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!
What a lovely, weird day this has been. I took another tour of the Lone Fir Cemetery. I know it seems weird to be spending so much time with dead people, but the history of a city can be seen in its old cemeteries. At Lone Fir are buried some of Portland’s heroes, its spiritual guides, and its villains.
Today I learned about Asa Lovejoy, one of the true pioneers of Portland. He and a friend, Francis Pettygrove, were on a canoe trip in 1843 when they stopped for lunch at a clearing on the Willamette River. They liked the spot and decided to stake a land claim and try to start a city here. This claim, after many people and a lot of work, became Portland. But Asa Lovejoy started it. I also learned about Daniel Lownsdale and Fenice Carruther, but I will tell you about them later.
We also learned about Sarah Wisdom. She was a runaway slave from the south and came to Oregon, even though African Americans weren’t very welcome here at the time. She and her first husband, Andrew Johnson, ran a boarding house and other businesses. When he died, she re-married and her second husband, Mr. Wisdom, helped her in her work. She changed the name of her boarding house to “The House of Wisdom”, and they were very successful. They also helped people who were having a hard time. She was the first woman in Oregon to buy her own headstone….she was an independent woman and wanted everyone to know it.
The villain we met on this tour was James Turk. He, his wife and sons were what was called “Shanghai” experts. They would kidnap men, knock them out, and sell them as sailors to a captain who needed a crew for a voyage to China (hence the name Shanghai, the main port there). By the time the men woke up, they were too far out at sea to get home, and they had to work for the rest of the trip. These were not nice people.
After an interesting morning in Lone Fir, I met up with Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett, and we went to the Belmont Street Fair.
This was big like Hawthorne and interesting like Alberta, but with more food than either. We started with lunch at Dick’s restaurant. A delicious milk shake for Grandpa Nelson and turkey burger sliders for Auntie Bridgett and me!
There were so many wonderful bands playing music, people to talk to, and dogs to watch, I can’t possibly tell you about them all. We got home with caramel corn, sticky hands, stickers, and a business card from a local publisher, for when my story is ready.
On the way home, we walked past the flamingo flock, as sure enough, they are up to something new. Apparently they are all working for NASA, because they have their lab coats on, watching the Cassini Space Probe ready to crash into Saturn.
After resting, snacking, and grocery shopping, we were sitting around, and the rain started!!! Blessed, cool, drippy rain! We sat out on the back steps and enjoyed it, watching people out for walks. After our long months here with hot, miserable weather, it is nice to finally be cool. I would even welcome, dare I say it? COLD!
See you next week! I am so excited for your visit!
The other night we took a long walk after dinner. Auntie Bridgett had read about a restaurant called The Rimsky-Korsakoffee House that is about a mile from our house, at 12th Avenue and Alder. It was quirky, she said, and possibly haunted, and we should go there.
So we did. We walked due west, right into the setting sun, and by the time we got to the restaurant, we were sun-blind and exhausted. From where we stood on the sidewalk, there was no sign that the building was a restaurant, or even occupied. The faded rose Victorian exterior looked like one of the hundreds of great houses in Portland that have gotten tired over the years. The lawn was weedy and the willow tree a bit overgrown. At 6:57, it was as if no one had been up the stairs in years. At 7:00, a small “Open” sign came on and people began walking up the street towards it.
We entered the cluttered, underlit foyer, our eyes and glasses still adjusting from the bright afternoon outside. “Take a menu” a sign said, so we did, and wandered into the living room. Small tables and chairs filled the space, where a piano sat in the corner and all sorts of knick-knacks perched on shelves.
The number 36 dangled from the ceiling and was spelled out in roman numerals made from yard sticks. Auntie Bridgett remembered that the restaurant had been started in 1980, so was 36 last year. It is as old as your daddy. The whole place was lit with fairy lights.
We sat and listened to the Romantic piano music of Rimsky-Korsakoff lilting through the small rooms, reading the hand-written signs. “Warning to customers: This is the OUT door” said a sign on the door to the kitchen. “This table for 2 people only” was the sign on our table. We were three, but no one seemed to mind. Quirky, indeed.
Our waitress took our order and we shared the most delicious ginger cake I have ever had. The cinnamon coffee was rich and sweet, and Grandpa Nelson’s ice cream sundae was wonderfully cold and fluffy. Having enjoyed our dessert and coffee and recovered completely from our walk, we paid our bill and got up to leave.
We saw what we hadn’t before, the stairs up to the restroom, over which hung a swing of sorts. On the bottom (the side towards us) was another hand written sign: “Everyone Enjoy Engaging in Eating, Entertainment, Escape, Enlightenment, Euphony, Elsewise, Exit!” We had seen no signs of haunting, but it was early yet. Maybe the spirits wake up later.
We had a conversation with the baker before we left, complimenting him on his ginger cake and getting the recipe, which he rattled off from memory. “But don’t quote me,” he said. “I make a lot of cakes.” I don’t remember it, but I will have fun trying to duplicate it, once the weather cools off enough to bake.
I have told you how much fun it is living in Portland. I have told you about the plastic flamingos that go on camping trips and the silent dance parties in the park. But I haven’t mentioned the Faeries.
First, there is a shop called Fernie Brae, not far from us on Hawthorne Street. It is a combination of art gallery, museum, and shop, all about faeries. Tiny pictures, statues, jewelry, and plants all take you inside a special, delicate world. Cousin Kestrel had part of her birthday here. There were tiny keys to open tiny doors and find magical gifts. She and Jasper enjoyed it very much.
