June 30, 2017, almost three and a half years ago, was the day of my first blog. I had come up to Portland by plane, then the Red Line train to get to downtown, where I had lunch and met an itinerant poet named Shannon. Then I took a bus to Auntie Katie’s house. The next day I picked up the keys to our first apartment here in Portland. I signed papers, measured the new place, and flew back to Salinas.
That day was a good omen of my life in the city so far. I have pushed myself to walk further, get around on public transit, explore further afield, chat with all sorts of folks, and spend more time on my own.
I have written about dinners out, concerts, zoos, and parks here in Portland;
vacations to Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.;
trips back to Salinas to see you and your family and friends;
and some less-fun trips to hospitals and doctor’s offices.
And lately, I’ve written about coping with NOT being able to do those things.
Writing this blog, now 900 essays long, is part of the coping. Writing how I feel makes it real and solid and more manageable.
Once I got to the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, I had intended to head right back home, but my Dad’s voice whispered “Go home a different way, so you see something different.”
So I continued across the bridge to the Westside. The pedestrian walkway has recently been finished and makes for a very pleasant, if warm, walk between the bridges. There were more adventurers out and about.
I found Poet’s Beach, a side path lined with stones that are carved with poetry written by students, years ago.
It is loud, because it is right under the double decker Marquam Bridge, but worth a read and a visit.
By this time, my feet and my phone batteries were telling me it was time to head home. I decided to cross back over the Hawthorne Bridge. I love the views of bridges from other bridges!
Of course, political statements are everywhere. I liked this re-purposed public service message.
You can see a lot of Portland from bridges, too. Joggers, cyclists, the Burnside Bridge and the Convention Center are all in these shots.
Once I was back on the Eastside, I realized I was hungry, and came upon Asylum, a food Court on the site of Dr. Hawthorne’s Oregon State Hospital for the Insane. This much-respected institution stood from 1862 to 1883. It closed when the good Doctor died and burned to the ground a few years later.
The space has a steampunk cartoony vibe, with trash containers that made me laugh, and really tasty food.
I had pot stickers from the Thai place and enjoyed some people and art watching.
Once I was fed, I still had a mile walk, all uphill, to get home. I paced myself, admiring gardens, appreciating shade, and visiting with nice folks. I had done what I had intended to do, walked a total of 6.2 miles, and it felt good.
By the way, as you can tell, Portland is not “in flames”. We are fine. The protests are being exploited by the President and his allies who want to use Portland as an excuse to use strong arm tactics against his political enemies. He is lying.
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.
Auntie Bridgett and I walked over to a new restaurant the other day. Frog and Snail has replaced the small, comfy Chez Machin, and we wanted to give the new place a try.
It’s just a half mile walk down to Hawthorne, enough to work up an appetite. The new owners have lightened up the interior space and spaced the tables appropriate for Covid-19, but we wanted to enjoy their back patio, because, as Dr. Fauci says, “outside is better than inside.” The nice masked waitress led us through the restaurant, down a hallway and up a few stairs, and there we were.
I don’t know if it counts as “outside”, because it has walls and a roof, but the wide back door was open and only two of the six tables were occupied, so we felt comfortably spaced. I waited until everyone else had left before taking pictures because people get self-conscious around cameras.
The space was light and airy, with a corrugated plastic roof overlaid with garden style lattice and sun sails, which gave it a whimsical feel. There were posters from Le Cirque d’Hiver in Paris, photos of the City of Light, and a rustic mural in the concrete wall.
Like many other restaurants, Frog and Snail has its menu online, and you scan it with your phone. This prevents passing germs around with laminated menus, or throwing out hundreds of pieces of paper a day.
We chose Quiche Lorraines for lunch and the Classic Crepe (Nutella, banana, and toasted fresh graham crackers) for dessert. The quiche was deep and creamy, and full of onions and bacon, with a crisp crust. The crepe was sweet and soft and rich, and we were glad we had decided to share it! It would have been too much food for one person to finish.
