It has been too long since we’ve visited the Portland Art Museum. Covid restrictions made it difficult to get reservations and it was almost frightening to be in the enclosed space with folks for a while. But yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I masked up, took the Magic Number 15, and went!
The museum is currently setting up two new shows, one about Queen Nefritari of Ancient Egypt and another on the Nabis, a group of French artists. This means that a lot of the museum was closed, but there was still a lot to see. The visit was a combination of visiting old friends and meeting new ‘faces.’
This tall, narrow painting, called ”Le Petit Patissier”, was painted by Chaim Soutine in 1921 and is one of my favorites in the whole museum. The title means ”The Little Baker.” Isn’t he cute?
Another favorite is an Alexander Calder mobile called “The Gong is a Moon”, which hangs above a collection of neon words that encourage action and engagement. Auntie Bridgett couldn’t stop looking at them. Me, either!
A new piece (to me) is ”Trois Enfants en Blue” by van Rysselberghe, painted in 1901. It is a pointillist piece, in that demanding style of tiny brush strokes of different colors that was made popular by Serrault. It is a portrait of three bored little girls and seems to shimmer.
The last piece I’m going to tell you about is another new one. These ”Penny Loafers” (yes, loafers made out of pennies!!) were made by Sonya Clark in 2010.
It’s not very often you get to see puns in an art museum.
It has been a long time since I’ve been able to have an adventure with young people. You live far away in Salinas and the shutdown has kept Cousins Jasper and Kestrel inside for almost a year and a half.
So Friday, we headed off. We put on our masks, hopped on the number 2 Trimet bus, and rode clear through downtown to the Lan Su Chinese Garden. This garden was built 30 years ago on a full city block in what has always been the Chinatown section of the city. Skilled workmen came from China with beautiful rocks, tiles and timbers, and built this oasis of beauty and tranquility .
We took off our shoes, the better to feel the variety of stones that pave the paths and bridges of the garden.
It was a hot sunny day, and we appreciated the curvy roofs over the pavilions. The shade made the stones underfoot cool and even allowed some soft moss to flourish. It was wonderful. We were happy to see that the Tea House was open, for take out only, of course. Little tables and stools set right out by the lake made for a gorgeous view as we nibbled steamed buns and moon cakes made with sweet red beans.
When we were fed, we walked around Zither Lake to the bridge. Dozens of koi came up to us, thinking we were going to feed them.
We had learned that the huge yellow-gold colored one is called Cob, (as in Corn-on-the), and Kestrel called the big silver one Luna. We stood on the bridge for a long time, appreciating the colors and movements of the koi as they moved between the sun and the shade. A lady who walked by told Jasper, “They must like your energy.”
Before we left the garden, I asked Jasper to choose a place for he and Kestrel to sit for a photo. He chose this nicely shaped doorway. Here are your handsome cousins!
On Friday we got to visit Cousin Kestrel, Cousin Jasper and Auntie Katie and give Kestrel some birthday presents.
Grandpa Nelson and I decided to make a day of it, so we walked the two plus miles down to Books with Pictures. We stopped at Palio to get some pastries and met the family across the street from their shop and house.
We enjoyed the croissants and little apple pies, had a nice visit and got to say hi to our friend Misha Moon when she came by on her way to My Vinyl Underground, the record store in Auntie Katie’s basement.
After a while Grandpa Nelson suggested we play some games. This started with a race, which Auntie Katie won. Then Kestrel taught us a game called Gargoyle. In this game, the person who is the Gargoyle sits with their eyes covered (today, we used our face masks!) and guards an object. The other players try to sneak up on the Gargoyle and steal the object.
The Gargoyle needed to be able to hear the other players’ footsteps and call them out, and because of the street noise on Division Street, this was really hard! But it was fun to be sneaking and having to stifle our giggles. Jasper won that one.
After some other games and chalk art, we headed over for some ice cream from Zeds, the ice cream truck parked in the parking lot of Books with Pictures.
It was moving past lunchtime when we headed for home. Pastries and stolen ice cream licks just aren’t real food, so we stopped at McMenamin ‘s Barley Mill up on Hawthorne. On their very thinly populated open porch, we had cider, a wonderful oatmeal stout, and a veggie burger. Their fries were a letdown, but everything else was delicious.
