Hazel Hall, Poet

Dear Liza,

One of the shops I love most in our little Sunnyside neighborhood is called Noun, “a person’s place for things”. It has a delightful collection of curated second hand things and newer artwork, and is temporarily closed, of course. But it has a wonderful new window display that has taught me new things.

NOUN…A person’s place for things

In the window is this hand lettered and sewn paper creation that looks like a quilt with writing on it, and I got to stop and read it the other day. It is called Nobody Passes and it goes like this:

The day is set, like a stage for feet

With a ridge of white clouds painted high

Across the canvas of the sky,

With pavement gleaming and too clean,

A shimmer of grass that seems too green,

And houses alert in every side,

Showing a stiff and conscious pride.

The day is a stage and life is a play,

But nobody passes down this way.

I was intrigued, and looked up Helen Hall online. She was born in 1886 and lived in northwest Portland. When she was about twelve, either because of a fall or scarlet fever (history is slippery) she became paralyzed and could only get around by wheelchair.

Since her house was a typical Victorian with steep, narrow stairs, Helen spend most of the rest of her life in her upstairs bedroom. When she got older, she started taking in sewing work that she could do from home. Her sewing machine was set up by the window so she could look out.

She started writing poetry, mostly about her work and what she saw happening on the street outside her window. Her poems became well known, and were published in The Nation and Sunset, among many others. Her poems were praised and “true” and “poignant”.

Hazel died in 1924 at the age of 38. Her home, at 106 NW 22nd in Portland, still stands and is on the National Register of Public Places. There is a small park next door, and seems like a good place for us to visit,once we can go out and visit.

I love learning new things about my wonderful city. I hope you get to come see me real soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Fairy Gardens

Dear Liza,

I have told you about our Rose Gardens, our Japanese and Chinese Gardens, but did you know Portland has Fairy Gardens?

They are harder to find than the City gardens, but this may be on purpose. Fairy-folk are a bit shy among us Big’uns, so these tiny marvels are not mentioned in any city guidebook. When walking through neighborhoods, you have to keep your eyes open and look down amongst the rocks and hedges. The telltale signs are pebbles in a curvy line, an over-large mushroom, or tiny doors leading into hillsides.

Another thing that makes Fairy Gardens hard to find is that they are so small. An entire community of fairies can fit in even a Portland sized yard, tucked between rose bushes and towering dahlias.

Dragons chatting with Fairy folk in the Northeast

I love finding Fairy Gardens all over our city. Clearly, fairy-folk only establish their gardens among sympathetic, gentle humans, and I like that Portland has been given the Fairyfolk stamp of approval.

A thriving village in the Southeast

Also, I think fairies are wise gardeners. They know enough to leave the giant trees alone, focussing on the tiny weeds that can choke a flowerbed. They encourage the ladybugs, bees, and butterflies in their efforts to keep the flowers safe and healthy.

Cousin Kestrel is very helpful to our local fairies

I hope you can come visit soon, so we can go find some Fairy Gardens together.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Our Fourth

Dear Liza,

I saw that you had a walk along the lovely coast at Monterey and even a barbecue with your mom and dad. Here, we all went for nice long walks through the old, tree filled Laurelhurst neighborhood.

Fourth of July in Laurelhurst

The flowers are so beautiful and the yards kept so pretty, it is almost like some house and garden tour. Houses here were built from 1917 to about the 1950s, so there is a lot of variety, and the lots are steep because every house had a big cellar. The trees grow fat and wide and make lovely shaded walk.

Dahlias that look like fireworks…

We had a nice big bowl of soba noodle soup for dinner, and started watching an old Jimmy Stewart movie called “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” about an idealistic young man learning, and doing something, about corruption in government. In about the middle of the movie, I wanted to walk out to see if I could find the lunar eclipse. It would only be visible during moonrise. My wonderful people agreed to pause the movie and we headed out.

Weird, funny, true poster….

We saw this poster, which is funny and true and sort of sad at the same time, and we saw (and heard!) folks setting of fireworks, but we never got to see the moonrise. The same trees that make us love Portland so much make it hard to see the horizon.

Out of hundreds that heard, the only ones we saw

We got home and finished the movie, with Jimmy Stewart (guided and inspired by Jean Arthur) giving a filibuster in the Senate and smashing the political machine that was running his state. Right triumphed, evil was stopped, and all was well.

Jimmy Stewart, fighting corruption

It was hard to fall asleep, because the fireworks were so LOUD they shook the windows. After weeks of seeing video of political protests with some buildings set in fire, it was hard to relax.

Jean Arthur and Thomas Mitchell help out

If we are, as some people say, in a revolution, I imagine we may be hearing more of these disturbing sounds.

Sigh. Big fat sigh.

Love,

Grandma Judy

….And, We’re Back to Rain

Dear Liza,

I like to think of myself as a good sport. You know, going along, making accommodations, not letting things bug me. But darn it, it’s mid-June and it’s still raining. Every day!

My brain wants some sunshine, real, warm sunshine, not the damp glow we’ve been getting. I did get out for a walk yesterday, however, to take pictures and get my miles in, and found some things.