Then there are the regular gardens that people make to enjoy. These gardens are regular people sized, but have fishponds, tiny lights, and mosaic paths through them. There are also statues of frogs, flamingos, and all sorts of animals. Birdhouses and even bat houses make the animals feel welcome. Many of the trees are so old, there are hollow places in them that look exactly like faeries would live there. Moss growing on all the walls feels like faerie carpet.
But some people seem to want the faeries to feel even more at home. They build tiny gardens that are faerie sized within their own people sized gardens. These have tiny gates, benches, plants, even houses. There may be stepping stones the size of bottle caps.Whenever I see one, I want to make myself very small and go visiting!
On Tuesday the cousins and I took the number 4 down to to Portland Art Museum. There was a lot going on before we even got inside! The giant orchids were still there, and there was a piano painted like a raccoon. Several people came up and played a song or two, then wandered away. It was sort of magical.
There are statues in the courtyard that I hadn’t noticed before. They are called Her Leaving, It Up and It Sitting. They are tall, lumpy figures covered with what look like rivers of paint.We imagined we were tiny and the statues became mountains with caves. We followed each river of color as it flowed into others and down ‘waterfalls’.
Inside the museum we looked at portraits by different artists. We played my favorite game of making up what we think the person in the portrait is thinking. A young lady looking tired with an accordion on her lap is thinking, “I want to go ride my new bike!” We saw shiny silver dishes and statues carved out of smooth, white marble.
But our favorite room had three pieces of art by Jennifer Steinkamp. They were moving, digital trees ten feet tall, projected onto the walls. The trees were growing and changing as we watched. The bare branches got covered in pink and purple blossoms and leaves which rustled in the breeze, changed color and fell, and the bare tree began spring again. It was hypnotic, and we sat for a long time watching. Jasper and Kestrel had fun going around the room, pretending to gather the leaves.
At lunchtime, we walked outside to the South Park Blocks, areas of shady grass with benches and statues, to eat our lunch. We saw some people playing bocce ball, tossing balls at a small target. They were having such fun that Jasper watched and got invited to make the last throw.
Then an incredibly big, beautiful bug joined us on our bench. About two inches long, he was very patient and let us get very close to look at him. I looked him up later, and he is an Alder Boring Beetle.
After lunch we walked down to Director Park. This park isn’t grassy, but has a big fountain that is good for wading, a cafe with a big shady patio, and a chessboard bigger than your bedroom. The pieces are about two feet tall, light and easy to move. Jasper and I played a good game while Kestrel watched cat videos on my phone. We listened to a violinist play over by the fountain.
It felt like the perfect time to end our perfect day, so we walked past some lovely statues of forest animals and caught the number 2 bus back home. I am sure enjoying getting to know your cousins.
Today we needed to go to IKEA for some house things and Costco for some food things. Grandpa Nelson knew that it would be a long day of walking and shopping, so he decided that we should start off with local happy.
Pip’s Original Doughnuts and Chai, on NE Fremont, was the perfect place. It is different from every other doughnut shop in several ways. First, there is no glass case with doughnuts to choose from, because every single doughnut is made when you order it and served hot. YUM!
Another difference is the size of the doughnuts. They are tiny! Each warm, perfect bundle of fried goodness would fit in the palm of your 4 year old hand. About three small bites, or one greedy mouthful.
Finally, there are not dozens of kinds of doughnuts. The day we were there, there were six. Grandpa Nelson had cinnamon and sugar. Very sweet and good. Auntie Bridgett had Nutella, which she pronounced “The best doughnut I’ve ever had in my life.” I had a wickedly sweet and savory mouthful called Candied Maple Bacon, the essence of which I would like to eat every day of my life.
Doing some doughnut math, we reckoned that a regular cake doughnut would equal the size of about three Pip’s. So you can mix and match and share with friends and get to taste more deliciousness without feeling like a doughnut hog. Well, feeling a bit less like a doughnut hog than usual, anyway.
After thoroughly enjoying the doughnuts, dog- and people-watching and warm hospitality of Pip’s, we got on with the business of the day. When we moved from Salinas, we tried to get rid of things we didn’t love. We had owned several really ugly lamps, and we left them behind. Wandering IKEA’s maze of showrooms, we came upon the perfect lamp. It would fit in well and gives a nice warm light. We also found an office chair for Grandpa Nelson that will help his back, and lots of small things to make the house work better.
After a small lunch at IKEA’s cafeteria, we headed for Costco. We found two giant shelf units to help organize the garage. Moving here, we collapsed three art areas and two offices into one space, so there are a lot of things that need storing…books, art, tools… and we want them to stay dry through Portland’s notoriously wet winters. Getting them up off the floor and into plastic bins seems a good idea. We also found cashews, walnuts, peanuts…you know, Grandpa Nelson food.
Back home, we assembled the lamp (which does, indeed, look perfect by the piano) and moved one of the last boxes into a back closet so the lamp had a happy place to be in. Grandpa Nelson built his chair, we installed things in the kitchen, and crashed. Hours of shopping just wear me out!
Later in the day, I got an invitation from Auntie Katie to hear a storyteller at her book store, Books with Pictures. Gretchen Peterson told a really interesting story about her new super hero, Iris Eldinger. We talked about storytelling and teaching and how much the two are alike.
Auntie Bridgett and I walked home just as the sun was going down. We stopped several times to look west, over the bridges on the Willamette to the city shadowed in pink clouds. It was the perfect ending to a lovely, productive, delicious day.