Helping the City, Helping Ourselves

Dear Liza,

On Thursday we got a chance to do good work for Portland. Grandpa Nelson got us signed up with a group called SolveOregon, who use volunteers to cleanup and repair around the state.

Our group downtown

We got up early and drove downtown to help with litter clean up. Except in the area just around the Federal Building, (where the protests and conflicts with police have been happening every night for three months), most of the storefronts are fine and businesses are open.

A whole bunch of people, patiently waiting to help!

Our check-in location was at the Mark Spencer Hotel, where ninety masked but friendly people waited in line to get directions and equipment. We collected our long handled grabbers, gloves, and plastic bags, and headed off.

It was slow going, because most of the litter we were picking up were small, like bottle caps or cigarette butts. It took us a while to get the hang of handling the grabbers. We walked along, heads down, focusing on the sidewalk. About every fifteen minutes we would look up and check in with each other and figure out where we were.

I am sorry for the lack of photos to tell this story, but it was difficult to use my phone while wearing gloves, a mask, and carrying a bag and grabbers. I made a choice to do the work well instead of photo-documenting.

As we walked along, we were pleasantly surprised by folks’s reactions. People would roll down the window of their cars and holler “Thank you!!”. A postal worker stopped us and told us how much he appreciated our help to make the city better. Auntie Bridgett made sure he knew that we appreciated his work, too.

Half of our neighborhood’s haul

After two hours, we had a satisfying amount of garbage in our bags, and were pretty much done in, and turned in our grabbers. We chatted with Sarah, our group leader, who let us know we could help in other ways, and directed us to the website to check it out.

Lunch!!

We had a wonderful, filling lunch at the Zeus Cafe, a McMeniman’s restaurant just a block from where we were working. I hadn’t realized how hungry or tired I was! By the time we got home, I could hardly walk up the stairs.

A nice thought for the day. And maybe, the year.

I am happy that we spent a few hours doing something to help our city. We have had recent problems, caused by the pandemic and social unrest, but we are also just a big city with millions of people smoking, doing business, and eating. It takes maintenance to keep it up.

And today I got to help.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Long Walk to the River….

Dear Liza,

I woke up Tuesday feeling the need to take charge of something, to get out and DO.The weather was predicted to be cool in the morning and get really warm by noon, so whatever I was going to do had to happen early.

Bright changing leaves dazzle the eye…

So, right after coffee and before Grandpa Nelson was out of bed, I headed off for a long walk through the Fall sunshine. I headed toward the river. This is sort of cheating because it is all down hill, but the neighborhood is wonderful.

I found this poem by Jellaludin Rumi framed in a safe place. I liked the sentiment, but also the way my reflection got into the picture. It made this idea of “being human” even more human!

“This Being Human” by Rumi

I continued through Ladd’s Addition and into the more industrial part of the Southeast. This fabulous mural, with live plants for hair, was painted by Fin DAC and is called “Attitude of Gratitude.” The building houses a fancy Cuban restaurant on the ground floor and apartments above, and the main office of Solterra, a company that makes vertical planters like the lady’s hair.

Attitude of Gratitude

The area by the railroad tracks and warehouses is a bit run down, but in the bright sunshine, with the river and West Hills just beyond, everything looked pretty.

A bit cluttered, but very pretty…

After about an hour of solid walking, I found the Willamette River! On this sunny day, it was busy with kayakers, jet skis, and motorboats, all dancing on the sparkling water.

The mighty Willamette River

Tilikum Crossing Bridge is the newest bridge in the city and my absolute favorite. It was built in 2015 just for transit and pedestrians.The blue of the sky and the white cables made for a lovely sight. Mount Hood, just sixty miles away, was barely visible through the haze to the East.

Not so far away Mt. Hood

I spent quite a lot of time on the bridge, soaking up the breeze and the sunshine.

Built with no right angles, to let the wind spill off

But where to go next? I’ll tell you tomorrow!

Happy me!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Celebrating Health

Dear Liza,

Nothing makes you want to get out and about like spending a long day in a hospital. So after Wednesday’s eternal visit to the Emergency Room, I took Grandpa Nelson on a long walk. We went all the way to Mt. Tabor Park.

A fence with benefits!

Mt. Tabor is a 636 foot high dormant volcano right here in Southeast Portland, two and a half miles from our house. We started after coffee -and-crossword puzzles, when it was sunny but still cool.

Portlands’s own mythical animal

I love walking through new neighborhoods! I always discover beautiful and unusual houses, gardens, and …. well, things. These sheet copper fence-toppers, shaped like silhouettes of a squirrel, a dog, and Sasquatch, tickled me.

