Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Our Community Mourns

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Kevin Soule: father, husband, son, friend.  In a small community we build relationships effortlessly.  Kevin was my student at Ocean Park School more than thirty years ago.  Tall for his age as a third grader.  Quiet.  Curious.  The kid every teacher wants a classroom full of.

I don’t think any of us who knew Kevin in those years was surprised that he grew up to be a fisherman, an oysterman, a man whose interests and livelihood centered on the bay.  There have been Soules living around our bay for generations.  Boats and saltwater were part of his DNA.

From our house in Oysterville, we all too often hear the search and rescue helicopters at work over the bay.  Just ten days ago Doug Knutzen left our House Concert and flew out to rescue a man whose canoe had capsized.  But we were unaware of the search for Kevin on Saturday.  Ironically, we were sitting in the midst of many of his colleagues at the Science Conference in Long Beach, listening to the problems and proposed solutions involving our bay, our ocean, our river.  We didn’t know that on that very day, the search began for Kevin and his boat, the Kelli J.

It stands to reason, in a small community like ours – all but surrounded by water – that our young people will gravitate to jobs that take them out on the water.  An it probably stands to reason that some won’t come home from their day’s (or night’s) work.  Fishing is hazardous.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: Fishers and related fishing workers deal with a set of working conditions unique among all other occupations. This occupation is characterized by strenuous work, long hours, seasonal employment, and some of the most hazardous conditions in the workforce.

And though there is a tacit understanding of those facts here in our community, it does not make it easier.  Since I moved here in 1978, I’ve known six young fishermen who have died at sea.  One was the father of two girls who were my students.  Three others were brothers of my students. Another, the son of friends. And now, Kevin.  Once again, I have no words.

I woke up thinking of Mary Garvey’s song after the Lady Cecilia went down. It began:

I wished I lived in Phoenix or some hot and dusty town
Where the ocean did not roar at night and no one had to drown
Where fish were raised in fish tanks as fish were meant to be
And no one had to risk their lives by going out to sea

In my heart there is a song for Kevin.  And for Bonnie and Ernie and Heather and his daughters.  It’s the same song we all have when tragedy strikes our community.  I hope Mary can write it for us.

When Memory Collides with the Here & Now

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

Hulda Klager House – Closed

Yesterday’s field trip to the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens was a bust – not at all what we had hoped for and nothing like our memory of it.  Definitely one of those you-can’t-go-home-again things!  The worst part was that we had talked it up to our neighbor Carol.  Plus… she had offered to treat us to lunch and couldn’t be dissuaded.  The lunch (Mexican food) was delicious and we, course felt doubly guilty.

Nyel and I are pretty sure that our first trip to the Lilac Gardens was when we were both working and we are also pretty sure it couldn’t have been during “Lilac Days” which take place for the three weeks just prior to Mother’s Day.  We remember that even though there were only a few lilacs were bloom, plants were being sold, docents were in evidence to answer questions, and the house, potting sheds, and other areas on the grounds were open to the public.  Not so yesterday.

In Hulda’s Garden

Our first clue was only a few cars in the parking lot and an honor system put-your-money-in-the-box arrangement.  We were free to wander the grounds but all the buildings were locked up presumably until next year.  And the lilacs were mostly “over” – about three weeks earlier than ours on the coast.  Damn!  Even so, there were many other things in bloom – many photo ops and we spent an hour or so wandering and marveling and, truth to tell, feeling some relief that there weren’t hordes of visitors crowding the pathways.

I had spent some time prior to our trip on the Hulda Klager website – but apparently not on the right pages.  I had not noticed the mention that Many of the lilacs were planted by Hulda herself while others were planted by the many devoted volunteers that work hundreds of hours each year in the Gardens.  The potting shed and lilac display gardens are located behind the Historic Home.  Lila plants are sold only during Lilac Days.

Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens

It wasn’t until we read the little brochure (free for the taking in the mailbox) that we learned their policies had changed sometime in the ’90s and, for lack of docents,  they are now only fully open during the three weeks of Lilac Days.  Somewhere else I read that they get 10,000 visitors at that time.  Despite our disappointment and having led Carol astray, I think I’m just as happy that we had the place to ourselves!

We had noticed on our way into Woodland that there was a nursery just north of town, so before we began the homeward trek, we stopped in.  Somehow, our impression was that it was a small operation but, once again, we could not have been more wrong.  Tsugawa’s Nursery is huge!  The workers were helpful and informative and Nyel and I found two lilac plants promising deep purple blooms – just as we had hoped we’d find a Hulga’s place.  And, they come with a one-year guarantee!!

