I have told you about our Rose Gardens, our Japanese and Chinese Gardens, but did you know Portland has Fairy Gardens?
They are harder to find than the City gardens, but this may be on purpose. Fairy-folk are a bit shy among us Big’uns, so these tiny marvels are not mentioned in any city guidebook. When walking through neighborhoods, you have to keep your eyes open and look down amongst the rocks and hedges. The telltale signs are pebbles in a curvy line, an over-large mushroom, or tiny doors leading into hillsides.
Another thing that makes Fairy Gardens hard to find is that they are so small. An entire community of fairies can fit in even a Portland sized yard, tucked between rose bushes and towering dahlias.
I love finding Fairy Gardens all over our city. Clearly, fairy-folk only establish their gardens among sympathetic, gentle humans, and I like that Portland has been given the Fairyfolk stamp of approval.
Also, I think fairies are wise gardeners. They know enough to leave the giant trees alone, focussing on the tiny weeds that can choke a flowerbed. They encourage the ladybugs, bees, and butterflies in their efforts to keep the flowers safe and healthy.
I hope you can come visit soon, so we can go find some Fairy Gardens together.
I love visiting the Japanese Garden here in Portland. It is a wonderful collection of smaller gardens situated on a hilly section of Washington Park. There is always something new and delightful to see.
Yesterday, Cousins Jasper and Kestrel went with me! We usually visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden downtown, but Jasper suggested going up the hill and Kestrel agreed.
After we caught the number 2 bus and got downtown, we had fifteen blocks to walk and about half an hour to catch the 63 bus that would take us up the hill. We strolled through the city streets, playing with public art and making up stories about the statues.
There was a long line at the entrance to the garden, and the kids worried about not being able to enjoy it because of the crowd. We decided to risk it.
It turns out, crowds in a garden are like freight trains in a neighborhood. They are noisy and annoying, but if you wait a minute, they blow through, leaving peace behind.
There is an art exhibit at the Pavilion Gallery called “Re-Fashioning Beauty”. The brochure says it is about “embracing past icons of Japanese beauty while looking forward.” There were several articles, never meant to be worn, showing the natural but ridiculous evolution of the platform shoe.
There were also three foot tall Geisha-style hairpins, but they weren’t as interesting as these swords and other pieces of sculpture set into perfectly clear blocks of resin. We all became fascinated with the refraction of light though the blocks and spent a long time just moving, squinting, and looking.
Because of the way the art was displayed, I would never have noticed the refraction on my own: The kids found it because they were at exactly the right height. Playing with light became the new game.
We told stories, climbed steps, crossed bridges, and had a high old time.
Our trip home became a cascade of bumps on the road. We got hungry and checked out the Umami Cafe, but found food not acceptable to picky eaters. I remembered our friendly vendor at the Rose Garden. We headed down for kid friendly snacks, but he had packed up for other locations for the winter.
We made do with a candy bar from the gift shop and went to catch the bus back to town. But (another snag!) that bus wouldn’t arrive for almost an hour! I made an executive decision. We would walk down the hill.
This was not a popular idea, as it turned out, but one I was willing to stick with. We actually had a nice surprise, running into our old friend, Rabbi Bruce Kadden, on the way! But energy and patience were running out, so a quick hug and how do you do, and off we went.
The cousins and I chatted and rolled balls down the path until we got to Burnside, where we caught a bus to another bus and eventually ended up at Auntie Katie’s store. Minutes later, Auntie Bridgett picked me up.
It was time for a quick dinner and restful evening. Being a Grandma is fun, but hard work!
Lately, I have been feeling like my brain is empty. People call it Writer’s Block, but it doesn’t feel blocked, it feels like a big hollow hole where a bunch of happy ideas used to be.
So I decided to go out and fill it up.
I got on the number 15 bus and headed for Washington Park. As the bus was going up the hill on Burnside, though, I pulled the cord to get off. I saw something I’d only read about: It was Fireman’s Park, a monument built in 1911 to honor David Campbell, who was fire chief from 1893 to 1911 and died fighting a fire, running in to a burning building to get his men out safely.
The fountain is under repair, but the bronze plaque is handsome. There are also small plaques recognizing other firemen who have lost their lives on duty, from J. Hewston in 1892 to A. Berg in 1948. Firemen’s Park is on a very noisy bit of land, so I moved along up the hill for some contemplation.
At the base of Washington Park there are several entries. I took the ancient looking stone steps. There were signs, which kept me from wandering too far in the wrong direction, and I eventually found the Japanese Garden. I climbed up the new steps through a forested ravine to the new entrance. At last, the serenity I was searching for!
Well, no. Everyone comes to the Japanese Garden in summer. There were old men with walkers, active grandmas with all the grandkids, and young people walking past 100 year old Bonsais, staring at their phones. Not what I was after.
There was visual serenity once I waited for for groups to pass, but as a teacher, children’s voices cannot be tuned out. I either want to answer their questions, remind them of their manners, or suggest they go play somewhere else, none of which was appropriate. So, noise.
I enjoyed it as best as I could, enjoying a nice quiet lunch at The Umami Cafe in the new Japanese Educational Village and walking through the entire garden again. Better.
I discovered the Robert and Debra Zagunis Castle Wall, built here with Oregon granite by a 15th generation Japanese stone mason. It looked very formidable and gave me a first hand visual of the walls at Osaka Castle, which I have been reading about in Shogun by James Clavell.
But I wasn’t full yet. I walked down the ravine and across the road to the International Rose Test Garden. It built in 1917 to make sure the European rose varieties being decimated by World War I weren’t lost entirely. It is huge, beautiful, and, today, much quieter than the Japanese Garden. I visited here last summer with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel, and it is still wonderful.