Who knew?

Further on, we found the Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum, with a small handmade boat in the window, as well as books and other information. It is closed for now, of course, but is delightfully dusty and quirky. According to the website, the collection is mostly full-sized functional replicas of traditional small craft, created by Harvey Goldman, “to augment his research”. Peering through the window, I could just make out the outlines of more than a dozen narrow boats up on racks.

Yep, that’s the frame for a kayak!

As we got closer to Mt. Tabor, the hill got steeper, and we slowed down a bit. It was getting warmer and we were starting to run out of gas. We were thinking maybe we had violated my Dad’s rule of “only walking until you are halfway tired.”

We’re going here…. not all the way up there!

But we soon saw the long stretch of grass that is the off leash dog park, continued past the community garden, and found some shade. We sat and delighted in watching the world go by as we caught our breaths.

Grandpa Nelson, feeling shady…

Tomorrow, I will tell you about our return trip!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Just Flowers

Dear Liza,

Sometimes, between the Covid-19 and the political situation, it’s nice to go out for a walk, and not think about anything. I mean, to just think about what is right in front of you.

Fortunately, in our neighborhood, there are lots of lovely flowers to look at. Sunnyside Elementary and Environmental School has delightful gardens, which are being tended by staff and families while the school is shut down.

Educated flowers…..

On a street down the hill a sunny patch is filled with Black-eyed Susans and zinnias.

Sunny flowers….

Our local community garden up by the Laurelhurst Care Center, sweet-peas and dahlias stand tall in the sun.

Tall flowers….

And between our house and Auntie Katie’s place in Ladd’s Addition, the four rose Gardens are home to hundreds of bushes, all tended by volunteers. This ‘Caroline Testout’ rose, a variety that was created in 1888, caught my eye on our last walk down that way.

And historic flowers!

Have a nice day, sweetie.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Wonderful Murals at Richmond School

Dear Liza,

I took a long walk yesterday, all the way south past Division Street, to meet my dear friend Misha at a park. It was so good to sit in the sun and chat! Of course we wore masks, sat further apart than usual, and were outside and away from other people. We are not foolish. But the company was wonderful.

I think someone is missing the Good Old Days….

On the way, I passed this large brick school. I noticed the sentimental chalk graffiti first, then the wonderful bas-relief mosaic murals.

Summer…
Fall…..

The four murals are each about five feet wide and twenty feet high and show nature as it changes during the seasons. I took pictures to remind me, and looked them up when I got home. They were created by Lynn Takata in 2008 when she was the artist in residence at the school. Ms Takata is a local artist and art teacher at several POrtland colleges.

Winter…

I was so impressed with such textured, complex, detailed work, and the appreciation of nature that it reveals.

And Spring

Then, I was intrigued by the Japanese characters under the name RICHMOND over the main entrance.

The school is Richmond Elementary Japanese Immersion School. The building was built in 1908, and is the oldest standing school in Portland. It became an immersion school in 1989. The program has been very successful, growing to include Mount Tabor Middle School and and part of Grant High School. The program includes cultural education and even trips to Japan!

It is closed now, of course, because of the Corona Virus. But I am sure that as soon as it is safe, hundreds of kids will be back, learning everything kids do, in Japanese and English, learning how big the world really is.

And once the doctors have found a way to keep us safe from the virus, I hope you are able to get back to school, too.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Flowers on My Table

Dear Liza,

As the Corona shut down continues into summer, the world outside continues to get more beautiful day by day. We have had an unusually cool summer so far in Portland. I remember our first summer here, with temperatures of 111 degrees for a few days, and am grateful that we are enjoying mostly mid-70s . This, plus a few random showers, have made the flowers very happy.

Feeling pleased with water colors and pencils

Being inside most of the time, I have tried my hand at water coloring different types of flowers. I started with daisies and moved onto sunflowers, shading them with colored pencils as needed. The other day I found a great picture of some coneflowers online, and worked to paint them.

Tackling some coneflowers….

I was pleased with my first attempt, and am working on my second. The slight tremor in my right hand isn’t getting in my way as much as I expected and I am feeling more confident.

A second go at the same flowers….

Then yesterday, or our way to the market, we met this fabulous specimen! A real, live coneflower! I took her picture and will use it for my next attempt.

The real thing!

Art imitating life imitating art imitating life….. It’s a perfect cycle.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hazel Hall, Poet

Dear Liza,

One of the shops I love most in our little Sunnyside neighborhood is called Noun, “a person’s place for things”. It has a delightful collection of curated second hand things and newer artwork, and is temporarily closed, of course. But it has a wonderful new window display that has taught me new things.

