Archive for the ‘Summer in Oysterville’ Category

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!

…and another ‘rule’ bites the dust!

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Yes or No?

What with the real news, the fake news, the old news and the new news – it’s hard to keep up.  Case in point:  As the sun became more reliable this summer and we found time to be out in it more often, we replenished our sunblock.  Wrong!  Wrong! Wrong!  As it turns out, dutifully slathering ourselves in this protective lotion causes more skin cancers than it prevents!  Who knew?

According to an article in, California scientist Dr. Elizabeth Plourde has provided proof that malignant melanoma and all other skin cancers increased significantly with ubiquitous sunscreen use over a 30-year period. She emphasizes that many sunscreens contain chemicals that are known carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. And, lest we are not comfortable with that bit of news, an extensive Swedish study found that women who avoid sunbathing during the summer are twice as likely to die as those who sunbathe every day.  (Which does beg the question — do the others not die?  Well… maybe something was lost in the translation.)

Sydney – 1940, Before Sunscreens

Suddenly, I find myself feeling guilt-free concerning all those years before sunscreens and sunblocks – the years when we smeared cocoa butter all over ourselves and laid by the pool in the California sunshine, tanning and staying on the lookout for cute boys who might make eye contact.  Not that I fully believe the ‘studies,’ You don’t get to my venerable age without learning that, given enough time, the research will reverse itself.  As in, remember Saccharine?  And Red Dye No. 1?

But…wait!  It seems that every time I turn around, I find various sunscreens and sun-blocks being advertised and touted.  I even heard a friendly public service reminder about summer slathering on our public radio stations.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to wonder how strong the ‘sunscreen lobby’ is and why we are still being encouraged to “apply liberally and often.”  Must be some powerful companies.  Oh, yeah… Johnson and Johnson is one.  ‘Nuff said.

And, once again, I’m back to the advice given me from my earliest years:  Moderation in All Things.  Mothers (at least in my generation) were always right!

A Matter of False Pride?

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Host and Hostess Steve Romero and Martie Kilmer

My great-grandfather might have called it “vainglory” – I’m not sure.  It wasn’t exactly false pride that I felt yesterday.  Not the kind that “cometh before a fall.”  At least I hope not.  But I did undeservedly bask in all the complimentary comments I heard about Oysterville (in general) and about Steve and Martie’s garden (in particular) yesterday.  Fabulous all the way around!

It was the Music in the Gardens Tour and, as it turned out, we couldn’t go.  Nyel had been scheduled for yet another hospital stay beginning Friday and we had forewarned our tour guests from Seaside and Florida that they would be on their own.  Then, suddenly, the hospital cancelled Nyel’s appointment – bad blood numbers; maybe next week.  So, we were here, after all!  But Nyel couldn’t manage the treks through the gardens so… we stayed home.  Well, he did.  And I mostly did.

The Winterlings

I went north with our guests as far as the Captain Stream house here in the village – clutching my cell phone after instructing Nyel to call me if he needed me.  And then I spent a glorious hour admiring what people told me later was one of the best gardens on the tour.  I’m pretty sure they were telling the truth and I puffed right up as if I had something to do with it!  Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.  But I was so pleased that my up-the-street neighbors were on the tour that a feeling of proprietorship totally enveloped me.

And my false pride didn’t stop there.  As I entered the garden, there were The Winterlings playing their distinctive ‘indie folk’ music, and one of my favorites of their songs, at that.  They had played here at a House Concert in March and it felt like ‘old home week’ to see them again.  Plus, of course, Steve and Martie were their usual elegant and welcoming selves.  They have been such a fine addition to Oysterville and I felt almost like they were my very own “show-and-tell” offering.  I surely hope I don’t get smat (past tense of smite; look it up) for thinking that!

Steve and Martie’s Croquet Court (Photo by Mark Scarborough)

So, with all of these benevolent and prideful thoughts, it was extra icing on the cake to see so many friends from all over the Peninsula (and beyond) in the hour or so I was there!  Did I have time between hugs and greetings to see the garden?  Yes… sort of.  And I think chances are good that I’ll see it again before too long.  When Nyel is feeling better, I want him to get a glimpse, too.  And, after all, ‘at the end of the village’ in Oysterville is only three blocks away!

The Doctoring Season

Monday, July 10th, 2017

H.A. Espy House and Barn, c. 1920

Another gray dawn here in Oysterville.  “It sure doesn’t seem like July,” I said. “In fact, it doesn’t even seem like summer yet.”

“Nope.  It’s not.  It’s the doctoring season,” was the somewhat grumpy response.

I agree.  We’ve had more doctor’s appointments these last four weeks than you can rattle a pill bottle at.  Three this week.  Beginning today.  All in Portland.  Two of them up-and-backs.  One a hospital overnighter and maybe longer.

This week, Nyel is in the spotlight – heart issues, mostly. I’ve done my share of out-of-town visits this season, as well.  But, praise be, mostly fairly mundane items – the dermatologist, the dentist, the ophthalmologist.  Check-ups and prescription adjustments – the patch, patch, patch of old age.  And always the accompanying mantra, “It beats the alternative.”

Steep Learning Curve

On the plus side is our shiny new Forester which sounds as though it should be dark green but, in reality, is Venetian Red Pearl according to Subaru.  I say it’s cranberry in color and pretty saucy, too.  We are still figuring out all the bells and whistles, safety-wise – which buttons to push for which kind of cruise control, adaptive or regular and what the warning ding-ding-dings are signifying when we don’t think we did anything.

