I was born in Southern California and, except for three years around when your daddy and Auntie Katie were born, lived in California my whole life. I am used to warm dry summers, slightly damp winters, and trees that mostly stay green all year.
i am also used to crocuses making some sort of sense. Yesterday as we were walking through the neighborhood, looking at houses for sale and heading for the market, I saw these:
These are crocuses sprouting up in front yards! In every other part of the world, crocuses are a spring flower, usually the first spring flower….back east, they come right up through the snow. But here it is, the first day of fall, and up they come.
Maybe they are trying to come up out of the ground so they don’t drown in the rain? Maybe they are as confused as the rest of us about the world in general? Or maybe they are just messing with me…..
Today is chilly but dry, and we are trying to decided what we want to do this weekend. With summer passed, the roses have lost most of their petals and the gardens will rest until spring. There is an Architectural History Museum down by the river that looks interesting, or maybe we will bundle up and walk around downtown. It is going to stay chilly, but no rain is predicted for a whole week!
Wednesday was a quiet, stay in and do some writing sort of day. I spread out my books of old photographs of Portland, the timelines I have made for the city and my character, some maps of what was in Downtown Portland in 1888, and started to write my story. I wrote all morning.
After lunch, I settled back down at the computer, and it the lights went out. The lights went out OUTSIDE. Big black clouds had whooshed in and covered the sun so quickly it was like flipping a switch. I dashed downstairs and Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson had noticed it, too. “Thunder and lightning predicted for this afternoon,” said Grandpa Nelson.
It was hard to get focused back on the writing, so I watched out the window. Rain started as quickly as the sun had disappeared, and our gutters became rivers 3 feet wide. An unfortunate UPS delivery guy was getting soaked bringing boxes to us and the new folks across the way.
In our box was…. a new turntable! It replaces the one Grandpa Nelson bought 30 years ago, which we had donated to The Salvation Army before we moved up here. During the downpour, we read the directions, assembled the bits, moved some electronics, and got the thing ready to play.
I chose The Second Muppet Show Album, which was perfectly silly and happy, and as it was playing, thunder rumbled and lightning lit up the sky. The house shook and the sky flashed! We hugged and sort of held onto each other for a moment, then felt better and started laughing. It is impossible to be very scared when the Muppets are singing and the people you love are nearby.
After we got to feeling normal again and the rain settled down to a good solid pour, I got some more writing done. After dinner, the storm stopped and the sun actually came out.
We packed up a bunch of books to return and walked through the park and neighborhood to the Belmont library at Cesar Chavez Blvd. and Taylor. There were so many changes after the storm. The lower dog park area at Laurelhurst Park has become a small lake, and the ducks have moved in. Vines that had been full of grapes and whole trees full of apples had been knocked down by the force of the wind and rain and lay like slimy land mines on the sidewalks. Piles of leaves, washed down to intersections, looked like piles of pudding. We walked carefully, found some new books, and walked back home.
All in all, a full day of writing, weather, music, and walking….some of my favorite things!
Yesterday I went downtown to do some more research at the Oregon Historical Society Library. The ladies there were very helpful and I learned about the horse pulled and electric trolley car lines of 1880’s Portland.
Because the streets were so muddy before the days of storm drains and paving, street cars made getting around easier. They let the city grow and have room for more people. The lines ran north and south from downtown and east across the Willamette River, opening up East Portland for housing and businesses. I am glad they did, because that’s where we are living now. Except we take buses to get downtown.
There was rain this morning, but it cleared up and then didn’t rain again until afternoon. I enjoyed having some time to look around downtown. I like how the lovely old stone buildings and the shiny new ones seem to get along.
I also enjoyed a nice cool drink of water from one of the Benson Bubblers.There are 20 of these lovely drinking fountains in downtown Portland, and they run all day and all night, year round. There is no water shortage here in the rainy northwest like there is in California, so this isn’t a problem.
The bubblers were a gift to the city from Simon Benson, a man who came to Portland with nothing and ended up being very rich. He chopped trees, built buildings, and eventually owned a lot of land and even some banks. Being so successful, he wanted to give something nice to the city.
One thing he noticed was that, except for saloons and bars, there was no where to go to get a drink of water. This bothered him because once a man was in a saloon, he tended to order a beer or two, and wasn’t much use for the afternoon. He had the bubblers installed in downtown and people have been enjoying them ever since. People still drink beer, though. Sorry, Mr. Benson.