NOUN…A person’s place for things

In the window is this hand lettered and sewn paper creation that looks like a quilt with writing on it, and I got to stop and read it the other day. It is called Nobody Passes and it goes like this:

The day is set, like a stage for feet

With a ridge of white clouds painted high

Across the canvas of the sky,

With pavement gleaming and too clean,

A shimmer of grass that seems too green,

And houses alert in every side,

Showing a stiff and conscious pride.

The day is a stage and life is a play,

But nobody passes down this way.

I was intrigued, and looked up Helen Hall online. She was born in 1886 and lived in northwest Portland. When she was about twelve, either because of a fall or scarlet fever (history is slippery) she became paralyzed and could only get around by wheelchair.

Since her house was a typical Victorian with steep, narrow stairs, Helen spend most of the rest of her life in her upstairs bedroom. When she got older, she started taking in sewing work that she could do from home. Her sewing machine was set up by the window so she could look out.

She started writing poetry, mostly about her work and what she saw happening on the street outside her window. Her poems became well known, and were published in The Nation and Sunset, among many others. Her poems were praised and “true” and “poignant”.

Hazel died in 1924 at the age of 38. Her home, at 106 NW 22nd in Portland, still stands and is on the National Register of Public Places. There is a small park next door, and seems like a good place for us to visit,once we can go out and visit.

I love learning new things about my wonderful city. I hope you get to come see me real soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy

…And While We’re on the Subject…

Dear Liza,

So, the other day I was remembering how my Momma encouraged us to deal with sad times by finding things to be grateful for. And then yesterday, coming back from running errands, I found the Gratitude Tree.

This is a tree planted in the parkway at SE 36th and Main Street. I don’t know how long it has been there, and don’t know how I have missed it until now. Indeed, I may have seen it, but since I didn’t NEED it, it didn’t register. Brains are like that.

Anyway, I stopped and had a good visit with the Gratitude Tree. It carries the website http://www.gratitudedojo.com and is covered with Manila tags, which are attached to a rope by thin wire. Hundreds of people have written what they are grateful for and attached their thanks.

These acknowledgements of gifts great and small made me smile. And, like the Grinch, my heart grew a few sizes. Even in the midst of racial upheavals and violence, an international pandemic and incompetent leadership, there is a lot to be grateful for.

I don’t know who has provided our neighborhood with this wonderful way to put our joy and appreciation on display. I wish I did. I would make them a batch of cookies and write them a limerick.

Cookies don’t travel well online, but here is the limerick.

Down in Sunnyside there is a tree,

That became a ray of sunshine for me.

Instead of berating,

This tree’s celebrating!

And the love’s out there for all to see.

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

Sunny Walk, New Things

Dear Liza,

We had some errands to do yesterday, so Auntie Bridgett and I went for a nice long walk. And since all the places we needed to go were down on Hawthorne, we saw how that street is changing during the lockdown.

One of our gnomes, lurking in the ferns….

We saw that Chez Machin, a lovely French bistro type place, has changed its name to Frog and Snail. I am hoping it is just a name change and the owners are the same. They are nice folks, and too many people are losing their livelihoods because of the shutdown. We will have a taste of their frogs and snails when the city opens up more.

Chez Machin is now Frog and Snail

We still found a lot of businesses closed, but the art and messaging is beautiful and hopeful. I took pictures as a way of holding tight onto goodness and love.

I have been so dismayed these last few days at the level of anger and violence that has swept over Portland and the rest of the country that I sometimes just want to curl up and sleep until all the hatred has passed.

But love, beauty and just plain human goodness are making themselves heard, too. And that gives me comfort.

Yep, just that.

After dropping off dry cleaning and mailing packages, we stopped at Hawthorne Liquor. Auntie Bridgett is on a mission to find a certain kind of yummy cognac that we had on an Air France flight, years ago. We have yet to find it anywhere in the city. But I did have time to wonder at this improbable bottle of pear brandy!

How did they DO that?

On the way home we stopped at Whole Bowl for lunch, which we ate while sitting on the chairs outside the temporarily closed Common Grounds coffee shop. We stopped at Chase bank to return someone’s lost credit card, and enjoyed some more street art.

Big smiles come from small stickers!

By the time we got home, we had walked nearly three miles! I felt pretty accomplished, after these long months of too much sofa-sitting. Maybe we can put ourselves out of this hole, after all.

Love,

Grandma Judy