Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Ode to A Petrified Clam

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

The Perfect Little Black Bag

The presentation made to Nyel and me by Double ‘J’ and the Boys at Sunday’s concert was unprecedented in oh! so many ways.  First of all, I don’t think any other musicians have ever done such a thing.  Thanking us, yes.  Profusely thanking us, yes.  But a gift?  The bar has definitely been raised!

And what a gift it was!  Actually, two gifts in three parts.  First: a black carryall emblazoned with the logo from The Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering – an event I’ve actually hankered to attend!  The bag is the perfect size for me – not too huge, with straps that fit over my shoulder and allow the bag to tuck right under my arm rather than hanging and banging at knee level.  (I’m sorta short.)  Plus, it has a large outside pocket, a net thingy maybe for a water bottle if I ever thought to carry one, and a metal ring for hanging stuff off of.  Plus, the top zips closed for security purposes.  I’ve claimed the bag part of the presentation for myself.

Petrified Clam, Texas Size

But wait!  Before I’d had a chance to fully register all of the above, Judy (with magician-like precision) extracted parts two and three of this never-ending gift – the front and back sides of a petrified clam!  Now, that’s something you don’t see every day!  Not unless you spend your winters in the wilds of Texas as Judy and Charlie do.  Apparently, they run across petrified items every once in a while.  “But finding matching halves is unusual!” Judy said.

I don’t know what that clam weighed when it was alive, back when Texas was under water and no one was around to brag about the size of things in the Lone Star State.  But now that minerals have replaced all the once living clam cells, the petrified version weighs fourteen ounces.  Almost a pound!  Perfect paper weights for Nyel’s desk!  If I knew how to write an ode (in keeping with the poetry piece of this gift), I would definitely commemorate this hefty clam.  Something like –

Petrified Clam Halves – 14 ounces worth!

Oh, huge and silent mollusk of so long ago,
Your sea birth unremarked by ancient mariners!
Overlooked by cowpokes, but not by yodeling Judy
Or by Charlie of the sharp snappy snake boots.
Welcome to our bayside home!  Can you smell the sea again?

Better yet… maybe Judy will write one of her inimitable songs!  I mean, how many songwriters have tackled a petrified clam?

Through the Eyes of a Friend

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Our Garden at Twilight by Stephanie

One of the nicest perks of friendship is that warm glow you feel when you realize that you see eye-to-eye with one another on something.  My friend Stephanie Frieze’s photographs on FaceBook this morning seemed like a literal manifestation of the way we felt about yesterday’s House Concert by Double ‘J’ and the Boys.

Janet of Double ‘J’ and the Boys by Stephanie

That she loved the concert, I have no doubt.  I think everyone in the audience did.  But, more than that, some of the outstanding details that caught my eye throughout the evening were right there in Stephanie’s photographs – Mark in his fabulous hat; Cec’s stunning braid; our garden at twilight.  There was even one of me that captured me at a moment that I was so entranced with the music that, somehow, I didn’t recognize myself for a moment!  (How does that work, anyway?)

Cec’s Braid by Stephanie

To top it all off,  Stephanie posted a video of one of my all-time favorite Judy Eron songs, “Social Security.”  Judy dedicated it to me and Stephanie has captured it for my continued listening pleasure right there on FaceBook!  (Should I revise this blog’s title to read ‘Through the Eyes and Ears of a Friend’?)

Mark in Hat by Stephanie

As Stephanie’s photos show, it was a wonderful evening!  The music was quintessential Double ‘J’ and the Boys — zany, serious, upbeat; the audience was full of friends (old and new); and, as always, the potluck dinner afterwards was delectable.   It was a fitting last-of-the-season event – one that carries the promise of more to come when September rolls around.

So… if you have a special occasion coming up and, like me, are likely to forget all about the photo ops, I can only hope that you have a friend like Stephanie nearby.  Especially a friend with whom you see eye-to-eye!

The Bays Boys: First Place Winners!

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Willie and Owen

It’s getting to be a habit – the best kind I can think of.  Irish fiddler, Randal Bays sent this email message yesterday:

Dear friends and family, We have some exciting news… both Willie and Owen won first place on their instruments at the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil  in St. Louis this weekend, one of two events in North America that qualify the winners to go to Ireland and compete in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil this summer.  We are very proud of these guys, not just for their musical abilities but for their great attitudes and all the effort they put into preparing for this competition.

Fabulous!!  But what exactly is a Fleadh Cheoil and how in the world do you pronounce it? According to good old Google, “The Fleadh Cheoil (Irish Pronunciation: [f?l?a? ço?l?], meaning “festival of music”) is an Irish music competition run by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCÉ). … North America has two regional qualifying Fleadh Cheoil.”

