…And While We’re on the Subject…

Dear Liza,

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.

Down in Sunnyside there is a tree,

That became a ray of sunshine for me.

Instead of berating,

This tree’s celebrating!

And the love’s out there for all to see.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Kid Friendly Art at the Zoo

Dear Liza,

Art at the train stop for the Zoo

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.

Carved mural in the Pacific Northwest area

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.

Carved mural detail
Cousin Jasper, hanging out with the goats

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!

Being cubs together

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.

Sitting on the Mom…

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.

Sunning, by Lydia Herrick Hodge

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!

Sculpture group at Oregon Zoo, title and artist as yet unknown
You on the mouse

Other art, like the stone sculpture garden, is meant to be climbed on.

Jasper and the bear

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.

Dramatic effects at ZooLights

I love our zoo!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Japanese Garden with Cousins

Dear Liza,

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.

Stunning fall light in Ladd’s Addition

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.

Jasper being scrambled eggs

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.

Kestrel at Providence Park bus stop

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.

Finding the space between the crowds

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.

They make my toes hurt just looking at them!

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.

“What am I seeing?”

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.

Multiplying Jasper

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.

Fabulous, but stinky, Gingko tree

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.

The last of the roses for this year…

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!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Wanderin’ Around

Dear Liza,

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.

Grey Portland Day

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.

Portland Saturday Market by the Skidmore Fountain

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.

Ascension

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).

I’m a Boomer, and I don’t mind

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!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Goose Hollow and Beyond

Dear Liza,

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Getting Around on MAX

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.

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Terry and the BEST Coffee!

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.

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Art at Lincoln High School

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.

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Cool Goose, Dude

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!

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Giant Salmon in a Building

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

Random Beauty

Dear Liza,

I had a feeling-lousy day yesterday, maybe from walking around cold the previous evening at the zoo. I slept a lot, drank tons of tea and was generally useless. And today I am better!

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Christmas tree and Journal Building in the daylight

Since I was on the couch most of the day, I was looking at the many pictures I have taken here in town and come to a major conclusion: Random beauty in a city this big usually doesn’t happen by accident. There are budgets, materials, design teams, artists, and the folks who install the art. This is a government decision to make art.

And I love it!

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Journal Building at night

For instance, the home of one of Portland’s oldest newspapers, The Journal Building, has been standing by the Pioneer Square since 1912. The paper closed down in 1982, but the building is still used for offices and stores and is a beautiful part of the downtown skyline. At Christmas, it gets even prettier!

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Lit up Christmas Tree

There are so many statues downtown it would take pages to just show and name them. One I just noticed the other day is called “Pile”, a statue showing a crow standing on a pigeon, sitting on some old books, standing on a pillow, sitting on a crate. I am sure it means something, but to me it was just random and wonderful.

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“Pile”

Up in the Kenton neighborhood, we saw a series of benches that feature sculpture.    Here is “Dog Bench”.

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Dog Bench

The last piece of art I will tell you about is one I noticed and photographed weeks ago during the wet weather. It is on one of the blocks of polished granite in Pioneer Square, and shows an architect’s blueprints, calculator and even coffee cup, all sculpted in bronze. It is so casual looking, as through the architect has just stepped away for a moment, it cracks me up.

 

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Blueprints sculpture

I am looking forward to showing you all the lovely things I have found in Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

245 Tubas

Dear Liza,

Yesterday we had a long, cold, sunny day downtown. Our first stop was Pioneer Square, sometimes called “Portland’s Living Room”. This is a beautifully paved and decorated open square that is used for big concerts, markets, and just hanging out in.

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Statue of a Cat lady and her … dog?

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Two of the 245 tuba players

Yesterday was the Tuba Christmas Concert, which features 245 people playing Christmas songs (and other lovely tunes) on tubas, baritone horns, and sousaphones. We got there early but all the seats were taken, so we stood way back and could hear, but not see, the performance. The deep peaceful music floated in the freezing cold air, and contrasted nicely with the giggling of children and chatting of families. Everyone was enjoying the day, but not silently.

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Tuba Christmas Hat!

I enjoyed watching the people in the crowd. Since it was cold, most folks were wearing hats. As the day went along, I tried to take pictures of some of the more interesting hats without scaring anyone.

 

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Minion hat

After the music, we walked around town, enjoying the window decorations. We stopped at Dick Blick’s Art Supplies and Powell’s City of Books, to see what would make nice presents for folks. Auntie Bridgett wanted to do some secret shopping, so we split up and agreed to meet at Kenny and Zuke’s Deli in an hour.