Mr. Benson did a lot of other good things with his money. He said that no rich man should die without giving some of his money away, and he wanted to give it away when he was still around to enjoy seeing the results. He donated $100,000 for a high school, now called Benson High School, on the east side of Portland. He donated some property in the Columbia Gorge, called Wakeenah Falls, to the city as a park.
Portland has many people who have been successful and donated nice things to the city. I will tell you about them as I come across their stories.
It was raining this morning when we woke up! It was actually chilly! I know there will come a time when this gets old, but for now, I am enjoying the cool, the sound of rain, and the way the light reflects off the drops.
After breakfast I bundled up and went walking in the park. It felt even more like a forest than ever. With fewer people and dogs, the ducks were more active, and the soft sounds of rain and wind were everywhere. (Sigh)
Walking my regular route through the park, I noticed changes. Small dents in the path had become small ponds, and the squirrels were drinking from them. Clear paths had become upholstered with leaves and small branches which had come down in the wind.
I have recently learned a new word: susurration. It means a whispering sound, or a murmur, especially in contrast with louder noises. Laurelhurst Park, this morning, was full of susurration. The wind whispered in the tops of trees, the rain whispered on the puddles, even the bicycles whispered as they rolled past.
And of course, the surface of the pond was alive with drops and ripples. One duck was awake and drifted along with me under the protection of a tree. The reflection and soft music of the textured surface made it worth getting a bit damp.
This all made me smile and remember a poem from The Wind in the Willows, and of Laurel Bloombaum:
Today was predicted to be our first real rain in over two months. Portland usually gets some rain even in the summer, but this has been a really dry one. Today that was supposed to end.
But we had things to do. Grandpa Nelson and I wanted to go downtown, so we had coffee and fresh doughnuts at the Rocking Frog on Belmont and then caught the #15 bus.
Going across the Hawthorne Bridge, we saw a whole long line of people walking, and most of them were wearing PINK! T-Shirts, hats, tutus, all kinds of things, and all bright pink. It was the last bit of the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure, a fund raiser for breast cancer research. There were hundreds of people, walking, jogging, and laughing. I bet they raised a lot of money!
At Tom McCall Waterfront Park, along the west bank of the river, there was a stage with loud music and lots of booths selling food, snacks, even ice cream! But we had just eaten doughnuts, so we passed.
Turning west on Yamhill, we walked up towards Pioneer Place, an old building that has been re-done to have new stores inside. Inside the atrium, the high glassed-in part, there were statues made of cans of food! This one was supposed to be a copy of Rene Magritte’s self-portrait, which your mommy and daddy will recognize as the man in the derby hat with the green apple in front of his face. If you look really closely, you can see it a bit.
Grandpa Nelson needed some Clark’s shoes. The ones he has are really old and getting sort of floppy. But we didn’t get any. It turns out, the kind he really likes, they don’t make anymore. So we passed on those, too. We went outside, expecting the rain to start any minute. We walked towards Pioneer Square, since I have always been in a hurry when we are there., and I wanted to get a good look at it. But it was closed off for a private party! Grrr.
So, with a frustrating morning behind us and rain ready to start, we got back on the bus and headed for home. We did see some more statues of animals, though…it’s hard to be angry where there are brass seals and beavers on the sidewalk!
Got home, no rain…read some history, no rain…Auntie Bridgett got home, no rain… I got antsy and decided to go for a walk in the park, and FINALLY the rain started! Not only rain, but wind and swirls of leaves, all dancing and turning around like happy confetti.
Friday was a day where nothing much was planned, but things just kept happening. In the morning, Auntie Bridgett and I took the giant pile of books we had borrowed and walked them back to the library. My research into Portland history has me visiting the library a lot. So we packed up my eight books and Auntie Bridgett’s three, and walked to the Belmont Library on Cesar Chavez and Taylor.
Cesar Chavez is a main north/south road, and very noisy, so we walked through the neighborhood. It was a good day for cats, bright new paint jobs on houses, and seed pods. A very satisfactory stroll.
