Archive for the ‘Springtime in Oysterville’ Category

…and now I can breathe again!

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

I made the great mistake of going across the street yesterday morning to bring the Vespers flowers back from the church.  Each bouquet was in a bowl still filled with water and so it was a two-handed, two-trip operation.  No problem.  Except…

As I headed home the first time, a voice called out to me from the rooftop of our house.  There was Jay, precariously (in my judgement) balanced, putting the finishing touches of paint on the gingerbread above his head.  Oy vey!  I could scarcely look.

Never mind that he had left this bit of work for last – for the first day after school was out so that his teen-aged son Charlie could ‘spot’ him… just in case.  He had told me about his plan before he left on Friday.  “I’m not getting any younger (or more agile was the implication) so I’ve figured out how I can place the ladder straddling the roof peek and…”  OMG!  I think I went deaf at that point and my palms began to sweat.

When you are afflicted with acrophobia (“the extreme or irrational fear of heights”) as I am, even knowing that someone will be up high and in a precarious situation can make you hyperventilate. When the plan involves your very own roof and your very own friends it can hardly bear thinking about.  And, as a matter of fact, I had repressed that entire conversation until yesterday morning when a cheery voice called out to me from on high.

In a less perfect world – a situation beyond belief right now – I would have dropped my bowl of flowers right there in the middle of the street.  Somehow, though, I managed to complete my task without incident and even called a tremulous “Hi!” to Jay and Charlie.  But, after one tenuous glance, I kept my eyes focused on the honeysuckle in the lovely David Campiche bowl gripped between my suddenly damp palms. OMG!

I sent Nyel out to get pictures.

The Finishing Touches

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Window Trim, June 2018

“Well, we’ve got the old girl dressed! Now we’re just putting on her earrings and she’s going to look terrific!”

It was our friend Jay talking and he was just finishing up the window trim on the west side of the house. ‘She’ was looking like a million bucks – a big improvement over a few weeks ago when she was right down to her undergarments and beyond!  There’s nothing like a new outfit to make an old lady perk right up – especially this 149-year-old icon of pioneer Oysterville architecture.

Bloomers and Beyond — May 2018

Now that we are retired and living the dream (as they say) on a fixed income, we can only manage to get the house painted a bit at a time.  The neediest parts this time around were the west and south sides – fortunate, in a way, because those are the parts that visitors see as they approach her.  If we decide to have a 150th birthday party for her next year she will definitely look dressed for the occasion!

The house has been white with forest green trim for the eighty-plus years I’ve known her so it’s not really that she looks like she’s wearing a new frock – more like she’s been washed, starched and ironed and maybe given a little extra bling-bling.  The rest of the house just looks a bit tired by comparison but, for that matter, don’t we all?

What’s your preference — tube or gun?

Friday, June 1st, 2018

If there’s one thing most locals have strong opinions about, it’s razor clams.  We either love them or hate them and that goes for digging them, cooking them, eating them – everything except cleaning them.  I’ve never heard anyone express great joy about that, but even so, there are opinions about which method is best, often depending upon how they’ll be served.  And when.

Right now, of course, it’s between seasons. No clamming during the summer months.  Not like the ‘olden days’ when our forebears said, “tide’s out, table’s set” and came home with as many as they needed and could dig on a tide.  Nowadays there are regulations.  And consequences if the rules are broken.  But clam digging is still the sport of choice here at the beach.  So, now that we can’t be out digging, I suggest we all do a little reading and maybe a bit of lobbying, as well.

First, I urge you to read Razor Clams, Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest by David Berger.  Long ago I met David when he was one of the Espy Writers in Residence here in Oysterville.  I don’t think I had any idea of his passion for razor clams and all of the history, accoutrements, mythology, and scientific information that accompany them.  Nor did I have any idea of the innumerable ways to eat them (clams with snap peas in champagne vinaigrette???) or how it is, exactly, that a clam can sometimes out-dig a grown man with a gun!

“Clamming in the Good Old Days” (Espy Family Collection.)

Speaking of which, the author also takes up that clam gun issue.  Which do you think that particular moniker applies to – the shovel or the tube?  The results of David’s research into the history of clamming implements may surprise you.  And the statistics he reveals about numbers of clams under the sand and clam digger trips to the beach will blow you away.  Plus, you’ll learn more about the dreaded domoic acid problem and NIX disease, about the Fisheries Commission and Indian treaties and… just about anything you’d like to learn about razor clamming and its attendant rules and rituals.  To say nothing of a dozen and a half mouth-watering, tried-and-true recipes.