By this time we were over-sunned, over-fed and over-walked, and we were still a mile from home. We found the shady side of the street and just kept at it, covering almost six miles by the time we crashed.
There is an expression,”It’s a sign of the times.” This usually means something is a clear, visual example of what is happening. Today I decided to share some of my signs of different times with you.
When I first started traveling to Europe, I was struck by signs and posters that would not have existed in the U.S.
This 300 year old sign for Jesus Lane is on the campus of Jesus College at Cambridge University in England. In our country, religion has become so politicized and I doubt this sign would survive vandalism.
On the other side of the coin, this poster for theater tickets would probably be considered too weird for the American market. It’s ironic that in a country that touts Free Speech there is such a “you can’t say/show/ wear that” reaction.
This street construction warning sign makes me laugh, because of its original nickname in England, “Man wrestling with umbrella.” Also, if you look closely at the smaller sign, horrible things are happening.
Other signs make me smile because of where they are. Seeing this wonderful sign showing an entrance to the Paris metro would mean I am in that magical city.
And not far from that sign is this one, for the narrowest street still existing in the ancient part of Paris. The name means “The Street of the Cat Who Fishes.”
Back in California, this sign touches my heart and feeds all my senses. Crows and cypress trees grow in my happy place at Asilomar, and looking at this parking sign, I can smell the fog and feel the sand between my toes. Oh, and taste the good food at The Fishwife, just up the hill a bit.
And in my new home, there are signs, too. This one, at The Enchanted Forest south of Portland, is greatly improved by Jasper showing his high score on the “Return to Mordor” ride.
And these signs at a protest for the Trump administration’s policy of separating and imprisoning immigrant families touched my heart and let me know I was in good company.
What are your signs of the times? What visuals make you smile, or travel to another time or place?
One way you can tell a really good Museum is when you can go several times in just a few months and keep seeing new things. Today I took cousins Jasper and Kestrel to OMSI, and I had so much fun! I picked the kids up at Books with Pictures and we hopped on the Orange Line train.
This huge locomotive was venting steam into the chilly air. The cloud was enormous! But what caught our eye was this fellow standing in the middle of the cloud of steam, apparently keeping an eye on things up there.
We got tickets for the regular Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the King Tut exhibit, too. I had seen King Tut at the museum’s Halloween gala, but it’s always fun seeing things with kidlets…you see things through their eyes, and everything looks different.
For example, cousin Jasper was very taken with how Mr. Carter must have felt when he discovered the undisturbed tomb, and how exciting it is to discover new things. He was also pleased to actually see things that he had only read about.
I know I have told you before how much Jasper doesn’t like posing for pictures, so you will forgive me for having mostly Kestrel photos. Both kids were fascinated, listening to the commentary on the audio guides and staring at the artifacts. Kestrel was intrigued by the sarcophagus but hurried by the replica of King Tut’s actual mummy, but I can’t blame her. He’s been dead over 3,500 years and doesn’t look very well.
After we had looked, listened and read everything and were headed down for lunch, we saw a new thing which held our attention for another hour: The World of Animation. This well designed, hands on, kid friendly exhibit allows kids (and their lucky adults) to create stop motion animation, make sound effects for cartoons, and act in short movies of their own. It was wonderful!
By the time we were done, I was really ready for some lunch. I pried the kids away and we went downstairs to Theory, the museum’s cafe, for pizza on the terrace. It was chilly but not yet raining, and we had coats, so we enjoyed the fresh air. The terrace faces the Tilikum, Marquam, and Hawthorne Bridges as well as the beautiful Willamette, so we had a great view as we nibbled.
By then, it was two o’clock and we needed to leave by three, so I gave the kids one hour in the big Hall. There are so many hands on activities, I never want to leave. Kestrel launched a water rocket which flew straight up to the ceiling of the huge room and Jasper spent his time figuring out some Tangram style puzzles and playing with the orbit table.
On our way out of the museum, we stopped by a room where some amazing gingerbread creations were on display. A talented group of artists had made funny gingerbread art, using the King Tut exhibit as inspiration. Some had Minions, some had mice, and they were all beautiful, silly, and edible!
