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!

Love,

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.

Love,

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.

Love,

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.

Love,

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.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Insomnia

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.

Love,

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

Love,

Grandma Judy

Mossy Goodness

Dear Liza,

Well, it’s raining again. The past few years, Portland has seen drier winters, and we seem to be making up for it now.

All this rain allows for some lovely, if damp, walks. It thins out the masked crowds at Laurelhurst Park.

And it waters the moss. Portland is a city upholstered with fluffy green moss. I love it!

Walls around houses or office buildings become tiny gardens.

The most common materials, like red bricks, become abstract pieces of art or wondrous topographical maps.

Our Lone Fir Cemetery is especially blessed. This grave, already overwhelmed with a maple tree, is softened with a velvety soft green blanket.

The moss isn’t greedy, though. It shares the walls, bricks, and graves with all sorts of plants and animals . After the moss has softened the stone, it holds on to the rain so ferns can take root.

Tiny flowers and entire ecosystems sprout from the fluffy dampness.

Maybe I will bundle up today and go enjoy some rainy, mossy, goodness. Or maybe I will stay warm and dry in my new pajamas and just write about it.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Between Times

Dear Liza,

This season, between Hanukah, anniversaries, Christmas, and New Years’, has felt very full. Gifts coming and going, lots of ZOOM, and way too much fancy, delicious food and drink. I think I may have sprained a holiday muscle.

I went out for walk in the rain. Not to see the Christmas lights, not to see anything, really. Just to be outside, clear my head, and interact with the world a bit. It helped a little.


Up at the corner between our house and Laurelhurst Park, I did stop to see some lights. Traffic lights, that is.

The dark and the rain made them particularly pretty, and I stood for quite a while under my umbrella, enjoying the reflections and not thinking much of anything.

And when I got cold and the rain started to come through my boots, I headed back home. I know this mood is partly holiday letdown, partly Covid isolation blues, and partly the result of too much rich food and wine. I know it will pass.

So until it does, I will keep looking for the light.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Reflections on the Rain in Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

For the last few days, we have been in a river…. an atmospheric river, to be exact. This is a system of very wet air that has blown up from the tropics, bumped into our cold air, and is just dumping water like crazy. This is a lot of rain, even for drippy Portland.

Perfect reflections


So of course we went for a walk to lovely Laurelhurst Park. The hillsides are muddy and very slick, so I stayed on the path. The last thing I need from 2020 is a busted bottom. The puddles forming by the path made perfect mirrors to appreciate the majestic trees and gray skies.

Firwood Lake has had a particularly thick layer of duckweed this year, looking more like a soccer field in some areas. But at the east end, a surreal swirly effect is finding new ways to be beautiful.

And just as I thought the swirly green and black water couldn’t get more weirdly beautiful, a raindrop plopped in and created concentric circles.

Life is beautiful, even (or maybe especially) in the rain.

Love,

Grandma Judy