It is winter in Portland, wet and pretty chilly most days. But it is also beautiful. After a really rainy night, I went for a walk in Laurelhurst Park.
Oh, before I forget. I met a lady walking her dog the other day, and she says we should call it “Squirrelhurst” Park.
I guess if you are walking a dog in the park, the squirrels become much more of a focus. Leash-training is a good thing.
Even though the calendar says it is mid-winter, not all the plants are shut down. These green shoots are promising jonquils, or snowdrops, pretty soon. I will keep my eye out for them!
The Camellias are beginning to bloom, both red and white, all over the park. They don’t worry about freezing temperatures, diminished sunlight and buckets of rain, apparently.
Puddles become a real thing in the park after a rain. The paths need to be walked with care, and the lowest parts are really muddy. Another reason to keep your dog on a leash!
There is a stone wall that runs along a bit of the Cesar Chavez side of the park. Because of its shape, I call it The Wallosaurus. It has gotten a nice sweater of ferns and moss which makes it even more charming.
Another wall I love on the way to the park. Cast in concrete decades ago, it sort of looks like an aerial photograph of Oregon’s Willamette Valley…lush and green with a few roads and rivers running through. Very Pretty.
I am so happy to be back in Portland after our trip to Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, all the water is pumped in and does what it is told. Fountains. Swimming pools. A tiny green oasis here and there.
But in Portland, the water comes of its own accord, from the rains and rivers, wandering about with its own agenda. It is planned for, accommodated, and appreciated.
Our Firwood Lake in Laurelhurst Park is a natural low spot in the park, and catches all the water that falls in our lovely, hundred year old forest. The Park planners were wise enough to use the environment rather than fight it, to make the lake a focal point and ecosystem instead of a muddy ball field.
The leaves are still falling, but the trees are running out. The small building in Laurelhurst Park, which houses the bathrooms and maintenance office, is graced by the nearby gingko tree.
In the neighborhood, Christmas is going up in eccentric ways. This Japanese maple tree’s leaves haven’t been raked in two years…but it has lights.
This majestic house, which we can see across Cesar Chavez Boulevard through the now-bare trees, has very conservative decorations, which seems suitable to its old fashioned style.
For such a big city, Portland has a large animal population.
We see this when the ‘dog parade’ heads from the neighborhoods to Laurelhurst Park for their evening walk. Cats greet us from sunny porches as we pass, and chickens talk amongst themselves when we go by Sunnyside School.
The squirrels, of course, have the best commutes ever, up trees and across power lines, chittering at everyone who will listen, but freezing on tree trunks to become invisible.
But by far the most vocal and numerous animals are the crows. Unlike their more reclusive cousins the ravens, crows thrive in close proximity with humans, and some even enjoy our company. And it’s not just people in general; studies show that crows remember certain humans, reacting positively to those who feed them and negatively to those they see as a threat.
There is a lady who walks every day in Lone Fir Cemetery, bringing a large bag of dry cat food, just to feed the crows. She loves their attentions, and they love her, too! She is like the crow’s queen.
The art in Portland reflects this affection (some might even say a fixation) with crows. This painting greeted us last week at The Artbar downtown.
And Laurelhurst hosts a fair few of the feathered fellows, as well.
I like having all these living critters in the neighborhood. Since I have fewer small people to talk with, crows and cats can be good conversation. Also, learning how critters get by and help the area (eating all that fallen fruit, for example) lets me see the neighborhood as an ecosystem rather than just a bunch of houses.
As we say slide towards winter, we are remembering the beauty of bright leaves on shiny roads and all the mysteries of the forest coming to the surface.
Laurelhurst Park is, of course, my favorite place in Portland. As cool and busy a playroom as it is in summer, it is a place of small life in fall.
Last year, around this time, we saw a fellow raking leaves into heart shapes and appreciated his art for art’s sake. Yesterday I may have seen his work again, as this wonderful “Yellow Brick Road” leaf installation greeted us uphill from the lake.
Walking today, I saw a plaque near the Pine Street entrance to the Park. It commemorates the planting of this huge oak tree in 1932 by the Wakeenah Chapter of the DAR (The Daughters of the American Revolution) to celebrate the 200th birthday of George Washington.
In a funny way, all the leaves falling reminds me of a speech from The Merchant of Venice, where Portia talks about mercy “blessing both he who gives and he who receives”.
Having given up their leaves, the trees show their beautiful branch structure, allowing us to see beauty that is hidden in summer. It also makes the ground more beautiful, blessing both the tree and the ground.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, inside, there is quilting and reading, split pea soup with bacon and Halloween monster movies.