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.
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.
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.
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.
I send you waves of love and hope for a better day.
After weeks of feeling isolated and in my own head, Wednesday was a day that felt very connected, very Portland.
First, Auntie Katie’s bookshop, Books With Pictures, was voted BEST COMIC BOOK SHOP IN PORTLAND by our local newspaper, the Willamette Weekly. Hooray!
I am sure that her hard work and dedication to customer service in having an online ordering service and door to door deliveries during the pandemic has endeared her to everyone. With so many businesses closing down, it is wonderful to see her thrive.
And in the evening, Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett walked with me to deliver first aid supplies to the Black Lives Matter protesters. A group of volunteers called Snackbloc collect bandages, gloves, and other useful items in different neighborhoods to be used downtown to support the protesters against the Federal troops.
It pains me so much to see our government beating peaceful protesters. There has been some vandalism, but these troops are not dispersing crowds or stopping it; they are attacking unarmed people, shoving them down and gassing lines of singing women.
It is as though they have come to punish these people for standing against the beatings… by beating them, like an abusive father ranting, “Stop crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about.” This is not how I want my country to be.
But I am a coward. I fear beatings, teargas, arrest and undocumented detention by unknown troops. So I help in a small way so others who are braver can help in larger ways.
We have been having such sunny weather that I have been walking every day. Yesterday, I took Auntie Bridgett on a bit of a wild goose chase looking for some sculpture.
We had two items on our agenda: to eat a picnic lunch in a park, and for me to show Bridgett a front yard full of sculptures that I had seen the day before. I thought I remembered right where it was… and I was almost right.
We packed sausage, cheese, fruits and veg, and two giant bottles of ice water. We also took watercolor supplies, as Bridgett said, “just in case.”
I led us to Market Street and then Stephens, keeping my eyes peeled for the house that I knew should be … around here … somewhere. But we had gone too far, and I was puzzled. How had we missed it? We asked a lady working in her yard, and, after some confusion, she remembered and directed us. It turns out, we had turned exactly one block too soon.
Big sigh. It was getting on to noon, and we had come blocks too far. We stood in the shade and thought… should we go forward, not see the sculpture, and eat sooner, or backtrack, see the art, and delay lunch a bit? We opted for the art, turned around, and walked. And after fifteen minutes, there it was!
It is a real sculpture garden, right in someone’s front yard. Realistic portraits, stylized African heads, and a delightful hand monument, all set among flowers, sunshine, and shade. I took pictures and we stood and appreciated to variety and arrangement.
Then it was sure and truly lunchtime, and we headed to Seawellcrest Park. There were lots of trees and shade, kids playing hide and seek, and deliriously happy dogs playing fetch. We sat and enjoyed being out in the world, watching our fellow mammals at play. We ate our lunch and then painted a little, my first “plein aire” (painting outdoors) attempt.
It’s more of a sketch with pencil and water color than an actual painting, and I’ll work more on it later. But better to start badly than not at all.
When we had eaten every crumb and knew we had gotten too much sun, we headed back home. Sunshine, art, and a wonderful neighborhood to get lost in… I am truly blessed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If we are, as some people say, in a revolution, I imagine we may be hearing more of these disturbing sounds.
So, the other day I was remembering how my Momma encouraged us to deal with sad times by finding things to be grateful for. And then yesterday, coming back from running errands, I found the Gratitude Tree.
This is a tree planted in the parkway at SE 36th and Main Street. I don’t know how long it has been there, and don’t know how I have missed it until now. Indeed, I may have seen it, but since I didn’t NEED it, it didn’t register. Brains are like that.
Anyway, I stopped and had a good visit with the Gratitude Tree. It carries the website http://www.gratitudedojo.com and is covered with Manila tags, which are attached to a rope by thin wire. Hundreds of people have written what they are grateful for and attached their thanks.
These acknowledgements of gifts great and small made me smile. And, like the Grinch, my heart grew a few sizes. Even in the midst of racial upheavals and violence, an international pandemic and incompetent leadership, there is a lot to be grateful for.
