Willie the Dawn Redwood Update

Dear Liza,

One of the many things I love about our Laurelhurst Park is that it is always changing. Old trees die or are damaged in storms and need to be replaced, so we get to meet the new babies.


Bridgett, Grandpa Nelson, and Willie, Summer of 2018

Just after we moved up to Portland, this young Dawn Redwood was planted near the dog off leash area. We named it Willie, after my Mom.

Fall of 2018

Every time we walked through the park, we would check on Willie. That first autumn we were very worried. Willie’s thin, soft needles began to dry up and fall off! We looked up Dawn Redwoods and discovered that (whew) they are deciduous. That means they lose their leaves in winter. Willie wasn’t sick, she was just hibernating!

Winter of 2019
Summer of 2019

After a long nap, Willie woke up in the spring and looked fabulous! She was a good foot taller. She apparently liked where she was.

Summer of 2021!

And she continues to thrive. This summer she is three years old and growing like a weed. In ten years or so, she may take on the look of her elders, which look sort of like the scary apple trees from “The Wizard of Oz”.

Elderly Dawn Redwood

I love watching things grow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Twelfth Night at Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

Last night we went over to Laurelhurst Park for some Shakespeare. The Original Practice Shakespeare Company, which could only do Zoom Performances during the Covid Shutdown, is now back to performing its open air, 18-play repertoire in person!

Feste, Sir Andrew and Auntie Toby have a drunken romp

Original Practice means that this talented troupe of players prepares for and performs the plays as the troupes did in Shakespeare’s day. Since there were no copyright laws and printed scripts could be stolen and performed elsewhere, each player was given a scroll with only their lines. Also, since each troupe would perform many plays on a very tight schedule, rehearsals were non-existent. Each performance was, and is, a new experience.

It is delightful!

Malvolio is in love!

Twelfth Night is a raucous comedy, full of gender switching and mistaken identities, pompous aristocrats and clever underlings. Performed by the talented OPS, it had us laughing, cheering, booing and swooning.

Malvolio has a moment….

Sitting in lawn chairs under the trees, enjoying Shakespeare, snacks and wine and surrounded by people, kids, and dogs also enjoying their snacks and wine, is a uniquely Portland experience. I have missed it more than I can say and am grateful to have it back.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Late Summer Magic

Dear Liza,

Welcome to August! I can’t believe this summer is racing past so quickly.

The heat wave here in Portland has sort of upended my usual way of doing things. Since it is so hot in the afternoon, I go to the vegetable plot early to water and harvest the zucchinis, and to check on the tomatoes and pumpkins.


Some days it feels like a race to harvest and eat as fast as they are growing. My gardener friend Tonya has clued us in on how to freeze zucchini to use later, when it isn’t too hot to bake.

Inside the house, Auntie Bridgett’s Sundew (which she bought to eat the fungus flies…. Don’t get me started) is blooming! The perfect, delicate spiral is so pretty!


At Laurelhurst Park, the local Faerie Folk have been out improving their summer homes.


Morning Glories are creating some accidental beauty on telephone poles. They follow the spiral growth model, climbing around and around.

And last but definitely not least, the sunflower that has made this dead chestnut tree its new home. The tree was fatally pruned to a height of about ten feet. I am glad it is having a useful afterlife.

We should all be so fortunate.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Summer Sundowns

Dear Liza,

In summer, the sun doesn’t go down until nearly 9:00. That means for me to be able to walk in the cool dusk, I need to go out walking later than Grandpa Nelson or Auntie Bridgett want to.

And that’s okay. Walking by myself is one of my favorite things. Being able to stop and stare at a leaf or a bit of moss, or talk to the cats or chickens, without making someone wait on me, is a delight.

Last evening, after we were all in pajamas, I caught a glimpse of the orange sky and put my clothes back on. I wanted to feel the change from day to night, to see the back-lit trees turn to silhouettes. So I went.


I headed to Laurelhurst Park, where hundreds of folks sat scattered through the 26 acres, on blankets or low chairs, chatting, eating, watching their kids and dogs play.


The setting sun lit up the treetops and cast long, cool shadows. Our street became a leafy tunnel leading to the last light. I was glad I had come out.

Love,

Grandma Judy

After the Heatwave

Dear Liza,

Wednesday was the first day of human-level temperatures since our historic heat wave began. We woke up to cloud cover, cool air and even a bit of dampness. It felt wonderful.

Look! Clouds! Hooray!!!

I went to the garden early. My friend Tonya gave me one of her parsley plants, and I planted it between my radishes and lettuce. My garden is doing well, even though it isn’t as tall as the other ones. They have five foot tall trellises and arbors hanging with peas and beans. I have a magnificent beast of a zucchini.

And it makes food, too!

I walked around Laurelhurst Park for the first time in a week, enjoying the cool green, the ducks, and all the people out doing their people thing. Tai c’hi classes, guitar practice, dog parties….. it was life as normal, out on the grass.

After a morning of sewing, French lessons, crossword puzzles and cartooning, the three of us headed off to Grandpa Nelson’s favorite lunch spot, Zach’s Shack. Auntie Bridgett got to go because she isn’t working at the SideStreet Arts gallery anymore. Her new comic strip, Auntie Beeswax, allows her more flexibility with her time.

One of my favorite views….

We ate hot dogs and fries, and, since the sun had come out, appreciated the icy cold sodas.

Then came ping pong! Zach’s back patio has a table and enough hard surfaces that even if the ball misses the table, you can keep it in play. We get a little nuts sometimes, and it is fun!

We played until we were played out, then walked home by way of the Taylor Street chickens. The day had warmed up to 88 degrees and we were happy for the air conditioning.

This heat wave was bad. It send a lot of folks to the hospital. We need to figure out how to help our planet heal so we can all be well.

