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

Mixing It Up a Little

Dear Liza,

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.

Starting simple

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.

Little flowers are less daunting

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.

Floral royalty

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.

Painted, penciled, and almost done

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.

Back to daisies, but with more oomph

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.

Love,

Grandma Judy

…And While We’re on the Subject…

Dear Liza,

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.

Down in Sunnyside there is a tree,

That became a ray of sunshine for me.

Instead of berating,

This tree’s celebrating!

And the love’s out there for all to see.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sunny Walk, New Things

Dear Liza,

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.

One of our gnomes, lurking in the ferns….

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.

Chez Machin is now Frog and Snail

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.

Yep, just that.

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!

How did they DO that?

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.

Big smiles come from small stickers!

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.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Seeing the Doctor

Dear Liza,

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.

The old Raven and Rose, next to the newer buildings…

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.

Older parts of OHSU

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.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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.

There Will Come Soft Rains

Dear Liza,

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 whit
e;

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.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Coming Home to Roost

Dear Liza,

We seem to have gotten a touch of Covid here in the house. Last Winter, Auntie Bridgett had a few bad weeks with no energy and a cough, supposedly before Covid-19 had hit us. We now know that it was certainly in the country by then, and that could have been our first wave.

Auntie Bridgett in consultation with our in-house medical professional

Now Grandpa Nelson has a small cough, evening fevers and body aches, and no energy. Last night was his first bad night, and we used a cool washcloth to keep him comfortable before it was time for more fever-reducing aspirin. We are keeping him hydrated and fed, even though his doesn’t have any appetite.

If all goes well, he will be mildly uncomfortable for a week or so, and won’t need to see a doctor or get tested. This would be good, because any distance you can maintain from medical locations is a good one. But what that also means is he won’t be added to the “Who has had Covid” count. Neither will the other thousands of folks dealing with this at home. They are under the radar.

Grandpa Nelson and Dr. Mouse

And as a person who reads the daily updates for Covid-19 cases tested, hospitalized and deceased, this bothers me. How can we learn anything from numbers we know are wrong? How can statisticians look at what they have and create percentages? Do they just shrug and add “a bunch more?” They must be pulling their hair out.

I’m sorry I don’t have any fancy photos of flowers for this post. I have included pictures of two of my most precious possessions.

Love,

Grandma Judy

And Now, Masks

Dear Liza,

For weeks I’ve been wondering if I should start making masks for us and other folks to wear for some level of protection from the Coronavirus, either in catching or transmitting it.

Able to be useful!

I looked on line and there were many different kinds of masks being sewn by home seamstresses like me, but no one could agree on what worked, what would help, what was a waste of time. So I waited.

Now, the CDC has said that some form of cloth masks is better than nothing, and we should all be wearing them. So I got out the fabric and started making these really basic cotton fabric masks.

These aren’t medical level protection, and they don’t even have filters. They are sort of a glorified spit guard. But they are better than the nothing we’ve been using.

Two layer masks…

There was a learning curve, of course. Two layers of some fabrics, plus the folds to help the mask fit, is too thick to breath through easily. So, lighter fabrics are good, and sometimes one layer is plenty.

A friend mentioned that each person should have two masks, one to wear while the other is in the wash, so now I’m making two per person.

Faster to make, one layer masks

And once I posted the pictures of Auntie Bridgett looking so cute in hers, family has been asking for some! I am having fun sewing, mailing, and using some of the cool fabrics I have collected for years.

Because hey, what else do I have to do right now?

Love,

Grandma Judy

Out… and then Down

Dear Liza,

Lovely blooms whose names escapes me…

This week I took advantage of a sunny day and went out for a short walk. It’s good to see that even with most folks inside, the rhododendrons and trilliums are open for Spring. The smell of jasmine makes invisible patches of sweetness that catch you by surprise.

Trillium!

There are still quite a few joggers and dog walkers in the park, and it’s not always possible to properly socially distance, so we walk in the neighborhood. Many folks have taken to crossing the street mid-block to avoid too-close contact, and there is usually a smile or friendly wave that goes with this, acknowledging each other but staying safe. People can be pretty darn wonderful.

Someone’s gift to a venerable tree

We are continuing to be careful but I may have caught a touch of the bug. Grandpa Nelson went out for groceries yesterday because I was feeling really tired, and Auntie Bridgett is just getting over a nasty spell of fatigue.

We are good at taking care of each other. Lots of ginger tea, fruits and veggies, and quiet time for naps will pull us through.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Harder than I thought

Dear Liza,

The shut down because of Covid-19 is now in its third week here in Portland. It is starting to get me down a little.

Drippy, empty, rush hour

The last time I sat down with anyone besides Auntie Bridgett or Grandpa Nelson was March 11, when I had a cup of Golden Fire tea with dear Misha Moon at the Rocking Frog. Now, with the extra time imposed on us, we have both finished drafts of our stories that we were talking about.

That same day I met a good soul named Roger, and we exchanged stories of our childhoods in Southern California. His had a stepdad who was a building inspector in Watts, not far from where we lived for a while in Bellflower.

Our local hangout, closed up tight

Grandpa Nelson and I had lunch at McMenamin’s Barley Mill the next day, just before they closed up shop for the duration.

These are the sort of chance meetings and conversations that I have taken for granted, and now, for a while at least, they are over. I miss my species.

Mouse enjoys some inter species time with Luna

We eat, chat, read and write, here in our pleasant little house. There is enough room that we can be alone when we need to be, and we have games and movies and food, and even enough toilet paper. There is nothing really wrong, as long as we stay inside and away from people.

And yet, there it is…

So, I heave a big sigh and tell myself to get over it, and decide what to do today.

Love,

Grandma Judy