Settling in

 

Dear Liza,

We have now been living in Portland for one month and two days. We have unpacked almost everything we need, except for the pillows for the guest room for when you and your Daddy come to visit. I will be hunting for them today.

We have started to find some favorite places and things here that I want to share with you.

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Rocking Frog Sign

So far, Grandpa Nelson’s favorite place to walk for coffee and doughnuts is the Rocking Frog, down on Belmont Street. This is an old house that has been turned into a coffee house, and it feels cozy and quiet. The kitchen has stayed the kitchen, where doughnuts are fried fresh on weekends, and orange juice is squeezed fresh when you order it. Their other pastries are delivered from the Fleur de Lis bakery, and are delicious.

The dining room has become the library, with small tables for eating and lots of books for browsing. The living room has squashy chairs, a fireplace and more books. The back ‘bedroom’ has small tables and a cupboard of games to play. There is a small table on the front porch and more tables on the back patio, which is shaded by bamboo and umbrellas.

Auntie Bridgett loves Powell’s City of Books, downtown. We take the number 20 bus to get there. It is a full city block, five stories high, full of books. The books are on all subjects in a dozen of languages, with new and used, soft cover and hardcover books shelved together so you can choose. The children’s book section is huge!

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Powell’s at Night Photo credit:blogtugo.com

Powell’s doesn’t just want you to come in and buy books. There is a cafe for snacks and tables to read, and lots of benches and chairs. They also invite authors to come talk about their books, and invite us to come listen! It is fun to hear the stories behind the stories and be able to ask questions.

For me, it is hard to say what my favorite place is. I really love walking… just seeing the beautiful old houses, trees, gardens and the interesting people.  But if I had to choose, my favorite place is Laurelhurst Park, just three blocks up Pine Street. The hundred year old trees and paved paths make it perfect for walking, biking and jogging. The hawks, owls, ducks, turtles, and squirrels are a reminder that humans aren’t the only creatures that live here.

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Laurelhurst Park

The ravine that the park is built on gives wonderful changes in levels….a brick staircase with 87 steps is a fine challenge for exercising, and kids enjoy zooming down grassy hills on their small bikes. Picnic tables welcome parties and conversations and horse shoe pits, basketball courts and climbing structures invite the kids in.

I look forward to showing you all these and more, and your cousins also want to show you the zoo!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

Faeries in Portland

Dear Liza,

I have told you how much fun it is living in Portland. I have told you about the plastic flamingos that go on camping trips and the silent dance parties in the park. But I haven’t mentioned the Faeries.

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Flamingos out camping

First, there is a shop called Fernie Brae, not far from us on Hawthorne Street. It is a combination of art gallery, museum, and shop, all about faeries. Tiny pictures, statues, jewelry, and plants all take you inside a special, delicate world. Cousin Kestrel had part of her birthday here. There were tiny keys to open tiny doors and find magical gifts. She and Jasper enjoyed it very much.

 

 

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Inside Fernie Brae Photo credit: Morgana Krinsley

Then there are the regular gardens that people make to enjoy. These gardens are regular people sized, but have fishponds, tiny lights, and mosaic paths through them. There are also statues of frogs, flamingos, and all sorts of animals. Birdhouses and even bat houses make the animals feel welcome. Many of the trees are so old, there are hollow places in them that look exactly like faeries would live there. Moss growing on all the walls feels like faerie carpet.

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Person sized Garden

But some people seem to want the faeries to feel even more at home. They build tiny gardens that are faerie sized within their own people sized gardens. These have tiny gates, benches, plants, even houses. There may be stepping stones the size of bottle caps.Whenever I see one, I want to make myself very small and go visiting!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Faerie Garden in a person’s yard

The Big Library Downtown

Dear Liza,

Yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I took the number 20 downtown. We had a good time shopping, and then decided to look inside the beautiful building that is the main branch of the Multnomah County Library, at SE 10th and Yamhill.

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The main branch!

