Looking Back

 

Dear Liza,

It is a new year, and I am looking forward to some more big changes. I will be coming to Salinas to stay with you for a few months while I teach, and my life here in Portland will be put on hold. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett will stay here and take care of Mouse the kitten, the houseplants, and their jobs…but we won’t be together. This will be weird, and sometimes sad.

Before looking forward, though, I want to look back on the crazy trip that got me here and what I love about Portland.

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Auntie Katie and Cousin Kestrel

During the hot Summer, we learned about getting around on air-conditioned buses and trains. We got to visit our new favorite Laurelhurst Park with Auntie Katie and the cousins. We even walked to the Willamette River and put our feet in!

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View from under the Hawthorne Bridge

It was fun getting to show you all the things in our new city, like the zoo.

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Being a Squirrel

 

The biggest thing that we learned about is the weather. It rains a lot here, and we are getting used to asking Google if we should take an umbrella. It even snows! This takes getting used to, but is such a nice change from highs of 70 and lows of 50 that I don’t mind.

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Snow on the back steps

 

I have fallen in love with the theater and art here in Portland. Theaters are made from old churches, warehouses, and even set up in parks. Art and music are everywhere.

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Young violinist on SW Salmon and Park

People playing music, reciting and writing poetry on street corners just isn’t something we saw in Salinas, and it is a real treat.

And of course, the history! I have been studying about Portland’s past…it’s buildings, trolley cars, and people. It is just about as old as Salinas, but since it is a bigger city, it has more stories.

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I am still trying to find out who this young lady was

There is so much I love about Portland. I will miss it, and then return in June to re-discover my new city all over again.

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

False Spring

Dear Liza,

Yesterday, December 30, 2017, was the warmest day we have had in a month. The blue sky was decorated with puffy clouds, and the temperature got up to 50 degrees! Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. We noticed some premature gladiolus flowers shooting up through the mud. The warm weather has them fooled, perhaps.

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Wells Fargo from east side

Our first stop was Triumph Coffee at SE 12th and Ash. A busy, friendly place, with comfortably mismatched furniture. it is what Linus Van Pelt would call sincere. Neighborhood folks were enjoying coffee and having conversations. I didn’t see a single laptop open. Bridgett testifies that the coffee is excellent, and I stand by their carrot zucchini muffins. We got our goodies to go, and continued on our way.

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Big Pink from east side

We walked on Ash until it ran into Sandy Boulevard, a major street that runs diagonally through east Portland. It makes some connections easier, of course, but also creates really interesting angled corners. Portland has a lot of these odd corners, like on the west side where Burnside hits every street at an odd angle, and in Ladd’s Addition, with its “x marks the spot” plotting.

From the obtuse corner of 10th and Ash, we could look west and see the two tallest buildings in Portland, “Big Pink” and the Wells Fargo Building. It is nice to be able to find landmarks and get a better picture of where you are in relation to other things.

We turned left and followed Sandy southwest until it became 7th Avenue, and followed that to Morrison. In that neighborhood are many old industrial buildings that have been re-purposed. The Troy Laundry, a brick building from 1913, is currently for sale. I am sure it has an interesting future.

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1913 Troy Laundry Building

Heading back towards home on Morrison, we found Auntie Bridgett’s new favorite place: The Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge at 808 SE Morrison. This two-story playground for grown-ups (and kids) is in the old Grand Central Public Market building, which was built in 1929. It has bowling, a restaurant, two bars, pinball, Pac-man, air hockey, shuffleboard, skee-ball, driving games, pool tables, and giant televisions. It looks like a great place to spend a long wintry afternoon, and is not far from our house! Hooray for accidental discoveries!

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Bowling on Morrison!!!

We left the bowling alley, smiling, knowing we would be back soon, and continued east on Morrison. We went through the Lone Fir Cemetery to say hello to the dead people, and got to chat with some squirrels and tourists, as well.

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Yes, a disco ball in a bowling alley…..

We said a special hello to little Genevieve Gray, who died in 1912 when she was only 3 months old and is buried under the tiniest headstone I have ever seen. It is about 7 inches by 10, and is tucked under huge trees at the far northeast corner of the cemetery. I know visiting the cemetery might seem morbid, but it gives me perspective. I always leave with a sense of hope and purpose.

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Little Genevieve Gray

Back home, we headed off for shopping and reading. See you soon, sweetie.

Love,

Grandma Judy

After the Ghouls Have Gone Home

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Inflatable Dragon

 

Dear Liza,

Happy November! It feels weird when a holiday is over….all that preparation and decoration and anticipation and then…whoosh, it’s gone. But we had a nice Halloween and I hope you did, too.

