Day After Thanks

Dear Liza,

We spent yesterday being thankful, and it was a full day. My life has been blessed, full, funny, a bit unusual, and very, very happy.

Me, out and about

I am thankful for being alive and healthy. My body at 60-plus years is still running, although a little rusty. With proper maintenance it should have a lot more miles in it.

We three

I am thankful for my dear people. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett love me with all my faults. They are my people to look after and cook for, to play with, to dance and draw and do puzzles with.

Almost everyone!!

I am thankful for my extended family. You and your Mom and Dad, Auntie Katie and the cousins, are not within hugging distance at the moment. But all things pass and before very long we will be hanging out at the Laurelhurst Park, or back on the beach in Monterey together. Meanwhile, we send letters and zoom and know we are loved.

Just keep learning, just keep learning…

I am thankful for learning. Being able to keep my brain young by learning French, art, and history makes everyday challenging and fun. I have always preached about “life-long learning” but never fully appreciated it until now.

Portlandia, in all her glory

I am grateful for our home here in Portland. This city has been such a fine place to retire, with art, theater, and all the urban buzz. The buzz is muted for a while, but will return with gusto, I have no doubt. And with Portland’s energy and social awareness, that will be a fine thing to see.

I am grateful for Democracy. The American Experiment wobbled for a while, but seems to be righting itself. I am glad to be able to have faith in our country’s future.

Gratitude is a great mindset. Hang onto it!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Art Crows

Dear Liza,

We have a lot of birds in Portland, but our most visible and noisy feathered friends are the crows. They are comfortable around people and don’t mind sharing our snacks or their opinions.

Waiting for the Queen….

There is a healthy flock (called a ‘murder’, in crow jargon) in our Lone Fir Cemetery, and a lady who comes to feed them every afternoon. She says she doesn’t know if she is their queen or their slave.

Quickened Towards all Celestial Things, by Julianna Paradisi

All this avian beauty is inspiring! I have photographed dozens of crows, and other artists have honored them, as well. Julianna Paradisi, a Portland artist, created the wonderful “Quickened Towards all Celestial Things” in 2018. That same year, I photographed it at the Artbar downtown.

Browsing old photos for inspiration yesterday, I found it again and hoped to reimagine it as a collage. I must admit, in my “I’m not an artist” days, I had assumed that artists just picked up a brush or pair of scissors and ‘whoosh!’ Art happened. But during my ‘quarantine art education’, I have learned there is a lot of making mistakes, starting over, and just keeping at something until it looks right.


This crow took many sketches and lots of staring and trimming before I was happy with it. Cut out of black card stock, it joined magazine clippings, the remainder of a few envelopes, and just enough paint to make it interesting.

Crow and its prototype
My own Paradisi Crow

Thanks, Julianna Paradisi! Thanks, crows!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Funk’s Franks

Dear Liza,

Last week when I was walking Auntie Bridgett to the SideStreet Arts for her shift of gallery watching, we ran into a new, delicious place to get lunch!

Charlie Funk and his hot dog cart!

Young entrepreneur Charlie Funk, originally from Chicago, has opened his brand-new hot dog cart at the corner of SE Stark and 28th. He and Funk’s Franks are pleasant and Covid-friendly, and his hot dogs are very tasty!

I bought a Chicago dog, sliding its tinfoil-wrapped goodness into my shopping bag of so I could enjoy it at home. The pickle was spicy, the neon relish crispy, and the tomato fresh and sweet.

Charlie told me that he and his partner have come out from Chicago and will spend the next few weeks in Portland. At the end of the month they will re-locate near our old stomping grounds, in Santa Cruz, California. They should do well there, in the land of warm dry winters and lots of foot traffic.

I wish them well!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Celebratory Walk and Some Art

Dear Liza,

While we were reading the news and doing Duolingo this past Saturday morning, we heard a “Whoop!”from outside, a random celebratory yell.. We opened the window. More whoops, some car horn honks….

“Turn on the news!!” And there it was, CNN calling Pennsylvania’s ballot count for Joe Biden, putting him over the top and making him the President Elect of the United States.

Mouse was fascinated by the news!