Variegated Lilac in Bloom at Hulda Klager’s Place

Carol (bless her!) shared the back seat with the two five-gallon pots and we were home by four o’clock. Five hours coming and going on the road had given us time for lots of visiting so, even though Hulda’s place was a disappointment, the trip, itself, was great. Still… we feel we owe Carol bigtime.  For sure, lunch will be on us next time!

You can always use a …

Monday, May 7th, 2018

Horse Trough

Just when I thought we were making progress on cleaning out the garage and back forty, Nyel went funny on me.  Anyone who has a husband who can’t resist a whatever-it-is in a junk store or at a garage sale or from a friend who is downsizing knows exactly what I mean.  This time it’s a horse trough!

“Really?  A horse trough?” I asked.  “Why?”

“You can always use a horse trough,” came the not unexpected reply.

I consoled myself that we were doing our part to help friends move from a house into an RV.  It’s difficult to justify hauling a horse trough around the countryside when space is so limited.  Especially since they have no horse.  Maybe more especially since they are already traveling with four dogs and three cats and the paraphernalia that goes with that menagerie.

Bitty Redell, Rodeo Queen, with Amber, 1947 — Ann Anderson Collection

But I am not hoodwinked one bit by all those “helping out our friends” nonsense.  We don’t have a horse, either.  And I very much hope this isn’t the excuse to get one!  It’s one thing to have a gigantic-galvanized-tub-that-neither-of-us-can-budge right in the way of everything.  Having a horse would be a whole other kettle of road apples.

Actually, we would have room for a horse.  In good weather.  And if we built a fence around the meadow.  And got all the neighbors and the county and god to agree.  I don’t think we are zoned for horses here in Oysterville anymore.  But it doesn’t seem that long ago that everyone in town had a horse.  In my mother’s childhood, every household had several horses and, here in Oysterville, several boats.  How else could you get anywhere?

Camp Willapa Horses 1940s

By the time of my childhood, adults had a car (and maybe a boat or even a fleet) and the horses belonged to the kids.  Almost every family had at least one horse and the kids of the other ‘deprived’ families had serious horse envy. Until I was ten or so, my grandfather still had Countess – the last of his work horses.  She was too old to enjoy being ridden but, somehow, taking her apples and sugar cubes satisfied my horse itch.  And besides, I spent a lot of each summer at Dorothy Elliot’s Camp Willapa down the road where there were plenty of horses to choose from.

I can’t imagine why, with all the various and sundry left-overs from my grandfather’s cattle ranch days, we didn’t already have a horse trough.  And now… we do.  All trough and no horse, as they say.

The Very Best Kind of Feedback

Sunday, May 6th, 2018

May 2, 2013

I’m not sure about this title.  Every kind of feedback about my writing (unless it’s just plain mean-spirited) is the very best kind.  But yesterday’s response to last week’s column in the Observer was so totally unexpected and so right-on-the money, that I was about bowled over!

I had stopped by my friend Kay Buesing’s house to drop off a book.  She was expecting me and, there on her kitchen table, was the newspaper folded back to the editorial page.  “Even in our not-so-gigantic gene pool…” was the headline of my Elementary my dear column for May.

“I left that out to remind me to tell you…” began Kay. “…I’ve started a project I should have done long ago.” And she began to tell me about the box of photographs her grandmother had left to her.  “I was the oldest and so I got to go to visit her all by myself, without my siblings.  And I was her favorite,” she laughed.  “She left everything to me.”

Kay told me about playing “behind the dining room table” where she and they could talk as her grandmother worked in the kitchen.  I shared a similar memory… of being able to stand upright under the dining room table and having that delicious feeling that I was invisible.  Two old octogenarians sharing childhood memories.

Buttons! Buttons! Buttons!

We also talked about our grandmother’s button boxes.  I told her that I used to take mine into the classroom and we would have a lesson on sorting and preferences and diversity. Put a pile of old buttons in the middle of a group of four six-seven- and eight-year-olds and the discoveries are unending.  Kay told me about the “story buttons” in her grandmother’s collection.  “There’s one about Rumpelstiltskin,” she said.  I’d never heard of story buttons and we agreed that we need to have a Button Box Date to compare and reminisce.  Soon.