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Owl tree carved from a real owl tree

We walked around the neighborhood and saw more wonderful decorations. An owl and tree were carved from a tree that had grown on that same spot. There was even a dragon roaring from a high balcony.

The autumn light has been most entertaining, as well. Yesterday I walked out at noon to go to the research library, and the sun wasn’t “at high noon”… it was in the southern part of the sky, low enough to be in my eyes as I walked south.

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Light and Shadows at Lone Fir

This odd light angle has also made beautiful shadows. Lone Fir Cemetery just keeps getting more beautiful as the season goes on. Laurelhurst Park, as well, changes with the light. The pond, ducks, and trees become wonderful Monet-style paintings.

And of course, for Halloween night, Auntie Bridgett painted us both up as skulls for giving away candy at the door. But no kids came! So we filled our pockets with candy and, in full make-up, coats and hats, walked around the neighborhood, giving candy to folks and withing everyone a Happy Halloween!

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Sweet Grandma Judy

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Monet style ducks

Halloweening

Dear Liza,

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Spooky crows at sunset

Things are really getting ready for Halloween up here! People are decorating their lawns and porches with graveyards, skeletons and big spiders. It is a nice blend of creepy and friendly….Not “Come get scared”, but “Come get scary with us!” The yards look good during the day, and I look forward to walking out after dark to see how they are lit up.

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Front yard grave yard
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Mr. and Mrs. James Stephens, who owned the cemetery first

Besides neighborhoods pretending to be graveyards, there is our actual graveyard, The Lone Fir Cemetery. They gave a delightful, strictly once a year after dark tour, called The Tour of Untimely Departures. A group of volunteers called The Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery put luminarias along the main roads of the cemetery and guide groups through, with people playing the deceased and telling us their stories of life and dead.

No one jumps out or tries to scare you, but the stories all ended badly, or they wouldn’t be on the tour….Untimely departures, in this case, means they died before their time.

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Professor Van Allsburg

After visiting the dead folks at Lone Fir, we came home and got dressed up for a Halloween Party given by our friends, Jack and Verity. We were all professors: Grandpa Nelson was The Idea Guy, Doctor of Smartness; Auntie Bridgett was Dr. I.E. Plinth, history of art, from Slug University; I was Dr. Beverly Pilkey Van Allsburg, Professor of Kid Lit. At the party we met Beetlejuice, Arthur Dent and a random alien lady, Pocilanus Rex, demon pig god, and many more characters. It was great fun and we stayed very late.

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Idea Guy

The next day we slept in because of our late night. But when I was ready to face the world, Auntie Katie called and suggested we meet at Mt. Tabor and go for a walk in the woods there. I took at #15 east and got off at exactly the opposite end of the park, so I had a good long walk before we got together, but the forest was so beautiful, I didn’t mind.

 

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Dr. Plinth

When we met up we had a snack picnic under a laurel tree, found a drained reservoir and practiced our echos, and gathered rose hips and lemon balm for making tea. Then it was time to head home. We met up with Grandpa Nelson at Fifty Licks Ice Cream for a treat, then got home to watch the Astros win a game of the world series with a bunch of home runs.

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Cousins in the woods!

What a weekend!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Walkin’ in the Sunshine

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Holman Family grave

Dear Liza,

Our fall weather is taking a break this week, reminding us how lovely summer was. Temperatures in the 70s and bright sunshine are warming the pumpkins and fallen leaves.

Yesterday was too pretty to stay inside, so I went walkabout. First I visited the Lone Fir Cemetery, hunting for the grave of my latest subject of interest, Frederick van Voorhees Holman. Since his parents had been pioneers, I looked in the oldest part of the cemetery, and there they were, the whole Holman clan. So now I have solid dates and family members. Check.

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Marquam Bridge

Then I took the #15 just across the Hawthorne Bridge. I wanted to walk along the Willamette River’s West Bank, called South Waterfront. Just south of the Hawthorne Bridge is a green swath of lawn, full of seagulls, geese, and people eating their lunch on the steps. The view across the river was of the very ugly Marquam Bridge and equally lovely Tilikum Crossing Bridge. Beyond both of them in the far distance, was Mt. Hood, shining white against the blue sky.

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Mt. Hood!

Past the Park was a long planted promenade and small boat harbor. It reminded me of all the lovely harbors along the coast of California, but tiny…maybe 50 boats in all, waiting at their docks for someone to come play. Serving this area are a dozen or so very posh shops. A restaurant called Three Degrees, a few bars and restaurants with outside seating, art galleries and even an Umpqua Ice Cream shop.

