Archive for the ‘Autumn in Oysterville’ Category

Here in Oysterville — Duck for Dinner!

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

Hunters Chris and Larry Freshley

I couldn’t have been more pleased when I answered the door yesterday.  There was my neighbor Chris holding a zip-lock bag of pure Willapa Bay Goodness.  Duck!  All breasted out and ready to prepare for dinner!  It was a déjà vu, of sorts, to the days when he and his brother Larry were kids here and my grandparents were the recipients of occasional gifts of hunting bounty.  Later, it was my folks’ who were on the receiving end.  And now us!!!

There was a time (when we lived in our bay house south of here) that Nyel went duck hunting each fall.  Over the years, our little vestibule had its share of ducks hanging in wait and Nyel’s duck dinners were fabulous.  Too, our next-door neighbor in those days, Dobby, was (and remains) the King of the Duck Hunters and watching his well-trained dogs do their job was one of the pleasures of the fall season.  Nyel and I sorely miss that part of our lives – not the part between bringing the ducks home and seasoning the breasts for dinner, though.  Chris’s arrival with that zip-lock bag was like a visit from a God of the Hunt!

Duck Hunter Dobby

Hunting season here in Oysterville is one of the most nostalgic times of the year for me.  Hearing that pop-pop-pop of gunfire out on the bay is all tied up with the traditions of our Oysterville lifestyle.  My great-grandfather hunted out there – as a necessity, not a sport.  His sons, including my grandfather Harry, the same.  Harry’s sons Edwin and Willard, ditto.  And once-upon-a-time, Nyel.  When I told Chris that we were especially grateful because Nyel’s hunting days are probably over, his (typically guy) response was, “All he needs is a good retriever.”  Music to Nyel’s dog-deprived (he thinks) ears!

I know that some of our neighbors take umbrage with the duck-hunting out on the bay.  I’m not sure whether it’s an environmental/ecological sort of concern or a belief in a no-kill policy or a vegan thing.  I respect their right to those feelings – whatever they are – but this is Oysterville, after all.  Far less populated (if it’s a safety issue) than ever in its history, and a place where hunting has been part of the landscape (so to speak) since the beginning.  When the time comes that none of Oysterville’s residents have deep roots in the community – no genetic tendencies toward hunting on the bay – perhaps that will be the time to speak out.  Meanwhile… let’s hear it for duck dinners right from our front forty!

Coming Soon!

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Rosas (Courtesy Gladys Diaz)

It’s hard for me to think of myself or my neighbors as “activists” but, I guess that is what interested, trying-to-help citizens are called these days.  The term seems too strident to my old-fashioned ears.  I’m not one to carry signs and gather in groups on the streets of the capital – or even on the streets of Long Beach.  But I do want to speak out.  To build awareness.  To effect change.  So… I write.

Last summer and into fall, I interviewed members of our Hispanic community – victims and their families who have been under siege by ICE.  There have been nearly 50 arrests here on the Long Beach Peninsula in the last year or so – a higher per-capita number than in any other part of our state.  Why here?  Why these hard-working men and women trying to provide for their families here and, often, for their relatives in poverty-stricken areas of Mexico?  Why?  They are not the “criminals” our new president promised to round up.  Not the people I talked to.  Not those who ICE has targeted, stalked, and harassed here on the Peninsula.

Stories from the Heart

Like so many who were aware of what was happening, I wanted to help.  So… with the editor’s blessing and support, I wrote a series for the Chinook Observer that I called “Stories from the Heart.”  Each of the fourteen stories was based on an interview with an ICE victim or a family-member and each was accompanied by a ‘sidebar’ of factual information about one aspect or another of the current immigration situation here in our ‘land of the free.’  Erin Glenn, with close ties to the Hispanic community, served as my interpreter during the interviews and as my ‘sounding board’ throughout the process.

The third story I wrote centered around Gladys, the first mother in the area who was arrested and deported.  Her long-time partner, Rosas, talked with me at length and, given the opportunity to use a pseudonym, told me that his nickname “Rosas” would be fine.  Little did any of us know that by using his nickname, we would be culpable in Rosas’ own arrest just a week ago?  And who knew that by identifying him in that way, ICE may have violated his free speech rights?  And who knew that his story would go viral – picked up first by the Seattle Times, then by AP, and hard on the heels of that, by the international press?

Gladys and Rosas’ Story

Meanwhile, Madeline Moore (one of the busiest women I know!) has developed a GoFundMe site for Rosas.  It should be up and running in a day or two.  Look for it under the heading “Help the Gutierrez Family.”  I’ll post a link as soon as it is finalized!

P.S.  Here it is:

The Joys (and woes?) of Homecoming!

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Moon over the Bay

We rolled into Oysterville about 6:30 last evening – the full moon in all her splendor over the bay, lighting up our house and the church in perfect Christmas card form!  Nyel’s discharge had been a bit of a surprise.  We had last heard “a day or two” and then suddenly, we were on our way!  Nyel is the best he’s been in almost a year and we are optimistic that we can keep him that way.  Meanwhile…

There was a moment’s panic when I couldn’t find the car which was in the Valet Parking Lot.  It had been accessible throughout Nyel’s stay and, at ten dollars a day, was probably the best parking bargain in all of Seattle!

Valet Parking at UW Medical Center

But when I schlepped the first load out the hospital front doors, down the escalator and across the underground walkway… no car!  Not where it had been for the past (almost) two weeks! And no one ‘on duty’ anywhere!  ‘Security’ to the rescue!  They found my car and assured me that I could just leave – no charge for the weeks we’d been there!  “It’s Sunday.  Free on Sunday!”  Yes, but…   No amount of saying “I’m perfectly willing to pay…” worked.  Wow!  A new spin on Home Free!

It’s always a little bit scary to come home after a longish absence.  Did the dishwasher fail and will we have to replace a water-soaked floor?  Was there a cold snap and did our pipes freeze?  And what about the house plants (which usually, thank goodness, revive)?  But, thus far this year, in our fifteen returns home after Nyel’s hospitalizations, all has been well.  Until last night!

Wow! Say what?

Our freezer door had not been closed tightly – an ongoing problem because of a leaky ice-maker which causes an ice build-up behind the pull-out drawer which can’t be pulled out all the way because the door won’t open wide enough because… all of which is too complex for human understanding.  Especially the part that goes, “Why didn’t we take care of this a long time ago?”  So, it was empty the freezer, scrape out the frost, sop up the water, and (this morning) call J&S Appliances.  (My inclination was to get a new refrigerator but Nyel’s practical side kicked in.)

On the plus side, when I weighed myself this morning, the scale said 54.9!  A bit of a shock until I realized that Nyel had changed the weight read-out to kilograms.  Translation, 119.9 pounds.  Yay! A loss of 4.9 pounds since last I checked.  I credit the lousy hospital food of the past few months plus the four (or maybe six) block walk back and forth to the cafeteria at the UW Medical Center.  This is a hard way to get back to my once-upon-a-time fighting weight but… only 2.8 kilos to go!!

Poor, Thirsty Fern!

So… on balance… Dorothy was absolutely right.  There is definitely no place like home

Training My Tongue

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

I was brought up to believe in the adage: “When you speak, speak the truth, but don’t always speak.”  Not that I often follow that good advice.  It’s right up there with another mantra that is popular in some circles: “There is no such thing as a stupid question.”  Yes, there is, say I.  I heard many during my 39 years as a teacher and have certainly asked my share – especially when I’ve ignored the second half of that familiar old proverb: “Speech is silver but silence is golden.”

I’ve been thinking about all of those mantras and idioms here at the University of Washington Medical Center.  Nyel was sent here from Legacy Emanuel Hospital to be evaluated for receiving a heart pump – an option not available at Emanuel Hospital, but yet the only option the Portland doctors feel is viable at this point.  The doctors here say that Nyel’s heart function is good enough so that the heart pump possibility is “off the table.”

Now that they have said “no” to the heart pump, they are back to walking a path that is familiar to Nyel. They are repeating the same tests that Nyel has been having for many months; some for many years.  I suppose the hope is that they will see something here that the Portland doctors have missed.  So far… not so.  And why is it that they cannot look at his history – all the charts and notes and scans, all the electronic records and DVDs that were sent with Nyel?  Or did they?  What are they doing that is different?  Or are they?

Yesterday I asked.  The answers were in doctor-speak and made me feel like I should reconsider the “silence is golden” rule.  I’m pretty sure that my questions came under the “stupid” category.  Fair enough.  But I didn’t like some of the responses that seemed to demean Nyel’s Portland experience.  I didn’t like feeling patronized.  The team (yesterday four doctors, a nurse, and a fellow or two) will be here shortly on their rounds.  I mean to hold my tongue this time.  Except maybe to ask when Nyel might be discharged.

Pond Season in Oysterville

Friday, November 24th, 2017

In Front of Oysterville – Photo by Cyndy Hayward

It’s sometimes said among the wags of the Peninsula that we have two seasons – Wet and Dry. But, actually, there is at least one sub-season in Oysterville.  It happens during the Wet Season and usually not until the rains have been underway for a time.  It is Pond Season – the time when the low areas around town become so saturated that the standing water gets to pond-like proportions.  During especially rainy winters, the ponds are a continual part of our landscape until March or April.

This year, Pond Season came early.  The first stormy weather arrived in early November and, though we were off ‘hospitaling’ in one place or another, we got reports and even a picture or two about the rising waters.  “The pond behand the church is back,” Tucker reported.  “The water is the highest I’ve ever seen in my three years here,” Cyndy wrote and sent an accompanying photo of the pond out ‘in front’ of our house.

Our Lower Meadow

The water in the ponds begins, of course, as fresh water, but during the highest tides of the year – usually in late December – there is co-mingling of the bay waters and the rain water and, at least in the ponds between us and the bay, it’s a brackish mixture that attracts a myriad of waterfowl.  Brant and mallards, Canada geese and great blue herons and, now-and-then, an egret, come to rest and paddle or wade and forage throughout Pond Season.  They provide continuous watching pleasure from our east windows.

A little history note here – the old houses on the east side of Territory Road all face the bay so we consider the bay to be “out in front.”  In the very early days before roads, the water was the only highway and all the focus was on the ships that came into the bay from San Francisco.  They carried food and building materials and furniture and clothing – everything it was said “from top hats to prostitutes” and once their cargo was off-loaded, the holds were filled with bushel baskets of native oysters bound for the markets of the City by the Golden Gate.

Oyster Schooner Louisa Morrison, 1868

So… we still consider the bay to be located “out front” and we love to watch all the activity out there during Pond Season – perhaps not as exciting as the hustle-bustle of 150 years ago, but fascinating none-the-less.  We are sorry to be missing that ever-changing view just now, but are looking forward to getting back home before the season is over!  Maybe we’ll luck out and there will be a swan or two waiting for us!

Of Whirlwinds and Whirligigs

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

UWMC Ambulance

Our whirlwind began yesterday afternoon about 2:45 when Dr. R. stopped in Nyel’s room to say the UW Medical Center would review his case and would send an ambulance to Portland for him in a day or two.  It would be a hospital-to-hospital transfer.

It couldn’t have been more than five minutes later that Nyel’s nurse came in to say that Nyel had just been assigned a room at the UWMC and the ambulance was on its way!  (The updated information was right there on the computer!  Wow!)


By 3:00 it was a quick kiss farewell, belongings grabbed, and I was in our car headed for Oysterville before my night blindness could set in.  I was not even over the I-5 Vancouver bridge (we figured out later) before Nyel’s ‘ambulance’ arrived at Emanuel – a very small helicopter staffed with an EMT, a nurse, and the pilot. Nyel reported later that his six-foot-tw0-inch frame barely fit and his nose was only four inches from the ‘ceiling’;  he didn’t think it counted as his first-ever helicopter ride.  “I couldn’t even see outside.”)

By 6:10 we were having a catch-up phone chat – Nyel at the UW Medical Center; I in Oysterville.  A whirlwind three hours for sure.  Nyel had already had an x-ray (to see where the picc-line ends) and a EKG and a blood draw.  More whirlwind activity.


I spent my evening (at the earlier suggestion of Dr, God’s assistant) packing a bag for each of us – in case we need to hang around for a few days after Nyel’s discharge from the hospital.  Initially, they are poking and prodding, testing and measuring, in order to come up with their own baseline.  That process will take five days.  We really don’t know what will be next but Nyel will have clean clothes, by Godfrey Daniel!  (The washing machine and dryer went well into the night.)  And, if nothing else, I will have my eyebrow pencil this time.  (A yellow pencil with a #2 lead will do in a pinch, but it isn’t my enhancement method of choice.)

Cousin Ruth has offered me a room plus chauffeur service to and from the hospital each day!  How lucky can a girl get!  Now if I can just find the Yellow Brick Road, I’ll be on my way to the Emerald City and my very own Wizard-of-Everything…

We didn’t hear the scream.

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

A Peter Janke Photograph

When something dire happens, thoughts often fly off to an entirely irrelevant situation.  Or yesterday, in my case irreverent.  “Did anyone hear the crash?” I wondered.  “Or was it one of those ‘when a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s there… ‘ situations?”

