Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

The Best Theme Yet: “My Home Town”

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

The Announcement

Tonight is the 6×6 auction at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Foundation — the big annual fundraiser for the support of their exhibition programs.  A worthy cause but, more than that, a wonderful event starring our local art community.  Nyel and I have again reserved a table for six and are looking forward to an evening “out on the town.”

Appropriately enough, the theme of this year’s 6×6 event is “My Hometown.”  It’s a great theme, as always, and lends itself to every interpretation imaginable. It can be a literal interpretation like Jeanne Nitzel’s “My Hometown, Long Beach, Wa c. 1950s” or fanciful like Richard Schroeder’s “Mouse House” showing a big chunk of cheese inhabited by chunky little mice.  If you (like us) didn’t get to see the submissions during last month’s display at the Heritage Museum, take a look right now at the CPHM website preview:×6-art-show-and-auction/

My own preferences seem to gravitate to the historic themes — particularly as related to the bay or ocean.  And, I have to admit that I’m biased in favor of the many artists I know personally.  It’s probably fortunate that our neighbor Tucker Wachsmuth did not do a painting specifically of Oysterville.  My actual hometown done by an artist who is also a neighbor would probably put me over some edge.  And it definitely would threaten the precarious Stevens financial balance.

As it is, Nyel and I have had several serious discussions, full of phrases like:  “…we’re pretty much tapped out this year.” and “…we really don’t have any wall space left.” and “…but it’s all for such a very good cause.”  Your guess is as good as mine on what will happen when we have paddles in hand and Auctioneer Bruce Peterson starts his hypnotic patter!  Whatever the result though, it’s bound to be a great evening of elbow-rubbing with the local glitterati,  delicious refreshments, good company, and lots of laughter and enthusiasm.  (And high hopes that Security Guard Richard Schroeder remains upright and at the top of his form.)



One by One — We hear all too slowly.

Friday, November 1st, 2019

Power Lines in California

Gradually, our California friends and loved ones are weighing in.  Marta and Charlie, who live in the northern and  southern parts off the state, respectively, have been in touch right along, of course.  Neither is close to the fire zone but Marta has had no power for several days.  She has nothing kind or positive to say about PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) — ‘nor does anyone else, for that matter.

Nan, my friend since E Street Grammar School Days in San Rafael wrote yesterday:    We were able to return home last night; cat in tow. Megan took care of us….wearing sweat shirts and hats; no heat, but hopefully P. G. and E will restore power this morning. We are grateful for all that we have; people who care for us…  

I’ve not yet heard from Bette, my friend from San Rafael High School journalism classes.  She’s in Danville and from what I can tell online, their power was turned off Saturday, Oct. 26th but was  back on again by 2:00 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28th.

Kincaide Fire in Northern California

‘Nor have we heard from Dayton and Jeanne, friends  from my teaching days in Hayward Unified School District.  I think they are probably off on a cruise — that’s their retirement program.  But it doesn’t look like Hayward has had any power outages and I’m pretty sure they aren’t in the path of a fire.

As for people in the fire zone — no word thus far.   We pray for long-time friends Averil and John in the city of Sonoma and for the Chmieleskis in Vacaville.  We hope they and their loved ones are safe and that their properties have escaped damage.

Perhaps it’s just that the fires are so horrific that the attention seems to be focused on the power outages, rather than the fires, themselves.  I’ve been a bit surprised at how upset people have been at PG&E — no one has anything good to say about these planned outages.  Plus, the  headlines are dramatic in the extreme.  Days of terrifying darkness, cold and hunger amid PG&E’s sweeping power blackouts said one.  For the Most Vulnerable, California Blackouts ‘Can Be Life or Death’ said another.  It seems to me that such reporting only fans the flames, so to speak.

Santa Clarita in Southern California

Maybe because our power is always “iffy” in winter…  Maybe because we know our outages aren’t “on purpose”… Maybe because we have emergency food and water stashes in case of  tsunami… Maybe because we know the neighbors who might need help…  I think our local experiences with power outages aren’t so scary as what I’m hearing from California.  Or maybe it’s just that we’ve never forgotten how to cope.  As in… doesn’t everyone have a flashlight handy?

One by one.  Please, please may they keep calling.



When I get stuck, I think of Edith Olson.

Monday, October 28th, 2019

Edith Olson, Dale Little at Edith’s 90th

Edith Olson was a life-long friend of my mother’s and, come to think of it, a life-long friend of mine.  Although she was older (by seven years) than my mom, we had a lot in common, starting with Oysterville and our roots here.

Edith was the granddaughter of I.A. Clark, co-founder of Oysterville with my great-grandfather, R.H. Espy.  Although neither Edith or I grew up here, we were associated with the village all our lives — visiting relatives, being “summer kids” and, eventually living here full-time.

In the thirties, Edith and her husband rented the Bard Heim property at the north end of town and raised dairy cows.   I barely remember her from those years — a tiny woman with a tiny voice and sparkling blue eyes and a heart bigger than all outdoors.   Edith ran the farm by herself during the forties when Martin went off to war.  When he got back they left for the wilds of Alaska to homestead in the Matanuska Valley.  My folks and I were in California but, even during those years, our families saw one another now and then.

After Martin died, Edith moved back to Oysterville — this time to Surfside, as close as she could get to her beloved ocean.  That was in the mid-seventies and, when I moved here full-time in 1978, we resumed our friendship.  First she “toured” me around to the places she thought important — to North Head but not to the lighthouse.  She wanted me to see the woods and to make sure I could identify the indigenous plants — ocean spray and red hucklebetty and a host of others.  (I could and she gave Dorothy Elliott and my years at Camp Willapa high marks.)

Edith took me in her jeep up the beach and over the dunes into the old Hines Ranch where we had a picnic and she talked to me about how it was here when she was growing up and later, when she was raising her family.  One summer we went up to Alaska so she could show me “her” Matanuska Valley and introduce me to the Wasilla Library which she had been instrumental in starting twenty-five years before.  Her book, “The Library and I,”  published in 1988, was the story of that experience — and of so much more about those pioneering years when Alaska was working its way toward statehood.

Too, Edith wrote for the Chinook Observer, much as I do today.  She wrote about happenings in Oysterville and she wrote about the history of Pacific County.  It got so she asked that I call her before coming by to visit.  Writing had become more difficult for her, she said, and if she was in the middle of something, she needed to stay focused.  “It used to be that the words would just crawl up my back and over my shoulders and land on the page,” she told me.  “But that doesn’t happen so easily now.”

Oh my, Edith!  I know the feeling!  I wish I could share a cup of tea and talk with you again — in person, I mean.  About what used to be and what is changing and about trying to capture some of it for posterity.  As it is, though, I am ever grateful for all the time we spent together and the introductions to your world, so generously shared.

Easier Sung Than Done

Sunday, October 27th, 2019

Larry Murante

Larry Murante performed at the PAC (Peninsula Performing Arts Center) in Long Beach last night to a respectful, attentive audience.  Mostly he sang his own compositions, any one of which I could readily listen to over and over again — and have!

Larry’s songs aren’t exactly what I’d call ‘easy’ listening.  Not because of the music, mind you.  His melodies are catchy, his rhythms upbeat, his delivery a combination of cheerful, ironic, and always always always thought-provoking.  And they stick with you.  They cause you to think and to evaluate and to resolve.

This morning when the alarm woke me to the usual pitchy black of late October, his “Ready for the Dark” popped into my head and will no doubt be with me for a while.  When days are short and nights are longer, you gotta get ready for the dark…  

Larry Murante

Those long nights are already here.  But it’s bound to get worse — especially considering the added impact of returning to Standard Time a week from today.  Yep!  On Sunday, November 3rd we’ll get back that hour that we lost last March — a concept that I don’t think I’ve ever completely understood.

Time is time, no matter what the clocks say… isn’t it?  The best I can wrap my head around is that it will (presumably) get light earlier in the morning  and get dark earlier in the evening.  But when you get up at 5:00 a.m. and go to bed with the chickens… who cares?

I think I’m ready for the dark — I’ve got extra logs on the hearth and my honey is nearby.  It’s actually the cold and gloom of winter that I’m not ready for.  But, maybe I can segue my thoughts into another favorite by Larry,  “Point of Entry” —  …If you give the world outside a point of entry, it’ll give back to you…  

And, after all. if Daylight Savings Time is soon to be over, can the Winter Solstice and shorter days be far behind?  Thanks, Larry, for all that positive energy and for your compassionate observations about this tired old world!  You are the best!


