All our birthdays this year have been affected by the corona virus shutdown. But Auntie Bridgett’s had the added Barbecue flavor of the horrendous fires that are raging in California, Oregon, and Washington.
Because of the smoke, Portland is experiencing Hazardous air. Yep. Lately, it hasn’t been safe to go into a restaurant, or store, without a mask. Now, it’s not safe to go out, period. Our regular masks won’t help.
So Auntie Bridgett’s birthday was a stay-inside affair. Presents were opened, including a giant book of everything from the Picasso museum in Paris, a fabulous bag, and a new doo-hickey to help her film her how-to videos.
French Cooking radio played as we had a two woman painting party, inspired by “Ball Players on the Beach” by Picasso. We have such different styles, but we sure had fun!
A quiet afternoon gave way to dinner plans. Since Paris was on our minds, we put it on the menu by ordering delivery from La Moule, a French place down on Clinton. A giant bowl of mussels in white wine, crusty baguettes, pate, and a nice red wine made for a filling, French-feeling meal.
A game of Scrabble, a Giants loss, and a Baking show, and it was time to say goodnight to this weirdest (so far) birthday.
Your great-grandma Billie and Great-Grandpa Lowell loved to go camping. They took us kids out to the mountains or desert, or even the seaside, every weekend of our lives until brother Tim went off to the Marines, Jim got work, and I went to college. We slept on the ground in a tent, hauled water from the tap, and used whatever toilet facilities happened to be available.
The freedom to explore or fish or just do nothing, the excitement of making a fire and watching the stars come out, was one of the joys of my childhood.
As we kids grew up and the folks got older, Momma decided that sleeping on the ground was “for the birds”. They combined their skills and built a trailer from the ground up, so they could keep camping and not sleep on the ground. And when they went away for their first long haul trip, I gave Momma this Journal to write in. “Oh, I won’t have anything to say,” she said, but I nudged her a little, and she did.
The other day, I got it out. I’ve had it for years, holding on until I “had time” to read it. Well, I figured, I have time now.
It is the daily record of their trip from July 1st to the end of September, 1985. They drove up the coasts of California and Oregon, even walking out on the beach by Astoria, Oregon, to the wreck of the Peter Iredale.
This place is special to me because it is where, just a few years ago, our family got together to place both Momma and Dad’s ashes into a sand castle, to be carried out to sea. That was the end of their journey.
In 1985, however, they continued north to the Olympic Peninsula, across to Glacier National Park, then south through the Rockies and into Colorado, then turning back west to head home. They visited with Dad’s family in Washington and Momma’s in Colorado. They visited every tiny museum and national Monument in their path. They had a really good time.
What strikes me most about their adventure was how ordinary most of it was. They cooked breakfast, went for long walks, did laundry and shopping, wrote letters to grownups and post cards to grandkids. They ate out and played Scrabble and fed the ducks at parks. They rarely stayed up past ten and were usually up and about by six. They were living their normal life…. except when they took a cogwheel train to the top of Pike’s Peak or walked through the millions year old petrified forest.
In reading the Journal, I can hear Momma’s voice telling about her day. She is calm and accurate, and doesn’t get irritated (she doesn’t write about it, anyway) or frightened or worried. Her most emotional writing is saved for seeing her dear sister Hazel and describing a stunning hailstorm that caught them out on a walk.
It has been a nostalgic few days, traveling with Momma on her first long road trip. I will read some of her later Journals, and let you know if I find anything interesting.
On Thursday we got a chance to do good work for Portland. Grandpa Nelson got us signed up with a group called SolveOregon, who use volunteers to cleanup and repair around the state.
We got up early and drove downtown to help with litter clean up. Except in the area just around the Federal Building, (where the protests and conflicts with police have been happening every night for three months), most of the storefronts are fine and businesses are open.
Our check-in location was at the Mark Spencer Hotel, where ninety masked but friendly people waited in line to get directions and equipment. We collected our long handled grabbers, gloves, and plastic bags, and headed off.
It was slow going, because most of the litter we were picking up were small, like bottle caps or cigarette butts. It took us a while to get the hang of handling the grabbers. We walked along, heads down, focusing on the sidewalk. About every fifteen minutes we would look up and check in with each other and figure out where we were.
