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…with Te cheering him on!

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017


Along the lines of ‘you never know who’s life you might be influencing,’ our friend Te comes to mind.  ‘Te’ is short for Terralene  and we met her years ago through our friend, the late Larry Weathers.  As we did our friend Linda.  They were all friends growing up in Raymond in the 60s (I think) and went on to lead separate, though intertwined, lives over the years.  Te (like Linda) lives in Seattle and we go year in and year out without actually seeing her face-to-face.  Even so, she is a presence in our lives, whether she knows it or not!

Take today, for instance.  I, as Nyel’s Head Cheerleader, have decided that we will ramp up his walking regime.  That thought immediately brought Te to mind.  She is a walker.  Years ago (maybe ten?) she embraced the 10,000-steps-a-day program and has followed it religiously ever since.  Often, she has those 10,000 steps accomplished before the rest of the world has had breakfast but, even so, she doesn’t slow her pace (so to speak.)  She is relentless.  She is also attractive, trim, slim, healthy, enthusiastic, and fun – the poster girl for that 10,000 Steps a Day idea.

All The Rage

Te’s enthusiasm is catching, and she soon had all of her friends using pedometers, checking their steps, trying to keep up with her numbers.  When I discovered that I average between five and six thousand steps a day just going about my usual day inside the house – not even venturing outdoors, mind you – I sort of gave up on my diligence.  Lately though, I’ve read that 15,000 steps are better but whether it’s ten or fifteen thou, it’s the intensity with which you walk that makes the difference.

Well… right now, that’s neither here nor there.  Nyel came into the hospital a week ago yesterday unable to walk more than five or six steps (and slowly, at that) without having to stop for a minute or so to breathe.  Now he can walk the length of this hallway and back with no problem at all – taking it slow, to be sure, but much like the proverbial tortoise, on his way to winning this race.

Outside Nyel’s Door

One round trip in this hallway equals 230 feet.  The little labeled hearts that are every five feet along the way tell us so.  Nyel says his stride is three feet.  So, for him, a round-trip  along this Unit 51 hallway is about 80 steps.  Reaching Te’s 10,000 step goal would take Nyel 125 round trips.  It would probably take every waking minute of his hospital day excluding mealtimes, meds-time, vital signs time, to say nothing of nap-time.  Maybe ten round trips today might be more realistic, stepping it up (so to speak) each day as he can.  I hope Te would approve.

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…

Why am I not surprised?

Friday, September 1st, 2017

The Dreamers

Yesterday’s news announcement that Trump is expected to announce the end to Obama-era DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) should come as no surprise to anyone. I don’t even think it has much to do with Trump’s hardline on immigration.

I believe it has everything to do with the man’s absolute psychosis about anything Barack Obama did while in office.  In fact, I think if you had a list of every bill and every executive order that Obama signed, you would pretty much know what Trump’s presidential agenda is.  And in case you are foggy on the meaning of ‘psychosis’ – it’s “a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality” according to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Advancing Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline

What is interesting to me is the fact that the media keeps acting like these actions by Trump are a surprise.  DUH!  According to yesterday’s Washington Post, there have been 16 executive actions issued, 66 cabinet-level agency decisions, 14 congressional review acts and 1 new legislation which could affect old laws – all of which adversely impact Obama era rules and regs.  More are in the works.  Policy areas affected are environment, labor and finance, worker and consumer safety, government reform, civil rights, health care, immigration, and education.  For more details, here is the link to the Post’s article:

No doubt Trump’s supporters would have lots of “fake news” comments to make.  Or… maybe not.  Perhaps they have a way of looking at their man’s record and putting a positive spin on it.  Perhaps they are proud of tearing down accomplishments of the past rather than building for the future.

Speaking of Statues

I wonder if they were proud a year ago when five identical nude statues of their hero were unveiled by the anarchist group INDECLINE whose anonymous spokesperson told the Post, “like it or not, Trump is a larger-than-life figure in world culture at the moment. Looking back in history, that’s how those figures were memorialized and idolized in their time — with statues.”  (My favorite comment about the one in Central Park came from the NYC Parks Department – an “unpermitted erection” they said.)

Whatever happened to those statues, anyway?  Apparently, city governments removed them in the five locations where they went up – New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Cleveland and Los Angeles.  “Lack of Proper Permitting” was the reason.  Shortsighted, say I.  They should have permitted them retroactively.  Or, really… why bother?  Perhaps they could have been left in place to make up for all those statues in the South that are coming down…

Proud…So Proud

Thus far, I haven’t heard of any statues, facetious or otherwise, being done of Barack Obama.  It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out what would happen should one be commissioned…  OMG! What have we come to in this country, anyway?