I don’t know who has provided our neighborhood with this wonderful way to put our joy and appreciation on display. I wish I did. I would make them a batch of cookies and write them a limerick.
Cookies don’t travel well online, but here is the limerick.
As I have said before, the Oregon Zoo here in Portland is delightful. They take good care of the animals by giving them large, interesting enclosures. The keepers make sure the animals get healthy food and enough exercise.
The zoo also educates people about animals and how we can help take care of them, both in the wild and in captivity.
But the zoo is also beautiful. Even in winter, when trees and gardens go bare, there are sculptures and other kid-friendly art. When I can walk slowly and really look around, I see more.
There is a stack of goats just near the entrance which is a great photo op for families. You and the cousins climb on it every time we are there!
The late Jim Gion’s lion sculpture, called Lunchtime, is a favorite with kids. They love sitting on the adults and rolling on the ground with the babies.
The other day when I was at the zoo I noticed two sculptures that I had never seen before. One is a frog about two feet high, called Sunning. It is in one of the buildings with small, tropical animals on display.
My biggest surprise was an outdoor sculpture group near the penguin enclosure. I couldn’t see any plaque giving the name or artist, and haven’t been able to find this information elsewhere yet.
Auntie Katie has identified the man as Charles Darwin. Grandpa Nelson wants to call it Mansplaining, which I kind of like. But I’ll keep looking for the correct name!
Other art, like the stone sculpture garden, is meant to be climbed on.
At a wonderful event called ZooLights, the art is meant to be seen but not touched. Only open at night in winter, most of the zoo is lit up with beautiful colored scenes and animals that seem to swoop and run. It is chilly, but worth the extra layers.
I love visiting the Japanese Garden here in Portland. It is a wonderful collection of smaller gardens situated on a hilly section of Washington Park. There is always something new and delightful to see.
Yesterday, Cousins Jasper and Kestrel went with me! We usually visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden downtown, but Jasper suggested going up the hill and Kestrel agreed.
After we caught the number 2 bus and got downtown, we had fifteen blocks to walk and about half an hour to catch the 63 bus that would take us up the hill. We strolled through the city streets, playing with public art and making up stories about the statues.
There was a long line at the entrance to the garden, and the kids worried about not being able to enjoy it because of the crowd. We decided to risk it.
It turns out, crowds in a garden are like freight trains in a neighborhood. They are noisy and annoying, but if you wait a minute, they blow through, leaving peace behind.
There is an art exhibit at the Pavilion Gallery called “Re-Fashioning Beauty”. The brochure says it is about “embracing past icons of Japanese beauty while looking forward.” There were several articles, never meant to be worn, showing the natural but ridiculous evolution of the platform shoe.
There were also three foot tall Geisha-style hairpins, but they weren’t as interesting as these swords and other pieces of sculpture set into perfectly clear blocks of resin. We all became fascinated with the refraction of light though the blocks and spent a long time just moving, squinting, and looking.
Because of the way the art was displayed, I would never have noticed the refraction on my own: The kids found it because they were at exactly the right height. Playing with light became the new game.
We told stories, climbed steps, crossed bridges, and had a high old time.
Our trip home became a cascade of bumps on the road. We got hungry and checked out the Umami Cafe, but found food not acceptable to picky eaters. I remembered our friendly vendor at the Rose Garden. We headed down for kid friendly snacks, but he had packed up for other locations for the winter.
We made do with a candy bar from the gift shop and went to catch the bus back to town. But (another snag!) that bus wouldn’t arrive for almost an hour! I made an executive decision. We would walk down the hill.
This was not a popular idea, as it turned out, but one I was willing to stick with. We actually had a nice surprise, running into our old friend, Rabbi Bruce Kadden, on the way! But energy and patience were running out, so a quick hug and how do you do, and off we went.
The cousins and I chatted and rolled balls down the path until we got to Burnside, where we caught a bus to another bus and eventually ended up at Auntie Katie’s store. Minutes later, Auntie Bridgett picked me up.
