Floating Anxiety (And its Antidote?)

Dear Liza,

I try not to focus too much on scary or sad things, especially when I am writing to you. But some days they are all I can think about.

Sweet peas and Shasta Daisies

People are getting sick with Corona virus while our President calls doctors liars and sells beans from his office. Peaceful Protesters here in Portland are taken away in unmarked vans by armed Federal Police. The whole country seems to be having a nervous breakdown.

Sunlight making stained glass

Many years ago, there was a TV show called “My So-Called Life”. It was about a teenage girl and her problems of growing up. One day she said, “Mom asked me how school was today. It was like it is every day, like a drive-by shooting. You just huddle down and wait for it to be over.” That is sort of how I am feeling.

Cirrus clouds dashing across the sky

But this could go in for months, or even years, before a cure or vaccine allows us to go back to some sort of normal life. Before we can travel to Paris or go to the movies, and not be afraid of the people we see. So while I am huddled down, I try to find the joys.

Our Firewood lake becomes Monet’s Giverny

I can’t articulate them very well at the moment, but here are the sights that lift my spirits.

I love you very much, Liza, and I hope I can see you soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Reading the Signs

Dear Liza,

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.

In Cambridge……

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.

In London…..

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.

Man wrestling with an umbrella

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.

In Paris…..

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.

Sigh…..

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.

Missing Asilomar…

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.

Being with kidlets….

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.

Finding kindred spirits…

What are your signs of the times? What visuals make you smile, or travel to another time or place?

Love,

Grandma Judy

Wonderful Murals at Richmond School

Dear Liza,

I took a long walk yesterday, all the way south past Division Street, to meet my dear friend Misha at a park. It was so good to sit in the sun and chat! Of course we wore masks, sat further apart than usual, and were outside and away from other people. We are not foolish. But the company was wonderful.

I think someone is missing the Good Old Days….

On the way, I passed this large brick school. I noticed the sentimental chalk graffiti first, then the wonderful bas-relief mosaic murals.

Summer…
Fall…..

The four murals are each about five feet wide and twenty feet high and show nature as it changes during the seasons. I took pictures to remind me, and looked them up when I got home. They were created by Lynn Takata in 2008 when she was the artist in residence at the school. Ms Takata is a local artist and art teacher at several POrtland colleges.

Winter…

I was so impressed with such textured, complex, detailed work, and the appreciation of nature that it reveals.

And Spring

Then, I was intrigued by the Japanese characters under the name RICHMOND over the main entrance.

The school is Richmond Elementary Japanese Immersion School. The building was built in 1908, and is the oldest standing school in Portland. It became an immersion school in 1989. The program has been very successful, growing to include Mount Tabor Middle School and and part of Grant High School. The program includes cultural education and even trips to Japan!

It is closed now, of course, because of the Corona Virus. But I am sure that as soon as it is safe, hundreds of kids will be back, learning everything kids do, in Japanese and English, learning how big the world really is.

And once the doctors have found a way to keep us safe from the virus, I hope you are able to get back to school, too.

Love,

Grandma Judy

…And more Flowers!

Dear Liza,

I am sorry if all my taking about painting is boring you, but I feel as though I have discovered a new super power, and I just love it!

Starting from single daisies to sunflowers and coneflowers, I have graduated to vases. Using a full, whole sheet of watercolor paper for the first time, I was nervous. I wanted to get it right. So I sketched, erased, and sketched some more.

Getting coneflowers, lupines and daisies in their places

Remembering my lessons from Ruth Inman and Auntie Bridgett Spicer, I started light so I could add darker colors later.

It’s like a ghost, beginning to materialize….

As I got more confident as to what the picture should look like, I put in more colors, the vase, and tabletop.

Almost there….

Once I had put in the shadows between the flowers, I let the paint dry before moving on to colored pencils.

Ready for pencils!