The Best Fan Mail Ever!

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

Fan Mail

I’m a big sucker for compliments but when they are in writing and are about my writing – I’m pretty much over the moon.  So, yesterday, when an honest-to-goodness-card-complete-with-poem came, I was pretty much gobsmacked.  To say nothing of it including a photograph of one of my favorite memories.

First of all, I had to think a little bit when I saw the return address.  Roger Boyle from Georgia.  It took a few beats but then I got it.  Fifteen or twenty years ago, Roger was the man who drove the mail van into Oysterville every day.  Twice.   In the morning to deliver and in the afternoon to pick up.  He courted Nancy Holden, our south-a-half-mile neighbor and ten years ago or so they ran off in the sunset together.  Or something like that.


Roger is a handsome man and, demented though she might have been, my mother zeroed right in on him at her 95th birthday party in 2006.  She always had an eye for the good-looking guys and, I have to say, they responded in kind!  Roger took her for a dance around the room while my cousin Cheryl played the piano.  Mom’s legs weren’t quite up to it, so Roger had her put her feet right on top of his and away they went!

Roger’s fan mail included a copy of that infamous dance plus the best (and only) personalized poem I’ve ever received, fan mail or otherwise:

We wait for the Observer,
Wherever we might roam;
We like to know what’s going on,
In the place we once called home:
I like to read your column,
Because you write so well;
I so enjoy the history,
And the stories that you tell;
When I read the column,
Or the blog of you and Nyel,
It triggers a fond memory,
And I just stop and smile;
It happened back some time ago,
when I got the chance;
To meet a special lady,
And she granted me a dance.

Thanks, Roger!  I wish you and Nancy would come visiting sometime!  We miss you both.  Plus, I sure would love it if you’d dance around the living room with me!

Mike, Fred and the Apperson Women

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

University of Oregon

The plan was to meet Mike Lemeshko in Eugene yesterday to do a little research at the University of Oregon.  Mike, whose recent quest for information about Judge John Briscoe led him to write a book, (The Cantankerous Farmer vs. The Ilwaco Railway & Navigation Company and the rest of his neighbors on the Long Beach Peninsula) and form the ‘Friends of the Briscoe Burying Ground, is on another quest – this time for information about B.A. Seaborg of the Aberdeen Packing Co. and other early canneries along the Columbia. .

My interest was in finding more information about my Jefferson and Apperson forebears.  Nyel was going along for moral support.  But, as is often the case with us these days, we couldn’t keep our date.  So, Mike (bless him!) went on his own and actually did a bit of digging on my behalf, too. We had arranged to take a look at the Fred Lockley files which are housed at the Special Collections Library at the U of O.  According to Wikipedia:

Fred Lockley (March 19, 1871 – October 15, 1958) was an American journalist  best known for his editorial column for the Oregon Journal,  “Impressions and Observations of a Journal Man”, which appeared throughout the Western United States on a nearly daily basis. Lockley also authored many books which, like his articles, were largely about his travels and interviews with early settlers in the Willamette Valley.  It was said that he interviewed “bullwhackers, muleskinners, pioneers, prospectors, 49ers, Indian fighters, trappers, ex-barkeepers, authors, preachers, poets and near-poets”.[1] He also interviewed Thomas Edison, Booker T. Washington, Ezra meeker, Woodrow Wilson, Count Tolstoy, General Hugh Scott and Jack London.

One of the interviews that was published in Lockley’s Conversations with Pioneer Women” was done in the early 1900s with my great-grandmother’s aunt, Elvira, who described the hardships her mother had endured when she came across the plains and settled in Portland in 1847:

Jane Tubbs Apperson (1809 – 1859) My three-tims-great-grandmother

My father, Beverly Apperson was born in Virginia.  My mother, Jane Gilbert Tubbs was born in Tennessee.  They were married in Missouri along about 1830.  Father died on the wa aross the plains.  He died at the second crossing of Ham’s Fork.  We had two wagons so mother had the men take the wagon bed of one of them to make a coffin. She abandoned the running gear, the ox yokes and some of our outfit and we finished the trip with one wagon.  They dug the grave in the middle of the trail and buried father and when the grave was filled they corralled the oxen over the grave so the Indians would not find it and dig up the body to get the clothes. No, we couldn’t put up a headboard and after a few hundred wagons and long strings of oxen and loose cattle had passed over it, I doubt if we could have located the grave.