My Friend Stephanie

Friday, October 25th, 2019


This blog is a shout out to my friend Stephanie Frieze… just because.  Because I’m so often struck by her thoughtfulness.  Because I’m always impressed by how she connects all those dots.  Because her memories often reinforce and underscore my own.  And because she sees the world a little differently than anyone else I know and helps me to enlarge my own vision when it gets stuck.

Take her recent FB postings (yes, she posted it twice) asking her friends to come bear witness at the burial of an unclaimed Viet Nam veteran in Kent, Washington. “No vet deserves to be buried alone. If you can’t come to Tahoma, please share this.” she said.

Or, how about the time she befriended a new woman in town and invited her to take a class I was giving at Grays Harbor College.  It was about our Peninsula’s history and Stephanie thought Vicki might be interested.  And so… our world expanded once again as we got to know Vicki and Fred Carter.

Lovely Linda, 2013

Or what other grandma has ever let me relive my own childhood and share a grandma experience, to boot? She brought her own granddaughter, the Lovely Linda, to high tea here at the house!  We used the 100+ years-old-dishes and the teapot I remember from tea parties with my own beloved granny and her friends seventy-some years ago.  Or what about the time Stephanie and (then) 2nd grade Linda came calling to get my signature on Linda’s copy of Dear Medora. (My youngest fan!).  I remember her twirly pink shoes and the demonstration of how they worked on my front porch!

Phyllis Diller, 1976

And just a few days ago, again on FB, Stephanie posted the picture of the baby with the fuzzy hat and made the connection with the zany Phyllis Diller.  Who else could  ever have made that delightful association and set my thoughts off in yet another direction?

So, thank you Stephanie!  Thanks for all the times you’ve made me laugh and think and take a second look!  Here’s to many, many more such opportunities!

The next best thing…

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

Michael Frank

I think the next best thing to being successful yourself is to watch the upward trajectory of a friend.  I’m talking about careers and avocations here.  Specifically book writing.  And, even more specifically, the achievement of our long-time friend Michael Frank with his just published (October 8th) first novel, What Is Missing (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

Says The National Book Review: Frank’s psychologically astute, engrossing debut novel demonstrates his keen instinct for family dynamics that was evident in his fascinating memoir, The Mighty Franks, which focused on his bewitching, powerful screenwriter aunt. At the center of What Is Missing are a divorced father who is a famous fertility specialist, his long-limbed adolescent son, and a dazzling Italian American translator, recently widowed – each marked by disappointment, profoundly burdened by deeply held secrets, and yearning for family. From Florence to the New York’s Upper East Side, Frank’s compelling characters each contend with their inchoate sense of self and their abiding need for family. 

Michael Frank’s First Novel

And says Publisher’s Weekly:  Following the memoir The Mighty Franks, Frank’s memorable debut novel showcases father-son relationships and the primal drive to have children. Teenager Andrew Weissman meets Costanza, an Italian-American woman whose famous novelist husband died the previous year, while in Florence with his divorced father, Henry. Then Henry, an infertility specialist, meets Costanza in a museum, and the novel follows a quasi-Oedipal track with father and son attracted to the same captivating woman. Henry and Costanza’s romance takes center stage, as does their desire to conceive a child together, but Costanza and Andrew have a connection that makes Henry uneasy. Frank delves into how Henry’s hubris sabotages his relationships, shows Andrew feeling alienated by Henry, and explores how Costanza comes to grips with her complex marriage. The novel is filled with trenchant moments of sweetness and betrayal, as well a stunning reveal of the harrowing gauntlet infertile women go through to conceive. This is an intricate and dynamic examination of familial ties: both what strengthens them and what can tear them apart.

Michael Fraank’s 2017 Memoir

The list of reviews and commentary on Google fill two computer screens.  Totally impressive!  Not all are one hundred percent positive… but very nearly!  I don’t know that the book is exactly my dish of tea but I am eager to read it,  perhaps to review it, and to clap and cheer some more for Michael!  Stay tuned…  And if you read it before I do, let me know what you think.

A flurry of fame but, alas, no fortune!

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

Almost to Ourselves

Last Wednesday when New York Magazine article about ICE and the Peninsula was published online — and even afterwards for a day or two — I got a bit of (probably undeserved) attention.  Emails and phone calls from friends and strangers came one after another.  Pretty heady stuff for this old lady.  But the headiest (if that’s a word) was when I got a call on Friday from our Lt. Gov.’s assistant that he would be in town and would like to meet with me.  Really?

But, in actuality, that wasn’t totally strange.  Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib and I had met before.  He had come to our house four or five years ago with a mutual friend.  I remember that visit vividly and, as it turned out, so did he.  “When I read the New York Times article and saw your name, I remembered our visit at your place in Oysterville. I thought maybe there was a chance we could renew the acquaintance,” he said.

Sunrise in Oysterville – One of the “Thin Places” ?

We met in the early evening at the Pickled Fish — the Lt. Gov. and two aides and me.  We had the place very nearly to ourselves and so we spent a pleasant hour reminiscing, among other things, about our earlier conversation about the “thin places.”  Oysterville is said, by some, to be one of those unusual spots in the world where the veil between  this world and the eternal world is thin… where one can walk in in two worlds at once.   The Lt. Gov. remembered that conversation; so did I.

Of course, we talked about other things, too.  His recent climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro with his assistant, Kristina.  Neither had even had backpacking experience before — never mind that Cyrus has been fully blind from early childhood — due to cancer, as I recall.  I remember asking him when we first met if he could remember colors and shapes — if he was old enough to have retained those concepts before he lost his sight.  And now?  Backpacking to the top of a 19,341-foot mountain?  In Africa?  Wow!

Kristina Brown and Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib on Mt. Kilimanjaro

The climb was  in support of a new statewide program called Boundless Washington that “integrates fun and challenging outdoor activities with leadership development training for young people with disabilities in our state,” according to one website. The program, set to launch in the winter of 2020, was established by the Association of Washington Generals  through a partnership with the Office of the Lt. Governor, Outdoors For All, and No Barriers.  Wow some more!

And, of course we talked about our Hispanic community here at the beach — how so many are still being targeted and, in fact. how the wait for  hearings has become longer and chances of being allowed to stay even less certain.  “How can we help?” he asked.  Oh, how I wish I had a ready answer.  Push for more federal judges?  Say no more private for-profit prisons?  Help us get to the bottom of why Pacific County has been such a target?

A Goodbye Portrait — The Lt. Gov. and Woman in Yellow Rain Hat

We talked until it was time for him to go to the reception he was hosting for “his” senators. (“I am in charge of the senate,” he reminded me with an impish smile.  Somehow, I was reminded that he is young enough to be my grandson… if I had one. )  He had called for a retreat here on the Peninsula to examine Rural Tourism.  The perfect place for such a discussion, I thought.  Almost as good as Oysterville where our visitors’ logs document an average of 10,000 tourists a year.  That’s a pretty good draw for a village of 15 full-time residents, eh?

It was a fun visit — a great conclusion to my two-day flurry of fame.  Too bad there was no “fortune” part along with it.  Or maybe it’s on the way…


What do you think of this, Mrs. Crouch?

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

Seeing Double – by Barbara Canney

I love this “portrait” of me! It was taken by my friend Barbara Canney at Our Grand Affair — or at least part of it was.  Someone else (we’re not sure who) was sitting in chair in front and Barb wanted to crop her out (sorry!) but… she hit the button and suddenly the Mystery Woman was gone and there were two of me!

When I was about five, I went through a period of wanting an identical twin.  I think it was about the time that Willard’s oldest daughters, Mona and Freddy, were born.  They were twins, I was told, but they were not identical.  They didn’t look alike.  And they were both girls even though one had a boy’s name.

I processed all of that the best I could and decided that I wanted a twin, too.  But one that looked just like me.  And it had to be a boy, I decided.  Not a girl with a boy’s name.  I don’t know if I expressed that desire to my folks or not.  I only know that the following Christmas I received identical twin dolls — both girls (unfortunately, I thought) and I named them Mona and Freddy after my cousins.

Before Cloning by Barbara Canney

Obviously, I was a bit confused.  It was just about that time that I also thought all cats were girls and all dogs were boys.  Part of that might be attributed to the fact that we had a male puppy (Zipper) and the neighbors had a female cat with kittens.   Who knows?  It was also about that time that I remember being in Oysterville with our good family friends, the Montagues, and being plunked in the bathtub after a day at the beach with Kay who was two years older and Jimmy who was two years younger.  I don’t remember much about the boy and girl parts — just that it was too crowded in that tub!

