Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Rainy Day Lunch and Laughter

Friday, January 24th, 2020

Barbara Bennett Parsons

We met at the Roo at High Noon — Cherry, Barbara, and I.  We hadn’t seen one another for years — certainly not all of us together — but we decided it was a lunch long overdue.  It’s not just that Barbara now lives in Hoquiam.  It’s not just that Cherry is still “working” — well, it’s volunteering but it’s every day, everywhere, on a regular basis.  Like a job.  And it’s certainly not just that I seem to always have more on my plate than I can get to.  No. None of these.

Barbara Bennett Parsons lived on the Peninsula in the 1980s.  Perhaps you remember her North Head Gallery where she sold her father Elton Bennett’s artwork as well as the work of other artists, mostly local.  Cherry Harding worked in the Gallery and later would work in the Bookvendor — first for Gordon and later for us.  It seems as if we’ve known one another always but, really how did we meet??

Cherry Harding

We tried to reconstruct all that over sandwiches and rice and bean bowls but we got stuck on the dates.  “When did you come to the Peninsula?” I asked Cherry.  “Let’s see… maybe 1989…”  “Really?  Are you sure it wasn’t ’79?”  “No….”  And we all laughed.  In fact, we laughed and talked and remembered all through lunch and, suddenly, three hours had gone by!

Missing was Sharon VanHuiet,  now living in California in a care facility.  And Lucille Pierce who, at 97, has given up driving here from Portland… “Not that the drive is difficult,” she said when she last came on her own two years ago.  “It’s just that I get so sleepy.  I know to pull over and take a nap for 15 or 20 minutes and then I’m fine.  But I have to do that so often nowadays that it takes way too long to get to the beach!”  But she promises to come in summer when her daughter will be here to do the driving.

Gordon Schoewe (1926-2014)

And we lamented our friends who are no longer with us — Gordon Schoewe and Charles and Kaye Mulvey and, of course, Cherry’s Jack.  “Did you ever know Maureen Mulvey?” Barbara asked.  “Such a warm nurturing, wonderful woman.  When I was a shy little girl and came with my folks [Elton and Charles were good friends] she always had time to visit with me.  All by myself.  That was a huge gift!”

Just as this gift of friendship is huge, I thought!  How wonderful that we can stay connected.  We decided we’d do it again in the Spring — maybe four times a year would be good.  “If we can remember…” Cherry and I said.  We put Barbara in charge of scheduling.  She’s younger by at least a generation!

And, besides everything else, the lunch was terrific!


Cleaving Together — it’s what we do.

Friday, January 17th, 2020

“Another Rose Painting” by Jean Stamper – Posted on FB January 5, 2020

My neighbor Charlotte came calling yesterday — the first time since she lost her husband a few days before Christmas.  She came to thank me; I’m not even sure for what.  It was grand to see her, though, and to have a visit.

It’s not that she and I have ever been “best friends” or that we’ve even done much visiting back and forth.  But our families have known one another for at least four generations and we’ve worked on various Oysterville projects together in the years since she and Jake retired here full time.

During the course of our conversation I learned that another long-time Oysterville neighbor had died.  Wayne Stamper, who had a summer place here with his wife Jean.  Jean had written a few weeks ago that Wayne was in hospice care.  When I asked Charlotte if she knew, I found that she was way ahead of me.  Again, Wayne and Jean weren’t our closest friends… but Jean had been coming to Oysterville all her life — since her mother bought property next to the Red House in the ’30s.  Four generations ago… or more.

Oysterville Women’s Club, 1932

There is something about a small generational village that makes the rites of passage among us more indelible.  Each holds significance beyond the present. I can’t help but think of my mother and of her friends Helen Heckes and Virginia Holway.  They had been neighbors for half a century and more; their shared memories sustained them and drew them closer as the years passed.  Even more so as each lost her husband.

It must be thus is every small village and hamlet where people have lived in proximity through generations.  Another plus for country living as I see it.


This Early Winter Morning…

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

The Lights Weren’t Working

Nyel’s cellphone alarm went off at 5:30 as usual and I heard him turn on his bedside light.  “I think my bulb burned out,” he said.

I tried the light on my side.  “I think the power is out,” I said.

So we debated whether to stay warm and snug where we were or start our day as usual.  It was really my call,  our “usual” being me who goes to the kitchen to make coffee.  Which I did, returning with two cups which we drank, propped up in bed as is our habit.

At The Ready

We discussed options.  Our friend Cate is coming over at ten and the plan was to offer her “real” coffee (grind the beans, etc.} “I was going to make cookies,” Nyel said.  “Oatmeal raisin.”

“Well… no cookies,” I said, “but we can still have the real coffee I promised.  I think there are some (fairly) fresh ground beans in the freezer.”  Unstated was “thank goodness for a duel fuel stove.”  And we discussed the possibility of “baking” cookies in the Dutch oven on the stovetop. Or in the fireplace.

My part of the preparation for Cate’s visit was to have the fire going in library. No change of plans needed there except that we don’t have very much dry wood.  “We’ll just have to bundle up until she comes and then huddle around the fire when she gets here,” we agreed.

And about then, the power was back on.  Yay!  And a big thanks to whoever might have been out in the cold and dark and wind seeing to it that Nyel can bake those cookies!

Winter Surprises From A Faraway Friend

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

Nyel Models Scarf From Barbara

The package wasn’t very big and weighed next to nothing and came from far off Cohasset, Massachusetts.  I couldn’t image why we would be getting something from John and Barbara.  We are long-time friends, but not necessarily gift-exchangers.  The card inside said:

Dear Nyel and Sydney,
This is a story about this scarf that I made for Nyel, hoping he would wear it to visit the “girls” and you would both think of me when he wears it.  “I visited Colleen early one morning and she taught me this difficult pattern over breakfast and coffee.  I felt so at home —
That was September (?).  Obviously speed is not my forté when it comes to knitting but love has been poured into every stitch.  I pulled it apart several times, started over mid-way, cried, and finally my tenacity pulled me through.
So here you go Nyel — you will look so handsome.
I have also enclosed some old-fashioned snow-flakes made by my friend who helped guide me thru this scarf —
So much fun — so proud!
Wishing you a fabulous 2020 and a belated Merry Christmas.  Miss you!
Love, Barbara and John

I’m a bit teary even as I copy Barb’s words.  The warmth of her friendship will be with us both for a long, long time, sustaining us even when the weather changes and Nyel no longer needs to wear his beautiful scarf.

And just in case a little clarification is needed — Barb was here in September for the 150th birthday celebration for our house.  Colleen is the proprietor of Adelaide’s Coffee and Sweet Shop in Ocean Park and sells the most amazing yarns.  When Barb lived here in the 1980s, she knew Colleen at the Full Circle Cafe at the Ocean Park Approach…



The Wrangler, The Whisperer, and Snowhite

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

Vicki’s Portrait of Fred, 2016

If you know Fred Carter, you probably know him as a singer/songwriter or as a golfer or as Vicki’s husband or as President of the Senior Center in Ocean Park.  Mostly, you’d know him as an extraordinarily nice guy.  But… did you know he’s also an accomplished chicken wrangler?  Last night he put his wrangling talents to use to help out our little white hen, Snowhite.

If you’ve been following the life and times of Farmer Nyel’s Backyard Flock, you may know that Snowhite appears to be suffering from mites.  She, also, is faster than the speedy Warner Bros. Road Runner of “beep beep” fame and, though several of us have tried to catch her, she has led us a merry chase through hedges, over fences, into trees, and has successfully eluded all attempts to capture her for a bit of doctoring.

Farmer Nyel, Chicken Whisperer

“Wait until dark and get her off the roost,” was the advice all the chicken experts gave me.  Easy for them to say.  Hard for a short octogenarian to manage.  So last night about dusk-thirty, Fred came to the rescue.  “Okay!  Let’s go!” he said.  I grabbed a cardboard box and off we went.  “I was down there a few minutes ago to lock them in for the night,” I told Fred.  “She’s on the roost but I’m not sure how close she is to the door.”

“Well, we’ll find out, won’t we?” And with that, he opened the back door, reached into the coop, grabbed Snowhite by the legs and quick-as-a-cluck (actually LOTS of clucking — in fact, you’ve never heard such a squabble!) she was in the box, the top was closed and we were carrying her back to the house!

She spent the night secured in that carton in our heated back-forty.  This morning an hour or so before first light, Farmer Nyel and I went into the garage armed with a can of mite-dusting-medicine and doctored her up.  She didn’t like it a bit, but seemed resigned.  Not much squawking or struggling.  Just a lot of dirty looks directed mostly at me!  Nyel with his soothing voice and gentle (yet firm) touch is definitely a Chicken Whisperer.

The dusting was done in no time and I returned her to the coop before the rest of the flock was even stirring.  Only the rooster seemed to notice and he gave a few thank-you-doodle-dos before settling back down.   I hurried back to the house through the rain humming “Dusting in the Dark” (to the tune of that other one, or course…)

Humbled, Delighted, Honored!

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

Each Christmas since he and Carol were married, Tucker has designed and made the Christmas cards which they then send to friends and relatives.  Often, there is a story inside the card — sometimes related to the image, sometimes not.  This is year 50 and we were delighted to see our house as the card’s subject and the story about an event which happened here during the Christmas season almost a century ago!

A Few of Tucker’s Christmas Cards (and ornaments!)

Here is what Tucker said:
Our card this year is the fiftieth handmade card that we’ve sent out for Christmas since our marriage in 1970.  The card depicts our neighbors, Nyel and Sydney Stevens’ house, built in 1869.  The house is made completely of wood and is one of the oldest houses in the state.  It has survived the stormy, wet coastal environment of southwest Washington.  A big “birthday” party was held in September with over two hundred guests enjoying house tours, musical bands, and the firing of the cannon.  Our German cousins, Manfred and Ute Marx, joined the festivities.  Ute played a special “welcome” signal on her hunting horn to start the event.  It was fantastic.

H.A. Espy House (and tree) 1939 — WPA Photo, Librarry of Congress

I noticed how the house and the Oysterville church appeared almost side by side from the yard where the party took place.  It reminded me of a visit I had with Sydney’s uncle, Willard Espy, in August of 1995.  He told me about the wonderful quality of the seaborne air and the magical light specific to Oysterville.  He told me the story of his Christmas tree in 1922 when he was about twelve years old.  They had found a nicely shaped live spruce tree, dug it up, and took it home like a guest for the holidays.  After Christmas, the tree was planted in the extreme southwest corner of the property and over the years the tree had grown four feet wide near the base of the trunk and fifty to sixty feet high.  I think the church could still be seen from the yard but with all the branches, I’m not sure.  The tree eventually became a danger to people as well as the old house and was cut down but a new little spruce tree has taken seed and  has risen forty-five inches from the top of the old stump.  The renewal of life brings hope.

Merry Christmas!  Tucker and Carol Wachsmuth

I know that Willard and Edwin and my mother — all of whom participated in the digging up and replanting of that tree — would feel as honored as we do that it was the focus of the 50th card!  Wow!

Happy Birthday Aaron English!

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Checking Connections

Remember that old song, “If I’d know you were coming, I’d have baked a cake…”?  Well, we actually did know Aaron was coming, but what we didn’t know was that yesterday was his birthday!  Luckily, Nyel had baked chocolate chip cookies which actually made it easier because Aaron was back on the road with a bagful in nothing flat.  Or so it seemed.

He was here to pick up a keyboard and its various accoutrements which were donated to his charity by Charlotte and Joe Paliani last July.  At that time, Aaron was here for a House Concert and, though he gladly accepted the keyboard, when push came to shove the next morning… he couldn’t fit it into his rental car.  “You can store it all here,” I said.  “No problem.”

Aaron in East Africa

The charity, the International Music Project, had celebrated its fourth “birthday” shortly before Aaron’s appearance here.  According to his website:  In May 2015 I flew to East Africa with luggage full of donated instruments & the beginnings of a plan. Since that day, my charity has been able to support music programs for youth in orphanages, refugee camps, HIV/AIDS resource centers, & low-income communities in Uganda, Burma, Kenya & the U.S.A.  Thanks to all who have donated musical instruments to the programs, or funds for teachers’ salaries.

Charlotte and Joe’s donation was fabulous but, as the months went by, I wondered if that keyboard, its stand, the piano bench and big box of music would ever get to its intended destination or if it would all live in our back forty for good. I shouldn’t have worried…  It was great to see Aaron, hear about how his ‘new life’ in Nashville is going and about his two upcoming (return) European tours planned for 2020.  He, himself, is a keyboardist and, having wrestled with with “The Donation in The Back Room” for five months, I was more acutely aware of the logistics that might be involved in his European tours.

Aaron English In Concert“Actually, I don’t take an instrument with me,” was the reply.  “I have keyboards stashed in…” and he named at least four European cities where friends are storing instruments for him.  Who knew?  “It’s easier that way,” he said.  “And cheaper in the long run.”  Oh my!  And the rest of us think that we have luggage concerns when we travel??  No so much.

It was in passing that he mentioned it was his birthday.  The 46th.  I was sorry we hadn’t known.  Maybe we could have pulled off a small House Concert…  But, as it was, he was on the road shortly after loading up his car.  He had a concert at a church in Bremerton early this morning…  Wow!  As usual, I’m full of admiration for touring musicians!

The Sweet Fragrance of Christmas!

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

Lina and Eva

This morning I could almost smell those Christmas cookies baking and hear the laughter of cousins Eva and Lina — all the way from Austria!  Eva’s email about their holiday preparations included pictures of  the sisters baking and  their finished products, as well!  Yum!

Unexpectedly, I flashed back on Christmas Cookies Past – not cookies of my childhood, however.  Baking Christmas cookies wasn’t really a tradition in our family, though my grandmother’s “rocks” were usually part of the festivities.  I remember them as full of nuts and raisins and maybe covered with powdered sugar.  Or am I confusing the rocks with the shortbread cookies in perfect round powdered balls?  But those weren’t the cookies that came to mind when those photos came into focus.

Carol Nordquist – Christmas Dinner 2014

No, it was  Carol Nordquist and her cookies that come to mind.  Beginning in the late 1990s, just after we moved into this family house full time, Carol would bring a festive plate of cookies to us (and to each of the neighbors, I think) a few days before the holiday.  When her daughter Betsy was able to join her,  the two of them often did the baking and Betsy was the delivery elf.  We SO appreciated those lovely treats.  There really is nothing like a selection of brightly decorated Christmas cookies — especially cookies that just “show up” once a year — to get you in the spirit!

Lina and Eva’s Cookies

Actually, Nyel did a big batch of chocolate chip cookies the other day.  They aren’t quite what I would consider “Christmas cookies” but their appearance around here is pretty rare so I think they count, maybe even double!  And the other night John brought a citrus almond cake, “Torta de Santiago” which literally means “cake of St James and the recipe originated in the Middle Ages!   Last night Maggie brought individual cheese cakes, festively decorated with different kinds of jam.

Oh my!  It was almost a relief to enjoy those Austrian cookies via cyberspace.  Especially, a relief to my waistline!  But… Christmas only comes once a year, as they say.  I’m determined to enjoy every morsel, virtual and otherwise.


Gather ’round! It’s the visiting season!

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

Friday Night in November 2019

Last night it was SRO at our usual Friday gathering.  We ran out of chairs so we spilled over from library to living room.  Hal sat on the floor and I meant to see how he’d manage to get up — but I forgot.  I can still do it, but it’s not a pretty picture — not popping up like toast as it was in the days before I got old and creaky,

Sue, Carol, Sandra — All A-Tangle?

The fiber arts ladies (or so I call the knitters and quilters) sat on the couch and played cats cradle.  Not really, but that’s what it looked like.  I think they were helping Sandra with a problem.  It took a while but they got it solved.

Tucker actually brought a hand truck loaded with his show-and-tell for the evening — some of his sign collection which included  few old Oysterville signs, a discarded tsunami sign,  and a yellow stop sign.  Yes, yellow.  Only a few of us remembered them. Ahem!  From The Manual of Traffic Signs on

The first STOP sign appeared in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan. There were a variety of colors used for STOP signs until the late 1920s, when the background color was standardized on yellow for maximum day and night visibility. Remember that this was a number of years before the invention of glass-bead retroreflectorization for sign faces, so a red sign looked very dark at night.

Until 1954

By 1954, signmakers were able to use durable fade-resistant red coatings for sign faces, so the background color of the STOP sign was changed to the red color you see today. This change also served to distinguish the regulatory STOP sign from yellow warning signs, and also made the color consistent with that of red traffic signal indications, which for decades had used red to signal “stop”.

So there you have it.  We learn a lot on Friday nights!


The Book That Came In The Mail

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

Where The Crawdads Sing

Last week a package came in the traditional “plain brown wrapper.”  It was from Cohasset, Massachusettes — from my friend Barbara Canney.  I couldn’t imagine what it could be.

A book!   Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.  A volume well-read by Barbara and by the friends to whom she has loaned it.  She sent the book with these few words:  “Read and pass it on.”   I opened it and found, on the end paper, names — signatures, really — of people I didn’t know, whose very fingers must have turned these pages.  Curious, I began reading the prologue…

A Girl of the Limberlost

It’s been a long time since I literally could not put a book down.  Finally, I did, but only because Nyel needed help with something.  I was halfway finished before I even had the grace to email Barb and tell her “thank you.”

In a strange way, it reminds me of a book I found in the children’s corner of the library in this very house.  A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter.  I must have been eleven or twelve and it put into words the things I had begun to discover for myself out in the woods and on the tideflats here on the Peninsula.  Things about myself, really, and how I fit in to the greater world.

Years later when I wanted to re-read it, the Hayward librarian said it was no longer in their system.  “It’s been banned, you know,” she whispered.  When I finally got a copy and re-read it, I realized that some might call it “racist” — a part of the book that had gone right by me all those years before.  And it passed me by again.  It wasn’t the part of the book that spoke to me — the Limberlost part.  (And, I’m delighted to say I haven’t been able to find any reference to that banning online.  Was it only at the Hayward library that it had been taken off the shelves?)

A Sand County Almanac

Too, the book Barbara sent reminds me a bit of A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold.  In fact,  Leopold’s book is actually mentioned in Where The Crawdads Sing!  Wow!  Leopold’s book, like the others, came at a time in my life when I needed to be reminded of the world beyond my own narrow scope — the natural world that I loved and bumped up against but where, only once in a while, did I feel my place within it instead of the other way around.

Thank you, my dear friend Barbara, for knowing what would send my soul singing once again!