But it was the box of photos that Kay wanted to tell me about.  “Your article prompted me to get them out and start putting the names I remember on the backs.  My girls are coming for Mother’s Day and I think they can help with some of them.  My grandmother had labeled some.  But, sadly, there are those that we probably won’t be able to identify.”  She went on to say that she never would have gotten at it had it not been for what she felt was the “inspiration” of my words.  Yay!  I’m so glad.

Oysterville’s Seventeenth Postmaster

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Jean Smith, Oysterville Postmater 2002-2012

Mescal Jean Smith, always known to us by her middle name, died last week at her home in Tygh Valley, Oregon.  Her daughter-in-law kindly called to let us know.  Though Jean and John moved from Oysterville almost six years ago, I feel Jean’s absence more since that phone call than in all the years since they left.  Somehow, they have remained ‘present’ despite our sporadic communication.

Jean and John came to Oysterville in 1984.  They bought the Oysterville Store/Post Office Building as well as the old Andrews house next door.  I don’t know if Jean had aspirations to become the postmaster at that time or not.  I think Mary Munsey was still in charge of the mail in those days and then came Casey Killingsworth who we dubbed “The Singing Postmaster.”

John and Jean Smith, 2012

Meanwhile, Jean and John (but mostly Jean) ran the store.  John was still working in Oregon; for years we saw him only on the weekends.    By the time John finally retired and moved to Oysterville full-time in 2001, Jean was working as the PMR (Postmaster Replacement) at the Post Office as well as keeping an eye on the store.

Somehow, she also had time to grow tubs full of gorgeous tulips, nip outside to give doggie treats to her canine friends, and wave hello to the neighbors on her noontime walks through town.  She had worked and walked her way into our community and into our hearts and had brought John right along with her.

Soon, in 2002, she was officially appointed Oysterville Postmaster and John was minding the store full-time.  It was a natural division of labor and it seemed as though it had always been that way.  Indeed, now, almost two decades later, there are many store customers and postal patrons who don’t remember life ‘BJJ” – before Jean and John.

Jean Cuts Farewell Cake, 2012

“How is John doing?” I asked during the phone call.  Jean had written some time back that he had been diagnosed with “Beginning Alzheimer’s.”

“Not very well,” Jean’s daughter-in-law replied.  It wasn’t clear that he fully understood that Jean had died.  “His son will be taking him to Arizona to live with them,” she said. And we were quiet for a while.

I asked if I could do any calling – to let people know.  “There’s someone I called who said she’d post a notice at the Post Office,” she said.  “And we are going to gather up there at Jean’s Beach, probably in July, to scatter her ashes.  We want all her friends to come.”

I’m not really sure where Jean’s Beach is, but we plan to be there.

California Calling!

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018


Doncha just love those unexpected phone calls or FaceBook messages?  The ones that come from friends that you’ve actually been thinking about but haven’t talked to in ages?  I received two of those yesterday – one was actually a FaceBook message from a friend I haven’t seen for forty-five years – maybe more!  And the other was from a friend who hooks up with me periodically – usually when one of us is working on a project involving old photographs of the Peninsula.

Allegra, 2014

I think of both of these ‘callers’ as California-based, but it’s probably not true in the case of Allegra.  She was a Kindergartener in my K-3 class in the mid-seventies – a never-to-be-forgotten, big-as-a-minute philosopher and wise woman, even at age five.  Over the years I’ve wondered periodically what happened to her and last week ‘found’ her on FaceBook.  Yesterday she answered my ‘Friend’ request and we are beginning to get reacquainted!  I couldn’t be more thrilled.

From what I can tell in her Facebook photos, she is still petite, dark-eyed, dark-haired, and beautiful.  Her smile turned out to be just as I imagined.  (As I recall, when we were last together, her two upper front teeth were missing… but I might be mis-remembering.)  She seems to live in the Northeast, perhaps near the other Washington, so my stuck-in-the-70s thoughts of her in California were one of those frozen in time things.  No matter!  I look forward to catching up.  From the look of things, she turned out perfectly!

Keith Cox

That connection was in the morning.  Last evening it was actually a phone call and it did come from California.  Keith, the Willapa Bay oyster industry’s filmmaker extraordinaire!  Haven’t heard from him in a year or more so we had some catching up to do, too.  It turned out that he was offering copies of any historic cranberry photos he might have – in case I need them for my current book project!  Say what?  How did he know? Turns out he’d had a conversation with Melinda (of Cranberry Museum fame) and then checked out my recent blog.