Mike sent two other Apperson interviews that I’ve not seen before –  one done with  two with Elvira’s sisters-in-law.  I am so grateful!  And so sorry I couldn’t be there to take a look for myself.  Maybe there will be a next time

Pokes, Probes, Procedures

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

It almost felt like Old Home Week when Nyel was wheeled into the cardiac ward at Emanuel Hospital yesterday.  So many familiar faces and friendly smiles and nurses and technicians who remember him from previous stays!  Even Nestor, the Food Service Assistant who takes meal orders, popped in to say “hello” and recommended Nyel have the blueberry muffins with his breakfast coffee.

The preliminary pokes and prods seemed, sadly, almost routine.  Even the ‘procedure,’ itself – another angiogram – was territory well-traveled.  This time, though, Nyel was conscious throughout, breathing on his own, listening to what was going on, but medicated enough so he was pain-free and, afterwards, couldn’t remember just why they chose not to put him under.

They found no surprises – just a good deal of fluid in/around the heart which happens with those who suffer from chronic congestive heart failure.  Now – massive amounts of diuretics all the while keeping a close watch on kidney function and perhaps another angiogram in a few days to see how his heart is responding.  And then there’s that leaky mitral valve.  Maybe it will require attention while we are here, too.

We were pleased to find that Nyel’s cardiologist is on duty here at the hospital this weekend.  That seems like an extra bonus.  He is incredibly patient with all of our questions – some, the same ones we’ve asked before, no doubt.  The heart is complicated.  Thank goodness for all the expertise surrounding us!  And the kindness.  There are lots of places we’d rather be right now, but given the circumstances we feel fortunate, indeed, to be right here.

Released from Protective Custody

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

An Open Gate

Farmer Nyel thought it was time.  Yesterday it had been exactly a month since he had fenced off an area of the chicken coop for the two new girls.  Although they were feathered out and, presumably, ready to be introduced to our established flock of four, he had decided to err on the side of caution.  Better to let them see and talk to one another first without full access.

Curious Alpha Hen

He didn’t want a repeat of the fighting that occurred the last time he added to his flock.  In that case, one chicken was killed – we think by the alpha hen.  She’s still head-of-the-coop and still aggressive toward anyone and anything new.  Farmer Nyel was definitely wary.

So, up went the chicken wire barrier and the broody box was refurbished to become a temporary coop for the newcomers – closed off from the main coop and run, but giving plenty of opportunities for getting acquainted.  Safely.  They could see one another and talk to one another – even touch through the sizeable holes in the chicken wire.  But they were seriously separated… just in case.

A Flurry of Feathers

Farmer Nyel opened wide the gate between the two areas yesterday.  He sat for several hours (at two different intervals) on an upturned bucket, dispensing scratch and encouraging commingling.  The old girls were curious; the young ones, cautious.  The newbies are Dominiques – black and white speckled hens – and are said to be America’s first chicken breed.  I don’t think our older girls – one Russian Orloff, one Americana and two Red Stars — give one cluck about that.   For them, it’s all about who was in Farmer Nyel’s coop first; they could care less about Colonial America or the chicken equivalent of the DAR.

Commingling Begins

It took most of the day, but finally there seemed to be progress.  The bravest Dominque came forward and, predictably, Alpha Orloff rapidly approached, neck outstretched aggressively.  Dominque skittered away in a flurry of feathers and outstretched wings and that seemed to be that.  She soon was pecking for grubs alongside the others, perhaps a bit warily but with enough confidence that the other Dominique (D-II?) soon sallied forth.

Farmer Nyel visited with them for another hour late in the day but left them to their own devices when it came to roosting time.  He’s on his way to the coop shortly to see if détente lasted through the night.  As I often say, you never can tell with chickens.

Nature or Nurture?

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Three tiny swallow tails hang out over the nest.  Like babies everywhere, the little birds are veritable poop machines but either mom and dad instantly trained them well, or they hatched out knowing not to foul their own nest.  Instead, they are making quite a splat at our front door.

Fortunately, the grownups knew to build to one side.  Their nest is smack-dab on the lintel, to be sure, but to the right as you face the door – away from the doorknob and leaving a fair amount of free space for large human homeowner and visitor feet to enter and leave without stepping in the guano pile.

We have been keeping sheets of cardboard at the strategic landing site, but even though we change it every day, it’s hard to keep up.  So far, no one has overstepped the boundary between ‘safe’ and ‘sorry’ and, also so far, no one has done anything but oooh and aaah at the nest and the babies.  There are three little ones, I think.  I haven’t climbed up to see.  When Susan Waters was here a few weeks ago, she did get up there to feel around.  She thought there were four eggs.  And there could very well be four youngsters.  It’s hard to tell with tails.

