Stuff on the Sidewalk

Dear Liza,IMG_8847.jpg

Here in Portland there are lots of things that are different from Salinas. One of these is a form of recycling that we call Stuff on the Sidewalk.

When people are moving and they have stuff they don’t want anymore, they don’t always drive to Goodwill or save it up and have a garage sale. They just put it in a box or bag, walk it to the sidewalk, and leave it there. Then people walking by go through and take what they want. It is a perfect way to move stuff from where it isn’t needed to where it is.

It sounds like an awful mess, and sometimes it is. Sometimes people spread the stuff all over. But usually people put things back in the box, leaving the rest for the next person.img_8848.jpg

We have used Stuff on the Sidewalk, too. When we first moved to Portland, we had boxes and boxes of… boxes. And papers and bubble wrap. We bundled it up, put it out, and voila! It was gone, heading off to help someone else move to their new home. We have given away office and art supplies, dishes, and clothes this way.

We have found stuff, too. Several of our pint glasses and a few small plates came to us from boxes on corners. I found my new purse in a box, practically new and a lovely red leather.img_8857.jpg

The other day, Auntie Bridgett and I were headed for Yen’s Salon to get haircuts, and we saw a small pile of really old coloring books sitting neatly in the parkway grass. I picked them up. Published in 1948 and 1952, they were used by two little girls named Karen and Joyce Hegland, in 1952. I figure that Karen, who could have been about 10 in 1952, is about 76 years old by now.

Personal history is my favorite thing!

As we waited our turn for haircuts, I looked more closely at the books. They didn’t just have pictures to color, but poems about holidays and seasons (including St. Swithens’ Day), illustrated stories to color, and are a window onto the style and manners of the time. I am still not sure what I will use these lovely artifacts for, but I know they have found a home with me.

A Poem for St. Swithens’s Day

If it should rain St. Swithens’ Day

T’will rain all summer long

At least that’s what our elders say,

Of course, they could be wrong.


Grandma Judy

Return to Cascadia Circus

Dear Liza,

Carrot and Foxglove the Clowns

Since it is summer, you went horse camp and Cousins Jasper and Kestrel went to Circus Camp! Friday, I took the number 15 east to Taborspace to see their show under the “little” big top. This is the only tented circus in Oregon, and even though the tent is small-ish, it lends shade and a real special atmosphere to the show.

Like last year, the kids spent a week learning how to balance, walk on stilts, work as teams to do tricks, and be confident in front of an audience. They are older and more experienced, and I was more impressed than ever.

Ringmaster Paul

The Cascadia Circus is a non-profit group run by Paul, Ringmaster, jokester and independent operator. His British accent and clownish ways make everyone feel comfortable doing new things. Jasper made up his clown name of Carrot, and Kestrel was Foxglove.

Juggling scarves

They juggled scarves and rings, walked on tight ropes (18 inches off the ground while holding Paul’s hand), balanced on balls and did gymnastic poses. It was delightful! I hope they go to Circus Camp next year, so I can see another show!


Grandma Judy

Confident on stilts!

Washington Park, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I told you about the Fireman’s Memorial, The Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden. Today I will tell you what came next.

These next paragraphs are sad.

Feeling like my bucket of humanity was full, I decided to head down the hill. Along the way I saw signs for the Holocaust Memorial. The Holocaust was a terrible time in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s when the leader of Germany, Adolph Hitler, decided that his country (and all countries) would be better if there were no Jews, gypsies, artists, gay people, or anyone who disagreed with the government. He ordered his government to kill over 6 million men, women and children. That is the Holocaust.IMG_8585.jpg

The entrance to the Memorial feels almost accidental. You see a doll left on a bench, then a broken suitcase on the path. Then a baby shoe and a damaged menorah. You realize these are made of bronze, and that they are here to show the chaos and horror of being stolen from your own life and hustled away on trains to camps where you will be killed. img_8587.jpg

Walking forward, there is a curved wall with plaques carved with writings from people who survived this Holocaust. On the back are names of people who died.