The outside looks like a church, or an ancient Roman temple….tall and bright with large arched windows. We went up the wide steps and through the heavy glass doors into the cool space, a nice change from the muggy heat outside. We were in the first foyer, where a rack held all the bus line schedules I’d been looking all over town for. There was also a coat room and bag check.

Going through another set of glass doors, we were in the main lobby. It was bigger than your house! There were long desks on both sides of people helping folks check out books, doing research, and taking care of books.

But what made my heart leap was on the right: The door that lead to The Beverly Cleary Children’s Library. I’ve told you about Beverly Cleary; she is the lady who grew up here in Portland and wrote so many wonderful books for children. She donated some of her money to the library and they made this huge room into a magical place for books and kids.

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Once you walk by the lovely wood carving of Alice in Wonderland, you see the circulation desk standing by a giant bronze tree. The tree, which is 12 feet tall and reaches clear up to the ceiling, is covered with shapes and creatures from stories…bears, turtles, plants, and magic lamps.

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Close up of the TREE!

I spent a long time looking at it with some little girls who were there. I stood in happy, silly joy for a long time, just enjoying the fact that this huge place is here for the children of this city, to encourage them to read and love books.

We walked across the lobby and found the Popular library, fiction stories for grown-ups, then up the stairs to the periodical room, where you can check out magazines from now or even years back. There is also a science and business library.

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Science and Business Library

The other day, when I walked to the Belmont Branch of the library, (a much, much smaller library closest to my house), I got a library card..which means I can check out anything from this magical place, too!

I feel like I am part of a special club, a club that allows me secret knowledge…about anything I want to look for. I am so excited!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Art, bocce, bugs, and chess

Dear Liza,

On Tuesday the cousins and I took the number 4 down to to Portland Art Museum. There was a lot going on before we even got inside! The giant orchids were still there, and there was a piano painted like a raccoon. Several people came up and played a song or two, then wandered away. It was sort of magical.

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Raccoon Piano

There are statues in the courtyard that I hadn’t noticed before. They are called Her Leaving, It Up and It Sitting. They are tall, lumpy figures covered with what look like rivers of paint.We imagined we were tiny and the statues became mountains with caves. We followed each river of color as it flowed into others and down ‘waterfalls’.

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Her Leaving

Inside the museum we looked at portraits by different artists. We played my favorite game of making up what we think the person in the portrait is thinking. A young lady looking tired with an accordion on her lap is thinking, “I want to go ride my new bike!” We saw shiny silver dishes and statues carved out of smooth, white marble.

But our favorite room had three pieces of art by Jennifer Steinkamp. They were moving, digital trees ten feet tall, projected onto the walls. The trees were growing and changing as we watched. The bare branches got covered in pink and purple blossoms and leaves which rustled in the breeze, changed color and fell, and the bare tree began spring again. It was hypnotic, and we sat for a long time watching. Jasper and Kestrel had fun going around the room, pretending to gather the leaves.

At lunchtime, we walked outside to the South Park Blocks, areas of shady grass with benches and statues, to eat our lunch. We saw some people playing bocce ball, tossing balls at a small target. They were having such fun that Jasper watched and got invited to make the last throw.

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Bocce Ball Players

Then an incredibly big, beautiful bug joined us on our bench. About two inches long, he was very patient and let us get very close to look at him. I looked him up later, and he is an Alder Boring Beetle.

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Very Patient Alder Boring Beetle

After lunch we walked down to Director Park. This park isn’t grassy, but has a big fountain that is good for wading, a cafe with a big shady patio, and a chessboard bigger than your bedroom. The pieces are about two feet tall, light and easy to move. Jasper and I played a good game while Kestrel watched cat videos on my phone. We listened to a violinist play over by the fountain.

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Chessboard in Director Park

It felt like the perfect time to end our perfect day, so we walked past some lovely statues of forest animals and caught the number 2 bus back home. I am sure enjoying getting to know your cousins.

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Cousin Kestrel and a deer

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Rose Garden and More

Dear Liza,

This week I got to spend two whole days with cousins Jasper and Kestrel. I will tell you about each day separately.

