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!
After Auntie Katie, the cousins and I left The Battery Russell, we were starting to think about dinner. Auntie Katie looked on her phone and saw that The Astoria Column was on a hill overlooking downtown, where the restaurants are. Why not go see the column, and then go get dinner?
We drove under the Astoria bridge, which is over four miles long, and through a thick forest on the way to the top of Coxcomb Hill. We were overlooking the Columbia River, with a view west to the Pacific Ocean and east over miles of forest.
The overcast had gone and we were in dazzling sunlight. We looked at the painting on the 125 foot column, but not for long, because as soon as we found the staircase inside, we knew we had to climb it.
Up and up and up, around and around…164 spiral steel steps. I just kept holding on to the railing and not looking any further than my feet.
The Astoria Column was built in 1926 with railroad and business money to commemorate Astoria’s role in the development of the northwest. It is patterned on Trajan’s Column in Rome and the Place Vendome Column in Paris. The paintings on the outside show important things that happened in Oregon history.
Finally, the top! The views were even longer, the perspective even better, the breeze even cooler, than below. It was almost overwhelmingly beautiful. We all just stood and stared, feeling light headed.
Then we remembered. Dinner! Auntie Katie and I knew we were working on borrowed time, as all of us were getting spacey and a tad cranky. It was time to find food. We walked down, watching our feet at every step, played Animal Impersonator for a few minutes, and headed off
The GPS directed us to Mo’s, which is famous up and down the Oregon Coast for clam chowder.
Once we had some steamer clams and crackers we all felt better, and we enjoyed watching the sun go down over the water. We filled up on hot dogs, fish and chips and Petrale sole, and were ready for the long drive back to Portland.
Auntie Katie drove, the kids slept, and I watched the forest get dark and thought about how grateful I am for my life.
Today Grandpa Nelson and I went to the zoo with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel. We took the #4 bus from their house to Pioneer Square downtown, then the Blue Line Max train to Washington Park, where the zoo is. The zoo is on top of a hill, but the train doesn’t go up the hill…it goes through a tunnel underneath the hill, and when we got off the train, we took an elevator straight up to the top. The train station is 260 feet below the surface where the zoo is, so the elevator is as tall as a 28 story building! That is almost 5 times as tall as the tallest building in Salinas. The elevator went really fast and we were at the top in about 10 seconds.
We got became members of the zoo, like we did for the Art Museum, so we can go whenever we want. It is also a way of supporting the zoo, because wild animals are expensive to take care of.
The first animal we had to see was Lily the elephant. She was born at the zoo when your cousins were babies, and they have sort of grown up together. When we got to Lily’s enclosure, which is in the area of the zoo called Elephant Lands, she was far away and hard to see, but the kids shouted hello to her, anyway. We walked down a hill and found a big grassy field called the Amphitheater.
The people in the show, both young ladies named Bree, had wild birds fly from different parts of the field, right over our heads! There was Eagle Owl, which is the largest kind of owl. They live in Africa and hunt African Hedgehogs at night. Bree and Bree also showed us a Red-Tailed Hawk, which is an Oregon wild bird that has learned how to live here in the city. They nest in large trees on the hillsides and hunt rats and pigeons, so they actually help keep the city clean.
We learned that different animals have different names for their groups. Just like there are herds of cows and flocks of birds, there are dazzles of zebras and crushes of rhinos. I don’t know who makes up the names, but they sure are interesting.
We visited bears and penguins and got sprayed by a fountain, and then we found the The Discovery Zone. There was a building with all sorts of activities and critters inside, like a place for kids to make up their own puppet shows, baby turtles being raised in big tubs, and games to learn about how animals live.
There was also the insect zoo, a room where there were glass boxes with really interesting bugs. There were two kinds of tarantulas, stick insects a foot long, and even a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, as big and your daddy’s thumb, which I got to pet! Cousin Kestrel watched, but didn’t pet it. It felt smooth, like it was made of glass. There were more games and young people telling all about the insects.
By this time, we were hungry for lunch we walked to the Sankuru Trader, way out by the giraffes, and had hot dogs and pretzels, with a blue raspberry icee for dessert. We felt so much better after the rest and food!
We walked all the way to the other corner of the zoo to visit the Great Northwest area. It felt just like hiking in the forest! There were beautiful trees and waterfalls, with windows that let you watch the ducks paddling on top of the water and diving underneath, too. There was a model of an eagle’s nest, and Jasper, Kestrel and I pretended we were a Momma eagle and her babies learning to fly. It was so much fun.
There was even art at the zoo. There was a wooden carving showing bears and silly cats, and a mosaic showing the stages of a salmon’s life, and a statue of mountain goats that we got to climb on.
When we had seen all we could see, we took the elevator back down to the Blue Line Max train, changed to the #4 bus, and took the cousins back to their house. It had been a fun, but exhausting day. We all took naps that afternoon before dinner.