New, Old, and Changing

Dear Liza,

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Giant Dahlias

Here in Portland, Summer isn’t willing to give up just yet. The roses and dahlias are blooming in what looks like a joyous shout before tucking in for the colder months. Portland is known as The Rose City (since 1888, anyway) but all flowers do well here.

We are having days that start damp and grey with wet sidewalks, burst into sunshine for lunch dates, then get cloudy again by dinner. It is dramatic and beautiful.

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Coy Dahlias

Our painters are almost done with the outside of the building, so today I get to put all Momma’s geraniums back on the patio. The poor plants have been holding their collective breath for two weeks, in a foyer with not enough sunlight or fresh air.

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Geraniums in exile

The Green Rain trees in the neighborhood are putting on their big show: seeds pods! They start as small swellings on the bud, and are now these bunches of pods that rattle like maracas when you shake them…which I do, every time I go by! Hey, it’s a toy, I’m a just big kid…what do you expect?

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Green Rain Tree

Today I will walk up to Yen’s and have her cut my hair. I am feeling too shaggy and need to spruce up a bit. Also, I want to show her this photo of the ginger cutting she gave us when we were last in, about 7 weeks ago. Bridgett put the cutting in water and, after a rocky start, sprouted roots like crazy! I am sure she will be happy to see her baby doing well.

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Yen’s Ginger sprouting!

Off to make the day happen!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Believe it or not…

Dear Liza,

I know it has been, and still is hot here, but fall is definitely on the way. This morning there is a slight chill in the air. Some leaves are starting to turn. Kids are shopping for school clothes.

And the chestnuts are getting big. Last year was my first year in chestnut country, so I was just fascinated by these armored, spiky, golf ball sized nuts. Bridgett and I marveled at them and, when they started falling, collected about 30 pounds of the smooth,  mahogany colored things. We loved their color, their impressive size, and their smooth surface, like polished wood. We had big plans.

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Part of last year’s lovely, but useless, chestnuts

We would enjoy their beauty, maybe even make ornaments out of them, then roast them and eat them! “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” would be ours!!! Bwahahaha!

So we researched the best way to roast them, not having an open fire at our disposal. Hmmm. Turns out, there are two kinds of chestnuts….horse chestnuts, which you CAN’T eat because they are poisonous, and sweet chestnuts, which you CAN. The leaves and tree shape are the same. How to tell the difference? The differences in the wooden looking nut are slight and I was never sure which was which. I wasn’t willing to bet my health on it.

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Green hulls of sweet chestnuts

But the differences between both the flower and the green hulls that grow outside the woody part are very clear. The sweet chestnuts have flowers that are spiky, and green hulls that look like Muppets. The horse chestnuts’ flowers are rounded, and their hulls more like a medieval spiked mace. So this summer, we have made note of where each are growing.

Oddly, the poisonous kind are much more common. Whether it is a difference in disease resistance or just accidental, the people in charge of planting them, probably 50 years ago, planted a bunch of ‘conkers’ you can’t use. The only sweet chestnut tree we have found is near the entrance to the Lone Fir Cemetery. I walked by today and admired them, promising I would return when they fell.

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Green hulls of horse chestnuts

We still don’t have an open fire, but we have a lovely gas oven. We will adjust. And Nat King Cole will be playing.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Neighborhood Clearing

Dear Liza,

Every time I go out into the neighborhood, I see new things. The falling leaves are allowing more details to show.

For example, garden decorations that have been covered by overgrown trees and bushes are coming into view. This retaining wall for a house down by Hawthorne Street shows its decoration of old doorknobs, but only when the ferns die back in fall.

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Door knob decoration

This obelisk has been covered by one rosebush, which has now been cut back to just a few twigs for the winter, revealing the lovely sculpture.

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Garden Obelisk

Of course, leaf clearing and collection continues. This pile that was taller than you was waiting to be scooped up down by Laurelhurst Park. Inside the park, small trucks drive down the paved paths and blow the leaves onto the grass areas, where they are vacuumed up later. This is good, because the paths get really slippery and dangerous where the leaves sit and start to rot.

Also inside Laurelhurst, the workers are putting in net tubes filled with wood chips. These help keep the ground from washing away on hillsides. This series of tubes was put just below the off leash dog area, where there is a bit of a creek flowing during heavy rains.

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Erosion protection
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More leaves

The other day I saw my first sinkhole! A sinkhole is what happens when the ground underneath a street gets washed away, so the asphalt has nothing to sit on, and starts to collapse. This one was in the middle of the Washington Street and 27th intersection, marked by orange cones so no one would drive over or fall in!

Life just keeps getting more interesting up here.See you in January!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Sinkhole!!!

Cloudy with a Chance of Legos

Dear Liza,

The grey has settled in pretty well today, a slow solid rain. Lucky for me, I have hot soup, fresh bread and music, and writing to you, to keep me company.

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Mossy cobblestones

Now that almost all of the leaves are down, I am noticing the houses more. In summer, it sometimes felt like the houses were being eaten by their landscaping! 100 year old trees, bushes, fruit trees and annual bulbs exploded and covered everything with a heavy swath of green.

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Noticing the houses

But with the leaves, even the brilliant yellow ones, gone, the houses are emerging to be appreciated in their own right. Lovely pointy Victorians, square and true Craftsmans, even mid-century bungalows are coming into their own. It allows me to see the yards and shape of the houses and wonder which type of yard and house we will move into!

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Bare naked Street Sign

After a nice walk out, Grandpa Nelson and I met Auntie Katie and cousins Jasper and Kestrel at The Lego Minifigs place I told you about during the summer. We were there to have the kids choose a bag of Legos each as their gifts for Jasper ‘s birthday.

Actually, we offered Jasper two bags and he said Kestrel should get one of his.

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Pixelated Lego Art

I love that boy!

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Lego dude made out of Legos

After an hour of hard choosing, including Auntie Katie finding a great book with design information and advice for the budding lego-engineer, we headed over to Blackbird Pizza for dinner and pinball. This nifty place is on the corner of 20th and Hawthorne, right next door to Dr. Locke’s House that I wrote about the other day, so Grandpa Nelson got to see the stepping stone.

Off to bed and dream of coming to see you!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Downtown Delights

Dear Liza,

On Sunday, Auntie Bridgett, Grandpa Nelson and I took the #20 bus downtown. We admired the architecture while hunting for a place to eat. The problem is, Portland is a very Sunday Brunch-oriented city. If there is a restaurant open, they are packed. We tried Cheryl’s on 12th: a mob. We looked at Tasty n Alder: packed. Finally, we went to our old stand by, Kenny and Zuke’s Deli, at 11th and Stark. They had only a 10 minute wait, and we enjoyed reading the newspapers and magazines they had out.

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Kenny and Zuke’s looking out
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Church and leaves

After a filling and delicious meal of roasted veggies, eggs and rye toast with lots of butter, we headed off. Since we weren’t in a hurry, we got to notice all sorts of things. The leaves keep changing and are beautiful at every turn.

Odd things, like a dog fountain guarded by a brass bulldog named Zelda wearing a top hat, standing in front of the Hilton Hotel, just cracked us up.

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Zelda the water fountain guardian

At Pioneer Square, we saw the 45 foot Christmas tree being put up. The lower branches had been removed to make it easier (something I had never seen) and some workmen were busy re-attaching the branches onto the tree while other men were running electric cables down the tree for when they light it up next week. Down below, a fellow was stringing lights on smaller trees to make everything cheerful.

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Christmas tree going up!

We kept walking and got to The Oregon Historical Society. A group of talented musicians and historians were putting on a show about The Art of the Protest Song, a history that runs from before I was born to today; people using music to tell other people how they feel about what’s going on in the world, and to let people know they aren’t alone in their concerns. We heard some Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, and several original songs by the musicians. It was wonderful, and very well attended. There were 100 chairs up when we got there, and almost 100 more were added before the show started.

