Archive for the ‘Summer in Oysterville’ Category

Signs & Symbols on the Glorious Fourth!

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

As it turned out, we couldn’t make it to the Fourth of July Parade in Ocean Park yesterday, but thanks to Tucker’s good eye and amazing photography skills, we can clap and cheer after the fact and for a long time to come.  Especially for Grand Marshall Dan Driscoll and his outstanding Oysterville entourage – Lady Linda Engelsiepen and Dan’s parents Les and Ann Holway Driscoll!

They all looked fabulous and their ‘chariot’ was decorated to perfection!  I especially loved the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag affixed to the back of their convertible.  Good choice, Dan!  There couldn’t have been a better one for oh so many reasons!

Known as the “Gadsden flag,” it is a historical American flag named after American general and politician Christopher Gadsden (1724-1805) who designed it in 1775 during the American Revolution.  The timber rattlesnake depicted on the flag can be found in the area of the original 13 colonies and its use as a symbol to depict the colonies can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin who wrote this about it in December 1775:

. I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shown and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of stepping on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?

The words, “Don’t Tread On Me” speak for themselves and, to those of us who have watched the lengthy battle the County has waged against Dan – seven years!! – there is no way the symbolism can be misinterpreted.  The American Revolutionary War also lasted seven years.

And, a resounding Hip! Hip! Hooray to the Ocean Park Chamber for selecting Dan as Grand Marshall.  The best choice ever!

Many Happy Returns!

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

When my grandfather celebrated his final birthday in 1958, he proudly declared that he and the United States had been born the very same year.  Well, he was a bit confused but, after all, what’s a century or two in the grand scheme of things?  1876 or 1776?  Either way it was a long time!  We wished him many happy returns, though we all knew it was unlikely.

I’m not sure why that scenario popped into my head this morning when I thought about this 242nd birthday of our nation.  I guess it’s the “Many Happy Returns” part.  We seem to say those words automatically, whether or not the likelihood of their coming true makes sense.  On this July Fourth, of all the 82 I’ve been privileged to celebrate, I think “Many Happy Returns” should be our mantra.  Our mantra and our prayer.

Like my beloved Papa, our nation is a little confused.  I hope we can put our collective wisdom and goodwill together and find a way to clarify our path – with justice and liberty for all!

… and the livin’ ain’t so easy.

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

Oysterville Summer 2017

I don’t know what happened to those “hazy, lazy days of summer.””  Or did they ever exist?  Here in Oysterville summer is busier and more bustling than any other time of the year.  There are events at the schoolhouse and at the church.  Tourists walk the streets and lanes clutching Walking Tour Brochures and leaning over the picket fences to ask questions of us likely looking ‘natives.’ Summer is when our relatives and friends come for long visits – sometimes in overlapping droves.  Every now and then we can hardly get the sheets changed before the next group arrives.

Let the record be clear:  I love it all!  My only complaint is that I have trouble getting anything done.  By ‘anything,’ of course, I mean any writing or the things attendant to writing – like interviewing or researching or simply collecting my wits.  But, truly, I wouldn’t change the summertime ambience of the village for any other time or place.

Take yesterday, for instance.  I was just settling in to work on a little writing project for the Water Music Festival when I received a phone from an August bride.  She had a few questions about the church.  When can we get in to decorate?  (The afternoon beforehand assuming there’s nothing else going on…)  Where can people park?  (On both sides of the road…)  Do the windows open?  (Not this summer; they’re being worked on…)

Summer 2009

Suddenly she asked, “Are you home?  I’m in front of your house and I think I’m looking at your husband trimming the bushes.”   Busted!  So… out I went and met the prospective bride and groom.  I showed them where the “Ceremony in Progress” sign is kept and how to substitute it for the “Church Open” sign when the time comes.  I showed them how to angle the chairs in the Sunday School Room so that their audience will be looking at them and not directly ahead at the other guests.  I explained about leaving the lanes clear of cars in case they need to be used by oyster or clam workers.

As we said our goodbyes, along came Tucker with his familiar greeting,  “Hey, what’s happenin’?”  He had his son Charley’s dog on a leash, walking her, he said, to keep her separate from son Clark’s dog who is also visiting in Oysterville.  It was complicated — as children and grandchildren and  pets often are.  As we talked…

Oysterville Summer 2006

Here came Kay Buesing with her daughter and son-in-law.  They had been over at the Artisans’ Fair at the Schoolhouse and were returning to their car.  Nyel climbed out from behind the rhododendrons for one of those “Oysterville Meetings” – a long chat in the middle of the street.  We had all had lunch together a few weeks ago, but still there was catching up to do.  As they headed for their car we noted that it was lunchtime and headed indoors.  Another morning gone.

