Leaves and Seeds

Dear Liza,

Fall is the time for endings and beginnings. The trees teach us that, and here in our neighborhood I have lots of teachers!

It’s Conker season!

The huge oaks and chestnut trees are shedding their leaves, which have danced all summer long.

Sweet chestnuts and acorns

They are casting their collective futures to the wind as seeds come clonking to the ground. Acorns, chestnuts, fir cones, and tiny maple helicopters fall and fly and eventually pile up, hoping to find just the right place to take root.

Golden Rain tree with its maraca-seed pods

I think it is fitting that our human institutions are tied to this idea of endings and beginnings. Summer ends, school starts. Elections allow for new directions for our city and country.

Time for a change!

Happy Fall!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Helping the City, Helping Ourselves

Dear Liza,

On Thursday we got a chance to do good work for Portland. Grandpa Nelson got us signed up with a group called SolveOregon, who use volunteers to cleanup and repair around the state.

Our group downtown

We got up early and drove downtown to help with litter clean up. Except in the area just around the Federal Building, (where the protests and conflicts with police have been happening every night for three months), most of the storefronts are fine and businesses are open.

A whole bunch of people, patiently waiting to help!

Our check-in location was at the Mark Spencer Hotel, where ninety masked but friendly people waited in line to get directions and equipment. We collected our long handled grabbers, gloves, and plastic bags, and headed off.

It was slow going, because most of the litter we were picking up were small, like bottle caps or cigarette butts. It took us a while to get the hang of handling the grabbers. We walked along, heads down, focusing on the sidewalk. About every fifteen minutes we would look up and check in with each other and figure out where we were.

I am sorry for the lack of photos to tell this story, but it was difficult to use my phone while wearing gloves, a mask, and carrying a bag and grabbers. I made a choice to do the work well instead of photo-documenting.

As we walked along, we were pleasantly surprised by folks’s reactions. People would roll down the window of their cars and holler “Thank you!!”. A postal worker stopped us and told us how much he appreciated our help to make the city better. Auntie Bridgett made sure he knew that we appreciated his work, too.

Half of our neighborhood’s haul

After two hours, we had a satisfying amount of garbage in our bags, and were pretty much done in, and turned in our grabbers. We chatted with Sarah, our group leader, who let us know we could help in other ways, and directed us to the website to check it out.

Lunch!!

We had a wonderful, filling lunch at the Zeus Cafe, a McMeniman’s restaurant just a block from where we were working. I hadn’t realized how hungry or tired I was! By the time we got home, I could hardly walk up the stairs.

A nice thought for the day. And maybe, the year.

I am happy that we spent a few hours doing something to help our city. We have had recent problems, caused by the pandemic and social unrest, but we are also just a big city with millions of people smoking, doing business, and eating. It takes maintenance to keep it up.

And today I got to help.

Love,

Grandma Judy

…And Back Again

Dear Liza,

Once I got to the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, I had intended to head right back home, but my Dad’s voice whispered “Go home a different way, so you see something different.”

Art made with cables and sky

So I continued across the bridge to the Westside. The pedestrian walkway has recently been finished and makes for a very pleasant, if warm, walk between the bridges. There were more adventurers out and about.

Kayakers out and about

I found Poet’s Beach, a side path lined with stones that are carved with poetry written by students, years ago.

Thanks, Phoebe!

It is loud, because it is right under the double decker Marquam Bridge, but worth a read and a visit.

The extremely loud Marquam Bridge

By this time, my feet and my phone batteries were telling me it was time to head home. I decided to cross back over the Hawthorne Bridge. I love the views of bridges from other bridges!

The Marquam, Tilikum, and Ross Island Bridges… from the Hawthorne.

Of course, political statements are everywhere. I liked this re-purposed public service message.

You can see a lot of Portland from bridges, too. Joggers, cyclists, the Burnside Bridge and the Convention Center are all in these shots.

Once I was back on the Eastside, I realized I was hungry, and came upon Asylum, a food Court on the site of Dr. Hawthorne’s Oregon State Hospital for the Insane. This much-respected institution stood from 1862 to 1883. It closed when the good Doctor died and burned to the ground a few years later.

The space has a steampunk cartoony vibe, with trash containers that made me laugh, and really tasty food.

I had pot stickers from the Thai place and enjoyed some people and art watching.

The Asylum gates ….

Once I was fed, I still had a mile walk, all uphill, to get home. I paced myself, admiring gardens, appreciating shade, and visiting with nice folks. I had done what I had intended to do, walked a total of 6.2 miles, and it felt good.

By the way, as you can tell, Portland is not “in flames”. We are fine. The protests are being exploited by the President and his allies who want to use Portland as an excuse to use strong arm tactics against his political enemies. He is lying.

Took the words out of my mouth!

Stay alert, stay well, and remember I love you.

Grandma Judy

Long Walk to the River….

Dear Liza,

I woke up Tuesday feeling the need to take charge of something, to get out and DO.The weather was predicted to be cool in the morning and get really warm by noon, so whatever I was going to do had to happen early.

