Archive for the ‘The World Beyond’ Category

The History Among Us

Friday, August 24th, 2018

On My Bookshelf

Sometimes I worry about what our young people are learning.  Or, more to the point, what they are not learning. I don’t like to think about all those man-in-the-street interviews I’ve seen on various TV programs where John Doe can’t answer questions like “Who was the first President of the United States.”  Or millennials who are not sure whether John Kennedy was a rock star or a scientist.  Really!  When did they stop teaching history?

But, come to think of it, I didn’t learn much history in school.  I wasn’t good at all those names and dates and battles and treaties.  BORING.  But I did love the stories of long ago that were told around the fire on stormy evenings here in Oysterville.   The stories of Mary Esty, one of our forebears, who was hung during the witch trials in Salem.  Or the story of my great-grandfather being apprenticed to a tailor back in Pennsylvania when he was fifteen and who eventually made his way west by driving the ox team for a man named Whitlock.

In Ireland

Gradually, an idea of my own family’s history began to clarify.  Even more gradually I began to put those people I “knew” into a greater context and of American history, in general, and the part that my very own forebears played in it made more sense.  Never mind those history texts.  But it wasn’t until I did some travelling – back east to visit my father’s relatives and later to Ireland to see where his family lived and where I still have relatives – not until then did I really begin to appreciate the past.  The distances, the circumstances, the courage, the hardships all began to make sense.  Historical sense.

So, earlier this week when I asked my FaceBook friends a couple of informal survey questions about their ancestry, I was pleased to get so many answers (several hundred in the first twenty-four hours).  I don’t know that all the folks who responded could answer those man-in-the-street history questions, but curiosity about one’s own ancestry seems like a first step.  And if it’s true that only by understanding our history can we avoid repeating past mistakes, perhaps there is a chance for us after all!

The Willys in Oysterville

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

They were picture perfect, parked in Oysterville in front of the church!  Six vintage Willys – 19aught-something to 1939 on an outing to the Washington coast.  They had come from California, Oregon, Idaho and Eastern Washington on one of their periodic outings.  Their owners belong to the Northwest Chapter of the Willys-Overland-Knights Registry, formed in 1960.

Oysterville residents and tourists gathered ’round like bees to nectar, taking pictures, asking questions, and oohing and aahing appropriately.  Several of the men said that their car had first been owned by their collector fathers, and several also said that there were another one or two Willys at home in their garages.

Our neighbor Tucker was interested in the engines and asked technical questions I can’t begin to remember.  When I wondered how he even knew to ask, he told me that he once owned a vintage car (not a Willys, though).  “I thought I might like to collect them, but I soon realized that I didn’t really know enough about fixing them.  So, I sold it and began collecting pinball machines instead. Those I could fix!”

When they left Oysterville, the group was headed across the river to the Fort Stevens Military Museum where they will be on display today (Wednesday, August 1, 2018.)  The last car in line was the “Trouble Truck” complete with flatbed trailer.  “Just in case,” laughed the driver who is one of several non-Willys owners who accompany the group on their outings.

Oysterville seemed pretty quiet when they left.  They were definitely a bright ending for July 2018!

la Fête nationale

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

In Paris it is nine hours later than it is here in Oysterville and, like everyplace in France today, people are gearing up for French National Day.  This day is to France what 4th of July is to us. For the French, though, July 14th marks two important historic events – the Storming of the Bastille in 1789 and the unity of French people on July 14, 1790.

The day is celebrated with military parades, fireworks, concerts and balls.  The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the Champs-Élysées in the morning – while we are still fast asleep. The highlight of the celebration is the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, visible over all of Paris, as I remember.

My (then) husband and I arrived in Paris in 1964 on the evening of July 13th, jet-lagged and naively oblivious of the preparations that had been in the works for weeks.  We arrived at Madame Boyer’s little hotel late that night, happy to be in familiar surroundings in a place we had stayed several times before (I for the better part of a year back in 1958) and fell into bed.

Bastille Day, Rue Montorgueil, by Monet

The next morning it was pouring.  I think that even our northwest rainstorms couldn’t have competed with the deluge.  We nipped from awning to awning and around the corner to “our” sidewalk café on the Place San Michel and, as I remember, spent a good part of the day there, hunkered down out of the weather, attended to by our long-time waiter friend, Marcel.

My clearest memory of that soggy day is that the rain abated just in time for the fireworks display to go off as usual.   We stood along the bank of the Seine near the closed-up bookstalls and oohed and aahed even as the rain started up again.  Then a mad dash back to the café where people were grabbing chairs and holding them upside down over their heads as they rushed homeward (or, in our case, to the warmth and dryness of Madame Boyer’s.)

The next morning, we, like scores of others, were back at the Café early to return our chairs and thank Marcel and the others for their generosity.  It was a gorgeous day – not a cloud in the sky.  We sat for a long time enjoying our coffee and talking of the stormy Bastille Day as well as the historic Storming of the Bastille.

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!

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!

