Neighborhood Clearing

Dear Liza,

Every time I go out into the neighborhood, I see new things. The falling leaves are allowing more details to show.

For example, garden decorations that have been covered by overgrown trees and bushes are coming into view. This retaining wall for a house down by Hawthorne Street shows its decoration of old doorknobs, but only when the ferns die back in fall.

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Door knob decoration

This obelisk has been covered by one rosebush, which has now been cut back to just a few twigs for the winter, revealing the lovely sculpture.

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Garden Obelisk

Of course, leaf clearing and collection continues. This pile that was taller than you was waiting to be scooped up down by Laurelhurst Park. Inside the park, small trucks drive down the paved paths and blow the leaves onto the grass areas, where they are vacuumed up later. This is good, because the paths get really slippery and dangerous where the leaves sit and start to rot.

Also inside Laurelhurst, the workers are putting in net tubes filled with wood chips. These help keep the ground from washing away on hillsides. This series of tubes was put just below the off leash dog area, where there is a bit of a creek flowing during heavy rains.

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Erosion protection
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More leaves

The other day I saw my first sinkhole! A sinkhole is what happens when the ground underneath a street gets washed away, so the asphalt has nothing to sit on, and starts to collapse. This one was in the middle of the Washington Street and 27th intersection, marked by orange cones so no one would drive over or fall in!

Life just keeps getting more interesting up here.See you in January!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Sinkhole!!!

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

Dawn Redwood

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Trees change at different times

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I got out for two walks, one in the morning with Grandpa Nelson, and one in the afternoon with Auntie Bridgett. It was cold and wet but not raining, and both walks went through our favorite, Laurelhurst Park.

Grandpa Nelson’s walk was quick. He was still “at work”, at his office downstairs, but he needed to stretch his legs and clear his head. We covered ground, enjoyed the thousands of leaves floating on the lake, and saw dogs running full speed just for the joy of doing it.

My walk with Auntie Bridgett was less hurried. We saw some fine mushrooms.

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Happy mushrooms!
 

We talked about how different kinds of trees are changing at different rates. Most of the maples are pretty bare, but other types of trees still have quite a few green leaves.

Looking up, she said, “For example, this one.” We stopped beside a tree we hadn’t really noticed before. It was some sort of conifer (there were small green cones under it) but had clearly changed color and was getting ready to lose its leaves. “This tree isn’t well,” was my assumption. When an evergreen goes yellow, it’s near the end.

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Mystery Tree

We took pictures of the tree and leaves, tucked the location into our memory banks, and continued our walk.

On the other side of the park is a ‘tree map’, showing what sorts of trees are growing where in the park. Once we got oriented, we saw that our mystery tree was listed as a Metasequoia glyptostroboides, also known as a Dawn Redwood. Dawn Redwoods are deciduous conifers, meaning they have cones like evergreens, but lose their leaves every fall. A rare thing, indeed.

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Close up of Dawn Redwood

Dawn Redwoods are really special trees for other reasons, too. They were alive 60 million years ago, when dinosaurs were around. Scientists have found their fossils in North America, China and Japan. A Japanese paleobotanist (person who studies extinct plants) named Shegeru Miki found fossils in Japan and called it “Metasequoia”, meaning it was sort of a grandmother to all other redwoods. He assumed the tree was extinct.

At about the same time in China, a forester named T. Kan found a living grove of the same kind of trees. Because this all happened in the middle of World War II, it took years before they learned about each other’s finds.

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Needles of Dawn Redwood

When the seeds and other parts of the plants were sent to botanists at Harvard University, the tree was called a “fossil tree” and a seed gathering expedition went to China. Thousands of seeds were sent to different places around the world, including the Hoyt Arboretum and Laurelhurst Park here in Portland. The next year, the tree in the Arboretum bore cones, the first tree of its kind to bear cones in North America in 60 million years, or so they all thought.

It turns out there were, and still are, Dawn Redwoods growing wild here, in forests, the Gorge, as well as parks. They weren’t extinct, we just hadn’t found any  as of 1941. Now we have. It seems there are always new things to discover!

I love what this story tells me about curiosity, problem solving, and serendipity. The same kind of trees grew in China, Japan, and North America, for millions of years. How did the seeds travel so far? Were the continents closer then? What if that scientist hadn’t send those particular seeds to that particular guy?

Thinking happy, curious thoughts,

Grandma Judy

I (Heart) Fall

Dear Liza,

Fall keeps falling here. It is predicted to get near freezing soon, so I have brought Great-Grandma Billie’s geraniums into the house. They have a nice space by a window. Our little potted cypress, planted from seeds of the huge cypress that used to stand proudly over the Nob Hill parking lot in Salinas, is also inside.