We came upon the horror of the downed Monterey Cypress as we headed home from the post office.  Property owners Anne and Jim were there, each on a cell phone, Jim in the lane and Anne in their yard, both screened by the huge needled branches that were where they were never meant to be.  The trunk of the tree was sheared in two, revealing a rotten core that not even the arborists knew was there.

“It happened yesterday,” Ann said.  They had come from Portland and were making arrangements.  “We’ll have it taken down to the ground,” she said, matter-of-factly – with the familiar tone of competent people dealing with an emergency.  I knew her heart was breaking, as was mine.  We’ve known that Monterey Cypress and its neighbors all of our lives.  They are as much a part of the village as the oldest of the buildings, defining its streetscape and giving visual testimony to the feeling of nurture that Oysterville seems to provide.

November 14, 2017

They are also a tangible reminder of our close, historic connection to California.  As any schoolchild can figure out, Oysterville’s founding in 1854 was based upon the abundance of oysters in Shoalwater (now Willapa) Bay, right at the village doorstep. Espy and Clark came here on the search for oysters and immediately became a part of the “Shoalwater Bay Trade” – the principal oyster source in the 1850s and 1860s for the burgeoning San Francisco market.

Many of the early settlers came here directly from San Francisco and their descendants live here still – Wachsmuths, Nelsons, Espys, Andrews all had early connections with California.  Charlotte Jacobs, a descendant of the Oysterville Andrews Family has told us that the Monterey Cypress trees were brought here as seedlings from California  in the early 1900s by her great-great uncle Tom Andrews.  Brought, perhaps, on one of the old oyster schooners as ballast.

On the Corner of Division Street and Territory Road

Although there is no documentation for Charlotte’s story, there is little doubt that it is true.  The trees are, indeed, Monterey Cypress, native to the central coast of California where some have reached the venerable age of 2,000 years – this despite the strong winds which stunt their growth, distort their silhouettes, and give them a flat-topped appearance.  Here, in Oysterville, they grow taller and bigger around, approaching the forty meter height and two-and-a-half meter circumference that is possible in ideal growing conditions.

I wanted to wrap my arms around that jagged, remaining tree trunk yesterday.  I wanted to say how sorry I was and how much I will miss the stately protection it had given us all these years.  I wanted to scream, too, and in fact, I did.  It’s just that neither of our screams was heard.

Another Lame do-It-Yourself Project

Monday, November 6th, 2017

Stories from the Heart

When I was in high school, deep into journalism classes and the writing/ publication of The Red and White (San Rafael High School’s weekly newspaper), I was counseled to keep a clipping book.  In it I carefully pasted all of the articles and editorials I wrote, also keeping track of my ‘column inches’ – training, I supposed for the eventuality of a real job on a legitimate newspaper.

That was in the ’50s.  Twenty-some years later, when I moved to Oysterville, my life had taken another turn entirely and news clippings had long since dropped from my radar.  It wasn’t until my Uncle Willard was sharing some news article about a recent book tour that the words “news clipping” entered my consciousness again.

These clippings, though, were articles about Willard not by him.  And he didn’t have to search for them and clip them out, himself.  He received them in packets from a media clipping service.  I’m not sure if that perk was paid for by his publisher or if Willard subscribed, himself.  Most of those clippings are in the Willard Espy Archive at the Washington State History Research Center now, though occasionally I run across one here in the house, tucked into a book or in an overlooked file folder.

From Willard’s Clipping Service

Nowadays, what with all the technology at their fingertips, I imagine media services have proliferated.  I’ve never looked into one, not being an author/celebrity as Willard was, but occasionally a friend will see something in a Seattle or Olympia paper that mentions my name and will send it to me which I appreciate very much.

But I, myself, am back to clipping news articles from our local paper.  Not about me, but by me.  I paste them in my ongoing scrapbooks because… honestly, I’m not sure why.  Old habits die hard?  Do I think posterity will be interested?  Surely, it’s not because I have nothing better to do?

Yesterday, I clipped out the fourteen “Stories from the Heart” that I recently wrote for the Observer.  I also clipped out all the Letters to the Editor, pro and (mostly) con) that those articles generated.  I’m grateful that during the months that those stories appeared in the paper, many friends, as well as strangers, stopped me in person – at Vespers, in Jack’s, at Adelaide’s, even on the street in Oysterville – to express concern and interest in the problems of our Hispanic neighbors.  Otherwise, my clipping experience yesterday would have been very much more difficult.

