And then, Snow!

Dear Liza,

Saturday morning, we woke up to snow. It was just a dusting, and we went back to sleep. A few hours later, it was STILL snowing, and Grandpa Nelson decided it was time for a proper snow adventure, so we bundled up and headed off.

Grandpa Nelson, out and about

First, we saw our walkway, decorated with snow. The gnomes were wondering who put out the lights, apparently.

Gnomes, just chillin’

Then we noticed some tulips that had not seen the snow coming. I hope they can spring back!

Very surprised tulips

Laurelhurst Park itself is lovely in any weather, but is a Narnia sort of beautiful in the snow. The Ravine always looks like Mr. Tumnis is going to show up any moment.

The edge of Narnia

As we walked around, we saw dozens of families enjoying the snow. There were snowmen, snowball fights, dogs dashing around. It was a winter wonderland… in March. I will show you the snowmen tomorrow.

Firwood Lake and snowy Boomarang Island

The lake was very pretty through the trees, as the snow came down and sat on the surface for just a minute before melting.

After our walk, we came in and hung our wet clothes up in front of the fire, and spent the rest of the day alternately watching TV and snow!


Grandma Judy

Socially Distanced

Dear Liza,

This man misses you sooooo much!

I am writing to you when I would rather be getting ready for your visit. You and Your Momma Olga and Daddy David were going to come up and spend a whole week here with us.

And now, you are staying in Salinas. This makes me very sad. But I think, in the long run, it was the right decision.


The corona virus is spreading, and people traveling can make it spread faster. Auntie Katie and Auntie Bridgett both work in shops and galleries where things get handled, they can get the virus and pass it along. With you and all the cousins being in school until this past Friday, you can catch it and pass it, too, even without feeling sick.

All the cousins

Doctors have asked us all to stay put for a while to slow the spread of the virus so lots of people won’t need hospital beds all at once. I am willing to do my part, even when it makes me sad, to keep all the people healthy.

Who I am missing…

I promise we will get together as soon as we can. I love you very much, every day.


Grandma Judy

Sunny Sunset at Lone Fir

Dear Liza,

Sunny late afternoon

We had so many sunny days last week! And after the time change, it was light enough after dinner to go for walks. Auntie Bridgett and I visited the dead people at Lone Fir Cemetery.

This is my favorite cemetery in town. It has been used since the 1840s and has fewer rules about what sort of marker people can put up. It has the best of old, new, immortal, fleeting, tragic and silly.

Classic, lovely headstone

On this walk we found a new marker. Burton Stein passed away a year ago this January, and his headstone has just been installed. Folks had already come around and placed stones on it. This is a Jewish gesture of respect. Flowers are fleeting, we believe. Stones live forever. I’m not sure what the dented candle stick is for, but I applaud the gesture.

Goodbye, Burton Stein

We walked around and enjoyed watching the sun disappear over the west hills. The boxy looking object in the photo is the very top of the tallest building in Portland, the Wells Fargo Building.

Heading off into the sunset

When my Momma, your Great Grandma Billie, was getting ready to die, one of the last things she said was, “I’m gonna put my boat on the porch, and head west.” And the next day, she did. Heading into the sunset isn’t such a bad way to go.


Grandma Judy

Flying Cat Coffee And Coronavirus

Dear Liza,

flying Cat Coffee in the sunshine

Our weather is still chilly but clear here in Portland. Coats have been put away, but a sweater and a little something around your neck is still a good idea. It is good walking weather, and yesterday Grandpa Nelson and I walked the mile south to Division Street’s Flying Cat Coffee.

This is just a block west of Salt and Straw Ice Cream and the St. Honore Boulangerie. It feels ‘old’ Portland, where they feel very ‘new’. The building is small, and the seating is a mixture of all the living rooms of my childhood… avocado green sofas and orange striped overstuffed rocking chairs.

Lonely barista

But it is pleasant. Their coffee is strong and good, and they have a nice selection of teas and some pastries.

Quirky, friendly art

But we were there the day the coronovirus became very real in Portland, so we literally had the place to ourselves. And it was probably our last sit down in a coffee shop for a while.

The mayor has declared a state of emergency (city of emergency?) and said all K-12 schools will close starting Monday. Governor Kate Brown has declared that any group bigger than 250 people is illegal. So concerts, plays, movie theaters, indoor malls, our zoo, museums, comic conventions, all the places we want to go when the spring comes, are all closed. Poop.

