Fall in the Neighborhood


Dear Liza,

Maybe it’s because our summer has been so hot and dry, but Fall is falling hard here in Portland. Leaves are falling in piles earlier than usual. The change from heatwave to rainfall seems more abrupt.

In our lovely, funky Sunnyside neighborhood, the lush flowers of summer are dying back, waiting to be trimmed into their winter rest.

Plum, apple, and fig trees are all over the neighborhood, planted decades ago by resourceful homeowners. Some folks gather them up and share them, which is really nice. One house on Taylor Street even provides little boxes to take them home!

Other folks seem overwhelmed by the abundance and the fruit just falls and rots, smelling like a brewery. Not terrible, but a terrible waste.

Piles of leaves are everywhere. They make for a seasonal carpet and art materials, as well as pulling nutrients back in the soil. But I know once it rains, we will have ‘leaf slime’ in every gutter.

So it is when summer ends. There is a melancholy, especially when it feels like Covid has cheated us of another summer’s concerts, plays, and festivals. But I am ready for Fall. The inside time and contemplation, and the creativity that come with it, are okay by me.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Nothing but Flowers

Dear Liza,

The neighborhood has gotten so pretty! It has been hot, and if people water enough, their flowers are just going nuts.

There are about a zillion varieties of dahlias, and they are all beautiful. Some of them grow taller than my head, and others are little guys about six inches tall. They all grow from potato-like rhizomes and I think I’ll put some in my garden next year.

Cone flowers are another plant that can be stunningly tall and showy. They have really prickly centers and petals that flop like skirts.


AND when you have coneflowers, dahlias, and sculpture all together in front of a delightful old house, it’s even better!

Love,

Grandma Judy

P.S. Peonies….

Hot Dogs and Rain

Dear Liza,

When Auntie Bridgett and I started jogging this past weekend, I decided to start eating better. More veggies, less junk food. We bought frozen edamame and lots of vegetables to cut up for afternoon snacks. And I have been enjoying it!

But, by golly, when Grandpa Nelson says, “I’m going to Zach’s, want to come?”, I say “Yes!” It has been odd, spring-y weather the last day or so, with clouds blowing by between sunshine, so, obviously, we knew we might get wet.

We headed off in chilly sunshine in just tee shirts and jeans. Grandpa Nelson at least wore a hat! But not me. Nope. Caution to the wind Judy, that’s what they call me. We walked past wonderful flowers and the Morrison Street chickens, enjoying lovely rhododendrons. But I couldn’t help noticing…..the clouds….

At Zach’s Hot Dog Shack, we took up our usual table on the patio, and Hunter brought our French fries and Chicago dog. It was cool but out of the wind. Then, within minutes, it got dark and the temperature dropped. The rain hit like buckets!

We watched for a few minutes until the cold chased us inside. Thoughtful Hunter even turned on the heater at my back, and we continued our lunch amid the friendly, dive-y decor. We watched the rain come down through the open front door as we talked about whatever came to mind, waiting for a chance to get home without being washed away. “This will be over in fifteen minutes,” Grandpa assured me.

And it was, mostly. When we saw some sunshine, we waved goodbye to Hunter and headed out, opting for the shortest route home. There were still drops, but the storm had passed. The flowers were lovely again. We got home, warmed up, and had a good rest.

Never pass up a chance for fun food, an adventure, and good company. That’s my advice.

Love,

Grandma Judy

From Pink into Orange

Dear Liza,

As our spring has moved toward summer (with several bright days interspersed with soaking rains), a whole new batch of flowers are showing themselves. The pinks of early spring, the cherry blossoms and dogwoods, are giving way to oranges and reds.

This clover is over a foot tall and is growing in a parkway near our house. Clover is usually only a few inches tall! The soft, fluffy blooms are about four inches long and very popular with bees.

Thanks to my good friend and French teacher, Shawn Quiane, I found out that this lovely plant is called Helianthemum nummalarium. It is a type of common rock rose.

And the best thing about it is that each individual petal looks like a piece of candy corn!!! Love it!!

So, it is May, and we are still having chilly mornings and some wet days. I’m getting a bit impatient for some solid sunshine. Of course, I know that In July I will complain that it’s “just too hot!” but I guess that’s human nature.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Cake Walk

Dear Liza,

Our spring has been alternating between rain and sun, so when the weather is nice, we get out in it! Grandpa Nelson and I headed out in Friday, with not much idea of where to go.

All sorts of flowers are blooming! The tulips are starting to fade, but azaleas and irises are going berserk. The colors are eye-smashing.

We continued south west, sort of in the direction of Ladd’s Addition, where Auntie Katie’s book shop, “Books with Pictures” is. The rose gardens had a few early bloomers looking good, with dozens more in bud, just biding their time.

Palio, a delightfully tasty and pleasant bakery/coffee shop on the Ladd’s Circle Park, has set tables and chairs out on the sidewalk. We ordered some delicious lemon custard cake and texted Katie with an offer. “Yes, please!”

Auntie Katie just her second vaccine just the day before and is on her way to being able to run her shop more easily. The business is doing well, mostly because she works hard to make sure she gets books to her customers. She has been driving to deliver all over the city for more than a year now. Exhausting, yes, but that’s what it took.

