Lovely Damp

Dear Liza,

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Fall Sunset

We are now getting into the part of Fall that is damp and grey. If it is isn’t raining at any given moment, it has recently stopped or will begin again soon. When we were thinking of moving to Portland, this is one thing I worried about….as a former Southern California beach girl and Salinas resident, how would I do in a fairly constant situation of damp?

So far, it suits me right down to the ground. Granted, I am not working, so I don’t have damp students or muddy shoes to deal with, and we have a cozy warm house that keeps the chill away.

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Mushrooms in Laurelhurst Park

But even outside, there is so much life and beauty that it’s hard to be too fussy about it. At Laurelhurst Park there are mushrooms that spring like fairy lamp posts from the mud, and leaves that sparkle on the dark paths.

We have even found a sweet chestnut tree! We have named it Leila, after my aunt who had eleven children, because she is so prolific. Yesterday evening, when it was nearly dark, we foraged about eight pounds of chestnuts.

Walking through Ladd’s Addition, where Auntie Katie lives, is a joy, as well. The old trees and shady yards feel like a forest, with moss, ferns and earth that smells alive and happy. When the clouds part for a minute, the sunshine is so glorious that people stop and smile.

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Foresty front yard in Ladd’s Addition

Meanwhile, inside, there is quilting and reading, split pea soup with bacon and Halloween monster movies.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Evening Walk in Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

In case you missed me and my blog over the weekend, I have decided that I will only be posting on weekdays, and taking weekends off. I am feeling like I’m so busy writing about life, I’m not having time to DO life. But for now…

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Firwood Lake reflections

We are at the part of Fall where it can be warm during the day, cool in the evening, but still light enough to walk after dinner. If I am quick to get out and careful, I can take some nice photos.

In the neighborhood around Laurelhurst Park, there are signs of Fall everywhere. Leaves changing, seed pods doing amazing things, squash and pumpkins swelling and getting fat for Halloween, crows scavenging.

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Seed pod magic

Sitting by Firwood Lake, the pond inside the park, I kept seeing reflections and shadows, trying to channel my inner Monet.

Dahlias, one of Auntie Bridgett’s favorite flowers, are still blooming, catching the lower light in their dense petals.IMG_0583.jpg

And, of course, chestnuts! The scary-muppet looking ones that you can eat, and the studded-motorcycle-jacket ones that you can’t are both falling like rocks from trees all over the neighborhood. Keep your hats on!

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CAN eat…sweet chestnut!

And, as Edith Ann used to say, that’s all I have to say about that.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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CAN’T eat…horse chestnut!

Willie the Dawn Redwood

Dear Liza,

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Ancient Dawn Redwood
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Willie and Bridgett in July

In late June of this year, this new Dawn Redwood was planted at the eastern edge of the Dog Off Leash Area in Laurelhurst Park. We noticed it and named it Willie, after my Momma and because he has this little wiggle near the top…Willie with a Wiggle, Wiggle Willie, something like that. There are several magnificent old Dawn Redwoods already in the park, so we figured he was guaranteed success.

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In September

But this has been an unusually hot and dry summer. Since early June, the city has seen about a quarter of an inch of rain, with weeks of temperatures near 100 degrees. This sort of drought is hard on all the plants, but especially those with tiny baby root systems.

During the summer we have kept tabs on Willie. He has gotten browner and more spindly and we have been worried.

But he is a deciduous tree, which means that he is supposed to lose his little needle-leaves in the Fall. Maybe the browning is natural, and not drought related.

Now that the rain seems to have started, I hope he can grow and be as tall and weirdly handsome as his older colleagues.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Three Hundred!!

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Family

Dear Liza,

I started writing this blog as a way to stay in touch with you and my friends in Salinas after I moved up to Portland. I thought I would write a little, get bored, and quit….like I usually do.

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Fall
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Summer

But Portland is such an interesting place that I keep finding things to write about. Today, as a matter of fact, is my 300th post. Three hundred adventures. Three hundred stories.

Portland is a big city, and has big city problems, like anywhere. The housing costs are high and homeless people struggle to get by. Trash and noise can be a nuisance. And if you are driving, there will eventually be traffic that frustrates you.

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Spring

But there are also kind people and missions that help the homeless folks. Groups adopt neighborhoods to pick up trash. And transit is good enough that if you don’t want to drive, you don’t have to.

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Art

And the benefits of this lovely city are enormous. Art. Music. Parks. Art and music in parks! Food and drink and coffee and pastries.

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Winter

And the reason I can enjoy all of this is because I am not working. Working, besides being…well, work, takes up an enormous amount of time. Days and days of NOT getting to walk at random and stop when you feel like it. Evenings of being so tired you can’t even think of an adventure.

Being at liberty is such a joy and privilege that sometimes I feel like I’m cheating.

But maybe if I share it with you I can share some of the joy, and feel less selfish.

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You never know who you’ll meet at Lone Fir Cemetery

Love,

Grandma Judy

Shakespeare Times Two

Dear Liza,

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Everyone loves Shakespeare!

Saturday afternoon, after shopping and lunch, we headed off to Laurelhurst Park for… A Comedie of Errors! The afternoon was sunny and hot, and since the stage area was in sun, we sat in the sun, hoping the shade would get to us eventually.

This story of two sets of identical twins, mistaken identities, romantic and financial entanglements was very well done, funny, and surprisingly touching. Two women, (Shakespeare wrote them as men but women work very well), identical twins both named Antipholus, are separated during a shipwreck as infants, one with the mother, one with the father. Their boy servants (also identical twins, both named Dromio) are separated with them.