Monday, we walked from their house to Division Street, where we caught the number 4 bus to downtown, and caught the Blue line train to Washington Park. This is the same bus and train we used to go to the zoo, but once we got to the top of the elevator, we took a shuttle bus around to the other side of the mountain, past the Hoyt Arboretum, which is a huge forest,  the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Holocaust Memorial. But we stayed on until the Rose Garden stop.

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The Rose Garden and forest

The International Rose Test Garden, to use its proper name, is four and a half acres of roses planted on the side of a hill overlooking the city of Portland. There are over 7,000 roses in all! Compared to my 12 rose bushes in Salinas,  this is a BIG garden.

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Cousin Kestrel and an arch

The garden is on several levels, with lovely stairs and rose-covered arches in between. There are fountains, benches, and shady trees. On a clear day, you can see Mount Hood. But it was smoky the day we were there, from wildfires in Washington to the north.

There is even an amphitheater, where there are sometimes plays or concerts. The day we were there, it was a big open space for kids to run and play in. We found a pathway behind the stage to a quiet spot where we ate lunch and built a fairy house out of sticks, flower petals, and leaves.

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Amphitheater

We were very warm after lunch, so decided to take the bus around the mountain to the Children’s Museum, a wonderful building with big rooms for playing. There is a room with a stage and costumes for pretending to be in a show. There is another room for playing with cars and building roads. The Water room is all about faucets and pipes. This museum is a big, happy playhouse! I will take you there when you come to visit.

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The Cow on the porch of the Children’s Museum

We walked back to the elevator. It felt like a long way, because we were tired and the afternoon was very warm. But the train and bus were cool, and when I left the cousins at Auntie Katie’s shop, they curled up with books and read, and I came home to rest.

Being a grandma can be hard work!

Love,

Grandma Judy

As We Like It

Dear Liza,

On Saturday we did laundry and dishes and such chores around the house, had lunch, and then headed over to Laurelhurst Park for another Shakespeare play, called As You Like It.

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Brothers Oliver and Orlando arguing

This is one of my favorite plays, and one that my momma liked very much, too. It is about people who, because of a big fight in their family, leave their fancy castle and go live in the forest. There, they meet other people and find out that they can be happy wherever they are, as long as they are with the people they love. There is wrestling, and cross-dressing, singing, people falling in love, and lots of puns and jokes.

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The Forest Lord makes a speech

The play was great, but what made the afternoon perfect was the lovely park. On the little rise in a clearing of linden trees, dappled shade keeping us cool, every breeze shook tiny leaves down, we sat on our comfy lawn chairs and loved every minute. Not far away across the grass a wedding party was setting up (more about this later).

This play had a Prompter, who did the usual job of reminding actors of their next line, but also wore a referee’s striped shirt and whenever she felt the need, would blow her whistle.

When the wedding party got loud because of a pinata, she blew her whistle. “We’ve got quite a pinata party happening here behind me, can you repeat that line please?”

When Orlando was confused about who he was falling in love with, she blew it again. “Orlando, how do you feel about this? What’s going on here?”

This made everything fun and friendly, and also cleared up some points of the play that I have never understood….like why the old Duke was in the forest to begin with, or that there are, indeed, two characters named Jacques.

We watched the play to the end and even got to talk to the young actor who played one of the Jacques, then we headed home because Grandpa Nelson and I were having dinner with Gary, who was best man when Grandpa Nelson and I got married, and his wife Carol. We drove to get there because the restaurant, Seasons and Regions, is over on the southwest side of town, on SW Capitol Highway. They serve mostly seafood and it is absolutely delicious.

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The four of us talked for 3 hours, catching up on our jobs, kids, parents, and the trials and joys of life. And of course, I forgot to take pictures! Then we drove home, talked about our day until we were sleepy, and conked out.

Love, Grandma Judy

Cousins and Shakespeare

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was hot again, but we had fun anyway. Grandpa Nelson’s cousin Sara and her husband Jim were in town visiting their new grandson, and they came by to visit. It was too hot to be comfortable at our house, so we drove across town to Genie’s, a cool cafe across Division Street from Auntie Katie’s store, Books with Pictures. The food was very good and the service was chatty and quick.

