Littering Leaves

Dear Liza,

It is leaf season in Portland! After hanging around on trees all summer, tons of photosynthesizing bits are giving up the ghost and decorating our neighborhood.

We are now at that magical, all-to-short period between green leaves on the trees and slimy, slippery leaf mulch in the gutters. It makes me so happy that I dash about like a squirrel, taking pictures of the lovely, pre-mulch mosaic.

The city of Portland has major infrastructure dedicated to collecting these masses, and most (but not all) of our neighbors are very good about clearing them away. We appreciate this, even as we watch the color drive away, because wet leaves can really trip you up. No one wants to start winter off with a busted hip.

The Fall brings so many changes. Green leaves become brown and yellow. Brown branches, now blooming with moss, become green. Colorful flowers die back and are replaced by Christmas lights.

Transitions are sweet, kissing one season goodbye and welcoming another. Happy Fall.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Out of One Holiday and Into Another

Dear Liza,

We are still eating some Thanksgiving left overs, but Christmas is definitely on the way! Auntie Bridgett, the patron saint of Christmas decor, has been very busy.

After she made the house pretty and bright with four boxes of gnomes, candles and ribbons, we took her out for a walk in the cold. We managed to time it between rain showers.

The clear weather and bright leaves were so classically Fall! Even at 47 degrees, we were comfortable because we wore lots of layers. We walked down to Hawthorne Street and did some people watching, but didn’t go into the shops. Too crowded!

We saw some relics from Halloween out in yards, meeting their inevitable fate with a smile… sort of.

We made a long two mile loop down Hawthorne, to 43rd, then back past the library and into our nice warm house. Tea and pie all around, please!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Out for a Drive

Dear Liza,

Since we have lived in Portland, we have used our car less and less. I thought of this as a good thing …. Less pollution, less wear and tear, more exercise. Right?

As it turns out, cars need to be driven. Some electrical parts of the car are always on, and need electricity from the battery. Driving generates power which charges the battery. Therefore, if you don’t drive the car enough, eventually the battery will die. This happened to us a few weeks ago and we decided that if we are going to keep Miles, we needed to take him out more.

Heading home, Grandpa Nelson found us a new (to us) McMenamin’s venue for lunch! It is called the Grand Lodge and used to be the Masonic Lodge’s retirement home in Forest Grove. As with all the McMenamin’s, it was delightfully quirky and historic. I will tell you more about it in the next blog.

We are still in blinding bright Fall sunshine along with below freezing temperatures. On the drive home, Mt. Hood loomed like a ghost, enormous and covered in snow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Fetching Kestrel

Dear Liza,

When you and I lived in the same city many years ago, I would come pick you up after school and we would hang out together. We made bread, played in the garden, and just got to be silly. We even got to know a Panther at Hartnell College.

Now that Cousin Kestrel and I both live in Portland, I get to pick her up from her school, sometimes. She goes to da Vinci Arts Middle School, so she gets to take dance, textile art, and theater as well as math and social studies. It is a mile walk from my house to the school, so we both get some exercise.

And these bright chilly fall days, we get some sun!

There is a wonderfully weird cement dragon named Leo in the schoolyard, who makes a great place to sit and wait for the bell to ring.

He has benches along both sides, but I prefer to sit on his scaly tail.

I am so happy to be able to get to know both my Grandgirls.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Winter Sunshine

Dear Liza,

It is winter in Portland. It doesn’t officially start until December 21, but it’s winter. We have rain which may turn to snow flurries, bridges that are getting icy, and dark, dark afternoons.

But then you look up and the clouds are gone for a while, and the sun comes out! And you don’t care that it is 40 degrees F. You put on two scarves and a wooly hat, and out you go.

We are blessed to live in our Laurelhurst/ Sunnyside neighborhood, with its gardens and hundred-year-old stone walls.

Moss and evergreens glow nicely in the low angled light of a Portland afternoon.

Succulents in a wall resemble magic gardens.

Azaleas and rhododendrons put out buds, defying the seasonal cold. And even though we know that tomorrow will be rainy and grey again, our mammal brains are happy for the light.

Love,

Grandma Judy.

Beauty is Where You Find It

Dear Liza,

I love wandering around my neighborhood. I always see something unexpected.

This little sculpture, only about 6 inches high, sits on a big boulder placed along the sidewalk of Division Street. Placed close to the Philip Neary Church, someone has decorated this accordion player with a rosary. This is one of 8 such sculptures created by Crystal Schenk and Shelby Davis and installed in 2014. Collectively called “This All Happened, More or Less”, these pieces represent ordinary people calmly going about their business, reading, resting, or chatting.

