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

Snow in Portland! Part 2

Dear Liza,

After we realized the front gate was blocked, we headed out the garage door. Snow was there, too, but we could stomp through and get to the sidewalk, anyway. We walked toward Laurelhurst Park, staring at icicle drips and snow covered steps along the way.

Ghostly garden steps

We watched a cheery parade of folks dragging sleds and carrying plastic trash can lids. Every pair of cross country skis in East Portland was in use. It was like a party!

Tinseled nandina

And once we got to the park, the fun continued. Sledders found the ravine. Big fluffy dogs rolled and ran in the snow, like kids let out of school. People of a certain vintage walked like penguins, taking tiny steps.

The Off Leash area run amok!

At the west end of the park, one of the hundred year old trees had fallen across SE 33rd, barely missing the windows and facade of a house almost as old as the tree. It must have been a windier night than I realized! Of course, the downed tree became a temporary jungle gym for neighborhood kids, who climbed over its frosted branches.

By this time, my phone and I were both out of energy, so Auntie Bridgett and I trudged home. But this snow isn’t going anywhere for a day or two, so I’ll show you more frozen beauty tomorrow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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