June 30, 2017, almost three and a half years ago, was the day of my first blog. I had come up to Portland by plane, then the Red Line train to get to downtown, where I had lunch and met an itinerant poet named Shannon. Then I took a bus to Auntie Katie’s house. The next day I picked up the keys to our first apartment here in Portland. I signed papers, measured the new place, and flew back to Salinas.
That day was a good omen of my life in the city so far. I have pushed myself to walk further, get around on public transit, explore further afield, chat with all sorts of folks, and spend more time on my own.
I have written about dinners out, concerts, zoos, and parks here in Portland;
vacations to Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.;
trips back to Salinas to see you and your family and friends;
and some less-fun trips to hospitals and doctor’s offices.
And lately, I’ve written about coping with NOT being able to do those things.
Writing this blog, now 900 essays long, is part of the coping. Writing how I feel makes it real and solid and more manageable.
Yep, it’s been seven months (and a few days) since Dr. Fauci announced the quarantine. Spring and summer have come and gone, and our overnight temperatures are below freezing here in Portland. Winter is heading our way.
Many things have changed, for certain. Shakespeare in the Parks, big band concerts on the grass, and theatrical performances of any kind are a sweet, distant memory. Eating in restaurants, chatting with friendly waiters and total strangers, is now pretty much unthinkable. Cheering for the Pickles or the Thorns would be the height of social irresponsibility.
And travel to Paris? Out of the question. Totally. Big, heavy sigh.
Even going to visit family, sitting on a sofa and playing games with grandkids, just isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
But many things, important things, are still with us. Love, even at a distance, is still love. Watching you decorate a cookie house via ZOOM or walking a corn maze with the cousins is a reminder of who I am and what ties I have in this world. Waking up and having coffee with Auntie Bridgett. Doing crosswords and taking walks with Grandpa Nelson. Watching horror movies and baking shows.
I guess all this is to say that we are still holding on, seven months into the lockdown. We wear our masks and social distance and try to be patient with take-out.
Languages are so much fun to learn! You get to find out where words come from and how they are related. You figure out ways to remember hundreds of new words. And in the end, you are able to talk to people from other countries. That’s a pretty good pay off.
This weekend I reached my 300th day straight of doing half an hour a day of French lessons on the teaching site, Duolingo. Auntie Bridgett and I make time for it every morning, right after breakfast. We work separately, sitting side by side on the couch for company and help. Let’s face it, with hundreds (maybe even a thousand by now) of new words, sometimes I just blank out.
“This is silly,” I’ll say. “What’s cupboard?”
“Placard,” she’ll answer. “It’s masculine.” It’s important to know that. Every noun (a person, place, or thing) in French has a gender, masculine or feminine, and that tells you how to spell the words that describe it. The gender isn’t always what you think it is.
“Robe”, which means dress, is feminine, so that makes sense, but so are the words for “car”, “orange”, and “house.”
Auntie Bridgett uses her sketchbooks to draw pictures to help her remember how words go together.
Words that are masculine are “coat”, “bicycle”, and “garden.” Sometimes to help me remember the gender of a noun, I will think of a cartoon showing the thing with long eyelashes if it is feminine, or a mustache if it is masculine. Be careful, though! Mustache….. yep….. is feminine.
So now I head off toward the next 300 days. With any luck, by the time I get to that milestone, we will be able to travel to France again, and put all this learning to use.
I know it is silly to be homesick for someone else’s home, but I sure miss Paris. But at least when we go back, I’ll be able to have a conversation!
I was doing some remembering about bridges the other day, after my lovely walk across the Tilikum Crossing and Hawthorne Bridges here in Portland. I hunted through my photos and found the most beautiful bridges from our travels.
Big cities tend to be built on rivers, so they need bridges. The Thames is crossed by 35 bridges inside London’s city limits. It is such an old city, the first bridge was built 2000 years ago!
When William Shakespeare was born in Stratford on Avon, the lovely Clopton bridge was already 80 years old. It was built when King Henry VII was in charge, in 1487. And we got to row a boat under it!
