Archive for the ‘The World Beyond’ Category

As we speak…

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

San Francisco, 1906

I don’t know how long it took for my grandparents to learn about the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.  Days, probably.  And it was weeks until my grandmother’s dear friend Leila wrote from Berkeley that she and her mother were all right, despite aftershocks that were still going on.  But that was before the internet and social media, before computers and television and even before telephones and electricity here in Oysterville.

Yesterday about mid-afternoon, I happened to look at Facebook for a moment. Am feeling very grateful for my health and safety – 10 fatalities, 1500 homes/buildings have burned down so far.  For a nano-second my mind went blank.  It was my step-daughter Marta.  But what was she talking about?  The hurricanes in the east?  Why?  But no.  She’s talking about fire…

Even as those thoughts tumbled through my head, I was scrolling down…  Seeing the videos.  Reading the headlines… NORTH BAY WILDFIRES.  NAPA, SANTA ROSA, SONOMA WILDFIRES RAVAGE CALIFORNIA’S WINE COUNTRY.  MARIN LEAPS INTO EMERGENCY MODE AMID FIRE CRISIS.

Santa Rosa, yesterday

I hunted for a fire map.  Were Nan and Jack safe in Healdsburg?  What about Averil and John in Sonoma?  What about Sarah and Bonnie – don’t they live in Santa Rosa?  I grew up in Marin County.   In San Rafael.  These days it’s less than an hour from Santa Rosa.  How many of my old friends still live in the area?  I sent out some emails.  Jack weighed in right away.  They are safe but the smoke is bad…

Marta’s FB site continued to send forth information.  Helpful information for fire victims and rescue-workers.  A LIST OF EVACUATION CENTERS.  Dozens of them already.  And evacuation centers for pets.  Even for horses.  In between she posted thank yous and messages of encouragement to the Fire Fighters.  You, too, Marta!  Thank you!  Thank you for being involved and for jumping in to help.

My mind flashed back to 1971 when Marta was still in high school and she cut classes to help a voluntary bird rescue effort. after the (then) largest oil spill in San Francisco Bay history.  At that time knowledge about caring for birds after such a disaster was limited, yet they saved 4,300 birds. (A group of those volunteers subsequently morphed into the International Bird Rescue in an effort to increase knowledge and research for such endeavors.) It was said to be one of the largest volunteer turnouts since the 1906 earthquake.

Marin County, 1971

And, now, it seems I’ve come full circle.  Blessings to the dear old Bay Area. And thank goodness for your fabulous, enduring community spirit!

Excuses and Reasons and Cop-outs, Oh My!

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

In Long Beach, WA

The front-page headline in yesterday’s Chinook ObserverFireworks flip-flop unlikely after survey.  The subheading:  Not a Ban, a Better Plan’s survey doesn’t sway Peninsula’s leaders.

Why am I not surprised?  Same old, same old.  Lots of rhetoric but no action by the leadership of our county.  Despite a 76.7 percent support for some sort of limits according to the informal survey by the local ‘Not a Ban, a Better Plan’ group, our leaders are not planning to take any action.

It seems to all boil down to the fact that there is “…no simple solution” according to one of our County Commissioners.  I don’t remember that the survey had anything to do with “simple.”  Once again, our leadership seems to be flummoxed by the complexities of ‘just say no.’

In Long Beach, CA

I am reminded of our County’s Comprehensive Zoning hearing that my folks attended back in the 1970s.  One of the proposals (which ultimately passed) was to number and alphabetize the streets on the Long Beach Peninsula.  My mother was appalled.  She hated the idea of getting rid of all the many traditional names like “Huckleberry Lane” and “Skating Lake Road.”  And she said so.

But, of course, our leadership prevailed.  “To make it easier for our EMTs” they said.  (That was in the days before we used fancy terms like ‘first responders.’)  “I just moved back to Oysterville from the San Francisco Bay Area,” my mom argued.  “San Francisco, as you might know, is quite a bit larger than the Peninsula.  They have never found a need to change their charming, old-fashioned street names, nor have there been any complaints from their emergency personnel.  Are you saying that our EMTs are not as smart as their EMTs?”

Successful Gun Amnesty Campaign, Austrailia

Well… there you have it.  The beat goes on.  Perhaps we need to wait until a real disaster occurs – like all the homes on the beach front go up in flames – for anything to change.  Although… maybe not.  Our national leadership certainly hasn’t pointed the way in the matter of disasters and law-making.  “1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days” here in America according to theguardian.  Meanwhile, Congress hasn’t passed a single piece of gun control legislation, beyond voting in 2013 to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms, which could potentially bypass security checkpoints at airports and other locations.

But, I digress.