After lunch, I went across the other street to Gordito’s Mexican restaurant to get Auntie Katie a burrito for her lunch, since she was working in the store and needed to eat standing up. After lunch we went back to our house and talked for hours about family history and all the cousins…there are a lot of cousins in Grandpa Nelson’s family!

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Grandma Judy, Grandpa Nelson, cousin Jim and cousin Sara

Sara and Jim left to beat the rush hour traffic to Lake Oswego and Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I went out to see some art galleries for First Friday. They are all within three blocks of us, so it was a short, but very warm, walk. Side Street Gallery is closing but will re-open as a co-op, a gallery run by the artists who display their work there.

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Side Street Gallery

Wolff Gallery was mostly collages from photographs. True Measure Gallery had really modern, interesting paintings by Jesse Reno, Jesse Narens and Melissa Monroe.

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When we were tired of the heat we went back home and watched the Giants lose on TV. And I took a nap. About 8:30 I woke up and we decided it was cool enough to go for a short walk through Laurelhurst Park. We didn’t hear the hawks, but quite a ways into the park, we saw lights and heard shouting, and there was a Shakespeare troupe, (different from the one we saw in Lone Fir Cemetery) called “Original Practice Shakespeare”, performing a history play called Richard III.

It is a very good play about a very bad king.

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An actor playing Richard III

“Original Practice” means they do the plays as they were done in Shakespeare’s time (he worked from 1590 to 1613). What is different from modern plays is that each actor is only given their own lines, not the whole script to the play, and they do almost no rehearsals with the whole troupe. This means that the actors make some mistakes, and are sometimes surprised by what is happening, but it is so much fun to watch!

The audience was sitting on fold up chairs and having snacks and water. They were even heckling, which means booing or cheering, during the show. In “Original Practice”, this is totally polite, because the audiences in Shakespeare’s time DID heckle! I guess you could tell if you were playing a bad guy really well, because the audience would yell at you!

Once the play was over, we walked back home. Far off across the park we heard an owl hooting, which made us happy.  We had heard that the owls weren’t in Laurelhurst Park anymore, but if we heard them, they still are. They were awake and hunting, but it was time for us to sleep.

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Love, Grandma Judy

 

Oregon Historical Society

Dear Liza,

Our weather keeps getting hotter! So Grandpa Nelson, The Idea Guy, made plans.  Just after lunch, we walked out into the already horrible heat to catch the #15 bus. On the air conditioned bus, we rode in happy relief towards downtown. We noticed that the bus goes directly past the Post Office on 7th Street…which will be good to know when Auntie Bridgett needs to mail her zines or I want to send you something.

We got off at the Oregon Historical Society, which is just across the Park Blocks from the Portland Art Museum. Grandpa Nelson was very interested in the “High Hopes” exhibit about President John Kennedy. There were many fun artifacts to see, like John’s report card from The Choate School, where he got a C- in public speaking, and a letter from young John to his father, asking for a raise in his allowance and giving reasons why it was needed.

But what I loved most were the speeches he gave, proving that his weakness in public speaking class was overcome with help and practice. His Inauguration speech, made on the first day he became President, still gives me goosebumps. He was so optimistic about what our country could do for ourselves and for the world. So many of his ideas were proven right, but only after he had died. We needed to sit down for a while, to think about President Kennedy, our country, and what we believe in.

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President John Kennedy

On the second floor we found an exhibit of Oregon history from the time of the Native Americans to now. A Native American story was written down by Ella Clark: “The Earth was once a human being, made by the creator to be a mother to her people. Her soil is flesh, the rocks are her bones, the wind is her breath, the trees and grass are her hair.” Sometimes when I walk in the park here, or by the ocean, I feel that loving mother-ness from the earth. That connection to the earth helps us feel whole, I think.