The city of Cambridge, England, was founded in 1120, and is literally where the River Cam has a bridge over it. I didn’t see that old bridge, but this beauty was built much later, as part of the University. It is called the Bridge of Sighs and was built in 1831. Queen Victoria said it was the prettiest part of the city.
Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, is built on the River Amstel and lots of canals. It has about 2,500 bridges!! Most of them don’t have names, just numbers used to keep track for repair work. I took this picture at sunset one evening in 2008. It still makes me smile.
Paris’s Pont Neuf (which means New Bridge) was actually built in 1578, and is now the OLDEST bridge in the city. It was a completely new type of bridge, because it didn’t have buildings on it, and gave long views up and down the River Seine. It became a popular meeting place for people of all ages and classes, and helped turn Paris into the interesting city it is.
Well, that’s all for today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about our own bridges here in Portland .
Besides being shutdown because of the Corona Virus, Portland is now dealing with Federal troops in our downtown streets every evening. It is also about 100 degrees by noon these hot July days. So I am staying inside.
I have taken Hitoshi Shigeta’s sketchbook islands, sent to us by Jennifer Coile, and run with it! I made a few islands in the original drip-and-spread method, but wanted the features to stand out more. I gave the accidentally created features more contrast with my paintbrush.
As I worked, I began to see where the snow would accumulate, how the melt would flow, and what the topography of the island would be. It became a very real, very happy place for me. I named it Welcome Home.
I realized that my calligraphy skills were not up to labeling the features on my map, so Auntie Bridgett suggested using cut-out letters and words in a sort of collage technique, and I am really enjoying it. Years of Portland Monthly, Better Homes and Gardens, and Sunset Magazines, and all our old maps are getting harvested.
Having gotten my island to this point, I am not sure what to do with it next. But my Dad always said that if you can’t decide what to do, maybe it isn’t time to make that decision yet. So I will put my maps in a safe place and figure it out later.
There is an expression,”It’s a sign of the times.” This usually means something is a clear, visual example of what is happening. Today I decided to share some of my signs of different times with you.
When I first started traveling to Europe, I was struck by signs and posters that would not have existed in the U.S.
This 300 year old sign for Jesus Lane is on the campus of Jesus College at Cambridge University in England. In our country, religion has become so politicized and I doubt this sign would survive vandalism.
On the other side of the coin, this poster for theater tickets would probably be considered too weird for the American market. It’s ironic that in a country that touts Free Speech there is such a “you can’t say/show/ wear that” reaction.
This street construction warning sign makes me laugh, because of its original nickname in England, “Man wrestling with umbrella.” Also, if you look closely at the smaller sign, horrible things are happening.
Other signs make me smile because of where they are. Seeing this wonderful sign showing an entrance to the Paris metro would mean I am in that magical city.
And not far from that sign is this one, for the narrowest street still existing in the ancient part of Paris. The name means “The Street of the Cat Who Fishes.”
Back in California, this sign touches my heart and feeds all my senses. Crows and cypress trees grow in my happy place at Asilomar, and looking at this parking sign, I can smell the fog and feel the sand between my toes. Oh, and taste the good food at The Fishwife, just up the hill a bit.
And in my new home, there are signs, too. This one, at The Enchanted Forest south of Portland, is greatly improved by Jasper showing his high score on the “Return to Mordor” ride.
And these signs at a protest for the Trump administration’s policy of separating and imprisoning immigrant families touched my heart and let me know I was in good company.
What are your signs of the times? What visuals make you smile, or travel to another time or place?
This morning, the day after my big retirement shindig, was very quiet and slow. I am generally a get up, get dressed, get out and do stuff sort of person, but today I was still in my pajamas at one in the afternoon.
Liza and I played with her new huge set of Legos from Anne Crawford. It took over an hour, but Liza persevered and got it done. I literally stopped and smelled the roses that we had arranged for the party. I got to look at my lovely cards from friends, some of which accompanied a bottle of wine. I have such sweet friends here, which are really the only thing I will miss.