Virtually Climate Controlled

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

The View From Nyel’s Room

We’ve only been outside the walls of the hospital once in the last twelve days.  For me, that has been a choice.  Not so, of course, for patient Nyel.

For one thing, his heart is under constant surveillance by dint of (now there’s an expression you don’t hear very much these days!) a heart monitor that he wears in the pocket of his hospital gown. Five ‘leads’ go to sticky patches affixed to his chest and his heartbeat is magically transmitted to a monitoring station down the hall.  Unless he has permission from his doctor, Nyel must stay ‘within  range’ which, basically, is this particular unit of the hospital.

Neither of us feels in the least bit stir-crazy.  There is always something interesting going on and the people with whom we interact – from doctors and nurses and pharmacists to housekeepers and education specialists and food servers – are personable and often entertaining.  Between times, Nyel dozes and I work on various writing projects.  Although Nyel brought a book to read, he has not yet opened it.  Nor is the TV a temptation – not until time for the evening news and Jeopardy.

Out Nyel’s Window

The room is comfortable temperature-wise.  There is a thermostat with numbers and gauges so tiny as to be unreadable for our old eyes.  And, besides, it’s in centigrade.  We are pretty much oblivious of the outside weather except when we purposely look out our window.  We’ve noted intermittent rain, clouds, sunshine.  No wind which, as I think about it, is the biggest difference from the weather at home – that and the somewhat warmer temperatures, only known to us by checking the weather apps on our cell phones.

Day before yesterday, Nyel got permission to go out of monitoring range so that we could visit the Children’s Garden.  We can see it from our window and Nyel had noted that the sunshine was making its way to an inviting looking bench.  That’s where we headed – down five flights in the elevator, turn left, a short walk to the Garden entrance, and then a few more steps to the bench!  Ahhh!  Sunshine!  We took a few selfies…  and looked like moles seeing the sun for the first time.

Squinting Selfie

I wonder if this is the life in store for future generations.  Living in a climate controlled environment, self-contained against the havoc wreaked on our planet by the non-believers and the greedy and the all-about-me generations.  But with benches and fake trees in virtual gardens instead of real ones…  I wonder if that would be better than the alternative.  But… I digress.

Deferring Judgement

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Time and time again, I have found that my first knee-jerk impressions of things should be kept to myself.  And, time and time again, I have ignored that little voice in my head that says, “If you act on this impulse, Sydney, you will be sorry.”  I don’t know why I go ahead and act anyway.  It is a curse.

So… here I go again.  This time it’s about the invitation to an exhibition received a day or so ago from the venerable Washington State Historical Society.  I truly have no idea what the exhibit will be about beyond what the (to me) very startling announcement said:  “GLASNOST & GOODWILL:  Citizen Diplomacy in the Northwest.”

On the reverse, an explanation to “Dear Members and Friends:  You are invited to a special evening preview of our newest exhibit…an in-depth exploration of how citizen diplomacy in Washington and the greater Northwest contributed to the thaw of the Cold War.”

Say what?!?  They’ve got to be kidding!  I really couldn’t give a fig about the contribution of the NW or any other place to the thawing of the Cold War – not right now.  Not when things look to be pretty dicey with Russia.  What is this all about, anyway?  A plea for us Northwesterners to be diplomatic once again?  Is it a commentary on our present-day difficulties with our democratic voting process and it’s apparent interference by Russia?  What…?

Like most people born around the time of World War II, I lived through the Cold War years.  I remember the bomb shelter our neighbors built.  I remember the faculty meetings when I was first teaching during which we were told that if worse-came-to-worse during school hours, our place was with the children until each and every one could be collected by a parent.  Since my husband and I were both teachers… what of our own children?  Oh yes… I well remember the anxieties of the Cold War.  Years and years and years of wondering about that red telephone at the White House.

The invitation further says, “Join us for [a] presentation by special guest Dr. Richard Scheuerman,  Professor Emeritus at Seattle Pacific University, about the remarkable 200 year history of friendship between the peoples of Russia and America.”  All very well and good, say I.  But, what about that old standby, “timing is everything”?

I know I should go and see, first-hand, what the exhibit and the presentation are all about.  Will I?  Maybe.  It depends what else is happening on October 5th…  I’m not feeling very compelled to learn about our historic relationship with Russia.  Maybe later when we’ve managed to sort out a few pressing domestic problems.  Maybe.

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…

Better Late Than Never!

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

At 9:30 yesterday morning, we were in the midst of an appointment with Nyel’s cardiologist in Portland.  We were listening to the cardio-team’s plan for the next few months which, all things being equal, will lead to a mitral valve replacement before Christmas.  The last thing on my mind was “Perspectives” – Joan Herman’s KMUN radio show which was airing at that very moment – the program for which Erin Glenn and I had been interviewed ten days previously.