Bright changing leaves dazzle the eye…

So, right after coffee and before Grandpa Nelson was out of bed, I headed off for a long walk through the Fall sunshine. I headed toward the river. This is sort of cheating because it is all down hill, but the neighborhood is wonderful.

I found this poem by Jellaludin Rumi framed in a safe place. I liked the sentiment, but also the way my reflection got into the picture. It made this idea of “being human” even more human!

“This Being Human” by Rumi

I continued through Ladd’s Addition and into the more industrial part of the Southeast. This fabulous mural, with live plants for hair, was painted by Fin DAC and is called “Attitude of Gratitude.” The building houses a fancy Cuban restaurant on the ground floor and apartments above, and the main office of Solterra, a company that makes vertical planters like the lady’s hair.

Attitude of Gratitude

The area by the railroad tracks and warehouses is a bit run down, but in the bright sunshine, with the river and West Hills just beyond, everything looked pretty.

A bit cluttered, but very pretty…

After about an hour of solid walking, I found the Willamette River! On this sunny day, it was busy with kayakers, jet skis, and motorboats, all dancing on the sparkling water.

The mighty Willamette River

Tilikum Crossing Bridge is the newest bridge in the city and my absolute favorite. It was built in 2015 just for transit and pedestrians.The blue of the sky and the white cables made for a lovely sight. Mount Hood, just sixty miles away, was barely visible through the haze to the East.

Not so far away Mt. Hood

I spent quite a lot of time on the bridge, soaking up the breeze and the sunshine.

Built with no right angles, to let the wind spill off

But where to go next? I’ll tell you tomorrow!

Happy me!

Love,

Grandma Judy

“Out” For Dinner

Dear Liza,

On Fridays we try and go out for dinner. When we lived in Salinas, we went to Patria, or to the many restaurants in Monterey. Here in Portland, between our bustling neighborhood and easy bus service, we had hundreds of places to choose from.

Dinner out, back in the day (last year!)

Had, I say. In the pandemic, with public transportation feeling like a disease vector on wheels and many places closed up or only doing take-out, our elegant end of the week tradition has been trimmed back.

Auntie Bridgett sketching away…

I like cooking and don’t mind eating my own food, so for me, the “going out for dinner” was mostly about the “out” part. A change of scene, watching folks and chatting with servers, being in the hustle and bustle. Watching Bridgett sketch interesting characters. Watching Grandpa Nelson wave at babies from across the room.


This past Friday, we packed peanuts and half a bottle of wine, bottles of water, and some picnic utensils into a bag and walked down to Sea Sweets, a poke place on Hawthorne. Auntie Bridgett and I got poke bowls, filled with spicy raw salmon, brown rice, seaweed salad, kimchi corn, and pickled ginger. We also got an ice cold ginger beer for Grandpa Nelson, because it was really hot.

Sea Sweets yummy poke bowls

We packed up these delights and continued south to Seawellcrest Park for the “dinner out” part of our evening. We found a socially distanced piece of shade, spread the blanket, and ate up. About thirty feet away, a fellow was exercising. Further off, two young men were playing basketball. And far across the park, happy dogs met and ran and sniffed each other.

Our dinner

It was a warm, pleasant, very un-elegant dinner out, and I enjoyed it very much. As we headed home to watch baseball, I thought about how we create the world by our attitudes.

With the country shut down, in conflict, and worried about our upcoming election, we can still find happiness and peace. And those are valuable resources.

”Table” for three
Bright and breezy decor at the new place…

I hope you are enjoying life to the best of your abilities, being kind to those around you, and staying well.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Home Again, Home Again…

Dear Liza,

It was really warm the day Grandpa Nelson and I walked to Mt. Tabor. The grass in the park was golden brown from our unusually dry summer. Even the breeze felt more Southern Californian than Southern Portland.

California-golden grass And Grandpa Nelson

We enjoyed watching the people come and go. The cinder cone that is Mt. Tabor is a favorite for hikers and bikers looking for an in-town challenge. They are resolute going up and joyous coming down.

”Mom…..”

Not everyone is equally enthusiastic, however. One young fellow who was cycling with his mom kept up a steady stream of complaints as he rode up the hill. “Mom, you said we were just going to the park!” … “Mom, I don’t want to go all the way up!” … “Mom…” But Mom wisely kept riding and eventually he followed her up.

Lovely lichen


It was hot and dry, but the Pacific Northwest is where I developed my love of moss and lichen, and I was not disappointed. I wandered into some usually- shady spots and found several kinds of lichen flourishing on pine branches. The scaly bits will wait patiently until the rains return.

Pines, firs, and blackberries

Once we had caught our breath, we headed down the hill for hot dogs and fries at Zach’s Shack. A sparsely populated, shady patio and a Chicago dog put me right again, with the thirteen eyes of the weird mural watching over us.

Zach’s Shack back patio

Heading home we found new garden delights. Someone has created this hand-hammered, pomegranate shaped metal fire pit and placed it among blackberries and roses. I imagine it is wonderful on chilly September evenings, glowing in the greenery.