But… one of the best parts about this book is that it lays the foundation for David Berger’s idea to make the razor clam the State Clam of Washington.  As David points out: Washington has a state tree, a state amphibian, a state vegetable, and a state endemic mammal.  It does not have a state clam…  (western hemlock, Pacific chorus frog, Walla Walla sweet onion, and Olympic marmot, respectively, in case you are wondering.)  For more information on this worthy project, go to David’s website projectrazorclam.org to learn about the Bill (HB3001) that has been recently introduced in the Washington State Legislature.

Clam Station (Dobby Wiegardt Collection)

Considering that the razor clam is only found only on the west coast of North America and that, from Oregon to Alaska, our Washington beaches are the world’s epicenter for recreational clamming for the simple reason that… well, read the book and learn!  Indeed – for us who live within a mile or two of this genuine buried treasure – the book is a must.  (And did I mention that, before you’ve read very far, you’ll run into a couple of people you are likely to know – a little extra serendipity for your summer reading enjoyment.)

A Change in Plans

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Jason Huntley, Oysterville Cemetery 2010

Memorial Day Weekend has been a biggee in Oysterville for forty years – ever since the Oysterville Restoration Foundation was formed back in the ’70s.  Then, as now, this was a second home for many residents and it was rare that everyone was ‘in town’ at the same time.  The ORF membership decided they would have their annual meeting on this weekend – a traditional time for families to gather to spiff up the cemetery and pay homage to the ancestors.  It was the best time for maximum participation.

Since then, the Oysterville Water Works has been formed and they, too, have their annual meeting at this time.  Saturday is the day – the designated meeting day for Oystervillians.  For many of us, it’s meetings in the morning and decorating the graves in the afternoon.  And, on Memorial Day, itself, there is a ceremony at the cemetery conducted by the Long Beach branch of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Bayside Singers, 2010

For a good number of years, the VFW tribute was attended only by a few stalwarts.  I have to admit that I wasn’t usually among them.  It wasn’t until Diane Buttrell got the town ‘organized’ with our own ceremony in conjunction with the VFW, that the graveside numbers swelled.  Diane is a great organizer.  She managed to put together a program that involved Dobby Wiegardt reading “The Gettysburg Address,” Nyel reading “In Flanders Fields,” and members of the community saying something about their loved ones who had died in service to our country.  It was a moving tribute and the number of participants and onlookers grew each year.

That first year, 2010, Diane and Hal served breakfast to everyone at their place next to the Andrews Garage here in town.  A group of women – the beginnings of the Bayside Singers – gathered ’round Diane’s baby grand piano and sang a few patriotic songs. Property owner Bradley had some of his classic cars on display and a huge American flag draped across the Garage.  It was a fine celebration.

Cannon Salute 2011

In the years that followed, participation at the cemetery increased and was followed by a Bayside Singers Concert at the Oysterville Church, then a cannon salute at our house and, finally, Diane and Hal’s breakfast at the Schoolhouse – everyone invited!  It has become a grand tradition. But this year… plans have changed.  Diane has opted out.  The ‘usual’ invitations were not posted around town.  According to the Observer, the VFW ceremony at the cemetery and the Bayside Singers’ concert at the church are scheduled for the same time.  There will be no cannon salute or breakfast.

As they say, change is inevitable.  That doesn’t make it easier.

It Seems to be Snowing at Our House

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

Flakes of Paint, Not Snow

The lawns, the flower beds, even the porch – no matter where we look, there is “snow.”  Some of it is an improbably bright pink; some is a faded red; and some is stark white.  The rhododendrons are losing their blossoms!  But, even more distressing, the tired, old paint has been scraped from the house and the residue blows hither and thither, breaking into smaller and smaller flakes.  On the green leaves and on the grass and in the newly mulched beds – wherever it settles – it looks exactly like we’ve been visited by one of those winter flurries.

Snow Falling on Cedars

I remember this phenomenon from paintings past and I know I will be picking up bits and pieces for years to come.  However, when the walls are pristine and white again and the flowers are blooming to distract the eye, I probably won’t give it a thought.  And I console myself with all the other snowfall images that are brought to mind.

My first thought, on seeing those white flakes on the glossy leaves of the Jean Maries was “Snow Falling on Rhodies” which led immediately, of course, to Dave Guterson’s wonderful Snow Falling on Cedars. It’s a book I haven’t read since it’s publication in 1994.  Its subject matter – the racism and hatred of Japanese Americans during World War Two, their incarceration in “Relocation Camps” and their difficulties in returning to their communities after the war – has many implications for our world of today.  I think it’s time for a re-read.

That ‘snow’ also puts me in mind of one of my favorite children’s paintings, Done by a first, second, or third grader in one of my classes at Ocean Park School, it is the quintessential Snow Picture!  There is no question about how the painter felt about that all-too-rare occasion here when the snow really, really comes down fast and furiously.  I wish I could remember who painted it.

In truth, it’s only when I’m working out in the garden that I find those snowy paint flakes distressing.  But I’d better find a way to come to terms with them.  Like so many modern-day aftermaths and consequences, no matter how diligent we are in our clean-up attempts, the problems linger on.  Relentlessly.

Basking in Spring’s Summer Sun

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Basking Nyel

Sunday was a perfect day – weather-wise, Oysterville-wise, music-wise, friend-wise, and every other-wise.  For starters, we woke up with sunshine already streaming in our east windows and the sky remained blue and cloudless all day long.  (Well, that was my impression, but there might have been a bit of white puff here and there.)  It got to be 88° on our south porch but the breeze from the west kept all those “it’s a scorcher” remarks at bay.  So to speak.

As for the bay, itself – gorgeous with its own hint of summer.  On Saturday, Betsy’s Laser had come out of winter storage and gleamed, white-bottom-side-up, in front of our house at what has become known among the sailing set as the Oysterville Moorage.  Tucker had announced that the annual Oysterville Regatta will occur on August 17th and, already, summer seems imminent.

Sunday afternoon also marked our last House Concert of the season.  Double ‘J’ and the Boys arrived in new glitzy regalia and some of us wore our cowboy boots in their honor.  It was the first time (maybe) ever that I remember leaving the door open during our potluck dinner.  It’s not often it’s warm enough to eat outside in our garden, even in summer!  I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of the folks who had taken their chairs out and were enjoying the ambiance of it all!

Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens

And, maybe to top it all off (and certainly to underscore Nyel’s continued good health) his All Time Favorite Nurse, Holly, came all the way from Vancouver. She and her husband Max and dogs Tater and Bear could only stay for a bit of the Concert. “Work tomorrow,” Holly said, which probably meant being at Legacy Emanuel at six ayem.  We loved seeing them and I couldn’t help thinking that our spectacular weather would surely bring them back soon!

Never mind that yesterday dawned overcast and gray and stayed that way all day.  Today promises to be the same.  But… we are in a summer frame of mind now and so we are going on a field trip!  Yes!  We’re going to the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Woodland.  We haven’t been for ages and it seems a fitting way to remind ourselves that, it truly is still Spring.

Waiting for Grass to Grow

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

Meadow in Spring

Halfway between our east garden fence and the bay is the swath of land we’ve always called “the meadow.”  Not ‘The Meadow’ across from the Little Red (now Gray) Cottage.  That meadow was once owned by my grandfather and was where he grew hay.  No, the meadow east of our house was pasture for a horse or two and now is just a pleasant open space, ideal for bird-watching.

In the fall, after the nesting birds have vacated, we have the meadow mowed.  It then puddles up, sometimes to pond proportions, and the ducks and brant and other waterfowl have their meetings there.  The eagles perch in the Monterey cypress trees nearby watching for voles and field mice and, often, a red-tailed hawk works the area – back and forth, forth and back in big lazy circles.

Bear in the Meadow

In late spring, when the rains abate and the meadow dries out, the grass begins to grow again.  Now, in mid-May, it is a luxuriant expanse of green and you can almost hear those stalks heading skyward.  By summer, the grass will be taller than the kids at the Red House –  my seventh generation Espy cousins.  Great cover for sneaking over to our house and checking out the nest boxes at the coop.  It’s in summer that some of the native grasses develop their red tops from which the sign on our house, TSAKO-TE-HAHSH-EETLE (place of the red-topped grass) gets its name.

Meanwhile…to the north of our house is a huge of expanse of plain old brown dirt.  I wish I could say that I’m watching it and waiting for the grass to grow.  But, so far, we haven’t even seeded it.  We are waiting for “the inspector” who must okay the work of the electricians who dug the trench for the connections to the new septic system which is under that fallow brown dirt.  Once the inspection is made, the trench can be filled in, and the seeding can take place.

Waiting to be Planted

I feel like all of the above paragraph could become a song and end with “…and the green grass grows all around, all around, and the green grass grows all around.”

From A Reliable Source

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

In The Meadow

We heard some disturbing – no, let’s say alarming – news yesterday about a killer dog on the rampage in Oysterville.  Seriously.  Apparently, it has run down and killed three deer in the area in the last week or so.  One was witnessed by someone I know to be low-key, truthful, and not given to exaggeration.

“Have the incidents been reported?” was our first question.  Our informant didn’t know.

“Whose dog was it?” we asked.  Not one that is known in the area.

“Was there anyone out and about?  As in a frantic owner who had let the dog off its leash?”  No one in sight.

