Home Again, Home Again…

Dear Liza,

It was really warm the day Grandpa Nelson and I walked to Mt. Tabor. The grass in the park was golden brown from our unusually dry summer. Even the breeze felt more Southern Californian than Southern Portland.

California-golden grass And Grandpa Nelson

We enjoyed watching the people come and go. The cinder cone that is Mt. Tabor is a favorite for hikers and bikers looking for an in-town challenge. They are resolute going up and joyous coming down.

”Mom…..”

Not everyone is equally enthusiastic, however. One young fellow who was cycling with his mom kept up a steady stream of complaints as he rode up the hill. “Mom, you said we were just going to the park!” … “Mom, I don’t want to go all the way up!” … “Mom…” But Mom wisely kept riding and eventually he followed her up.

Lovely lichen


It was hot and dry, but the Pacific Northwest is where I developed my love of moss and lichen, and I was not disappointed. I wandered into some usually- shady spots and found several kinds of lichen flourishing on pine branches. The scaly bits will wait patiently until the rains return.

Pines, firs, and blackberries

Once we had caught our breath, we headed down the hill for hot dogs and fries at Zach’s Shack. A sparsely populated, shady patio and a Chicago dog put me right again, with the thirteen eyes of the weird mural watching over us.

Zach’s Shack back patio

Heading home we found new garden delights. Someone has created this hand-hammered, pomegranate shaped metal fire pit and placed it among blackberries and roses. I imagine it is wonderful on chilly September evenings, glowing in the greenery.

Giant pomegranate fire pit

And just a few blocks from home, we found this carefully tended tunnel of bushes and vines, making a cool passage on the by-now really hot afternoon. We appreciated it and headed home for water and a rest.

Lovely shady tunnel

Five and a quarter miles, and well worth the sweat!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Going to the Circus!

Dear Liza,

Here in Portland, lots of people use their bicycles more than cars to get around town. Since the move, our bikes have been buried in the very-full garage, but yesterday, Grandpa Nelson and I unburied them, got the tires pumped up, and rode two miles to see Cousin Jasper and Cousin Kestrel be in a circus.

The ride was fun and not scary because we rode on the “bike throughway” on 29th, then turned onto Salmon. We only had to cross one busy street and most cars stopped when they saw us. I hadn’t ridden that far in years, but I was comfortable.

The circus was at an old church that has been turned into a public arts venue called Taborspace. There are lots of summer camps, classes and other activities there. It sits on the side of Mount Tabor, an extinct volcano right here in town, so the bike ride had some serious uphill the end, but when I got tired, I just got off and pushed my bike to the top.

The circus was the final day of Circus Cascadia summer camp. It is a not for profit group that teaches kids self-confidence, skills, cooperation and fun! Under a real circus tent out of the hot sun, we sat on bright red benches. There were about 12 kids in the camp, from six year old cousin Kestrel to thirteen year old Milo, who had been in the camp before and knew lots of skills.

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Cousin Jasper being a clown

Lots of parents, grandparents and friends came to see the show. The ringmaster was Paul, a very funny and patient man from England. He gave directions for what the performers should do next. We watched as they performed on Chinese stilts with ribbons, rings, and flower sticks, juggling, tossing, balancing and (sometimes) dropping things. The best thing I heard all day was Lizzy, one of Paul’s assistants, yell “Celebrate your drops! They are your friends!” The focus on the positive and improving as you went along was just wonderful to see.

They also did acrobatics, balancing on a big ball, and balancing on each other to make pyramids. At last there were clown acts, where the kids would do skits they had practiced. If they got it wrong, they didn’t give up but did it again, even a few more times, and we got to see them improve.

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Cousin Kestrel on a pyramid

At the end of the circus I got to visit with some of the folks and give cookies to Jasper and Kestrel. Then we rode home. It sure was easier coming down the mountain than going up!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Klickitat Street

Dear Liza,

The other day I told you about our busy day at Pip’s Doughnuts, IKEA and Costco. There was another exciting part of that day. We drove down Klickitat Street!

I know you haven’t read them yet, but there is a wonderful series of books by Beverly Cleary that all happen on Klickitat Street. Henry Huggins, his dog Ribsy and neighbors Beezus and Ramona Quimby have lots of adventures. For many years I didn’t know that it was a real street in a real place, but it sure is!

Beverly Cleary herself grew up in this northeast section of Portland, on 37th Street just down a bit. She was labeled a low reader in first grade, and as she said, “To be in the Blackbird group was to be disgraced.” Her own school librarian encouraged her and she had caught up by third grade, and was told by her sixth grade teacher that she should be an author. Mrs. Cleary grew up to be a children’s librarian who was frustrated because there weren’t enough books that really interested children. She began writing and published her first book, “Henry Huggins”, in 1950. That is six years before I was even born!

Beverly Cleary used her own childhood as a model for her stories, which deal with the everyday joys and dilemmas of childhood. They are funny for children and adults and feel very real in their approach to family life. She liked the name Klickitat because it reminded her of the sound of knitting needles.

Today, Klickitat Street is still in the middle of a pretty part of the city, a neighborhood called Roseway, far enough out from Downtown to be quiet but still very busy. The street is one of the most heavily used of the “Bicycle Throughways” in Portland, roads that are signed for bikes and where car traffic is discouraged. These throughways make biking much safer and more fun.

Today I have been writing letters to friends, reading one of my favorite books, Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”, and listening to the crows. This afternoon Grandpa Nelson and I will ride our bikes to see cousins Jasper and Kestrel be in a circus from their summer camp. I am sure enjoying life up here in Portland!

Love,

Grandma Judy