Messages at the Zoo

Dear Liza,

I love that our zoo here in Portland works hard to care for the animals and make sure they are happy. I also love that they want to educate folks to the need for responsible action.

Daisy the recycled Polar Bear

This past visit, we were met by Daisy the Polar Bear just as we entered. From a distance, she seemed soft, almost fluffy. When we got closer, however, we saw that she was made from plastic trash.

Plastic lighters, medicine bottles, and cooler lids, washed up onto beaches and collected by volunteers and sorted by color, were used to make Daisy. She is one of a collection of sculptures called “Washed Ashore” and designed to raise awareness of the hazards of littering and pollution.

The zoo is currently making a huge new habitat for Polar Bears, with a larger pool, indoor and outdoor exercise areas, and lots of ways for people to learn about these wonderful bears. Climate change seems to be ruining their wild homes, but our zoo wants to make them a safe haven. I like that.

There are also non-language signs that make it clear that people need to be careful of their behavior at the zoo. Items that end up in enclosures can be eaten by the animals and make them sick. I overheard several moms explaining this to their child, and I was pleased that both seemed to realize their responsibility.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hello, SUN!!

Dear Liza,

Sunny day at Lone Fir cemetery

With fall getting grey and damp, I had sort of given up on sunny days. But yesterday I wanted a long walk and Grandpa Nelson wanted to visit the zoo, and we got to do both under piercingly blue skies.

We walked through the neighborhoods down to the river and across the Morrison Bridge.

Amazing new building with giant flower pots!!

Because of the elevated bridge approaches, there are a few blocks by the river that feel sort of spooky and underground… not places to be after dark, anyway.

But being there on foot gives great perspectives on new buildings going up. This colorful new building has huge flower-pot shaped planters attached to the outside with trees growing in them!

Sparkles on the Willamette River

We crossed the Morrison Bridge, enjoying the brilliant sunshine reflecting in the Willamette. The stiff breeze made my wool sweater and leather jacket feel just about right.

We could have continued walking once we got downtown, but the climb to the top of Washington Park would have worn us out. We took the train and then the super fast elevator up to the top of the hill. ZOOM!

Inches away from a Bald Eagle

The zoo was practically empty, just the way we like it. A few groups of moms with small kids in strollers, some brave grandparents, and us. We got to spent quality time with the giraffes, talking with their keeper, Virginia. She told us that the zoo tries to never anesthetize giraffes. Becoming unconscious means falling down, which can be deadly for the tall, spindly animals.

Did you know giraffes love carrots?

While she was feeding the Masai and Reticulated giraffes their carrot treats, we got to see their twenty inch black tongues! It was adorable and creepy at the same time.

Virginia, goddess of carrots

We got to watch as the cheetahs prowled their enclosure. We felt a bit anxious realizing that we were just one pane of glass away from becoming lunch. The graceful cheetahs could run us down like a rocket. It was delightful.

Eyeing his lunch….

I will tell you more tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Zoolights 2018

Dear Liza,

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At Zoolights

Merry Christmas!! I hope you and your Mommy and Daddy have a fun day with Baba Alla and lots of presents and good food. I will be spending the day with Cousins Kyle, Jasper and Kestrel, and Auntie Christy and Bridgett, and Grandpa Nelson.

Last night we took Auntie Christy and cousin Kyle to Zoolights. We went with Katie and the cousins last year, but Katie still has a cold and it was going to be a wet night.

First, Christy and I went to the movies downtown to see “Welcome to Marwen”, a movie that looks really sad but is really very hopeful. Steve Carell, who does the voice of Gru in the Despicable Me movies, was the star and did a very good job of making us believe an unbelievable story.

Portland’s Living Room

When the movie was over, I showed Christy around our pretty downtown…the trees wrapped in lights, and Pioneer Square (which Portlanders call ‘The Living Room’) with its giant Christmas tree.

Grandpa Nelson, cousin Kyle and Auntie Bridgett met us there and we got on the train to the zoo. It was cold and damp, but not raining…..yet.

Before the Rain

As we got into the zoo, it began, and kept raining all night. We had brought umbrellas and hats, gloves and coats, but I could feel my feet getting wetter and wetter as I enjoyed the lights and dealt with crowds.

We stopped for food at the Africafe, where we usually watch the birds darting around their aviary. But they were all asleep. It was odd, being at the zoo when all the animals were not active, sort of like sneaking into someone’s house when they are away. Along with a few hundred other folks.

When we had walked the route and gotten just about as wet as we could, we caught the train back downtown….and then the rain really kicked in! Fifth Street was a river that happened to have streetcar tracks in it. Thanks goodness for Portland’s covered bus stops, or we would have been miserable.

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The Zoo Train racing with dinosaurs

We were home around 7, but we were all exhausted. We changed into dry clothes, hung up the wet ones, and watched Graham Norton until we got sleepy, around 9:00. Falling asleep, I thought about how good it is to get wet and cold, get warm and dry again, and be with family.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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