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Antipholus and her Dromio are arrested

The play begins 30 or so years after the shipwreck, with the twins and their servants as adults. I won’t try to explain it all here, but the play is a raucous, well-written romp guaranteed to entertain lowlifes and high brows alike.

The acting was wonderful! Since Original Practice Shakespeare is a repertoire company, we get to see actors play different parts in different plays. It is fun to see a tragic queen become the Prompter, or a person with a small part in a different play take center stage and steal every scene!

It changes your understanding of acting, casting, and life in general….Even if you are really good at what you do, it doesn’t ALWAYS have to be about YOU.

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Brian Saville Allard as a slimy merchant…..

Since this weekend is the Grand Finale Weekend of “Will Fest”, the last weekend of the OPS season, Saturday evening was also Shakespeare in Laurelhurst…Hamlet!

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       And as the evil King Claudius,                           with Jennifer Lanier as Polonius.

Grandpa Nelson hates the play because the main character is so indecisive, so Grandpa stayed home and Auntie Bridgett and I went over. It was also very good.

Hamlet was cast as a young woman, (played by Lauren Saville Allard) which, in my mind, changed what I expected of her. I had always wanted male Hamlet to get it over with and revenge his father, but of female Hamlet, I wanted  more introspection…so I guess I like female Hamlet better!

This year we have gotten to see my favorite actor, Jennifer Lanier, in all the plays. She was Prospero in The Tempest last year, and Polonius in Hamlet, and Sir Toby Belch Twelfth Night. She is delightful.

We have two more plays of this season, if we are Shakespeare strong enough!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Richard III

Dear Liza,

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The Stage is set

After I got back from my bus and train adventure to visit Terry, I rested up a little before we headed off to Laurelhurst Park for another production of Original Practice Shakespeare. This is the troupe of actors that doesn’t do regular rehearsals, and each actor carries a little scroll with their lines on it. They have an on-stage prompter, dressed in a referee uniform, who keeps everything running smoothly and occasionally stops the actions to ask, “So, Richard, how’s it going?”

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The Prompter

They do it this way for two reasons. First, it is how Shakespeare’s plays were performed while Shakespeare was still writing them. Second, it allows a small group of actors to do 6 different plays a week, because no one has to absolutely memorize a whole play…they always have their lines with them.

Because the actors haven’t rehearsed this play as a group, the performances can be uneven. Our last experience with them, A Midsummer Nights Dream at the top of Mt. Tabor, wasn’t fabulous. The staging was confusing, the costumes didn’t make sense, and the actors were not very prepared. So we were skeptical.

Still, free Shakespeare is something to see when you have the chance, so we went. And we were not disappointed.

This production of the historical tragedy of Richard III, was beautiful, emotional, and so well acted that every line of every character made sense. Brian Burger, who played the evil, scheming Richard, used his soliloquies to bring the audience in on his plans, and sort of made us co-conspirators. We knew what terrible things he was going to do, and we enjoyed watching him do them.

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Evil Richard woos Lady Ann

The costumes were well chosen and helped define the characters. This troupe does a lot of cross casting, with women playing men’s roles, but they did it so well!

One scene was even more poignant with a woman, Ariel Puls, playing Lord Stanley. She wore a costume that was military, but wore her blonde hair in a pony tail and was clearly a woman. When Richard tells her she may go raise more troops, but she must leave her son with him as a hostage against her treason (which she is indeed planning), a mother’s pain is shown with her whole body. Fortunately, Richard is defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field before he has a chance to kill the boy.

We cheered for the good guys and booed for Richard, some of us yelling advice to the actors when they seemed to need it.

It was a rousing, fun evening, and we walked home happy and exhausted.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hand Rails for Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

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First section of rails is in!

As I have told you, Laurelhurst Park is my favorite place in Portland. It is 26 acres of grassy slopes, majestic maple trees, picnic areas, a lake, paths for walking and biking, and even places to hang out with dogs.

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Auntie Bridgett and Willie

 

 

 

In our short year here we have seen old trees fall or lose branches,  and new ones get planted. We have gotten quite attached to some of them. Auntie Bridgett has a favorite, a young fir tree she calls Oliver. She gives him a “high five” whenever we go past. He recently got his lower branches trimmed, so she has to reach higher for the five!

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A High Five for Oliver

There is a new tree, a Dawn Redwood we have named Willie because he has a snake-like wiggle near the top. He is still young and we look forward to watching him grow.

And Laurelhurst Park is now getting even better! The wonderful brick steps that lead from the deepest part of the ravine up to Ankeny Street are getting hand rails.

Last January, when I chatted with a fellow working on the plants near the steps, he mentioned that handrails were in the plans, but that I shouldn’t hold my breath.  Now they are becoming a reality.

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Leveling the new rails

A few weeks ago we noticed holes cut in the edges of the steps. Tuesday, Grandpa Nelson noticed the caution tape as we walked home from the movies. Wednesday, I met some of the men installing the beautiful rails. It is quite a complicated process.

Inside each hole is a steel sleeve, so the rails won’t put stress on the old bricks. Then the rails are set 4 feet into the sleeve with concrete and pea gravel and leveled in all directions. The concrete is smoothed and then painted with sealant so it won’t crack.

When I asked when the rails would be ready to use, the man answered, “Depends how hot it gets. We can’t pour if it’s over 100 degrees.” I will drop by the park later today to see what’s up, so I can show you!

Always looking for more goodness around here…

Love,

Grandma Judy