It was time for a quick dinner and restful evening. Being a Grandma is fun, but hard work!
I am thinking about starting a new story. The one I have been working on, about Clara getting ready to be in the 1903 parade, is being edited and, therefore, out of my hands for now.
But they say that you get better at writing by writing…. so I will keep writing on a different story, using a side character from the first story as the main character. Her name is Abigail Lott and, at the time I am writing about, she is 21 years old.
I think better when I walk, and always love talking my ideas over with Grandpa Nelson. He asks good questions and makes me think. Of course he does! The same things that make him a good ‘idea guy’ are the reasons I have loved him for so long.
So we walked… about five miles in all, down to the river, across the Willamette River on the Morrison Bridge, and north about three blocks to the Pine Street Market, a big old building now being used as offices above and a luncheon/ mall below. There are sausage sandwiches, stuffed pork buns, pizza, ramen, and ice cream. We’ve eaten there before, and we both love Bless Your Heart Burger best.
Our walk was mostly grey. Fall has moved past the warm asnd sunny part into the drizzly, rain-ish part. All the colors come from the leaves that are still changing color and drifting like bright snow.
By the Portland Saturday Market near the river, we saw this art installation, a tribute to the city’s firefighters, called “Ascension”. I must have walked right past it many times, but never noticed it! Silly Grandma Judy.
As we crossed back over the river, we got a panorama of the city, and it looked like a Dutch painting , as though it were painted by the Master of Browns (this was the nickname Vincent Van Gogh gave his uncle, a professional artist).
One our way back, we saw this message spelled out with Post it Notes in a shop window.
It is a quote from a young New Zealand woman making a speech in their hall of government. In just two words, she managed to say, “Look, I know you older folks had good intentions. I know you are used to being the center of the Universe, but you’ve kind of screwed the world up and if you could just step aside, we’ll have a go at it now, okay?” And I’m okay with that!
My friend Terry Soria is in town! She is visiting her daughter and son-in-law, and she made time to have brunch with me. Her family lives way over on the northwest edge of Portland.
I knew it would be a long trip, so I started early. I caught the number 15 bus at 7:30 and rode up to Providence Park in Goose Hollow. Then I got onto the red line train (blue would have worked as well) and rode through the mountain, past the Washington Park station in the tunnel, to the Sunset transit center. This is where my plans hit a snag. I had planned my trip using the Weekday schedule, and I was traveling on Saturday. The commuter bus, the number 62, runs less often and was going to make me very late to meet Terry and her family.
Sweet people that they are, they came to the transit center and fetched me! We drove to Grand Central Bakery, on NW Cornell, and had a wonderful second breakfast of croissants, coffee, and sandwiches. We chatted about how our family’s are, how work is, and how fabulous Portland is. They told me of their visits to the Columbia locks, Multnomah Falls, and the Microbrewery festival. Yum!
And they had another full day planned, an exciting jet boat ride on the Willamette from Portland all the way upriver to Oregon City! So they drove me back to the transit center where I caught the train, along with a dozen happy Japanese tourists heading to the zoo.
I have always wanted to see the area of town called Goose Hollow, so I got off the train there and walked. None of the shops were open yet, but I got to see the new construction at Providence Park. Situated just at the foot of the west Portland hills, this has been the main athletic field in town since the late 1800s. It was originally called Multnomah Field, and is where the Portland Timbers soccer team plays. I also enjoyed the mosaic and painted tile artwork along the walls of the Lincoln High School field.
This area is called Goose Hollow because, as the story goes, housewives in the 1800s would let their geese into the grassy area to eat and grow nice and fat before selling them. Apparently it would be quite a sight to see a few dozen geese strutting through field and road, stopping traffic when they pleased. These tall, proud geese are memorialized in a delightfully cocky bronze goose standing on the train platform.
Ready to head home, I walked down to Salmon and caught the number 15, finally taking a picture of the salmon coming through the building. In the evening we got to have some more fun, but I will tell you about that tomorrow!
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.
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!
It was fun getting to show you all the things in our new city, like the zoo.
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.
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.
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.
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.