Meanwhile… I wonder if Mrs. Crouch has seen the Double Sydney picture and what she thinks.  Or maybe she can see two of things at will.  I have about as much knowledge of ghosts at the age of eighty-something as I did of identical twins when I was five.  I think I’m a slow bloomer.  But… I’ve said for a long time that I wish I could clone myself.  This portrait by Barb may well be as close as I ever get.

To Honor A House Takes A Village

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Cousin Eva with Charlie and Marta

Cousin Eva Legerer left today — the last of a passel of relatives and friends here to help with Our Grand Affair.  Eva came from farthest away – from Baden, Austria.  Barb Canney was the closest second, returning to her “second home” from Cohassett, Massachusetts.  From closer-by were  my son Charlie Howell from L.A. and my step-daughter Marta La Rue from Marin County, Cousin Donna Gwinn from Garfield in Eastern Washington, Kuzzin Kris Jones from Eugene in the state next door, Cousin Ruthie Mahoney and Cindy Soderberg from Mercer Island,  and Dick Hawes from Bainbridge Island.

Charlotte Killien and Cookies!

Let’s see — that makes nine, all of them staying here or nearby for up to a week and all focused on getting this grand old lady (the house) and its occupants ready for last Sunday’s “do.”  In addition were the Food Troops — friends and neighbors in the community who saw to it that we had plenty of delicious edibles throughout the week:  Gina and Cynthia and their Italian Dinner served on Friday night; Sandy Stonebreaker and chicken tetrazinni forever; Nanci Main and her zucchini pies; and Michael and Lynn Madigan and their cranberry muffins for the morning-after breakfast!  But the prize surely goes to Charlotte Killien who gifted us with two-to-three-dozen each of twelve kinds of cookies!!  OMG!

The Flower Girls – Marta and Pat

Pat Fagerland and Marta arranged flowers for every room in the house.  Then there were Tucker Wachsmuth and Ronnie Biggs who manned the cannon.  And Cate Gable who organized the musicians.  And, of course, long before the weekend arrived, the Rose City Mixed Quartet (Mark Peterson, Dale Webber, Helen Dietz, and Cameron Herbert) polished and fluffed the house and the lawn to perfection, and Maggie Stuckey organized I-don’t-know-who-all to see to the flower beds!

The party may have been for the 150th birthday of this old lady house but it was, in reality, a party celebrating community and friendship and sharing.  We’ll be basking in the glow for a long time to come.

Flowers and Music and Tents Oh My!

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

Flowers from Marta

The pieces began arriving yesterday.  First, a gazillion gorgeous flowers from Freddie’s — Marta’s gift to the 150th Birthday Party for the house.  She and Pat Fagerland will be arranging and fluffing and watering today — flowers in all the strategic places to make this Old Lady House festive for her big day on Sunday!

In the afternoon — chairs and tables and tents to say nothing of glasses and plates and silverware arrived and were stashed under the gorgeous tent (or Sweets and Bubbly Pavilion as I prefer to think of it.)  Today, we’ll be schlepping, hefting, and arranging — but not anything outside the tent yet.  Not until tomorrow morning when, hopefully the threat of rain has been removed Until Further Notice!

Larry Murante

Soon the birthday cakes and cookies and balloons will be delivered.  And tomorrow the stage and pop-up tent will be put in place for the musicians!  Speaking of whom — here is the line-up (not in order of appearance):  Larry Murante, Fred Carter, Cate and Starla Gable, Phil Allen, Brian O’Connor, George Coleman, Double J and the Boys, the Oyster Crackers, Randal Bays and Susan Waters, The Oyster Crackers, Ute Marx!!!  Our Mistress of Musical Schedulingd, Cate, has taken to calling this portion of the celebrtoon “A.K.A Oysterville Woodstock!”

Tent Ho!

Meanwhile, relatives and friends from afar have gathered to help.  Last night we had ten for a wonderful pasta dinner (compliments of Gina and Cynthia Raitano).  Tonight the numbers will soar some more and it will be zucchini pies, a gift from Nanci Main.  OMG!!!

Happy 150th to this Old Lady House, indeed!  The fun has already begun!