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

New Art in the House

Dear Liza,

As I have told you before, I didn’t grow up with a lot of art. It just wasn’t something my parents understood or valued. They had both grown up on farms during the Great Depression, and were more interested in just keeping us all fed and clothed.

But now our house is full of wonderful, bright, original art! Auntie Bridgett being a member at SideStreet Arts helps, of course, because new paintings, prints and ceramics come through every month. But Ruth Inman, my friend from High School, has also been added to our collection.

Don’t worry! She’s hanging it, not smashing it!! Ruth Inman’s alcohol ink sunflower.
A Perfect trouple of Art….

We also just hung up a new Denise Krueger ceramic piece. It is three dimensional, one of her many sea creature-like sculptures that remind me of the tide pools in Monterey Bay. We hung it nice and high, above Sharon Jonquil’s encaustics, so we don’t hit it with a shoulder as we pass.

Look closely… there we are!

Our last new piece is a small acrylic painting Auntie Bridgett made for Grandpa Nelson’s birthday. It shows our lovely Laurelhurst Park with silhouettes of the three of us walking among the trees. It is hanging under Erin Hanson’s study of eucalyptus trees.

I love having art in the house. It gives me new perspective at times when I desperately need it. It shows me beauty and joy when I am burned down to my last neuron. And it reminds me that wonder can come from anyone, at any time.

Love,

Grandma Judy

National Teddy Bear Picnic Day

Dear Liza,

During the shutdown, we are having to find new ways to keep busy and make the days fun. We are reading, painting, and learning. And sometimes, we go on a picnic!

Auntie Bridgett, setting up the picnic

Friday was National Teddy Bear Picnic Day, believe it or not. It was also the first really warm day here in Portland. So we celebrated.

Two silly bear lovers!

Auntie Bridgett and I packed up easy picnic food like hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and celery, goat cheese and blueberries, and a few cookies. We also packed blankets and my guitar, and tiny dishes. And of course, the bears. Not ALL the bears, for sure, but four wonderful friends.

Pops, Patches, Esther Bear, and Bridgett Bear

We carried our provisions and our friends up to Laurelhurst Park. We have seen the park be very busy, and we wanted a quiet spot where we could be distanced. We found a high bank above the main walkway, where we could see but not be too close to anyone. We set up a big blanket and real food for us, and a tiny blanket and pretend food (well, mostly drink) for the bears.

Our supper

As we enjoyed our shady supper, a few folks came by and took notice. It was fun to make people smile at our silliness.

Bears getting tipsy just by sitting near the bottles!

When we had eaten, Auntie Bridgett and I tried singing The Teddy Bears Picnic song, written in 1907 by Irish Songwriter Jimmy Flannigan. It was the first time we’ve played and sung together in over a year, and we were rusty. But the bears didn’t complain and we got better before we quit, so that’s something.

Teddy Bear Music

“If you go down in the woods today,

You’re sure of a big surprise,

If you go down in the woods today,

You’d better go in disguise…”

We even had a bee visiter who enjoyed the clovers right by our feet!

Bees and Converse

It was actually starting to get a little cool by then, and the sun was thinking about going down, so we packed up and headed home.

Happy Teddy Bear Picnic Day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Disconnected Silliness

Dear Liza,

Most days, I like to have a story to tell you, a connected set of images that move from beginning to end and make some sort of sense. But not all the pictures I take fit into the stories.

So today, you get the random bits that didn’t connect with anything else.

This tiny shelf has been attached to the telephone pole for months, but has just recently been “closed”. I love our silly neighborhood.

These messages of friendship written all over the sidewalks let us know our friends are thinking of us.

A little love from the sidewalk….

And, of course, flowers blooming and blooming!

The combination of old houses and new blossoms just knocks me out….

And Laurelhurst is still one of the prettiest places in town.

Sigh.

That’s all for now. Maybe I’ll have a story for you tomorrow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Thunder, Lightning, and Tiny Critters

Dear Liza,

Saturday morning we were WOKEN UP by a wonderfully loud and flashy thunder-and-lightning storm. We had seen the clouds wafting in Friday evening as we sat on our balcony, and knew it was only a matter of time.

I love thunder storms. The power and energy give me a sense of perspective, an understanding of my tininess in the face of universal forces. I can picture myself as one of the mice huddling under bushes or birds snuggling in their nests.

Princess Zelda overlooking her realm

And speaking of tiny creatures, it is Spring, which means baby animals have been on my radar.

Terri expresses her opinion

My friends Amy and Angela have gotten kittens, named Terri and Princess Zelda, respectively, who are keeping them company during the shut down.

Skinny squirrel out and about

At Lone Fir, I followed one young squirrel in his exploration of the sunny headstones, and another, more ‘substantial’ fellow perching on a monument.

Chubby squirrel being immortalized

And then there are the ducks! Laurelhurst Park’s little Firwood Lake is home to a few dozen ducks, and this week, most of them are guarding little flotillas of fluffy ducklings. It is an eleven out of ten on the cuteness scale.

Fuzzy!!