No, that’s not true.
I have lived in Salinas 36 years. I know , I would guess, more than a hundred people. I know where things are, which buses go where, how far a walk to this place, what the weather will be like. I even know this house, Uncle David and Auntie Olga’s house, better than I know my home in Portland….since it was purchased in February, I have slept there just 22 nights.
So what I will also miss, at least for a while, is familiarity.
But familiarity is also what I’m deliberately moving away from. The same houses on the same streets in the same neighborhoods. This feels reminiscent of moving away from home to go to college…ready to move, but anxious about change. Tired of the old, but worried about losing the comfort.
But your Great Grandpa Lowell was an optimist, and I am too. Time will march on, bring the new, make it comfy and warm. I will find my new normal, my comfort zone. I will put down roots in my transplanted soil and thrive.
After Liza and I left the Garden of Memories, we walked down Romie Lane. Romie is a busy street with lots of doctor’s offices, because it is right near Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. Liza and I have both been to the hospital a few times. I went with Great-Grandma Billie years ago when she got hurt, and their Emergency Room gave Liza stitches in her forehead and me stitches in my lip. Auntie Olga even gave birth to Liza in that hospital! They have taken good care of our family.
We discovered some interesting things along the road. Liza found moss, like the kind I miss in Portland, under some bushes. Because of the recent rains, the moss was soft and green. It was lovely.
We kept walking and got to Claremont Manor Park, which is right next door to Monterey Park School. This is a park with trees that are good for climbing, small and large play structures, and even a baseball field right next door. Liza found some kids to play with and I sat in the sun and relaxed.
I ran into a friend who used to work at my school, Krysta Bradley, and her family, including their youngest son and new puppy. He is a very soft golden retriever and very friendly. Their oldest boy, Mikey, was playing baseball at the park.
Liza found a tree to climb that was just the right size. As she was busy climbing with some new friends, Krysta told me that when SHE was a little girl, SHE climbed that same tree! That has been a happy tree for many years! Liza and her new friends made up a game that they were monkeys and were growing banana trees. “The more trees we grow, the more bananas we can eat!” they chanted. “We are monkeys!”
Leaving the park, we continued down Romie Lane. We found a little boy and his tiny puppy, going for a short visit on the sidewalk. Then we got to Main Street, and the MYO Frozen Yogurt Shop! What good fortune, a cool snack and place to sit, right next to a bus stop. We snacked and met a student of mine, Brandon, who had just finished bowling at Valley Center Bowl next door. Then we stepped out the door and, after a while, caught the number 23 bus downtown where we transferred to the number 20 which took us just a block from home.
Boy, was I ready for a nap! I think I fell asleep before Liza did. What a fun day!
It is still very sunny here. Mouse enjoys sitting in the south facing glass and screen door, feeling the sun and watching the bird and dog action. Fortunately, the door keeps the cold out. The low has been 32 degrees, (freezing, actually freezing) and the high temperature only 44.
Last night Grandpa Nelson and I picked up the Cousins at their school. Then we walked over to Auntie Katie’s shop, Books with Pictures, and we all took the bus and train up to the Oregon Zoo for Zoolights. The train and elevator were packed with families. This is something a lot of zoos do, but it was my first time.
At the zoo, since most of the animals are asleep or in dark corners away from the fences, the trees and lights become the attraction. All sorts of animals are outlined in lights.The trees become a fantastic forest of lights with the people just moving shadows underneath. It is eerie and wonderful.
It was also cold! After about an hour, we were feeling chilly and empty. We stepped into the Africafe for corn dogs, hot cocoa and some warm conversation, and soon were feeling cheerful again. More walking, including racing a lighted cheetah, and then we were done.
Auntie Katie and her dear friend Chelsea drove the tired cousins home, and Grandpa Nelson and I took the train and bus back. The newly painted train station was quiet and almost empty.
We will take you next year, if you come up during winter. Bring your mittens!