I am sorry for the lack of photos to tell this story, but it was difficult to use my phone while wearing gloves, a mask, and carrying a bag and grabbers. I made a choice to do the work well instead of photo-documenting.
As we walked along, we were pleasantly surprised by folks’s reactions. People would roll down the window of their cars and holler “Thank you!!”. A postal worker stopped us and told us how much he appreciated our help to make the city better. Auntie Bridgett made sure he knew that we appreciated his work, too.
After two hours, we had a satisfying amount of garbage in our bags, and were pretty much done in, and turned in our grabbers. We chatted with Sarah, our group leader, who let us know we could help in other ways, and directed us to the website to check it out.
We had a wonderful, filling lunch at the Zeus Cafe, a McMeniman’s restaurant just a block from where we were working. I hadn’t realized how hungry or tired I was! By the time we got home, I could hardly walk up the stairs.
I am happy that we spent a few hours doing something to help our city. We have had recent problems, caused by the pandemic and social unrest, but we are also just a big city with millions of people smoking, doing business, and eating. It takes maintenance to keep it up.
I woke up Tuesday feeling the need to take charge of something, to get out and DO.The weather was predicted to be cool in the morning and get really warm by noon, so whatever I was going to do had to happen early.
So, right after coffee and before Grandpa Nelson was out of bed, I headed off for a long walk through the Fall sunshine. I headed toward the river. This is sort of cheating because it is all down hill, but the neighborhood is wonderful.
I found this poem by Jellaludin Rumi framed in a safe place. I liked the sentiment, but also the way my reflection got into the picture. It made this idea of “being human” even more human!
I continued through Ladd’s Addition and into the more industrial part of the Southeast. This fabulous mural, with live plants for hair, was painted by Fin DAC and is called “Attitude of Gratitude.” The building houses a fancy Cuban restaurant on the ground floor and apartments above, and the main office of Solterra, a company that makes vertical planters like the lady’s hair.
The area by the railroad tracks and warehouses is a bit run down, but in the bright sunshine, with the river and West Hills just beyond, everything looked pretty.
After about an hour of solid walking, I found the Willamette River! On this sunny day, it was busy with kayakers, jet skis, and motorboats, all dancing on the sparkling water.
Tilikum Crossing Bridge is the newest bridge in the city and my absolute favorite. It was built in 2015 just for transit and pedestrians.The blue of the sky and the white cables made for a lovely sight. Mount Hood, just sixty miles away, was barely visible through the haze to the East.
I spent quite a lot of time on the bridge, soaking up the breeze and the sunshine.
More businesses are figuring out, after many long months, how to open up and still keep folks safe from the corona virus. And I am glad, because I am starting to run out of things.
My new projects take both paint and embroidery floss, since I am painting maps on fabric and then sewing over them.
Last week we walked the mile to Collage in Division Street. It is a small and nicely stocked shop, using very strict hygiene and social distancing rules. I got basic colors of acrylic paint so I can mix whatever I need.
But I also needed thread, and their selection leaned toward the neon. Not what I needed. Well, the good news is, there is another Collage! The only wrinkle is that it is four miles away, too far for a comfortable walk.
So Auntie Bridgett and I got the car out and drove to Alberta, a funky, artsy neighborhood north of us. We found the Collage Annex, with its 95% off sale, and then the shop itself. Auntie Bridgett was in her happy place, visiting all the paints, pens, and markers.
I am more goal oriented, and found my floss quickly. But it was fun wandering around, anyway. We each chose a few things, paid the happy, helpful fellow, and headed down the street. Alberta is always a lively neighborhood, with lots of street art, music, and folks out and about.
We drove up Alberta Street, happy to see that so many of the shops and cafes we like are still open. We headed for groceries and then home, so I could start using my new toys!
I don’t know where this painting and sewing thing will lead next. The time I spend sewing (and it is a slow process) lets my mind wander. But I will keep you posted.
I think I am like most folks, lately, in that I am living on a seesaw. I alternate between reading every word of the news, needing to understand and make sense of the politics, economics, and natural disasters, and just needing to NOT. To NOT read. To NOT analyze.
My walks are a good time to NOT. Instead of analyzing, I notice. I photograph. I appreciate. It gives my brain a short focus lens that is very restful.