Bays Family Band

That didn’t help much – especially with the pronunciation, so I went to and watched and listened.  Still no help.  Whatever Irish genes I have (presumably quite a few on both sides of my family) they do not include a natural gift for the language or the brogue.

But, DNA and ancestral genes aside, we couldn’t be prouder of our young friends Owen and Willie!  They both qualified last year, as well, and the entire family were off to Ireland – the first trip for the boys and the first chance for Randal to introduce his family to his many friends there.  Randal, though American born and bred, is well-loved and respected in Ireland and bears the distinction of being the only non-Irish-born musician to have a recording of Irish fiddle music in Ireland’s top ten. The Irish Examiner, the third largest newspaper in Ireland, deemed Bays “a rare beast, a master of both the fiddle and the guitar”, and Fiddler Magazine said he is “among the best Irish style fiddlers of his generation.”


And the Bays Boys’ mom, Susan, is no slouch either. Not only is she a fine fiddler in her own right, but she also holds a PhD in Ecology from the University of Washington. Currently she works as a Rare Species Ecologist and coordinates federal, academic and non-profit partners in restoration and reintroduction actions in prairie habitat with special interest in the federally endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. (Wow! How’s that for a mouthful!)

If only I could add a category to my bucket list of what I want to be next time I grow up!  I’m sure it would have something to do with living in the Bays-Waters family, at least now and then, with special emphasis on being a roadie on their journeys to the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann which, of course, I’d know how to pronounce to perfection!



A Tea and Posy Day

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

My Grandmother’s Teapot

It’s not every day that our doorbell rings twice, each time with a lovely surprise.  But yesterday it did!  First came Pat Fagerland and, although she was ‘expected’ and we had planned to have tea, she immediately began pulling surprises out of her commodious bag of tricks.  First came a carton of half and half, next a package of cookies, followed by a tea infuser, a package of Earl Gray tea – everything we needed for a tea party except the hot water and the cups and saucers!  It was like Mary Poppins had come calling!

Willard, Edwin, Dale – 1916

We had a lovely “catch-up” afternoon and even with a bit of ‘family history’ thrown in.  Although I’m sure we had used the little blue teapot before, I hadn’t told Pat its story so yesterday I did.  The teapot was a birthday gift to my grandmother from my mother back in 1917.

Mom was five (and a half!) years old.  She had been saving her money to buy her Mama a present and asked her father’s permission to ride Danny to Trondsen and Petersen’s store in Nahcotta to make a special purchase all on her own.  Family friend Dean Nelson worked there and helped her choose the beautiful little blue teapot.  It cost the full amount she had saved – twenty-five cents!  Dean wrapped it carefully with brown paper and tied it securely around little Date’s waist – (Papa wouldn’t let the children use saddles; “too dangerous” he said) and she trotted home with her precious package.  It’s been in use in this house ever since.

While Pat was here, the doorbell rang once more.  “Flower delivery!  Happy Mother’s Day!”  The florists had outdone themselves once again!  A gorgeous bouquet and never mind that they had forgotten to note who it was from on the card.  I was pretty sure it was Charlie, though I did call to double-check!  So many people do so many nice things for me these days – like bring a tea party in a bag! – that I just had to make certain that those gorgeous posies were from my son!

It was a grand Friday – one full of reminders of the many blessings of friendship and family!  And this morning – a little sunshine to bask in!  It doesn’t get much better.

Teacher Appreciation Week

Monday, May 8th, 2017

This Year – May 8th – 12th

Next week, May 8-12, is National Teacher Appreciation Week – a five-day week, apparently in keeping with our traditional five-day school week.  And Tuesday the 9th is Teacher Appreciation Day.  I wouldn’t have known any of that had it not been for a FaceBook post by former student Kelli Lucero.

“For teacher appreciation week, can you name your teachers K-6??” she wrote.  While I was noodling that over (Kindergarten, Miss Thompson; Fifth Grade, Miss Hamilton) and lamenting that I couldn’t recall any of the others, my own name popped out at me.  There I was, listed as Kelli’s third grade teacher!  How many years ago, I wondered… Probably 1985/1986 when I was still Mrs. LaRue.  (Thanks for remembering, Kelli!)

Center Stage: The Amazing Mr. Wonderful

Besides her K-6 teachers, Kelli also mentioned other “amazing teachers who left a mark” – among them Mr. McQuarrie (aka “Mr. Wonderful.”) I find it more than co-incidental that just about the exact time Kelli was posting her appreciation, I was having dinner with the amazing, Don McQuarrie, himself!  We were at the Bridgewater Bistro across the river for our annual dinner get-together.  Five couples, all of whom still live in the area except for Don and Laura who moved to Linden, WA twenty-five or thirty years ago, before their own kids began school.