Mama Swallow is pretty skittish. As soon as someone opens our gate on the way in, or turns the doorknob on the way out, off she goes. I don’t know if Papa Swallow is a doting dad or not.  Unlike our Kitchen Garden Swallows, these two don’t seem to hang out within sight so we can watch them taking turns at their parenting duties.  I’ve only seen Mama.  Perhaps she’s a single parent.

Whatever her status, her babies are well-behaved.  I don’t know if that’s all instinct or if there’s some training going on.  It’s hard to tell with swallows.  Whatever the reason, though, they have good manners and that’s a fact!

Dear Patty Murray, Dear Maria Cantwell,

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

Dear Patty Murray,
Dear Maria Cantwell,

My name is Sydney Stevens.  I live in Oysterville, Washington, a village of fourteen full-time residents.  My family has been here since 1854 – long before Washington was a State; when it was a newly created Territory.  I am one of your constituents.

Our corner of the world still feels remote from the mainstream.  It takes a concerted effort to get here and an even greater determination to live here year-round, to find work here, to provide for a family and to take care of our elderly.  Like rural communities everywhere, we struggle, we cleave together, we look after our own.  And, we depend upon you to look after our interests in the ‘other Washington.’  We are your constituents.

Right now our neighbors are under siege.  Day before yesterday a mother of three young children (little girls all under 12) was taken by ICE.  She is the 22nd person to be snatched from our little corner of the state by lawmen who sit in unmarked cars and wait.  And watch.  Until their target steps from private property onto public land.  And then they pounce. The friends and relatives of these victims are your constituents.

I am a contemporary of Anne Frank.  The year she and her family were taken by the Gestapo was the year I began fourth grade.  It would be some time before any of us here in ‘the land of the free’ knew of the horrors that had been occurring in Europe in the name of ‘the law.’  And now my own community is under siege.  Your constituency, Senators Murray and Cantwell.  Your constituency is under siege.

I am told that the per capita number of arrests by ICE in our little corner of Washington far exceeds that of other comparable areas.  I don’t know why, or even if, that is true.  Our local newspaper stopped coverage of the problem at the first two arrests.  I don’t know the why of that either.  Our ‘grass roots’ information is spotty, at best, and comes directly from our Latino neighbors who dare to speak – in whispers to trusted friends in the hopes that someone can help.  Can we?  How?   What help can you provide?  Do your constituents need to whisper, too?  Do you?


Great Aunt Verona

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Mossy Marker

As I scrubbed the moss from her gravestone, I idly wondered if everyone had a ‘Great Aunt Verona’ – a forebear shrouded in mystery, beloved yet not much talked about.  She was the eighth and youngest of R.H. and Julia Espy’s children, and although my mother and her brothers and sisters remembered her, no one spoke about her much.

She was born in 1889 here in Oysterville, as far as I know an unremarkable birth.  She was named Ida Laura Verona and, although her mother referred to her in letters to the older children as “Laura,” the rest of the family always called her Verona.  Only the name ‘Verona Espy’ appears on the tombstone that was placed over her grave in 1923 – perhaps because her mother was no longer living and couldn’t have her say. I don’t really know.

Aunt Verona – c. 1900

The references to her in that early correspondence indicate that she was a spirited little girl, perhaps slow to talk or to pronounce words correctly.  One of the family stories concerns three-year-old Verona and her older sisters meeting their mother at the train in Nahcotta.   Julia had been in Portland for a few weeks and Verona apparently was quite upset that she came home in a new “set.”  A year or so later, Julia wrote to the older children, “Ida says to tell you that she can now say “dess” instead of “set.”

When Julia died (at 49 of a cerebral hemorrhage) in 1901, Verona moved to Portland with her twenty-three-year-old sister Susie.  From that time on she lived with one of her sisters or with other relatives and grew progressively worse from a disease which was subsequently described as “similar to multiple sclerosis.”  In later years, she lived with a companion/nurse and, as far as I can tell from contemporary correspondence, was doted on by family and friends.  I want to make some Butter Scotch for Verona, as she is so fond of homemade candy and does not get any, my grandmother wrote in 1908.  And another time, Remember to send Verona a card.

At The Oysterville Cemetery

There was more moss on Verona’s stone than on any of the others.  The logical reason is that her grave is the most northerly in the Espy lot and is often shaded by the stand of spruce trees nearby.  But, as I peeled back the soft, encroaching layers to reveal the lettering on the old grave marker, I couldn’t help but think that it was wrapping Verona’s memory in a protective layer – much as the family safeguarded and nurtured her when she was living.  I had mixed feelings about leaving the gravestone bright and shiny…