We enjoyed sitting in the lovely space and looking at the poster of the Cirque d’Hiver, and realizing we had walked past that very building on our last visit to Paris in January 2014. We stared at the photo of the Eiffel Tower, figuring out where it was taken from. This brought all our memories of Paris forward, and we both got that glazed-eyed look of being far away, walking down chilly Parisian streets and stopping in at tiny places for chocolate chaud. Sigh.
Eventually, we had to get a move on and do some mailing at the postals, then take the long way home to walk off some of that cream and chocolate.
The rest of the day was lazy and sleepy, full of quiche and memories of France.
On Friday we got to visit Cousin Kestrel, Cousin Jasper and Auntie Katie and give Kestrel some birthday presents.
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.
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.
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.
After some other games and chalk art, we headed over for some ice cream from Zeds, the ice cream truck parked in the parking lot of Books with Pictures.
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.
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.
Human beings are creatures of habit, they say, but I have always disagreed. I like to go on adventures…walking eight miles to Sellwood, bussing across town for a hike, taking the train to Vancouver and biking around the city. But as we go along in the quarantine, I realize how much I am leaning on my habits. Especially in uncertain times, we feel the need to do normal things in the normal way.
Here, that means morning coffee with news on the sofa, writing blogs, then crossword puzzles, then French practice on Duolingo.
The recent addition of online watercolor classes with Ruth Inman in Illinois has helped fill Tuesday and Thursday mornings with art and conversation. It has also given me courage to make more art.
The other day I painted my first sunflower. I had been doing little daisies and simple roses, which feel less daunting. Sunflowers are imposing. They are flower royalty that literally looks down on everyone. They have gravitas.
And when I got it done, I felt pretty good about it. I asked Auntie Bridgett. “It’s not bad,” she said kindly. “But you could use some colored pencils to bring it out more, to make it pop.”
My first thought was, “What if I screw it up?” But I slapped that thought down, stepped over it, and moved on. We walked to Collage down on Division Street and bought me some Vera Thin pencils along with more watercolor paper.
I started playing. Painting like before, but with the knowledge that some parts would be enhanced or shaded with pencils. I learned about complementary colors and how to use them for emphasis, that shadows are never black, and that short lines can make lovely curves. It is another tiny step outside my comfort zone.
This using of paints and pencils, or pastels and collage, or crayons and paint, is called mixed media. You mix bits that you already know, some you don’t, and come up with something new. This is an interior adventuring, and one I am enjoying very much.
Maybe it will keep my adventurous muscles strong for when I can go adventuring outside again.
So, the other day I was remembering how my Momma encouraged us to deal with sad times by finding things to be grateful for. And then yesterday, coming back from running errands, I found the Gratitude Tree.
This is a tree planted in the parkway at SE 36th and Main Street. I don’t know how long it has been there, and don’t know how I have missed it until now. Indeed, I may have seen it, but since I didn’t NEED it, it didn’t register. Brains are like that.
Anyway, I stopped and had a good visit with the Gratitude Tree. It carries the website http://www.gratitudedojo.com and is covered with Manila tags, which are attached to a rope by thin wire. Hundreds of people have written what they are grateful for and attached their thanks.
These acknowledgements of gifts great and small made me smile. And, like the Grinch, my heart grew a few sizes. Even in the midst of racial upheavals and violence, an international pandemic and incompetent leadership, there is a lot to be grateful for.
I don’t know who has provided our neighborhood with this wonderful way to put our joy and appreciation on display. I wish I did. I would make them a batch of cookies and write them a limerick.
Cookies don’t travel well online, but here is the limerick.
We had some errands to do yesterday, so Auntie Bridgett and I went for a nice long walk. And since all the places we needed to go were down on Hawthorne, we saw how that street is changing during the lockdown.
We saw that Chez Machin, a lovely French bistro type place, has changed its name to Frog and Snail. I am hoping it is just a name change and the owners are the same. They are nice folks, and too many people are losing their livelihoods because of the shutdown. We will have a taste of their frogs and snails when the city opens up more.