This little guy got tired of swimming and followed Momma up onto shore for a rest.

Hanging out with Mom

And that is your dose of tiny animals for the day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Small Business Woes

Dear Liza,

One of the reasons we bought the house we did, here in the Southeast part of Portland, is because of the neighborhood. It is a nice mix of Victorian style homes and newer houses, full of big trees and rhododendron bushes, and just a few blocks away from fabulous Laurelhurst Park.

It is also close to dozens of bars, restaurants, and cool shops, and even a Korean grocery store. We love being able to walk less than a block for milk or eggs at H Mart.

But it is the little restaurants and the people who run them that make our Friday nights special. Pulled pork, shrimp with grits, a glass of wine while hanging with David at at the Hobnob. Watching scifi movies and having dessert with Mitch at The Nerd Out. Street tacos and chatting with Gilly at Ankeny Tap and Table. Making our own birthday pancakes at SlappyCakes. You know, the good times.

And it is exactly these small restaurants that are suffering during the shut down mandated by the corona virus. Keeping everyone safe and distant means the dining rooms have to close, and there just isn’t enough take-out business.

The only businesses close by that are doing well are H Mart and the smaller convenience stores like Plaid Pantry and Belmont Market, and pizza places like Baby Doll and Straight From New York Pizza, who are doing take out and even free delivery.

I am worried about a lot of things, lately. Staying healthy, and keeping Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson well. What this virus’s stay in our country will cost in jobs and retirement investments. Whether our Federal government, which doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on things, is going to make things better instead of worse.

But I am also worried about the survival of the small businesses that make our neighborhood special.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Happy Birthday to Me

Dear Liza,

In house decorations

I turned 64 last week, just a week or so after the self-quarantine-ing became a big thing. We three walked to Whole Foods, on Burnside, who are limiting the number of people in the store at one time to reduce crowding. We got birthday dinner fixings, and then stopped by Vino for a wonderful French red to keep us company.

My florist…

Auntie Bridgett even got flowers, and we walked home to read, write, do art, practice French, and wait for dinner.

We prettied things up, of course, because, you know, BIRTHDAY! It was fun getting out serving pieces that were gifts from family and friends, and thinking about the folks who weren’t with us.

My grocery delivery guy….

After dinner we walked through Laurelhurst Park, very aware that any day now, Mayor Wheeler and Governor Brown are going to put out the shelter-in-place order. We enjoyed the frisbee dogs, rhododendron blooms, and ducks. We even got a Unipiper ride by! He was playing The Superman Theme Song…very heroic.

The miraculous Unipiper

I’m sure I will find things to write about in the coming weeks, as the city shuts down. My brain has always been my best friend and has lots of interesting things to say.

Love,

Grandma Judy

And then, Snow!

Dear Liza,

Saturday morning, we woke up to snow. It was just a dusting, and we went back to sleep. A few hours later, it was STILL snowing, and Grandpa Nelson decided it was time for a proper snow adventure, so we bundled up and headed off.

Grandpa Nelson, out and about

First, we saw our walkway, decorated with snow. The gnomes were wondering who put out the lights, apparently.

Gnomes, just chillin’

Then we noticed some tulips that had not seen the snow coming. I hope they can spring back!

Very surprised tulips

Laurelhurst Park itself is lovely in any weather, but is a Narnia sort of beautiful in the snow. The Ravine always looks like Mr. Tumnis is going to show up any moment.

The edge of Narnia

As we walked around, we saw dozens of families enjoying the snow. There were snowmen, snowball fights, dogs dashing around. It was a winter wonderland… in March. I will show you the snowmen tomorrow.

Firwood Lake and snowy Boomarang Island

The lake was very pretty through the trees, as the snow came down and sat on the surface for just a minute before melting.

After our walk, we came in and hung our wet clothes up in front of the fire, and spent the rest of the day alternately watching TV and snow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Grey Skies

Dear Liza,

Jonquils, jumping the gun

January is always a hard month here in Portland. The bright, food-and family filled holidays are past, but spring is months away, and it can feel like a very long road.

Bergenias love the rain and cold

We had a thumping rain storm the other night. It actually woke me up! But come morning the rain had stopped. Since I am mostly over my cold, I got bundled up and went to the park.

Camellia, having a peek

I wasn’t alone! There were dozens of folks walking around….some with their big fluffy dogs, some with kids on tiny bikes or babies in strollers, some tossing handfuls of frozen peas to the ducks. Everyone was chatty and seemed to be celebrating being OUT among their fellow humans. January can feel a bit like a jail sentence to be waited out.

The fellows who seemed to be enjoying the day most were these two, working on their j’ai alai moves. The older fellow stood pretty still, flinging the ball in all directions, while the younger played the part of a Labrador retriever, dashing and catching. It seemed the perfect cure for the January blues.

I spent an hour at the park, looking for bits of color. I found a few of these signs of the coming spring, but I am not fooled. It will be a long, wet, chilly haul. We will have to make our own sunshine.

Forsythia, I think…

Love,

Grandma Judy