Outside Our Door

Apparently, the kill that was witnessed occurred out on the bayfront.  The deer was running north and the dog – “medium-sized tan” – was flat out behind.  Took the deer down, killed it, and walked away from it.  At least that’s what we were told.

So… this is third-hand information.  I don’t think it’s “fake news” but I don’t really know.  I’m wary these days.  Unless I’ve witnessed something myself, I’m not sure of the truth of the story.  From my perspective, that’s not a comfortable position to be in.  I certainly don’t want to discount such an ominous bit of information.  In my mind, a dog that would chase and kill a deer might well go after a child or maybe even a little old lady.  Maybe.

Living Yard Art

On the other hand, I don’t want to start disbelieving what someone I’ve know most of my life is saying.  This whole disconnect from the truth thing has me a bit rattled.  I don’t know how many of our country’s recent leader-appointees have lied under oath or parsed their words in order to ‘untether’ themselves from reality.  More than a few.  I certainly don’t want to think that the prevarication epidemic has spread clear to in Oysterville.

As I say… it’s more than disturbing.

Awash, Ahoy, and Avast…from Oysterville!

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

By VanGogh

Wrote my uncle Willard Espy in his book Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village:

In an ordinary year, a hundred inches of rain fall on grandpa’s village; we have mutated until we breathe with comfort air that is half water, or water that is half air.  I suspect that if the peninsula were to sink beneath our feet, a mishap that in some downpours seems imminent, we could live submerged without serious inconvenience.

As the rain continues to pound on our roof and to fill the meadow with puddles-turned-to-lakes, I think that we will soon be testing the truth of Willard’s suspicion.  I may not be growing gills yet, but my thoughts are definitely taking a nautical turn.  As in “awash.”  Who but someone threatened to become flooded with rain or seawater would think in terms of awash?

Which leads me straight to ahoy.  It seems the logical greeting, one neighbor to another, these last few days.  Or even, farmer to chicken.  Last night as Nyel headed for the coop, I wondered whatever had become of my grandfather’s old sou’wester.  It surely is the only sort of head covering that could approach adequacy in this ongoing deluge.  And “ahoy!” is certainly the only appropriate salutation to hens trying to avoid the gathering flood.

By Constable

“Avast raining!” I want to shout.  I think “avast,” also, is usually used in a maritime setting.  As in “Avast heaving” — the cry to arrest the capstan when nippers are jammed, or any other impediment occurs in heaving the cable.  (I found that description on the Wordnik site online and I think it says it all.  Don’t you?)

And why do all those words begin with ‘a’ anyway?  Perhaps Poseidon (or his Roman counterpart, Neptune) had a speech impediment that came down to seafaring folks in this peculiar fashion.  A-back, abaft and all aboard!  If you’re a-coming to Oysterville, bring your snorkel!

Samsung with Dell in Retrograde?

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

“What’s your sign?” was the pick-up line of choice in California bars in the late sixties and seventies.  Or so I am told.  By the summer of 1967 (‘The Summer of Love”) I was married with children and teaching in Hayward in the East Bay.  Hanging out in bars was not a part of my lifestyle.  Not that it ever had been.

If I had any hangout time at all, it might be during a ten-minute recess break in the Teacher’s Room – where everybody knew your name.  And, in those days, they knew your sign as well.  So, if your day was going badly, someone would be sure to reassure you with words like, “Mars is in retrograde; things will be better tomorrow.”

I wasn’t a horoscope junky.  I’d ‘had my chart done’ – mostly because it was a freebie by a friend who was just starting up a horoscope business – in Berkeley, of course.  I knew that I was a Pisces with Aquarius ascending (or something like that) but not much else.  I admired (sort of) those who followed and believed, but I couldn’t suspend my own disbelief far enough to join in.  Nevertheless, when things are going particularly badly, even all these years later, I’m a bit tempted to look at my horoscope.

1969 – Sydney and Another Notable

What makes me stop short is that I don’t remember (if I ever knew) what all that terminology means and, for me, there has to be some sort of reasonable explanation for whatever the predictions are.  Reasonable and understandable.  Otherwise, I might as well buy a bag of Chinese fortune cookies and brew myself a cup of tea.

So, no one could have been more amazed than I this morning when my computer was misbehaving and “What’s your sign?” came downloading from my brain and spewing out of my mouth!  As might be expected, my computer screen gave no answer at all.  But, thought I. it does stand to reason that the planets might have some influence over an object with a direct line to cyberspace.  Such as my recalcitrant computer.  Some pesky app in retrograde would be as understandable to me as anything else.  And certainly preferable to the old standby, ‘operator error.’