A few years before or after Kelli was in my class, her brother Pat was also one of my students.  He was part of the huge class that John Snyder and I team-taught.  Years later, when I was collecting memories for my book, Ocean Park School, The First Seven Decades, Kindergarten Teacher Margaret Staudenraus (also on Kelli’s list) said:

From Ocean Park School, The First Seven Decades

The first year that John Snyder and Sydney LaRue (Stevens) team-taught, they asked all the kids in the room who were related to one another to stand up.  Of their 57 students, about half of them stood.  Then they asked those who were still seated to stand if they were related to anyone in the rest of the school.  When all was said and done, only three kids remained sitting down!

Great memories! I don’t know if there is a ‘Student Appreciation Week’ or not.  Actually, it doesn’t matter.  I’m totally content with the thought that I loved every part of my 39 years in the classroom and that all these years later ‘my kids’ and I have so many wonderful shared memories!

“With Morning Gusto!”

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Early Morning Memory

Sometimes, when you least expect it, someone claps and cheers for you.  It’s the best kind of medicine of all, laughter notwithstanding.  This very morning I woke up to a wonderfully long letter from my friend Ruth that was overflowing with all sorts of bolstering thoughts.  She wrote it in response to a recent email of my own – that my days seemed to be one long string of frittering and non-accomplishment.  You know, one of those whiny, woe-is-me thoughts that you are later ashamed of.

Ruth’s Sequel

Ruth has a way with words.  Plus she has the biggest heart I know.  It’s a fabulous combination as those who take the Chinook Observer know.  For the last half year or so, “By Ruth Chamberlin” appears monthly over her column on the Editorial and Opinion page.  Its focus is on her family – one of the most unusual you may ever come across in real life!

Ruth has written two novels based – as much as novels can be – on her family.  Her columns, though, aren’t fiction.  They might come under the heading ‘more fabulous than fiction’ and are full of the adventures, accomplishments, joys and angst that she and husband Burt and their many adopted, ethnically diverse children have experienced.  And I’d like to add to that sentence (but it’s already too long) ‘while the rest of us were just leading our rather ordinary or at least somewhat normal lives.’

A Posy from Ruth

Of course, Ruth would never see it that way.  That’s the thing about Ruth.  She sees the unusual and the special and the terrific everywhere she looks.  And when her gaze is fastened upon you and she writes you about it, your own heart is uplifted beyond measure.  “Good Morning, Sydney.  It’s 4 a.m. and I’m thinking of you…” she begins.  Imagine!  I didn’t need to read any further to feel all puffed up!

Ruth, you are a wonder!  If only we could all follow your example, our cranky old world would surely be a better place.  I’m so glad that my corner of it includes you!

Some Circles Have Sharp Corners

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Azmi Shawa

As I looked around the room yesterday during Azmi Shawa’s ‘Celebration of Life,’ I involuntarily took note of all the familiar faces in the crowd.  People we’ve known for years and years.  People ‘of an age’ – as was Azmi.  I couldn’t help but wonder which of us would be attending similar celebrations for the next in line.

And I thought about circles.   Congruent and concentric and intersecting circles like I learned about in Plain Geometry with Mr. Patterson in 1950 at San Rafael High School.  Circles of friendship and circles of influence, circles of sharing – the circle of life.  We encircled one another with our arms – hugs of caring and hugs of shared memories.

Willie Marsh

Not many hours afterward, Willie Marsh died.  This time, though, my thoughts cut right to the chase: “Too young!  Too many lives left to touch!  Too soon!”  Here was a circle that had an unbearably sharp corner.  Right now, it seems as though it’s a corner that can never be turned.  Perhaps the community’s many hugs will help — hugs for Berta and Marian and for all of Willie’s big family and many friends.

…and the town’s filling up!

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Headed for the Beach

In Oysterville, it feels a little like it did thirty or forty years ago when most of the part-time residents would show up on holiday weekends.  Nowadays, with our ever-increased mobility, home-owners and their friends and family seem to come and go whenever the spirit moves – not necessarily for special occasions only.  But… yesterday, as the town started filling up, I had a little bit of déjà vu.

            For starters, I think the Accuardi family is planning to be here in force to celebrate Fred and Gail.  They have sold their Red Cottage after twenty years of careful stewardship and their large family is gathering to wish them well and to say ‘arrivederci to Oysterville’ – at least to this chapter.  Martie and Steve at the Captain Stream house will continue the family’s connection with the village with energy, enthusiasm and next generations – “as God intended” as our friend Te would say.

Line-Up at the Dock

In the Red House (not to be confused with the Red Cottage) Cousins Abby and Dan Ronco and kids (the sixth generation of Espys) have arrived with friends.  Their plan is to have an Easter Egg Hunt throughout the town on Sunday.  I hope the weather cooperates, but knowing my intrepid cousins, a little rain and wind won’t slow them down.

