Mixing It Up a Little

Dear Liza,

Human beings are creatures of habit, they say, but I have always disagreed. I like to go on adventures…walking eight miles to Sellwood, bussing across town for a hike, taking the train to Vancouver and biking around the city. But as we go along in the quarantine, I realize how much I am leaning on my habits. Especially in uncertain times, we feel the need to do normal things in the normal way.

Starting simple

Here, that means morning coffee with news on the sofa, writing blogs, then crossword puzzles, then French practice on Duolingo.

The recent addition of online watercolor classes with Ruth Inman in Illinois has helped fill Tuesday and Thursday mornings with art and conversation. It has also given me courage to make more art.

Little flowers are less daunting

The other day I painted my first sunflower. I had been doing little daisies and simple roses, which feel less daunting. Sunflowers are imposing. They are flower royalty that literally looks down on everyone. They have gravitas.

Floral royalty

And when I got it done, I felt pretty good about it. I asked Auntie Bridgett. “It’s not bad,” she said kindly. “But you could use some colored pencils to bring it out more, to make it pop.”

My first thought was, “What if I screw it up?” But I slapped that thought down, stepped over it, and moved on. We walked to Collage down on Division Street and bought me some Vera Thin pencils along with more watercolor paper.

Painted, penciled, and almost done

I started playing. Painting like before, but with the knowledge that some parts would be enhanced or shaded with pencils. I learned about complementary colors and how to use them for emphasis, that shadows are never black, and that short lines can make lovely curves. It is another tiny step outside my comfort zone.

Back to daisies, but with more oomph

This using of paints and pencils, or pastels and collage, or crayons and paint, is called mixed media. You mix bits that you already know, some you don’t, and come up with something new. This is an interior adventuring, and one I am enjoying very much.

Maybe it will keep my adventurous muscles strong for when I can go adventuring outside again.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sauvie Island, Masked

Dear Liza,

Wiiiiiiide open spaces

Yesterday we got to do something normal! That is, something we have done since we have lived in Portland. We drove out to pick blueberries on Sauvie Island. Sauvie Island is the largest island in the Columbia River, and is a big dollop of farms and wild area just minutes from downtown Portland.

The tiny Sauvie Island Bridge

To get there, we crossed to the west bank of the giant Willamette River, drove north a bit, and then crossed the tiny Multnomah Channel, and there we were. Pastoral paradise.

Ready to go!

Now, of course there were accommodations for Covid-19. We all wore masks, kept our distance, and used the farm’s boxes to keep from giving them any of our germs.

Staying distanced but still jigging along…

But the picking was the same. Pulling pounds of juicy berries off bushes, planning the dozens of cobblers and muffins, is very satisfying, in a hunter-gatherer sort of way.

Bounty!!

Among the bushes, we listened to parents chat with their kids and smiled at our first post-Covid babies. We watched dozens of swallows swoop low to get berries, only slightly discouraged by the broadcast hawk shrieks. We reveled in just being outdoors, being part of the world. As the box filled up, we picked slower, not wanting our time to end.

Auntie Bridgett, getting just a few more!

There is so much of Sauvie Island we haven’t seen yet. There is a nature preserve full of water birds. There are farms that specialize in Marionberries.

The house garden at Columbia Farms

But eventually, the call of lunch got too loud to tune out, and we needed to head off. Of course, this lead to another adventure! More tomorrow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

West to Cannon Beach

Dear Liza,

Wednesday morning we got up early and were on highway 26 to Cannon Beach by nine o’clock. The weather was chilly, grey, and almost rainy.

As usual, the trip west really started once we went through the Vista Ridge tunnel. This is a tunnel that actually goes under a neighborhood in the west hills, and whenever we go through it, I wonder how the folks in that lovely and very expensive neighborhood feel about living above a major freeway.

Can you imagine living above the Vista Ridge Tunnel?

The city of Portland ends pretty abruptly once we passed the hills, because of the urban growth boundary. Other, smaller towns, like Beaverton, have grownup, but Portland doesn’t spread out. I like that. Having watched Southern California become one giant suburb, I am happy to see a bit of country green between cities.

Once we had passed the open fields and headed up into the Coastal Range of mountains, we pulled over at a rest stop, and I got my first history lesson

History lesson by the road

This historical marker tells of The Tillamook Burn, which was actually four fires between 1933 and 1939. They were all caused by logging accidents and, in the midst of the Great Depression, cost Oregon over 13 billion board feet of lumber. The lumber industry, like so many others, had been left to “police itself”, and it had not gone well.