Portlanders ❤️ Chickens !

Love,

Grandma Judy

Summer Surprises

Dear Liza,

This weekend brought some lovely surprises. Even though the weather was really warm on Saturday, Grandpa Nelson suggested a walk. “Let’s head down to Division,” he said. “There’s ice cream, and gelato, and even frozen yogurt.” So we headed south.

The sun was hot, and the sidewalks got hotter as we walked. It was afternoon, but the shade wasn’t much help. “Maybe we find a pub a little closer?”Grandpa sighed. We agreed, and found the delightfully decorated McMenamin’s Bagdad Cafe and theater, down on Hawthorne. They had food and drinks, A/C and friendly folks.

Some pretzel fondue, tuna sliders and beverages later, we were refreshed and ready to head off. Grandpa Nelson was still feeling the heat, so he headed for home. Auntie Bridgett and I continued on to Laurelhurst Park. It can be full of surprises.

And it was. We found an impromptu violin concert along one end of the lake, and a reading of a play I’d never heard of at the other. Both had collected small but appreciative audiences. We listened for a bit and walked on.

I love walking in the park when it is buzzy! There were folks walking dogs, playing frisbee, and practicing circus tricks with hoops and slack ropes. Kids hollered and ukuleles were strummed. It is a like all the best of life, just out playing on the lawn.

When we left the park we were absolutely vibrating from all that human energy! And the surprises weren’t done yet. Growing on a telephone pole-supported grape vine were the beginnings of this year’s grapes.

Always something to see….

Love,

Grandma Judy

Full Speed Into Summer

Dear Liza,

This week, summer will hit full blast. Our weather will be in the 90s, with the sun coming up at 5 a.m. and not going down until almost 10 p.m.

Tiny baby carrots!!

Everyone’s gardens are beginning to bear fruits and vegetables. We have been eating our own lettuce for a few days, and even had some teeny tiny carrots with dinner.

Strawberries and cherries are growing, often right onto (or over) the sidewalk! The world is so full of sweetness it just can’t be contained.

And after a long silence, Laurelhurst Park is filling up with music again. I went walking last evening and got a free concert by a group called Johnny Franco, who was making music in two trumpets, a saxophone, drums, four different guitars and a vocalist.

It was a delightful blend of rock and reggae, and a crowd of about a hundred people was scattered around, enjoying the music and the weather. There were picnics, and kids and dogs ran all around. People danced, frisbees flew. It felt like LAST summer had finally come, fifteen months late.

Have a good weekend! Stay well, stay cool, and find ways to share your joy.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Watch the Birdie!

Dear Liza,

We had such pretty weather this past weekend, we decided it was time to get out the badminton set. This Zume set was Auntie Bridgett’s birthday present our first year in Portland, and it is delightful.

Easy set-up!

The case holds the net, rackets and shuttlecocks, which are also called birdies. It is light to carry and sets up easily. There were a lot of people in Laurelhurst park, but we kept walking until we found a sunny level spot that no one was using.

Reaching for the shot….

This was the first game of the season, after no games at all last year due to the shutdown. We were expecting a disaster! But we quickly got the hang of it and were only missing…. Well, not so many…..

To make sure everyone had fun, we would play two against one, then switch around so each person had a chance to be their own team as well as play with everyone else. It was a slap-happy game, I tell you! Lots of flailing and leaping and picking up birdies we just couldn’t get to.

Chillin’……

When we got tired, we would sit in the shade to cool down, have some water, and catch our breath.

New baby oak tree

When we could hardly lift our rackets, we knew it was time to stop. We packed up the gear and headed home. On the way, we were happy to see that someone has planted a new baby oak tree right by the old giant that fell down this spring. It seems to be doing well and we will keep our eyes on it!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Goslings at Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

Just three blocks from our house is Laurelhurst Park, which I have told you about many times. It is my favorite place in the whole city.

Sunset through the trees at Laurelhurst

And in Laurelhurst Park is little Firwood Lake. It is at the lowest point of the park, of course. It is the natural place for a lake, but it hasn’t always been there. Back in the 1920s when the park was being developed, folks thought of filling in the bottom part of the park and installing a baseball field.

But even then, they knew about drainage and flood control, and realized a lake would be a better idea. And it has been.

Ducks….. being ducky

Year round, we have ducks waddling and swimming and doing adorable duck things. Spring brings ducklings, who bob about on the lake like fluffy corks. And now the goslings have come out to play!

Don’t mess with these two!

Geese are always majestic creatures, tall and arrogant looking. But give a pair of geese a few goslings, and they become positively ferocious. Walking through the park this afternoon, we came across this pair and their young ones. Several folks were already watching, keeping a good distance. The pair remained vigilant but calm.

But when a lady came by with a dog, the geese called their goslings to them and honked up a storm, hissing and telling the lady and her dog to get the heck out of the area. The lady and the dog, wisely, did.

And peace returned.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Signs of Spring

Dear Liza,

Yes, the snow is barely melted in the neighborhood, but the sun came out yesterday and showed us some signs of spring.

A mighty Laurelhurst tree, down in the storm

At Laurelhurst Park, the totally saturated ground and heavy ice from our last storm caused another great tree to fall. This is on the edge of what I call The Ravine, and has been in many of my photos of this part of the park. It was angular and leaning and beautiful.

It is sad to see such a fine specimen down. This cusp between winter and spring can be difficult to navigate safely.

The same tree a few winters ago….

But there are more gentle signs of spring. Tiny crocuses coming up beside napping angels.

Early blooming trees cheering us up and letting us know that winter doesn’t last forever.

The list of folks getting vaccinated grows every day, making us all safer. And when we get ours, life will get more mobile and more fun. Then I will get to come visit you. And that will be very sweet.

Love,

Grandma Judy