I confess that the program has entirely escaped my mind until I did some “catch-up” in mid-afternoon. We had reached home and I was checking on phone, email, and FaceBook messages.  In the latter category was one from my friend Linda in Seattle:  ” I just listened to your interview on KMUN…well done! You’ve inspired me to get involved.”  Wow!

Joan Herman

It wasn’t until this morning, though, that I found time to go to the link and listen, myself, to what we had talked about on Joan’s show.  If you missed it, I highly recommend it, even though it is one of those “if I do say so, myself” situations.  The half hour show is well organized (Thanks, Joan!) and informative (Thanks, Erin!) and, despite my role as a participant, I thoroughly enjoyed being a listener!  You can catch it at:

I’ve been trying to find a way to also give readers links to my “Stories From The Heart” that are running weekly in the Chinook Observer but I could only locate a link that works for the current week’s story and sidebar:

Either my techie skills are too limited, or you have to be a subscriber in order for the links to the previous six stories to work.  Sorry about that!  I’d love for them to find a wider readership! The overwhelming positive response from many folks here on the Peninsula has been gratifying.  As for those who are not so positive – all I can do is urge readers and writers to research their “facts” before they embarrass themselves by responding publicly.  A robust dialogue on big issues is great, but perpetuating rumors and misinformation… not so much.

And in the local news…

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

On The News — Screenshot

It’s all about smoke and fire here in Ashland – just as it is up and down western Oregon and Washington right now. As we waited outside the Thomas Theater a few minutes before yesterday’s matinee, news of the fire in the Gorge ricocheted from one person to another, never mind that many were masked and sitting in the midst of smoke and ashes, themselves.

When the attractive young woman with a mobile camera and microphone came up to us, we agreed to talk with her a bit for her evening report on KDRV Newswatch 12 out of Medford.  She was interviewing many folks and we were very surprised to find (this morning) that we were the only ones to make the cut!  I’m only sorry that our fifteen seconds of fame at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival had to be about air quality and theater closures!

Smoky Downtown Ashland

We thoroughly enjoyed “Henry IV Part I.”  Understudy Tyrone Wilson, a seasoned 22-year OSF actor, played Falstaff, brilliantly, we thought, and Daniel José Molina as Prince Hal was perfection, itself.  Happily, we get to see him again this afternoon in “Henry IV, Part II.”  Not so happily, “The Merry Wives of Windsor” scheduled for last night at the outdoor Elizabethan theater had to be cancelled, as was the Green Show in the newly designed “Green Show Courtyard.”

I’m not sure we would have attended the Green Show in any case – even had the air been pristine and pure and smoke-free instead of at a Hazardous level.  Green Shows just ‘ain’t what they used to be’ when they were, in fact, on the grassy courtyard in front of the theaters.  As of this season, there is an elaborate, concrete construction there – not only a stage with roof and built-in lighting fixtures, but huge, permanent bleachers as well.  There is only a smidge of grass left, no doubt so that the performances can still be called ‘green shows.’  There is absolutely NO resemblance to the quaint acoustical music and contra dance space of years ago when OSF was young… and so was I.

Green Show Courtyard Plan – Now A Reality

While I love coming here and meeting Charlie at this magical halfway point between his home and ours, this may be our last Ashland rendezvous.  It’s been a difficult trip for all of us and one thing we know about traveling – it doesn’t get easier with age.  And certainly not with the unpredictability of… everything. Who woulda thunk that the audiences, themselves, would be the ones wearing masks at the Festival in 2017?

The Sun, the Moon and the Fault in My Stars

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Sometimes you just can’t catch a break.  Or so it seems.  Here we are, still at the hospital, still looking for answers to Nyel’s multiple heart problems.  Still hopeful.

And, here it is the Day of the Eclipse with all the super-hype about to become history.  Portland is eerily quiet. For days, according to all reports, there has been very little traffic.  It feels like the city has emptied out — all headed to Prineville, no doubt, which is less than three hours away.  That seems to have been the go-to destination for weeks now for the the hordes and masses here in Oregon.

The hospital, itself, is on Red Alert status – well, that’s my take on it.  The fact of the matter is that all elective surgeries and procedures that might require emergency personnel are on hold.  As one of only two Level One Trauma Centers in the State of Oregon, Emanuel is poised for whatever medical disasters might be coming its way.  With upwards of half-a-million (some say a million) people converging only miles away in “the pathway of totality” (who dreams up these buzzwords anyway?), the hospital is at the ready for the worst possible scenario.

More than one staff member here has mentioned that the feeling is reminiscent of Y2K when predictions were for the end of the world as we knew it.  I don’t know about Fake News but I certainly have felt disgusted by the Hype News – then and now!

