Falling into Winter

Dear Liza,

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Firwood Lake at sunset

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.

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Graced by a gingko

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. img_1964.jpeg

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.

Waiting to see what happens next!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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City Crows

Dear Liza,

For such a big city, Portland has a large animal population.

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Bubbler Crow

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.

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Queen of the Crows?

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.

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Crow in the Artbar

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.

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Laurelhurst Crow

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.

Love, Grandma Judy

Come, Little Leaves

Dear Liza,

Fall is on its way to winter. The trees are getting barer, the piles of leaves are turning to crackling chips or slippery layers, depending on where they sit. My leaf-picture taking days are limited.

My Aunt Barbara Evens posted this poem on facebook. I wish I had known it when I was teaching Kinderbloom…I think the kids would have liked it.

It is called Come, Little Leaves, and it was written by George Cooper.

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” Come, little leaves, ” said the wind one day,
” Come o’er the meadows with me and play;
Put on your dresses of red and gold,
For summer is gone and the days grow cold. ”
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Soon as the leaves heard the wind’s loud call,
Down they came fluttering, one and all;
Over the brown fields they danced and flew,
Singing the glad little songs they knew.

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” Cricket, good-by, we’ve been friends so long,
Little brook, sing us your farewell song;
Say you are sorry to see us go;
Ah, you will miss us, right well we know.

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Dancing and whirling, the little leaves went,
Winter had called them, and they were content;
Soon, fast asleep in their earthy beds,
The snow laid a coverlid over their heads.img_1498.jpeg

 
I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Love,
Grandma Judy
 

Wet Fall Beauty

Dear Liza,

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Mushrooms

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.

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Leaf art installation

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.

 

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DAR Plaque

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”.

 

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Blessed is he who gives…

 

 

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.

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

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And he who receives…

More Fall Beauty

Dear Liza,img_1184-21.jpg

The sunshine has returned! I thought it was gone until Spring, but this week has been as bright and dry as August in Salinas.

I have pictures but no words, so I will borrow some from the English poet John Keats, who wrote it in the fall of 1819.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfullness

Close-bosomed friend of the maturing sun

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;IMG_1130.jpg

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel-shells IMG_1187.jpg

With sweet kernal; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease,

For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells…

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too.

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Lovely Damp

Dear Liza,

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Fall Sunset

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.

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Mushrooms in Laurelhurst Park

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.

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Foresty front yard in Ladd’s Addition

Meanwhile, inside, there is quilting and reading, split pea soup with bacon and Halloween monster movies.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Evening Walk in Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

In case you missed me and my blog over the weekend, I have decided that I will only be posting on weekdays, and taking weekends off. I am feeling like I’m so busy writing about life, I’m not having time to DO life. But for now…

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Firwood Lake reflections

We are at the part of Fall where it can be warm during the day, cool in the evening, but still light enough to walk after dinner. If I am quick to get out and careful, I can take some nice photos.

In the neighborhood around Laurelhurst Park, there are signs of Fall everywhere. Leaves changing, seed pods doing amazing things, squash and pumpkins swelling and getting fat for Halloween, crows scavenging.

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Seed pod magic

Sitting by Firwood Lake, the pond inside the park, I kept seeing reflections and shadows, trying to channel my inner Monet.

Dahlias, one of Auntie Bridgett’s favorite flowers, are still blooming, catching the lower light in their dense petals.IMG_0583.jpg

And, of course, chestnuts! The scary-muppet looking ones that you can eat, and the studded-motorcycle-jacket ones that you can’t are both falling like rocks from trees all over the neighborhood. Keep your hats on!

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CAN eat…sweet chestnut!

And, as Edith Ann used to say, that’s all I have to say about that.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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CAN’T eat…horse chestnut!

Willie the Dawn Redwood

Dear Liza,

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Ancient Dawn Redwood
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Willie and Bridgett in July

In late June of this year, this new Dawn Redwood was planted at the eastern edge of the Dog Off Leash Area in Laurelhurst Park. We noticed it and named it Willie, after my Momma and because he has this little wiggle near the top…Willie with a Wiggle, Wiggle Willie, something like that. There are several magnificent old Dawn Redwoods already in the park, so we figured he was guaranteed success.