The afternoon drizzle kept us indoors – a (welcome?) disruption for Nyel’s project and, for me, a few hours of quiet time in my office.  And another hazy lazy day of summer was all but gone.  Oh!  I think the lyrics are actually “hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer.”  Now that makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

…and rising.

As we came over the Siskiyous and dropped down into the Sacramento Valley, the temperature display on the car rose alarmingly.  102°, 104°, 107°!  Even with our air conditioner going full blast, the sun beating through the windows seemed to be winning the heat race.  But, it wasn’t until we exited our more-or-less climate-controlled zone of comfort at a rest stop that we really got the full impact.

Golden Hills

Ah yes!  Instant memories of driving through the Valley in mom and dad’s old 1939 Plymouth.  Overheated radiators.  Flat tires.  Windows down and blasting hot air.  Windows up and suffocation.  Those “good old days” were a misery in the Valley heat.  Plus, I don’t think that car could do more than 50 miles per.

Roasted Beet Salad

We usually made the trip on the old Route 99.  It was faster by a day than Highway 1 along the coast   And, then, there were the years that Interstate 5 was being built.  Long delays while they were blasting through the mountains up ahead.  Or at least I think that’s what I remember.  The four-lane I-5 finally opened in 1966 – by then I’d been driving, myself, for fourteen years – a series of VW bugs – and Charlie and Marta were ten and twelve years old.  It was a faster drive but it was still a furnace in the summer.  I can’t remember when I first had a car with air conditioning.  Maybe not until the 1980s.

Sydney and Marta

Even so, I loved seeing the familiar signposts yesterday – Corning, Williams, Arbuckle – and then the turn onto Highway 505 toward the Bay Area.  The glorious golden hills began to appear and the temperature dipped down into the nineties.  By seven when we met Marta for dinner in Corte Madera, it was a comfortable 78° and I felt as though the day had transformed me into a California Girl again!  Almost.

Summer: On its way from Los Banos!

Friday, April 27th, 2018

Double J and the Boys

I’ve given up looking to the calendar to plan any seasonal activities. We all know, for instance, that we are likely to have a spate of cold wintery weather after March 20th or even after June 21st – which are the official dates for Spring and Summer, respectively, for 2018.  Nope.  I am definitely not counting on the calendar.  Or on the weather.

But, I am satisfied that summer is on its way and, not only that, it will be here in a day or two.  As of last night, summer was in Los Baños, California and headed our way.  Well, actually, only a part of summer – part of Double J and the Boys.  Judy Eron and Charlie Watkins are headed for the Peninsula and when they get here and the group is reunited with Janet Clark, I can say with confidence:  “It’s summer!”

Los Banos Opera House after 1906 San Francisco earthquake

I’ve been tracking their progress from their winter home in Texas, partly because I miss their sunshiny faces and upbeat music and partly because they are scheduled to do a House Concert here on Mother’s Day – May 13th.  I’ve been trying to nail down their program so I can send out the announcements in a timely manner.  I finally got this bit of information which I think is better than good enough for starters:

Celebrating their 10thyear together, more or less as cowboy as ever, Double J and the Boys return to Oysterville, still grammatically incorrect.  Boys?  Charlie Watkins on accordion is a great guy, but does he qualify as plural?  Janet Clark on fiddle and mandolin, and Judy Eron on guitar and songwriting pen, are, as Janet puts it, “twins born to two different mothers, 4 days apart.”

In the Ocean Park Parade, 2014

And speaking of mothers, there’s likely to be a brand-new Mother’s Day ditty.
This year’s concert will feature songs of revenge: “I picked his plum trees bare,
songs of advice: “Women be wise, keep your mouth shut.” And songs of sly competitiveness “The outfit I wore was sure to catch the judge’s eye, ‘cause I wear size 7 and it was size 5.”

Oh, and don’t forget the yodeling . . .

Sounds good.  Good enough to put on the invitation.  And, if you are interested in getting one, send me your email address.  It’s that simple to welcome summer on Mother’s Day!