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Great Grandma Billie’s Geraniums

On our walk yesterday, we saw more changes happening with the seasons. We are able to see more details of the houses on our street as the leaves fall away, Entire intersections are light and airy, almost empty, because the canopy of leaves is gone.

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Cypress seedling from Nob Hill

As we were walking through Laurelhurst, we saw something that surprised us. A young man with a rake was working on the vast expanse of leaves in the summer dog park section of the park. I wanted to warn him off, to tell him that one man with a rake didn’t stand a chance against the ever-rising tide of leaves. But he wasn’t trying to rake up the leaves.

He was raking the leaves into heart shapes, with spaces in between. We watched for a while, walked around the park, and watched some more. I made sure to holler “Thank you!” to let him know we had enjoyed his art and appreciated making beauty out of nothing but effort and ideas.

We are also hearing and seeing more Canada Geese, flying in loosely organized flocks or resting in fields, nibbling grass and bugs. They must be on their way south, and are enjoying some of our fine parks to make the long journey more enjoyable.

Much like I am doing, using Portland as a pleasant stop on my journey through life.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Leaf art!

 

After the Ghouls Have Gone Home

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Inflatable Dragon

 

Dear Liza,

Happy November! It feels weird when a holiday is over….all that preparation and decoration and anticipation and then…whoosh, it’s gone. But we had a nice Halloween and I hope you did, too.

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Owl tree carved from a real owl tree

We walked around the neighborhood and saw more wonderful decorations. An owl and tree were carved from a tree that had grown on that same spot. There was even a dragon roaring from a high balcony.

The autumn light has been most entertaining, as well. Yesterday I walked out at noon to go to the research library, and the sun wasn’t “at high noon”… it was in the southern part of the sky, low enough to be in my eyes as I walked south.

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Light and Shadows at Lone Fir

This odd light angle has also made beautiful shadows. Lone Fir Cemetery just keeps getting more beautiful as the season goes on. Laurelhurst Park, as well, changes with the light. The pond, ducks, and trees become wonderful Monet-style paintings.

And of course, for Halloween night, Auntie Bridgett painted us both up as skulls for giving away candy at the door. But no kids came! So we filled our pockets with candy and, in full make-up, coats and hats, walked around the neighborhood, giving candy to folks and withing everyone a Happy Halloween!

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Sweet Grandma Judy

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Monet style ducks

Sniffles

 

Dear Liza,

I have a cold today and feel icky, so I won’t write much. But I wanted to let you know that art is happening in our Laurelhurst Park! Not rehearsed, paid, group art. This appears to be the work of a single artist, using only chalk.

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With Halloween coming up, I guess a ghost is expected, but this little guy is so cute! And he has a friend across the way!

 

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Also, this shy looking cartoon character is just sitting on a rock as you enter the park, looking, you know, cute.

I’m off to drink tea and have a nap. More later, sweetie!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Adjusting to Change

Dear Liza,

So much is going on here in Portland! The rains have started for sure, with two and a half inches just this past weekend. As the leaves fall in Laurelhurst Park, what was the darkest part of the park is becoming the lightest, with a thin veil of yellow leaves creating a wonderful light.

The weather is getting colder, hovering about 48 degrees at night and 55 degrees during the day. All this means adjustments have to be made.

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Vacuuming the Lone Fir Cemetery
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Newly Light Forest

The city is keeping up with the leaves by using giant, ride-on lawn vacuums to clean the paths in our Laurelhurst Park, because all the leaves get slippery and really dangerous to walk on when they start to rot. This picture shows the difference between a clean path, and a not-clean path.

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Yes, there is a path there!

There is also a truck that drives through Lone Fir Cemetery and blows the leaves and chestnuts off the paths, and ride-on mowers that mow the grass and vacuum up the leaves off the graves.

At our house, we are getting ready for colder weather, too. We found some big saucers to put our potted geraniums on inside, because the freezing weather that is coming will be too cold for them to stay on the back stairs. These are Great Grandma Billie’s  geraniums, and I love them very much and want to protect them. We have also put matches, candles and flashlights on the counters, just in case we have a blackout from trees falling on power lines.

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Happy ferns

Plants and animals are adjusting, too. The old Labrador down the street is spending less time on her porch, ferns are growing out of the bark on almost every tree, and moss is blooming on stone walls,  sidewalk cracks, and tiny libraries. Mushrooms are springing up at the bases of trees.

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Mushrooms!

Oh, and remember the linden trees? They smelled so pretty and gave us shade? Well now, they are making berries for the birds. The petals, instead of falling off, have become thick and waxy, with beautiful blue berries in the center. Amazing!

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Linden Berries

All these changes are fun to watch, because I don’t know what’s coming next! But I will tell you about it, whatever it may be.

Love,

Grandma Judy