Further along was Poet’s Beach, an actual sandy beach you can walk down to and put your feet in the water, if you want to. Along the path were poems of young children carved into rocks. It was lovely. Standing directly under the double-decker freeway that is the Marquam Bridge, I remembered the evening that Auntie Bridgett and I drove over that bridge into Portland. We were strangers here then, lost in a new place. Now I feel so at home I give directions to lost tourists.

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Student Poetry carved in stone

Just under the Marquam Bridge I ran into construction, with fences, noise and people in hard hats, and decided I had walked enough. Crossing Third Street to get to my bus stop, I passed Lownsdale Square and the memorial erected to honor the soldiers of the Second Oregon Regiment, a group of men from Oregon who fought in the Philippines during the Spanish American War. Just across that street is the historic Multnomah County Courthouse, a lovely old building that has been overgrown by the newer buildings around it.

I got home on the #15, walked through Lone Fir again, and had a rest and dinner. Since it was so warm and pleasant, we all walked out again. The flamingos are back! They were gone after the Cubs lost the pennant, probably feeling very sad. But they are dressed up for Halloween and seem to be all better. Welcome back, Flamingos!

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Halloween Flamingos!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Hail, Hail!

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Roses and rainbows

Dear Liza,

The weather here keeps surprising me! Yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I walked down to feed Auntie Katie’s cats, Pixel, Pietro and Wanda. Grandpa Nelson warned us that there was weather on the way, but we headed out anyway.

There were looming clouds but also bright sunshine. We fed the kitties, then walked back, taking pictures of leaves, roses, and rainbows and chatting with a lady jump roping on the sidewalk. We had stopped in Lone Fir Cemetery to collect some more chestnuts when the looming clouds moved right over us.

The sky shook and rumbled, and the rain started, hard, heavy raindrops racing each other to the ground. We realized that ‘under a tree’ was not a good place in case of lightning so we opened the umbrella and headed up the path. By the time we reached the gate, the rain had turned to hail about the size of bb shot. The sky was throwing pebbles at us!

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Lone Fir Cemetery in the hailstorm    Photo Credit: Bridgett Spicer

We stopped by the gate, amazed at the storm happening around us. A poor jogger came by, shook like a dog, caught his breath and headed off, and several other folks found trees to shelter under. When we started walking again, the sidewalk was covered in tiny balls of ice, making it both crunchy and slippery. It sounded like Cheerios but felt like ice!

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Hail collecting all over the place
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Tiny hailstones

By the time we got home there were piles of tiny hailstones everywhere. We shed our wet things and had some warm apple cider, glad to be home and safe and dry. 

This storm, like the beauty and people of this new place, reminded me how big and interesting the world is, and how much I have yet to experience.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Weird Day: Cemetery, Street Fair, and Rain!

Dear Liza,

What a lovely, weird day this has been. I took another tour of the Lone Fir Cemetery. I know it seems weird to be spending so much time with dead people, but the history of a city can be seen in its old cemeteries. At Lone Fir are buried some of Portland’s heroes, its spiritual guides, and its villains.

Today I learned about Asa Lovejoy, one of the true pioneers of Portland. He and a friend, Francis Pettygrove, were on a canoe trip in 1843 when they stopped for lunch at a clearing on the Willamette River. They liked the spot and decided to stake a land claim and try to start a city here. This claim, after many people and a lot of work, became Portland. But Asa Lovejoy started it. I also learned about Daniel Lownsdale and Fenice Carruther, but I will tell you about them later.

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Tombstone for Asa Lovejoy

We also learned about Sarah Wisdom. She was a runaway slave from the south and came to Oregon, even though African Americans weren’t very welcome here at the time. She and her first husband, Andrew Johnson, ran a boarding house and other businesses. When he died, she re-married and her second husband, Mr. Wisdom, helped her in her work. She changed the name of her boarding house to “The House of Wisdom”, and they were very successful. They also helped people who were having a hard time. She was the first woman in Oregon to buy her own headstone….she was an independent woman and wanted everyone to know it.

The villain we met on this tour was James Turk. He, his wife and sons were what was called “Shanghai” experts. They would kidnap men, knock them out, and sell them as sailors to a captain who needed a crew for a voyage to China (hence the name Shanghai, the main port there). By the time the men woke up, they were too far out at sea to get home, and they had to work for the rest of the trip. These were not nice people.

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Grave of a kidnapper

After an interesting morning in Lone Fir, I met up with Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett, and we went to the Belmont Street Fair.

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Yes, it’s a real thing….

