Not Done With the Rain Yet

Dear Liza,

We have had a record-setting wet spring, and it’s not done yet!

After a few days of sun last week, when we went for walks and saw lots of flowers, we had a weekend of rain, wind, and even thunderstorms.

The Rose Festival -opening-Starlight Parade went on as scheduled after three years of being canceled for Covid, but it went on without us. We just couldn’t muster the energy to bundle up and take a bus downtown to stand in the rain for a few hours. The Parade was televised so we didn’t miss it, but it would have been more fun to be THERE. Darn old rain, anyway.

My garden seems to be enjoying the rain. The Dahlias are up and blooming, and the radishes are getting tall and peppery. No squash or carrots yet, but they aren’t as quick as radishes.

We are promised sun this week, and even really warm temperatures. Keep your fingers crossed, but keep your boots handy.


Grandma Judy

It’s a Rainy Day

Dear Liza,

I watched a lot of Sesame Street when I was younger. Not as a child, I’m too old for that! But when I was working in Day Care Centers and doing Day Care myself, the day usually started and ended with Big Bird, Bob, Susan, and the rest of the neighborhood.

Besides keeping kids occupied and educated, it got me started learning sign language. But it was really the music that sticks with me.

In Portland, the song I sing to myself most often is ”It’s a Rainy Day.” It goes like this.

“It’s a rainy day, it’s rainy day

It’s raining outside so I can’t go out to play.

Why do we need the rain, any way?”

The verses go on to explain exactly why we need the rain.

“Rain falls everywhere, fills the rivers and streams, flows into the reservoir, it’s purified and cleaned….”

“Water for the forest, millions of thirsty roots,

Water for the flower gardens, vegetables and fruits.”

I sing this when I want to go for a walk but would rather not get soaked. I sing it when I miss the sunshine. And it helps.

I’ll bet thousands of grown ups still know this song from their childhood, but I can’t find out who wrote it! On all the lyric sites, it is listed as ”by Sesame Street”. Maybe it was a group effort, like most good things.


Grandma Judy

Some Serious Rain

Dear Liza,

In Portland, winter is wet and grey. That’s part of what I love about living here. But usually, the rain is slow and gentle… a few days of rain can total an inch or so.

But this past weekend, we had a STORM. The rain came thick and fast, blowing against the north, then the south, sides of the house, waking us all up. There were almost three inches of rain in just a few hours!

Luckily, Portland is designed for rain. The streets are properly built to make the water flow into the bioswales, which collect water and let it soak gently into the ground instead if carrying trash and pollutants to the river.

With a well designed city and a nice warm house, I can sit by the window and smile with the rain.


Grandma Judy

Just a (Wet) Walk in the Park

Dear Liza,

This week we saw some real rain, which was a relief after our too- hot summer. I wanted to properly appreciate it, so out I went!

I didn’t have far to go to find beauty. Auntie Bridgett’s angel and spider plants were much improved by the weather. The gnomes were lurking about, as usual.

Raindrops hitting the puddles remind me why I love concentric circles.

I stopped by our plot at the Blair Community Garden. Only three new tomatoes were ripe, but Morgan and Abby’s corn was shiny and tall.

My late blooming pumpkin, Leo, seems to be coloring up a bit.

I continued on to Laurelhurst Park, which was mostly deserted. A few diehard dogs and their owners were at the off leash area, and the puddles grew all along the base of the hills. This young lady found a good spot to enjoy a conversation with a loved one.

I am a firm believer that rain makes everything prettier, and this rain drop-enhanced rose proved me right.

By the time I got home I was pretty soaked, but so much richer for all the beauty. Now to get dry and have a snack!


Grandma Judy

Hawthorne Street Fair!

Dear Liza,

Street Fairs are back and not without a sense of Portland irony.

We have had two deadly heat waves this summer, so of course it rained on the day of the Hawthorne Street Fair.

Not wanting to find the place overcrowded in these Delta-variant times, we walked down early. In fact, some vendors weren’t even set up yet. But we wore our masks (as did a lot of folks) and got some books and yarn from Backstory Books’ sidewalk sale. We stepped into the Gold Leaf & Alter art gallery and got to see their offerings while visiting with jeweler Judy Goldblatt.

There were groups making music….

As the rain came (sometimes in buckets!) and went, we walked the street, talked with folks, and remembered the many reasons we love Portland.

A delicious “Ethiopian taco” (actually injera, a flatbread, served with a spicy chicken curry) from “Spice of Africa” was our lunch. We ate it under the shelter of an out of service bus stop during the heaviest of the rain.

Grandpa Nelson was the first customer of the day for Two Wahine’s Shave Ice. We signed political petitions and talked with folks about their dogs.

Even the Multnomah County Health Services got into the act, giving vaccinations right across the street from the Bread and Ink Cafe.

We were back home, changing out of wet socks, before the crowds kicked in.
It was a wonderful, perfectly Portland day.


Grandma Judy

August Rain

Dear Liza,

It was been so hot and uncomfortable lately here in Portland. We aren’t at 117 degrees anymore, but consistent 90s and no rain for 50 longs days has made everything very forlorn.

So imagine our joy when we awoke Friday morning to RAIN!!! Glorious, cool, nurturing rain. I opened the windows and sat for a long time, just smelling it. The word for that smell of rain after a dry spell is “PETRICHOR” and is one of my favorite smells.

But after a while, I wanted to get out in it. To feel the splashes on my face and hear the cars whizz by on wet streets, to hear the flowers singing with gratitude. So out I went, and I was not disappointed.

Drops sat like jewels on our hostas and dangled from the birch leaves.

They drooped off the daisy petals as though they were happily sweating dancers.

They turned spider webs in sparkling mysteries.

They made the dusty August colors brighter.

And they let us know God has not forgotten us.