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Quilted logo of the show

After the show, Grandpa Nelson suggested we try walking home. We were surprised, but willing. It wasn’t very cold, and there was even some blue skies coming between the clouds. And there was always a bus close by if we got tired.

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Light on the River

 

 

 

We walked down to the river, then north along the Tom McCall Riverfront, to the Morrison Bridge. A curvy on ramp took us up to the bridge, and we walked across the Willamette River. It was beautiful. The trees, seen from above, spread out and drop their leaves onto the roadway. The sidewalk is separated from the big traffic by a bike lane and fence, so we felt safe. The sky had gotten grey so the river was, too.

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Trees seen from above

On the east side, we walked past warehouses and car repair places, up Morrison Street, through the Lone Fir Cemetery, and home for dinner. Auntie Bridgett’s Fitbit said we had walked almost 5 miles! Hooray for walking!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Changes

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Moss getting fat and happy in the bare branches of trees!

Dear Liza,

I have been busy researching for my story about Portland in The Research Library to see where schools were in 1903, where the trolley cars ran, and what kids did for fun. It has been exhausting and exciting.

I am glad I have inside things to do, because it is very cold and wet outside. Today I went out for a walk and took some pictures so I could show you how things are changing.

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Trees last month

The bright yellow trees I send you a while back have now lost all their leaves, and are asleep for the winter. I feel a little sad seeing them black and bare, but I know they will come out green in the Spring, while I am down with you in Salinas.

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Same trees today

There is also something new growing: Moss, moss, everywhere!

Not just little green frilly bits in the sidewalk cracks, but big fat clumps on the newly bare branches of trees, and blooming on the trunks. I even found a small branch with moss growing all over it and brought it home. I have put it in a flowerpot with dirt and a maple tree seed. Maybe I can grow a whole forest!

 

All is well here, but I miss you very much. I will be happy to see you in January.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Moss and Lichen on bark
 

Chilly Morning

Dear Liza,

It is cold this morning, just 40 degrees, and the wind is blowing. The three tall Fir trees across the way are swaying like the Andrews sisters singing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and waves of yellow leaves keep washing past our windows.

Mousekin the cat thinks she wants to go outside. She looks expectantly at the doorknob, but as soon as the cold hits her nose she looks offended, as if to say,”I didn’t order that.” So she naps on the rocking chair or lays in wait on the stairs.

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Pigeons holding on

I will be taking the #15 downtown today to do some more research into Portland history. Today I am looking for information on what schools were open in 1903, the first year Teddy Roosevelt visited the city. I will be sure to bundle up!

I hope you stay warm and have fun.

Love,

Grandma Judy

I (Heart) Fall

Dear Liza,

Fall keeps falling here. It is predicted to get near freezing soon, so I have brought Great-Grandma Billie’s geraniums into the house. They have a nice space by a window. Our little potted cypress, planted from seeds of the huge cypress that used to stand proudly over the Nob Hill parking lot in Salinas, is also inside.

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Great Grandma Billie’s Geraniums

On our walk yesterday, we saw more changes happening with the seasons. We are able to see more details of the houses on our street as the leaves fall away, Entire intersections are light and airy, almost empty, because the canopy of leaves is gone.

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Cypress seedling from Nob Hill

As we were walking through Laurelhurst, we saw something that surprised us. A young man with a rake was working on the vast expanse of leaves in the summer dog park section of the park. I wanted to warn him off, to tell him that one man with a rake didn’t stand a chance against the ever-rising tide of leaves. But he wasn’t trying to rake up the leaves.

He was raking the leaves into heart shapes, with spaces in between. We watched for a while, walked around the park, and watched some more. I made sure to holler “Thank you!” to let him know we had enjoyed his art and appreciated making beauty out of nothing but effort and ideas.

We are also hearing and seeing more Canada Geese, flying in loosely organized flocks or resting in fields, nibbling grass and bugs. They must be on their way south, and are enjoying some of our fine parks to make the long journey more enjoyable.

