Ventura Park

Dear Liza,

Our dear Volkswagen needed some service the other day, so we drove miles east to the dealership. We had an hour to kill while the oil got changed and the tires adjusted, so we took a picnic, art supplies, and found a new park!

Wide open Ventura Park

Ventura Park is a little over seven acres of grass and trees in the Hazelwood neighborhood of East Portland. It is on Stark Street, which used to be called Baseline Road. One of the 1850 mile markers is set in the corner, showing that it is seven miles from the Willamette River. These markers were set every mile along Baseline Road, which was the main road that farmers in this area used to get their goods to the markets on the river.

Seven mile marker from the 1850s

There are 121 trees in Ventura Park, many of which were planted back in 1959 when the city bought the land as a park for new post-war housing boom in East Portland. The website for the park has a map to show which trees are where, so this is a good place to learn about different trees. The 37 species include Blue Spruce, Ginkoes, and Deodar Cedars, which have aged well. The park has a foresty area, and also a baseball diamond and lots of grass for kids to play.

A fine Lebanon Cedar

There is also something I have never seen before. It is a ‘pump track’, a small dirt ring track for little kids to ride their bikes on. It is designed with banked corners and small rises so that, with practice, a kid could ride all the way around without having to pedal their bike! We saw a few kids enjoying the track… some pedaled, some didn’t. They sure were having fun!

There is a smooth paved walkway all the way around the park, and we saw an older gentleman doing smooth, slow laps in the Fall sunshine. There are interesting stainless steel and stone sculptures, too.

Bull horns? Or a crescent moon?

We got a call that said our car was ready, so we had to scoot away. I hope we can come back to Ventura Park and see some more

.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Still Strong Inside

Dear Liza,

Our country seems to be in a dangerous place. Our people are fighting each other in Walgreens about wearing masks and in the streets over everything else. Our President is talking crazy about not leaving office when his time is up. People are worried about their health, their schools, and their jobs.

Last week, walking back from downtown, I passed this fallen oak tree in our Lone Fir Cemetery. It was one of the old ones, probably fifty feet tall, and had green leaves all over it. Five minutes before it had fallen, it had looked fine.

Hollow center of a giant

But now that I was able to see into the trunk, I could see the truth. It was rotten on the inside, hollow and useless. I had a shiver of bad literary juju. “That’s like us,” I thought. “We still live in nice houses and have luxuries, but our government has failed to protect us from the evil ambition of this President. We could fall any moment now.”

That sense of dread has stuck with me for days. It has given me nightmares. But it won’t stick around forever. There is still good in the world, and I went out and found some.

Vote of confidence on the Morrison Bridge

I love public art, especially the small bits that sneak up on you. It lets us see good intentions and know that the power for good is there, even when the artist has moved on.

Caring for tiny things on a side street

I love that more people are registering to vote and encourage others. I love that even “the other side” is taking steps to limit the damage to our Democracy. And I hope that when all this energy is acted upon, it will be enough.

Sticker art at Asylum
Always a good idea!

I send you waves of love and hope for a better day.

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

“Out” For Dinner

Dear Liza,

On Fridays we try and go out for dinner. When we lived in Salinas, we went to Patria, or to the many restaurants in Monterey. Here in Portland, between our bustling neighborhood and easy bus service, we had hundreds of places to choose from.

Dinner out, back in the day (last year!)

Had, I say. In the pandemic, with public transportation feeling like a disease vector on wheels and many places closed up or only doing take-out, our elegant end of the week tradition has been trimmed back.

Auntie Bridgett sketching away…

I like cooking and don’t mind eating my own food, so for me, the “going out for dinner” was mostly about the “out” part. A change of scene, watching folks and chatting with servers, being in the hustle and bustle. Watching Bridgett sketch interesting characters. Watching Grandpa Nelson wave at babies from across the room.


This past Friday, we packed peanuts and half a bottle of wine, bottles of water, and some picnic utensils into a bag and walked down to Sea Sweets, a poke place on Hawthorne. Auntie Bridgett and I got poke bowls, filled with spicy raw salmon, brown rice, seaweed salad, kimchi corn, and pickled ginger. We also got an ice cold ginger beer for Grandpa Nelson, because it was really hot.

Sea Sweets yummy poke bowls

We packed up these delights and continued south to Seawellcrest Park for the “dinner out” part of our evening. We found a socially distanced piece of shade, spread the blanket, and ate up. About thirty feet away, a fellow was exercising. Further off, two young men were playing basketball. And far across the park, happy dogs met and ran and sniffed each other.

Our dinner

It was a warm, pleasant, very un-elegant dinner out, and I enjoyed it very much. As we headed home to watch baseball, I thought about how we create the world by our attitudes.

With the country shut down, in conflict, and worried about our upcoming election, we can still find happiness and peace. And those are valuable resources.

”Table” for three
Bright and breezy decor at the new place…

I hope you are enjoying life to the best of your abilities, being kind to those around you, and staying well.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Fairy Gardens

Dear Liza,

I have told you about our Rose Gardens, our Japanese and Chinese Gardens, but did you know Portland has Fairy Gardens?

They are harder to find than the City gardens, but this may be on purpose. Fairy-folk are a bit shy among us Big’uns, so these tiny marvels are not mentioned in any city guidebook. When walking through neighborhoods, you have to keep your eyes open and look down amongst the rocks and hedges. The telltale signs are pebbles in a curvy line, an over-large mushroom, or tiny doors leading into hillsides.

Another thing that makes Fairy Gardens hard to find is that they are so small. An entire community of fairies can fit in even a Portland sized yard, tucked between rose bushes and towering dahlias.

Dragons chatting with Fairy folk in the Northeast

I love finding Fairy Gardens all over our city. Clearly, fairy-folk only establish their gardens among sympathetic, gentle humans, and I like that Portland has been given the Fairyfolk stamp of approval.

A thriving village in the Southeast

Also, I think fairies are wise gardeners. They know enough to leave the giant trees alone, focussing on the tiny weeds that can choke a flowerbed. They encourage the ladybugs, bees, and butterflies in their efforts to keep the flowers safe and healthy.

Cousin Kestrel is very helpful to our local fairies

I hope you can come visit soon, so we can go find some Fairy Gardens together.

Love,

Grandma Judy

North to Alberta, Part 2

Dear Liza,IMG_0548.jpg

After I had explored old buildings and seen monuments, I found what I had originally headed north for, a fabric shop called Modern Domestic. It is bright and well laid out, and carries the variety of fabrics I have been looking for.

Martha, who is the ‘new kid’ at the store, and I had a wonderful conversation about the colors of Portland, and what I would need to do the city justice in my quilt. Greys, for the clouds, she said, and reds for the bricks. It was nice to talk to someone who understood what I was aiming at.

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Martha

After moving bolts of fabric around, I found a perfect Easter Egg, a collection of Fat Quarters from Robert Kaufman in the colors and textures I had been looking for. I tucked it under my arm and continued looking, because the collection was lacking a forest green. Martha helped me find it, hiding in a corner across the shop. Everyone was so helpful, even letting me recharge my phone while I shopped.

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Treasure!

Then I headed off in search of lunch! It is amazing how hungry I suddenly realized I was. I knew Martin Luther King Jr. was a main drag, so I just walked north, knowing something would turn up.

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Tile decoration outside Aberus

And something did. Aberus Ethiopian Food was on the next corner, a small restaurant,  totally empty the whole time I was there, but the food was delicious. I told the lady (cook and waitress) that this was my first time eating Ethiopian food, but that I wasn’t afraid of spice. She recommended Doro Wat, a chicken and chili dish served on a large disc of spongy bread, a hard boiled egg, cheese, and salad. It was spicy, messy, and a wonderful experience. I left with leftovers.

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Ethiopian Feast

Now sated and ready for home, I caught the number 6 south. Walking between Grand and MLK, I found a fellow leaning against a building who seemed to need the leftovers more than I did, so I  gave them to him. We chatted for a minute, then my bus came.

After I had rested, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. I keep finding new things! Did you know gingko trees have nuts? I didn’t! But now I do, and here is what they look like.

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Gingko nuts!

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Silly Mousekin

The rest of the evening was spent watching the Giants beat the Padres and playing with Mousekin.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Ever-changing Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

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Summer campers hunting snails

I have told you about Laurelhurst Park, the lovely old park in our neighborhood. It was created about 113 years ago when the neighborhood was developed from dairy farms and pastures. The park is land that was a gulch, or ravine, and too prone to flooding to build on, so they made it a park. Good call, city planners.

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Helping new grass in the off-leash area

Since there were no trees here when the park was developed, all the trees were planted at the same time, so most of them are the same age: 113 years! These great trees give the park a sense of history and permanence, peace and mystery.

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Fir Lake Reflections

But yesterday we had a strong reminder that even in this permanence, there is change. Auntie Bridgett and I were walking in the park, enjoying the shade, the summer campers, the birdsong, and the happy dog joy that was everywhere. From across a clearing we heard a large CRASH, and within a few minutes, an ever larger CRASH! It was so loud in the peaceful park, we were all stunned. It sounded (and I know this sounds silly) like a giant monster had stumbled into the park and was ripping up trees.

I ran towards the sound, wanting to see what it was. A huge tree by the west end of Firwood Lake

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Yes, that’s me beside the fallen limb

had lost one smallish limb, then a giant limb. They had grown too heavy with new growth, and without the slightest provocation of wind or weather, crashed to the ground. It was sad, like seeing a peaceful giant, still in his prime, dead on the ground.

People came from all over the park to see and take pictures. One fellow knew who to call and soon some maintenance guys came on Cushman carts to put up Caution tape, in case more limbs fell.

