A Day Out with Family

Dear Liza,

On Friday we got to visit Cousin Kestrel, Cousin Jasper and Auntie Katie and give Kestrel some birthday presents.

Walking through Ladd’s Addition is always pretty

Grandpa Nelson and I decided to make a day of it, so we walked the two plus miles down to Books with Pictures. We stopped at Palio to get some pastries and met the family across the street from their shop and house.

We enjoyed the croissants and little apple pies, had a nice visit and got to say hi to our friend Misha Moon when she came by on her way to My Vinyl Underground, the record store in Auntie Katie’s basement.

Books with Pictures, as seen from the field of Hosford Abernethy School

After a while Grandpa Nelson suggested we play some games. This started with a race, which Auntie Katie won. Then Kestrel taught us a game called Gargoyle. In this game, the person who is the Gargoyle sits with their eyes covered (today, we used our face masks!) and guards an object. The other players try to sneak up on the Gargoyle and steal the object.

… And they’re off!

The Gargoyle needed to be able to hear the other players’ footsteps and call them out, and because of the street noise on Division Street, this was really hard! But it was fun to be sneaking and having to stifle our giggles. Jasper won that one.

Exhausted hugs

After some other games and chalk art, we headed over for some ice cream from Zeds, the ice cream truck who is parked in the parking lot of Books with Pictures.

Princess Leia and Auntie Katie

It was moving past lunchtime when we headed for home. Pastries and stolen ice cream licks just aren’t real food, so we stopped at McMenamin ‘s Barley Mill up on Hawthorne. On their very thinly populated open porch, we had cider, a wonderful oatmeal stout, and a veggie burger. Their fries were a letdown, but everything else was delicious.

Hammerhead and Ruby the Witch are role models

By this time we were over-sunned, over-fed and over-walked, and we were still a mile from home. We found the shady side of the street and just kept at it, covering almost six miles by the time we crashed.

Whew! Getting out and about is exhausting!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Floating Anxiety (And its Antidote?)

Dear Liza,

I try not to focus too much on scary or sad things, especially when I am writing to you. But some days they are all I can think about.

Sweet peas and Shasta Daisies

People are getting sick with Corona virus while our President calls doctors liars and sells beans from his office. Peaceful Protesters here in Portland are taken away in unmarked vans by armed Federal Police. The whole country seems to be having a nervous breakdown.

Sunlight making stained glass

Many years ago, there was a TV show called “My So-Called Life”. It was about a teenage girl and her problems of growing up. One day she said, “Mom asked me how school was today. It was like it is every day, like a drive-by shooting. You just huddle down and wait for it to be over.” That is sort of how I am feeling.

Cirrus clouds dashing across the sky

But this could go in for months, or even years, before a cure or vaccine allows us to go back to some sort of normal life. Before we can travel to Paris or go to the movies, and not be afraid of the people we see. So while I am huddled down, I try to find the joys.

Our Firewood lake becomes Monet’s Giverny

I can’t articulate them very well at the moment, but here are the sights that lift my spirits.

I love you very much, Liza, and I hope I can see you soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Wonderful Murals at Richmond School

Dear Liza,

I took a long walk yesterday, all the way south past Division Street, to meet my dear friend Misha at a park. It was so good to sit in the sun and chat! Of course we wore masks, sat further apart than usual, and were outside and away from other people. We are not foolish. But the company was wonderful.

I think someone is missing the Good Old Days….

On the way, I passed this large brick school. I noticed the sentimental chalk graffiti first, then the wonderful bas-relief mosaic murals.

Summer…
Fall…..

The four murals are each about five feet wide and twenty feet high and show nature as it changes during the seasons. I took pictures to remind me, and looked them up when I got home. They were created by Lynn Takata in 2008 when she was the artist in residence at the school. Ms Takata is a local artist and art teacher at several POrtland colleges.

Winter…

I was so impressed with such textured, complex, detailed work, and the appreciation of nature that it reveals.

And Spring

Then, I was intrigued by the Japanese characters under the name RICHMOND over the main entrance.

The school is Richmond Elementary Japanese Immersion School. The building was built in 1908, and is the oldest standing school in Portland. It became an immersion school in 1989. The program has been very successful, growing to include Mount Tabor Middle School and and part of Grant High School. The program includes cultural education and even trips to Japan!

It is closed now, of course, because of the Corona Virus. But I am sure that as soon as it is safe, hundreds of kids will be back, learning everything kids do, in Japanese and English, learning how big the world really is.

And once the doctors have found a way to keep us safe from the virus, I hope you are able to get back to school, too.

Love,

Grandma Judy

…And more Flowers!

Dear Liza,

I am sorry if all my taking about painting is boring you, but I feel as though I have discovered a new super power, and I just love it!

Starting from single daisies to sunflowers and coneflowers, I have graduated to vases. Using a full, whole sheet of watercolor paper for the first time, I was nervous. I wanted to get it right. So I sketched, erased, and sketched some more.

Getting coneflowers, lupines and daisies in their places

Remembering my lessons from Ruth Inman and Auntie Bridgett Spicer, I started light so I could add darker colors later.