Library books returned, we headed south to the UPS Store and bank on Hawthorne. We were hungry, and headed further east on Hawthorne to The Whole Bowl. This little restaurant started as a food cart and made enough money to get a real building. They only serve one thing, in two sizes: a big bowl, and a bambino bowl. The bowl has two kinds of beans, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, and a garlicky lemony sauce . It is so wonderfully good you just keep eating! We shared a big bowl and a bottle of kombucha, a fermented tea drink, and we were ready to continue our walk.
As we walked back toward the library, we found St. Patrick’s Church, a big Catholic Church we hadn’t seen before. It was beautiful and bright on the outside, but seemed dark inside, either because the windows were too small, or our eyes were used to the bright. We didn’t stay, but we will remember where it is so we can tell Bridgett’s mom when she visits.
Back at the Belmont Library, I hunted for some books on World War I, because my story will have some things that happen in 1918. The story doesn’t happen IN the war, but DURING the war. So I need to know…what were kids doing to help? What foods were rationed? What did people use instead? I need details! So, I read. I checked out three new books and we headed home.
After Auntie Bridgett and I got home (after walking over 4 miles!), she went down to draw in The Art Bunker, as she calls our basement, and I read…and napped. I read some more, and then it was dinner time. We read some more until the NEXT thing.
We had tickets for the Northwest Animation Festival at the Hollywood Theater up on Sandy. We stopped at the Moon and Sixpence Pub for a beer and cider before the show. There were people playing darts, but no noisy football games on TV, so we were happy.
The Hollywood Theater is a classic old movie theater from the 1940’s and is very elegant. It was really crowded, though, so I didn’t take pictures inside.
The Animation film festival really happened in May, when a lot more films were shown. The ones we saw were voted the BEST. The films were short, from 2 to 16 minutes long, but were really interesting. Some, like “Life Inside ‘Islamic State'” were very sad. Others, like “Birdlime” and “Spring Jam”, were happy and sweet, about birds and the sounds they make. Others, like “Resistance”, which had giant bugs drinking champagne, were really creepy. The variety of styles of animation and countries they came from (The United States, Canada, England, Israel, Poland, France, New Zealand, and Germany) was delightful.
We got home really late (almost midnight!) and pretty much collapsed into bed, with our heads full of weird images from the festival.
I haven’t written on this blog for a few days, and you know why…you were here in Portland! It was so good to see you and your daddy after these long months. You have gotten taller and smarter. Daddy is just as wonderful as always.
Of course, when you got here, there were snickerdoodle cookies to hold us until dinner. Grandpa Nelson had made reservations at a restaurant we had been saving for your daddy especially: The Laurelhurst Market, at NE 32nd and Burnside. Their specialty is meat: beef, steaks, pork, sausages…and they do it all very well. I had flank steak with chickory, which gave it a nice crunchy outside to go with the rich goodness inside.
After dinner we walked home through the neighborhood and talked about all the things we love about Portland. The tiny book-sharing libraries, the huge trees, the friendly people.
The next day we got up early and took the bus/train/elevator to the ZOO at Washington Park! It was fun seeing things I had missed the last time, and showing you some of my favorite animals. Somehow, we missed the fruit bats, which I really like, but we’ll catch them next time.
When we were too tired to smile, it was time to head down the hill and get lunch. Grandpa Nelson found The Picnic House, which is a beautiful old lobby of the Heathman Hotel, on Salmon at the South Park Blocks. The ceiling is at least 30 feet high, and there is a stuffed bear head wearing a hat and a monocle over the bar. The food was delicious and the slow pace gave us time to relax and rest from our long morning.
The bus trip home was very quiet. At home, you and I had naps, and Grandpa and Daddy sat and talked for hours. Then it was time for the SECOND big activity of the day: Picnic dinner with Auntie Katie, Uncle Dave, Cousin Jasper, and Cousin Kestrel! We packed dinner, wine, toys, and chairs, and headed off to Laurelhurst Park. The rest of the family came a little later, and we ate, played, talked, threw sticks and frisbees, and dug holes in the dirt.
It made me so happy to see everyone together and getting along so well. There aren’t a lot of cousins in this family, so we need to appreciate the ones we have. When it was too dark to see, we all came home and played Legos, while the Dads talked computers and airplanes downstairs. We ate the last of the cookies and sent everyone home to bed.
This morning, the cousins went to school and you and Daddy went to the airport. I was sad to see you go, but I know we’ll get together soon.