Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

A Wonderfully Humbling Experience

Friday, April 9th, 2021

Dr. Robert Michael Pyle, American lepidopterist, writer, teacher, and founder of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

We received an invitation from Bob Pyle yesterday to “attend” the PEN America annual literary awards “at a gala ceremony to be announced live in NYC and sent out virtually to everywhere that people love books,” said Bob.  In a “normal” year we, like so many others, would never have had this opporutunity.  But, yesterday at 4:00 PDT, there we were.  OMG!  It was wonderful and totally disconcerting at the same time!

Not only had I read NONE of the books nor seen any of the plays,  I was totally ignorant regarding the authors, the playwrights, and, in some cases, even the genres — except, of course, for dear Bob and his many books.  It was hugely humbling and incredibly enlightening all at the same time.

You can check it all out by watching yesterday’s ceremony, yourself.  Just go to 2021 PEN Awards Youtube.  You’ll see what I mean… or maybe not.  Maybe you’ve read the books and know the authors.  If so, don’t tell me.  I am slowly coming to grips (AGAIN!) with the fact that I am so NOT well read and so NOT intellectual and so NOT well-informed.

Bob was nominated for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award For The Art of the Essay — “For a seasoned writer whose collection of essays is an expansion on their corpus of work and preserves the distinguished art form of the essay.”  He was among the five finalists vying for the $15,000 prize and the priceless prestige that goes with such an award.  Although I’ve not yet read Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays, I am fairly confident that I have read several of the sixteen collected essays in this new (September 2020) book.  That Bob was a finalist did not surprise me in the least.  He is not only an expert in his field, but has won numerous other literary awards over the years.  I find that reading anything Bob writes is not only a delight but is likely to expand my horizons in unexpected ways.

Nominated for the 2021 Pen America Award for PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award For The Art of the Essay

But, I have to admit that my confidence in Bob’s ability to win wavered just a bit when actor Kara Young, host of the awards ceremony, pointed out in her opening remarks:  “We stand in solidarity with all those who are threatened by anti-Black, anti-Asian, anti-Trans hatred.”  I just couldn’t help the errant thought that Dr. Robert Michael Pyle is (sorry, Bob!) “an old white guy.”  Did he have a chance in this year of women and people of color?  As it turned out, it was Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Had I Known: Collected Essays, who won the “Art of the Essay” category.

Disappointed doesn’t half describe my feelings.  However, I was bursting my buttons with pleasure and pride at knowing Bob, and so glad for this virtual stretch into the world of literature.  My must-read-list has expanded exponentially.  I wonder how many of those winning authors’ books I can read before the 2022 PEN America Awards roll around.  I doubt that I’ll be lucky enough to attend the ceremony next time — much less know one of the finalists!  Thanks for inviting us, Bob! We loved “being there!”



That Easter Bunny had nothing to do with it!

Monday, April 5th, 2021

A Rack of Lambykins

The Easter menu here in the Chef Nyel household was simple but elegant-to-the-max.  Three items only: rack of lamb;, au gratin potatoes; green beans with sesame seeds, garlic, and thyme.  Perfection on a plate!

Every time we have lamb — which isn’t all that often these days now that it’s become so expensive — I think of  Alan Greiner and Debbie Drew and a fabulous dinner we had with them at The Ark.  Not The Ark Restaurant in Nahcotta of Nancy and Jimella fame.  No.

The Ark at Camp Willapa c. 1940

We were at the Peninsula’s original Ark at Camp Willapa — the building that Dorothy Elliot used as her house and where summertime campers went once or twice a month to have a bath (bring your own fire wood, pump your own water) and, also, where we went every Sunday Night for a “sing-song” of   old-fashioned hymns.  The building had been an old oyster house on pilings in the bay and when it was close to falling in, its owners gave it to Dorothy.  She had it cut away from its moorings and lloated over to her property on the bay — hence, “The Ark.”

Easter Dinner 2021

In the ’80s and ’90s, the Ark was where Debbie and Alan lived — long after Dorothy’s Camp Willapa and Sherwood Forest had been sold to the Greiners and long after the Greiners’ Camp Sherwood had closed and things had changed quite a bit.  But what never changed was the joy of eating Debbie’s marvelous meals, the fresh produce from Alan’s garden, and the fun of renewing and sustaining long-ago friendships.  Debbie called the meat course “Lambykins.”  That has stuck, as has our friendship with Alan and his family.  Sadly, I’m not sure what has become of Debbie.  I hope, wherever she is that she, too, had Lambykins for Easter Dinner!


So many good times to remember!

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

Milt Quan, 1952

“Did you ever think you’d live this long?” Milt laughed.  “Or be married this long?” he added.  “Or so many times?” I said.  And we laughed some more.  Actually — Milt and Anita have been married 63 years now.  I’m the one who’s been married several times.  But to Nyel, a respectable 33 years, now, I must add.

We laugh a lot when we talk, Milt and I.  In fact, Milton Quan’s conversations with most people involve a lot of smiling and laughing.  Always have.  We’ve known each other since the first week of our Freshman year at San Rafael High School, class of ’53. We were talking — he from Fresno, me from Oysterville — because another of our classmates has recently died.  Not just a “classmate” — one of “our group.”  Nancy Stone, my friend since 8th Grade at E Street Grammar School.  Both Milt and I got to say “goodbye” to her and for that we are glad.

Nancy Stone, 1952

There were nine or ten of us– six SRHS friends and four spouses — who began getting together every year (at least) in the mid-seventies.  We had been in touch, loosely, for the years before that, but just about the time I moved to Oysterville permanently, we began to be serious about our “mini-reunions.”  We took turns with the “where.”  Santa Rosa, Bodega Bay, Fresno, Oysterville, Lake Tahoe and, once, Hawaii where Neil still owns a second home.

At some of our get-togethers we “did” something special.  In Fresno we went to the Forestiere Underground Gardens —  a series of subterranean structures built by a Sicilian immigrant over a forty year period, from 1906 to his death in 1946.  Another time, also in Fresno, we went to a Fortune Teller.  In Oysterville, everyone came to help host one of our Croquet and  Champagne Galas — I think that one was to benefit the Oysterville Church.  In Kona we went to the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm and, of course, at Tahoe we checked out a casino or two.

Neil MacPhail, 1952

But. mostly, we  caught up and reminisced  — about high school ski trips and dances and the King Cotton Drive-In and going out for midnight rowboat rides at China Camp.  And we laughed.  Of the high school group — Nan Jenkins, Neil MacPhail, Joey Bruner, Nan Stone, Milt Quan, and me,  only Milt, Neil and I are left.  And, of the spouses, Anita Farley Quan, Kent Sibbald, Nyel Stevens and Jack Russell — only Anita and Nyel are still with us.

“We’ve got to get together one last time,” Milt said.  “Nyel’s been talking about a Road Trip,” I told him.  We left it at that.  I hope it happens… Maybe this summer?



Our Neighbors to the North

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

Looking South from Merchant Street along Territory Road – Oysterville, 1918

A few days ago I received a nice note from Mark Bennett, our former next door neighbor to the north — the only person who has ever lived on that property that we’ve actually known very well.  He wrote to see how things were going with us and, then, wrote again to ask if I could send copies of my monthly Observer columns which, he said, he misses.  Who knew?

Throughout my mother’s childhood, the property next door was the location the Stevens Hotel.  I think by that time (the second decade of the 20th century) Gilbert and Elvira Stevens were long gone and, perhaps, Andrew Wirt owned the property.  He was married (first) to the Stevens’ daughter and mom said the the hotel had become a “boarding house” for  bachelors.

John Crellin House with Stevens Hotel in background, c. 1920

During my own childhood, the property was just pastureland and our closest neighbors to the north were the Heckes family who lived in “the other Crellin House on the next block.  Immediately next door — the pasture — was where my grandfather’s last horse, Countess, spent part of her time.  Time, that is, when she wasn’t in the “Little Meadow” which is now known simply as “The Meadow” and  is  the site of Willard’s Bench.  I think the  Heckes family may have owned a small strip of the property just south of Merchant Street and across from their place — now where our neighbor Cyndy has built her lovely house.

In the 1980s, the Espy Family subdivided  this property that the family house sits on and sold that northern piece to the Hampsons (both doctors from Seattle) who built their retirement home there.  Unfortunately their health failed early on and I don’t think they ever were able to fully enjoy their time here.  When it sold again, it was to young business partners who were here now and then and who eventually included Mark.

Hampson House, 2006

I’m not sure when the house last sold — four years ago?  Five?  We’ve not yet “officially” met the new neighbors — only to wave to and, once early on, when Nyel was in the hospital in Seattle.  The retired  doctor half of the attorney/physician couple popped into Nyel’s room to introduce himself.  We look forward to getting to know them when their remodeling is complete and they begin spending time here.  “Soon,” we understand.

I wonder if they’ll be interested in the history of their property — at least the parts that we know about.  Sometimes neighbors are; sometimes not.  Or perhaps, like Mark, they’ll bring us clams or a salmon now and then and maybe they’ll come to our parties or our Friday Night Gatherings.  It’s hard to know with next door neighbors…


Baby Steps Can Wear You Right Out

Sunday, March 21st, 2021

“Friday Night” 2021

Nyel hit the snooze button on the alarm clock this morning.  More than once.  And I didn’t even hear it!  Not that sleeping in on a Sunday is a big deal when you’re retired, but still…  The chickens get pretty cranky when I’m late taking breakfast out to the coop and no one wants to begin a new week on the wrong side of the  flock.

2011 House Concert Intermission

I’m blaming our current exhausted state on the uptick in our social life last week.  “More than a  body can handle,” said my sleepy spouse.  He’s right, you know.  We probably overdid it last week.  Three social events within a five-day period was three times as much as in the entire year just past!

At “Our Grand Affair” 2019

The first was on Tuesday when Michael Lemeshko came for a visit bearing hot beverages and discussion topics we only touched on.  Then came our Friday Night Gathering with ten (count ’em, 10) of us socializing up a storm — making up for a lost fifty-two weeks.  And then, yesterday…  breakfast out with more friends!  And in a restaurant!

Yesterday afternoon when I took just a teeny-tiny nap, I thought it might have been the Eggs Benedict.  But, after this morning’s lollygagging, I’ve revised my opinion.  Sensory Overload!  Or maybe Social Overload is more like it.  How did we manage pre-pandemic?  You know… when it wasn’t unusual to interact with others on a daily basis?

After pondering for a few minutes, I’ve decided that the “cure” to this is… more socializing!  After all… we got used to sheltering by just doing it.  It should work the same way backwards…  Well, you know what I mean.

A Truly Wonderful “Normal” Morning!!

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

Michael and Charlie at Our Grand Affair, Sept. 2019

Yesterday morning our friend Michael Lemeshko came bearing drinks (café mochas and English Breakfast tea) and a book (UNSETTLED GROUND – The Whitman Massacre and Its Shifting Legacy in the American West by Cassandra Tate.)  It was so great to see him and have a “good-and-proper visit,” as my Great Aunt Minette used to say.  My cheeks still ache from all the  smiling!

It was our first visit with Michael since long before we went into sheltering mode.  We had lots to catch up on starting with the changes at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, the future prospects for the Community Historian program, and the status of local history in general.

Grandpa Michael with Two of Six!

We lamented the many “academic” and “otherwise” sites on the internet that are grabbing their history from who-knows-where and disseminating amazing flat-out-lies about once-upon-a-time here in Pacific County.  And we hope Frank Lehn’s ears were ringing — he is our hero in the local history department and if you haven’t caught his FaceBook site you are definitely in the minority among local history buffs.

All-in-all, it was a lovely visit.  Long overdue doesn’t begin to cover it!  And we hardly even touched the important stuff — like family and book projects and when “next time” will be.  We’re hoping it’s just the beginning of the New Normal around here!

Talking With Dorothy Trondsen Williams

Sunday, March 7th, 2021

Dorothy Trondsen c. 1942

Yesterday, with the Nahcotta Post Office closure still foremost in my mind, I called Dorothy Trondsen Williams who is now living in Seattle.  Dorothy is the “nearest relative” to the suddenly closed Post Office that I know of.  I had some questions for her.

Dorothy’s relationship to the Nahcotta Post Office goes like this:  Her grandfather was J.A. Morehead, stagecoach driver, county commissioner, and owner of Morehead’s General Merchandise est. 1889, the first store in Nahcotta.  By the time Dorothy came along in 1926, Morehead had sold the business to Dorothy’s father and great-uncle and the name had been changed to “Trondsen and Brown.”  Perhaps by then it was even under its final name, Trondsen and Petersen.  Under whichever name, by that time, too, there were two stores — the original one in Nahcotta and a “satellite” store in Ocean Park (where Jack’s Country Store is now.)

The New Sign – 1914

“So, is the building where the Nahcotta Post Office has been all these years the actual Morehead (and, later, Trondsen and Brown) building?” I asked.

“Oh yes!” was Dorothy’s reply.  “Only, when I was growing up the post office was way around in the back of the building.  The front was all general merchandise — everything from jewelry to produce to farm implements.  Everything!  Deane Nelson, Charlie’s wife, was in charge of both the post office and the store.”

My Grandmother’s Teapot

I’m quite sure Deane had been in charge for a number of years — at least since 1918 when my (then) six-year-old mother rode her horse from Oysterville to Nahcotta and Deane helped her choose a blue china teapot for my grandmother’s 40th birthday present.  I count the teapot as one of our family treasures and the story of my mother’s four mile ride to Nahcotta and back as an early sign of the grit and determination that characterized her for her entire life.

“I remember that my father had to get up very early and meet the mail delivery each day,” Dorothy told me.  “He placed it all in the post boxes and had it ready for Deane before the store opened.  Then he went on into Ocean Park to manage the store there.”

Admiral Jack’s Uniform Cover – John G. “Jack” Williams, Jr. (1924-1991) Deputy Commander in Chief and Chief of Staff of the entire U.S. Pacific Fleet– CPHM

We talked of other things for quite a while — caught up with our mutual relatives who are scattered over much of the world.  Dorothy shared with me that she now has ten great-grandchildren with another expected soon.  She still knits for every newborn (and probably beyond!) and I could just see her smile right over the telephone as she talked about her big, ever-growing family.

“Do you know that it’s been 30 years since Jack died?” she said.  Thirty years!!  How fast the years go by.  How glad I am that that she and I are still “connected” and can keep some bits of the history of this area in proper perspective. At least for now.

The Best Reason To Keep On Keepin’ On…

Friday, March 5th, 2021

It was the BEST birthday ever, but most certainly not in terms of what I did or where I went or who I saw.  I simply sat and sheltered and spent the day “as usual.”  And, while I was doing that (and taking a wee nap in the afternoon) my birthday came to me!

It came by email and snail mail, by text and messaging, on Facebook and through landline and cellphone!  I received hundreds (literally!) of birthday greetings from relatives and friends and even from business acquaintances and from people I might have know once but can’t truly remember now.  It was astounding! And humbling!  And I have no idea of what I can do to tell each of you how appreciative I am!

Suffice it to say “Thank You so much for making 85 the best birthday yet!”  Who’duh thunk it?

Remembering Kay Buesing

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

Our friend Kay Buesing died yesterday or the day before.  We learned of it on Facebook and the details are unclear.  Not that they matter a bit.  Our memories of Kay are what matter and, in that spirit, I am re-posting a blog I wrote some years back…on May 30, 2013.

Kay The Kite Lady

Kay Buesing

Last night we attended a “Thank You Reception” to officially mark our friend Kay Buesing’s retirement as founding director of the World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame.  It was held (of course!) at the museum that Kay and her late husband Jim got started years ago – on a kite string, so to speak.  Now, twenty-three years later, the “only American museum devoted exclusively to kites” is a mecca for kite enthusiasts world-wide, and its million dollar building and property are fully paid for.  And Kay did it!

She is the first to say, however, that she didn’t do it alone; she had lots of help along the way.  Therein, of course, lies the magic of Kay.  As speaker after speaker testified last night, Kay has the knack of soliciting help and donations and good will.  She seems to do it effortlessly and with no fanfare at all.  To have a conversation about kites with Kay can be equated to making a commitment – to help with an event, to house a visiting kite expert, to arrange for publicity.  And you find yourself doing so willingly, I might add.  Even enthusiastically.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpeaking from personal experience, even if kites aren’t “your thing,” Kay’s quiet enthusiasm and her deep knowledge of ‘all things kite’ simply suck you in.  Suddenly, there you are in the midst of a roomful of kids learning how to make their first-ever kite.   Or maybe you are meeting a delegation of origami experts at Chico’s the night before an Asian kite festival, helping to get them fed and settled in for the weekend.

I’ve known Kay since the BK (Before Kites) days.  We were both hired by the Ocean Beach School District in the late seventies, she as a high school English teacher, me as an elementary teacher at Long Beach School.  On a professional level, our paths crossed only occasionally, but we also belonged to the same Picnic Group – eight or ten of us who got together spasmodically and on the spur of the moment to have a picnic, indoors or out.  It didn’t matter.  Then, too, Kay and I were founding members of the Peninsula Players in 1980 during their first incarnation.  And somewhere in those early years, kites made their appearance.

As Kay tells it, she was looking for a Christmas present for Jim – a toy of some kind which was a tradition with them.  She found a Skyro-gyro at Dennis Company and on Christmas Day they spent all day on the beach.  Jim would get the kite launched, it would fall, Kay would run up the beach and retrieve it.  Over and over and over.  And that was the beginning, Kay says, with Jim’s love affair with kites.  She never says a word about her own love affair but her eyes sparkle and there is no need to talk about it.The First Kite Museum

Like so many friendships here at the beach, ours has been casual and yet encompassing.  We know one another’s children; we’ve laughed and gossiped, worried and grieved, partied and relaxed together.  I’ve watched her love affair with kites since the beginning – since the years that she made us believe that it was Jim who was all about kites and she was just the dutiful wife behind the scenes.

Of course, we’ve known differently for a long, long time.  And last night all the important people said so, too.  Kay was named Director Emeritus of the World Kite Museum and Wall of Fame and two plaques were unveiled in her honor.  It was an impressive ceremony for an outstanding woman.  I’m glad we went.  Mostly, I’m glad we know Kay.

Is our sheltering condition morphing?

Friday, February 26th, 2021

Fireside Evenings — Perfect!

As we approach the first anniversary of “sheltering in place” (which for us is right here at home)… and now that we’ve had our two covid vaccinations… we are looking forward to getting out and about more.  Or at least that’s what we tell one another.

But the truth of the matter is that we haven’t suffered all that much by staying at home.  In fact, neither of us is much of a go-go sort.  I do enjoy certain sorts of gatherings — openings at the Heritage Museum or local galleries, Community Historian classes and outings and, of course, parties.  Otherwise — for shopping of any kind, I’d rather let my fingers do the walking and, once again, thank goodness for the internet.

Nyel, on the other hand loves to shop — but only in the old-fashioned sense of looking, looking, looking.  “For what?” I ask him.  “Nothing,” is the usual response.  Thank goodness.  Because the only places he “shops” are thrift stores, junk shops and, occasionally, salvage yards.  I try to bite my tongue.  What we don’t need is more junk.  Now I lament that those forays of his are pretty much past… now that he’s been confined to a wheelchair.  As in be careful what you wish for.

Best Place Ever For Relaxing and Visiting and Watching the Tides Change

What we’ve both missed most during this sheltering time is seeing our friends.  We’ve always done a lot of hosting right here at home.  It’s a house that is happiest when it is full of people or so it has always seemed to me.  My mother and her six siblings were raised here and continued coming back as adults and bringing their own families.  During my childhood, I associated “Granny and Papa’s House” with talk and laughter and people everywhere.  When it was our turn to move in, Nyel and I continued the full-house tradition — the best way we could.  By hosting parties and gatherings and house concerts.

So the sheltering hasn’t been all that difficult from a leaving-home-standpoint.  I wonder,  though, when it is finally unnecessary…  will we feel the need to leave home at all?  And if not, will we call our condition “agoraphobia? ”  I hope not.    “Homebodies” sounds better…