Finally, I had to pull the plug on the day so we could get home before we all melted down. We read comic books borrowed from Auntie Katie’s shop at the train stop and got back to Books with Pictures just as the rain started.
By the time I got myself home, it was raining for real and I was wet and cold, having forgotten my Indiana Jones hat at home. Oh well, hot tea and dinner put me right again.
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.
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.
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.
And the benefits of this lovely city are enormous. Art. Music. Parks. Art and music in parks! Food and drink and coffee and pastries.
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.
You are your Mom and Daddy’s only child, so you get a lot of alone time with them, and with me, when I’m around. Cousin Kestrel is Jasper’s little sister, and she doesn’t. Everything she does, including lunchtime at school, is with Jasper.
Jasper is a very nice brother, but we all need some time with our people when it is just US. Kestrel and I got that the other day.
Auntie Katie made plans for her and Jasper, and I made plans for us. After I ‘kidnapped’ her from Books with Pictures, we walked past the giant banana painted on the wall at SE 12th and Division, past a fairy house in some one’s yard, all the way to Hawthorne Street, where we caught the number 14 bus.
At 32nd Avenue we got off and walked to The Hazel Room. This is a lovely little lunch place in a big house, and I have walked past it dozens of times. They don’t sell hamburgers or french fries, so Grandma Nelson wouldn’t like it. Inside it is pretty and old-fashioned, with old wooden floors and wallpaper. There are lots of elegant tea pots on the window sills. Kestrel is a very picky eater, so I read the menu to her and let her choose. She asked for french toast. When it came, it was so big that we shared it, but she said it was the best french toast she had ever had! Fat and sweet, it most more like toasted cake..yummmy!
When we had played reading games and finished our lunch, we headed down Hawthorne to our main destination: Fernie Brae. This is a shop that sells fairie things. Handmade fairie dolls, beds, houses, jewelry, paintings, costumes, wings and wands…if a fairie could want it, they have it.
Everything is so beautifully made, we spent an hour in the small shop, looking at every tiny thing.
I knew we had just a little while until my bus pass expired, so Kestrel picked out a tiny dragonfly treasure, a jasper stone for Jasper and a rose quartz heart shaped stone for herself, and we caught the bus back to Ladd’s Addition. Walking through the shade of the old trees, we made up stories about which fairies lived under the trees and in the bushes.
As I had promised, the cousins and I went back up the hill to Washington Park yesterday to visit the Children’s Museum. Since Grandpa Nelson had to work and I hate driving, we took the number 4 bus and Red Line MAX train to get there.
The Children’s Museum is less of a museum and more of a giant, well designed play environment for kids. There are rooms with set-ups for water play, a farm to table grocery room, a pet hospital, engineering, toy cars, and a theater with costumes, lights and puppets.
Jasper loves the water room and Kestrel, the theater, and the rooms are close enough together that I can sort of wander between them and keep and eye on both kids. Jasper actually came and found us in the theater, making me very proud of his responsibility and navigation skills.
After a few hours inside, we stepped out to the Zany Maze to eat the food I had brought. The Museum sells hot dogs and such, but I preferred a day with healthier snacks. Blueberries (from our Sauvie Island trip) and some of Grandpa Nelson’s peanuts and a big jug of water gave us energy for the afternoon.
Instead of going back inside the Museum, we explored the outside area, which has just been re-opened after a long period of development. It is wonderful!
The Outdoor Adventure, starts with The Spring, which has water play combined with sand, water management, buckets, and activities that encourage teamwork. Jasper and Kestrel played with several other kids, two of whom did not speak English at all, but they all understood and helped each other. It was wonderful to see.
We wandered down the trail past the creek, all the way down to The Amphitheater. There was a young lady helping the kids ‘fish’ in a small pool, and a mom teaching her little one about jumping rope. Jasper joined in and did 11 consecutive jumps! He was justifiably proud.
In our last 20 minutes, as energy was waning, we went back inside to see what The Treehouse Adventure room was. Turns out, it is designed for just the sort of activity we needed, a quiet winding down…. there is a tree house to go into and read, or just sit.
We got some going-home snacks, caught the Red Line train, then the Orange Line train, and were home by 3. We started reading Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville, and were on chapter 7 by the time Auntie Katie got home. It’s a great read!