After a lovely chat and snacks, Grandpa Nelson and I headed back home through the Richmond neighborhood. It is full of craftsman style houses from the turn of the 20th century and hundreds of majestic trees and flowers bushes.

Portland is a cakewalk!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Living in Layers

Dear Liza,

Before I moved to Portland, I lived in Salinas, where the land is very flat. The wide Salinas Valley runs for about a hundred miles, wide and flat. Down most streets you can see a long way.

Looking about half a mile down Alisal

Portland has a river, too, bigger and wider than the Salinas, but the Willamette hasn’t flattened things out much.

One of the few unobstructed views in town… down the river!

Portland has lots of hills and lots of trees. Looking at anything more than a block away involves looking through things. And I am loving it.

Having to look through things and past things makes my brain work harder, and ask questions.

Is it the house I love, or the view of the house beyond the rock garden and blossoms?

Would this flower look as lovely if it were all by itself? (Probably not, I answer myself).

And why does the moon just look prettier through trees?

Anyway, I hope you love the street you live on as much as I love mine!

Love,

Grandma Judy

It’s Pink Season

Dear Liza,

Pink has never been my color. As I have told you before, it was always mentioned as “The Girl’s Color” in a derisive sort of way that made sure it would never be “my” color.

Majestic Dogwoods reach for the sun

But Portland has changed my mind about that. In Spring, pink becomes the power color. The color of pollination, of getting things done. And it is breathtaking.

Gigantic peonies lurk in the shadows
Redbuds bloom to contrast a green house

The bees, butterflies, and birds love the pinks! They flit and hop around, making sure we see their colors, too.

And Camellias, of course…

So, though I may still not wear pink, I love it. It is bright and full of life, and will always, now, remind me of spring in Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Portland Rainbow

Dear Liza,

Your great grandma Billie, my momma, knew so many poems by heart that they would sometimes just jump out of her when she was emotional. The words of the poems expressed how she felt better than her own words.

Rainbow over Ladd’s Addition

This is one I heard very often, a poem William Wordsworth wrote about 150 years ago. It is about rainbows, but it is also about trying to carry the wonder we feel as children into our adulthood. I have chosen it to accompany some lovely rainbow-colored flowers in our neighborhood.


My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;


So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!


The Child is father of the Man;


And I could wish my days to be


Bound each to each by natural piety.

And that is your poetry for the day.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Walking for Sculpture

Dear Liza,

We have been having such sunny weather that I have been walking every day. Yesterday, I took Auntie Bridgett on a bit of a wild goose chase looking for some sculpture.

We had two items on our agenda: to eat a picnic lunch in a park, and for me to show Bridgett a front yard full of sculptures that I had seen the day before. I thought I remembered right where it was… and I was almost right.

We packed sausage, cheese, fruits and veg, and two giant bottles of ice water. We also took watercolor supplies, as Bridgett said, “just in case.”

I led us to Market Street and then Stephens, keeping my eyes peeled for the house that I knew should be … around here … somewhere. But we had gone too far, and I was puzzled. How had we missed it? We asked a lady working in her yard, and, after some confusion, she remembered and directed us. It turns out, we had turned exactly one block too soon.

Big sigh. It was getting on to noon, and we had come blocks too far. We stood in the shade and thought… should we go forward, not see the sculpture, and eat sooner, or backtrack, see the art, and delay lunch a bit? We opted for the art, turned around, and walked. And after fifteen minutes, there it was!

It is a real sculpture garden, right in someone’s front yard. Realistic portraits, stylized African heads, and a delightful hand monument, all set among flowers, sunshine, and shade. I took pictures and we stood and appreciated to variety and arrangement.

Then it was sure and truly lunchtime, and we headed to Seawellcrest Park. There were lots of trees and shade, kids playing hide and seek, and deliriously happy dogs playing fetch. We sat and enjoyed being out in the world, watching our fellow mammals at play. We ate our lunch and then painted a little, my first “plein aire” (painting outdoors) attempt.

It’s more of a sketch with pencil and water color than an actual painting, and I’ll work more on it later. But better to start badly than not at all.

When we had eaten every crumb and knew we had gotten too much sun, we headed back home. Sunshine, art, and a wonderful neighborhood to get lost in… I am truly blessed.

Life is good.

Love,

Grandma Judy

….And, We’re Back to Rain

Dear Liza,

I like to think of myself as a good sport. You know, going along, making accommodations, not letting things bug me. But darn it, it’s mid-June and it’s still raining. Every day!

My brain wants some sunshine, real, warm sunshine, not the damp glow we’ve been getting. I did get out for a walk yesterday, however, to take pictures and get my miles in, and found some things.

Cloudy artichoke silhouette

The grey skies gave me interesting silhouettes of a giant artichoke plant.

A hired flock of plastic pink flamingoes wished someone a Happy Birthday.

Someone got flocked!

And, always looking for perspective, I met Mr. Carl Zipple and his wife, Emma, at Lone Fir Cemetery. I’m sure they were nice folks and I hope people didn’t give them too much grief about their name.

The Late, great, Zipples

And that’s all for now.

Love,

Grandma Judy