Having had my soul filled with beauty and joy from the gardens, it was now overflowing with sadness at the cruelty of humanity. I sat and stared and cried for a while.IMG_8590.jpg

Again starting down the hill, I saw a sign to the Lewis and Clark Plaza. Huh? That’s where President Teddy Roosevelt dedicated the Lewis and Clark Memorial in 1903! That’s a location from the story I have been draining my brain on! So of course I had to walk over. The platform is made of brick, with a tall granite column with state seals from Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana. Somewhere under the brick is the time capsule Teddy buried on May 21, 1903. But the historians have misplaced it. So it is still there. Cool.IMG_8597.jpg

I spent a while picturing the crowds that stood in the pouring rain that day, listening to speeches, bands and choirs and cheering for the President and the country.

My heart now not only filled but double shelved and overflowing with the best and worst of humanity, I finished my trip down the hill. Along the way I met a young mother with a toddler and infant, who asked me directions to Washington Park. I hope she enjoys it as much as I did, and hoped secretly the children slept through the Japanese Garden.

Love, Grandma Judy

Washington Park, Part 1

Dear Liza,

Tiny bit of inspiration

Lately, I have been feeling like my brain is empty. People call it Writer’s Block, but it doesn’t feel blocked, it feels like a big hollow hole where a bunch of happy ideas used to be.

So I decided to go out and fill it up.

I got on the number 15 bus and headed for Washington Park. As the bus was going up the hill on Burnside, though, I pulled the cord to get off. I saw something I’d only read about: It was Fireman’s Park, a monument built in 1911 to honor David Campbell, who was fire chief from 1893 to 1911 and died fighting a fire, running in to a burning building to get his men out safely.

Memorial for David Campbell

The fountain is under repair, but the bronze plaque is handsome. There are also small plaques recognizing other firemen who have lost their lives on duty, from J. Hewston in 1892  to A. Berg in 1948. Firemen’s Park is on a very noisy bit of land, so I moved along up the hill for some contemplation.

At the base of Washington Park there are several entries.  I took the ancient looking stone steps. There were signs, which kept me from wandering too far in the wrong direction, and I eventually found the Japanese Garden. I climbed up the new steps through a forested ravine to the new entrance. At last, the serenity I was searching for!IMG_8478.jpg

Well, no. Everyone comes to the Japanese Garden in summer. There were old men with walkers, active grandmas with all the grandkids, and young people walking past 100 year old Bonsais, staring at their phones. Not what I was after.

There was visual serenity once I waited for for groups to pass, but as a teacher, children’s voices cannot be tuned out. I either want to answer their questions, remind them of their manners, or suggest they go play somewhere else, none of which was appropriate. So, noise.

The view that restores souls

I enjoyed it as best as I could, enjoying a nice quiet lunch at The Umami Cafe in the new Japanese Educational Village and walking through the entire garden again. Better.


I discovered the Robert and Debra Zagunis Castle Wall, built here with Oregon granite by a 15th generation Japanese stone mason. It looked very formidable and gave me a first hand visual of the walls at Osaka Castle, which I have been reading about in Shogun by James Clavell.

Castle Wall

But I wasn’t full yet. I walked down the ravine and across the road to the International Rose Test Garden. It built in 1917 to make sure the European rose varieties being decimated by World War I weren’t lost entirely. It is huge, beautiful, and, today, much quieter than the Japanese Garden. I visited here last summer with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel, and it is still wonderful.IMG_8567.jpg

I will tell you more about my day tomorrow!


Grandma Judy


Able to Enjoy Outside Again

Dear Liza,

For the last week, it has been uncomfortably hot in Portland, over 90 degrees during the day and barely dropping to 70 at night. It has been hard to sleep and impossible to go for walks.

But today, it was blissfully cool! Auntie Bridgett and I walked all the way to the Fred Meyer store, almost a mile away, to buy ink for the printer. It is time for her to print and send out her zine, which is called Art-o- Rama. This month it is about her study of Picasso and experimenting with abstract art.

As we passed Sunnyside Environmental School, we met a boy named Jase. He was dribbling two basketballs at the same time and had misplaced his dad. The two of them were on the watering crew for the gardens around the school. Jase used Bridgett’s phone and left a message, but headed off to find him. I had great confidence in a happy outcome, so we headed off.

We did the shopping and headed home, passing Sunnyside School again, and there was Jase (and his dad) and some other boys playing basketball. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes.

The rest of the afternoon, we all worked on our own projects, then had dinner. The weather was still lovely, so we three walked to the Postal Annex to send off Bridgett’s zines. Walking in our neighborhood is always a treat. The oldest trees make pockets of deep shade, younger trees make dappled patches, and bright sunlit yards are full of tomato plants and flowers.

