Talking about Birds

GetAttachmentThumbnail-5.jpgDear Liza,

Our unusually hot weather is supposed to continue all this week, even getting up to 107 degrees on Wednesday. So we are doing walks in the early mornings and late evenings, when it is cool. This morning Grandpa Nelson and I went out around 9, while Auntie Bridgett was working.

We headed to Laurelhurst Park, because the huge trees make it delightfully cool and shady. Before we got to the park, we noticed a yard that has had a small flock of plastic flamingos in it. The flamingos are usually perched under a small tree, but for the last few days. they have been gone. We were a little worried. Had someone taken them? Where were they?

Today, they were back! And they must have been camping, because they were in their usual place but with the addition of a small make-believe campfire, sticks with pretend marshmallows, and a small tent with two flamingos in sleeping bags. Some of the flamingos were wearing little hats or coats. It was so cute! One of the things I like about Portland is that even the grown-ups like being silly. Since we are silly, too, it makes us feel at home.

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Once we got into the park, We heard some high screeching up above. We looked and saw two young  hawks chasing each other through the trees, as if they were arguing. This is one of the kinds of birds we saw at the zoo,  that have learned to live in the city.

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Young Hawk Photo credit:conservewildlifenj.org

These two hawks seemed very healthy, and had very strong opinions about which tree was theirs. We watched for a while, talking with some people who have seen young hawks here every summer. Laurelhurst Park is big enough that it must feel like a forest.

Further into the park, we heard the usual bunch of crows talking to each other, chasing each other around and eating leftover sandwiches from picnics the night before. They seemed careful to stay away from the part of the park where the hawks were. I guess in the world of birds, hawks are tougher than crows.

We went for another walk much later, after the sun had gone down. We walked the neighborhood, noticing that some of the smaller trees are looking dry with all this hot weather. On our way home through the Laurelhurst Park, we saw about 50 people, dancing…to no music. There were hoops being tossed in the air, and long ribbons being twirled, and dancers all over.

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Then we noticed that they were all wearing headphones, and it turns out they were all listening to the same music, which was being played by a DJ and broadcast to their earphones. This looked a little strange, but it is a good way to have a dance party in the middle of a neighborhood and not bother anyone else with the music. What a good idea!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

All Sorts of Remembering

Dear Liza,

Yesterday, Auntie Bridgett and I started off to send you a package and do some shopping.

The UPS Store is about a mile and a half away, down on Hawthorne. When we started walking, it was cool and breezy. We walked down new streets in the neighborhood, looking at flowers and houses.

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Day lilies smell so good

At the corner of 32nd and Taylor, there was a church that looked like something from a fairy tale. It was built from rough stone and had parapets on the corners that looked like there should be soldiers with bows and arrows up there, defending the castle.

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Redeemer Church, but looks more like a castle

As we walked around, admiring the architecture, a man called from a workshop behind, “You want to see inside?” It was Harry, the caretaker of this marvelous church, and he took time off from working on projects to show us around.

The church was originally built in 1909, but most of it was destroyed in a fire in 1910. It was rebuilt in 1911, and the stained glass windows mostly date from then.

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Stained glass at Redeemer Church

Harry works not only at keeping the heating and electrical system working, for people to be comfortable and the lights and music for the services, but he also builds whatever furniture is needed out of reclaimed wood and furniture. It is all shiny and lovely.

Harry shared some of his life story and the work he does helping people who are having a hard life. We took some pictures, thanked him,  and said our good-byes.

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Auntie Bridgett and Harry

After mailing your package, we went to the Buffalo Exchange, a used clothing store. It was big and crowded, but we found lots of good clothes. They didn’t all fit, but I got a pair of jeans and two shirts. Auntie Bridgett found a few things, too.

After all that, we were worn out and it was really time to head home, which was still a mile and a half away. We tried to stay on the shady side of the street, but as we got to a nice shady corner, I noticed a mosaic across the street, and I had to go look.

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It was a small, beautiful bench built into the wall decorated with tiles, glass, and bicycle parts. There was a sign nearby explaining that this was a shrine, a way of remembering a young man named Matthew Schekel who had been hit by a truck while riding his bicycle across this intersection. All his friends had collected the tiles and things and built this way to remember him, which has lasted for many years. He died in 1998, 19 years ago. Doing more reading, I have since discovered that there is also a scholarship in his name from the local high school. He was a very special, loving young man.

When we finally got home and I was resting, I thought about all the people and lives that have been in this neighborhood before us. The hundreds of people who built the Redeemer church, and the thousands who have gone there since 1909; Harry, who takes care of it all; and young Matthew, who lived such a good life that I remember him, even though I never knew him. This place has a deep history I am just beginning to appreciate.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Walking and Talking

Dear Liza,

Yesterday morning I did a lot of reading. I am enjoying “Sacre Bleu”, a fantasy story by Christopher Moore. After lunch, I walked to Auntie Katie’s store and back. I wanted to return some things Jasper and Kestrel had forgotten from our trip to the zoo, and give everyone hugs. I also got to see their new acrobatic tricks and watch a local cartoonist teach some older kids how to draw.

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Inside Auntie Katie’s Store

Googlemaps says it is 1.7 miles to Books with Pictures from our house, so I walked 3.4 miles there and back. The weather was warm, but I walked in the shade when I could.

I enjoyed walking down streets I hadn’t been on before and seeing how people have decorated their big front porches and small yards. Many older houses, from the 1900s and 1920s, are along Salmon and Taylor between about 20th and 29th. People have porch swings or comfy chairs set out, to visit and chat with people walking by. Some have little twinkly lights hung from the rafters, so it always looks like Christmas, or a party. There are even bicycles, mosaics, sculptures, fountains, and pink flamingoes!

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Porches in Portland are very interesting!

After I got home and put my feet up for a while, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I walked to Crema, our local coffee place, at the corner of Ankeny and 28th. We were meeting our new friends, Craig and his wife Sherry, who we first met on a walk around the neighborhood, when we saw Sherry trying to get a good photograph of the Joan of Arc statue in Coe Circle. We asked what they knew about the statue, and the conversation was so much fun we wanted it to continue, so we decided to meet for coffee.

That conversation lasted another 2 and a half hours! Like good friends do, we talked about everything…our lives, kids, troubles, people we had met, things we thought about. Not wanting so say goodbye but needing to head home and take care of business, we made plans to have dinner with them in a few weeks.

We got home and worked for a few hours, then had dinner. When it got cool enough, we took another walk, south toward Sewallcrest Park. It is about a mile from our house. There is a community garden, where people rent small plots of land to grow vegetables on. It was fun to see people and their dogs working and enjoying the evening.

Further along the park, we heard shouts and yelling. It was a kickball game! Two teams of adults, with their kids and dogs “helping”, were kicking and running and having a fine time. The game ended with a score of  7 to 1, but no one was sad…just smiling and happy and playing.

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Adult Kickball at Sewallcrest Park

We walked home, and I was finally tired. I had walked more than 5 miles during the day and was ready to be lazy. We snuggled on the couch and then went to bed.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Accidental Delights

Dear Liza,

Last night, after the weather got cooler and we were all done with work, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. We were headed for Colonel Summers Park, but we got distracted.

We saw signs that said “Shakespeare in the Park” with an arrow pointing…not to the park, but to the Lone Fir Cemetery, which I have told you about before. I like watching plays by William Shakespeare, and so we followed the signs. In the middle of the cemetery, we found a small audience sitting in lawn chairs around one of the war memorials, and people performing a play called Troilus and Cressida. There were hardly any sets, just enough to give the idea of “where we were” for the play, which was an army camp.

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Actors in Troilus and Cressida at the Lone Fir Cemetery

There was no lighting, no microphones, and the costumes were very simple. But it was wonderful to see not only the actors, but the audience there, on a warm summer evening under the tall trees in the cemetery, enjoying theater. We watched the show for a while, then quietly left. I made a note to myself to read the play as soon as I get my Shakespeare books unpacked.

Continuing our walk, we followed Belmont Street west and realized we were only a few blocks from Revolution Hall, the former Washington High School that is now being used as offices for different businesses, concerts, and restaurants.

It is a beautifully designed brick building from 1924 and there is a small restaurant on the roof that has a wonderful view of the city. Since it was almost sunset, we decided to go up and enjoy some wine and watch the sun go down. It was pretty crowded up there on the big flat roof, but we found a table to sit at and watch as the glaring sun dipped behind the western hills and turned the whole sky a soft pink.