Sydney and Keith, 2017

Keith may live a thousand miles away but, somehow, he remains connected with Pacific County in unexpected ways!  Cranberry photographs??  Of course, Keith would have some!  I felt a bit chagrinned, in fact, that I hadn’t thought of him first.  Or at least second.

We commiserated about the status of publishing in the twenty-first century.  He talked to me about a couple of books he is beginning to put together in his mind – but probably not going with a conventional publication method.  Whatever Keith does and however he does it, it will be spectacular!

I have to say that yesterday was a struggle writing-wise – just one of those days.  But I definitely have a who-cares and this-too-shall-pass attitude about that part.  Hearing from my “California Connections” made all the difference!

Shades of Michelangelo

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

The ceiling of the Oysterville Church is only 17 or 18 feet high.  Nothing like the Sistine Chapel.  And Ray Hansen had plenty of room to stand on the scaffolding.  None of that lying on his back business. But even so, I couldn’t help but make the obvious comparison.  And I wouldn’t have traded places with him for all the pasta in Rome.

Had I been a well person – and how long does this stupid bronchitis last, anyway – I would have been across the street every single day these past few weeks – worrying and fretting in my acrophobic way.  I don’t do well with ladders.  Scaffoldings?  Forget it.  Never mind that he assured me, very seriously, “Before I move, I always look to see exactly where my feet are.”  Yikes!  Instead of seeing to his safety myself. I asked Tucker if he’d take pictures.

As it was, I crossed my mental fingers tight, tight, tight and stayed tucked in safely here at home while progress was being made.  I think my friendship with Ray is still intact.  For sure it would have been a bit fractured, or at least frayed, if I’d been hovering.  Or whatever you call it when you are fretting and carrying on way off in the down-blow.

Meanwhile… the church as never looked better!  The man is pure magic when it comes to peeling and scraping and patching.  Furthermore, he had only scraps and remnants to work with – ends of wallpaper rolls that Nyel, the never-throw-anything-away-guy, has had squirrelled away in our back forty since the wallpaper was restored in the early 1980s.  Through some miracle, there was just enough.  Barely.  And only because Ray is a master of smoke and mirrors and the guild secrets of the wallpaper fraternity.  (Thumb tacks?  You’re using thumbtacks?  Who knew.)

Someday, the Oysterville Restoration Foundation will have to think seriously about re-doing the church wallpaper from start to finish.  Only because of Ray’s TLC over the years have we managed to keep the current paper in place.  I imagine that the day of reckoning will come long after I am gone.  And Ray, too, for that matter.  I hope another Wallpaper Angel surfaces in the meantime.  One with a calm manner and careful feet.  Just like Ray!

Lost Days and Missed Opportunities

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Just Across the Street

The worst part of being sick is all that time that has simply gone away.  Days and days of limbo which is described by my dictionary as an uncertain situation that you cannot control and in which there is no progress or improvement. That is an absolutely precise description of my situation from Sunday, March 11th through Monday, March 19th!  Limbo!  And not in a dancing kind of way either.

Somehow, I managed to meet a few writing deadlines.  Even wrote my blog as usual until I simply couldn’t force myself out of bed, even for a few minutes.  But then, whatever had invaded my body took total charge and time marched on without me.  I just hate that.  I am so fortunate to have been blessed with good health throughout my life – never missed a day in high school – and not afterwards, either.  In all our married life, this is the first time my long-suffering husband has seen me down and out.

Oysterville Church Vestibule

I remember that my mother used to describe one or two of her acquaintances as “a person who enjoys poor health.”  She emphasized the word “enjoys” and I took it to mean those people (usually women, sad to say) who, when asked how they are, answer with a litany of complaints.  One learns not to ask.  I never wanted to be one of those women.

The very worst part of this particular siege is that I have missed out on visiting with Carol and Ray Hansen.  They are here in Oysterville partly through my doing so I feel doubly upset.  For their working years, they lived in Seaview and I think we gradually became acquainted in the 1990s.  We were refurbishing the interior of the house – a necessity after having it insulated from the inside.  Someone (who we owe bigtime) suggested Ray who, it turned out, is the best paper hanger ever!  Every room in our house says so!

It may have been back that far that he began patching and mending the wallpaper in the church “as a favor.”  And about that time, too, we became acquainted with his wife Carol and found we had mutual friends and sometimes we partied together and… you know how it goes here on the Peninsula.  When they moved to Utah we were devastated, though we have managed visits back and forth.

