Archive for the ‘Up Close and Personal’ Category

“Look around! Look around!”

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Bear in the Tall Grass, Oysterville – Photo by Tucker (2014)

Ever since I’ve arrived at the forgetful stage of life, I rely on Nyel to answer all those where-did-I-leave-my-coffee-cup questions.  He has the amazing ability (or so think I) to know exactly what is where in this big house of ours.  Actually, he knows that about our tool shed and our garden, all of the visible parts of Oysterville, and the Peninsula, too.  It’s a gift!

Fortunately, he doesn’t become annoyed with my constant questions beginning with “Have you seen my…”  The closest he comes to a disparaging remark is to say, “Look around!  Look around!”  But I’m here to tell you that my visual memory is no better or worse than it has been over the last thirty years of our marriage.  And, I’ve come to believe that it’s not just a memory problem.  I’ve decided it’s related to dyslexia of a spatially challenged nature.  In fact, I was cheered recently to learn that educators are beginning to consider adding “spatial literacy” to the elementary school curriculum.

Eagles in the Monterey Cypress, Oysterville – Photo by Tucker (2002)

It’s hard to believe, but as many times as I’ve traveled on the front road – one or two round trips a day for forty years, you do the math – I cannot say with any assurance that Tides West is north or south of Loomis Lake State Park.  Or if the little mall with is north or south of Snap Fitness (in our household just called “the gym.)  If I need to be somewhere and am in a time crunch, I usually ask Nyel for very specific landmarks so as not to waste time hunting.  Thankfully, he is patient.  No eye-rolling or mentions that I was there only a week ago.

Yesterday, we went to CostCo (does it come before or after the turn to Lum’s?) and came across our once-upon-a-time next door neighbors Dobby and Lila Wiegardt.  We clotted up the mayonnaise aisle for a while talking about life along the bay.  They said their newly-mown meadow has been a gathering place lately for the North End Elk Herd – between 20 and 40 of the huge animals enjoying the tender, regenerating grass just beyond their windows.

Elk in the Meadow, Oysterville – Photo by Sydney (2012)

I couldn’t help but wonder if I had missed the herd’s trek along the mudflats as they traveled from Leadbetter Point to Dobby and Lila’s place.  I’ve certainly been out in the garden enough… but it’s probably one of those look-around-look-around things.  I wish I’d thought to ask the Wiegardts for a heads-up call next time they see the herd on the move to the north.  They truly are a sight to see!  And when it’s happening right in front of the house, I don’t have a bit of trouble remembering the where of it!

The Passing Parade

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Sitting around the hospital waiting for medicines to work is a lot like watching grass grow.  Fortunately, Nyel is a patient man and is happy doing crosswords, reading his book or looking at the magazine we snagged from a waiting room on one of our walks.

Yes, walks.  Though the halls are a bit limited in this section of Emanuel – a ‘round trip’ is 488 steps, total, according to the pedometer on my cell phone – we have been taking four or five strolls a day.  First we go to the left; next time to the right.  As much as we’d like to take the elevator to a lower floor, that’s off limits.  Nyel is wearing a heart monitor and its range doesn’t allow him to get very far from the nurse’s station where his heart is under constant surveillance.  If he strays too far, an annoying electronic beep urges him back within his boundaries.

We aren’t the only pedestrians in these halls.  In fact, at various times, there is quite a bit of traffic.  Other patients are walking – sometimes with a nurse or with a dutiful (ahem!) spouse; sometimes alone or, perhaps, in tandem with their metal-poles-on-wheels sporting IV bags and other essentials.  Some patients even go for ‘walks’ in their wheelchairs.

But, by far and away, most of the activity in the hall is by the men and women who might be termed “support personnel.’  I’m not talking nurses or doctors or therapists here.  Not even nutritionists or dieticians or rehab specialists.  Although all of the above are constantly on the move, sometimes while talking on cell phones or pushing heavy equipment like portable X-ray machines.  No… I’m talking about those who keep the hospital running smoothly – the electricians, the plumbers, the painters.  Even the delivery men, the laundry workers, the custodial staff.

When we aren’t actually sharing the hallways with them on our walks, we watch them through the open door of Nyel’s room.  It is an ongoing parade – minute-by-minute proof that the hospital is not a place to get any rest.  Not for patients and certainly not for the wonderful cadre of personnel who keep everything running smoothly!

Feeling Naked in Oysterville

Thursday, December 1st, 2016
Sydney, 1938

Sydney, 1938

It’s been a bunch of years – maybe 78 or 79 – since I’ve run around the house and the yard in my birthday suit.  Nevertheless, I’ve felt naked (and in varying degrees) for the last several weeks.  If, indeed, there can be varying degrees of nakedness.

First, there’s the matter of our gate.  Actually, it’s the matter of our missing gate.  I had no idea when I said “Sure, take it” to the painter that its absence would make me feel so exposed.  I did realize, though, that without a gate, our porch might look a little too inviting to the tourists.  That has proved true and we have had people wander through the non-gate looking hopeful about a house tour.  So far, no one has actually rung the bell and asked, though.  They seem to realize their mistake in time to save the mutual embarrassment.

The other day when I heard the UPS truck pull up, I opened the door just as the driver was reaching for the gate latch that wasn’t there – an automatic action by a long term delivery guy.  “Where’s your gate?” he asked.  And we both laughed.

Something Missing

Something Missing

Meanwhile… one of the prongs around the diamond on my wedding ring was catching on things.  To be on the safe side, I took it to our jeweler in Astoria for a look-see with the loupe.  Sure enough, the tip of the prong had broken off and, though there was no sign of imminent danger, I left it to be repaired.  “Two weeks,” she said.  I tell you, I don’t even recognize that left hand anymore!  And now I feel naked in a totally personal way!

So far, no one has mentioned the ring.  I don’t know if its absence has been noted or not.  Or, perhaps, there are still a few polite parameters left in this world.  A missing gate is up for commentary but a missing wedding ring, not so much?  More likely, it’s just one of those things that is more noticeable to me than to anyone else.  The best kind of ‘naked’ I say.


Sunday, November 20th, 2016
Oysterville Church by Bob Duke

Oysterville Church by Bob Duke

Three words with full stops after each.  Words to live by when you get to a certain age.  I thought of them yesterday as I lay sprawled on the porch of the Oysterville Church.  I had made a three point landing – both knees and my right hand hurt like hell.

It had happened in a blink, the way those things usually do. The street was empty and I had the fleeting thought that I could be there quite a while before Nyel missed me or anyone noticed.  It was starting to rain – an unlikely afternoon for hordes of tourists to arrive and come to my rescue.  Simultaneously, I realized that my undignified butt-in-air landing meant that the cell phone in my back pocket was reachable and that, if worse came to worse, I could call for help.

By then, though, I had determined that I was probably all right and that, at worst, I’d have a few bruises.  I hauled myself up and continued into the church being more cautious about lifting my feet as I crossed the threshold.  It had been a clumsy mis-step up the single stair onto the porch that had caused my sudden plunge downward, and I proceeded with all due caution.


Sydney with Scabby Knees – Front Row, Far Right

All my life, I’ve been one to fall up rather than down stairs.  Thank goodness.  Not that I fall all that much, even now in old age.  Again, thank goodness.  And, I often land on my knees.  That was true even in childhood.  In more than one of my old grade school pictures, I have a bandage on one knee or the other – or at the very least, a scab or two.

In recent years – well, the last twenty or so – I’ve been extra careful about falling.  It was in the early 1990s that I was diagnosed with “severe” osteoporosis and no amount of shot-taking, infusions, pill-injections or partaking of clinical studies has changed that.  On the other hand, I have never in my life broken a bone.  I’d like to keep it that way.

My doctors always say, “Do. Not. Fall.”  Great advice and, Lord knows, I don’t do it on purpose.  Certainly not on a soggy Saturday afternoon in deserted downtown Oysterville!

A Test and a Quest: Passed and… Found?

Friday, September 23rd, 2016
Following Marie, Our Guide to Three Pines

Following Marie, Our Guide to Three Pines

We arrived back in Oysterville at 9:40 yesterday morning – just in time for Dobby Wiegardt’s Schoolhouse Talk and also in time to be greeted with open arms by one of the crowd who said, “Oh!  I thought maybe you were dead.”  As it turned out it was the ten-day absence of my blog that had prompted that remark.  As far as I know, there had not been a funeral held at the Oysterville Church – not in my name or otherwise.

But, I’m happy to report that not only are we alive and well, we had a wonderful trip to Montreal, Quebec City, and the Eastern Townships.  It was the first out-of-the-country jaunt for Nyel and me in more than a dozen years and, frankly, I didn’t know if we were up to it.  As I’ve known and said from my first trip abroad in the 1950s, “traveling is hard work.”  And that was in the days of traveling ‘across the pond’ on an ocean liner which was, in actuality, far easier than these days of lines and lines and lines of baggage checks, body checks, ‘wanding’ and food-not-included…

In Three Pines

In Three Pines

But, I digress.  We passed all the traveling tests with flying colors.  Maybe we were a little slower walking up and down those cobblestone streets in Quebec City but in all other respects we held our own with our three (younger) traveling companions – at least as far as I know.  Sue and Bill Grennan and Kitt Fleming were fabulous friends to be with and, for us who have never traveled in ‘a group’ before, it was all (as Kitt would say) “delightful.”  International Travel Test: Passed!