Our 148-Year-Old Family Member

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Eclipse Day at Our House

I woke up here in Nyel’s hospital room in Portland thinking, “It’s a big day for our house!  I hope things go well and it does itself proud.”  Today, the long-awaited “Celebration of Poetry” is happening there –without us in residence for reasons beyond our control (as they say.)  I’m so sorry to miss the event but gloriously pleased that our neighbors and friends feel comfortable carrying on in our absence.  And, somehow, I feel that the house is delighted, as well.

Built in 1869 by Tom Crellin, the house has been in our family since 1901 – long enough that it seems like a family member in its own right.  I almost feel as though the walls do talk, so familiar am I with the stories of things that have occurred in its rooms and on its porches and in its garden.  Not just the special events – like in 1910 when Uncle Cecil and RuthieD were married at one-minute past midnight in the parlor (for a complicated reason to do with the timing of the tides.)

But also, the scary things like when the chimney in the original kitchen caught fire in 1913-ish and my grandmother (sensibly to my way of thinking) had the space reconfigured into a library.  And there was the time, a year or so later, that she was in the ‘new’ kitchen and she heard a strange noise in the dining room.  It seems that one of the pigs had found its way into the house and was happily scratching its back on the underside of the dining room table.  Or how about my own almost eighty-year-old memory of sharing the clawfoot bathtub with Jimmy and Kay, family friends from California when we were about two, three, and four years old – bubbles and water everywhere!

More recently, of course, the calendar has been filled with croquet tournaments and weddings in the garden, house concerts and Christmas parties indoors.  And, that’s to say nothing of all the meals with friends and family around the dining room table and the Friday night get-togethers in the library – all the fun things that the house has opened its doors for since 1999 when it became our turn to play host and hostess.

These days, I think more and more often about the house’s future – when Charlie and Marta will have charge of things.   Will one of them live here full time?  Will the house still serve as a gathering place for special events?  Will the walls be silently quoting poetry and will the floors be echoing the tapping of toes at our many house concerts – and saying, “Let’s do more!”  Oh, how I hope so!  Continuing as an Oysterville gathering place is my fondest wish for this 148-year-old family member!

Our Blurry Short-Term Summer

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Nyel and His Happy Birthday Present, Summer 2010

Morning coffee conversation:  “My God, it’s dark out.  Where did summer go?”  “It’s sort of a blur – doctors and nurses and vespers and visitors.”  Not the usual summer, for sure.

We spent a few minutes trying to recall the season’s highlights.  It was tough.  Between our collective failing memories and the parts of the last few months that are well-enough forgotten, we had a hard time sorting it all out.  In fact, we ‘remembered’ more of the things we didn’t do than the things we did.  A sad state of affairs, to be sure.

Cedar Creek Grist Mill

For one thing, we never ate a meal outside.  Usually during the summer months, we take our lunch out to the little marble-topped table in the south garden and enjoy a bit of al fresco dining.  Not this year.  Not once.  Was it the weather?  Was it our absences from home?  Was it our forgetfulness?  There really weren’t enough cups of that early a.m. coffee to figure it out.

And, another thing… what happened to our summer field trips?  For years, we have gone on various ‘expotitions’ (as Pooh would say.)  We have gone up to Neah Bay or to the Cedar Creek Grist Mill in Woodland or to Fort Vancouver – places we haven’t been for a while and that are no more than a day away.

Cathlapotle Plankhouse

This year, we had two trips in mind – one up to Radar Ridge right nearby, and one to the Cathlapotle Plankhouse located at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Both of them have been on our ‘to do’ list for a long time and we are bummed that another summer has drifted by without visiting either one!  Worse than not going, we can’t exactly remember why we didn’t make it happen!  There are many legitimate reasons, no doubt, but…  we hope that it’s not also a matter of old-age inertia.

The calendar says we have twelve days left before the autumn equinox.  Plenty enough time to accomplish at least one of the plans on our 2017 Summer Schedule.  But wait!  There’s the lawn to mow and dahlias to deadhead and the writing to do and… didn’t we say that afternoon naps might be a good habit to develop?

I don’t really remember.  It’s all a blur…

Halfway Between

Friday, September 8th, 2017


As we traveled north from purgatory yesterday, the sky grew lighter and lighter until, finally, just outside of Portland, we actually began to see shadows!  Who’d have expected that shadows on their own could communicate such a sense of relief.  Surely, the sun was not too far away.

The four days of relentless, gray, eye-burning, unpleasant-smelling smoke felt like we were only steps away from hell.  If I believed in purgatory, I thought, this is what it would be like.  Relentless, enveloping, and an assault to every sense.  Plus, that ominous feeling of what might be just over the nearest mountain – the mountain that couldn’t be seen in the limited visibility.