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Washington High School, now Revolution Hall

 

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The view west from the roof

Grandpa Nelson said we should get home before dark, so we started walking back along Stark Street towards our house. We saw the Penny Market open, a tiny building on an almost dark street. We went inside, got some ice cream and met Tom, the man in charge. He was very friendly and happy to be living in Portland, too. We got home, tired after our more than 2 mile walk, and got into pajamas.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

The Oregon Zoo

Dear Liza,

Today Grandpa Nelson and I went to the zoo with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel. We took the #4 bus from their house to Pioneer Square downtown, then the Blue Line Max train to Washington Park, where the zoo is. The zoo is on top of a hill, but the train doesn’t go up the hill…it goes through a tunnel underneath the hill, and when we got off the train, we took an elevator straight up to the top. The train station is 260 feet below the surface where the zoo is, so the elevator is as tall as a 28 story building! That is almost 5 times as tall as the tallest building in Salinas. The elevator went really fast and we were at the top in about 10 seconds.

We got became members of the zoo, like we did for the Art Museum, so we can go whenever we want. It is also a way of supporting the zoo, because wild animals are expensive to take care of.

The first animal we had to see was Lily the elephant. She was born at the zoo when your cousins were babies, and they have sort of grown up together. When we got to Lily’s enclosure, which is in the area of the zoo called Elephant Lands, she was far away and hard to see, but the kids shouted hello to her, anyway. We walked down a hill and found a big grassy field called the Amphitheater.

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Kestrel watching the flying birds

The people in the show, both young ladies named Bree, had wild birds fly from different parts of the field, right over our heads! There was Eagle Owl, which is the largest kind of owl. They live in Africa and hunt African Hedgehogs at night. Bree and Bree also showed us a Red-Tailed Hawk, which is an Oregon wild bird that has learned how to live here in the city. They nest in large trees on the hillsides and hunt rats and pigeons, so they actually help keep the city clean.

We learned that different animals have different names for their groups. Just like there are herds of cows and flocks of birds, there are dazzles of zebras and crushes of rhinos. I don’t know who makes up the names, but they sure are interesting.

We visited bears and penguins and got sprayed by a fountain, and then we found the  The Discovery Zone. There was a building with all sorts of activities and critters inside, like a place for kids to make up their own puppet shows, baby turtles being raised in big tubs, and games to learn about how animals live.

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Jasper making a puppet show

 

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Kestrel and Grandpa Nelson…Jasper in the background

There was also the insect zoo,  a room where there were glass boxes with really interesting bugs. There were two kinds of tarantulas, stick insects a foot long, and even a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, as big and your daddy’s thumb, which I got to pet! Cousin Kestrel watched, but didn’t pet it. It felt smooth, like it was made of glass. There were more games and young people telling all about the insects.

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Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

By this time, we were hungry for lunch we walked to the Sankuru Trader, way out by the giraffes, and had hot dogs and pretzels, with a blue raspberry icee for dessert. We felt so much better after the rest and food!

We walked all the way to the other corner of the zoo to visit the Great Northwest area. It felt just like hiking in the forest! There were beautiful trees and waterfalls, with windows that let you watch the ducks paddling on top of the water and diving underneath, too. There was a model of an eagle’s nest, and Jasper, Kestrel and I pretended we were a Momma eagle and her babies learning to fly. It was so much fun.

There was even art at the zoo. There was a wooden carving showing bears and silly cats, and a mosaic showing the stages of a salmon’s life, and a statue of mountain goats that we got to climb on.

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Kestrel, Salmon mosaic, and Jasper
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Silly Cat Carving
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Grandma Judy, Kestrel and Jasper on the goat statue

When we had seen all we could see, we took the elevator back down to the Blue Line Max train, changed to the #4 bus, and took the cousins back to their house. It had been a fun, but exhausting day. We all took naps that afternoon before dinner.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

The Laurelhurst Neighborhood

Dear Liza,

Today, while Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett were working, I went for a walk around the Laurelhurst neighborhood. It is just next to our Kerns neighborhood and very shady and pretty.

There is Laurelhurst Park, which I have told you about, 31 acres of maple, fir, oak and elm trees with places for kids to play and dogs to run, as well as a small lake for ducks and turtles, picnic tables and toys to climb on. The Park was built in 1909,  and the trees were planted then, because this land had been a farm. So these giant trees are “only” one hundred years old.  The Park was made by a landscape architect named Emanuel Mische. The hills and valleys of the land helped him make it feel like a forest and not just flat land with trees. It is my favorite place in Portland.