Nearby, Ray’s at Work!

When the Oysterville Restoration Foundation needed some serious work done on the church wallpaper recently, we recommended Ray…and no sooner had they arrived and made themselves cozy in the Oysterville Guesthouse than I collapsed.  I’m so afraid Ray is almost finished with his work.  Right across the street and I haven’t managed to get a single photograph, say a single encouraging word or left my sickbed to even catch a glimpse of  Carol.  And I have the woozy, hazy thought that she came calling a couple of times, too!

Such a time-waster, this sick business!  I’m so so sorry.

Of Glass Harps and Mountain Dulcimers

Monday, March 12th, 2018

Michael Greiner and The Glass Harp

I (personally) know only one person who plays the glass harp – Michael Greiner.  And, until yesterday, I’ve only know one person who played the mountain dulcimer – Harlan Kinsey who I think has been playing in the great beyond for fifty years or more.  I don’t really “connect” the two instruments except that I love them both and you just don’t meet a lot of people who play either one.

But, yesterday up in Grayland on the search for cranberry information (a new book project… don’t ask) my new friend Connie Allen mentioned that she is “Career A-D-D” as in she’s had a lot of them.  I already know her as a bog owner and as a recently ‘retired’ tall ship captain, so I asked what other jobs she’s had.  It seems that she was a musician for a number of years – on the East Coast and later, in San Diego.

Connie On Board

“Appalachian Dulcimer” she said in answer to my question.  I love that instrument!  I connect it with the late fifties and early sixties and with Berkeley and with the folk revolution and with the first glimmers of the segue from Beat to Hippie.  I was only an onlooker.  Too old (was I 25?) and settled (married with a Kindergartener) to be part of it.  But I had friends in the thick of it all … especially artists and musicians.

Why I connected the dots is beyond me, but I said, “I know someone in San Diego – at least he used to live in that area – who plays the glass harp…”  Not that the dulcimer and glass harp have any particular relationship…

“Oh,” Connie said.  “Is it Mike?”  Talk about that old six-degree thing!  And it got better.  ” I went to a music gathering he hosted on the Peninsula a few years ago,” Connie said, “at…” and here she hesitated.  After all, how can you describe Camp Sherwood Forest?

Alan Greiner — c. 1948

For one thing Sherwood no longer exists – not officially.  But it’s a place forever in the hearts and souls of everyone who ever went there as a kid or a young adult.  I was a camper there in the ’40s and ’50s.  So was Alan Greiner who eventually bought Camp from Dorothy Elliott.  Alan is the father of Michael-of-the-glass-harp.  Marta and Charlie were campers there in the sixties – right along with Michael and his brother and sister.  Wow!  And how would I ever have thought to connect the glass harp and the mountain dulcimer…

It was the second time Connie and I had found a connection – on our first meeting a few weeks back, it was the Lady Washington which she skippered (for real) and on which Nyel reenacted the role of Captain Robert Gray back in the ’80s.  Wow!!  What will it be next time, Connie?  Actually… I hope it’s just the chance to get better acquainted based on the here and now.

But… you never know!

The Fragrance of Paris!

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

I love Paris!  I love its looks!  I love its feel!  I love its fragrance!  And I’m not talking Chanel Number Five here, even though that is the only scent I’ve worn since I was sixteen years old.

No, I’m talking about the waft of fresh bread as you walk by the boulangerie.  Or the pungent smell of cheese at the fromagerie or that tang of fresh produce at the greengrocers on Rue Cler.  And of course, that’s not all.  It’s the smell of old books at Abbey Bookshop or that whiff of the river as you stroll along the Quai d’Orsay.  And, somehow, every one of those delicious aromas rolled up into one!

All of that came to mind yesterday when Cate sent a message saying “I’m in Paris” and accompanied that with four photographs.  OMG!  I could actually smell those radishes!

San Francisco is another city that affects me differently than any other.  There, it’s the light.  Some say the light is special in Paris, too, and I think they are right.  But, for me, there’s something about the City by the Golden Gate that just surrounds me differently.

And Oysterville?  Not so much.  Not anymore.  It used to be the sounds.  Bob Kemmer working on the boat pulled up in his driveway.  Uncle John’s cows going into the Heckes barn of an evening.  The put-put of those old two-lungers out on the bay.  There’s a little twinge now and then – when the geese are flying or when a young girl clip clops her horse through town.

Thanks, Cate!  Those pictures were almost as good as rambling through le quartier with you.  Almost!