Wednesday was the first day of human-level temperatures since our historic heat wave began. We woke up to cloud cover, cool air and even a bit of dampness. It felt wonderful.
I went to the garden early. My friend Tonya gave me one of her parsley plants, and I planted it between my radishes and lettuce. My garden is doing well, even though it isn’t as tall as the other ones. They have five foot tall trellises and arbors hanging with peas and beans. I have a magnificent beast of a zucchini.
I walked around Laurelhurst Park for the first time in a week, enjoying the cool green, the ducks, and all the people out doing their people thing. Tai c’hi classes, guitar practice, dog parties….. it was life as normal, out on the grass.
After a morning of sewing, French lessons, crossword puzzles and cartooning, the three of us headed off to Grandpa Nelson’s favorite lunch spot, Zach’s Shack. Auntie Bridgett got to go because she isn’t working at the SideStreet Arts gallery anymore. Her new comic strip, AuntieBeeswax, allows her more flexibility with her time.
We ate hot dogs and fries, and, since the sun had come out, appreciated the icy cold sodas.
Then came ping pong! Zach’s back patio has a table and enough hard surfaces that even if the ball misses the table, you can keep it in play. We get a little nuts sometimes, and it is fun!
We played until we were played out, then walked home by way of the Taylor Street chickens. The day had warmed up to 88 degrees and we were happy for the air conditioning.
This heat wave was bad. It send a lot of folks to the hospital. We need to figure out how to help our planet heal so we can all be well.
Let me tell you about an afternoon with a dear friend.
I first met Misha Moon a few years ago, helping your Auntie Katie set up her bookshop, BookswithPictures. Auntie Katie liked her very much, and it turned out, Misha and I liked each other, too. We have shared stories and pictures and marveled at our own progress through life.
Last March, just before the Corona virus shut everything down, we talked all afternoon at The Rocking Frog, a wonderful place that has since closed up shop. It turned out to be the last ‘friend date’ either of us had for over a year.
And this week, Misha and I had coffee together again. This time we met on a very rainy afternoon under the street-side covered patio of Albina Press Coffee shop on Hawthorne.
I got caught up on her news, and she on mine. We listened, shared, celebrated and sympathized. But mostly, we got to be a part of each other’s lives for a few hours. We got to see each other smile and watch the other person’s eyes sparkle as they laughed. We got to be people together.
Friday was my 65th birthday, and I had made a short list of things I wanted to do. I got to do (very nearly) all of them!
I came down to breakfast to find my Hundred Acre Wood wishing me a Happy Birthday, and Auntie Bridgett and I did Duolingo french practice, like always. Grandpa Nelson came down and I got lots of birthday hugs. It was predicted to be a rainy, blowy day, but it wasn’t going to keep me locked in.
Auntie Bridgett and I walked the mile or so down to Pix Patisserie on Burnside. Along the way, we found a huge pile of tiles, apparently the leftovers from a going-out-business shop, neatly piled on the curb. On top were three that would be perfect stepping stones for our allotment! Auntie Bridgett hefted them into a strong canvas bag we had taken ‘just in case’ and we proceeded to the patisserie.
I have intended to try some of their pastry since we moved to Portland, but it has always felt too far away, or was too crowded. During Covid, they have installed two refrigerated, high-end vending machines that allow folks to shop for pastries or fancy canned goods with zero contact! Along the way I had a nice phone chat with my niece Lyn, who was born on my 11th birthday.
We enjoyed the adventure, being mindful of the guard-gnomes, of course. Inside the little automat doors were RBG masks, a canned survival kit (with waterproof matches, three yards of cord, and other useful things) and canned mussels in vinegar, to name a very few. But we were there for the pastries!
After reading the illustrated menu, I chose the Jane Avril almond cake with raspberries, and Auntie Bridgett got the Amelie, a chocolate and hazelnut delight. We placed these in a second bag and walked home, battling the rain and the gusty winds.
We dropped off the heavy stepping stones and ate grilled cheese and onion sandwiches for lunch. Then I opened my presents! A delightful Shakespearean insult mug from your family and a jigsaw puzzle made from one of Gia Whitlock’s wonderful paintings, from Auntie Bridgett.
After some rest, we had the second part of the day. I will tell you about that tomorrow!
You knew that it was only a matter of time before we headed to the Portland Nursery, right? With Spring only a month away and a spot in the community garden waiting for us, Auntie Bridgett and I headed off to see what we could see.
It is still cold here… it was jacket and gloves weather as we walked the mile and a half to Portland Nursery on Stark. Patches of snow still shivered, bunched up under trees and beside stairways, and even in the nursery itself!
Portland Nursery has had a year to get Covid protocols in place, and have done a fine job. One way traffic lanes, arrows on the ground, and limited people inside the buildings help keep everyone safe while letting us gear up for garden season.
Of course, most of the nursery shelves are empty at this time of year, but everyone was finding what they wanted. These folks choosing a quince bush were happy to tell me about their spring expectations. “It is grafted!” They said. “It has red, pink and white blossoms on each branch!” I am excited for them!
