Springing…

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Rhododendron

Dear Liza,

Spring in Portland is an exciting time. You don’t know, hour to hour, if you will have sun or rain. Trees that have been bare all winter get dusted with petals before their lacy green petticoats come out.

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Spring Canopy

The ground smells alive as the rain and mosses work together to create life.

Each Rhododendron bloom looks like a perfect bouquet.

Wild roses and strawberries burst with buds and fruit, bright red against the dark shady soil.

The state flower, Oregon Grape, which isn’t a grape, can be found putting on its tiny sour fruits.img_6880.jpg

I remember walking around this very neighborhood, just about a year ago, apartment hunting. I saw a yard with its just- out -of -the -flat zinnias and thought how optimistic the gardener was, planting heat loving zinnias in what I thought was the perpetual damp of the northwest. But last summer’s heat set me straight, and I walked by the zinnias everyday, being reminded of how much I still have to learn about my new home.

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Optimistic zinnias

Being in our old neighborhood, I got to visit the flamingos! They are all decked out for Pride Day next weekend, lead in their own parade by their friend duck playing a kazoo. I smiled to see that our gnome is still lurking in the bushes, chuckling as people spot him.

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Proud Flamingos

Love,

Grandma Judy

Motivasi Coffe and Art!

Dear Liza,

Yesterday Grandpa Nelson and I helped Auntie Bridgett and our friend Jack Kent set up an art show at Motivasi Coffee, up on NE 42nd and Prescott.They have good coffee and very tasty muffins. Amanda, the lady who was working there, was friendly and helpful.

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The Shop

Jack draws a funny comic strip called “Gulls”, about a nutty group of seagulls, but he also does sketches of people he sees on the street, called “Sketchy People”. His Sketchy People and Auntie Bridgett’s Coffee Fairy collages are the main part of this show.

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Wrapped up Art

It took a while to figure out whose work was going where, and whether Jack’s and Bridgett’s work should be mixed together or hung separately, but once they figured that out, the work went pretty quickly. I held hammers and helped Auntie Bridgett, and Grandpa Nelson helped Jack. It was fun being the Minions and seeing the show come together.

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Jack Kent

 

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Bridgett Spicer

Finally,  it all looked like they wanted it to, and we packed up the bubble wrap and empty boxes. The show is up now and will stay up until late February. Jack and Bridgett will have a reception to meet people there on January 13, but I will be down with you by then.

We got home and had a walk around the neighborhood. Passing by the flamingo house, we saw Katherine, the lady who owns the flamingos, out tending her yard.

Today, the flamingos are set up to be ready for the Women’s March on January 21st. The are wearing colorful capes and tiny pink hats. They are, as usual, adorable.

 

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Women’s March Flamingos

See you soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Goodbye Mimosa

Dear Liza,

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The mimosas before the trim    began                                     Photo credit: Bridgett Spicer

There are so many beautiful, huge, really old trees in our neighborhood. Today, there is one less.

Down the block, between us and Babydoll Pizza, a giant mimosa tree has stood for, I would guess, 50 years, probably planted when the house we are living in was new.

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Urban Arborist

Yesterday we saw the cherry picker drive up, along with a trailer,  grinder, and compost truck. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the fellows doing the work…they were busy doing loud, hazardous work, and it was really cold. So I took photos from our window and thought about change.

I loved the trees because they were majestic and spoke of history and caring for one’s urban environment. They were part of this city that is so completely different from whence I came. I longed for change, and found it here. I found a new status quo.

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More change! Camellias blooming!

And now they are gone, and that new status quo is different. I am still figuring out how I feel about that.

One change we love and count on is the flamingo drama down the street. They have now been celebrating New Year’s Eve for several days and looks like they had a marvelous time!

Love, Grandma Judy

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Happy Flamingo New Year!

Walking and Helping

Dear Liza,

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By lunch time on the 21st, it was almost up to 35 degrees…so Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk.

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Auntie Bridgett and poster

She wanted to put some posters up for an art show she is putting on at Motivasi Coffee Shop in Northeast Portland, with her friend Jack Kent, and I was happy to help.

We also looked at things in the neighborhood, like  a statue we have started calling The Soft Serve Fairy, because the big sea shell she is holding up looks like an ice cream cone from Dairy Queen.

 

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Soft Serve Fairy

 

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Flamingo Nativity

And on our way back from Laurelhurst Park, we saw the new, improved flamingo Nativity! It is cuter, bigger, and just in time for the solstice.

Also, this evening we are all going downtown to see A Twisted Dickens, a Christmas show at the Armory, and going out for dinner at Henry Weinhard’s Restaurant.  This is to celebrate Grandpa Nelson and I getting married 43 years ago today!!!

More winter fun!

Love, Grandma Judy

Sunnyside School Visit

Dear Liza,

Today I walked over to Sunnyside Environmental School for a visit with their wonderful librarian, Gillian Grimm. Gillian had kindly agreed to share what she knows about the history of Sunnyside School and the neighborhood.

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Flamingo Nativity

It is cold and grey out today, but my walk was improved by the latest installation at the Flamingo house: A Nativity scene! The already cheerful pink flamingos were dressed in red. It was adorable.