Grandma Judy

Hot Dogs and Rain

Dear Liza,

When Auntie Bridgett and I started jogging this past weekend, I decided to start eating better. More veggies, less junk food. We bought frozen edamame and lots of vegetables to cut up for afternoon snacks. And I have been enjoying it!

But, by golly, when Grandpa Nelson says, “I’m going to Zach’s, want to come?”, I say “Yes!” It has been odd, spring-y weather the last day or so, with clouds blowing by between sunshine, so, obviously, we knew we might get wet.

We headed off in chilly sunshine in just tee shirts and jeans. Grandpa Nelson at least wore a hat! But not me. Nope. Caution to the wind Judy, that’s what they call me. We walked past wonderful flowers and the Morrison Street chickens, enjoying lovely rhododendrons. But I couldn’t help noticing…..the clouds….

At Zach’s Hot Dog Shack, we took up our usual table on the patio, and Hunter brought our French fries and Chicago dog. It was cool but out of the wind. Then, within minutes, it got dark and the temperature dropped. The rain hit like buckets!

We watched for a few minutes until the cold chased us inside. Thoughtful Hunter even turned on the heater at my back, and we continued our lunch amid the friendly, dive-y decor. We watched the rain come down through the open front door as we talked about whatever came to mind, waiting for a chance to get home without being washed away. “This will be over in fifteen minutes,” Grandpa assured me.

And it was, mostly. When we saw some sunshine, we waved goodbye to Hunter and headed out, opting for the shortest route home. There were still drops, but the storm had passed. The flowers were lovely again. We got home, warmed up, and had a good rest.

Never pass up a chance for fun food, an adventure, and good company. That’s my advice.


Grandma Judy

Wet, Wet, and More Wet

Dear Liza,

We are having our traditional Early February downpour. Our atmospheric river has cousins drenching California, the southeast, and everyone from Iowa to the East and Virginia to the north. So I thought I’d talk about moss.

Lovely moss carpet in the Japanese Garden

Auntie Katie posted pictures yesterday of her visit to our Japanese Garden here in Portland, saying she remembered walking there as a kid and trying to help me figure out how to grow moss in Salinas. I remember those trips too, wanting to bring that lush green to dry Salinas, and failing miserably.

Fairy wall garden

When you grow up in a desert (and let’s face it, anything south of San Francisco is basically a desert), the sidewalks are always grey, the concrete is always hard, the corners are always sharp. It’s like seeing Neil Armstrong’s footprints on the moon. There is nothing to erode them.

But in a rain-rich environment, corners get soft and sidewalks get green. Tombstones and birdbath become gardens. Walls become magical.

Mysterious wall art

And if you have the emotional strength to get into real clothes and shoes and go out to see these marvels, your day will be better. I promise.


Grandma Judy


Dear Liza,

I have rarely had trouble sleeping. As a teacher for thirty years and a working mom for twenty of those, I was so tired by bedtime that I was asleep before the lamp was cool. My body and brain had been running so fast all day, it was bliss to just shut down and go away for a while.

The kids, circa 2008…..

But lately, there has been trouble in sleepy-nigh’ night paradise. There are lots of perfectly good reasons for this.

We are in the middle of an ‘atmospheric river’ that is currently dumping seven inches of rain on Portland. I am a good sport about rain, but going for a real decent walk just isn’t as much fun. So I’m not getting as much exercise as I probably should.

Auntie Bridgett, being a good sport

Age may have something to do with it. What seem like little aches during the day become (you’ll forgive the expression) real pains in the neck, and can make finding and keeping a comfortable position difficult.

And then there is the news. Last night my brain kept running scenarios, not of plans, not anything I could help or stop, but scenes from a hypothetical disaster movie called “How it Ended for (your city here).” People were smashing things. Roads were blocked. It was like being in the Capital, but there was no place to be evacuated to. It was just us, and them. I won’t bother attaching photos. I’m sure they are etched into your brain, as well.

So this morning I am hobbling by on two hours sleep, determined to do the day as best I can. To not get snippy with my people, to do art and French and exercise and pet the cat. To do the day and be ready for sleep when it is done.

I wish the same for you.


Grandma Judy

Peter Mayle’s Sunshine

Dear Liza,

Winter cold and wet is an opportunity for art, sewing, and reading. I just finished David McCullough’s giant biography of Harry Truman, and it was enjoyable and informative. It felt good to read about a President who, though very much in over his head, made an honest effort to do the job well.

But with current political drama becoming almost overwhelming, I am happy to say goodbye to Harry’s battles, and move on to something … lighter.

Peter Mayle at his house in Provence

And I’ve chosen a very different path. The late Peter Mayle, who retired from a London advertising firm to live in the south of France, wrote delightful stories about his life and his neighbors. His first collection was “A Year in Provence”, which made him famous and was made into a film. This second volume is “Toujours Provence” and continues his explorations of the quirky characters he meets.

He tells of a fellow in the next village over who is taught toads to sing La Marseilles for the France’s bicentennial. This places the story in 1989, about as topical as his stories get. In another essay, Mayle describes, in wincing detail, the difficulties of a simple plumbing repair to his ancient house in the hills.

The hills of Provence

All of these misadventures happen under the blazing Provençal sunshine. One August, when it was 85 degrees by breakfast and even the wild hogs slept in the shade, Peter tells of driving to Chateau Neuf de Pape for a ‘degustation’, a wine tasting, that included two enormous meals and countless glasses of wine. After a stultifying lunch, he napped under a tree until awoken for an equally paralyzing dinner.

It is pleasant, these damp, chilly days, to mentally wander the hills of the Luberon, just above Marseilles, with an eccentric, literate Brit as a guide. It sends me to sleep with sunshine.

Thank you, Mr. Mayle


Grandma Judy