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

New Beginnings Again!

Dear Liza,

No matter what sort of mess we human beings get ourselves into, nature just keeps on growing and changing.

Baby grapes are forming on a tiny vineyard on Belmont Street…

That crazy annual TREE that isn’t a sunflower is charging up to thirty feet tall…

Irises are going absolutely insane…

And Rhododendrons are making a real spectacle of themselves.

It’s really nice to know that there are some things we haven’t messed up yet!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Smiling Anyway II

Dear Liza,

It was nice to see you, your Mommy and your Daddy on our Mother’s Day ZOOM call yesterday. It was nice to visit with Auntie Katie, too. I am surrounded, as much as I can be, by people who love me. That is a real gift.

Auntie Bridgett and I even got out for a bit of a walk. We avoided the park, because we had seen dozens folks heading that direction and knew it would be too crowded to safely social distance. We walked through our Sunnyside neighborhood and enjoyed seeing flowers, kids on bikes, and even a “Free to a good home” bicycle sitting on the corner. I hope it finds someone nice.

We were happy to see Stumptown Coffee open, and got an iced coffee to help our closest coffee shop. I found the image of the day there, in this magnificent lupine growing out front. The angle of the sun was such that it highlights the Aalto Bar, which isn’t even open now, but that’s the way the photograph clicks sometimes.

We also found this cartoon by a local artist, posted on a telephone pole, that sort of said it all for me at that moment. Amidst the flames, we sit in our houses and cope. “This is fine,” we say.

So, for now, I will be fine, even when I’m not. I will appreciate and relish the beautiful while quietly acknowledging the underlying “What the Heck?” aspects of our current situation. It’s a delicate balance.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Laurel’s Rainbow

Dear Liza,

When I became a teacher in 1988, I met a woman who would become a life long friend, Laurel Sherry-Armstrong. Besides being a natural teacher, she was, and is, a talented musician and poet. I think about her when I think about colors, rainbows, and spring.

One of the many pieces she wrote for use in our class of “Kinderbloomers” was called The Colors of Promise. It is about rainbows.

The lyrics are a lovely way to remember the colors of the rainbow in order, a lesson in what causes rainbows, and a hint at the God’s biblical promise after The Flood, never to destroy mankind again.

“When sun shines through raindrops

An arc of hope is seen

Red on top, orange, yellow and green.

Indigo blue and violet, too.

Down come the colors of promise to you.”

Laurel retired from teaching before I did, and now lives half the year in Ashland, Oregon, and the other half in Honolulu, Hawaii. She plays music with her lovely husband Milton, dances the hula, and teaches kids how to play the ukulele.

She is living the life I would have wished for her; happy, busy, filled with music and love.

Laurel, dancing with Milton at Auntie Katie’s wedding

Love,

Grandma Judy

And then, Snow!

Dear Liza,

Saturday morning, we woke up to snow. It was just a dusting, and we went back to sleep. A few hours later, it was STILL snowing, and Grandpa Nelson decided it was time for a proper snow adventure, so we bundled up and headed off.

Grandpa Nelson, out and about

First, we saw our walkway, decorated with snow. The gnomes were wondering who put out the lights, apparently.

Gnomes, just chillin’

Then we noticed some tulips that had not seen the snow coming. I hope they can spring back!

Very surprised tulips

Laurelhurst Park itself is lovely in any weather, but is a Narnia sort of beautiful in the snow. The Ravine always looks like Mr. Tumnis is going to show up any moment.

The edge of Narnia

As we walked around, we saw dozens of families enjoying the snow. There were snowmen, snowball fights, dogs dashing around. It was a winter wonderland… in March. I will show you the snowmen tomorrow.

Firwood Lake and snowy Boomarang Island

The lake was very pretty through the trees, as the snow came down and sat on the surface for just a minute before melting.

After our walk, we came in and hung our wet clothes up in front of the fire, and spent the rest of the day alternately watching TV and snow!

Love,

Grandma Judy