As for our Quest… whether or not we were successful in locating Louise Penny’s fictional village of Three Pines we’ll leave to our Mystery Book Club members to decide when next we meet with them and talk in detail about where we went, what we saw, and who we spoke to.  I think it might come down to how literal a reader of fiction (and, in particular, a lover of Armand Gamache & Company) our listeners might be.  As for me… I write non-fiction…  I search for facts…. And  I say, “Our quest was an unequivocal success!”

Re-living the Short-agos

Friday, September 2nd, 2016
And on it goes...

And on it goes…

When Christian Hawes was about four years old and was having trouble with a recent memory, he told his Uncle Dick, “It’s not the long-agos that are hard to remember; it’s the short-agos.”  Amen to that!  For years it has been heartening to know that a boy of such tender years was having the same difficulties as we elders increasingly experience.

But, there are some upsides to that phenomenon.  Sort of.  Among my many failings (or maybe it’s just a peculiarity) is the addictive habit of converting my life to scrapbooks and albums.  But, unlike our late friend Gordon who spent time updating his scrapbooks every morning, I sometimes go months (or even years) before I catch things up.

To be sorted, organized and...

To be sorted, organized and…

In the meantime, piles of things get saved in my office – theater programs, ticket stubs, photographs, invitations, and stacks of Chinook Observers that I want to cull and clip.  When it gets so I can no longer maneuver safely from office door to computer or when the rains come and I can’t be outside… then I go on a sorting binge.  It can take weeks before I have things organized by month and year and I can actually get the scrapbooks going.

Last week, maybe in anticipation of the rains that are now here, I ‘got the urge.’  I began with the stack of newspapers that went back, I discovered, to February 2015.  My intent, as always, was to just whip through them, clipping out my own columns and articles and just a few other items that should be added to my files – the June 2015 article about Tony Johnson and the Chinook Tribe, for instance, or the ongoing drama of the ghost shrimp on Willapa Bay.

It’s all a slow process, mostly because I only vaguely remember the details of the short-agos and it’s a great opportunity to reacquaint myself with relatively recent news.  Plus, it is ever-fascinating to see how our thinking segues from one idea to another as, for instance in the matter of Verna Oller’s swimming pool.  So, I re-read old news, once again, shaking my head over the Letters to the Editor and enjoying the columns by Cate and Wayne and Victoria and Matt.

Pile in Progress

Pile in Progress

According to media analysts, the average lifespan of a newspaper’s news is until the next edition comes out – in the case of the Observer, a week.  When you’re dealing with a memory like mine and a proclivity to save and re-read, it’s much, much longer.  And, makes for a (mostly) pleasant rainy-day stroll down memory lane, I might add!

Lunch Dates and Other Perks

Saturday, August 20th, 2016
School Playground, 1960s

School Playground, 1960s

For the many (39) years I taught school, my lunch ‘hour’ was 30 minutes long and often involved (in the ‘olden’ days) lunchroom or playground duty.  In the years that I was a smoker, I very often skipped the eating part and had a cigarette instead. It was all about time constraints and priorities.  And, the amazing part is that I never gave it a thought.  It was just the way of it.

In the years I was active in the California Teachers Association, there were often crucial meetings that, of necessity, took place in the morning – usually a breakfast meeting at 7:00 in a centrally located restaurant.  Out the door by 8:00 to be checking in at school by 8:30 at the latest.  Sometimes, of course, meetings were after school or in the evening.  Never at noon.  Not possible and totally off the table.

Bridgewater Bistro

Bridgewater Bistro

Now that I’m retired, I’ve discovered “lunch dates” which, I’ve learned, were de rigeuer among some of my friends, even during their working years.  Wow!  For me, meeting a friend for lunch is one of the distinct pleasures of retirement and, fortunately, one I didn’t know I was missing for all those working years.

Yesterday, I met long-time friend Pat Thomas who now lives in Astoria.  We had lunch at the Bridgewater Bistro owned by mutual friends Tony and Ann Kischner, both of whom were working yesterday.   All of us ‘go back’ thirty years or more and it was fun to have a moment or two for catch-up-and-hugs as we were greeted at the door.

Come to think of it, Tony and Ann probably don’t have too many ‘lunch dates’ with friends.  Or, looking at it another way, they get in (however briefly)  on lots of other people’s rendezvous.  If they ever retire (which, they say, “seems doubtful”) I wonder if they’ll find the same pleasure I do in meeting a friend over a great meal?  Filed under Points to Ponder…

Playing Catchup…Again!

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016
Nyel, circa 1944

Nyel, circa 1944

Half the year Nyel is eight years younger; for the other half it’s only seven.  Either way and try as he might, he’ll never catch up to me.  Unless, of course, I stop having birthdays which I have no intention of doing in the foreseeable future.  I like the thought that I married a younger man.  Someone to take care of me in my declining years, I say.

