eventful and wonderful that I am almost tempted to just ride along. But I realize that as in story writing, life planning is good.

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Making Sense of Things…

Sometimes I made decisions on faith. When I decided to retire, my first worry was “What will I do with my time?” Then I remembered that my dad, (who was even a busier person than I), retired to Lompoc and found his life even fuller than before. So we decided to move to Portland and retire, knowing “something would come up.”

And it did. My interest in Portland history became a rabbit hole I kept going deeper into, until I knew enough about the world of 1903 that I wanted to populate it with my characters. For over a year now, I have written and read, researched and plotted. And the story is approaching … whatever it is that stories approach.

All that said, one of my goals for this year is to show my story to folks who know both writing and history better than I do, and get their advice. Then I plan to find an agent here in Portland who will help me get the story published and into the hands of Portland third and fourth graders.

Where stories go

There, I said it, right out loud. Now I’ve got to DO it.

Another thing I want to do this year is get to know Portland neighborhoods better. This will take a combination of planning and serendipity, both of which have served me well this year. Just getting on a bus or train and getting off where it looks interesting has put me in wonderful places.

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St. John’s, just North

I think these two things, writing and wandering, along with taking care of Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson, and helping Auntie Katie when I can, will keep me busy.

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My People

I hope you have a wonderful new year, and I will see you in the Spring!!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Just Thinking, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Once I was back home in Portland, I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do. I was here for good and wanted to get to know every inch of the city.

In June we went across the river to the place where the high class dead people end up, the Riverview Cemetery. Yes, one of our founding fathers’ was Henry Failing. But he made it look good.

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June: Visiting High Class Dead People

In July, Grandpa Nelson and I rode our bicycles eight miles around Portland in the Sunday Parkways event. Streets closed to traffic, signs to keep us from getting lost and wonderful sunshine made it a glorious day.

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July: Biking the City
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August: Back to Salinas

In August, I came back down to Salinas to visit you for your Daddy’s birthday. We had a nice dinner and I gave you a pretty head wreath from the Belmont Street Fair.

September brought Auntie Bridgett’s Birthday, with brunch at The Cricket Cafe, shopping downtown, and dinner at Kenny and Zuke’s. Here she is with the critters by the Pioneer Courthouse.

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September: Bridgett’s Birthday!
October: Thinking about Life and Death

 

 

In October we said goodbye to Barbara Kadden, celebrated Halloween, and did some thinking about life and death.

 

 

 

 

 

November saw me in San Diego to visit family, then back up in Portland to go on adventures with Jasper and Kestrel.

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November: Adventures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

December is just coming to a close, and I am still figuring out what comes next. But I’m not worried. With my lovely people to love, possibilities to ponder and trees to walk under, life is sweet.

December: Beauty of the Rain

Love,

Grandma Judy