This was big like Hawthorne and interesting like Alberta, but with more food than either. We started with lunch at Dick’s restaurant. A delicious milk shake for Grandpa Nelson and turkey burger sliders for Auntie Bridgett and me!

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Beautiful dogs!

There were so many wonderful bands playing music, people to talk to, and dogs to watch, I can’t possibly tell you about them all. We got home with caramel corn, sticky hands, stickers, and a business card from a local publisher, for when my story is ready.

On the way home, we walked past the flamingo flock, as sure enough, they are up to something new. Apparently they are all working for NASA, because they have their lab coats on, watching the Cassini Space Probe ready to crash into Saturn.

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Flamingos at work for NASA

After resting, snacking, and grocery shopping, we were sitting around, and the rain started!!! Blessed, cool, drippy rain! We sat out on the back steps and enjoyed it, watching people out for walks. After our long months here with hot, miserable weather, it is nice to finally be cool. I would even welcome, dare I say it? COLD!

See you next week! I am so excited for your visit!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

Lone Fir Cemetery Part 2

Dear Liza,

Yesterday morning, Auntie Bridgett and I went on a tour of the Lone Fir Cemetery, just down the street from us at Stark and 26th. This cemetery has been used since 1846, when the farmer who owned the land, James Stephens,  buried his elderly father. He later sold the land to  a steamship owner named Colburn Barrell, who used it within a year to bury people who died when his steamship The Gazelle exploded.

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Mr. and Mrs. Stephens, original owner of the cemetery

The first thing we saw when we got to the cemetery was a lady coming out,  followed by a whole flock of crows. She visits the cemetery every morning and feeds them dry cat food she carries in a plastic bag. She likes the attention, she says. I’m sure the crows enjoy the breakfast!

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          Crow                                                     Photo Credit: Bridgett Spicer

 

We met Joel, our guide, and the other people on our tour. Joel is a volunteer for The Friends of the Lone Fir Cemetery, a group of people who got together after mean people broke into the cemetery on Halloween many years ago and broke a bunch of headstones and monuments. The “Friends” started repairing and guarding the cemetery, and asked the city of Portland to help. They do a good job.

We learned that the graves aren’t really organized, but people are mostly buried chronologically, in time order, from the northwest corner towards the southeast. Of course, there are exceptions , and very recent graves can be right next to pioneer headstones. Many of the old ones are impossible to read because moss grows on the stones. Eternal rest is assured. Eternal identification, not so much.

There are many beautiful black headstones with Russian writing and engraved portraits on them. When Mr. Reagan was President, he offered political asylum to any Russian or Ukrainian citizens who were Christians to come live in America, and many came to the Portland area. There are now thousands of these folks living here, and when they die, they are buried with these very distinctive headstones made by two men, who are the only ones in town who know how to make them. They have information on the front and poetry on the back. Your mommy has been translating them for me.

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Russian headstone

Another interesting grave has an urn sitting on it rather than a headstone. James Hansen Frush was chief bartender at the Front Street Saloon, always generous with his friends and very well-loved. While he was alive, he had this big metal urn that he used to offer eggnog during the holiday season. When he died, his friends decided to place the urn over his grave to remember his generosity. But the next Christmas, they missed him, so they came across the river, fetched the urn back to the bar, and enjoyed eggnog in his memory, returning the urn to the grave after the New Year. This back and forth went on for a few years. The urn that is still here is a concrete cast of that urn. There is even a hole there the eggnog would come out.

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Bartender’s Memorial                Photo Credit: Bridgett Spicer

There are many others, but the last one I will tell you about today is the grave of Eric Ladd. When Eric Ladd was born in Portland, his name was Leslie Carter Hansen. He became an actor, changed his name to Eric Ladd, moved to New York, then Hollywood, and retired back to Portland, very successful. He used the money he had made to help preserve some of the beautiful old buildings in town that were gong to be torn down.

When Eric got sick at  78 or so, a friend was traveling in Romania and found a beautiful iron cross. The friend bought it to use for when Eric died. Then his friends bought some iron fencing from Mark Twain’s house in Missouri (Eric loved Mark Twain’s writings and had made shows of his stories) and put the fencing around the grave to protect the cross. It is ornate, historic, and perfect.

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My visit to the Lone Fir ended, as it always does, by me feeling lucky to be alive and happy to learn about all these people who lived here before me. But this time, I have fun information, as well!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Ice Cream Walking

Dear Liza,

Last night we wanted a nice long walk, and we wanted ice cream. We headed south, toward Division Street.