Sydney, circa 1944

Sydney, circa 1944

And, as I see it, I’ve been declining for a good long time.  Nyel has kept up his end of this one-sided bargain very well indeed.  As the household’s primary chef (and a world class one at that!) he gives me no cause for complaint at all concerning the cossetted-and-looked-after side of life.   Nor has he ever expressed dissatisfaction with the arrangement.  I consider myself the luckiest woman I know.

Thursday will be his seventy-third.  We long ago decided to only celebrate the birthdays that end with a 0 or a 5, so this one will mostly go un-noted.  Maybe a matinee and dinner across the river if there’s anything worth seeing at the movies.  Besides, Thursday isn’t a very auspicious day for a party.

Two years hence, however, – August 4, 2018 – his big three-quarters-of-a-century mark will fall on a Saturday.   I’m thinking a party and a cruise might be nice…

…a time for shouting!

Friday, December 25th, 2015
Sydney with Cry-Baby, Christmas 1939

Sydney with Cry-Baby, Christmas 1939

“It’s all over but the shouting!” my mother used to say at about this time on Christmas morning. I’m not sure of the exact translation but I always knew what she meant. The anticipation and waiting for Santa were over; now we could just enjoy the day. Or, in the case of the children in the household, it was time to play with their new toys while the men cleaned up the wrapping (actually, the unwrapping debris) debris and the women got that turkey in the oven.

On this, my eightieth Christmas (unbelievable!) I feel a large shouting fit coming on. It will manifest itself, as it did years ago, in playing with my new toys. Make that new-age toys. Santa brought me a smart phone (which I sort of know how to use thanks to Nyel’s generosity in sharing his for several years). Plus he brought me a Tablet (which promises to be one of those old-age learning curves.) I’m so excited!

Lupe Helps, Christmas 2015

Lupe Helps, Christmas 2015

I’ve already chosen (for now, anyway) a mobile ringtone – the Charlie Brown Christmas Theme. And I’ve discovered that Santa pre-loaded all of my email contacts. Charlie (my son, not the Peanuts character) has sent me a text and I managed to answer it without fumbling for more than a second! “Productive Playtime,” I call it!

Since Nyel and Charlie are in charge (mostly) of our Christmas dinner, I intend to read the booklet “Get to Know Your Tablet” and see if I can get it up and running. I have no idea how I will use it. Cate has something a bit bigger that she often jots notes on when she is starting to think about her weekly column. I have a vague idea that I might use this Tablet in a similar fashion but, in my case, for my daily blogs, instead.

I think (but don’t know for sure) that it is more-or-less a larger version of my spiffy new phone – takes photos, will browse the web, has the same email functions – and all with the decided advantage of having a larger keypad for old arthritic fingers. And it fits just fine in my purse.        Imagine! A smart phone in my pocket and a Tablet in my purse! Connected to the max! I think I’ll be shouting (in the ‘all over but for the…” sense) and playing (in the very best kind of fun sense) and enjoying this Christmas all year long! Woot! Woot!

Rabbit! Rabbit!

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

superstitionIt’s the first day of the month and the first words out of our mouths were “Rabbit! Rabbit!” Years ago our friend Michael told us that it if those are the first words you speak after midnight on the first day of each month, you will have good luck all month long. Not that we’re superstitious, you understand, but we’ve been exclaiming “Rabbit! Rabbit!” on the appropriate morning ever since.

Our friends Nan and Jack who live in Healdsburg, California were working on their conversational Spanish skills at about the same time as Michael’s ‘advice’ to us and I remember that Nan said they, too, had developed that early-morning-first-of-the-month habit. Only they said “Conejo! Conejo!” I wonder if they still do.

imagesLooking back of the months and years of the “Rabbit! Rabbit!” mantra, I can’t really say that our luck has been exceedingly good. But it hasn’t been really bad, either, so like all superstitions it’s one of those “Well, it can’t hurt…” things. We continue to observe the nonsensical ritual just because…

While I can understand how some superstitions might have come from safety concerns – like don’t walk under a ladder – it’s hard to imagine how “Rabbit! Rabbit!” came into usage. It’s probably just another example of the Mindless Sheep Syndrome. I don’t know if that makes Michael the alpha sheep or our unwitting (or perhaps witting) shepherd.

And, just to be clear – the Urban Dictionary does have an entry for ‘alpha sheep.’ Here is what it says: A trend setter or opinion leader amongst a group or population generally prone to following established customs. Often, alpha sheep are labeled as “black sheep” in their formative years, due to their tendency to adopt styles or preferences outside accepted custom. However, as they mature, alpha sheep develop into forerunners in fashion, music and culture, whom their peers look to for guidance.

Well… as they say, if the rabbit’s foot fits, you might as well wear it.