The Tillamook Burn led to regulations on how trees are taken and what sort of equipment can be used, which has made logging safer.

Wolf Creek

Just behind the sign was a delightfully gurgling stream, a branch of Wolf Creek. It was mysterious and shady, and on a warmer day I would have been tempted to stick my feet in and hang out with the woods for a while. But the chill and damp discouraged such shenanigans, and we continued west.

We passed Camp 18 and the Elderberry Cafe, where we have stopped for lunch on other trips, but we were anxious to get to the beach. We found parking and grabbed coats, hats and towels, getting in sight of the ocean just as quickly as we could.

Haystack Rock and the BEACH!!!

We all inhaled, filling ourselves up with salty air. It felt like home. I will tell you more about our adventure tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Weather or Not, We’re Going!!

Dear Liza,

Monterey, when it’s cold,

Every year, for my birthday, I go to the beach. In Southern California, where I grew up, it was always, always sunny. When we lived in Salinas, the beach at Monterey was often cloudy or even rainy and cold in March. I didn’t care. I went and walked in the wind and rain, loving the ocean. I’m sure it loved me right back, too.

And when it shines!

This year we were shut down for my birthday, and Grandpa Nelson’s, too. We were both missing the ocean a lot, but all the Oregon coastal beaches have been closed to keep people from congregating and risk spreading the virus. Even when the beach towns like Cannon Beach opened, they asked people from Portland NOT to come, because Portland still had too many cases.

Portland during the shutdown…

But now, our county and city are opening up! Restaurants are washing windows and setting up tables. And since our city is healthy, we don’t feel as though we are endangering the places we visit the lovely Oregon Coast.

The only problem is that we are now in the middle of our “second winter”. We had bright skies and warm sunshine weeks ago, custom made for long walks and taking pictures. Now, we have had three days of rain and cooler temperatures.

Storm clouds coming!

I don’t care! Tomorrow, we pack up Miles, our midnight blue Volkswagen Golf, with coats, umbrellas and boots, and head off for the beach!

Hooray!!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Me and Harry

Dear Liza,

Harry Potter and his author, J.K. Rowling, have been famous for a long time now. The first book about Harry and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in 1998 and has been both loved and hated all over the world ever since.

Wonderful display at McMenamin’s Kennedy School

I was first introduced to Harry through your Auntie Katie, who was in high school and working at a bookshop in Monterey at the time. Part of her job was to dress up in her black, star-printed cape and read the first chapter of each newly released book at the Midnight Release Party. She loved the books, so I gave them a try. I loved them, too.

Our wands, from Auntie Christy

Their magical world is complex and well described, and the story of a boy and his friends trying to conquer puberty, final exams, and world-dominating evil all at once is emotional, funny, and compelling. The story they tell of the importance of love and friendship makes us understand our humanity better.

Auntie Bridgett as a studious young wizard

We have gone a little nuts with the Harry goodies, I admit. We have all the books in English, and most of them in French, too. We also have background books like ““Quidditch Through the Ages” and “Harry Potter’s Bookshelf”. Auntie Christy even made us magic wands in her wood shop, and Cousin Kyle got us figurines, scarves and tee shirts! Yes, we like us some Harry.

Meeting a fellow Hufflepuff at Laurelhurst!

We have also enjoyed events in town that are all about Harry and our love of his wizarding world. We dressed up to attend trivia night at the Nerd Out and Harry’s birthday celebration at the Kennedy School, joining with lots of other Harry fans to eat, drink, play games, and have a good time in an imaginary world where we are all wizards.

Grandpa Nelson as a young Dumbledore

I am currently re-reading The Goblet of Fire in French, enjoying the story and understanding more as I go along. Last week, when I read about Neville making a mistake in Transformation class and accidentally attaching his own ears to a cactus, I laughed out loud! At French! Hooray!

Hanging out with Aragog at OMSI

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Clipped Wing

Dear Liza,

Yesterday morning, I woke up with a swollen right wrist, sore elbow and tingly fingers. It wasn’t horrible, but I knew it would get horrible if I didn’t figure out a way to make it better and STOP doing whatever had caused it.

All taped up

Usually, these sorts of things are caused by a repeated movement that irritate the nerves in the wrist… so how could I be less irritating? (To my wrist, silly!)

I decided that my habit of typing my blog, emails and Duolingo lessons on my tablet, while scrunched up on the couch, was probably putting my wrist at a bad angle. All the drawing and painting I’d been doing lately may have contributed, too.