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Lovely old tree in Laurelhurst Park

 

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Sunlight through leaves

Back when the park was new, boys and girls played very different games from each other and didn’t play together as much as you do now. The south side of the play area was “for boys”, and the north side was “for girls”. I will have to do some more reading and learn what games they played. Now, everyone plays together, however they like.

While the park was being planted, houses were being built on land that had been William Ladd’s Hazelfern Farm. Mr. Ladd had been a mayor of Portland, and when he died, his family sold the land to the Laurelhurst Company to develop a neighborhood. It was built right along the streetcar lines, so it was easy to get to from Downtown Portland. This was before many people had cars, so they rode horses, walked, or took streetcars to get around.

Before the building started, the Laurelhurst Company put up sandstone arches at the entrances to the neighborhood. These made the place feel very special, even when it was just hills and dirt.

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The houses people built were very different from the house you have in Salinas. There are Bungalow Style, Spanish Revival, a very pretty style called Fairy Tale, and many others. Some houses are a combination of styles, so it is hard to give them all names. Sort of like if one of your Little Ponies had a crown on her head, butterfly wings, and strawberries on her bottom!

 

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Bungalow Style

thumbnail_FullSizeRender-5.jpg Spanish Revival Style

 

The building started in 1910 and in six years, 500 houses had been built. In another ten years, there were only about 20 empty lots left to build on!

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Fairy Tale Style

This was a very popular place to live. It was far enough out of town to be quiet and peaceful, but the streetcar made it easy to get to.

Coe Circle was a grassy park in the middle of the Neighborhood, and the streets go in curvy lines around it, very different from the straight streets in most of the rest of Portland. The streetcar ran right to the Circle and turned around to go back into town. In 1925, Henry Waldo Coe, a doctor who lived in Portland, wanted to give a gift to the city. He bought a copy of a statue of Joan of Arc, a famous French heroine, and had it placed in Coe Circle. It wasn’t put in the middle of the circle, because the streetcar tracks were there! The streetcar line was removed in 1925, but the statue is still off-center.

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Joan of Arc Statue

I walked for about an hour, got tired and came home to read more about what I had seen, and make lunch.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farmer’s Market in Hollywood

Dear Liza,

This morning we woke up to another very sunny day. I know that this winter it will be dark and rainy, so I am appreciating the sunshine. I just keep drinking nice cold water.

Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I drove (it was only about 2 miles, but it was hot already and we would be carrying groceries back) north to a neighborhood called Hollywood. This is a very pretty area with older houses and beautiful, shady trees. There are funny shops like the “Do-it-Yourself Pet Laundry ” and “The Wet Spot–Your Place for Tropical Fish”.

We were there to buy fruits and vegetables at the Farmer’s Market, at NE 44th and Hancock, just off Sandy Street. In the land around Portland are farms that raise all sorts of fruits and vegetables. There are Farmer’s Markets in lots of neighborhoods on Saturdays.  Whatever is ready to eat, you can find it. The market was in the parking lot of a big supermarket, and the pavement was painted with crazy fruits and flowers.

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After walking all around the market we bought a little bit of lots of things: 10 fava beans, a small basket of blueberries, 6 tiny yellow squash, a rosemary plant in a pot (you know you need that for roasted vegetables) , some basil, and a small sausage.

There was also music by two people playing a drum and a cello, but it sounded different from any music I have ever heard. They called themselves Gaeasoul and I want to hear more of them!

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Some of what we bought

Then we realized we were hungry, so we walked down Sandy Street to Laughing Planet, a place for burritos, bowls, and sandwiches. It is delicious and fun, too. There are about 30 toy dinosaurs you can just pick up and play with, then put back when you are done. There is also a giant painting of Godzilla and Robbie the Robot on the wall.

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Inside
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Outside

 

As we were walking around the neighborhood we saw a shop called “Bricks & Minifigs”…. it is a shop where you can buy legos! Not in a kit or in a box, but

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Acres of Bricks!!!

just the pieces you want! It was amazing, like legos had escaped and were playing by themselves. There were also armies of Lego figures, all lined up. I will take you there and we will pick some interesting bricks.

By 1:00, it was time to drive Auntie Bridgett way east to Division Street and 84, to the Zine Symposium, a place where people who make small magazines get together to share and talk. She will take the #4 bus back when she is done. I hope the bus is air conditioned.

Love,

Grandma Judy