Mossy Goodness

Dear Liza,

Well, it’s raining again. The past few years, Portland has seen drier winters, and we seem to be making up for it now.

All this rain allows for some lovely, if damp, walks. It thins out the masked crowds at Laurelhurst Park.

And it waters the moss. Portland is a city upholstered with fluffy green moss. I love it!

Walls around houses or office buildings become tiny gardens.

The most common materials, like red bricks, become abstract pieces of art or wondrous topographical maps.

Our Lone Fir Cemetery is especially blessed. This grave, already overwhelmed with a maple tree, is softened with a velvety soft green blanket.

The moss isn’t greedy, though. It shares the walls, bricks, and graves with all sorts of plants and animals . After the moss has softened the stone, it holds on to the rain so ferns can take root.

Tiny flowers and entire ecosystems sprout from the fluffy dampness.

Maybe I will bundle up today and go enjoy some rainy, mossy, goodness. Or maybe I will stay warm and dry in my new pajamas and just write about it.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Reflections on the Rain in Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

For the last few days, we have been in a river…. an atmospheric river, to be exact. This is a system of very wet air that has blown up from the tropics, bumped into our cold air, and is just dumping water like crazy. This is a lot of rain, even for drippy Portland.

Perfect reflections


So of course we went for a walk to lovely Laurelhurst Park. The hillsides are muddy and very slick, so I stayed on the path. The last thing I need from 2020 is a busted bottom. The puddles forming by the path made perfect mirrors to appreciate the majestic trees and gray skies.

Firwood Lake has had a particularly thick layer of duckweed this year, looking more like a soccer field in some areas. But at the east end, a surreal swirly effect is finding new ways to be beautiful.

And just as I thought the swirly green and black water couldn’t get more weirdly beautiful, a raindrop plopped in and created concentric circles.

Life is beautiful, even (or maybe especially) in the rain.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Glowing Fall

Dear Liza,

We had a slow walk around Laurelhurst Park on Thanksgiving, to settle our dinner and enjoy being out in the world. Laurelhurst was planted in 1913, so most of the trees are huge. It feels like a tame forest and is my favorite place in the city.

Auntie Bridgett takes some pictures

This Fall, Firwood Lake is covered with duckweed and looks more like lawn than a pond. It is oddly beautiful.

Firwood Lake and oak trees

The old-fashioned lamps look beautiful against the trees in any season.

Ginkgoes and lamppost

The bright yellow of birches and ginkgoes brightens up the darkest corners of the woods.

Ginkgo glowing down the way

On a day when we were not with friends or family and were feeling a little sad, it was good to get out and be part of the beauty.

I hope you have a good week.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Celebratory Walk and Some Art

Dear Liza,

While we were reading the news and doing Duolingo this past Saturday morning, we heard a “Whoop!”from outside, a random celebratory yell.. We opened the window. More whoops, some car horn honks….

“Turn on the news!!” And there it was, CNN calling Pennsylvania’s ballot count for Joe Biden, putting him over the top and making him the President Elect of the United States.

Mouse was fascinated by the news!

We danced, we sang, we got dressed, we needed to get out and walk. Grandpa Nelson woke up and decided he needed to go with us. We waved to folks who smiled and waved back, sang, danced, and honked their horns. People in the park were happily walking dogs. The whole city was celebrating!

Happy trees in the Park

We stopped by Oblique Coffee for two pounds of their fine dark roasted beans, and the folks there were happy, too. We all felt as though we have been holding our breath and clinching our teeth for four years.

Between happy thoughts of new beginnings for our country (after the remaining 72 days of Mr. Trump’s term are over) and the lovely chilly morning, bright with leaves, we had quite a nice morning.

Weird Masonic symbol with Googly eye

Back home, I felt that I wanted to make some happy art. My first thought was “Making a New World”. I pulled some papers out of my collection, and laid them out very slowly, not thinking much, just eyeballing the colors.

The beginning of my celebratory collage

I cut a circle out of scrap paper and glued the collage papers onto it, overlapping and just playing. Once it dried, I cut out the circle out and put it on a page in my journal, then added some words. A little shading, and I think it’s done.

Sing “Thanks” Everyone!

We ordered pizza for dinner and watched our Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and President-Elect Joe Biden make their first official speeches to a socially distanced crowd in Delaware. They spoke of healing, caring, and uniting our bruised country, of fighting the corona virus and not each other. I was happy all over again at hopeful new beginnings.

Looking forward!

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Literal Walk in The Park

Dear Liza,

After an awful, nervous night and long cranky morning worrying about election returns, Grandpa Nelson took me out for a nice walk around Laurelhurst Park.

Morrison Street has turned into a colorful tunnel

Nothing soothes rattled nerves like walking around and noticing the colors of leaves, happy dogs chasing frisbees, and little kids on teeny tiny bikes.

Duckweed through aspens

The duckweed was still giving Firwood Lake that odd soccer-pitch color, and it looked weirdly beautiful through the yellow leaves.

Light filled tunnel across the park

There weren’t many people in the park, but those there were were all dressed for the chilly weather and making the park even more picturesque.