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State seal of Oregon. The motto is in Latin

We learned about all the things that Oregon has chosen as its symbols. These are to recognize what is special about the state. Oregon’s state motto is “She flies on her own wings”. I like this so much! The female image for the state, the freedom of wings and personal ownership, all tell of strength, independence, and freedom. As if Oregon were a strong, lovely fairy.

There are lots of other symbols, so I will make a small list here:

State bird: Western Meadowlark

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Western Meadowlark               Photo credit:enwikipedia.org

State flower: Oregon Grape (I know it sounds like a fruit, but it is also a flower)

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State fruit: Pears

State drink: Milk

State butterfly: Oregon Swallowtail

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Oregon Swallowtail                                     Photo credit :Fred Bentler

State animal: Beaver

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            Beaver                                                    Photo credit: globe-views.com

 

State tree: Douglas fir

When we had looked, talked, read and thought all we could about history, we had a snack and caught the streetcar up to Powell’s Bookstore, on SW 10th and Couch, to browse. There are so many wonderful books. I always learn something new or remember something I had forgotten.

For our last fun activity downtown, we walked to the (Air Conditioned) Living Room Theater at SW 10th and Stark. At this movie theater, you can order sandwiches or pizza, as well as beer, wine or soda, and they bring you the food at your seat before the movie starts. Each theater only holds about 30 people, but the chairs are comfortable.

We watched a funny French movie called “Lost in Paris”. It had subtitles but I enjoyed understanding some of the French, as well. It is not a kid’s movie, but we three adults enjoyed it very much.

We took the #20 back home and got Grandpa Nelson a milk shake at Fifty Licks, a very popular ice cream parlor right at the bus stop on Burnside, and just a few blocks from our house.

We rested and wrote in the cool basement until we got sleepy enough to go to bed. It was still hotter than most days in Salinas at 11:30 at night. And tomorrow is predicted to be even warmer! Oy and vey.

Love, Grandma Judy

 

 

 

Kerns picnic

Dear Liza,

Yesterday it was so hot, we stayed down in the cool of the basement most of the day. We read, played Scrabble, and looked at maps of Portland to see neat places to go visit. once it gets cooler.

But at 6:00 in the evening, we gathered our folding chairs, cold water and a few snacks and walked to Oregon Park, up between Hoyt and Irving Streets,  for the Kerns Neighborhood picnic,  celebrating the National Night Out.

Oregon Park is not a fancy park, not as as forested as Laurelhurst Park.  But it is a nice park with tall Douglas firs and wide spreading maples, giving lots of welcome shade. There are climbing toys, including teeter-totters, which we don’t have in California anymore.

When we got to Oregon Park, people were beginning to gather, bringing chairs, blankets, or sitting at tables and chairs set up on the basketball court, which was resurfaced and donated by Nike in 2002. (There is a plaque in the corner of the court making sure we know this.)

A small band of fellows about my age set up, and started playing smooth jazz on an electric keyboard, bass, flute, and drums. Just the perfect music for a picnic. Happy, dance-able, and familiar enough to be friendly and welcoming.

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The Kerns Neighborhood Association provided hot dogs and soda, which many families and their kids enjoyed, and a church group set up kids’ games in the shade.We met Thomas, a local minister and music producer, and his sons Kuyper and Tobin, and another pastor named Art.

A group of young adults played frisbee football, and later, just frisbee, with great skill and joy, running and jumping like athletic Labradors.

Raffle tickets for good donated by local stores were sold at a dollar a piece. Grandpa Nelson bought three and  we won a $30.00 gift certificate from Dov Vivi pizza, just a few blocks from home. Other folks won a corn hole game, gift certificates from massage shops and tea, and flotation shop, and Staccato Gelato, a wonderful Italian ice cream parlor just a few blocks from here, next to Whole Foods.

As the sun went down it got a tiny bit cooler. The music stopped, tables and chairs were folded and put in trucks. We gathered our things, helped throw away trash, said goodbye to our new people and dog friends, and walked home in the dusk. Restaurants and bars were full of people cooling off, porches were lit up with their sparkly lights, and we were happy to be here, home, and together.

I hope tomorrow is cooler!

Love, Grandma Judy

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