We danced, we sang, we got dressed, we needed to get out and walk. Grandpa Nelson woke up and decided he needed to go with us. We waved to folks who smiled and waved back, sang, danced, and honked their horns. People in the park were happily walking dogs. The whole city was celebrating!

Happy trees in the Park

We stopped by Oblique Coffee for two pounds of their fine dark roasted beans, and the folks there were happy, too. We all felt as though we have been holding our breath and clinching our teeth for four years.

Between happy thoughts of new beginnings for our country (after the remaining 72 days of Mr. Trump’s term are over) and the lovely chilly morning, bright with leaves, we had quite a nice morning.

Weird Masonic symbol with Googly eye

Back home, I felt that I wanted to make some happy art. My first thought was “Making a New World”. I pulled some papers out of my collection, and laid them out very slowly, not thinking much, just eyeballing the colors.

The beginning of my celebratory collage

I cut a circle out of scrap paper and glued the collage papers onto it, overlapping and just playing. Once it dried, I cut out the circle out and put it on a page in my journal, then added some words. A little shading, and I think it’s done.

Sing “Thanks” Everyone!

We ordered pizza for dinner and watched our Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and President-Elect Joe Biden make their first official speeches to a socially distanced crowd in Delaware. They spoke of healing, caring, and uniting our bruised country, of fighting the corona virus and not each other. I was happy all over again at hopeful new beginnings.

Looking forward!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Topaz Farm

Dear Liza,

On Friday I got to spend a wonderful evening with Auntie Katie and Cousins Jasper and Kestrel. It was a real adventure!

Cousin Jasper bring in the pumpkins…

Auntie Katie drove us through Friday evening rush hour traffic up to Sauvie Island. We went to a farm where her friend Peggy works, called the Topaz Farm. It was nearly 5:00 when we got there, but Peggy assured us that there was a lot of fun to be had before the sun went down.

Peggy!

Kestrel and Jasper had great fun running around the extremely diverse pumpkin patch, admiring and adopting pumpkins as they went along. “George” would get googly eyes and a feathered hat, Kestrel decided, and a little white one would sit and watch.

Me posing with “George”.

Once the pumpkins were corralled in the car, Peggy took us over to meet the goats. There were several goats, including one just a month old. We were allowed to feed them bunches of basil, which made everyone smell delightfully of pesto.

Happy kids of all sorts

There were also turkeys, ducks, and an outstanding Goth chicken.

Goth chicken and random Turkey

The pigs had gone to sleep by that time, but the sign in their pen let us know what sort of sneaky critters they were!

Warning: Wily pigs!

The sun was beginning to go down as we headed into the Corn Maze. There were maps posted at every checkpoint, and we still managed to get delightfully lost. We picked and nibbled some corn, and Jasper held into an ear “as a weapon, just in case”.

Auntie Katie and Kestrel, tramping through the corn maze

We wandered into the barn where all sorts of apple things were being sold. Cider, caramel apples, hand pies, and mushrooms, all got loaded into a box. We sat out in the gathering dark and enjoyed feeling almost normal, almost pre-Covid. We bought some kettle corn for Grandpa Nelson and the kids climbed in a tree until it was literally too dark to see.

Zinnias in the sunset

I was one tired, happy Grandma by the time I got home. Life is good. Stay safe, stay well.

Fun well past sundown

Love,

Grandma Judy

First Rainy Day!

Dear Liza,

It rained Saturday!

It’s sweater weather!!
Cutie pie Bridgett with her cool umbrella

It was a big, fat, wet, grey day. So of course we went for a walk!

Pretty raindrops on Nandinas

We had some errands to run, to mail some packages and pick up a replacement coffee grinder. We found lots of puddles, happy wet dogs, and kids in new rubber boots. Bright leaves floated down the gutters and stuck to our shoes.

Clouds moving along

By the time we had dropped off and picked up, the first wave of the storm had moved along and some blue skies showed through.

And when we got home, we drew, painted, and cooked, enjoying the sound of the wind and scattering leaves.

By the time the chili and corn bread were ready, the second wave had come and we listened to the rain through open windows.

