Diversions

Dear Liza,

it is still rainy here in Portland. If it isn’t raining at any given minute, it has just stopped or will soon start. Such is winter here.

The neighborhood is full of things to see…like this tiny frozen pond up on Ankeny.

Fishing frog and his frozen plastic friends

We get out every day for a walk. But these aren’t the five mile leisurely strolls of summer. Yesterday I put on four layers plus a coat, gloves and fuzzy hat to walk to the market. Grandpa Nelson bundled up to get a haircut. Auntie Bridgett shivered to and from the gallery.

Inspiration and direction

But I keep busy. I am falling back in love with my story. I am making Gingernuts from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible for a brunch at the SideStreet Arts Gallery.

And yesterday I played a Scrabble game all by myself. Not a regular game, but one where I set out to make a pattern on the board. It was inspired by our accidental, real-game situation where we used only HALF the board. “What other patterns could I make?” I asked.

Our real-game accidental pattern…

Each turn is a legal turn and the words are all real words. I had to shift a few letters, but otherwise played by the rules. And I got this .

My solo game, planned pattern.

Like I said, the fun never stops.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Winter Fibonacci

Dear Liza,

Snow has been predicted a few times this month, and we always end up with rain instead. Don’t get me wrong, I like our rain. After years in Salinas with just barely enough, our raging downpours make me very happy.

But snow would be special. This morning we saw a few flakes, and I bundled up to go out….by the time I had my pants on, it was over. Sigh.

Chilly reflections

Still, I am still having fun with Fibonacci syllables. Here’s the latest:

Cold

Wet

Outside

Not for me

I can hibernate

Discover my inner grizzley

Nap with the cat, eat bread with jam

Until spring makes good

Her promise

Of sun,

Warmth,

Light

Love,

Grandma Judy

Grey Skies

Dear Liza,

Jonquils, jumping the gun

January is always a hard month here in Portland. The bright, food-and family filled holidays are past, but spring is months away, and it can feel like a very long road.

Bergenias love the rain and cold

We had a thumping rain storm the other night. It actually woke me up! But come morning the rain had stopped. Since I am mostly over my cold, I got bundled up and went to the park.

Camellia, having a peek

I wasn’t alone! There were dozens of folks walking around….some with their big fluffy dogs, some with kids on tiny bikes or babies in strollers, some tossing handfuls of frozen peas to the ducks. Everyone was chatty and seemed to be celebrating being OUT among their fellow humans. January can feel a bit like a jail sentence to be waited out.

The fellows who seemed to be enjoying the day most were these two, working on their j’ai alai moves. The older fellow stood pretty still, flinging the ball in all directions, while the younger played the part of a Labrador retriever, dashing and catching. It seemed the perfect cure for the January blues.

I spent an hour at the park, looking for bits of color. I found a few of these signs of the coming spring, but I am not fooled. It will be a long, wet, chilly haul. We will have to make our own sunshine.

Forsythia, I think…

Love,

Grandma Judy

Heading Towards the Solstice

Dear Liza,

It is getting dark really early here. This coming Saturday will be the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day (and longest night) of the year. Yesterday, it was pitch dark at 4:30. I am missing those long warm days of summer!

But winter has its own charms. Hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps… snuggling Mousekin by the fire… and the colors I see when I make myself get off the sofa, into three layers of clothes, and into the park.

There are just a few plants that are still green. Out-of-place transplants like magnolias and fuchsias look embarrassed, like they got into the party under false pretenses. Pines and firs keep their needles. Maples and birches drop their leaves in a well practiced dance. And ivy just hangs around, leaves intact, like it hasn’t noticed it is winter. Like if the ivy just ignores it long enough, winter will go away.

And guess what? This strategy works!

Every single year, the winter eventually GOES AWAY! So, I will try to emulate the ivy. Lay low, hunker down, and out last the winter.

Peppermint schnapps will help, I have no doubt.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Squirrel Love

Dear Liza,

I know there are squirrels where you live in Salinas, but here in Portland, they really seem to be everywhere!

They hop across the roads like little flying grey rainbows, dash up and around trees like the police are chasing them, and use the telephone wires as freeways.

Having his say…

The other day on my way home from the park, I saw this fellow sitting on the roof of a house, making that chittering noise squirrels do when they are mad at some one or some thing. I was the only one around, so I guess it was me.

Showing off!

He chittered at me for a while, and when I started to move away, he ran to the peak of the roof, as if to show off his agility. “I can climb, clumsy human, and you are stuck on the ground!” He seemed to say.

Silly squirrels.

Love, Grandma Judy

Wintery Thoughts

Dear Liza,

Mousekin, wondering why I am not being her lap.

The winter cold has always appealed to me, bundling up and going out to feel the chill on my face, and looking at the lights. But this year, as much as I am trying to maintain my adventurous spirit, it feels like winter is turning me into a bear. Not a grouchy bear, just an I-want-to-eat-everything-and-Stay-Inside sort of Bear.

Auntie Bridgett has put up the decorations in the house, and they make very pretty scenes…. gnomes by the tv, Santa cookie jars by the philodendron, and even Ellen Hughes’ little needlepoint village on the windowsill. “Stay in and look at us,” they say. “You don’t need to go outside.”

Pretty decorations from Russia

My still-in-progress story calls me to the computer. “Come edit this mess,” it says softly. “It will be wonderful, but right now, Chapter 20 doesn’t make sense.”

Mousekin the cat looks accusingly at me. “If you get up,” she asks, “who will be my lap?”

Tasty food calls to my bear tummy. “How often do you make really good cornbread?” it asks. “Come have some more, with butter, and then we’ll make cookies!”

Playing with my food…

I know my teacher colleagues are dealing with over-excited students. I know my own children are parenting their hearts out and working hard at jobs they are incredibly good at. But today, I just want to bake. And maybe nap.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Winter Comes Dripping In

Dear Liza,

I know winter doesn’t really start until December 21st, but it feels like it has already landed here in Portland.

The leaves have fallen from most of the maples. The ginkgoes are still blazing yellow, as if trying to hold off winter’s arrival. But it is cold. It is dark. And it is wet.

Inside where it is warm and dry, we are planning for Thanksgiving. The turkey will be bought pre-cooked from New Seasons Markets but the rest will be homemade…two potatoes, two breads, and maybe three pies, as Auntie Katie has offered two!! And cookies, of course.

Evenings are long now that it gets dark at five o’clock. I have gotten fabric out for another ‘Circles’ pillow. I’ve gotten some books from the library to read to help me with my Teacher Voice problem.

Scrabble games are a regular thing. Last night’s went wrong in a spectacular way….we managed to play ourselves into a corner and almost couldn’t finish!

And, although it seems a bit premature, Christmas movies are being listed, researched and pulled from their boxes. The Bishop’s Wife and Charlie Brown, We’re No Angels and way too many of the Christmas Carols. We have our priorities, after all.

We are ready for winter!

Love,

Grandma Judy