Auntie Katie got home and Kestrel wanted some acrobatics time. Mother and daughter did some pretty nifty balance poses! These poses are ab workouts, mother-daughter time, and cooperation training, all at once. Real Ph.D level parenting, if you ask me.
Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett came a brought me home, and we had dinner. What a lovely day!
Thursday was the Summer Solstice, which means it was the longest day of the year. The sun stayed up here in Portland until 9:00. But most of the fun was much earlier.
I walked to Auntie Katie’s house, and the cousins and I got on the number 4 bus to the Lan Su Chinese Garden on Northwest Everett Avenue. This is a whole city block with a wall around it, filled with trees, bushes, a big pond, pavilions, bridges, and even a tea house. It feels so magical and peaceful, you forget you are in the middle of a big city.
The garden was built in 2000, but feels much older. Many of the larger magnolia trees were transplanted full-grown from other gardens, and give the place a feeling of solidity. You can see the tall city buildings above the walls, but they seem very far away. It is easy to imagine fairies living in the crannies of the rocks, dipping their tiny cups into the pond.
There are so many things to see every step of the way. The pathways are all pebbles laid in lovely patterns, pleasantly bumpy underfoot. From the tiny mondo grass to the fragrant gardenias, there are a hundred delights for all the senses. Sitting in one place and looking, I mean really looking, at the pond, you see the reflections of the clouds and buildings on the surface, then the shadows, then the water skippers, then the golden koi and pebbles underneath the surface.
At the tea house, we enjoyed pot stickers, bao, edamame, baked tofu, and Kestrel even had a small pot of rose tea. We sat on the second floor by the window and had a lovely view of the garden below. Everything was so calm and quiet, even the smaller children remembered their manners.
After a few hours of exploring, nibbling and imagining, we headed out to the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The kids climbed on rocks, played in fountains until they were drenched, then walked themselves mostly dry until we all caught an orange line train home. A few hours quiet time, making dinner and reading stories, got us ready for a nice evening.
I went back to my house and Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I had a nice walk around the park and neighborhood, happy to be here in Portland for whatever lies ahead.
I haven’t written on this blog for a few days, and you know why…you were here in Portland! It was so good to see you and your daddy after these long months. You have gotten taller and smarter. Daddy is just as wonderful as always.
Of course, when you got here, there were snickerdoodle cookies to hold us until dinner. Grandpa Nelson had made reservations at a restaurant we had been saving for your daddy especially: The Laurelhurst Market, at NE 32nd and Burnside. Their specialty is meat: beef, steaks, pork, sausages…and they do it all very well. I had flank steak with chickory, which gave it a nice crunchy outside to go with the rich goodness inside.
After dinner we walked home through the neighborhood and talked about all the things we love about Portland. The tiny book-sharing libraries, the huge trees, the friendly people.
The next day we got up early and took the bus/train/elevator to the ZOO at Washington Park! It was fun seeing things I had missed the last time, and showing you some of my favorite animals. Somehow, we missed the fruit bats, which I really like, but we’ll catch them next time.
When we were too tired to smile, it was time to head down the hill and get lunch. Grandpa Nelson found The Picnic House, which is a beautiful old lobby of the Heathman Hotel, on Salmon at the South Park Blocks. The ceiling is at least 30 feet high, and there is a stuffed bear head wearing a hat and a monocle over the bar. The food was delicious and the slow pace gave us time to relax and rest from our long morning.
The bus trip home was very quiet. At home, you and I had naps, and Grandpa and Daddy sat and talked for hours. Then it was time for the SECOND big activity of the day: Picnic dinner with Auntie Katie, Uncle Dave, Cousin Jasper, and Cousin Kestrel! We packed dinner, wine, toys, and chairs, and headed off to Laurelhurst Park. The rest of the family came a little later, and we ate, played, talked, threw sticks and frisbees, and dug holes in the dirt.
It made me so happy to see everyone together and getting along so well. There aren’t a lot of cousins in this family, so we need to appreciate the ones we have. When it was too dark to see, we all came home and played Legos, while the Dads talked computers and airplanes downstairs. We ate the last of the cookies and sent everyone home to bed.
This morning, the cousins went to school and you and Daddy went to the airport. I was sad to see you go, but I know we’ll get together soon.