We just did a slow lap, then back home. I started working on a new face, which I sketched while looking at a picture of you! If it turns out okay, I will show it to you soon.

As the day goes on and more election returns trickle in, I am feeling better about the future of our country. Fingers crossed!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Invasion of the Duck Weed

Dear Liza,

I haven’t been going to the park much this Summer, because so many of the folks who visit do not wear masks and I would rather stay safe. But I love Laurelhurst Park, and I have missed it. So, today I masked up and headed off.

All our favorite trees are still there, and some are even showing a bit of fall color.

But Firwood Lake, home to dozens of ducks, turtles and fish, is covered with GREEN!

A tiny plant called Duckweed is growing so thick, it looks like a soccer field…smooth and green. It is not dangerous to anyone, and the birds and fish like it. But it sure looks weird.

Just don’t try to walk on it!

The only places where the duckweed isn’t growing are where the circulation pumps are, which disturbs the surface of the water.

Round, rippled holes in the duckweed

In our three years visiting Laurelhurst Park, we have seen giant trees fall, new ones get planted, Shakespeare performances, and even Big Band concerts. So I guess an outbreak of manic duckweed isn’t surprising. But I wanted to share it with you.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Leaves and Seeds

Dear Liza,

Fall is the time for endings and beginnings. The trees teach us that, and here in our neighborhood I have lots of teachers!

It’s Conker season!

The huge oaks and chestnut trees are shedding their leaves, which have danced all summer long.

Sweet chestnuts and acorns

They are casting their collective futures to the wind as seeds come clonking to the ground. Acorns, chestnuts, fir cones, and tiny maple helicopters fall and fly and eventually pile up, hoping to find just the right place to take root.

Golden Rain tree with its maraca-seed pods

I think it is fitting that our human institutions are tied to this idea of endings and beginnings. Summer ends, school starts. Elections allow for new directions for our city and country.

Time for a change!

Happy Fall!

Love,

Grandma Judy

New Art in the House

Dear Liza,

As I have told you before, I didn’t grow up with a lot of art. It just wasn’t something my parents understood or valued. They had both grown up on farms during the Great Depression, and were more interested in just keeping us all fed and clothed.

But now our house is full of wonderful, bright, original art! Auntie Bridgett being a member at SideStreet Arts helps, of course, because new paintings, prints and ceramics come through every month. But Ruth Inman, my friend from High School, has also been added to our collection.

Don’t worry! She’s hanging it, not smashing it!! Ruth Inman’s alcohol ink sunflower.
A Perfect trouple of Art….

We also just hung up a new Denise Krueger ceramic piece. It is three dimensional, one of her many sea creature-like sculptures that remind me of the tide pools in Monterey Bay. We hung it nice and high, above Sharon Jonquil’s encaustics, so we don’t hit it with a shoulder as we pass.

Look closely… there we are!

Our last new piece is a small acrylic painting Auntie Bridgett made for Grandpa Nelson’s birthday. It shows our lovely Laurelhurst Park with silhouettes of the three of us walking among the trees. It is hanging under Erin Hanson’s study of eucalyptus trees.

I love having art in the house. It gives me new perspective at times when I desperately need it. It shows me beauty and joy when I am burned down to my last neuron. And it reminds me that wonder can come from anyone, at any time.

Love,

Grandma Judy

National Teddy Bear Picnic Day

Dear Liza,

During the shutdown, we are having to find new ways to keep busy and make the days fun. We are reading, painting, and learning. And sometimes, we go on a picnic!

Auntie Bridgett, setting up the picnic

Friday was National Teddy Bear Picnic Day, believe it or not. It was also the first really warm day here in Portland. So we celebrated.

Two silly bear lovers!

Auntie Bridgett and I packed up easy picnic food like hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and celery, goat cheese and blueberries, and a few cookies. We also packed blankets and my guitar, and tiny dishes. And of course, the bears. Not ALL the bears, for sure, but four wonderful friends.

Pops, Patches, Esther Bear, and Bridgett Bear

We carried our provisions and our friends up to Laurelhurst Park. We have seen the park be very busy, and we wanted a quiet spot where we could be distanced. We found a high bank above the main walkway, where we could see but not be too close to anyone. We set up a big blanket and real food for us, and a tiny blanket and pretend food (well, mostly drink) for the bears.

Our supper

As we enjoyed our shady supper, a few folks came by and took notice. It was fun to make people smile at our silliness.

Bears getting tipsy just by sitting near the bottles!

When we had eaten, Auntie Bridgett and I tried singing The Teddy Bears Picnic song, written in 1907 by Irish Songwriter Jimmy Flannigan. It was the first time we’ve played and sung together in over a year, and we were rusty. But the bears didn’t complain and we got better before we quit, so that’s something.

Teddy Bear Music

“If you go down in the woods today,

You’re sure of a big surprise,

If you go down in the woods today,

You’d better go in disguise…”

We even had a bee visiter who enjoyed the clovers right by our feet!

Bees and Converse

It was actually starting to get a little cool by then, and the sun was thinking about going down, so we packed up and headed home.

Happy Teddy Bear Picnic Day!

Love,

Grandma Judy