Letters to the Editor

Who are those very negative letter-writers, anyway?   No recognizable names, at least to me.  They dredge up the same, tired mis-information.  I wish they had really read the stories and the sidebars that had accompanied them and done a bit of honest research, themselves.  But, as I know from my 39 years in the classroom – teaching people to read is one thing; teaching them to think is another.  And speaking of thinking… I think it’s time to stop all this clipping and re-reading.

Out Our Windows

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

Snow in the Morning!

Driving from Oysterville to Seattle and back in a day is not my idea of a fun time.  But, we do it periodically for reasons that most of our friends and acquaintances chalk up to stupidity – to get our hair cut.  Granted, sometimes we also meet a friend for lunch.  Sometimes, we even stay overnight.  But, usually it’s just up and back and eat a tuna fish sandwich as we go.  Like yesterday.

The timing was tricky.  Nyel had to have a blood draw at Ocean Beach Hospital first thing in the morning which, for the lab there is 7:30 (on a good day).  Yesterday, though he had ‘arranged’ with them the day before, he had to wait until 8:00 before they could take him.  We were out of there by 8:08 and on the road to get to our 11:30 appointment at the Collage Salon in Greater Downtown Emerald City.

Collage Salon

The snow began just beyond Montesano.  OMG!  At first it was more like sleet but by the outskirts of Elma it was coming down like every school kid’s dream!  Then, the car in front of us braked and stopped.  Ditto all three lanes.  Branch Across Road!  There was a short beat and then the woman in front of us leaped out and started tugging.  Soon there were people running up the highway from the cars behind us, pitching in to clear the road.  Fortunately, the branch had shattered and they could pick up pieces and throw them off the highway.  Five minutes and we were on our way.  Heroes, all of them!!  I wish I’d taken a photo.

For whatever reason—I choose to believe we were favored by the Haircut Gods – there were no delays at all and we pulled up in front of Collage at 11: 28.  And, would you believe – a woman was pulling her car out of the parking space directly in front of the door!  We waltzed in like this was a usual occurrence.  Not!

Sunset from the Head of the Bay

Homeward bound by 1:30 and heading for a dinner date with our friend Erin at 6:00 at the Heron and Beaver Pub at the Shelburne.  We worried a little that the snow would be worse and would slow us down but… amazingly, there were few signs of snow at all.  Just a few patches remained in the shady spots along the roadside.  As we rounded the bay, the sunset put on a magnificent show, playing hide and seek with fantastic cloud formations – just for us, I’m sure.  We felt welcomed back to the Peninsula in spectacular fashion and walked into the Pub at 6:01.

Great dinner!  Good company!  Back home and ready for bed by 9:00, sated and coiffed and with visions of snow-laden trees and a brilliant sunset to dream about!

Life as a Part-Timer?

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Gordie Dealing With Storm Damage

I’ve never had the luxury of owning two homes.  Or the desire.  Although maybe that’s one of those chicken-and-egg things.  But, in those brief what-if reveries when I try to imagine having a condo in the city in addition to the family house in Oysterville, for instance, I get all bogged down in the logistics and details.

For starters, I just can’t seem to get beyond the need to have duplicate “stuff.”  Like who needs two can openers or two vacuum cleaners or two utility bills?  And how do you decide where you would rather spend Christmas?  And where would I keep all my research materials – books, documents, etc. that I often need when I write?  (Contrary to popular belief, you cannot find EVERYthing online yet.  Nor is my memory all that trustworthy anymore.)

Tucker’s Rain Gauge – 4 inches noon Friday to noon Sunday

My conclusion is always the same:  being full-time in one place suits me just fine.  So, it has come as a bit of a shock to realize that for the last ten months, we have only lived part-time in Oysterville.  The other part has been spent here in Unit 53 at Emanuel Hospital!  I think that epiphany hit me yesterday when Tucker sent me a half-dozen photographs of what’s been happening in the village.  All of a sudden, my interest came from an entirely different perspective than it would have had I not been gone so much of the year.  YIKES!

I’m not even sure I can explain it.  There’s a sort of detachment about seeing familiar people and things when I look at Tucker’s pictures.   It’s different when I’m ‘in residence.’  From here, I don’t feel a part of things in quite the same way.  (I KNEW I couldn’t explain it!!!)  The perspective is just different and it makes my entire attachment/concern/relevance feel a bit removed.  It’s as though my sense of belonging has been diminished.  I don’t like it at all!

Chris Works on Storm ‘Blow-Down’

Maybe I would feel differently if being away was more of a choice than a necessity.  But I don’t think so.  For better or for worse, my entire being seems to be entwined with Oysterville.  Full time!