Much like I am doing, using Portland as a pleasant stop on my journey through life.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Leaf art!

 

Sunny Rain, Rainbows, and Teddy

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Fall roses!

Dear Liza,

Today was a busy day. I was reading old newspapers online from the Oregon Historical Society, trying to find any story about Mrs. Pittock and her rose party. (So far, nothing…)

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Lovely fall colors

I got a call from Uncle Dave to see if I could come over and get instructions on how to feed their cats, Pietro and Wanda, while they are all in Hawaii for a few days, so I jogged the mile or so to their house, noticing the beautiful leaves, nuts, roses, and such, but in a hurry. So on the way home, I slowed down and got some pictures.

Even in fall, with the cold and rain, tomatoes are still ripening and roses are still blooming. The ground smells so sweet it is intoxicating. I collected another giant pocketful of chestnuts! We saw a wonderful rainbow and met some neighbors, Sarah and Elizabeth, who live up the block.

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Rainbow in the neighborhood

Back home, it was time for our big adventure for the evening. We walked up to Burnside and caught the #20 into town. Getting off at Powell’s City of Books, we were in the middle of the biggest downpour I’ve ever walked through, but we slogged a block up to Kenny and Zukes for dinner. Knishes, hot dogs, and french fries, all delicious. For something different, Auntie Bridgett had a ginger beer with horseradish infused vodka! Totally nuts, but so good!

The rain completely stopped as we ate, which was good, because we needed to walk up to The First Congregational Church on Park to enjoy An Evening with Teddy Roosevelt. This is a one man show by Jim Wiegand, a performer and historian who seems not just to DO Teddy, but to BE Teddy.

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Interior of the First Congregational Church

Mr. Wiegand was funny and true, historically correct but also delightfully current in his comments. He told of his life before, during and after his presidency, his travels, war experiences, and personal tragedies. His main message is that it is not enough to read the Word, and hear the Word, but you must ACT on the Word. Get off your duff and DO something to make the world better.

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Program for the show

He finished his show by asking the audience to all stand and sing “Good Bless America”. We all did, and we all felt better for it; for just a few minutes, we forgot the nonsense in our government and remembered that we love our country.

The bus ride home was dry but cold, and we were happy to be home.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Squirreling

Dear Liza,

Fall is falling in a delightful way here in Portland. The trees are blazing into yellows and reds, planting beds and paths are upholstered with leaves, the fog is setting in, and the squirrels are getting even busier.

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First fog

The little furry guys run along the power lines to get from pole to pole and tree to tree without bothering about traffic or cats, but they don’t seem nervous about people.  If one of them is digging or hiding, he pretty much doesn’t notice us. He will occasionally dash up a tree and call us names, however. Just to let us know whose park it really is.

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Whose forest is this, anyway?

There is something else up here that is new to me. Chestnuts! Big, fat, spreading chestnut trees dropping bushels of chestnuts. When they fall, the nuts are encased in a green prickly shell, like a studded leather jacket, but the squirrels are very good at peeling those off, leaving the shiny, deep brown shells showing.

 

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Chestnut just breaking out of its jacket
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Squirreling away for Christmas!

Yesterday on the way to the Belmont Library, Auntie Bridgett and I decided to collect some chestnuts, as well.

What is good for the squirrels is good for the squirrelly, right?

Once we found a few trees, our pockets and Bridgett’s backpack were full in minutes! The only hazard is that the chestnuts are about the size and weight of a golf ball and HARD, so when they come down, they hit cars and sidewalks (and the hats of gatherers) with a resounding THUNK. Quite the adventure in foraging.

I look forward to roasting these little nuggets of Dickensian love and munching during a particularly ferocious storm. Welcome, winter!

The cooler weather has us hunting up scarves and heavier coats, making the first soup of the season (turkey/ sweet potato) and inventing new hot cider combinations. Looking forward with joy.

 

Love,

Grandma Judy