This is the longest part of making the painting. There are hundreds of tiny lines and dots of a dozen different colors to put in, and you never know where until you stare at it a long time. Sometimes you need some grey to make a shadow deeper, sometimes a yellow to bring a flower forward.

Well, that’s better!

And, of course, it was only then that I realized….. I had forgotten the background. Big, happy sigh. And back to work.

Background!

Then, more pencils…

And … done!

And now I’m on to the next one! Wheeee!

Love,

Grandma Judy

National Teddy Bear Picnic Day

Dear Liza,

During the shutdown, we are having to find new ways to keep busy and make the days fun. We are reading, painting, and learning. And sometimes, we go on a picnic!

Auntie Bridgett, setting up the picnic

Friday was National Teddy Bear Picnic Day, believe it or not. It was also the first really warm day here in Portland. So we celebrated.

Two silly bear lovers!

Auntie Bridgett and I packed up easy picnic food like hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and celery, goat cheese and blueberries, and a few cookies. We also packed blankets and my guitar, and tiny dishes. And of course, the bears. Not ALL the bears, for sure, but four wonderful friends.

Pops, Patches, Esther Bear, and Bridgett Bear

We carried our provisions and our friends up to Laurelhurst Park. We have seen the park be very busy, and we wanted a quiet spot where we could be distanced. We found a high bank above the main walkway, where we could see but not be too close to anyone. We set up a big blanket and real food for us, and a tiny blanket and pretend food (well, mostly drink) for the bears.

Our supper

As we enjoyed our shady supper, a few folks came by and took notice. It was fun to make people smile at our silliness.

Bears getting tipsy just by sitting near the bottles!

When we had eaten, Auntie Bridgett and I tried singing The Teddy Bears Picnic song, written in 1907 by Irish Songwriter Jimmy Flannigan. It was the first time we’ve played and sung together in over a year, and we were rusty. But the bears didn’t complain and we got better before we quit, so that’s something.

Teddy Bear Music

“If you go down in the woods today,

You’re sure of a big surprise,

If you go down in the woods today,

You’d better go in disguise…”

We even had a bee visiter who enjoyed the clovers right by our feet!

Bees and Converse

It was actually starting to get a little cool by then, and the sun was thinking about going down, so we packed up and headed home.

Happy Teddy Bear Picnic Day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Our Fourth

Dear Liza,

I saw that you had a walk along the lovely coast at Monterey and even a barbecue with your mom and dad. Here, we all went for nice long walks through the old, tree filled Laurelhurst neighborhood.

Fourth of July in Laurelhurst

The flowers are so beautiful and the yards kept so pretty, it is almost like some house and garden tour. Houses here were built from 1917 to about the 1950s, so there is a lot of variety, and the lots are steep because every house had a big cellar. The trees grow fat and wide and make lovely shaded walk.

Dahlias that look like fireworks…

We had a nice big bowl of soba noodle soup for dinner, and started watching an old Jimmy Stewart movie called “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” about an idealistic young man learning, and doing something, about corruption in government. In about the middle of the movie, I wanted to walk out to see if I could find the lunar eclipse. It would only be visible during moonrise. My wonderful people agreed to pause the movie and we headed out.

Weird, funny, true poster….

We saw this poster, which is funny and true and sort of sad at the same time, and we saw (and heard!) folks setting of fireworks, but we never got to see the moonrise. The same trees that make us love Portland so much make it hard to see the horizon.

Out of hundreds that heard, the only ones we saw

We got home and finished the movie, with Jimmy Stewart (guided and inspired by Jean Arthur) giving a filibuster in the Senate and smashing the political machine that was running his state. Right triumphed, evil was stopped, and all was well.

Jimmy Stewart, fighting corruption

It was hard to fall asleep, because the fireworks were so LOUD they shook the windows. After weeks of seeing video of political protests with some buildings set in fire, it was hard to relax.

Jean Arthur and Thomas Mitchell help out

If we are, as some people say, in a revolution, I imagine we may be hearing more of these disturbing sounds.

Sigh. Big fat sigh.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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