Don’t Talk To Me

Friday, February 16th, 2018

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch

Don’t talk to me about thoughts and prayers.
Don’t talk about God.
Don’t even talk about guns.
I don’t want to hear about lives wasted
Or about the second amendment
Or about safe spaces or training teachers.
Say no more about mental health
Or a broken political system.
And not about Australia, either.
Don’t talk to me about freedom and democracy.
Don’t waste breath or words.
Don’t talk at me.

Mail Call! – Always fun in Oysterville!

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Mailboxes at the Oysterville Post Office

It’s probably similar at little post offices throughout the world.  Our Oysterville P.O. is a gathering place for the locals – nowadays, not so much ‘gathering’ as ‘see-you-as-I’m-passing-through – and it’s a collection/disbursement area for news and rumors (now called ‘fake news’) and gossip.  And, of course, there’s the mail.

Over the years, we’ve had some strange items in our post office box.  Take the letter that was sent to my folks from a friend in England.  It was addressed properly except that instead of WA, there were periods after each letter: W.A.  That little mistake was compounded by the omission of U.S.A.  The letter took several months to get here.  First it went to Western Australia, according to the cancellation stamps on the envelope.  A notation said, “Not here.  Try West Africa.”  The next note said, “Try the U.S.” and that, apparently did the trick!

Even in my great-grandparents’ time, there were interesting mail stories.  In 1893, the Oysterville postmaster received this letter – the first indication that the erstwhile Baptist preacher (who had skipped town to avoid arrest for his wife’s possible murder) was also a bigamist.

Tom and Sam Andrews Store and Post Office, c. 1900

Sir:
…I am the ferst [sic] wife of one Josiah Crouch.  I was married to him the 5 day of August in 1885 at St. Joseph, Mo. County Buccanan [sic].  In 1888 he left me at Havensville Kans and I understand that he went to Ark. In 1889 he married a woman by the name of Tedden at Gladstone Ark as I had too [sic] letters from D.P. Tedden the father of his last wife.  I have a little girl 7 years old.  I have written some letter [sic] to Ilwaco with my one [own] handis [hands] no forgery.  I have send [sic] letter [sic] a copy of Mr. Teddens letter and a stat ment [statement] nad [and] copy of the married [sic] lissen [license] to T.H. Parks at Ilwaco Wash if you wish to see thum[sic] you can write to him yours respectfully Mrs. Tillie Crouch

Mail from Japan

Not too long ago, there was another curious bit of mail in our postal box.  Apparently, it was from Japan and was addressed to:

The Tourist Information Center of Oysterville Town.
Oysterville – Town.
Washington – State.
Willapa – Bay.
Pacific Ocean.
South west – Olympic City.
South west — Washington.
North west – U.S.A.
To: U.S.A.

 We love going for the mail.  We never know what the next surprise might be!

Coming Soon!

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Rosas (Courtesy Gladys Diaz)

It’s hard for me to think of myself or my neighbors as “activists” but, I guess that is what interested, trying-to-help citizens are called these days.  The term seems too strident to my old-fashioned ears.  I’m not one to carry signs and gather in groups on the streets of the capital – or even on the streets of Long Beach.  But I do want to speak out.  To build awareness.  To effect change.  So… I write.

Last summer and into fall, I interviewed members of our Hispanic community – victims and their families who have been under siege by ICE.  There have been nearly 50 arrests here on the Long Beach Peninsula in the last year or so – a higher per-capita number than in any other part of our state.  Why here?  Why these hard-working men and women trying to provide for their families here and, often, for their relatives in poverty-stricken areas of Mexico?  Why?  They are not the “criminals” our new president promised to round up.  Not the people I talked to.  Not those who ICE has targeted, stalked, and harassed here on the Peninsula.

Stories from the Heart

Like so many who were aware of what was happening, I wanted to help.  So… with the editor’s blessing and support, I wrote a series for the Chinook Observer that I called “Stories from the Heart.”  Each of the fourteen stories was based on an interview with an ICE victim or a family-member and each was accompanied by a ‘sidebar’ of factual information about one aspect or another of the current immigration situation here in our ‘land of the free.’  Erin Glenn, with close ties to the Hispanic community, served as my interpreter during the interviews and as my ‘sounding board’ throughout the process.

The third story I wrote centered around Gladys, the first mother in the area who was arrested and deported.  Her long-time partner, Rosas, talked with me at length and, given the opportunity to use a pseudonym, told me that his nickname “Rosas” would be fine.  Little did any of us know that by using his nickname, we would be culpable in Rosas’ own arrest just a week ago?  And who knew that by identifying him in that way, ICE may have violated his free speech rights?  And who knew that his story would go viral – picked up first by the Seattle Times, then by AP, and hard on the heels of that, by the international press?

Gladys and Rosas’ Story

Meanwhile, Madeline Moore (one of the busiest women I know!) has developed a GoFundMe site for Rosas.  It should be up and running in a day or two.  Look for it under the heading “Help the Gutierrez Family.”  I’ll post a link as soon as it is finalized!