We hunted up seeds for our garden plot, trying to find small species so we can have more variety. Little Finger carrots, Black Beauty zucchini, Salad Bowl lettuce, tiny Parisian Gherkin cucumbers, Cherry Belle radishes, and Sugar Pie pumpkin seeds all came home in my sack! We didn’t buy tomatoes or sunflowers yet…. I want to do more research and find the best growers for our damp city.
On our way home, the wind was picking up, bringing us rain for the coming week. We saw a crow up in her last-year’s nest, plucking out leaves and getting it just right for spring.
See? I’m not the only one who is anxious for winter to be over!
For the last few days, we have been in a river…. an atmospheric river, to be exact. This is a system of very wet air that has blown up from the tropics, bumped into our cold air, and is just dumping water like crazy. This is a lot of rain, even for drippy Portland.
So of course we went for a walk to lovely Laurelhurst Park. The hillsides are muddy and very slick, so I stayed on the path. The last thing I need from 2020 is a busted bottom. The puddles forming by the path made perfect mirrors to appreciate the majestic trees and gray skies.
Firwood Lake has had a particularly thick layer of duckweed this year, looking more like a soccer field in some areas. But at the east end, a surreal swirly effect is finding new ways to be beautiful.
And just as I thought the swirly green and black water couldn’t get more weirdly beautiful, a raindrop plopped in and created concentric circles.
Life is beautiful, even (or maybe especially) in the rain.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I spent quite a lot of time on the bridge, soaking up the breeze and the sunshine.
During the shutdown, we are having to find new ways to keep busy and make the days fun. We are reading, painting, and learning. And sometimes, we go on a picnic!
Friday was National Teddy Bear Picnic Day, believe it or not. It was also the first really warm day here in Portland. So we celebrated.
Auntie Bridgett and I packed up easy picnic food like hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and celery, goat cheese and blueberries, and a few cookies. We also packed blankets and my guitar, and tiny dishes. And of course, the bears. Not ALL the bears, for sure, but four wonderful friends.
We carried our provisions and our friends up to Laurelhurst Park. We have seen the park be very busy, and we wanted a quiet spot where we could be distanced. We found a high bank above the main walkway, where we could see but not be too close to anyone. We set up a big blanket and real food for us, and a tiny blanket and pretend food (well, mostly drink) for the bears.
As we enjoyed our shady supper, a few folks came by and took notice. It was fun to make people smile at our silliness.
When we had eaten, Auntie Bridgett and I tried singing The Teddy Bears Picnic song, written in 1907 by Irish Songwriter Jimmy Flannigan. It was the first time we’ve played and sung together in over a year, and we were rusty. But the bears didn’t complain and we got better before we quit, so that’s something.
“If you go down in the woods today,
You’re sure of a big surprise,
If you go down in the woods today,
You’d better go in disguise…”
We even had a bee visiter who enjoyed the clovers right by our feet!
It was actually starting to get a little cool by then, and the sun was thinking about going down, so we packed up and headed home.
As the Corona shut down continues into summer, the world outside continues to get more beautiful day by day. We have had an unusually cool summer so far in Portland. I remember our first summer here, with temperatures of 111 degrees for a few days, and am grateful that we are enjoying mostly mid-70s . This, plus a few random showers, have made the flowers very happy.
Being inside most of the time, I have tried my hand at water coloring different types of flowers. I started with daisies and moved onto sunflowers, shading them with colored pencils as needed. The other day I found a great picture of some coneflowers online, and worked to paint them.
I was pleased with my first attempt, and am working on my second. The slight tremor in my right hand isn’t getting in my way as much as I expected and I am feeling more confident.
Then yesterday, or our way to the market, we met this fabulous specimen! A real, live coneflower! I took her picture and will use it for my next attempt.
Art imitating life imitating art imitating life….. It’s a perfect cycle.
Yesterday we got to do something normal! That is, something we have done since we have lived in Portland. We drove out to pick blueberries on Sauvie Island. Sauvie Island is the largest island in the Columbia River, and is a big dollop of farms and wild area just minutes from downtown Portland.
To get there, we crossed to the west bank of the giant Willamette River, drove north a bit, and then crossed the tiny Multnomah Channel, and there we were. Pastoral paradise.
Now, of course there were accommodations for Covid-19. We all wore masks, kept our distance, and used the farm’s boxes to keep from giving them any of our germs.
But the picking was the same. Pulling pounds of juicy berries off bushes, planning the dozens of cobblers and muffins, is very satisfying, in a hunter-gatherer sort of way.
Among the bushes, we listened to parents chat with their kids and smiled at our first post-Covid babies. We watched dozens of swallows swoop low to get berries, only slightly discouraged by the broadcast hawk shrieks. We reveled in just being outdoors, being part of the world. As the box filled up, we picked slower, not wanting our time to end.
There is so much of Sauvie Island we haven’t seen yet. There is a nature preserve full of water birds. There are farms that specialize in Marionberries.
But eventually, the call of lunch got too loud to tune out, and we needed to head off. Of course, this lead to another adventure! More tomorrow.