Cloudy artichoke silhouette

The grey skies gave me interesting silhouettes of a giant artichoke plant.

A hired flock of plastic pink flamingoes wished someone a Happy Birthday.

Someone got flocked!

And, always looking for perspective, I met Mr. Carl Zipple and his wife, Emma, at Lone Fir Cemetery. I’m sure they were nice folks and I hope people didn’t give them too much grief about their name.

The Late, great, Zipples

And that’s all for now.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Weather or Not, We’re Going!!

Dear Liza,

Monterey, when it’s cold,

Every year, for my birthday, I go to the beach. In Southern California, where I grew up, it was always, always sunny. When we lived in Salinas, the beach at Monterey was often cloudy or even rainy and cold in March. I didn’t care. I went and walked in the wind and rain, loving the ocean. I’m sure it loved me right back, too.

And when it shines!

This year we were shut down for my birthday, and Grandpa Nelson’s, too. We were both missing the ocean a lot, but all the Oregon coastal beaches have been closed to keep people from congregating and risk spreading the virus. Even when the beach towns like Cannon Beach opened, they asked people from Portland NOT to come, because Portland still had too many cases.

Portland during the shutdown…

But now, our county and city are opening up! Restaurants are washing windows and setting up tables. And since our city is healthy, we don’t feel as though we are endangering the places we visit the lovely Oregon Coast.

The only problem is that we are now in the middle of our “second winter”. We had bright skies and warm sunshine weeks ago, custom made for long walks and taking pictures. Now, we have had three days of rain and cooler temperatures.

Storm clouds coming!

I don’t care! Tomorrow, we pack up Miles, our midnight blue Volkswagen Golf, with coats, umbrellas and boots, and head off for the beach!

Hooray!!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sunny Walk, New Things

Dear Liza,

We had some errands to do yesterday, so Auntie Bridgett and I went for a nice long walk. And since all the places we needed to go were down on Hawthorne, we saw how that street is changing during the lockdown.

One of our gnomes, lurking in the ferns….

We saw that Chez Machin, a lovely French bistro type place, has changed its name to Frog and Snail. I am hoping it is just a name change and the owners are the same. They are nice folks, and too many people are losing their livelihoods because of the shutdown. We will have a taste of their frogs and snails when the city opens up more.

Chez Machin is now Frog and Snail

We still found a lot of businesses closed, but the art and messaging is beautiful and hopeful. I took pictures as a way of holding tight onto goodness and love.

I have been so dismayed these last few days at the level of anger and violence that has swept over Portland and the rest of the country that I sometimes just want to curl up and sleep until all the hatred has passed.

But love, beauty and just plain human goodness are making themselves heard, too. And that gives me comfort.

Yep, just that.

After dropping off dry cleaning and mailing packages, we stopped at Hawthorne Liquor. Auntie Bridgett is on a mission to find a certain kind of yummy cognac that we had on an Air France flight, years ago. We have yet to find it anywhere in the city. But I did have time to wonder at this improbable bottle of pear brandy!

How did they DO that?

On the way home we stopped at Whole Bowl for lunch, which we ate while sitting on the chairs outside the temporarily closed Common Grounds coffee shop. We stopped at Chase bank to return someone’s lost credit card, and enjoyed some more street art.

Big smiles come from small stickers!

By the time we got home, we had walked nearly three miles! I felt pretty accomplished, after these long months of too much sofa-sitting. Maybe we can put ourselves out of this hole, after all.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Out… and then Down

Dear Liza,

Lovely blooms whose names escapes me…

This week I took advantage of a sunny day and went out for a short walk. It’s good to see that even with most folks inside, the rhododendrons and trilliums are open for Spring. The smell of jasmine makes invisible patches of sweetness that catch you by surprise.

Trillium!

There are still quite a few joggers and dog walkers in the park, and it’s not always possible to properly socially distance, so we walk in the neighborhood. Many folks have taken to crossing the street mid-block to avoid too-close contact, and there is usually a smile or friendly wave that goes with this, acknowledging each other but staying safe. People can be pretty darn wonderful.

Someone’s gift to a venerable tree

We are continuing to be careful but I may have caught a touch of the bug. Grandpa Nelson went out for groceries yesterday because I was feeling really tired, and Auntie Bridgett is just getting over a nasty spell of fatigue.

We are good at taking care of each other. Lots of ginger tea, fruits and veggies, and quiet time for naps will pull us through.

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Long, Sunny (!) Walk

Dear Liza,

Much appreciated winter sun

Yesterday, we got a break in the weather. It was actually sunny for five hours! Grandpa Nelson wanted a long walk, and I went along.

Broadway Books celebrates local authors

We headed north over the Banfield Freeway and up to Helen Bernhardt Bakery for doughnuts and cinnamon rolls, then crossed the street into Broadway Books. This is a new bookstore for me. Last year it hosted Michelle Obama for a reading and signing of her book, “Becoming”. It must have been crowded!

Sometimes you just need a laugh

The shop was bright and featured local authors, including this posters for the movie “Wild”, signed by author Cheryl Strayed. There were also books out that parody President Trump.