Just down our own block, we walked past the house where the flamingos are out in the yard. They were all wearing eclipse glasses!! This cracked us up. The whole city has gone eclipse crazy, with lots of visitors coming to Oregon to see next week’s solar eclipse. Hotels and rental cars are all booked. But these flamingos are ready.

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Eclipse-Ready Flamingos

We walked through a lovely neighborhood called Sunnyside, with interesting gardens and all sorts of decorations, like the Giving Tree, where people are invited to write what they are thankful for and hang it on the tree, announcements of neighborhood picnics, and cats.

 

 

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Tiny free library Photo credit: secondhand-goods.blogspot.com

 

We stopped at one of the tiny free libraries that are in many of the neighborhoods around here. They are smallish boxes, like a cupboard on a pole with a (sometimes) glass door. I had brought a book to share, a copy of “It was a dark and stormy night” that I have had for years. I traded it for a new copy of “Junie B Jones is a Party Animal” which I can share with you when you come up.

 

When we got to Division Street, about a mile south of our house, we stopped at Salt & Straw Ice Cream. This is a famous ice cream shop and there is always a line. We only waited a few minutes, time for me to decide on a tiny but delicious strawberry basalmic and pepper ice cream cone. Grandpa Nelson got a cinnamon snickerdoodle milkshake…he loved it! We sat in a nice shady patio and enjoyed our ice cream while happy kids ran around, giggling like goofballs.

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Salt and Straw!!!

 

Auntie Bridgett prefers frozen yogurt to ice cream, so we walked just a block up Division to Eb and Bean, a tasty frozen yogurt shop. She had a peanut yogurt cone, which was very, very good.

Heading home, we walked up Caruthers Street, and the name was very familiar. The other streets around it are Lincoln, Sherman, and Grant, who are all Civil War heroes and Presidents. Once I got home I realized that I had just photographed Finice Caruthers’ grave in Lone Fir Cemetery the day before, and read about him in my Portland history book, “Portland: People, Politics and Power”, by Jewel Lansing. Caruthers was a pioneer in Portland, getting one of the first Donation Land Grants just south of the main part of downtown.

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Finice Caruthers’ Grave

He was one of the men who made decisions that got the city started. He died young, with no children to carry on his name, so he is mostly forgotten. But this street, and now you and I, remember him! The history of this city is long and complicated, but I feel like I am starting to put some of the pieces together.
On our return walk, we saw more gardens, and cats. We had walked about three miles, so we were tired out. But it was a lovely evening!
Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Lone Fir Cemetery

Dear Liza,

Today was very hot in Portland! I went for a walk with Auntie Bridgett early in the morning, enjoying the quiet of Laurelhurst Park. Then we retired to the cool of the house, her and Grandpa Nelson working in their offices in the basement and me reading and unpacking upstairs.

By 8:00 in the evening, it had started to get a little cooler. The sun wasn’t going down until almost 9:00, so we had lots of time for a walk. We went to explore the Lone Fir Cemetery at Stark and 26th.

Lone Fir has been here a long, long time. It had its first burial in 1846, when the land was a family farm. The farmer, J.B. Stephens, had traveled west with his elderly father, who passed away and was buried on the property. A few years later,  the property was sold to Colburn Barrell, the owner of a steamboat called The Gazelle. That same year The Gazelle exploded, killing several people. The owner of the steamboat buried them near the site of J.B. Stephen’s father, and established a proper cemetery, calling it Mt. Crawford.

We walked through the cool cemetery with a familiar feeling of quiet curiosity. I enjoy “visiting the dead people”. My father often said that any day above ground was a good day. Visiting cemeteries reassures me that whatever I am wrestling with on a given day, it is, by my father’s definition, a good day. Knowing that generations of new transplants have come here and made it their home allows me to see my panic over lost kitchen items in perspective.

The name of the cemetery was changed to Lone Fir because when it was started, there was only one fir tree on the property. The place is now an arboretum, a tree garden, with hundreds of trees of all types giving wonderful shade.The cool breeze and peaceful shade were delicious after the bright heat of the day.

The most recent graves we found were from 2007, polished, black, beautiful headstones in Russian, printed with photos of the deceased, telling of a whole new wave of people coming from far away to start new lives here.

Lone Fir has small roads that lead among the graves. We saw people walking quietly along these roads, enjoying the evening, or sitting on benches by war memorials, reading. This is a place for living people as well a for remembering the dead.

Many of the older gravestones are impossible to read, the centuries of moss and rain having started to dissolve the stone. I love cemeteries partly because of the stories they tell. I am a little sad that these people’s stories can’t be read anymore. But I enjoy know ing they were here, anyway.

Love,

Grandma Judy