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

Hoyt Arboretum, Part 1

Dear Liza,

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Heading west into town

On the first day of 2019, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I drove west across the Willamette, through downtown, and out the other side, up into Washington Park. I have been there many times, to see the Zoo, the Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Children’s Museum, even the Holocaust Memorial last summer. But this time we headed for the Hoyt Arboretum.

An arboretum is like a zoo for trees, if you think about it. The trees are planted near others like them and are labeled so you know what they are and where they are from. Of course, the trees stay where they are put, so they don’t need fences. It felt more like a forest. An icy cold, bright, sunshiny  forest.

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Frosty Lace

Grandpa Nelson had done some looking and found something labeled “The Winter Garden” in the arboretum. He knew I liked gardens, and it’s winter…. so we headed there. It was still 37 degrees F, so there was a pretty lacy edge of frost on everything. Even the weeds by the parking lot were pretty.

The trees that lose their leaves already have, leaving beautiful stark branches against the blinding blue sky. I want to capture those shapes, somehow. Maybe with some nice thin lines of embroidery somewhere.

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Squirrels, chubbing out

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Lovely delicate branches

We saw two squirrels sitting on maple branches that seemed too thin to support them, methodically eating the seeds one by one and dropping the husks. Grandpa Nelson said they should keep eating until the branch breaks, because then they will know they are fat enough!

The Winter Garden is really a very small part of the arboretum and there were some little lily sort of flowers blooming, which is unusual in January. The label was too small for me to read. The ferns were frosty and there was the tiniest creek running through by them.

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Flowers in January!

Down a hill past the Redwood Deck, where a wedding was being held, the trees got taller. Cedars, redwoods and pines towered overhead. We felt as tiny as rabbits.

I will tell you more about the arboretum tomorrow.

Love, Grandma Judy

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Feeling very small….

Christmas Walks

Dear Liza,

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Azaleas in December!

I know I will have lots of Christmas pictures to share with you, but they will come tomorrow. Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk to the market (who knew we didn’t have any tomato paste?) and saw some lovely things. A friendly cat came out to check our credentials.

 

We saw another cat in a window, looking very warm and cozy, while this hummingbird mocked her from the top of a very bare tree. There was also n early blooming azalea making the world pretty.

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Hummingbird being still

 

 

We talked to a man about the tree by his door, which is blooming, in mid-winter. He said it is called a viburnum, and that he planted it precisely because in the cold dark, it would bloom and smell sweetly. There is also a Daphne bush, which we have by our front door! I look forward to all the lovely scents coming soon.

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Viburnum

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And by Sunnyside School, we found this posting of neighborhood friendliness. We just took one, because we already feel pretty full of love, with family, friends, home and hearth so close.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Falling into Winter

Dear Liza,

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Firwood Lake at sunset

I am so happy to be back in Portland after our trip to Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, all the water is pumped in and does what it is told. Fountains. Swimming pools. A tiny green oasis here and there.

But in Portland, the water comes of its own accord, from the rains and rivers, wandering about with its own agenda. It is planned for, accommodated, and appreciated.

Our Firwood Lake in Laurelhurst Park is a natural low spot in the park, and catches all the water that falls in our lovely, hundred year old  forest. The Park planners were wise enough to use the environment rather than fight it, to make the lake a focal point and ecosystem instead of a muddy ball field.

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Graced by a gingko

The leaves are still falling, but the trees are running out. The small building in Laurelhurst Park, which houses the bathrooms and maintenance office, is graced by the nearby gingko tree.

In the neighborhood, Christmas is going up in eccentric ways. This Japanese maple tree’s leaves haven’t been raked in two years…but it has lights. img_1964.jpeg

This majestic house, which we can see across Cesar Chavez Boulevard through the now-bare trees, has very conservative decorations, which seems suitable to its old fashioned style.

Waiting to see what happens next!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Frozen Fog Forest

Dear Liza,

Today the snow started melting. There was a little rain and the temperature was predicted to get all the way up to 45 degrees! I had lots of work to do inside after all of our company, so I was happy to stay in and be warm.

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Snow and leaves

By the afternoon, however, Auntie Bridgett was ready for a walk, so I went with her.

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Icy Steps at Laurelhurst Park

We hadn’t been to Laurelhurst Park since the snow, because we didn’t want to slip on the ice…but we figured by now it would be gone…right? Well, not so much. There were lots of clear paths, but lots of ice, too. Some places it was very slippery and easier to walk by the bushes, where the dirt made a soft, but muddy, path.

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Dog and people at Laurelhurst Park

The fog was so beautiful between the trees and down in the ravine part of the park. There were several people out, playing with their dogs or just walking…even a young man jogging, over the ice, IN SHORTS! Some people are a little crazy, I think.

The trees were dripping from all the snow and ice that had been stuck on their branches, which got my hat wet, but I didn’t mind.

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Lamppost for Mr. Tumnus….

As it turned out, the temperature never got above 37, and will get below freezing again tonight, so the water and slush will probably re-freeze and be scary and slippery again. I am glad I got out today.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Solstice Morning

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the beginning of winter. It was 30 degrees at 8 in the morning. So of course I went for a walk.

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Freezing Fog

Two scarves, sweater, coat, fuzzy hat and gloves made the walking pleasant.

Our own tiny front yard has become soft and green with moss, and this morning it had a frosty white coating on it, so delicate it melted away when I breathed on it. There wasn’t enough water around to freeze puddles, except for a tiny bit near a lamp post.

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Frosty moss

By the time I walked around the neighborhood, the frost was fading.

I noticed this very happy, mossy stepping stone in a yard, not far from some tiny pansies which ares till blooming in spite of the cold. These flowers are tougher than they look.

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Love,

Grandma Judy

Crows!

Dear Liza,

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Resting flock

The other day I was noticing the tiny birds who somehow make a living during this cold weather. They eat seeds from the thousands of trees and bushes in the neighborhood. The bigger birds make a living, too, eating pretty much anything they can find. Pizza boxes, unfortunate critters, and fruit still on the tree make up a fine diet for them.

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Lone Crow

This morning, I could not help but notice the crows! Living as we do between the forest of Laurelhurst Park and the Lone Fir Cemetery (which now has hundreds of trees, not just the one), we have more than our share of crows.

 

This morning, they were so loud I had a look out the window.

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Murder of Crows!

 

I don’t know if you know this, but there is a special word for a flock of crows: It is called a MURDER. That being the case, we had multiple murders on our street this morning.

Just another wonderful day in Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy