I am so happy to be back in Portland after our trip to Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, all the water is pumped in and does what it is told. Fountains. Swimming pools. A tiny green oasis here and there.
But in Portland, the water comes of its own accord, from the rains and rivers, wandering about with its own agenda. It is planned for, accommodated, and appreciated.
Our Firwood Lake in Laurelhurst Park is a natural low spot in the park, and catches all the water that falls in our lovely, hundred year old forest. The Park planners were wise enough to use the environment rather than fight it, to make the lake a focal point and ecosystem instead of a muddy ball field.
The leaves are still falling, but the trees are running out. The small building in Laurelhurst Park, which houses the bathrooms and maintenance office, is graced by the nearby gingko tree.
In the neighborhood, Christmas is going up in eccentric ways. This Japanese maple tree’s leaves haven’t been raked in two years…but it has lights.
This majestic house, which we can see across Cesar Chavez Boulevard through the now-bare trees, has very conservative decorations, which seems suitable to its old fashioned style.
Today I took a walk through the neighborhood, on my to Collage. This arts and crafts shop is about a mile away, on Division Street, but is the closest place where I can buy embroidery thread. Besides, I love seeing how the neighborhood changes every day.
Rain was predicted, but, as my Momma used to say, I’m not made of sugar.
Today I met a fellow taking a picture of this persimmon tree. The tree has no leaves at all, but is full of persimmons, just too high to reach!
Along the way I noticed the retaining walls. Most old houses in Portland have basements, so the house sits above the street. The yard is made flat by these walls, which can show a lot of characters. Some are just mossy, but others have decorations or are practically their own gardens.
There was also this pile of mulch, leftover from someone who bought too much. The sign says: “OMG! Please Take Some!”
Collage didn’t have any of the color embroidery floss I was after, but Henry, the manager, took his time matching the color to his online order form, and it will be in next week so I can finish my project.
When I got home, this shadow of Mouse was on the wall of the landing….
We are now getting into the part of Fall that is damp and grey. If it is isn’t raining at any given moment, it has recently stopped or will begin again soon. When we were thinking of moving to Portland, this is one thing I worried about….as a former Southern California beach girl and Salinas resident, how would I do in a fairly constant situation of damp?
So far, it suits me right down to the ground. Granted, I am not working, so I don’t have damp students or muddy shoes to deal with, and we have a cozy warm house that keeps the chill away.
But even outside, there is so much life and beauty that it’s hard to be too fussy about it. At Laurelhurst Park there are mushrooms that spring like fairy lamp posts from the mud, and leaves that sparkle on the dark paths.
We have even found a sweet chestnut tree! We have named it Leila, after my aunt who had eleven children, because she is so prolific. Yesterday evening, when it was nearly dark, we foraged about eight pounds of chestnuts.
Walking through Ladd’s Addition, where Auntie Katie lives, is a joy, as well. The old trees and shady yards feel like a forest, with moss, ferns and earth that smells alive and happy. When the clouds part for a minute, the sunshine is so glorious that people stop and smile.
Meanwhile, inside, there is quilting and reading, split pea soup with bacon and Halloween monster movies.
Monday was Auntie Bridgett’s birthday! The day started late, because Mouse the kitten actually let us sleep in. She usually starts dashing about like a maniac at 7:00, but this morning she was peacefully sitting on the bed until almost 8:30! Sweet kitty.
Our second lovely surprise was that it rained last night, our first measurable rain in 83 days! The clouds hung around for the rest of the day, spitting off and on. Very nice and Portland-Ish.
Once we were all up and dressed, we walked to a place just a block away that we have been meaning to try, The Cricket Cafe. On weekends it is packed with brunchers, but Monday morning we had it all to ourselves. The biscuits and gravy were good and Auntie Bridgett loved her scrambled eggs, sausage, and fruit. The coffee was wonderfully rich and just the jolt we needed to get on with a big day. It is nice having so many delicious places so close by!
We walked back home, where I made my first flan. Bridgett has been dealing with some sort of food allergy, so she is staying away from anything made with flour. Flan is just milk, cream, sugar and eggs! She also opened presents….earrings, sketchbooks, an IOU for our next trip to Europe from Grandpa Nelson, and an Annalee Birthday Mouse from Bridgett’s Grandma Bea. It is weirdly adorable.
Around 11 we caught the #15 downtown for shopping. As part of her present, Bridgett got some new clothes at the Gap. We had lunch at Kenny and Zuke’s delicatessen, which was very busy because today is Rosh Hashanna, the Jewish New Year. We ate, watched the passers by and recharged our batteries.