P.S.  Here it is:     https://www.gofundme.com/sw4ua-help-the-gutierrez-family

The Joys (and woes?) of Homecoming!

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Moon over the Bay

We rolled into Oysterville about 6:30 last evening – the full moon in all her splendor over the bay, lighting up our house and the church in perfect Christmas card form!  Nyel’s discharge had been a bit of a surprise.  We had last heard “a day or two” and then suddenly, we were on our way!  Nyel is the best he’s been in almost a year and we are optimistic that we can keep him that way.  Meanwhile…

There was a moment’s panic when I couldn’t find the car which was in the Valet Parking Lot.  It had been accessible throughout Nyel’s stay and, at ten dollars a day, was probably the best parking bargain in all of Seattle!

Valet Parking at UW Medical Center

But when I schlepped the first load out the hospital front doors, down the escalator and across the underground walkway… no car!  Not where it had been for the past (almost) two weeks! And no one ‘on duty’ anywhere!  ‘Security’ to the rescue!  They found my car and assured me that I could just leave – no charge for the weeks we’d been there!  “It’s Sunday.  Free on Sunday!”  Yes, but…   No amount of saying “I’m perfectly willing to pay…” worked.  Wow!  A new spin on Home Free!

It’s always a little bit scary to come home after a longish absence.  Did the dishwasher fail and will we have to replace a water-soaked floor?  Was there a cold snap and did our pipes freeze?  And what about the house plants (which usually, thank goodness, revive)?  But, thus far this year, in our fifteen returns home after Nyel’s hospitalizations, all has been well.  Until last night!

Wow! Say what?

Our freezer door had not been closed tightly – an ongoing problem because of a leaky ice-maker which causes an ice build-up behind the pull-out drawer which can’t be pulled out all the way because the door won’t open wide enough because… all of which is too complex for human understanding.  Especially the part that goes, “Why didn’t we take care of this a long time ago?”  So, it was empty the freezer, scrape out the frost, sop up the water, and (this morning) call J&S Appliances.  (My inclination was to get a new refrigerator but Nyel’s practical side kicked in.)

On the plus side, when I weighed myself this morning, the scale said 54.9!  A bit of a shock until I realized that Nyel had changed the weight read-out to kilograms.  Translation, 119.9 pounds.  Yay! A loss of 4.9 pounds since last I checked.  I credit the lousy hospital food of the past few months plus the four (or maybe six) block walk back and forth to the cafeteria at the UW Medical Center.  This is a hard way to get back to my once-upon-a-time fighting weight but… only 2.8 kilos to go!!

Poor, Thirsty Fern!

So… on balance… Dorothy was absolutely right.  There is definitely no place like home

Consent, Consensual, Consensus

Friday, December 1st, 2017

In The News

I’ve been reading with great interest – no, make that ‘with great dismay’ – all of the commentary in the news and even on FaceBook about sexual harassment.  As the percentages of women who claim they have been sexually harassed have escalated – I think it’s up to 60% now – my first reaction was, “I wonder why I’ve never had that problem.”  In a perverse sort of way, I almost felt left out.

But, as I read more and more of what women are ‘revealing’ on sites such as #MeToo, my thoughts have changed yet again.  What I think of as ‘sexual harassment’ (Wikipedia: typically of a woman – in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks) is apparently only part of the issue.

Long-Ago Standards?

For one thing, the standard ‘workplace/professional’ piece of the equation no longer seems to matter – unless you count activities such as attending a fraternity party to be ‘work’ – and the woman’s own behavior/condition (such as being too drunk to walk) also seems to be but a minor factor.  Consensual no longer appears to be a biggee except if agreement is explicit and verbal – maybe even written!

So… what happened to good old-fashioned “flirting” as we called it in the olden days?  I always thought that was a two-way street.  If it led to advances that were unwanted, you said so.  If saying so was overridden, then (and only then), you had a legitimate complaint.  Granted, in those olden days, few women under such circumstances actually spoke out and, if they did, they weren’t taken seriously.   Which brings us to now…

So… where is the line?  If it’s closer to the ‘harmless’ flirtation now that it was forty years ago, do women have the right to speak out?  Are today’s standards retroactive?  Should good men’s reputations and careers be put on the line because we women now feel that we can speak out?

Today’s Fashions?

That seems to be the consensus.  I think there is a basic flaw here but I’m confused as to what it is.  Perhaps there is more than one piece of skewed thinking.  I’m still stuck back at the decision of my own alma mater to follow the (then) current trend and make dormitories co-ed.  That happened a few years after I graduated.  I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now. At a time in young people’s lives when their hormones are raging and they are still actively trying to develop their minds and characters… why would such a decision be made?

And don’t get me started on women’s fashions…  In what universe is showing cleavage and nipples not an invitation of some sort?  It’s all very confusing to me and I have no answers at all.  But from my old lady perspective, what’s happening does seem to a sort of mass hysteria with retrospective overtones.  I wonder how my many-times forbear, Salem Witch Mary Esty, would view it.