We still found a lot of businesses closed, but the art and messaging is beautiful and hopeful. I took pictures as a way of holding tight onto goodness and love.
I have been so dismayed these last few days at the level of anger and violence that has swept over Portland and the rest of the country that I sometimes just want to curl up and sleep until all the hatred has passed.
But love, beauty and just plain human goodness are making themselves heard, too. And that gives me comfort.
After dropping off dry cleaning and mailing packages, we stopped at Hawthorne Liquor. Auntie Bridgett is on a mission to find a certain kind of yummy cognac that we had on an Air France flight, years ago. We have yet to find it anywhere in the city. But I did have time to wonder at this improbable bottle of pear brandy!
On the way home we stopped at Whole Bowl for lunch, which we ate while sitting on the chairs outside the temporarily closed Common Grounds coffee shop. We stopped at Chase bank to return someone’s lost credit card, and enjoyed some more street art.
By the time we got home, we had walked nearly three miles! I felt pretty accomplished, after these long months of too much sofa-sitting. Maybe we can put ourselves out of this hole, after all.
On Friday, Grandpa Nelson finally felt lousy enough to call the doctor. He had been having fevers every night for weeks, along with fatigue and dizziness. I mentioned this to your Mommy (Dr. Olga), and she said Grandpa Nelson should talk to his doctor. They chatted via an on-screen meeting and agreed that Grandpa should visit the hospital and get checked out.
Auntie Bridgett drove and I rode in the backseat as we three traveled across the river to the west side for the first time since the shut down began in mid-March. It was so good to see the Willamette River sparkling and the bridges arching in the sunshine. Downtown, though emptier than usual, was beautiful. The parks and statues glowed, and the shining buildings reflected the clouds and sky. It felt like coming home.
We continued up the hill to OHSU, where we have been many times, but we didn’t just park and walk in. As part of the new procedures for limiting everyone’s exposure, we waited in the car and called to let them know we had arrived. A doctor walked to one of the small tents and Grandpa Nelson left the car to be escorted in. Auntie Bridgett and I had to wait in the car. I understand that fewer folks in and out of the building is safer for everyone, but I still wished I could go with him. We read, sewed, and drew, for nearly an hour.
When Grandpa came out he said that his had been checked for blood oxygen (fine, at 97%) blood pressure (a bit high, at 160) and been swabbed for the corona virus. That result won’t be back for a day or so. He was told to stay inside and rest and limit exposure to other folks. He was also told that whether this was Covid or some other virus, he would not be “well” until he had three full days with no fever.
Once we were home he had lunch and slept for a long time, got up, had dinner and went back to bed. Now we just wait for the results and do what we’ve been doing. Positive or negative, it won’t really make a difference. There is no cure, or even effective treatment. But we will know.
PS. We got the results back. No Covid-19 in this house! Grandpa Nelson still feels icky, but at least it’s not big and scary. Just small and irritating.
I went out for a walk to the grocery store the other day, and took some pictures of our fabulously colorful Portland spring. There were not many people out, because of the shutdown, and the combination of uncanny quiet and lush flowers reminded me of something and tickled in the back of my brain.
I just figured out what it was.
There is a poem called There will Come Soft Rains, by Sara Teasdale. She wrote it 1918, in response to the horrors of World War I that the world was living through at the time. The Spanish Flu, spread by the movement of soldiers and lack of health measures, swept across the world at that time, killing 63,000 American soldiers, more than the enemy‘s weapons did.
Sara Teasdale was feeling as some of us are now, despairing of our capacity for self destruction, and the poem tells of the beauty of nature that will go on when mankind has finally wiped itself out.
There Will Come Soft Rains
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground, And swallows calling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night, And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn, Would scarcely know that we were gone.
Our country has lost, so far, 72,000 people to Covid-19. It is so sad that it hurts to think about it. But most people are doing what they can, staying inside, wearing masks, sending help to family and neighbors, supporting the doctors and nurses. We are being our best selves. This is how we will survive.
And then we can get out into the springtime again.