And even a mobile coffee bike!

Auntie Katie is working with her staff to find ways to keep Books with Pictures open while keeping everyone safe. Auntie Bridgett is doing the same at SideStreet Arts Gallery. It isn’t easy being a public place these days.

Here is where I heave a big sigh and find the silver lining. We are all well. The sunlight is pretty and the Park is not contagious. Kittens are good company. I am continuing to improve my story.

And I get to see you in less than a month!


Grandma Judy

Spring Colors

Dear Liza,

It has been sunny for days and days, and we have even seen bees out and about in the warm afternoons, which means spring is definitely here.

Layers and layers of color!

The blue skies have also meant cold, clear nights. I pruned Great Grandma’s geraniums, which have been getting pale and lanky in the foyer to keep them safe from frost. I have even put them out in the patio to get some sun. But I cover them every night with an old sheet… just in case.

I am so pleased to see sunshine! Portlanders get a little drunk on it, this time of year.


Grandma Judy

Buckman School Art Show

Dear Liza,

Well, you can tell it’s spring when the festivals start! With our damp, chilly weather, Portlanders sort of go hermit-y from New Year’s Day until mid-March. It just makes since. If it’s cold and nasty outside, and warm and cozy inside, I’m inside, thank you very much!

So, since it’s March, this past weekend was the Buckman School Art Show. This is a wonderful old-style school built in the 1920s, like so many schools here on the Eastside of Portland. It has an imposing brick facade, interior hallways, and a gymnasium high and wide enough to hold the whole school!

This art show featured work by both professional artists and students, and I enjoyed both. These hardware-store mosaics by Gretchen Wright were so much fun to look at! She used things that are normally stored in chaotic little drawers, like tacks, game pieces, and electronics bits, and made them fun to look at.

By Gretchen Wright

Ceramicist Erica Gibson’s work also caught my eye. Her peaceful but oddly disconnected faces seem to say, “Yes, my body has gone, but I’m cool with that…” They were very relaxed in a room full of parents and kids, a full-on Marimba performance, and the occasional pet dog.

Erica Gibson’s work

I found our friend Nicole Curcio, selling her lovely ceramics.

Then there was Flip Frisch, whose business name Flip and Scout. She takes photos of her daughter and uses them in collages. They were interesting, like an action comic hero’s family photos.

The student work for sale was fun to see, too. There were comic books by Ozwald Star, called “Captain Underpants and Donald Trump”, were the most controversially-minded. There were jewelry, coasters, and friendship bracelets, but what caught my eye was Charlie’s Origami.

oh, do these take me back!

These throwing stars and other pieces were done with such precision and color that they reminded me of Ethan Magauey, a third grader I taught years ago. He has grown into a fine young man. I hope Charlie has the same good fortune.

The art show was fun, but after my many years of school-oriented pandemonium, I could only be inside for a little while…. I don’t know if other retired teachers get “triggered” by rooms crowded with loud children, but I sure do! This is weird, because while I was teaching, my classroom could get quite loud and it didn’t bother me.

Maybe my nervous system finally said, “Enough, already!”


Grandma Judy

Karen Thurman’s Critters

Dear Liza

Karen Thurman, herself

This past Friday was the opening of a new show at SideStreet Arts Gallery. It features the work of a delightfully talented, sweetly quirky woman named Karen Thurman.

Double Garden, by Karen Thurman

We saw her work last year at the Guardino Gallery, up in Alberta neighborhood, and just couldn’t stop looking at it. How does she make these odd, alien-but-adorable creatures? She makes them out of felt!

Baobab, by Karen Thurman

Yep, she uses needles and wool fibers and patiently creates these shrimp, spiders, and various floating and growing shapes. She used to make flat items, like scarves and table runners, but once she learned how to do 3-D, she says, “There was no turning back!”

Of course, it wouldn’t be a First Friday without treats and other artists, as well. I made a new kind of polka dot cookie to echo the dots in Karen’s work, and they turned out pretty and tasty.

There were also new works by Alicia Justice and Julia Janeway, and some fragile, lovely encaustic bowls by Frederick Swan.

There was a good turnout, even with the public health concerns of the Novel Coronavirus, and my cookies got eaten up!

Vessel, by Frederick Swan

It was a good evening for sales, too, with folks taking home jewelry, cards, and some small prints.

Hooray for art!

Deer Plate, by Julia Janeway


Grandma Judy