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Bright hat

 

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Auntie Bridgett hat

We enjoyed a veggie Reuben Sandwich, french fries and chicken soup and then headed home to do the grocery shopping. The bus home was full of people all bundled up and carrying packages, just like us! When that was done, we finally got into jammies and crashed. I fell asleep during The Charlie Brown Christmas, and will need to watch it again.

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Grandpa Nelson matching a stranger

Hanging out inside this morning, watching a 34 degree wind blow past our window. It’s weird, because with no leaves left to blow along the street, you just see bare branches swaying in the wind. Sometimes your hear the wind more than you see it…..spooky, but nice.

Love, Grandma Judy

 

Rain, Friendly History, and Pizza

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was another busy day. Auntie Bridgett and I took the #15 downtown just as the rain started, and walked up the hill to the Oregon Historical Society. This was her first time in the Research Library, and after she had signed in and our stuff was put away in a locker, we did our separate research.

I was hunting for pictures of Mrs. Pittock’s house on the corner of SW Park and Washington, and for information about a big party she had there in 1889. Bridgett was looking for information about a very funny KGW radio program called “The Hoot Owls”, which started in 1923. Librarian Scott Daniels helped me with boxes on photographs and folders full of newspaper clippings, and white glove to wear so I didn’t damage the old, delicate paper.

We were both fairly successful. I was able to see and sketch photos of Mrs. Pittock’s house and figure out what other buildings were on the property, but found absolutely nothing about the party. This puzzles me: Every story about the Rose Festival starts with a mention of Mrs. Pittock’s Rose Party…but no one seems to know when it happened, who was there, or what anything looked like. Did this party really happen? I will keep digging!

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A Burl

Bridgett found booklets of the silly songs “The Hoot Owls” sang on their radio show, and had a good time reading them. The producers of the show would publish the booklets and sell them, raising money to give to charity, like Comic Relief raises money today.

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Credit where due

By four o’clock, we were hungry for a snack and ready to head home. We walked up to catch the #20 home, walking down 6th Avenue, which was a new street for us. We saw some new statues and an old bank building with the letters F-A-R-G-O in huge letters across the top. Guess which bank built that?

We got home just in time for dinner, but didn’t want to cook, so after Grandpa Nelson had some dinner, we all walked down to Babydoll Pizza and enjoyed a slice and some cider, and a game of “Ghostbusters” pinball. A very satisfactory end to a lovely day.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Another bit of Burls

First Rain…Maybe

Dear Liza,

Today was predicted to be our first real rain in over two months. Portland usually gets some rain even in the summer, but this has been a really dry one. Today that was supposed to end.

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Interesting signpost downtown

But we had things to do. Grandpa Nelson and I wanted to go downtown, so we had coffee and fresh doughnuts at the Rocking Frog on Belmont and then caught the #15 bus.

Going across the Hawthorne Bridge, we saw a whole long line of people walking, and most of them were wearing PINK! T-Shirts, hats, tutus, all kinds of things, and all bright pink. It was the last bit of the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure, a fund raiser for breast cancer research. There were hundreds of people, walking, jogging, and laughing. I bet they raised a lot of money!

At Tom McCall Waterfront Park, along the west bank of the river, there was a stage with loud music and lots of booths selling food, snacks, even ice cream! But we had just eaten doughnuts, so we passed.

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The Old Portland Theater
 

Turning west on Yamhill, we walked up towards Pioneer Place,  an old building that has been re-done to have new stores inside. Inside the atrium, the high glassed-in part, there were statues made of cans of food! This one was supposed to be a copy of Rene Magritte’s self-portrait, which your mommy and daddy will recognize as the man in the derby hat with the green apple in front of his face. If you look really closely, you can see it a bit.

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Self Portrait by Magritte…with cans

Grandpa Nelson needed some Clark’s shoes. The ones he has are really old and getting sort of floppy. But we didn’t get any. It turns out, the kind he really likes, they don’t make anymore. So we passed on those, too. We went outside, expecting the rain to start any minute. We walked towards Pioneer Square, since I have always been in a hurry when we are there., and I wanted to get a good look at it. But it was closed off for a private party! Grrr.

So, with a frustrating morning behind us and rain ready to start, we got back on the bus and headed for home. We did see some more statues of animals, though…it’s hard to be angry where there are brass seals and beavers on the sidewalk!

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Seals

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Beavers

Got home, no rain…read some history, no rain…Auntie Bridgett got home, no rain… I got antsy and decided to go for a walk in  the park, and FINALLY the rain started! Not only rain, but wind and swirls of leaves, all dancing and turning around like happy confetti.

Fall has finally fallen! Hooray!

Love,

Grandma Judy