Continuing down Broadway and planning to cross the Steel bridge, we came upon Kitchen Kaboodle, a fancy kitchen shop. “Would they have your things?” Grandpa Nelson asked. I have been looking for new baking pans to fit the new silpats I got for Christmas.

They did, and we bought them! Of course, they were heavy, so we redirected. Instead of crossing the bridge and bussing home, we took a different path and walked home.

We went through Lloyd Center, which was built in 1960 and has an ice skating rink that has been used by thousands of kids and grownups, including local Olympic contender Tonya Harding.

Lloyd Center Skating Rink
The next Olympic contender?
Well, of course!

Grandpa Nelson got some delicious Carmelcorn from Joe Brown’s, the oldest shop in the mall. It was here when the mall opened! The current owner is Joe’s daughter.

View of downtown while crossing Sullivan’s Gulch


We passed Benson Polytechnic Institute, a high school built in 1916 with funds donated by local lumberman and philanthropist Simon Benson. He is the fellow who gave all those water bubblers to the city. There is even in in front of the school!

Benson bubbler in front of Benson Polytechnic

We stopped at the food carts on the way home to have a sit down and get something to drink, then Grandpa Nelson headed home (carrying the heavy baking sheets) and I went to get my hair cut at Yen’s.

By the time I got home, I had walked six miles! Not bad for an old Grandma.

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Long Walk to Bipartisanship

Dear Liza,

Mt. Tabor in the clouds…

As you may know, there is a trial going on in the Senate to decide whether President Trump should be removed from his office. The Democrats have argued that using the influence of the most powerful position in the world to force a weaker country to do your political bidding is wrong. The Republicans disagree.

There are a lot of negative feelings about it. We worry about how our country is seen in the world and how this may change how we are governed. Grandpa Nelson decided that the remedy for this worry was a nice, long walk to The Bipartisan Cafe. There was a solid rain coming down, but no wind, and about 50 degrees…. pleasant for this time of year. So I said, “Sure!”

We walked East on Belmont, past lovely old house that is being restored, and up onto the shoulder of Mt. Tabor.

I was thinking about how homeowners living here must battle to keep their houses secure against the elements when I saw this, a garage that is almost completely hidden by ivy. I guess sometimes, the battle is lost.

Lost garage!

Further up the hill, we found this delightful mosaic covered tiny library! The roof, glass door and tile exterior make it beautiful and weather proof. It was a joy to see.

Little library…

When we had worked up a bit of a sweat inside our coats, we reached to top of Belmont Street. There was the paved road down, or an “unimproved road”… guess which we took?

unimproved road… nice!

Yep. It was a bit muddy, but delightfully rustic. Tall trees and shrubs leaned over picnic tables and little yards. This would be heaven in the summer.

We headed down the East face of the Mountain into the quaint neighborhood of Montavilla. It used to be called “Mount Tabor Village”, but the name was too long to fit on the streetcars. They shortened it, and the name stuck.

Gnomes!

Enjoying the window displays (gnomes!), we finally arrived at our destination, three miles from home. We were damp but victorious. And there was pie!

Inside the Bipartisan Cafe… photo by Bridgett Spicer

The Bipartisan Cafe is decorated with old political posters, from John Tyler’s presidential run to John Kennedy’s campaign in the 1960s. It is funky, comfy, delicious, and feels very much like home. It was busy, but we were able to find a small couch all to ourselves, and enjoyed tea and pie.

As we sat there, we realized that our feet were chilly, that it was still raining, and that it was another three miles back home.

Waiting for the Magic 15

We are adventurous, not foolish! We took the bus.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Finding Common Ground(s)

Dear Liza,

Finding companionship over coffee

It is still chilly here, but we haven’t had rain for a few days. On Tuesday, we took advantage for the dry spell to get out for a walk. Auntie Bridgett wanted to spend some time in a comfy coffee house, Grandpa Nelson wanted a tasty snack, and I just wanted to get out of the house.

Eastside walkway between Taylor and Salmon

We bundled up with scarves and gloves, because it was only about 46 degrees. We wandered through the neighborhood, seeing the winter trees and noticing all the small, promising signs of spring on the way.

Daffodil buds starting to swell

We walked a mile to Common Grounds down on Hawthorne near 43rd Street and found just the comfy coffee house that Auntie Bridgett was looking for. It was busy but not loud, and had an interesting variety of tables, chairs and sofas. People sat alone, reading or working on laptop computers, or in pairs for quiet conversation. The electronic music was at background levels and very pleasant.

Friendly, busy barista

We enjoyed coffee, Fire Tea (a spicy turmeric and cayenne blend), and a delightfully chewy Squirrel Bar. Grandpa Nelson didn’t see what he wanted, so he went half a block down to Zach’s Shack for French fries, and came back and joined us for coffee when he was done.

The remains of the afternoon

It was nice, in the dark chill of winter, to be out among our fellow Portlanders. After a nice long visit, we walked home to make dinner.

Threshold mosaic at Common Grounds

Love,

Grandma Judy