Heading Out Once Again

Plus, we are trying to decide if we want to get the optional satellite radio station for an extra hundred and eighty bucks a year.  We have a few more free-trial months, but I’m inclining to ‘no.’  Their only folk station is online which doesn’t do us any good in the car.  That’s a deal-breaker for me in spite of the Willie Nelson channel that Nyel favors.  It’s amazing to me that of their 150 channels featuring every kind of music I ever heard of (and some I haven’t), there’s nothing devoted entirely to folk.  No channel that features Pete Seeger; or Peter, Paul and Mary; or Woody Guthrie or Joni Mitchel or Joan Baez or John Denver.  What the heck?

Oysterville Gothic 2017

So, along with a thermos of coffee (decaf – we’re old) we’re packing up our own personal top forty favorites – Fred Carter, Judy Eron, Cate Gable, Larry Murante, Randal Bays, Carolyn Cruso, RCMQ, Aaron English, The Willapa Hills, and, and, and…  We’re all set for the rest of the Doctoring Season – God willin’ and the creek don’t rise!

A Whole Lotta Music Goin’ On!

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016
Extras at the Church

Extras at the Church

It was music from noon to night in our neck of the woods yesterday – first at the church and then at the erstwhile parsonage.  Mrs. Crouch was probably tapping her ghostly toes and singing right along with us.  Well… lip-synching at the church along with the Blind Pilot band and, later, full-out harmonizing with the revelers at Kuzzin Kris’s Goodbye Party across the street.

Israel-the-Preacher Man

Israel-the-Preacher Man

By noon or a few minutes after, the main room at the church was pretty much full.  The all-call for ‘extras’ for a music video taping had generated the desired response and we, “the congregation” were in our places right on time.  Then, like almost every theatrical rehearsal or movie filming or even still photography shoot that I’ve ever been to, there was a lot of waiting.  We filled out release forms, watched the wrinkles get steamed out of the band uniforms (costumes) and waited patiently – right down to the little kids, which was impressive.`

Finally, the ‘preacher’ arrived!  Playing that role was lead singer Israel Nebeker, and his rushed entry into the church was part of the script.  There were half a dozen or more takes.  “Action” called the director/cameraman and Israel would burst through the door and rush up the aisle toward the dais, all the while being filmed by the fast-stepping backward-moving director and his hand-held camera.  Meanwhile, the band fake-played to a sound-track from their recently released third album, “And Then Like Lions.”

Nyel and Sydney and Blind Pilot

Nyel and Sydney and Blind Pilot

When it was our turn, we focused on the band, as instructed. while the camera panned the room from several different perspectives.  Finally, while the director/cameraman and Israel went outside to film his ‘late arrival’ to the church, the band posed with anyone who wanted to have their picture taken ‘for posterity.’

Anna and Anwyn

Anna and Anwyn

We were home by three, just in time to put the finishing touches on our preparations for the Goodbye to Kris Party.  No waiting this time.  People began arriving before the appointed hour (five o’clock) and stayed well into the evening.  Cate and Starla and Glenn brought music and instruments and, without benefit of rehearsing or extra ‘takes,’ sat down and played while we partiers sang along –  “Jamaica Farewell,” “Tom Dooley,” “Sloop John B.” “Michael Row the Boat Ashore, and more.  All with the most amazing harmonies.

Starla, Cate, Glenn

Starla, Cate, Glenn

And then, by special request, Kris sang a bit of an aria from “Carmen,” Cousins Anna and baby Anwyn arrived, everyone ate and drank and talked and… sang some more!  I don’t know about Kuzzin Kris, but I think it was a Perfect Party!  All except the ‘goodbye’ part!

What’s the dress code?

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016
1912 - Dress Code for Children's Portrait: White

1912 – Dress Code for Espy Children’s Portrait: White

There was a time that we knew (more-or-less) what to wear to the usual events and activities of our lives.  We had ‘school clothes’ and ‘dress shoes’ and ‘cocktail outfits.’  Our choices were dictated by time and place.  An afternoon garden party required a choice different from an evening dinner dance.

Nowadays, not so much.  In fact, when I ask Nyel what he’s going to wear for this or that occasion, his invariable answer is “Levis.”  Somehow, over the years, that has become the standard fashion choice — for both of us.  There are still degrees of appropriateness, though.  A ‘Montana Tuxedo’ (Levis with a sport coat, shirt and tie), for instance, is certainly more dressy than ‘Northwest Chic’ (Levis with maybe a shirt  or jacket from REI or another outdoorsy outfitter.)  For me, maybe a change of earrings.

2006 - Mom at 95.  Dress code always: a hat!

2006 – Mom at 95. Dress Code always: a hat!

So, yesterday when a blog reader questioned me about the appropriate dress code for extras at Friday’s Blind Pilot taping at the church, I had to say I was clueless.  I passed on the question to the woman who is making the arrangements and she said, Thank you for asking.  There is not a specific dress code — please just wear what you would wear to a service or on a casual day.  Which, for Nyel is Levis.  For me… probably one step up, as in black, rather than denim.

As I remember, all of this vagueness and uncertainty about what to wear began about the time I moved here from California — back in the days when Twiggy and miniskirts and fashions from London’s Carnaby Street were still the rage, at least in the Bay Area.  I found that the Northwest seemed to have a fashion sense all its own — based on comfort, people said, and the incessant rain, I thought.  Even after forty years (which included Seattle’s most famous fashion contribution — early 90s grunge) I still haven’t figured out what to wear, when.

Daily Dress Code Oysterville Gothic

Sydney and Nyel: Daily Dress Code, “Oysterville Gothic”

Sadly, my wardrobe reflects my uncertainties about choice: bleak.  My response these days pretty much mirrors Nyel’s when it comes to dress code questions.  But I do take some umbrage with the ‘comfort’ argument.  If feelings count, I think I’d be more comfortable if I really, truly knew that one thing and not another was more appropriate.  This ‘anything goes’ attititude is kinda hard.