Happy Rain!!

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

Yes, Portland

Dear Liza,

Three years ago, we moved to Portland. We came for its urban culture and forested parks, the wide Willamette crossed by soaring bridges, and for Auntie Katie and the cousins.

Soaring bridges…

We found all those things, and more. And even in the pandemic shut down, there is a lot of city to enjoy.

Silly family….
Adorable art….

PAM, the art museum, is a feast for the eyes and spirit, just a walk away. Attendance is limited to keep folks safe, but the art there can carry you away for a while.


Art isn’t just in the museums, either. It is everywhere, bright and outspoken.

Art where you least expect it….

The parks are still wonderful places filled with hundred year old trees, ditzy squirrels, and flowers.

Incredible views and forested parks…

Our city has gotten a bad rap, lately. Mr. Trump says we have been “in flames for decades.” He is lying. Our nightly demonstrations in a few blocks of downtown make him nervous, is all. They show we will stand up to police brutality and racial injustice.

And they are as much a part of what I love about Portland as the museums and the forests. I am glad to be a part of it.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Jazz on the Porch

Dear Liza,

It has been a long, long time since we heard live music. Before the pandemic, it was one of the great joys of living in Portland: somewhere close, almost every evening, folks were playing music.

Oh, yes!!

But before the summer outdoor music season even got started, the whole country shut down. Movies, concerts, even outdoor venues, were all closed for the duration. Poop.

While out picking up litter the other day, we saw this sign and confirmed what we had heard talked about: Jazz in the neighborhood!

Gordon Leem and company

Just a block from our house is a lovely front porch where a group gathers to play gentle jazz, for whatever people want to put in the tip jar. Lead by Gordon Leem, the ensemble includes a keyboard, stand up bass, trombone, drums, and some fine scat singing.


It was wonderful. “Blue Skies”, their opening number, celebrated the return to our clear skies after nine days of toxic smoke. Folks slowly wandered in, carrying camp chairs, wine, and snacks. The sidewalks and even Alder Street itself became seating, and no one seemed to mind. The sun started to go down and we all just reveled in being there.

Being out in the world, watching people with their kids and dogs, was as important as the music itself. It wasn’t perfect, of course. A group close by us were so happy to be out of the house they chatted a bit too loudly. But I realized that was part of it. We have missed the luxury of being irritated by strangers.

The tip jar got regular donations, and Gordon reminded us that a part of that money will go to the Red Cross, who is helping lots of people in Oregon who have lost everything. After an hour and a half, it was time to head home. We waved at neighbors ( hard to recognize after months inside and with everyone masked!) , packed our chairs and headed off to dinner.

It almost felt like normal life.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Art In the Darkness

Dear Liza,

It has been a really difficult week. Heavy smoke from the Oregon fires has kept us inside and is making everyone feel sick. The virus that President Trump ignored is still killing a thousand people a day, and our government seems determined to punish anyone who disagrees with it. It has been very hard to find any happy.

The gloom is almost too much….

Yesterday I wrote a letter to my brother Tim (yes, I type my letters) and illustrated it with forests and smoke. It was a sad picture, but it made me feel better to put something in paper.

I gathered up my watercolors and played with some of the skills Ruth Inman has taught me in our online art group.

First, I taped the paper down, and really soaked it. While it was wet, I gave a wash of bright yellow and orange, making sure it was nice and random.

While the paper was still damp, I used a toilet paper roll to make big circles and a rolled up strip of regular paper to make small ones…. just a few. Then I let everything dry.

This next process takes the longest because you have to let things dry between layers. If you try and paint everything at once, it all runs together. Over the course of the afternoon I put in the petals and centers of the flowers.

When that layer seemed “done”, I let it all dry. Then I got out the Elegant Writer pen Ruth had sent me and put in the details of the flowers. It was fun to see the orange and yellow pop against the black lines.

And I felt better. Something about the bright colors, the creative process and the control of this little piece of paper allowed me to feel joy for the first time in days. I recommend this ‘art therapy’ to anyone feeling sad.

We will get through this and find light in the other side, I know. And art will help.

Love,

Grandma Judy