A few blocks up the road we went into Dick Blick’s Art Supplies. New colored pencils for Bridgett, lots of fun looking at things for Grandpa Nelson and me. I really enjoy their wooden floor, which is made out of recycled basketball courts. Powell’s City of Books was next, where we had a fun time looking but didn’t buy anything except a shortbread cookie. Yummy, anyway.
Finally, under threatening skies, we headed back to catch the bus, got home, and rested our weary feet before starting dinner.
Dinner, as it turns out, was leftovers from yesterday’s potluck (baked beans with fruit salad) but the flan I made really turned out well. Creamy and not too sweet, I served it with berries and kiwis. And one candle, because Auntie Bridgett is ONE year older.
A walk through the park, a Scrabble game (not over yet) and a Facetime visit with Bridgett’s sister Esther and the kids made the day complete!
It has been so hot here, and yesterday we had a break…it clouded over, the wind blew, and it rained! Well, enough to make everything smell wonderful and the trees glisten.
In the morning, Auntie Bridgett and I walked over to The Music Millennium for their customer appreciation BBQ. It was so delightful. There were free, and very delicious, hot dogs (from The Dog House, on Division Street), potato salad, Voodoo Doughnuts, and soft drinks. The chefs were friendly and funny. There was a “wacky wheel” that you could spin to win things. Auntie Bridgett won a Bob Marley CD and I got a beer cozy.
We enjoyed visiting with people and then went inside to do some shopping. I have never seen the shop so crowded! We found a new jazz cd, two DVDs (Sneakers and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) that we had on VHS until they died, and a CD of the original Broadway cast of Fiddler on the Roof. Score!!
We walked home through the park because it was so nice and wet…everything smelled like life and growth and joy.
During the afternoon we worked on stories and art, and cleaning up for Grandpa Nelson who had been visiting YOU! In the evening, while it was still looking like rain, we packed a picnic and walked to Laurelhurst for the annual end of summer Symphony Concert. A group called the Three Legged Torso, a Klezmer group, played with them, and it was delightfully informal, fun, and Portlandish.
Grandpa Nelson arrived in time for the concert and we enjoyed people watching, cookies, chicken, and wine. The final number was Stars and Stripes Forever, conducted by a lady who had never conducted anything before…fortunately, the symphony knew what to do.
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.
Wednesday was a quiet, stay in and do some writing sort of day. I spread out my books of old photographs of Portland, the timelines I have made for the city and my character, some maps of what was in Downtown Portland in 1888, and started to write my story. I wrote all morning.
After lunch, I settled back down at the computer, and it the lights went out. The lights went out OUTSIDE. Big black clouds had whooshed in and covered the sun so quickly it was like flipping a switch. I dashed downstairs and Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson had noticed it, too. “Thunder and lightning predicted for this afternoon,” said Grandpa Nelson.
It was hard to get focused back on the writing, so I watched out the window. Rain started as quickly as the sun had disappeared, and our gutters became rivers 3 feet wide. An unfortunate UPS delivery guy was getting soaked bringing boxes to us and the new folks across the way.
In our box was…. a new turntable! It replaces the one Grandpa Nelson bought 30 years ago, which we had donated to The Salvation Army before we moved up here. During the downpour, we read the directions, assembled the bits, moved some electronics, and got the thing ready to play.
I chose The Second Muppet Show Album, which was perfectly silly and happy, and as it was playing, thunder rumbled and lightning lit up the sky. The house shook and the sky flashed! We hugged and sort of held onto each other for a moment, then felt better and started laughing. It is impossible to be very scared when the Muppets are singing and the people you love are nearby.
After we got to feeling normal again and the rain settled down to a good solid pour, I got some more writing done. After dinner, the storm stopped and the sun actually came out.
We packed up a bunch of books to return and walked through the park and neighborhood to the Belmont library at Cesar Chavez Blvd. and Taylor. There were so many changes after the storm. The lower dog park area at Laurelhurst Park has become a small lake, and the ducks have moved in. Vines that had been full of grapes and whole trees full of apples had been knocked down by the force of the wind and rain and lay like slimy land mines on the sidewalks. Piles of leaves, washed down to intersections, looked like piles of pudding. We walked carefully, found some new books, and walked back home.
All in all, a full day of writing, weather, music, and walking….some of my favorite things!