It’s like a ghost, beginning to materialize….

As I got more confident as to what the picture should look like, I put in more colors, the vase, and tabletop.

Almost there….

Once I had put in the shadows between the flowers, I let the paint dry before moving on to colored pencils.

Ready for pencils!

This is the longest part of making the painting. There are hundreds of tiny lines and dots of a dozen different colors to put in, and you never know where until you stare at it a long time. Sometimes you need some grey to make a shadow deeper, sometimes a yellow to bring a flower forward.

Well, that’s better!

And, of course, it was only then that I realized….. I had forgotten the background. Big, happy sigh. And back to work.

Background!

Then, more pencils…

And … done!

And now I’m on to the next one! Wheeee!

Love,

Grandma Judy

National Teddy Bear Picnic Day

Dear Liza,

During the shutdown, we are having to find new ways to keep busy and make the days fun. We are reading, painting, and learning. And sometimes, we go on a picnic!

Auntie Bridgett, setting up the picnic

Friday was National Teddy Bear Picnic Day, believe it or not. It was also the first really warm day here in Portland. So we celebrated.

Two silly bear lovers!

Auntie Bridgett and I packed up easy picnic food like hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and celery, goat cheese and blueberries, and a few cookies. We also packed blankets and my guitar, and tiny dishes. And of course, the bears. Not ALL the bears, for sure, but four wonderful friends.

Pops, Patches, Esther Bear, and Bridgett Bear

We carried our provisions and our friends up to Laurelhurst Park. We have seen the park be very busy, and we wanted a quiet spot where we could be distanced. We found a high bank above the main walkway, where we could see but not be too close to anyone. We set up a big blanket and real food for us, and a tiny blanket and pretend food (well, mostly drink) for the bears.

Our supper

As we enjoyed our shady supper, a few folks came by and took notice. It was fun to make people smile at our silliness.

Bears getting tipsy just by sitting near the bottles!

When we had eaten, Auntie Bridgett and I tried singing The Teddy Bears Picnic song, written in 1907 by Irish Songwriter Jimmy Flannigan. It was the first time we’ve played and sung together in over a year, and we were rusty. But the bears didn’t complain and we got better before we quit, so that’s something.

Teddy Bear Music

“If you go down in the woods today,

You’re sure of a big surprise,

If you go down in the woods today,

You’d better go in disguise…”

We even had a bee visiter who enjoyed the clovers right by our feet!

Bees and Converse

It was actually starting to get a little cool by then, and the sun was thinking about going down, so we packed up and headed home.

Happy Teddy Bear Picnic Day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Flowers on My Table

Dear Liza,

As the Corona shut down continues into summer, the world outside continues to get more beautiful day by day. We have had an unusually cool summer so far in Portland. I remember our first summer here, with temperatures of 111 degrees for a few days, and am grateful that we are enjoying mostly mid-70s . This, plus a few random showers, have made the flowers very happy.

Feeling pleased with water colors and pencils

Being inside most of the time, I have tried my hand at water coloring different types of flowers. I started with daisies and moved onto sunflowers, shading them with colored pencils as needed. The other day I found a great picture of some coneflowers online, and worked to paint them.

Tackling some coneflowers….

I was pleased with my first attempt, and am working on my second. The slight tremor in my right hand isn’t getting in my way as much as I expected and I am feeling more confident.

A second go at the same flowers….

Then yesterday, or our way to the market, we met this fabulous specimen! A real, live coneflower! I took her picture and will use it for my next attempt.

The real thing!

Art imitating life imitating art imitating life….. It’s a perfect cycle.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Kestral’s Zoomy Bithday

Dear Liza,

We have now celebrated our fourth family birthday under the Corona virus isolation. Cousin Kestrel turned 9!

The guest list

As before, it was a Zoom birthday party. But this time, Auntie Katie made cupcakes and delivered them to the guests’ houses! So we got cupcakes with tiny dragons, kittens, and birthday candles on them. I know it made her day more complicated, but it sure was nice.

Kestrel and Jasper were at their Daddy Dave’s house, and once all the cupcakes had been delivered, we all lit the candles, sang, and blew them out. It was almost like being together. Kestrel opened her present from her Denver grandparents, a pretty dress with flying unicorns (which are called alincorns, as you know) printed on it.

I didn’t get a picture of Red Bob, sorry….

Dave had set up a Minecraft game online so everyone could play together, but since everyone has different equipment, it took a while. Vivian, one of Kes’s friends, passed the time by introducing us to her pencil topper, a one inch high rubber toy, who she calls “Red Bob.” Apparently he has a theme song, which goes, “Red Bob will eat you, Red Bob will eat you.”

Of course, this started us all on a line of thinking… Red Bob should be a YouTube star! He needs a melody for that song, and a refrain, something like “Yum, yum yum…”. This could be great!

Lenin’s fireworks

When the technology fell into place, we got another surprise. Kes’s friend Lenin had put an effect into her Minecraft world so that when Kestrel walked to a certain place and had her character jump on a rainbow colored keyboard, FIREWORKS were launched! It was so pretty and unexpected, and everyone was impressed.