But… now the promise of sunshine.  Or of rain.  Either way, it lightens our hearts to feel that we may be heading into a smoke free-er (emphasis on the er) today.  But, as they say, we are not completely out of the woods.  We have paused here in the Rose City so that Nyel can see his cardiologist early this morning.  I have high hopes that then we’ll head for home; Nyel is not as optimistic.


Meanwhile, thank goodness for ‘devices’ and social media.  We are feeling ‘so-far-so-good’ as to safety of family and friends and there have been a number of joyous “it’s raining!” notifications from home.  I’m not exactly sure why that is the news of the moment – unless there is an overwhelming threat of fire on the Peninsula, itself.  There was rain (not much, to be sure) in Ashland the last two days/nights we were there.  We didn’t see that it did much good locally.  Wet smoke seemed, if anything, denser than dry smoke.

So… off we go to the doctor.  Fingers crossed that we will be homeward bound by mid-morning!

Off the Beaten Path to Totality

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Eclipse Day at Our House – By Tucker

I can’t imagine that Oysterville was a destination for anyone intent on seeing the eclipse the other day.  But, even though we were closer to the Path of Totality here in Portland (99% of the total, we were told), we would gladly have stayed home given the choice.

Chickens During Eclipse – By Tucker

We were especially interested in seeing how the chickens would react, should the sky darken for a minute or two.  And, we had no desire to fight the traffic and see the show up-close-and-personal; we thought we’d get better views on television.

Eclipse at Our House – By Tucker

As it turned out, though… it was Tucker to the rescue!  He and Carol spent the eclipse right at our house and sent us photographs of the whole shebang!

Carol Watches the Eclipse – By Tucker

I share them here on my blog so readers can see what we all missed.  Thanks, Tucker!  We KNEW it would be a better event in Oysterville than anywhere else, no matter how far away from that Path of Totality!

Early Morning Identity Confusion?

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

The Bird Woman in “Mary Poppins”

Jane Darwell was eighty-four years young when Walt Disney personally tapped her for the role of the Bird Woman in his 1964 production of “Mary Poppins.”  Although she appeared in more than 100 major motion pictures films in her lifetime, critics say she is best-remembered for that particular role and for her portrayal of the matriarch and leader of the Joad family in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath for which she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Brave Goldfinch

These early mornings, its Darwell’s Bird Woman character I’m feeling very close to – not in the magical world of Mary Poppins but in my own marvelous world of Oysterville.  As happenstance would have it, I’ve been the one who has been feeding the birds in our nearby neighbors’ backyard each early morning for the last few weeks.  I walk across the churchyard, through a gap in the fences and into Carol and Tucker’s place, carrying my little tub of wild birdseed and, sometimes, a package of thistle seed – if the finch feeders need replenishing.

At first, the birds didn’t appear while I was within their sight, though I could hear a bit of flutter and flurry in the alder trees bordering the property to the southwest.  I knew they were watching and waiting for me to disappear so that they could have at the bounty I was distributing.  Gradually, though, they have become bolder.

The very bravest and first to show up while I was still at my scattering duties were the goldfinches.  One, two, three… as many as seven perched on the three feeders and on nearby tree branches.  They would only let me approach so far, though – not quite close enough for a good photo.  Not with my bare bones cell phone camera, anyway.

Hungry Jays

Next on the braveness scale were the jays.  For all their saucy talk, I’d have thought they would be the first.  But isn’t that often the way with the braggarts and blusterers of the world?  Finally, here came the juncos – lots of them.  Maybe they feel there is safety in numbers.  They seem to like the tops of the picnic tables best.  Perhaps they feel those tabletops offer a more direct flight back up to leafy safety.

The mourning doves are there, too, invisible but full of noise and whuffle.  They fly quickly from tree to tree, obviously watching, but apparently waiting to appear until I am well out of sight.  And, yesterday, a little gray squirrel joined the fun.  His eyes never left me as he picked up seeds and stuffed them in his cheeks – all quick decisive movements and with an attitude that said, “I’m outta here the minute you make a move in my direction.”

I’ll bet the Jane Darwell didn’t have half as much fun feeding the pigeons on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London as I do feeding the birds and other little critters within sight of the Oysterville Church.  Still… I feel a kinship.  Old ladies playing yet another of life’s enchanting roles!