It is just past sunflower season, as I’ve talked about before. But the dahlias are getting taller than my head.
The nasturtiums are playing nicely with all the other flowers.
And the onions, like me, are dancing beautifully while going to seed.
I know I am a grownup, and I need to Pay Attention to the world. But I can’t let it suck me down. Flowers help put me back in balance.
We woke up this morning to some really cool air wafting though our windows! Fall is definitely on its way, and I am happy for it. With this endless summer finally ready to pack it in, I am assured that time is passing.
And if we keep moving forward, eventually we will get somewhere else.
So I celebrate the sunflowers. These magnificent beasts spend the spring shooting into the sky and the summer tracking the sun. And come fall, they lay their heavy heads down and make a feast for birds. One could do worse.
I know your world in Salinas is very smoky just now, from the fires in the hills west of town. I hope you have some sunflowers in your neighborhood, and I hope you get some nice rain soon.
With all of us staying in our houses, chatting with folks has become a much rarer thing. We can chat with neighbors for a minute or two when we sit on our balcony, but they are all in their way somewhere.
Conversations with strangers, which is one of the best things about living in a city, have almost come to a complete halt. Folks scurry by behind their masks, not wanting to give or catch the virus.
But people need to communicate. It’s part of our nature and it leaks out all over the place.
And, on my walks in the neighborhood, these little things make my heart smile.
We have places we go, knowing which hours are best to find them uncrowded. Zach’s Shack, the HobNob, and Rendezvous all have outdoor seating, tasty food and friendly folks.
We have recently learned that another favorite haunt, The Rocking Frog, will be closing down and moving somewhere else in a few months, when their lease is up. With so many businesses closing and other changes happening so fast, we truly need to remember to show signs of Love while we can.
We haven’t been to the Portland Art Museum since early February. That’s when we visited the Volcano! Show, about art and science from the Mt. St. Helens’ eruption. Then we got sick, then the city shut down, then the riots started, and we haven’t been downtown since.
Saturday, we went. We had booked an hour time slot (They are limiting visitors to maintain social distancing) at PAM for the three of us, got the car out of the garage, and crossed the bridge. The river was bright in the early Fall sunshine, and I realized how much I have missed being out in the city.
We drove through downtown, noticing some damaged and boarded up buildings, mostly high-end shops, but also a lot of open businesses. Killer Burger and the food carts were doing a good business.
There are more homeless folks than before, napping in their tents. Many streets had a sort of down and out vibe, and it made me sad. I feel bad for the folks who have no other place to be, and also for the folks who are scared to walk down the street where they have lived for years.
As we walked to the museum we saw construction cranes and buildings making progress. When we had used up our hour time slot we sat outside in the plaza for a while. We heard flash bangs and chanting from down toward the Willamette River, and knew enough not to head in that direction. We drove north to cross over a different bridge to head home.
I checked the news on my phone and found that we had heard (And just missed) a clash between a far right group called The Proud Boys and an anti-fascist group, who were throwing rocks and insults at each other. This has become a common theme here in Portland, and it also makes me sad.
Violence only begets violence, and people seem to be aiming their hatred at each other instead of the powers that be, who have created this mess.
But don’t get the idea that all of Portland “is in flames”. People are jogging, eating, and visiting. Our iconic bookstore, Powells, opened up for the first time since March, and there was a line around the block to get in. To buy books! Sizzle Pie Pizza had folks waiting for their goodness.
The funny thing about making art is that you never know exactly what a piece is going to be before you finish it, and you don’t know when it will be done until it suddenly is. The artistic process, if you let it, causes you to make choices about ‘what comes next’ that are surprising.
My ‘ Islands’ are a case in point. They started with watercolor splodges, and evolved into painted, intentional pieces. “Tim’s Island” , for my fishing-loving brother, was one of these.
Then, because of a misunderstood suggestion from Elaine, I painted Hawaii’s Big Island on fabric. I liked it, but needed a little something more, so I embroidered a bit. I liked it even more.
My next island, Tom Sawyer’s, also got painted on fabric, but in a more abstract, topographical style. Besides the stitches to show trees and peaks, it also needed something extra, so I added waves.
I think my next island will be bigger, so I can show more detail. I am hoping to paint Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, complete with Billy Bones’s hideout.