Auntie Bridgett gave me some ginger tea and aspirin, and put the ace bandage on my wrist, both to support it and to remind me not to use it. I gave my right hand the day off, which slowed everything down. I don’t want to be mean, but my left hand is pretty stupid.

Brushing my teeth was an exercise in splatter. Unloading the dishwasher took forever. I sat in on the art group and enjoyed the company while watching my buddies paint koi in a pond. Making dinner… well, let’s just say there were quite a few potatoes dropped on the floor, picked up, and dropped again.

By bedtime it felt better. I took off the ace bandage and slept well. Today I’ll wear it but do a little more with my hand, while remembering to only type while sitting up like a grown-up. This may be one of those “senior” moments, where I realize that the way I used to do things just doesn’t work anymore. So I will find new ways.

Living is learning, as Momma would say.

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

Re-Opening SideStreet Arts

Dear Liza,

Since mid-March, the corona virus shut down has had all the non-essential stores closed. We could buy food, gas, and medicine, and even some take out food. But art galleries and shops have had to go on- line for business.

Auntie Bridgett, making it all pretty

And, for many, it has worked out well. Even with the doors closed, Auntie Bridgett’s gallery, SideStreet Arts, has had sales almost equal to last year’s. The members have kept their art on display through Instagram, Facebook, and an on-line newsletter. Last month’s ZOOM First Friday was well attended and had lots of sales. First Fridays will continue to be ZOOM for a while, as we get used to a “new normal”.

Last month’s ZOOM fIrst Friday

Governor Brown has announced it is time to (carefully) open Portland for business. The city is considering closing some streets to traffic so restaurants and bars can spread out, allowing more space between customers. And SideStreet Arts is getting ready, too. June 4th will be their first day open, from Noon until 5 PM! Woo-hoo!!!

Moving things around

Auntie Bridgett and the other artists have been cleaning, re-painting, and rearranging all the art. They are putting some health procedures into place, like bottles of hand sanitizer in every part of the gallery and a plexiglass shield at the register. They have moved pedestals around to allow more space between shoppers and will be allowing people to use their own bags. They have changed their small kitchen to a hand-washing station.

And they will be offering masks to customers who want to come in and browse but didn’t bring one. That’s where I come in.

Masks for shoppers

I am making a bunch more masks, single-layer for comfortable shopping, which the customers can keep and even wash and re-use, if they like.

Many businesses are working out these same snags. The point is to limit the spread of germs while being as comfortable as possible. It is a narrow line to walk and not everyone agrees on everything. But if we understand that everyone is doing their best and, when in doubt, smile and say “Thank you”, I think we will be fine in the end.


Love,

Grandma Judy

Seeing the Doctor

Dear Liza,

On Friday, Grandpa Nelson finally felt lousy enough to call the doctor. He had been having fevers every night for weeks, along with fatigue and dizziness. I mentioned this to your Mommy (Dr. Olga), and she said Grandpa Nelson should talk to his doctor. They chatted via an on-screen meeting and agreed that Grandpa should visit the hospital and get checked out.

Auntie Bridgett drove and I rode in the backseat as we three traveled across the river to the west side for the first time since the shut down began in mid-March. It was so good to see the Willamette River sparkling and the bridges arching in the sunshine. Downtown, though emptier than usual, was beautiful. The parks and statues glowed, and the shining buildings reflected the clouds and sky. It felt like coming home.

The old Raven and Rose, next to the newer buildings…

We continued up the hill to OHSU, where we have been many times, but we didn’t just park and walk in. As part of the new procedures for limiting everyone’s exposure, we waited in the car and called to let them know we had arrived. A doctor walked to one of the small tents and Grandpa Nelson left the car to be escorted in. Auntie Bridgett and I had to wait in the car. I understand that fewer folks in and out of the building is safer for everyone, but I still wished I could go with him. We read, sewed, and drew, for nearly an hour.

Older parts of OHSU

When Grandpa came out he said that his had been checked for blood oxygen (fine, at 97%) blood pressure (a bit high, at 160) and been swabbed for the corona virus. That result won’t be back for a day or so. He was told to stay inside and rest and limit exposure to other folks. He was also told that whether this was Covid or some other virus, he would not be “well” until he had three full days with no fever.

Once we were home he had lunch and slept for a long time, got up, had dinner and went back to bed. Now we just wait for the results and do what we’ve been doing. Positive or negative, it won’t really make a difference. There is no cure, or even effective treatment. But we will know.

Love,

Grandma Judy

PS. We got the results back. No Covid-19 in this house! Grandpa Nelson still feels icky, but at least it’s not big and scary. Just small and irritating.