Other folks are in town to take advantage of the long overdue clam season.  We haven’t been out but we understand the digging is great.  We’ve already been offered some freshly cleaned clams from neighbors Tucker and Carol!  (Sometimes there are advantages to being old or infirm.)

Beach Driving

And, of course, there are all of the ‘regulars’ –those spirited neighbors who are here every-weekend-no-matter-what. Plus, those who live here full-time but have been away for parts of the winter.  Add us all up and the town seems a-bustle.  As my folks used to say, “It feels like Old Home Week.”  Throw in a bit of intermittent sunshine and we can almost imagine that spring and summer are on their way after all!

So far… better than good!

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

Marta’s Package

Even though I’d had a bit of warning, the package that arrived in the mail yesterday took me by surprise.  A belated birthday present from step-daughter Marta!  The ‘warning’ part had been a phone call from her while she was shopping at some sort of ‘everything’ store near her home in Marin County.  She asked me about the kinds of hats I like and favorite colors in socks and preferences in snacks.

Marta’s Wrapping Paper

“Not berets or ball caps,” I said.  “They point right to my sticky-outie ears.”  And we laughed.  “Yes, striped socks are great,” I said.  “And blue denim color, not navy, is best.”  We laughed some more.  “Snacks?  Salty, not sweet,” we said in unison.  More laughter.  She told me upfront she was on a quest for my belated birthday but, apparently, what stuck in my mind was the fun of talking to her while she shopped.  So, when the package arrived I was clueless – until I saw the return address.

In typical Marta fashion, the wrapping paper was hand-decorated, the card designed and fashioned by Marta and there were signs and messages throughout.  I smiled – even laughed out loud – as I opened each item. Two pair of socks, a jar of my favorite freeze-dried decaf coffee, and a package of Tex-Mex nibblies.  I could hear the echo of Marta’s giggle with each rustle of tissue paper.

“I hope these fill the bill… a little munchie, a little drinkie, a little fashion wear!” the card said.

Marta’s Card

I thought back to my birthday on February 28th.  Nyel was in the hospital for five days and I was right there with him.  When he worried about how I was spending my 81st, I told him I’d make up for it by finding a way to celebrate all year long.  So far, so good.  When we got home in March, my friend Maggie gave me a special birthday luncheon and the guests even brought presents!  And then a bit later in the month, our friends Petra and Michael took us to a belated birthday lunch in Astoria!  I felt blessed.

And now it’s April and… make that so far, so much better than good!

Sheltering in Oysterville

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Rainy Day Vista

“Oh, good.  You’re home!” came Cate’s voice over the wire.  “Aida and I are on a walk in Oysterville and it just started to pour.  Can we come by?”

Over cups of tea we spent an hour talking, talking, talking – mostly, of course about Aida’s Willapa Bay AiR residency.  Much to her delight, it has given her the opportunity to complete the second draft of her second novel.  The manuscript is ready for translation from Farsi to English, the first step on the road to publication.  It’s a love story – an immigrant and a U.S. citizen and their struggle to overcome ‘the cultural divide.’ A topical subject, for sure.

Aida told us, too, of the difficulties Iranian citizens have in getting a U.S. visa.  Since we have no embassy in Tehran, it is necessary to take the expensive flight to Dubai to be interviewed by U.S. immigration authorities. The wait for an appointment is incredibly long.  Had it not been for intervention by Willapa Bay AiR’s founder, Cyndy Hayward, Aida’s March residency would not have occurred.  As it turned out, she arrived two weeks early after quickly making her travel arrangements as soon as Trump’s first immigration/travel ban was blocked by court order.

Storm Shelter

I was a bit taken aback to learn that yesterday was the final day of her Residency.  Where did the time go?  She leaves today for a month of travel – seeing friends across the United States and revisiting New York where she spent time several years ago.  While there, she hopes to make some useful contacts that will ultimately lead to the perfect translation of her book.

Our hour went too quickly.  Aida was delightful – warm, enthusiastic, incredibly chatty.  I thought back to my first knowledge of her – back in the fall of 2016 when she had been accepted to the Residency.  I think it was my February 1st blog that ‘broke’ the news that she might not be able to come because of Trump’s travel ban — the first of the headlines that caused a stir far beyond Oysterville.

Aida and Sydney

It was heartening to learn that Aida had “met so many wonderful people” while she was here and I greatly regret that it never worked out for us to get to know her earlier — despite the possibilities of  Friday Night Gatherings or dinner or even a House Concert.  Who’d a thunk it would be the blankety-blank rain that would bring a visitor from clear across the world into our house?  Thanks, Cate, for knowing that there’s always shelter here!