Giant pomegranate fire pit

And just a few blocks from home, we found this carefully tended tunnel of bushes and vines, making a cool passage on the by-now really hot afternoon. We appreciated it and headed home for water and a rest.

Lovely shady tunnel

Five and a quarter miles, and well worth the sweat!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Celebrating Health

Dear Liza,

Nothing makes you want to get out and about like spending a long day in a hospital. So after Wednesday’s eternal visit to the Emergency Room, I took Grandpa Nelson on a long walk. We went all the way to Mt. Tabor Park.

A fence with benefits!

Mt. Tabor is a 636 foot high dormant volcano right here in Southeast Portland, two and a half miles from our house. We started after coffee -and-crossword puzzles, when it was sunny but still cool.

Portlands’s own mythical animal

I love walking through new neighborhoods! I always discover beautiful and unusual houses, gardens, and …. well, things. These sheet copper fence-toppers, shaped like silhouettes of a squirrel, a dog, and Sasquatch, tickled me.

Who knew?

Further on, we found the Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum, with a small handmade boat in the window, as well as books and other information. It is closed for now, of course, but is delightfully dusty and quirky. According to the website, the collection is mostly full-sized functional replicas of traditional small craft, created by Harvey Goldman, “to augment his research”. Peering through the window, I could just make out the outlines of more than a dozen narrow boats up on racks.

Yep, that’s the frame for a kayak!

As we got closer to Mt. Tabor, the hill got steeper, and we slowed down a bit. It was getting warmer and we were starting to run out of gas. We were thinking maybe we had violated my Dad’s rule of “only walking until you are halfway tired.”

We’re going here…. not all the way up there!

But we soon saw the long stretch of grass that is the off leash dog park, continued past the community garden, and found some shade. We sat and delighted in watching the world go by as we caught our breaths.

Grandpa Nelson, feeling shady…

Tomorrow, I will tell you about our return trip!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Signs of the Times

Dear Liza,

There’s a lot to be stressed about…

Between the political unrest and the pandemic, people are feeling very stressed these days. The big signs of this are protests and violence, which can overwhelm the small goodnesses that are happening in corners of neighborhoods.

Lots of little signs of love and hope…

When I go out walking, I look for these small signs and take comfort in my fellow humans’ capacity for kindness, cleverness, and joy.

Sharing delicious apples….

And yet, amid the apples and sweetness, we need to remember that the fight for fairness isn’t over yet.

It’s not time to stop yet….

We need to keep those who have been killed and brutalized in our mind as we make decisions about who will run our cities and our country.

Take care, love people, and stay well.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Just Flowers

Dear Liza,

Sometimes, between the Covid-19 and the political situation, it’s nice to go out for a walk, and not think about anything. I mean, to just think about what is right in front of you.

Fortunately, in our neighborhood, there are lots of lovely flowers to look at. Sunnyside Elementary and Environmental School has delightful gardens, which are being tended by staff and families while the school is shut down.

Educated flowers…..

On a street down the hill a sunny patch is filled with Black-eyed Susans and zinnias.

Sunny flowers….

Our local community garden up by the Laurelhurst Care Center, sweet-peas and dahlias stand tall in the sun.

Tall flowers….

And between our house and Auntie Katie’s place in Ladd’s Addition, the four rose Gardens are home to hundreds of bushes, all tended by volunteers. This ‘Caroline Testout’ rose, a variety that was created in 1888, caught my eye on our last walk down that way.

And historic flowers!

Have a nice day, sweetie.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Full-On Portland

Dear Liza,

After weeks of feeling isolated and in my own head, Wednesday was a day that felt very connected, very Portland.

Hooray for Auntie Katie!!!

First, Auntie Katie’s bookshop, Books With Pictures, was voted BEST COMIC BOOK SHOP IN PORTLAND by our local newspaper, the Willamette Weekly. Hooray!

I am sure that her hard work and dedication to customer service in having an online ordering service and door to door deliveries during the pandemic has endeared her to everyone. With so many businesses closing down, it is wonderful to see her thrive.

And in the evening, Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett walked with me to deliver first aid supplies to the Black Lives Matter protesters. A group of volunteers called Snackbloc collect bandages, gloves, and other useful items in different neighborhoods to be used downtown to support the protesters against the Federal troops.

A beautiful mural along the way!

It pains me so much to see our government beating peaceful protesters. There has been some vandalism, but these troops are not dispersing crowds or stopping it; they are attacking unarmed people, shoving them down and gassing lines of singing women.

Protesters in Portland…. Photo by Beth Nakamura

It is as though they have come to punish these people for standing against the beatings… by beating them, like an abusive father ranting, “Stop crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about.” This is not how I want my country to be.

Police attacking protesters in Portland… photo credit, CNN

But I am a coward. I fear beatings, teargas, arrest and undocumented detention by unknown troops. So I help in a small way so others who are braver can help in larger ways.

Take care, and I will see you soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy