Personal Messages in Public Places

Dear Liza,

The other day while walking through Laurelhurst Park, we spotted this tree with a hand-written message taped to it. We wandered over to investigate.

It said “Flick and Clever Chris sorry I said mean things.”

Further along, we found a similar message taped to a trash can. “Flick and Clever Chris Sorry for treating you like trash. (Heart) U guys”. I can only imagine what lead to this public apology, but it might have gone like this.

During the summer, kids meet to play in the park. Maybe they are visiting in town or attend different schools, and know each other only from their play at the park. They have no way of reaching each other other than THERE. So, when disagreements happen, that is where apologies happen.

There are other instances, more adult in nature, where private feelings are expressed publicly. A series of STOP signs additions are mostly political, but give us the temperature of the neighborhood.

This stenciled graffiti on a nearby building appeared a few months into the shut down, and expressed my feelings exactly. “Take this enforced idleness to step away from the rush and do some healing.” I realize not everyone has that luxury, but being retired, I have the time.

That’s what I tried to do, and it helped.


Grandma Judy

Summer Solstice Picnic

Dear Liza,

June 21 is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, and the official beginning if summer. Here in Portland, it was also our first really warm day. We celebrated by making a nice picnic dinner and walking over to Laurelhurst Park.

We headed off at 6, which is late for dinner, but we still had more than three hours of daylight left. The low sun behind this Japanese maple was stunning.

We were surprised by how much mud there still was under the grass! Weeks of rain have made things very soggy. We had to search quite a while before finding a dry -ish spot.

When we were finally able to unpack our chicken salad, crackers, berries, cherries, veggies, and celebratory beverages, we settled in to watch and listen to the human show…. people on bikes, kids on scooters, dogs pulling their skateboarding owners, joggers pushing strollers…. you know, Portlanders.

Behind us, several folks played on guitars, and down the hill, a lone ukulele. It was marvelous.

But old bones don’t like sitting on the ground for long, and it was eventually time to go home.

We headed out of the park, thinking how lucky we were to be able to live in this pleasant corner of the universe.


Grandma Judy

Ken II, the (New) Oak Tree

Dear Liza,

Last summer I told you about the new oak tree planted in Laurelhurst Park. It was planted right at the roots of a huge oak that had fallen in a spring storm the previous year.

We watched as this new tree, which we named Ken, took root, got green, lost leaves during the fall, and came back this spring. We celebrated his new leaves.

Then, a few weeks ago, an unknown person, for unknown reasons, ripped the top off young Ken and threw the leaves to the ground. We were heart broken. I didn’t tell you about it at the time because it was just too senseless and sad.

I am telling you now because I have a happy turn in the story to tell. Ken’s sturdy roots have sent up new shoots to replace the damaged top! Look there, right at the bottom of the trunk. Oak leaves sprouting up!

I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. Amid all the petty lawlessness, war and climate change, it is nice to know that this tree has not given up.

Way to go, Ken!


Grandma Judy

2022’s First Adventure

Dear Liza,

You and your Daddy came to visit us last week! And you got here HOURS early. You caught us in our pajamas! Soon, however, I got dressed and you and I were off on an adventure. I showed you my vegetable garden, and you helped me pick up the camellia blooms that fall into my plot.

Then we walked over to Laurelhurst Park. You climbed right up on the big oak tree that fell last year. I had never looked at it from this angle, down in the ravine. It looks very tall!

By the time we wandered back home, everyone had had some breakfast and I had a look at Elephante, your big stufftie. He needs some mending and cleaning.

At lunchtime, we all walked over to Straight from New York Pizza. With the heater on, it was warm enough in the patio to enjoy lunch. It was delicious and just what was needed after your long drive. Grandpa Nelson and your Daddy headed back to the house, while Auntie Bridgett, you and I picked up Elephante and the car, and went to run some errands.

First, we drove to TypeSpace, Tony Valoppi’s shop where he buys, repairs and sells old typewriters. Bridgett found a Triumph from 1966 that has a French keyboard. She was very excited! And while she was checking it out, Tony introduced you to the world of typewriters.

You found one with cursive keys and enjoyed it very much. You got the hang of it quickly, and even wrote a personal paragraph. But we left that one in the shop.

Meanwhile, Bridgett was getting to know her French machine, including how to install the ribbon and adjust the margins.

With the typewriter carefully tucked in the car, we went by Cool Cottons to find some matching fabric for Elephante. You want his tummy fur replaced with a smooth cotton, because you use him as a pillow. We found the fabric and thread, but the sewing will wait for tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

Another Change at the Park

Dear Liza,

Our Laurelhurst Park is always changing. Old trees fall, new ones are planted. Ducks migrate in and out, rains flood the low spots, and leaves sprout, grow, and fall. Banks of azaleas blaze into bloom and slowly fade.

There is a new Aptos redwood planted at the south end of Firwood Lake.

We named him Rene, after the Pastor at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, California.

Another change was a bit sadder. There was this weird old stump near the west entrance to the park. I don’t know when the tree came down, but it has been in this magical sort of shape for years. Folks have tucked gnomes and bunches of flowers inside, or hidden Easter eggs for hunts.

A few months ago, we noticed that the hole had been made bigger. Then, a few weeks later, someone had tried to start a fire inside it. The fire hadn’t caught, but the park managers must have decided that the stump was no longer safe.

This evening, we saw that the stump had been taken down, and I’m not sure what the final decision about it will be. I know the park mangers want to keep the park, and everyone who visits it, safe. Still, it makes me sad.

So that’s the news from here, for now.


Grandma Judy

Blinding, Freezing Days

Dear Liza,

After staying inside for two whole days because it was just too cold to go for a walk, I bundled up and made it as far as the park. The temperature has been below freezing at night and never above 40 for days, but the sky has been blinding bright.

It is a crazy, bright, beautiful combination.

Of course, all the sunshine is encouraging new spring flowers.

Hyacinths grow just a few inches high, but camellias are budding way above my head!

There are some I don’t even know the names of, but they sure are going to town!

Once I got to Laurelhurst Park, I found a bench in the sun and enjoyed watching the people parade go by. Of course, it was still cold, but I was determined to soak up the sun. I lasted almost half an hour before I needed to get back inside.

I hope your weather is pretty and pleasant.


Grandma Judy

It’s the Little Things

Dear Liza,

It is still Winter here, but my walks around the neighborhood show me life sprouting on every rock.

These hundreds of types of moss and lichen are always in the rocks, drying to a flat brown and biding their time during the summer months. But give us a few days of rain, and they green up, send out tiny stems, and look very nice beside the newly sprouting daffodils.

Besides being beautiful in their own right, the mossy walls, to my fanciful brain, look for all the world like fairy houses. A few little caves, some nice sunny porches, and there is a whole fairy community right there.

I love being able to let my mind wander in such lovely places!


Grandma Judy

Art Therapy

Dear Liza,

The other day, I woke up grouchy. There wasn’t really any reason for it, I just had a chip in my shoulder. Art projects I had started weren’t working the way I wanted. A story wasn’t as good as it should be. Nothing felt right.


After stomping around the house all morning and irritating my lovely people, I went for a walk and stomped around the park. I watched the dogs, listened to the birds, and smelled the rain in the mud. I am glad I did.

When I got home, I didn’t go near the art or writing projects I had wrestled with. Instead, I opened my box of collage papers and just started gluing pieces down.

I know enough to stick with colors that look good together. The first few I chose were red, so I went with that. Watercolor pencils, tissue paper from Pittman and Davis fruit boxes, and a small envelope filled up the bulk of the space.

The circles on the tissue paper were looking good, so I pulled out some circles that I cut from magazines years ago. A watercolor piece I did online with Ruthie Inman got cut out and added. A little bit of black made it better.

I made a weird little dude to hide in the envelope. And after more than an hour of cutting and gluing, I felt better!

Art therapy. It works!


Grandma Judy

Ken, the Oak Tree

Dear Liza,

You know how much I love walking in Laurelhurst Park. I feel very close to some of the trees, especially the younger ones that I have gotten to see grow up.

This past Spring, several of our old giants fell in a big windstorm. This is a natural way for a tree to die, but it is still sad to see. This oak fell over with some of its roots still in the ground. The City cut most of the tree away to keep the paths safe and the dog park clear.

And someone decided that the remaining set of roots should protect a NEW tree, and planted one, right there. We named it Ken.

This summer we have enjoyed watching Ken grow. He has gained about a foot in height. He is growing almost as fast as you are!

And now it is Fall, time for Ken to change his leaves and have a nice long rest for winter. I can’t wait to see his new leaves pop out come March!


Grandma Judy

Seasonal Poetry

Dear Liza,

I went out for a walk the other day to enjoy the colors and clear my head. Sitting with a cat on your lap, watching the fire burn, though very pleasant, makes me a bit fuzzy headed.

I bundled up, headed out, and got inspired. Here is my take on the seasons.

For The Leaves

The Spring brought us colors of blossom and bloom,

The beginnings of life, bursting forth, making room.

The summer brought jewel-colored fruits of the vine

Apples for a pie and grapes for some wine.

In Autumn the world became darker and cold,

The youth of the spring has grown up and grown old.

No longer bursting, it no longer glows

It flashes an instant before the storm blows

But just for this moment, the wind holds its peace

And leaves us to contemplate

This lovely release.

I hope you enjoy the Fall!


Grandma Judy