Meanwhile… yesterday, when I went to the parking garage to get something out of my car – my less than two-months-old car, mind you – I found that I had a dead battery.  No apparent reason.  All locked up as I left it a few days ago.  What the hell?  Since we are likely to be here until the eclipse excitement has died down, I’ve decided to wait a a day or two to call Triple A.

I wanted to blame the eclipse, of course, but I couldn’t quite connect the dots.  It wasn’t a quantum leap, though, from sun and moon to stars, and from blame and fault to myself.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III}

Bottom line – I’ll take 16th century Shakespeare over 21st century News Hype any eclipse of the moon!


Tripping and Traveling Vicariously!

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Charlie in Pisa, 1958

It used to be that traveling was high on my priority list.  Throughout the late fifties and into the sixties and seventies, I was gone from home almost every summer – if not abroad for three months (ah! the advantages of teaching!), then on road trips and shorter flights on this continent.  None of these travels was first class, mind you (oh! the limitations of teaching!) but the adventures I encountered and the memories I stacked up were priceless.

Now that age and that old bugaboo ‘fixed income’ have caught up to me, I find that I am doing most of my traveling vicariously.  I love following the adventures of my friends through their photos on FaceBook and listening to the escapades and exploits of some of our intrepid Friday Nighters.  But, who woulda thunk that I’d be enjoying vicarious travel stories right here at Emanuel Hospital?

On the face of it, there aren’t many places more confining than a hospital bed (unless it might be a prison cell, God forbid!) and, even though my position at Nyel’s bedside is purely voluntary, it could be construed as equally limiting.  However, through the magic of conversation and imagination, I’ve been on some wonderful adventures while here at Emanuel.

Santa Fe Plaza, 2016

It’s the nurses!  Getting to know them as they come and go – sometimes two day shifts or night shifts in a row – has been an unexpected perk of Nyel’s frequent hospital stays.  Through the miracle of cellphone photos, we get to see their pets and sometimes their children or spouses and, best of all, get a glimpse at their recent trips.

During this stay, we’ve “visited” Switzerland and Southern France and, closer to home, we’ve ‘been on’ on a weekend hiking trip to a remote campsite on Neah Bay.  We’ve been in on the plans for a journey to Argentina and, this morning, heard about a wedding in Ireland that will take place a year from now – the manor house already reserved for the fifteen attending family members! Plus, with our newest nurse, a glimpse of her September plan for two weeks aboard a 40-foot sailboat in the San Juans!  So much fun to hear about!

Maybe all this travel talk comes under a category called “improving mental health.”  Certainly, it’s right up there in the Pleasant Distractions column of Fine Hospital Visiting.  For me, anyway.  And Nyel appears to be ‘enjoying going along for the ride.’

Really? When did THAT happen?

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

At Bay and Vernon, Not So Long Ago

We discovered it was gone yesterday afternoon.  Nyel noticed it first – if you can be said to notice something that’s not there.  No flashing red light on the Bay & Vernon intersection in Ocean Park.  We weren’t sure when it went missing, having been away for all of the previous week.

Later, I mentioned it to a group of people at Adelaide’s where Colleen was having a ‘do.’  “Oh, yes!” said one woman.  “That’s been gone for a couple of months now.”

“Really?” said her friend.  “It’s gone?  The one at Jack’s corner?  I go by there almost every day.  I can’t believe I haven’t noticed.”

Now, An All Way Stop

I’m not sure the “couple of months” is correct, but the whole situation clearly shows that the flashing light was superfluous to our lives – at least traffic-wise.  We automatically stop there and if there is a car stopped on the street to our right, we let them go first.  What good did that flashing light do, anyway?  Now it’s replaced by four stop signs that say “ALL WAY” just in case you can’t figure it out for yourself.

The biggest use the flashing light ever got (besides being a measure of IQ) was as a landmark to visitors coming north from Long Beach.  As in, “Travel north on the highway until you come to the flashing red light; then turn right” (or “left,” or “continue on,” as the case might be).  I hope replacement isn’t in the plan.  I think that “at the four-way stop by Jack’s” should work just fine.

Gone! July 29, 2917 at Bay and Vernon, Ocean Park

As for IQ points – there was a saying (still viable, according to some) begun in the days when Ocean Park and Long Beach schools were serious rivals – back in the day when they were both K-8 schools.  Long Beach kids razzed Ocean Parkies by saying that you lose ten IQ points every time you go north through the light.  (Actually, in those days it might have been a stop sign…)  Ocean Park’s answer, of course was – “We go north on the back road so it’s not a problem.”  And sometimes they added, “And besides, every time we flush, Long Beach gets another drink of water.”

Small towns!  You gotta love ‘em!  Especially our small towns here at the beach!