When dinner was ready at our house, we excused ourselves and said goodbye and thanks to everyone for inviting us to such an unusual party.

I hope you have a nice day, sweetie. See you real soon.

Good night, everyone!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hazel Hall, Poet

Dear Liza,

One of the shops I love most in our little Sunnyside neighborhood is called Noun, “a person’s place for things”. It has a delightful collection of curated second hand things and newer artwork, and is temporarily closed, of course. But it has a wonderful new window display that has taught me new things.

NOUN…A person’s place for things

In the window is this hand lettered and sewn paper creation that looks like a quilt with writing on it, and I got to stop and read it the other day. It is called Nobody Passes and it goes like this:

The day is set, like a stage for feet

With a ridge of white clouds painted high

Across the canvas of the sky,

With pavement gleaming and too clean,

A shimmer of grass that seems too green,

And houses alert in every side,

Showing a stiff and conscious pride.

The day is a stage and life is a play,

But nobody passes down this way.

I was intrigued, and looked up Helen Hall online. She was born in 1886 and lived in northwest Portland. When she was about twelve, either because of a fall or scarlet fever (history is slippery) she became paralyzed and could only get around by wheelchair.

Since her house was a typical Victorian with steep, narrow stairs, Helen spend most of the rest of her life in her upstairs bedroom. When she got older, she started taking in sewing work that she could do from home. Her sewing machine was set up by the window so she could look out.

She started writing poetry, mostly about her work and what she saw happening on the street outside her window. Her poems became well known, and were published in The Nation and Sunset, among many others. Her poems were praised and “true” and “poignant”.

Hazel died in 1924 at the age of 38. Her home, at 106 NW 22nd in Portland, still stands and is on the National Register of Public Places. There is a small park next door, and seems like a good place for us to visit,once we can go out and visit.

I love learning new things about my wonderful city. I hope you get to come see me real soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Fairy Gardens

Dear Liza,

I have told you about our Rose Gardens, our Japanese and Chinese Gardens, but did you know Portland has Fairy Gardens?

They are harder to find than the City gardens, but this may be on purpose. Fairy-folk are a bit shy among us Big’uns, so these tiny marvels are not mentioned in any city guidebook. When walking through neighborhoods, you have to keep your eyes open and look down amongst the rocks and hedges. The telltale signs are pebbles in a curvy line, an over-large mushroom, or tiny doors leading into hillsides.

Another thing that makes Fairy Gardens hard to find is that they are so small. An entire community of fairies can fit in even a Portland sized yard, tucked between rose bushes and towering dahlias.

Dragons chatting with Fairy folk in the Northeast

I love finding Fairy Gardens all over our city. Clearly, fairy-folk only establish their gardens among sympathetic, gentle humans, and I like that Portland has been given the Fairyfolk stamp of approval.

A thriving village in the Southeast

Also, I think fairies are wise gardeners. They know enough to leave the giant trees alone, focussing on the tiny weeds that can choke a flowerbed. They encourage the ladybugs, bees, and butterflies in their efforts to keep the flowers safe and healthy.

Cousin Kestrel is very helpful to our local fairies

I hope you can come visit soon, so we can go find some Fairy Gardens together.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Our Fourth

Dear Liza,

I saw that you had a walk along the lovely coast at Monterey and even a barbecue with your mom and dad. Here, we all went for nice long walks through the old, tree filled Laurelhurst neighborhood.

Fourth of July in Laurelhurst

The flowers are so beautiful and the yards kept so pretty, it is almost like some house and garden tour. Houses here were built from 1917 to about the 1950s, so there is a lot of variety, and the lots are steep because every house had a big cellar. The trees grow fat and wide and make lovely shaded walk.

Dahlias that look like fireworks…

We had a nice big bowl of soba noodle soup for dinner, and started watching an old Jimmy Stewart movie called “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” about an idealistic young man learning, and doing something, about corruption in government. In about the middle of the movie, I wanted to walk out to see if I could find the lunar eclipse. It would only be visible during moonrise. My wonderful people agreed to pause the movie and we headed out.

Weird, funny, true poster….

We saw this poster, which is funny and true and sort of sad at the same time, and we saw (and heard!) folks setting of fireworks, but we never got to see the moonrise. The same trees that make us love Portland so much make it hard to see the horizon.

Out of hundreds that heard, the only ones we saw

We got home and finished the movie, with Jimmy Stewart (guided and inspired by Jean Arthur) giving a filibuster in the Senate and smashing the political machine that was running his state. Right triumphed, evil was stopped, and all was well.

Jimmy Stewart, fighting corruption

It was hard to fall asleep, because the fireworks were so LOUD they shook the windows. After weeks of seeing video of political protests with some buildings set in fire, it was hard to relax.

Jean Arthur and Thomas Mitchell help out

If we are, as some people say, in a revolution, I imagine we may be hearing more of these disturbing sounds.

Sigh. Big fat sigh.

Love,

Grandma Judy