Since the new surface on our balcony isn’t dry yet, we enjoyed our shady patio downstairs instead. We haven’t done that much, and it was fun! We got to visit with new neighbors Kara and Trevor and watched some crow drama. The sun went down and it was time to head inside.

The forecast is for just a few more days of pleasant weather, then it’s supposed to get horribly hot again. We will enjoy what we can and take lots of pictures to remember this once the seasons change and it starts raining.


Grandma Judy

Writer’s Block

Dear Liza,IMG_6373.jpg

As you can tell by all the writing I’ve been doing, my brain has been running full speed for a long time. Now, I seem to have hit a bump. IMG_8410.jpg

Besides these letters to you, i am writing a history story about Portland, Oregon. I’ve done all the research, but it isn’t turning into the story I want. It feels clunky, slow, and bossy. It has a teacher’s voice, which is understandable, since I spoke Teacher as my primary language for 30 years. But it is not good voice for stories.


I have realized that I have a lot of work yet to do on it, and it is frustrating. It feels like I somehow got to mile 24 of a marathon and realized that I am just coming up on the Starting line.

As a remedy, I am, as they say, “getting out of my own way,” and letting the story sit for a while. I am reading other things, walking when it is cool enough, and trying not to give up on it. IMG_6281.jpg

I am looking for inspiration elsewhere, listening for a voice that isn’t bossy. In the meantime, I will send these lovely random pictures.


Grandma Judy

The Coast with Grownups

Re-employed Country Bear running a shooting gallery

Dear Liza,

It has been so hot here in Portland, people are either staying inside air conditioned buildings or getting out of town to stay cool. On Sunday, Auntie Bridgett, Grandpa Nelson and I headed for the coast. It was 100 degrees in Portland, and 70 in Seaside…so, good call.

We drove to Seaside, which is a pretty little touristy town on the beach. There are dozens of shops selling salt water taffy, tee shirts, and souvenirs, as well as bumper cars and a tilt-a-whirl. There is bad traffic and limited parking.

But there is also a beach, with long lovely dunes and beach grass, which is what you get to keep when you don’t plant your dunes with ice plant. The weather was sunny on the dunes, but just over the waves and coming onto the sand was this weird blowing fog…it made everything delightfully spooky. The tide was way out, so there was LOTS of beach. Not many sand castles, though.

Creeping beach fog
Lovely dune grass









The fog and sand were wonderful, but we here getting hungry, and headed into town for some lunch at Sam’s Seaside Cafe, a pleasant enough diner (though later I began to question their refrigeration). There is a little river that flows through town and rental boat that go along it. Rowboats and swan boats were for rent….both looked like too much work!

Swan Boat Fail and Rescue

We drove on up to Astoria, and it was a very different visit than I had with Katie and the cousins. We didn’t visit the wreck of the Peter Iredale, the Tower, or the Battery.

Wandering in the old downtown area, we looked at the cool 1924 architecture and contemporary art. The Riversea Gallery had really beautiful work, including some by Portland artists and friends Dawn Panttaja and Jesse Reno.

The John Jacob Astor Building

Walking along, we saw some young men and women wearing colorful clothes with bells on their legs… Morris Dancers! The Morris dance is a traditional Irish way of celebrating spring, with dancers, drinking and fun. In old Ireland, troops would travel around the country. July seemed late for celebrating spring, but this fellow said in America, they go a bit longer.

Morris Dancer









It seemed time to head back towards home, since we had an almost two hour drive. Auntie Bridgett’s stomach was feeling queasy (was it the Cole Slaw? We may never know) and Grandpa Nelson’s feet were tired. We drove along the Columbia, our California eyes amazed at all that water just running free.

The Columbia, just rollin’ on….

At Kalama Bay, where there used to be a ferry to take railroad cars across the river, the McMenamin Brothers have build a NEW resort…not a re-purposed old building, as they usually do. We enjoyed the bright fourth floor bar, but from the inside looking out…coming inland this far, the temperature was back up into the 90s.

Auntie Bridgett had a fizzy tonic to try and settle her stomach. Snacks and drinks and we were on our way home, to watch baseball and fall asleep early.

Always fun art at McMenamin’s

I hope the weather breaks soon! I am longing for my nice cool Portland.


Grandma Judy