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In September

But this has been an unusually hot and dry summer. Since early June, the city has seen about a quarter of an inch of rain, with weeks of temperatures near 100 degrees. This sort of drought is hard on all the plants, but especially those with tiny baby root systems.

During the summer we have kept tabs on Willie. He has gotten browner and more spindly and we have been worried.

But he is a deciduous tree, which means that he is supposed to lose his little needle-leaves in the Fall. Maybe the browning is natural, and not drought related.

Now that the rain seems to have started, I hope he can grow and be as tall and weirdly handsome as his older colleagues.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Three Hundred!!

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Family

Dear Liza,

I started writing this blog as a way to stay in touch with you and my friends in Salinas after I moved up to Portland. I thought I would write a little, get bored, and quit….like I usually do.

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Fall
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Summer

But Portland is such an interesting place that I keep finding things to write about. Today, as a matter of fact, is my 300th post. Three hundred adventures. Three hundred stories.

Portland is a big city, and has big city problems, like anywhere. The housing costs are high and homeless people struggle to get by. Trash and noise can be a nuisance. And if you are driving, there will eventually be traffic that frustrates you.

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Spring

But there are also kind people and missions that help the homeless folks. Groups adopt neighborhoods to pick up trash. And transit is good enough that if you don’t want to drive, you don’t have to.

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Art

And the benefits of this lovely city are enormous. Art. Music. Parks. Art and music in parks! Food and drink and coffee and pastries.

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Winter

And the reason I can enjoy all of this is because I am not working. Working, besides being…well, work, takes up an enormous amount of time. Days and days of NOT getting to walk at random and stop when you feel like it. Evenings of being so tired you can’t even think of an adventure.

Being at liberty is such a joy and privilege that sometimes I feel like I’m cheating.

But maybe if I share it with you I can share some of the joy, and feel less selfish.

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You never know who you’ll meet at Lone Fir Cemetery

Love,

Grandma Judy

Shakespeare Times Two

Dear Liza,

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Everyone loves Shakespeare!

Saturday afternoon, after shopping and lunch, we headed off to Laurelhurst Park for… A Comedie of Errors! The afternoon was sunny and hot, and since the stage area was in sun, we sat in the sun, hoping the shade would get to us eventually.

This story of two sets of identical twins, mistaken identities, romantic and financial entanglements was very well done, funny, and surprisingly touching. Two women, (Shakespeare wrote them as men but women work very well), identical twins both named Antipholus, are separated during a shipwreck as infants, one with the mother, one with the father. Their boy servants (also identical twins, both named Dromio) are separated with them.

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Antipholus and her Dromio are arrested

The play begins 30 or so years after the shipwreck, with the twins and their servants as adults. I won’t try to explain it all here, but the play is a raucous, well-written romp guaranteed to entertain lowlifes and high brows alike.

The acting was wonderful! Since Original Practice Shakespeare is a repertoire company, we get to see actors play different parts in different plays. It is fun to see a tragic queen become the Prompter, or a person with a small part in a different play take center stage and steal every scene!

It changes your understanding of acting, casting, and life in general….Even if you are really good at what you do, it doesn’t ALWAYS have to be about YOU.

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Brian Saville Allard as a slimy merchant…..

Since this weekend is the Grand Finale Weekend of “Will Fest”, the last weekend of the OPS season, Saturday evening was also Shakespeare in Laurelhurst…Hamlet!

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       And as the evil King Claudius,                           with Jennifer Lanier as Polonius.

Grandpa Nelson hates the play because the main character is so indecisive, so Grandpa stayed home and Auntie Bridgett and I went over. It was also very good.

Hamlet was cast as a young woman, (played by Lauren Saville Allard) which, in my mind, changed what I expected of her. I had always wanted male Hamlet to get it over with and revenge his father, but of female Hamlet, I wanted  more introspection…so I guess I like female Hamlet better!

This year we have gotten to see my favorite actor, Jennifer Lanier, in all the plays. She was Prospero in The Tempest last year, and Polonius in Hamlet, and Sir Toby Belch Twelfth Night. She is delightful.

We have two more plays of this season, if we are Shakespeare strong enough!

Love,

Grandma Judy