We stood (at a safe distance, because Auntie Bridgett worries) feeling sad at the death of the beautiful branch, appreciating the life forces at work. Trees are living, changing beings, and to expect them to stand tall all the time is unrealistic. We all lose a limb every now and then. don’t we?  I  keep learning new things.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Goodbye Mimosa

Dear Liza,

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The mimosas before the trim    began                                     Photo credit: Bridgett Spicer

There are so many beautiful, huge, really old trees in our neighborhood. Today, there is one less.

Down the block, between us and Babydoll Pizza, a giant mimosa tree has stood for, I would guess, 50 years, probably planted when the house we are living in was new.

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Urban Arborist

Yesterday we saw the cherry picker drive up, along with a trailer,  grinder, and compost truck. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the fellows doing the work…they were busy doing loud, hazardous work, and it was really cold. So I took photos from our window and thought about change.

I loved the trees because they were majestic and spoke of history and caring for one’s urban environment. They were part of this city that is so completely different from whence I came. I longed for change, and found it here. I found a new status quo.

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More change! Camellias blooming!

And now they are gone, and that new status quo is different. I am still figuring out how I feel about that.

One change we love and count on is the flamingo drama down the street. They have now been celebrating New Year’s Eve for several days and looks like they had a marvelous time!

Love, Grandma Judy

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Happy Flamingo New Year!

Out and About in the Wet

Dear Liza,

It is still wet here…not always raining, but always rain-ish. The colors continue to change and be beautiful. This morning I went out walking with Grandpa Nelson down to the Rocking Frog for coffee and doughnuts, and saw lovely drops on branches, more plants going to seed and making lots of winter food for the birds, and more trees changing.

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Seeds for birds!

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Drips

Last night we all went out for dinner at a new restaurant on Belmont (new to us, that is) called Circa 33. It has a dark, secret sort of atmosphere, like a speakeasy of the 1920’s. The first thing I did, while taking off my scarf, was bang into one of their low hanging lights and break it! I felt awful, but it turns out it had been broken before and was held together with tape. Still, what an entrance.

Disaster over, we ordered and enjoyed dinner. Seared salmon, bourbon brined pork chops, and Grandpa Nelson’s french fries filled us all up, then we walked across the street for a few games of pinball at the Belmont Inn. Auntie Bridgett and I love their “Monster Bash” game….lots of characters that move and good sound effects. Pinball is a lot of good time for just $2.00.

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Circa 33 on Belmont

The little mossy branch I brought home yesterday is now sitting in a small pot on the porch with a maple seed. This is what it looks like!

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Moss in a pot

Love,

Grandma Judy

Feeling More at Home

Dear Liza,

Today our new house became our home for real, because we went to the airport to pick up Grandpa Nelson! He had been in Salinas making sure everything was safely on the moving truck, and managed to be the last person on a plane coming to Portland. I love the Portland Airport for many reasons. It is beautiful, bright, easy to navigate, has delicious food, and is easy to get to by train. I had never had to drive there. The passenger pick up and drop off is so congested, there was a man with white gloves and a loud whistle directing traffic. When you come, I will take the train up to meet you!

Auntie Bridgett was driving and got us home safe, after stopping at Killer Burgers on Sandy to get Grandpa Nelson dinner.  Even being tired, sleeping on an air mattress in a strange place is weird. We are all sleeping downstairs because it is cooler and has carpeting, so easier to sleep if the air mattress fails. But the kitchen and living room with better light are upstairs., so there is lots of up and down…a new thing for all of us.

It was a day of lots of small decisions. Our 1950’s era house has old electronics, so there is only one place the television can go. That dictates where the rest of the furniture can be….the three of us are good at discussing options and differences of opinions, but it can be exhausting.

Auntie Bridgett and I made a long list of things we needed for the house, and in a interesting hour at Fred Meyer, we found them all! We also found lots of friendly people…a flirty, dapper fellow with an ornate mustache, pink shirt and cowboy hat, an old man shopping with his even older mom for baby clothes, and helpful clerks who walked up and down aisles to find us what we needed.

The day was productive. The garage door got repaired, the internet got connected, and the kitchen got set up, laundry got done. We had dinner at home with some nice wine, a Goodfellow Pinot Noir from a local winery here in the Willamette Valley, bought at the wine shop down the block, Vino.

After dinner it started to cool down a bit, so we went for a walk though Laurelhurst Park and around the neighborhood. We looked at houses for sale, art galleries in tiny old store fronts, and trees, trees, trees.

These huge old trees are one of the main differences between Salinas and Portland. The climate here and the age of the city means there have been trees planted for more than a hundred years. Many of those trees are still here, as well as their younger, but huge, brothers and sisters. Maples, elms, birches, pines, oaks, all growing 50 feet and more, as well as rhododendrons 20 feet high and around, make Portland more a city in a garden than a city with gardens.  The shade they give cools down hot streets. The birds and squirrels have lots of places to live. The light shining through their leaves makes every treetop shimmer like church windows, a sacred, peaceful place.

I miss you but I am feeling more like I have a new home here.

Love, Grandma Judy