At Sunnyside, I learned a lot about the school. Although the current building was built in 1925, there has been a school at the corner of Taylor and 34th since at least 1904, and most likely, much earlier. There are photos of students and their teachers posed on the front steps of the old school in 1904, but newspaper real estate advertisements from the 1890s that offer houses in the Sunnyside neighborhood with the inducement “close to good school”.

Gillian also shared with me some trophies that have been awarded to the school over the years. The oldest was from 1908, a tarnished but lovely trophy to Sunnyside School for their entry into the Rose Festival Children’s Parade.

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1904 Rose Parade Trophy

But back to the present: Gillian Grimm became librarian of Sunnyside in 2013. Before that, the position had been filled for ten years with library assistants and clerks, who checked out and maintained the books, but didn’t order new materials, cull old ones, or do any teaching. Gillian had plenty of work to bring the library up to speed and into the new century.

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Winnie the library dog

Gillian runs the library as a welcoming space, decorated by students and featuring squishy chairs for sitting and Winnie, an English Springer Spaniel who welcomes one and all. The students come in before school to check out books for silent reading as well as having regular visits with their classes.

Everything I saw at Sunnyside shows a school where the students are engaged, the teachers and staff excited about what they do, and the parents supportive. I almost wish I was 12 again so I could attend!

But not quite.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Flamingo Thanksgiving

Dear Liza,

Happy Thanksgiving! I wanted to share some new things in the neighborhood with you today.

First, the Flamingos are back, but I have to wonder about them. It seems that for their Thanksgiving feast, they have roasted…a Flamingo? I hope when the holiday is over the one laying down gets up, brushes his feathers, and they all go out for brine shrimp. But you never know, with plastic lawn flamingos.

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Odd Flamingo Thanksgiving

Laurelhurst Park keeps changing. I went out in the rain and parts of the park that used to be quiet are now really loud, because the leaves are off the trees, where they provided shelter,  and on the ground, where they act like little drums and echo the rain.

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Laurelhurst Lake

The views are changing, too. You can now see from the top of the hill all the way down to the lake, because the leaves that blocked the view are gone. Dark has become light, green has become orange. I knew there would be changes in seasons, but I am still surprised.

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Tai Chi in Laurelhurst

The only people in the park today were a couple walking their dog and a tai chi class, who were all bundled up but undaunted in their energy and focus.

I am glad to have a nice warm house to come back to after a long cold walk.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Walkin’ in the Sunshine

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Holman Family grave

Dear Liza,

Our fall weather is taking a break this week, reminding us how lovely summer was. Temperatures in the 70s and bright sunshine are warming the pumpkins and fallen leaves.

Yesterday was too pretty to stay inside, so I went walkabout. First I visited the Lone Fir Cemetery, hunting for the grave of my latest subject of interest, Frederick van Voorhees Holman. Since his parents had been pioneers, I looked in the oldest part of the cemetery, and there they were, the whole Holman clan. So now I have solid dates and family members. Check.

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Marquam Bridge

Then I took the #15 just across the Hawthorne Bridge. I wanted to walk along the Willamette River’s West Bank, called South Waterfront. Just south of the Hawthorne Bridge is a green swath of lawn, full of seagulls, geese, and people eating their lunch on the steps. The view across the river was of the very ugly Marquam Bridge and equally lovely Tilikum Crossing Bridge. Beyond both of them in the far distance, was Mt. Hood, shining white against the blue sky.

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Mt. Hood!

Past the Park was a long planted promenade and small boat harbor. It reminded me of all the lovely harbors along the coast of California, but tiny…maybe 50 boats in all, waiting at their docks for someone to come play. Serving this area are a dozen or so very posh shops. A restaurant called Three Degrees, a few bars and restaurants with outside seating, art galleries and even an Umpqua Ice Cream shop.

Further along was Poet’s Beach, an actual sandy beach you can walk down to and put your feet in the water, if you want to. Along the path were poems of young children carved into rocks. It was lovely. Standing directly under the double-decker freeway that is the Marquam Bridge, I remembered the evening that Auntie Bridgett and I drove over that bridge into Portland. We were strangers here then, lost in a new place. Now I feel so at home I give directions to lost tourists.

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Student Poetry carved in stone

Just under the Marquam Bridge I ran into construction, with fences, noise and people in hard hats, and decided I had walked enough. Crossing Third Street to get to my bus stop, I passed Lownsdale Square and the memorial erected to honor the soldiers of the Second Oregon Regiment, a group of men from Oregon who fought in the Philippines during the Spanish American War. Just across that street is the historic Multnomah County Courthouse, a lovely old building that has been overgrown by the newer buildings around it.

I got home on the #15, walked through Lone Fir again, and had a rest and dinner. Since it was so warm and pleasant, we all walked out again. The flamingos are back! They were gone after the Cubs lost the pennant, probably feeling very sad. But they are dressed up for Halloween and seem to be all better. Welcome back, Flamingos!

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Halloween Flamingos!

Love,

Grandma Judy