A different sort of unexpected beauty is this graphically painted re-purposed school bus. I haven’t been able to find out what it is being used for now, but it looks like fun!

These bright pyracantha berries, a perfect winter food source for local birds, seem to glow in the sunshine.

And as I walked along, i noticed that the blustery wind was playing with my scarf in a very photogenic fashion. So I played along.

I’ll enjoy the sunshine as long as we have it!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Bright Fall Light

Dear Liza,

This season is mostly a grey one, but every now and the clouds blow away and we have bright, cold, sunshine. That was today.

We did chores during the morning and then headed off through the neighborhood to Zach’s Hot Dog Shack. The noon sun was almost blinding, and made the still-changing leaves magical.

We found some rhododendrons, being a bit early even for them, (or late, it’s hard to know which) popping blooms open just as the rest of the plants have called it quits for the year.

We enjoyed a chilly lunch on Zach’s patio, since the inside was pretty crowded with folks watching football. Grandpa Nelson and I played ping pong, which warmed us up a bit.

The walk home was lit with the warm afternoon light of Fall. This beautiful cat was just so fetching between the orange leaves.

We walked by St. Stephen’s Church, which has been on this corner in a mostly residential area since 1924. It is built of bricks and is very pretty.

It has a large front entrance with doors topped by Mary and Jesus chatting with monks, along with with these delightfully glazed ceramic faces.

And that was our outing for the day. It never really got above 45 degrees, and was just too chilly to be out for long. We came home, read, made art, and cooked.

Just another lovely Tuesday!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Seasonal Poetry

Dear Liza,

I went out for a walk the other day to enjoy the colors and clear my head. Sitting with a cat on your lap, watching the fire burn, though very pleasant, makes me a bit fuzzy headed.

I bundled up, headed out, and got inspired. Here is my take on the seasons.

For The Leaves

The Spring brought us colors of blossom and bloom,

The beginnings of life, bursting forth, making room.

The summer brought jewel-colored fruits of the vine

Apples for a pie and grapes for some wine.

In Autumn the world became darker and cold,

The youth of the spring has grown up and grown old.

No longer bursting, it no longer glows

It flashes an instant before the storm blows

But just for this moment, the wind holds its peace

And leaves us to contemplate

This lovely release.

I hope you enjoy the Fall!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Leaving…..

Dear Liza,

Having lived most of my life in Southern and Central California, home of evergreen landscaping, I am dumfounded every Fall by our colors. The intense yellows of the ginkoes, gold of the birches, the red of quince and the flaming maples, just knock me out.

Laurelhurst Park, of course, is acres of loveliness. But our neighborhood trees, some of which are a hundred years old, also make me understand why people who move from elsewhere to Southern California say “they miss the seasons”.


I guess I get sort of goofy in the Fall. Summer’s flowers and sunshine are so bright, it is almost blinding. In Fall, it is grayer, darker, and… wetter. The bright leaves are our last hurrah of color until spring, and I don’t want to miss it.


So, while I go walking and leaf-peeping whenever I feel sad or restless, I hope these pictures let you see why I love our Fall so much.

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Fine Fall Day with the Dead People

Dear Liza,

It has been so pretty this Fall! The air is cool and fresh and the leaves are a million different colors. It was time for a walk to Lone Fir Cemetery.

Auntie Bridgett had a new friend she wanted me to meet, so we went there first. This narrow grave stone marks the grave of Emma Hawthorne. She was our famous Dr. Hawthorne’s first wife. She was twenty years younger than Dr. Hawthorne and died in 1862 after only two weeks of marriage. There are a scant two lines about her death in the Oregonian, which seems weird, since she was the bride of such an important doctor and businessman.

Why was no more said about her, her life or her funeral arrangements, in the local newspapers of the time? Why is she buried in a sloping corner of the cemetery while the rest of the family (including the doctor’s second wife) have large monuments on a sunny hill?

We have heard rumors that she died by suicide, which at the time was considered a sin against God. While we have no proof, that would be one explanation for what seems like shabby treatment.

While we were thinking about young Emma and her lonely fate, we sat on a low wall and listened to the chestnuts rattle through the branches and thump to the ground. It is Conker season, for sure. The squirrels and Auntie Bridgett dashed about, collecting them, and I just love being part of it.

Further on, we found another new friend. Several years ago I wrote about a local drummer named Andrew Loomis who had a wonderfully down to earth epitaph on his headstone (Life is good sept the parts that suck). Now, it seems his younger brother Matthew has passed away, and has joined Andrew in his space.

There were more graves, which I’m sure have their own stories, but my eyes were so full of the beautiful leaves!

This time of year has a quiet, lovely melancholy which I find comforting. The nearness of death is not scary, somehow, but peaceful.

Love,

Grandma Judy